Raise the Flag But Never Retreat

ID-100149509Do you ever feel like you’re done? Wiped out, ready to toss out your clocks, to-do lists, and pocket calendars and head back to bed? For ever?

We all have those days, periods of time when it feels as if we’re on a rapidly moving treadmill. Or three. All going in different directions. I’ve heard it said the Christian journey is similar to a marathon. I’ve also heard it’s more like a series of sprints. I say it’s like sprints in the middle of a marathon. 😉 And when we’re in the middle of it, it’s easy to veer towards the sidelines. And sometimes that’s okay, for a period. But many times, I believe, God calls us to keep running.

Because time is short and eternity is long.

When I remember that, focus on that, everything becomes easier. But when I focus on me? Oh, my! Everything begins to snowball, and before long, my spiraling emotions take my energy down with them. It’s amazing how a shift in perspective changes everything!

Consider David, the biblical character whose story is told in 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 1 to 24, among other places. You can read his story here. I’ll paraphrase. Anointed king and proven to be a mighty, victorious warrior, by chapter 22, he’s hiding out in caves in fear of his life as a man David served faithfully relentlessly pursues him.

Relentlessly. Wearing David down day by day.

Perhaps you can relate. When facing a battle–spiritual, physical, or emotional–it’s fairly easy to approach it with strength, hope, and faith, in the beginning. But after a while we grow weary, and in our weariness, it’s easy to also grow hopeless. To start looking for our flag to surrender; to do an about face, ready to retreat.

And the more we stay there, the more we contemplate our weariness and struggles, the more drained we become.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 39:1-7 (NLT)

I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
when the ungodly are around me.”
2 But as I stood there in silence—
not even speaking of good things—
the turmoil within me grew worse.
3 The more I thought about it,
the hotter I got,
igniting a fire of words:
4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
6 We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.

Let’s unpack this. According to the Tyndale study notes, in verse 1, David is resolving not to complain about his struggles. Though he is likely referring to the consequences he is facing for a sinful act detailed in 2 Samuel 11-12:1-24, I believe the principle applies to all trials. Complaining doesn’t help anybody. To the contrary. Negativity breeds negativity, within ourselves and our listeners. That doesn’t mean we can never share our struggles, but may we be known more for our praises, and may we never forget, we are NOT victims. No! For in Christ, we are more than conquerors.

Do our words and actions reveal that?

Are we centering out thoughts on that truth, or are we, like David did in verse 3, allowing negativity to dominate our thinking:

3 The more I thought about it,
the hotter I got,
igniting a fire of words:

What, then, is the solution? How can we combat this cancer of negativity and self-centeredness? Because that is exactly what it is. When we’re playing the poor-me role, we are focused entirely on ourselves, and self-centeredness leads to sorrow, defeat, skepticism, and frustration. Every. Time.

To combat this and to reignite our joy, we need to turn our thoughts to eternity:

4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.

This isn’t to say we should continually spend ourselves to the point of exhaustion for even Jesus our Savior took time to rest. But even then, our ID-10032933-1focus should be on eternity. When we rest, we do so in order to rebuild and refuel so we can jump back in that race.

We can raise the flag in surrender but may we never retreat.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. As you read the above passage, what thoughts came to mind? In what ways has focusing on eternity helped you get through a rough or tiring stretch? For those who battle fatigue, does negative thinking ever exacerbate that, and if so, how? Join the conversation here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

For those of you following my cyber-book tour, here’s where I’ve been this week.

For those of you who have read “Beyond I Do” (Still available in Kindle and Nook version for $2.99!) and would like to form a book club or simply did deeper into the novel, you can use the book club questions posted on my publisher’s blog. (I hope to launch an online discussion/Bible study group mid-November that will use the book as a discussion starter.)

I feel like I took up permanent residents down at KCRO/FM 100.7 The Fish’s studio this month with two interviews on KCRO (different times) and one on the Fish. I hope to have the recording of the Fish interview, and I think I posted my first KCRO interview. Here’s a link to the second one.

I’ll be on Deborah Piccurelli’s site all month. You can read my interview here (and get entered into the drawing to win a free book!).

For those in or visiting the Omaha area this Saturday, I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in the Oakview Mall doing a book signing. Details here.

AND for those wanting to hang about a little longer, I’d love if you’d follow me to my church’s Halloween Bash that evening from 5-7pm, located at Reality Church, 10695 Portal Road, LaVista, NE.

Yesterday I shared some stories of three men we’ve served at Takin’ it to the Streets–three very broken lives greatly changed by love. I hope you’ll be encouraged. You can read that here.

I camped out on Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s blog all week (and she’s doing a give-away). I shared my real-life romance story–an evolving love–on Monday. You can read that here.  On Wednesday, she interviewed my heroine. You can read that here. On Friday she posted an excerpt from the novel. You can read that here.

And before you go, if you’re a writer, I encourage you to read my friend Jennifer Hallmark’s post on ways to overcome writer’s block. You can read that here. 

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2 thoughts on “Raise the Flag But Never Retreat

    • Oh, that’s so hard! I suspect David was blind sighted by Saul’s treatment of him. When I read the Psalms, it seems he dealt with that by crying out and clinging to God. That doesn’t mean the pain went away, though. I think sometimes the pain can only go away with time, and in the meantime, we just need to cry and cling.

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