Why Living by Our Circumstances is a Trap

I was having a conversation with a friend and fellow teacher at More Grace Outreach the other day. She had just gotten over to the other side of some not great circumstances in her family life. I mentioned the seemingly inevitable occurrence – whenever we think – I’ve got this, or everything is running smoothly, something goes wrong.

Not twenty minutes later, her one of her boys was in throwing up and she had to leave MGO, on top of that, there was a gas leak at one the properties she and hubby owned. If I were one of those people who believed in weird things, I could blame myself for her circumstances because I had said the words.

It seems a universal theme for all humans to have bad things happen. Not just once. But over and over. Not long after her new crisis, my family had a new one. I’m not going to list all the negative, bad, horrible events that come as a package deal with large family living. The more people in your family, the more things happening. It’s just math pure and simple.

My View Of God determined my Response

I used to think of God as a horrible dictatorial being in heaven with a giant sledge hammer meeting out punishment for every infraction. When I believed God had those characteristics, when something went wrong in my life, I immediately blamed myself. I went over my behaviors and attitudes and tried to figure out what I had done wrong. My next step was to ask God why He was punishing me. It wasn’t pleasant looking. I was full of self-loathing, fear, anxiety, and not enjoyable to be around. Let’s just say my fruit of the spirit dried up during these times. And if I’m honest, in times of super stressful situations, I revert to believing and thinking in “Everything is my fault. I made this happen” or “God is punitive.” I do now have a check in my spirit which quickly gets me back on track.

A Renewed View

A few weeks ago, my eldest son, post accident, post surgery was binge watching “The Good Doctor.” After a few episodes, I walked into the family room and he said, “Mom, even though you have been at the hospital A LOT for the past month, we are all really okay. We could have been so much worse.” And he is right. I had joked with the barista at the hospital Starbucks that I practically lived there.

I’m not saying all this to make light of surgeries, hospital stays, or horrific circumstances. Not at all. It’s just a trap to be living on the edge of what-bad-thing-is-going-to-happen-next sort of thinking. Guess, what? Stuff is going to happen. It’s better to change our mindsets to how we respond or how we prepare. If your life is totally great right now, that’s awesome. When I have times of calm I can develop a false faith. Kara Tippets calls it “manufactured faith” in her book The Hardest Place. I’ve been there. In my desire to feel secure (because of some trauma in my past), I manufacture faith by doing all the right things. Then when bad things happen, I feel betrayed as if my faith didn’t work at all. What about you? Do you struggle with that? Do you get tripped up by your circumstances?

The Outcome of Trials

I read this verse in Proverbs 11 and it put some ideas and beliefs into perspective:

When swelling and pride come, then emptiness and shame come also, but with the humble (those who are lowly, who have been pruned or chiseled by trial, and renounce self) are skillful and godly Wisdom and soundness.

When I have pride because my faith is based on my works, I feel empty and ashamed when things go wrong. And they will go wrong because we live in a fallen world. The emphasis on my faith here is in me, my ability to keep being “good.” When my eyes are fixed on Jesus, His power, His ability, when the trial comes and I renounce self, God chisels me. I get spiritually chiseled, godly Wisdom and soundness. Soundness says, “This terrible circumstance isn’t a punishment.” As Lysa Terkheurst says in Uninvited, “It’s impossible to hold up the banners of victim and victory at the same time.” Humility gives us the advantage of letting God’s hand work on us in the midst of the trial. We cannot let circumstances define or confine us. Circumstances are not the measure of our faith or our worth.

When Things get Tough, Should We Reroute or Stay the Course?

Recalculating

Hubby and I were on a road trip. We pulled into a gas station and our little GPS panicked. In a British accent, she yelled, “Recalculating! Recalculating!” It quickly changed to a more placid “Rerouting” once we turned around.

That’s often what I do. I hear God’s voice (through His Word) and I walk forth in obedience. A mountain rises up the distance. I break forth in a run, full of obedience and hope. I climb that mountain. Then another mountain waits in the distance. I climb it as well. After the twenty-fifth mountain, I yell – RECALCULATING!

Rerouting

Do you (like me) tend to want to reroute when things get difficult? I was hoping for fruitfulness, not a continual sacrifice of myself. I begin to doubt, rely on my own strength and then follows the spirit of control. Because of trauma in my past, my home base is sometimes control instead of Christ.

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Control or Trust. You can’t have both.

Trying to control circumstances only leads to disappointment.  Control doesn’t solve the problems, climb the mountains or satisfy. Trusting in the Lord, no matter what the outcome is relief. It shouldn’t matter how hard we must buckle down to be obedient. That’s our chief end, to be obedient to and glorify God.

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” – Psalm 84: 11

I don’t need to Reroute, I need to Dig in.

I don’t need to reroute. I need to press in. I need to dig into God’s Word. I need to praise into His presence, to trust that He is in control, and that He will give me the strength to climb the next mountain. Climbing the mountain or trying again in obedience is creating endurance in me. It’s allowing God’s strength to work in me.

When things get difficult…

When things get difficult, we must do hard things. There I said it. I don’t like it. My husband had to listen to my cries of “rerouting” the other evening. I’ve hit obstacle after obstacle in this short year. I’m not complaining, I’m just reporting. I’m okay with a few mountains (not literally) because I can do them in my own strength-ish. What gets totally uncomfortable is when obedience requires strength, abilitiies and resources that I don’t have. When I am in postition of helplessness, Christ can do the work. I can’t take the glory. All glory and honor belong to Him.

“I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
        God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
    so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
    and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
    and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
    producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
    not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
    they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.- Isaiah 55: 8-9

If you are in the midst of some difficult circumstances, hold fast. Don’t reroute. If you are walking in obedience, God will do the work. You may not be able to see what He is doing right now. Often the work is internal. He’s working on our hearts. We want to see outward signs, but He wants us to trust Him for the outcome, no matter what that is.

Circling the Mountain

While I was giving my husband a status update on some circumstances, this analogy hit me. When we circle the mountain, complaining, measuring, planning or whatever it is we do to avoid obedience, we just make a deeper trough. The mountain then appears to be larger and we sink into mud. We walk ourselves into a pit of depression. We glorify our difficulites instead of depend on God’s strength. Our trust is in our ability. We are doomed to fail when our ability is all we have.

Blessed Hope

God promises to give us strength to carry out His will. We have: immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power working in us (Ephesians 1:19). Our hope is not in our circumstances, but in His power working through us to fulfill His purpose for His greater honor and glory. Don’t reroute. Climb that next mountain.

Let me leave you with this quote from Hind’s Feet on High Place:

“O Shepherd. You said you would make my feet like hinds‘ feet and set me upon High Places“. “Well”, he answered “the only way to develop hinds‘ feet is to go by the paths which the hinds use.” 
* Our Back to Basics Series continues next week! Catch up on it, by starting here! 

Don’t Just Survive, Thrive! (Part 1) Feigned Feminism Friday

What’s the last decision you made completely uninfluenced by others or your circumstances?

Do your circumstances define you and confine you?

If you had total freedom from other’s opinions, your current circumstances and your erroneous beliefs about yourself, what would that look like?

Would you feel freer, act as if you had value? Would you pursue your purpose with vigor instead of fear and trepidation?

What if you walked as if you were truly loved, valued and cherished?

Feigned Feminism Friday

 

Modern feminism tells us women that we can/should have it all. We can have it all and there will be no consequence? That’s just not possible. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Basic science. If we have it ALL, we have to maintain it ALL. As Bud, my stepfather used to say, “Something’s got to give.” It’s like those people who want a pool (it’s great), but don’t want to do the work of vacuuming it, keeping the patio clean, testing the water, etc.. Point is, if you have it, you have to maintain it.

Modern women have it all, but according to Dr. Villar, author of Urban Woman Syndrome, we are paying a hefty price. Women or more likely to suffer stress and anxiety these days than men. The stressors in women’s lives are greater than they were in our mother’s time. Whether you work or stay at home (and work), the pressure is greater to ‘have it all together’ in a world that is falling apart. There’s more pressure to look perfect for our social media driven society. There is more stress on being educated and have the perfect career in a new age where women have the option to pursue academics. If you stay at home and homeschool, there is an unwritten rule that your house should be cleaner and you should be more organized and efficient than the rest of the female population!

Are you feeling pressure just reading this? Is it overwhelming? This overwhelming stress or Urban Woman Syndrome drives us to survival mode where we fight, flight or freeze.

We should have it all together, right? As soon as we get one step in the right direction of “I’ve got it all covered”, then circumstances happen that throw us into the pit.

  • Divorce
  • Depression
  • Job Loss
  • Parenting a child with special needs
  • A Move
  • A Job Change
  • A New Baby
  • Health Issues
  • Death of a Loved One

Suddenly, all the great things in our life look gray. Feel gray. I know. I’m preaching to the Guire here. Been there. Done that.

You are not alone, dear one. It’s going to be okay. Really. Can I share three things that have helped me? Three things I need reminded of often? I learned them from John 5, the story of the man at the pool of Bethesda and from Holley Gerth (via her book You’re Going to be Okay).

First of all, do you want to get well? That’s what Jesus asks the man who had laid by the pool for thirty-eight years.

“Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anyone to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in it.”

May I tell you something, friend? There is enough pool water for everyone. The water that Jesus offers means you’ll never thirst. There is no lack in Jesus. The lady next to you at church isn’t taking all the healing. There is enough for you too. Say “yes” to wanting to get well. Take a second right now. Just say, “yes, Jesus”.

Next week, join me for number one!