Building & Establishing Trust

TrustWhen we firmly establish our source of trust in Christ, as we discussed in How Do We Live Out Trust? and Where Should You Place Your Trust?, we can now move on to the activity of trust within imperfect relationships. This activity of building & establishing trust in relationships begins with first living a trustworthy life.

We live trustworthy lives by:

  1. Focusing on pleasing God not people. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
  2. Determining to be trustworthy with the Gospel. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
  3. Relying on the Holy Spirit. (2 Timothy 1:14)
  4. Being dependable at work and at home. (Proverbs 31:10-11; Titus 2:10)
  5. Learning from those proven trustworthy, though not perfect. (Moses, Nehemiah, Daniel & Timothy)

Only when we live trustworthy lives grounded in the One who is perfectly trustworthy can we then begin to build trust in our imperfect relationships. Since our trust lies rooted in God, we must purpose to show that we truly trust Him as we move forward in establishing trustworthy character. When trust is secure within us, rooted and grounded in that which cannot be taken from us, we can then move on to building trust with others.

Trusting in Those Who Fail

Before moving on to how to build trust, we must address this struggle. We must come to terms with the fact that building trust often means trust was broken. Sure, we build trust in new relationships, and that takes a lot of work too, but it’s the building of trust with those who failed us – who broke trust – that provides a more difficult challenge.

At least, for me it does. I want to trust others, but it’s very difficult for me to get their breach of trust out of my thoughts sometimes. There’s this constant warning light going off, and my flesh wants to do whatever I can to stop that light from blinking. The easiest way I’ve found to stop the blinking is by avoiding the person. Yet, not only is that not always possible, it doesn’t line up with Scripture.

So, I must do the tough work of choosing to trust those who fail me simply because I know it pleases God. That’s where my relationship with Him – where my trust being established in Him – becomes crucial. Because there’s no way I can trust those who have failed me if they are the source of my ability to trust.

Trust quotes

With that, here are just a few examples to consider as you look toward building trust in relationships where you’ve been hurt.

  • God trusted Jonah despite previous disappointment. (Jonah 3:1-2) Jonah ultimately comes through, but he never really gets the point God is making. (See God is a God of Second Chances for more on this.)
  • Christ reinstated Peter after his predicted denial. (John 21:15) Not only did He reinstate Peter, but He trusted Him with tremendous responsibility in the spread of the Gospel.
  • Barnabas gave John Mark a second chance even though Paul disagreed with doing so. (Acts 15:37-39)

Ultimately, we choose to trust others because we know that trust exists at the heart of relationships. God trusts humans with tasks purposed for His will because He desires relational partnering, giving us the example to follow. Because He trusts in this way, knowing He’ll be let down, we too can continue working to build trust even with those who have and likely will again let us down.

Since our trust flows from the One who is perfectly trustworthy, we can live and operate within this cycle of broken trust knowing He desires our pursuit of relationship even at the cost of personal comfort.

With that, we’ll next move on to our final discussion about trust by discussing “How to Build Trust.” That will be our focus Thursday.

DISCUSSION: How does God’s example of trusting others inspire you to do the same even in light of broken trust?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

 

How Do We Live Out Trust?

Trust

Living Out Trust

Trusting another person makes a bold statement about your trust in God, a statement saying you choose obedience over trying to protect yourself. Because we have a 100% reliable source of trust, as discussed in “Where Should You Place Your Trust?,” we move forward in relationships with others who will let us down knowing God never will. His trustworthiness exists regardless of what others do or don’t do.

The best place to start living out trust that is rooted and grounded in God is through tangible expressions of that trust. In other words, through practical expressions and actions that show God exists as our source of trust and confidence.

We show our trust in God through:

Actively showing our trust in God opens us up to being able to trust others because we know our trust lies rooted in Him, not them. But that doesn’t mean trusting in others is easy. It’s not, especially with a fresh wound from unbroken trust still festering and knowing other wounds are forthcoming as long as you commit to working toward building trust in your relationships.

Trust in the Lord

People & Trust

People will break my trust again. But it ultimately doesn’t matter because they can never take away what truly matters, that which only comes from God. The most important thing I have to lose – my salvation – can’t be lost. So really, it’s not important as much whether others are trustworthy as it is whether or not I’m living a life that truly trusts in the only one who is trustworthy.

But how do I live this out? How do I show my trust is nowhere but in God?

  • By choosing to trust people knowing they’ll let me down and knowing God can make good out of it, that He rights wrongs. (Luke 18:7)
  • By building relationships and striving for unity even amidst continually broken trust simply out of obedience to the One who is completely trustworthy.
    (Ephesians 2:21-22)
  • By looking at my expectations and adjusting or eliminating them. Doing my part to live at peace with others involves not setting them up for failure, and this sometimes means lowering my trust level by lowering my expectations.
    (Romans 12:18)
  • By not mistaking people letting me down for God letting me down. This means not blaming God for people breaking my trust and choosing to follow God’s will regardless of what others do or don’t do. (Joshua 24:15)

I choose to continue trusting others because my trust isn’t based in them. I work to build trust and live peacefully with others, knowing they’ll let me down, because God is bigger than any broken trust.

The victory of Christ on the cross revealed a power greater than that of broken trust. The death and resurrection of Jesus proved that God will never let me down because He gave everything to establish a relationship with me. It proved that I can extend trust to others again and again knowing they will let me down because I know He has never and will never break trust.

But this doesn’t mean broken trust is ever easy to accept. It never feels good, and we need to know what’s involved in “Building & Establishing Trust” because we’ll have to work at it eventually in most, if not all, relationships. That topic is our focus for next Tuesday.

DISCUSSION: How does your daily life show trust in God?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

Where Should You Place Your Trust?

TrustAnalyzing Trust

What or whom do you trust? Friends? Family? Spouse? Parents? Teachers? Doctors? Pastors? Authors? Children? Finances? Abilities? Talents? News? Television?

To some degree, every object of trust breaks trust at some point. We all know the sting of broken trust. If we’re honest, we all must admit to being the source of that sting at times too.

The level of trust you extend another depends greatly on your view of their overall trustworthiness, dependability and reliability. How much you trust also depends upon your overall ability to trust in general. In other words, trust exists specific to the trustworthiness of the person or thing being trusted, but it also exists based on your overall life experience with trust as well as on your individual expectations for trust.

For example, I trust my husband more than any other person because our shared experiences over the past 26 years prove his overall trustworthiness. Doesn’t mean he’s never let me down, but it does mean his life speaks to a solid character deserving of trust.

On the other hand, broken trust surprised me enough times over the years to the point of lowering my expectation for trustworthiness in general. People I thought I knew were not who I thought they were. Apparent character turned out not to be true character. And spoken values ended up as dust in the whirlwind of busyness and overload.

So, while my overall trust of my husband still stands strong and gives hope that trustworthiness still exists, my overall trust of people in general exists weaker today than it did five years ago.

Choosing Obedience Over Feelings

Unfortunately, today even with a trustworthy spouse, I stand questioning the trustworthiness of people in general. Befuddled by what seems to be an epidemic gap between the private self and the public self in way too many individuals, I expect the appearance of character to no longer match reality and am pleasantly surprised when it does.

My reaction to these feelings involves wanting to live an introverted life, a natural bent for me anyway. But even more than what seems natural, I find myself drawn away from connecting and gravitating toward keeping people at a safe distance emotionally.

Yet, a pull deep within me keeps me from withdrawing. It keeps the desire for connection alive even at the risk of hurt caused by broken trust. That inclination involves the Holy Spirit’s work within me creating a desire to please God, to do His will regardless of my feelings.

Scripture says to love others. It says to to connect and encourage and admonish and give advice and get advice. So, withdrawing goes against God’s desires. As I write this, I admit to being at odds with Scripture’s directive to connect with others. My desire to lessen the continual sting of broken trust rides high in my awareness, and I often struggle resisting it.

The sting of broken trust leads me to pull against what Scripture says about loving others. And since what I’m feeling does not match with what I know of God’s Word, I must discover the disconnect and better align my thoughts and feelings with God’s heart. With that realization, let’s consider what God says about trust.

First, Scripture clearly tells us where NOT to place our trust:

  • Weapons (Psalm 44:6) – Weapons (tools) exist as an outlet for expressing trust, not as a source of trust.
  • Wealth (Psalm 49:6, 7) – Wealth provides as a means for sharing blessing not as an object of trust.
  • Leaders (Psalm 146:3) – People make mistakes and fail; no one remains 100% trustworthy.
  • Man (Jeremiah 17:5) – Allowing people to be your source of trust brings curse, not blessing.
  • Works (Jeremiah 48:7) – Trusting in skills and abilities leads to captivity; works are never enough.
  • One’s own righteousness (Ezekiel 33:13) – We simply don’t possess the ability to obtain righteousness, to do enough to be completely trustworthy.

Scripture helped me understand the hurt caused by broken trust came because I expected trust from people and things unable to deliver complete trustworthiness. I expected too much.

Second, Scripture clearly tells us where TO place our trust:

  • God’s name (Psalm 33:21) – His name reflects His attributes, His character. God always holds true to His character.
  • God’s word (Psalm 119:42) – Scripture provides the answers needed for every struggle of life.
  • Christ (Matthew 12:17-21) – The hope of all the world rests securely on the perfectly trustworthy shoulders of Jesus.

We are to trust in His Word, in who He says He is and with hope in the death-conquering power of Christ. My trust should belong nowhere else. And as is the abundant nature of God, He also gives BENEFITS OF TRUSTING IN HIM:

Trust blessings

When reading this list of benefits of trusting in God alone, I wonder why I trust or have confidence in anyone or anything else. Which returns us back to the idea of obedience. Unless we truly want to live inside ourselves and void our lives of human contact – and ultimately go against what Scripture expects of us – we must trust other people even though we know they’ll let us down. On Tuesday, we’ll get further into this topic as we look at “Living Out Trust.”

DISCUSSION: In what state does your trust level exist these days? Why?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

How to Help Those Struggling with Depression

The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on depression with the focus of helping those who have loved ones struggling with depression but who have never themselves personally struggled with it. The depression series stemmed from my second chance story, which was part of a series on 2nd Chances on Cycle Guy’s Spin.

With depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams recently, I decided to repost the depression series here on Struggle to Victory.

Help

How to Help Those Struggling with Depression

If you’ve never struggled with depression, do you ever wonder what you can say or do to help those who do suffer? If you do, this post will hopefully offer you insight into accomplishing that desire.

When I was at my most depressed, I received little to nothing of what others said or did to try and help me. I just couldn’t see anything positive. Looking back, I realize that even though I didn’t think so at the time, having people just not give up on me even when I had given up made all the difference. No matter what I said or did, they always took me back and forgave me.

The best counselors and friends were the ones who simply listened but maintained boundaries in that they refused to climb into the pit with me. They were able to maintain mental and physical health in their own lives and not let me pull them in the pit. So, I saw them as stable people who accepted me where I was as well as examples of where I wanted to be.

While some did suggest I simple “change,” just “be happy,” for the most part the people in my life allowed me to be however I was going to be, not really accepting the behavior, but loving me regardless. And when they saw any positive, whether momentary or a genuine step toward change, they latched on to that for as long as the wave existed even when they knew it would fade. This went a long way helping me make small, gradual changes that over time added up to make a huge difference in discovering victory.

Related to this, those who did not try to force me to change were the ones I wanted to be around. I know most of them were praying for me, but they did not try and insist I change. They accepted me for who I was at the time. When I did reject them, which I did often since intimacy of any sort was thin at best and impossible at worse most of the time, they did not take it personally. They knew, somehow, it wasn’t meant personally. They gave me the space I needed, even letting me be miserable, and were always available when I came out of the darkest recesses of the pit for a while.

Generally speaking then, the people in my life who had never suffered depression, helped me by staying consistent with who they were, by accepting me for who I was and where I was, by seeing beyond where I was and to who I could become, and by praying for me.

My husband said he felt helpless when I was depressed, and I guess he kind of was. I assume that’s how many people who have not had depression feel. The odd part is that this is how people with depression feel too. So, realize that the helplessness you feel in not being able to help the person get out of depression is similar to the helplessness the depressed person feels in being trapped in it. Interesting, don’t you think?

DISCUSSION: What can you add regarding how to help someone who is depressed? Any questions?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

Staying Out of the Pit

The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on depression with the focus of helping those who have loved ones struggling with depression but who have never themselves personally struggled with it. The depression series stemmed from my second chance story, which was part of a series on 2nd Chances on Cycle Guy’s Spin.

With depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams recently, I decided to repost the depression series here on Struggle to Victory.

pit

Staying Out of the Pit

What you read on Struggle to Victory covers my main approach to keep from falling back into the pit of depression. I get into the details of topics I am struggling with, find out what Scripture says about them, and process them by writing about them. Doing this helps tremendously in capturing thoughts and not letting them hold me captive, which is what happened when I didn’t know how process feelings. At some point, I just determined not to let my thinking exist without boundaries and structure anymore, and writing gives me a way to establish the boundaries and structure I need to keep well away from the pit.

But writing isn’t all I do. I’ve discovered that one thing rarely does exactly what you need in any area, at least not for very long. Writing simply provides an outlet for my very busy inner life. Being an introvert, my inner life is as busy as the outer life of most extroverts. Writing gives me a way to order that world and to deal with it in a healthy way.

In addition to, or rather alongside and within writing, there are various ways I keep from going in the direction of pit dwelling. First and most importantly, I maintain a daily, consistent relationship with God through Bible study and prayer. I’m not saying this as a high and mighty “look how spiritual I am” statement; instead, it’s meant to simply say that I know I am completely and utterly unable to stay out of the pit of depression without Him. Without the Holy Spirit working in my life, and without God’s mighty power active in and through me, I would not be alive today.

I also make staying physically healthy a priority by eating healthy, exercising and getting plenty of adequate rest. I’m willing to try different approaches to health and wellness because I’ve learned that limiting yourself to the approach of traditional, Western medicine only limits and may even inhibit your ability to overcome depression and become healthy. My approach is along the lines of integrative medicine.

Staying aware of personal triggers is important too. I know the signs of my getting overwhelmed (digestion issues, sleep problems, anxiety & general grumpiness, for example), and I make adjustments as soon as I realize what’s happening to prevent any more veering off into bumpy territory.

While I need routine and structure to some extent, I must balance them with flexibility and variety. Otherwise, I get into a rut of boredom that also leads to depression. Fortunately, my husband and sons help tremendously with this area not just with their busy schedules but also with their zest for discovery and adventure.

Knowing what to avoid is also key (examples for me include sugar, romance novels, and television shows in general). One area of thought that I need to be extra careful with is absolutes. Saying “I never…” or “I can’t…” or “I always…” usually takes me down a very narrow and precarious path. I’ve learned to leave the absolutes up to God who has the capacity to follow through with them simply because He doesn’t change and I do.

As you can see, I have a variety of ways I keep from falling back into the pit. All of them are negotiable except my reliance on God.

sooner quoteIn Retrospect

Some ask what I would have done differently now that I am able to look back on depression with some objectivity. Let me simply say that I just would have done all of this sooner. I would have taken the small steps needed to get out of the pit sooner. I would have asked God to help me sooner. I would have let others help sooner. I would have let my pride go sooner. Nothing really done differently since all were necessary parts of the journey. They just all could have happened sooner.

So much (most really) of what caused my depression was outside of my control, so I don’t think I personally could have prevented it. I could have just taken the steps to get out of it sooner. That’s all on me.

DISCUSSION: How can someone not suffering from depression help those who do struggle stay out of the pit?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

Depression vs Anxiety

The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on depression with the focus of helping those who have loved ones struggling with depression but who have never themselves personally struggled with it. The depression series stemmed from my second chance story, which was part of a series on 2nd Chances on Cycle Guy’s Spin.

With depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams recently, I decided to repost the depression series here on Struggle to Victory.

Depression2Depression vs Anxiety

First, let me clarify that while I was formally diagnosed with chronic depression, I was never officially diagnosed with anxiety. I self-diagnosed anxiety because I knew it wasn’t depression, which I knew very, very well, and because I had learned the power of educating yourself as a way to help heal yourself.

Depression and anxiety hold many similarities. They both involve uncontrollable feelings of often vague origin, and they both involve some level of hopelessness and helplessness. Both are also deep to the point of affecting every part of a person.

AnxietyThe differences between anxiety and depression, for me, was that depression felt like a dark pit while anxiety felt like a heightened (too aware) state of awareness. In other words, depression was a low energy state while anxiety is a high energy state.

Another connection between the two involves the idea that any lack of control can lead to depression without the right thinking to surround it, and anxiety certainly feels like no control. Yet, all my efforts to gain control as much as I could over whomever I could were fruitless. Only when I finally gave up seeking control did I discover healing and victory over depression.

Note that I said “was” for depression and “is” for anxiety, that I declared healing and victory over depression but not anxiety. This is simply because I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. Two things cause anxiety to flare up for me. One is becoming overwhelmed, a topic you know I’ve addressed at length on my blog.

Another is the physical component, which I cannot ever dismiss or consider too lightly. It has a huge role to play both in depression and anxiety, and I’ll address it a little more in another post. Suffice it to say, the physical aspect of the self – my health and wellness – played a significant role in my whole depression/anxiety story. Staying physically healthy and making adjustments as I age goes a long way in maintaining mental health. The two – mental and physical – go hand-in-hand, and neither part should be ignored.

DISCUSSION: Why do you think depression and anxiety are so closely linked? How do you see the connection between the physical and mental playing out with regard to depression and anxiety?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

The Impact of Other People & My Faith on Depression

The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on depression with the focus of helping those who have loved ones struggling with depression but who have never themselves personally struggled with it. The depression series stemmed from my second chance story, which was part of a series on 2nd Chances on Cycle Guy’s Spin.

With depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams recently, I decided to repost the depression series here on Struggle to Victory.

slide-02

The Impact of Other People

Had I not had relationships that mattered to me or that I at least wanted to matter to me, I don’t think I would have had hope. The first was the hope of a relationship with God, but more on that in a minute. First, let’s address the other relationships mentioned in the question.

My husband joined this journey with me when I was only 5 years into it. Since I was about 10 years old when depression hit, you’ll realize we got together pretty young. I could never do justice to the junk (the kindest word I can think of to describe it) I put him through over the past 25ish years or to the patience he continually doled out. Simply put, he never gave up on me and refused to leave me. He looked me straight in the eye on more than one occasion and said, “I will never leave you.” I get choked up thinking about it. I realize today that him never giving up on me made me unable to give up either.

I grew up in a very rules-oriented church culture, one where God was this distant being who seemed more like a master chess player than like anyone who wanted me to know Him personally. So, the first 28 years of my faith life included what I “should” do, including believing in God. Around age 28, that changed. I began to discover who I was in Christ, and I learned that Jesus not only wanted a relationship with me but that He gave me His Holy Spirit to comfort and help me. I learned that the Bible was a guide for life and not simply a book of rules. This process of correcting my wrong views about God and seeing life from a full-Gospel perspective truly gave me a new foundation to build upon as I began to live more and more outside of the pit.

Not sure how to characterize my family’s role, so I’ll just dive in to some specific examples. My dad was absent a lot and pretty self-focused, which does not bode well for the self-esteem of a little girl. My mom always loved and accepted me no matter my emotional state, but she had struggles of her own to contend with at the time.

My extended family was a factor only through two people. One individual told me, “You’re average and will always be average,” and another said, “You’re just not as smart as the others.”  Those statements took years to be undone as truth in my mind and still haunt me during times of weakness still today.

My journey out of the pit really began after I had my oldest son. When he was a toddler, I realized that I did not want his memories of me to be ones of a depressed an unhappy person. So, I began the journey for him. My youngest son entered this journey only about 4 years ago, but it too was a pivotal experience in that he needed me to live fully and completely outside of the pit in order for him to not live in one himself. For him, I took steps to fill in the pit of depression that had been my dwelling place for so many years, making it no longer an option.

Faith

The Impact of My Faith

I don’t remember not believing in God. However, I do remember not really knowing who Jesus was and what role the Holy Spirit played. Learning about relationship with Christ changed everything. My growth in faith coincides directly with my progression through depression and out of the pit forever. Depression was the trial of my life that drew me always closer to Him; it was either that or end my life. Realizing my inability to overcome on my own led me to realize my desperate need for Him.

(Note: If we had time and space, I would also discuss the role of Christian counseling as well as of the books I read during the journey.)

DISCUSSION: How do you see your role in the life of those you love who struggle with depression? What questions do you have regarding living out those roles?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

My Depression Story

The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on depression with the focus of helping those who have loved ones struggling with depression but who have never themselves personally struggled with it. The depression series stemmed from my second chance story, which was part of a series on 2nd Chances on Cycle Guy’s Spin.

With depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams recently, I decided to repost the depression series here on Struggle to Victory. Tuesday’s post will present the second of 5 posts in the depression series.

DEPRESSION

My Story in Summary

Depression fully entered my life around age 10 (4th grade). The severity waxed and waned through high school with the lowest points coming during my twenties. Actual diagnoses came around age 22, just a year or so after getting married.

As a child and through high school, I was very emotional and cried easily. I even had the nickname “baby” stick with me from 4th through 8th grade. In my twenties, I became pretty volatile and hit a desperate low, considering suicide at various times.

Around age 28, light broke through the heavy cloud in my mind, and I began the climb out of the pit. Still unpredictable emotionally and still a regular pit-dweller, I began visiting the edge of the pit.

My 30s can be characterized by discovering and dealing with root causes. Lots of ups and downs still during this time, but the lows became not quite as low and got continually higher as I slowly but surely dealt with the various causes.

Many & Varied Causes

The causes of depression for me were many and varied. I held unforgiveness toward several individuals, and I had some very unhealthy thought patterns needing reprogrammed along with some pretty poor relational habits.

In many ways, I really had no way to even deal with the emotions of life, not even to identify what I was feeling and experiencing. Added to all of that, I had some significant health issues (food allergy, food sensitivities, thyroid issues, hormonal imbalance & adrenal fatigue) that made climbing out of the pit nearly impossible.

Then there was my inability to take personal responsibility for myself or to even recognize the need to do so as well as being pretty confused about who this distant God of the universe was.

Hopelessness in Depression

I definitely felt hopeless at times, but there was always the slight hope of a hope that God was real and would not leave me to sink in the mud of the pit that was my life and had been for so very long. That hope literally kept me alive.

A positive that came out of that hopelessness, which I know sounds very strange to say, is a realization of how powerless I was to change myself. With all my efforts, I could improve but never overcome. I could skirt the edge of the pit at times but never really be free from falling back in pretty regularly. There was always more struggle than anything else with true victory seeming only a fairytale.

Even while visiting that long period in my life through my memories, I recall all too well the feelings of that old life. But, I need to remember them once in a while and to be reminded of where I came from, so I can better appreciate where I am today. Remembering life in the pit provides tremendous motivation for doing whatever I need to do to make sure I never go back no matter what happens in my life.

DISCUSSION: For those of you who have not struggled with depression, what questions, thoughts, etc. do you have? For those who do/have suffer, what can you share related to my story above that would help others who suffer or love someone who suffers with depression?

Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

God is a God of Second Chances

The post below first appeared at Cycle Guy’s Spin as part of a series on 2nd Chances. Since it, along with a resulting series on depression, were so well-received and with depression coming even more to our attentions with the death of Robin Williams, I decided to repost both my second chance story along with the depression series here on Struggle to Victory. Thursday’s post will present the first of 5 posts in the depression series.

JonahLearning from Jonah

What do you remember about the story of Jonah from Sunday School? Maybe you remember Jonah’s change of mind toward obedience, him being thrown into the water and spit out by the whale, or the Ninevites’ change of heart toward God. Whatever first comes to mind, I’m guessing it’s not the plant at the end of the story.

The dead plant doesn’t get much attention in Sunday School class. I all but forgot about it until my oldest (now 15) got interested in Veggie Tales around age 3. Now, two things stick out when I think of Jonah.

  1. God is a god of second chances.
  2. Jonah showed the most emotion when the plant died, and we never hear of him again. (Jonah 4)

Jonah got angry when God gave the people of Ninevah a second chance. He got even angrier to the point of death when the shade-giving plant God gave him died. Let’s consider Jonah’s reactions in this story.

  1. He didn’t like having his plans changed.
  2. He played the “I told you so” card with God.
  3. He got embarrassed because what he predicted didn’t happen.
  4. He showed more concern for his own comfort than the spiritual welfare of others.
  5. He knew about God but failed to have a relationship with Him.

Unfortunately, Jonah’s story, especially his anger, reflects my own second-chance story all too well.

My Second Chance Story

For years, I wallowed in depression, refusing to see God’s compassion and mercy in my life. I threw tantrums when my plans were changed, and I hated appearing wrong. What others thought of me drove me to run away and avoid any discomfort. I knew about God – grew up going to church – but the spiritual state of anyone mattered little because caring meant confronting out-of-control emotion, and that mean discomfort. No thanks. I’d rather die.

Over time, God changed my heart from one focused on self to one that cared for others. He defeated my egotistical temper and replaced it with compassion and mercy. Through His Holy Spirit, God showed me the value of discomfort and how it could teach me to truly live. Through His Word, He developed a relationship with me that focused on pleasing Him instead of creating comfort.

I’m not sure what happened to Jonah after the plant died, but I know the same compassion and mercy God had for the Ninevites and that seemed lost on Jonah is the same compassion and mercy He has for me and for anyone who turns to Him.

Now when the plants die in my life and my shaded comfort disappears, God’s compassion and mercy – the avenues of second chances – turn me toward Him. They encourage me to push through embarrassment and toward relationship. God’s compassion and mercy drastically altered the course of my life and they’ll do the same for your life too.

DISCUSSION: What impact has God’s compassion and mercy had upon your life?

 Subscribe to Struggle to Victory by Email

Why We Need Variety within Spiritual Disciplines

Below is a guest post by Chris Peek. Chris blogs at Trail Reflections where he offers content that encourages leaders to discover their life mission, live with intention, pursue adventure and become fully alive.

praywithoutceasing_SLIDE1

Why We Need Variety within Spiritual Disciplines

My heart is prone to forget. For seven years, my wife has struggled with a chronic health condition known as POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) – a form dysautonomia. From 2008-2011, we traversed the specialty medical circuit – VCU, Vanderbilt, Toledo, and the Mayo Clinic – as Karen underwent test after test, consultation after consultation.

Over time, it became apparent that she would be forced to manage the disease rather than be cured of it. Through the days, months, and years of pain and struggle, Karen has shown incredible strength and resolve. And as her condition became our new “normal,” our attention turned to growing our family.

Some doctors opined that we should hold off on having children. However, Karen’s POTS specialist in Toledo encouraged us to pursue pregnancy, stating that many POTS patients do really well while pregnant.

Yet after three miscarriages, we contemplated whether or not we should simply give up. Thankfully, we didn’t lose complete hope, even in the midst of some extremely dark days. Eventually, Karen got pregnant once again, and this time, everything seemed to be on track right up through the first several hours of labor.

I have a saying that few things in our lives seem to come easy, and the delivery of our son would be no exception. About 4:30 AM, the doctor burst into our room, jarring me out of my light nap. With a deep concern in his voice, he confirmed that both Karen’s and the baby’s heart rates were unstable. They needed to perform a C-section right away. After the longest hour-and-a-half of my life, she gave birth to our beautiful, healthy son.

Peek 1

Prone to Forget

Six months later, my heart is prone to forget about the struggle and pain. I am more apt to go about our daily routine of diaper changes and battling acid reflux without spending a moment recognizing God’s blessing of a beautiful baby boy.

Similarly, my heart is prone to lose sight of the cross and the brutal sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. I am so self-absorbed that I am more concerned about paying the bills than God’s work throughout the nations. I can stand in awe of God’s blessing one day and have completely forgotten about His favor a mere 24 hours later.

Maybe that is why the apostle Paul urges us to “Pray without ceasing…” or why the Psalmist prayerfully offers, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.”

There are so many distractions in our world that it takes discipline to remain in firmly entrenched in God’s presence. Spiritual discipline. That’s not a phrase we hear bandied about too much anymore, even within the walls of the church. Discipline sounds so twentieth century. We live in the century of instantaneous pleasure and success.

I’m probably the last person who should be writing about spiritual discipline because my heart is prone to wander and is filled with inconsistencies. Nevertheless, an ongoing relationship with God cannot exist without spiritual discipline. Discipline is a word we often associate with routine and boredom. Yet by adding a little variety, we can keep our relationship with God alive and vibrant.

Variety within Spiritual Disciplines

We don’t have to sit in the same location to pray or read the Bible. We don’t have to attend the same church service and sit in the same pew we have been sitting in for the last 20 years. If your spiritual walk feels stale, it’s probably because it is. The goal of spiritual discipline is not discipline in and of itself, but to draw into a more intimate walk with the Father.

What are some ways we can add variety to spiritual disciplines?

Worship – This can take on so many forms. Why not look for creative and meaningful ways to worship? Work is worship. Art is worship. Singing is worship. The key is whether the worship points back to God or to self.

Prayer – I like to pray while I am walking on a nature trail. Sometimes I talk to God while driving. Other times, I prefer to pray just sitting in silence. We may need to break away for an hour and spend time with God in His Creation.

Acts of Service – There are an infinite number of ways to serve the church and community. They key involves utilizing our unique calling in a variety of others-centered ways.

Bible Reading – There are numerous, sound Bible translations available to us, and it may help to switch up every once in a while. In addition, we have limitless books, courses, Bible studies, and workbooks available at the click of a mouse. These resources provide a helpful way to inject life into devotional times.

DISCUSSION: Is your heart prone to wander? What other ways can we add variety to spiritual disciplines in order to make our hearts come alive?