What to do with problems that won’t go away

What to do with problems that won’t go away

Taking a look inside: Life-coaching principles to help us live boldly in a broken world
Week #1

(If you’ll recall, I promised a four week series, moving from looking at ourselves all the way to thinking globally. True to form, I jumped into a monthly plan half-way through the month. Ha!

So this is a bonus week for you: we’ll deal with ourselves today and move right into marriage on Friday. Glad you’re here!)

What to do with problems

If you’re anything like me, or any of the people I know, you are currently praying for a problem to go away.

Financial trouble… difficulties with kids… marriage issues… health problems…

I’m no fool. I can quickly and accurately define all of those as bad.

For nine years I defined Haiti’s corruption as bad. It kept my husband and me from adopting our three Haitian kids the whole time we lived there. What’s good about leaving three kids behind in a country experiencing a coup? What’s good about losing thousands upon thousands of dollars to wicked, wealthy liars and politicians?

I don’t know. But in Romans 8:28, God promises to work all things together for the good of those who love Him.

Again and again, you and I fall for the lie that our lives here on Earth should be easy and fair.

Of course, our souls tell us we were made for glory, and we’re right. Man and woman were placed in a perfect Garden, and someday, because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, we’ll see Heaven.

But for a little while longer, we’re here. And Jesus Himself said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Things get even stickier when we read we should “always” be “giving thanks to God the Father for everything” (Ephesians 5:20).

Does that include our troubles?

James MacDonald, in his series “Lord, Change My Attitude” says he sees three basic levels of thankfulness:

Level One: When you aren’t really feeling it, but you want to be obedient anyway, so you offer up a “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15).

Level Two: When you’ve matured a little more and can give God thanks even during the hard times for who He is, His presence and help in your life: “in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Level Three: When you’ve come to trust God so much that you can thank Him for everything including your problems, knowing that He’s working it all out for your good and His glory (Ephesians 5:20).

At the same time I was mulling over these truths, I heard James MacDonald in another sermon on my son’s radio:

“Stop asking God to take away your problems!”
(I wasn’t sure if I should turn the radio up or slap it off.)

“You keep asking God to take away this problem… take away this problem… Well, He’s not going to do it! Don’t you understand? That problem is the one thing making you desperate for God right now! Why would He take it away?”

It’s an echo of James 1:2-4:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trials of many kinds.

Sounds like James (both of them) may have peeked into my life lately.

What are we going to do with these problems that just don’t go away?

Keep begging for God to take them? Grow cynical? Lose faith? Let anger or envy consume us?

What if we both just stop right now?

What if we choose a level? Maybe it’s Level One. That’s okay. Maybe in faith, we’ll shoot for Level Three.

What if we just bow our heads and say, “Thank You; thank You for these problems that aren’t going away”?

And what if in this moment we just trust God… we tell Him we need perseverance… we need to be mature and complete?

I don’t think He’ll mind if you mention that you’d be grateful to get past this problem someday. I’m going to include that part too.

But let me tell you… when I look deep into my own heart, it doesn’t take me long to realize how desperately I need God to change me. Life directed by my own fleshly nature would take me down some pretty awful roads.

If I can recognize the lie that I deserve a life free from pain and problems and instead consider my trials pure joy, I just might become a little more like the mature and complete woman God intends me to be.

Will you say it with me?

Thank you, Jesus, for my trials. Don’t let me waste them. Change me.

*Friends in the midst of serious stuff… I pray that Jesus will meet you in a special way in the days ahead. I also long for you to find Christians friends and godly counselors to encourage your heart and bring you hope. Let me know if I can pray for you or help point you to someone who can be of help.

*Those of you on the frustrated level… let me know if you’re interested in life coaching. There are a lot of lies we fall for in life that lead to unhealthy attitudes and life patterns. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation to talk about your current challenges and how you can rise above them, just let me know.

Thanks so much for joining me today!

Blessings,

Jennifer

In over my head: choosing my focus

In over my head: choosing my focus

Some people have serious problems that we rarely hear about; others have less serious issues that are brought to our attention quite frequently.

I’ve spent time pondering this. (Yes. Really.)

I’ve wondered if the Eeyores among us really have more problems than the rest, or if it might have something to do with perspective.

My personal conclusion?

Some people really do have what seems to be an unfair amount of trials heaped upon them.

And I don’t understand that.

But…

Amatteroffocus

If you read my ebook (available for Kindle or Nook) last week, you know that panic and anxiety were a very unwelcome part of my life for a few years and that my focus during those years was crucial in my recovery.

Here I am now, on the other side of that journey, tempted to think I can let up a little with the focus thing.

But the truth is, the deep darkness of fear that threatened to suck the joy out of life has merely changed to a sea of new issues — distractions, stress, busyness, and sure, a few problems.

There is always something…

…something that wants to steal my focus away from God’s goodness, His life-giving Word, and the joy found in His presence.

God’s whisper about focus found it’s way to my heart once more as I finished a chapter of my memoir this weekend. This chapter fills you in on some of the details preceding my panic attacks:

We celebrated the first day of 2010 with a dive off the shore of Fort Liberty. Our friend and instructor, Nick, had discovered a steep underwater cliff laden with bright corals, sponges, seaweed, and tropical fish. It would be our first group dive; so far, Nick had tutored Jarod and me one-on-one, but now that we were becoming more advanced, he was confident the three of us could dive together.

We swam a couple hundred feet into the little bay before we began our descent. Careful to equalize our ears every few feet, we sank lower and lower into the blue. To our right was a jeweled wall — yellow, blue, and purple fish, pink and orange corals, and delicate sea crabs. Above, below, and in every other direction was the deep blue of the sea. Had I been watching our dive on an Imax screen, I would have leaned forward in awe.

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I was awed, but as Nick and my husband pushed forward and downward, my heart and mind rebelled. Detachment, uneasiness, and anxiety pressed harder than the weight of the water. I did my best to shake it off — to focus on the breathtaking beauty around me, to avoid being the wimpy one in the trio, but it was no use. I kicked ahead and tapped Jarod. I pointed my thumb up, feeling like a fool, yet desperate to rise to the land I knew.

Back on top of choppy waves, I apologized for messing up the dive. Jarod encouraged me to try again — I would be fine. But, I knew something weird was going on. I swam back to shore and let the guys finish the dive on their own.

As they dove down once more, I shuddered. I would never go back in.

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In a matter of hours, my panic began in earnest. If you read Take Courage, you know the diving wasn’t the problem; it was just one more proverbial straw that helped break my back.

But the darkness that I entered paralleled perfectly with that Fort Liberty dive:

My battle was one of the mind. The underwater cliff of Fort Liberty became my reality; I was surrounded by deep, dark blue — enough to overwhelm and defeat me. Only this time, swimming ashore was not an option. There would be no escape, no chickening out of the test. I had been provided with the appropriate gear; the Spirit of God would be my breathing apparatus. This wasn’t a test to the death — though it felt like it. But it was a test of my focus. I could look at the treasure cove on the one side — mining the truth and beauty of God’s Word, or I could feed my fear with the endless blue on every other side.

Today, I am still tempted to stare into the blue. Like I said, it’s not about fear and panic right now… it’s just about the negative. It’s so easy to be Eeyore. But it’s not harmless and certainly not cute — it’s wrong and deadly.

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But I’m reminded…

whatever the depth of all that blue around me, however trivial or heavy it may be,

there is treasure to be found off to the right.

It imparts joy.

It restores the soul.

It renews the mind.

And its beauty is best beheld by those in over their heads.