Balance and Our Sure Route to Peace — Guest Blog

sunset on a lake with text on surrendering our schedules to God

We weren’t meant to live stressed out, depleted lives. We all must manage difficult and demanding responsibilities on occasion, but our seasons of busyness should be precisely that–seasons. If we’re constantly rushing about, always checking and rearranging our to-do lists to squeeze one more task or one more minute in our days, and especially if this has become a lifestyle, we’ve likely taken on assignments God never intended. Not only will this hinder us from pursuing what He has, but, as my guest today reminds us, it’ll also rob us of peace and joy.

And make sure to read to the end, because she’s doing a crazy fun giveaway to celebrate her debut release!

The Elusiveness of Balance

By Jennifer Hallmark

Tired again. I trudged through the house with another load of laundry on one hip and a grand-young ‘un on the other. I didn’t feel as if I could make the effort to finish my day, take a shower, and fall in the bed. But I had to. A deadline approached and I had much to do the next morning.

How did I fall back into this trap of twirling a hundred plates? Again?

I needed balance, something I’ve pursued in the past. I’ve sought it in my relationships, schedule, and work. Without it, I burn out over and over. Yet somehow I found myself there again.

My last year has been unbelievably stressful but things are working out. My mental and emotional stability isn’t perfect but it’s beyond what I believed it could or should have been.

Through it all, I’m learning what balance is and isn’t.

It’s not:

  1. Me figuring out how to organize my work, play, and duty so I have time for it all.
  2. Meals, bedtime, and worktime at planned intervals every day.
  3. Everything going smoothly and without crisis.

I sought those things for years. Order. My introverted, melancholy, perfectionist world to run as I desired. Then I’d experience joy, happiness, and rest.

But I’ve experienced joy in difficult and stressful situations and have felt depressed when I should’ve been happy. Order is nice but provides no long-term, life-changing effects. I find satisfaction checking things off my to-do list satisfies but not to the degree I need.

True balance can only come from God—as we align our lives with Him and His will.

He is…

  1. Omnipotent: all powerful.
  2. Omnipresent: always present.
  3. Omniscient: all knowing.

These facets of God enable me to find true balance. Schedules, lists, and order are helpful but can be, in themselves, unsteady. I’ve studied the Bible, prayed, and gone to Surrender is acknowledging God is God and we are not--imagechurch. This helps gain wisdom but since I’m not any of the “omnis” above, my interpretation and control is limited.

The solution: I hand my plans to God. I draw closer to Him and remain in relationship with Him. I talk, listen, then talk and listen some more. Then I take a step, listen, and take another step. I stop merely “going through the motions” and surrender my control, which I have very little of anyway.

When I feel anxious, instead of attempting to solve whatever I’m facing in my wisdom and strength, Scripture encourages me to turn to God. Philippians 4:6-7 says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).

In other words, when life feels stressful and demanding, we draw close to the Father, tell Him about our day, good and bad, love Him, and present our requests. We praise Him for all He’s done and provided. Then we sit and await His reply. When we sense His guidance, we move forward in faith. We believe He’ll give us enough light to follow.

Living this way leads to emotional and mental steadiness. God knows my energy level and the time I have. He’ll help me spend each wisely. He’ll help me manage all I must get done, whether that’s finishing the laundry or typing another article. Me taking time to breathe, pray, and listen, not checking off lists, makes all the difference.

Balance—and peace—rests in our relationship with God, one where we daily seek out our Father’s voice. Surrender can feel scary but it leads to deeper intimacy with God—and the peace and stability we all long for.

The old expression rings true.

Let go and let God.

He longs to take our hand and lead the way.

Will we let Him?

***

Let’s talk about this! What area is most difficult for you to surrender? How might remembering all God’s “omni” qualities help you to relinquish that area to your Savior? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

I also invite you to join me, in person or virtually, at Christ Community Church this evening to learn how to shift from orphan mentality (“Life, or this area, is all up to me; I must retain control”) to living deeply and wholly loved (“God’s got this and me; because He is fully trustworthy, I have no reason to fear and every reason to surrender”). Those who are local can register HERE. The rest of you can pop into Wholly Loved’s Facebook group to watch a live video then engage in discussion after. You can do that HERE. Please note, you’ll need to join our closed FB group first.)

Get to know Jennifer Hallmark!

Jennifer Hallmark's author headshotJennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction and has published 200+ internet articles and interviews, short stories in several magazines, and has co-authored three book compilations. Her debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, released on June 17th, 2019.

When she isn’t babysitting or gardening, you can find her at her desk writing fiction or working on her two blogs. She also loves reading detective fiction from the Golden Age and viewing movies like LOTR or Star Wars. Sometimes you can even catch her watching American Ninja Warrior.

Visit her online at:

www.jenniferhallmark.com

www.inspiredprompt.com 

Jennifer Hallmark, Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Instagram

Check out her debut novel, Jessie’s Hope!

Cover image for Jessie's HopeYears ago, an accident robbed Jessie Smith’s mobility. It also stole her mom and alienated her from her father. When Jessie’s high school sweetheart Matt Jansen proposes, her parents’ absence intensifies her worry that she cannot hold on to those she loves.

With a wedding fast approaching, Jessie’s grandfather Homer Smith, has a goal to find the perfect dress for “his Jessie,” one that would allow her to forget, even if for a moment, the boundaries of her wheelchair. But financial setbacks and unexpected sabotage hinder his plans.

Determined to heal from her past, Jessie initiates a search for her father. Can a sliver of hope lead to everlasting love when additional obstacles–including a spurned woman and unpredictable weather–highjack Jessie’s dream wedding?

Buy it on:

Make sure to get in on her fun giveaways!

June Blog Tour Giveaway Extravaganza

June 10th-June 30th

Prizes include:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • $10 Starbucks Gift Card
  • Print copy of Jessie’s Hope
  • 2 Kindle copies of Jessie’s Hope

Giveaway details: Go to her Rafflecopter Page (HERE) to enter the drawings for five prizes to be drawn by Rafflecopter from all the entries. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on July 1st.

Link to Rafflecopter found by visiting my June blog tour from June 10th until June 30th. Blog tour includes:

June 13thJennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud/Jennifer Slattery

June 14thFavorite Friday Fiction/Me

June 15thInspired Prompt/Betty Thomason Owens

June 17thAuthor Trish Perry/Trish Perry

June 17thSouthern Writers Magazine

June 18thAuthor Liz Tolsma/Liz Tolsma

June 19thInspired Prompt/Betty Thomason Owens

June 21stSnark & Sensibility/Linda Rondeau

June 24thFear Warrior/Jerusha Agen

June 24thJune Foster/June Foster

June 25thTrumpet Tuesdays/Julie Arduini

June 26thSeriously Write/Sandra Ardoin

June 28thHeartfelt, Homespun fiction/Cynthia Herron

June 29thThe Write Conversation/Edie Melson

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The Kingdom of Me and the Joy of Christ

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Often, it’s the good things, the “God things” that most keep me from Him. It’s sad how easily my heart becomes swayed. One would think I’d learned by now, that I’ve become adept at putting effective guardrails in place and being extra diligent to guard my heart. But so often, busyness and pride and selfishness seeps in and my service that began with such pure intensions becomes ugly and self-elevating.

I’m all too proficient at building my kingdom, when my efforts should be centered on the things of God. Last week, we talked about chasing God ordained dreams. This week, let’s consider the dangers that come with doing so as we intentionally remind ourselves Woman sitting with text from postwhere every God-given dream leads—to Himself.

The more I surrender to Him, the more I yield to His Spirit within and align my heart with His plans and purposes, the more joy and freedom I feel. The more I slip, bit by bit, from this, the more miserable I become.

At every moment, I’m worshipping someone—God or myself.

The god of self is a vicious, defeating, deceiving contender, one I’ve found quite difficult to kill. She rises up when I least expect her to, whispering lies in my ear, making promises—to give me joy and fulfillment—which she has no power to fulfill.

As C. S. Lewis put it, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Every promise made by my Savior is certain and true, and here’s what He tells me: joy, peace, and deep, soul-enriching fulfillment is found only in Him. He is my prize, and He alone can fill me to overflowing, in abundance, with the very life I crave.

This is the promise He’s made to all mankind. This invitation to love and live loved, made by our Creator Himself, resonates so deeply, upon hearing it, our souls leap for joy. Until we encounter something flashier or louder or momentarily more alluring. And we begin amassing our wealth, our toys, our successes, and our homes, until the voice of God, the call of God, fades.

Unfortunately, building the kingdom of “me” comes much too easily.

This was certainly true for the ancient Israelites, returning home after captivity. Their journey had been long and arduous. Their sorrow deep, when they arrived in their beloved city to find the Temple of God—the place where He Himself communed with His people—reduced to a pile of rubble.

And yet, they began to rebuild, for a time, until opposition hit. Then, they started building the kingdom of me. “‘My house lies in ruins,” says the Lord of Heavens Armies, ‘while all of you are busy building your own houses’” (Hag. 1:9, NLT).

And note, God was speaking about so much more than a building, as glorious as this manmade structure once was. His Temple housed His presence.

God was inviting His people into relationship. To leave all their false gods behind, once and for all, and to connect deeply and intimately, with Him. And like we read last week, they responded enthusiastically for a while, craving the very thing God promised.

But then they stopped and shifted their focus.

I get it. I’ve been there. And unfortunately, I’ll likely land there again. But when I do, God offers me the same invitation He did His people, so long ago. “Return to Me,” He says, “and I will return to you” (Zech. 1:3, NLT). He is only a prayer or repentance away, and He offers much more than the kingdom of Me ever can. He gives Himself without Woman staring out at horizon with text pulled from postmeasure, inviting us to meet with Him, to be held by Him. To be loved deeply and completely, and in this, to be filled with joy and peace.

“I will fill this place,” God says, speaking of His Temple (Haggai 2:7), which, thanks to the blood of Jesus, is us. He alone can fill our deepest, darkest, most hidden placed with Himself.

And in that moment, when the power and glory of our Creator fills us completely, we’re reminded yet again, He is our prize, and He is enough.

More than enough.

Let’s talk about this! Can you relate to my ongoing struggle? When does the god of self most threaten to rise up within you? How to beat her back?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Speaking of idolatry, you may also enjoy my latest article on Bible Study Tools. You can read it HERE.

And if you haven’t done so, join Wholly Loved’s Facebook group, a safe, grace-filled place where you can connect with other women seeking to grow in Christ, ask questions and share struggles and celebrations.

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When Set Backs Hit

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For some, dreams come easy. Most of us want to feel significant, to know we’re called to something miraculous and eternal.

But others have long since lost that childlike expectancy and have traded thoughts of what could be to settle for what is. Maybe an opportunity came that felt so right, so us, our hearts leapt with joy. And we immediately began envisioning where God might take us and that thing. But then opposition hit, and though we persevered for a while, eventually our passion and strength waned until both felt nonexistent.

So we quit.

We stopped trying. Stopped hoping, stopped longing for more or better.

Maybe after years of rejections and setbacks, we came to believe God could never use that gift in that way. Or maybe not at all. Perhaps after years of marital silence and what felt like unanswered prayers, we relinquished our hopes of happily ever after and slowly, quietly, our hearts hardened. We ceased praying for that family member, quit believing that wayward child would return. Quit trusting God would one day give us victory over that sin.

And so, over time, we joined the disillusioned and discouraged, convinced Christ’s promise of abundant life was nothing more than hyperbole.

But at each moment, God gives us a precious gift: the chance to begin again. To send one more letter, offer one more prayer, make one more phone call, or type one more line. Because He’s fully engaged in our journeys, not just our beginnings and ends. As the saying goes, the God who calls us to it, whatever it may be, is the same God who will bring us through it.

All He asks is that we lean on Him and keep stepping. We tend to see difficulties as text pulled from post with background image of mountains and a valley between them.dead ends and detours, but in Scripture, again and again, we see those things that appear to be obstacles are simply opportunities for God’s power and grace to shine.

Imagine being part of the rebuilding crew King Cyrus sent back to Jerusalem. If you’ve been following this blog series, you’ll remember, after a long period of captivity, God stirred the hearts of His people’s captors to send them home—with abundance. He was calling them to rebuild their Temple, the place where He said He’d dwell. I imagine, in this, they would also be rebuilding their faith after having spent decades in a foreign, pagan land where all their desperate pleas for aid appeared to go unanswered for so long.

But then, just when all seemed hopeless, God came through and sent them off with absolutely everything they’d need to fulfill the task He’d assigned. Can you imagine the celebration they felt, upon leaving Babylon? The images and memories that filled their heads as they traveled closer and closer to their homeland?

You can sense their excitement in Psalm 126, written to celebrate their return:

“When the Lord brought back His exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ Yes, the Lords has done amazing things for us! What joy!” (vs. 1-2, NLT).

Scripture tells us the people joined together “with a unified purpose” (Ez. 3:1) and, though frightened of the locals, began building with courage (Ez. 3:3, NLT). Everyone, including the priests and Levites, who’d returned from exile, worked together. Then, once they laid the foundation, they praised God with trumpets, cymbals, and songs of thanks.

Oh, what a glorious beginning! What joy to be called and commissioned by the King. But then came the opposition. The locals first tried to deceive them, then frightened and discouraged them until, eventually, the building stopped.

They shifted their focus off of the things of God and onto themselves, off of the glorious and miraculous and onto the mundane. They settled for “what was”—a life of ordinary houses occupied by ordinary lives—instead of what could be.

At least for a time—until God once again revived their hearts. Just as He does with us, when we begin to feel tired and discouraged. If that’s where you’re at now, hear this truth: God’s with you. He has a plan for you, and He is, at this moment, walking beside you. He will turn every struggle and setback you encounter to good. Trust Him in this, lean on Him, and keep stepping.

Let’s talk about this! Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below, and join Wholly Loved’s discussion in our Facebook group!

Our online community is a safe place where women can share their struggles, insights, and celebrations. This is a “closed” group where only members can see posts shared and where confidentiality is practiced. We share prayer requests, hurts and insecurities, and ways God is meeting us in our struggles each day. And you’re invited to heal and grow and learn with us!

And make sure to check out our daily devotions on Crosswalk. You can find them HERE.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Encouragement for the Fatigued and Discouraged

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Discouragement, fatigue, and feelings of defeat are perhaps the most powerful vision destroyers and faith derailers. These emotions, often fed through negative thinking, paralyze God’s people. I know, because I’ve allowed momentary setbacks, lack of results or response from others to hinder my productivity—my obedience—on numerous occasions.

This morning, I made a list of my greatest challenges to obedience:

  1. Focusing on results rather than obedience. If I dig to the root of this obstacle, I discover I’ve likely forgotten that God’s wisdom is greater than mine, that He’s always present, is always working out His plans, and, in His sovereignty, will ensure that everything plays out precisely as He desires. And since He knows best, the results, whether deemed “successful” by human standards or not, will be good because He is good.
  2.  Allowing my identity to get tied up in that “thing.” It’s interesting, or perhaps sad would be more accurate, how often I entangle who I am with what I do or don’t do. When I look to accolades, roles, or outcomes to define me, my security becomes unstable and my confidence subjective.
  3. Focusing on others—what they are or aren’t doing—rather than God’s leading. When God calls me to something, especially if that something is hard or requires perseverance and sacrifice, my eyes can begin to roam. I can begin to compare my assignment or results with others.
  4. Fatigue. Sometimes I simply need to rest—in God’s presence.
  5. Fear of failure. This fear tangles challenge one with challenge two. To overcome this fear, I must shift my focus from results to obedience and remember, regardless of the results, that role or achievement doesn’t define me. I belong to God, am chosen by Him for an eternal purpose, and He will perfect all that concerns me.

God addresses each of these faith-hindrances in Daniel chapter 10. Daniel, a prophet living in a foreign land during a time of oppression, was devastated by his circumstances. He’d cried out to God, acknowledging the sins of his people and asking for forgiveness and restoration. (Daniel 9). God had responded by telling him further destruction would come. And Daniel fell into a three-week depression. (Daniel 10:2).

God responded not by changing his circumstances but instead by centering him in His love.In the middle of Daniel’s despair, a man dressed in white whom some believe was Jesus Himself, appeared and said, “Daniel, you are very precious to God” (v. 11). “‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!’” (v. 19).

I love that this man affirmed Daniel twice: “You are precious to God. You are precious to God.”

How often do we need to hear those words? When we’re doing all we can to raise responsible, Christ-loving children, but they rebel against us. Or when we’re faithfully performing our work responsibilities each day, but coworkers or perhaps a hostile boss continually stands against us. Or perhaps when we’re following all the doctors tell us to do, praying daily for healing, and yet the tumor grows.

In those moments, it’s easy to feel discouraged and deflated. Completely alone. But God says to each of us, “You are precious to God. Don’t be afraid. Be encouraged! Be strong!”

What are you facing today? Don’t fight that battle alone. Press into Jesus and Text from post with mint backgroundremember, you are precious to Him. He’s standing beside you and going before you. He hears you and sees you and promises to never leave.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

If you’re going through a particularly discouraging time, perhaps this video, from week five of the Becoming His Princess Bible study, will encourage and inspire you to stand firm and wait well.

For those wanting to follow my Bible reading (largely following chronologically with Ezra, though Daniel 9, which should fall on day five, is presented first to correlate with today’s post):

Day one: Daniel 9

Day two: Haggai 1

Day three: Haggai 2

Day four: Zechariah 1, 4

Day five: Ezra 5

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

You can use these questions, pulled from Wholly Loved’ Becoming His Princess Bible study, as a guide each day.

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

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Update on Keep Your Eyes on the Call Post

Hey, y’all,

Sorry for the double post this morning, but I updated the previous (find it HERE) to include a Bible reading plan and didn’t want those of you who receive my posts in your inbox to miss it (as I don’t believe you receive posts a second time when they’re revised).

As I almost always write out of whatever God is showing me during my prayer or Bible reading times, and I will likely be camped out in the time when Ezra and others are rebuilding God’s Temple …

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.

Keeping Our Eyes on the Call and the God Who Calls

Woman staring out at a field with text pulled from the post.

Image by Priscilla Du Preeze on Unsplash

Sometimes I feel bombarded by a world of takers and, when my eyes land on them instead of my Savior, I begin to feel discouraged. Frustrated. Taken advantage of. I know God calls me to serve Him above all else and to follow His will. In other words, to concern myself with obedience and nothing else. But so often my vision drifts off the path He’s laid out for me and onto others. Like the apostle Peter in John 21:21, I ask my Savior, “But what about him, Lord?”

To which God responds, “You must follow Me” (NIV).

I’ve heard others say they want to be leaders, but I wonder if they realize what this means. Leading means giving all of yourself without expecting anything in return. It means elevating others while you slip quietly into the background. It’s giving others the credit for wins and taking full responsibility for each loss.

In short, it’s doing all you can to act like Jesus, the One who gave His life so that we might live.

Honestly, that’s every Christian’s call, and we’re all leaders in some capacity. Whether we’re guiding little ones each day, speaking life into our coworkers, or demonstrating to our neighbors what it looks like to follow God.

We all have a sphere of influence, precious hearts God has entrusted to our care, and He asks us to lead them well. With passion, strength, courage, perseverance, and self-sacrifice.

In order to do so, our eyes must be locked on our Savior and whatever task He’s assigned.

He reminded me of this truth this morning as I was reading about Ezra’s commission to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. This call came while the Jews were in captivity, living in a foreign nation. I imagine many felt stuck. As if their situation was too bleak for hope. But then God “stirred the heart of Cyrus” the King of Persia to proclaim in writing, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are the Lord’s people may go there for this task. And may the Lord God be with you!” (NLT).

God is sovereign. No matter what is going on around us, regardless of our challenges or circumstances, we can rest in this truth. Our ministries, that assignment we can’t afford to botch—He reigns over those as well.

And notice, it is God who calls His people to action—those who chose to respond. In other words, when God gives us a task, not everyone will contribute. But those whom God calls will, as Ezra 1:5 demonstrates. “Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and the Levites and leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord” (NLT).

We’re not alone in this walk of obedience. God is always with us, and though some may leave, betray us, or take advantage of us, others won’t. Others will help and encourage and support. And God will provide everything else. All we need and more.

This is precisely what He did for those rebuilding His Temple. Ezra 1:6 says, “And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings” (NLT).

God amply supplied.

He’ll do the same for us. When I’m focused on God and resting in His sovereignty, I’m freed to move forward in peace Woman walking down road with text pulled from post.and faith. I’m not defeated or frustrated by other people’s actions, because I know God’s in control and will guide me toward His very best. If I’ve spent hours working on an important topic someone else gets credit for, I’m not phased because I know God’s bigger. If others don’t come through or leave in the middle of a job, I won’t feel defeated because I know God will supply what I need when I need it to complete precisely what He has planned.

Let’s talk about this! Do you ever have the wandering, “What about him, Lord?” When are you most prone to do so? How does (or might) remembering God’s sovereignty–over you, your situation or ministry, and those in your sphere–help you remain focused and encouraged? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those wanting to follow along with my Bible reading (as I have a feeling many of my preceding posts will stem from that), here’s a daily reading list. (I’m reading out of a chronological Bible so am simultaneously in Ezra, Haggai, Daniel, and Psalms.) I’ll share some questions you can use each day to help you process what God might be telling you below. They’re pulled from Day One Option One of Wholly Loved’s Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Day one: 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-11

Day two: Ezra 2

Day three: Psalm 126, 147

Day four: Ezra 3

Day five: Ezra 4

Day six: Spend a day reviewing, journaling on, and praying over what God showed you during your day one-five Bible reading time.

Questions you can work through as you read your daily Bible passages:

Who are the main characters in this passage?

What does this passage reveal about the human condition, such as:

  • Mankind’s rebellion against/obedience toward God?
  • Mankind’s attempts to fill their needs apart from Him or relying on Him for their needs?
  • Mankind’s attempts to reach Him on their own terms?

What does this passage reveal regarding God’s nature?

What does/might this passage reveal about God’s plans?

How might this passage reveal mankind’s need for the gospel?

In what ways are you/have you been similar to one or more of the characters in this passage?

What might God want you to know through this section of Scripture?

What might He be asking you to do?

End your reading in prayer, asking God to help you apply the biblical truths discovered and live out whatever you sense Him impressing on your heart.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Building Redemptive Relationships

Flower with text: No matter the conflict or challenge problems are temporary but people are eternal

I’m forty-four and I’m still learning how to create and maintain healthy relationships, really to be an instrument of love and grace. In this, God recently sparked a major mind-shift, one that arose smack in the middle of tension, confusion, and heartache.

But resulted in incredible hope and peace.

I’ve learned and grown the most through my marriage and interaction with my daughter. Those are my two most important relationships—the ones I most want to hold tight to. Therefore, I have a great deal of motivation to love well, in a way that deepens emotional intimacy, creates wholeness, and builds trust. I’ve discovered, fighting for those things has such greater impact in the long term than any “solution” my mind might latch on to or contend for.

As the saying goes, we can win the battle and lose the heart.

Last month, my daughter dealt with some hard stuff. Long-term life impacting hard stuff, and it’s been crazy difficult to watch her struggle. Whenever I see her hurt, regardless of the reason, a fierce desire to protect rises up. I want to immediately “fix” the situation. Whenever I land in that place, however, not only am I getting in God’s way, but I miss out on amazing, transformational teaching opportunities.

When I seek His heart and will, not just for the situation or problem but for the person I’m interacting with as well, my vision becomes clearer. More Christ-like. And I’m reminded that God is much more concerned with what is going on within an individual than any decision they may or may not make.

I think we probably know this intellectually, but our natural inclination is to focus on the now. On finding solutions and alleviating the pain of today. It’s easy to forget how often God uses our struggles to bring about His greatest and deepest work. By following His lead, we have an opportunity to play a part in that.

In every conflict and difficulty, He’s inviting us to bring life and light into other people’s lives.

Let me explain, using my recent interaction with my daughter. From the surface, one might say she’s facing decisions related to her future marriage and everything that comes with merging two families from different cultures. Focusing on that—advising her on what steps to take or not to take—keeps us centered on one immediate situation. And initially, that was what I did.

But in the middle of vacuuming, it was like God whispered in my ear: This is a good thing. You have an opportunity to show her what healthy dialogue looks like and how to communicate with others who may not share her perspective.

So, setting aside my “fix-it” tool belt, I chose a mentorship role and planned a picnic for her, her future fiancé, and my husband. Together, we simply talked. We addressed tough issues, shared thoughts and feelings, and honestly, solved nothing.

But I built bridges of trust that will lay the groundwork for a lifetime of communication. We also, I hope, demonstrated what healthy dialogue looks like. Those things—how to persevere through relational tension and initiate and hold hard conversations with equal parts love and truth—will have a much greater impact on her future marriage than any decision she and her boyfriend make today.

This was my mind shift—to focus on growth rather than behavior. In short, to reach and protect and equip the heart.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” To the ancient Jew, the heartFlower with dark background and text from Prov. 4:23 involved much more than a person’s emotions. It was the core of their being and encompassed their will and intellect as well. In other words, it’s the place where decisions are made.

It’s easy to focus on the “everything else.” To believe the current problem is the problem. But God’s vision goes so much deeper. Scripture says He uses all things for our good (Rom. 8:38)—to mold us into the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:39).

God’s goal is never behavior modification. He initiates transformation.

As my husband and I prayerfully evaluated the afternoon later, I realized God offers me the same opportunity He presented with my daughter in every encounter, whomever I engage. With every conflict or challenge, He’s inviting me to look past the present situation to the health and growth and healing He longs to bring through it.

This is what it means to create redemptive relationships. To help others experience the same mind-shift which God granted me.

My role isn’t to fix or convince or save but to demonstrate, by example, how we, God’s children, can bring life and light wherever we are. This takes courage and trust, not in the person I’m mentoring but in God. I have to believe He has a plan, is at this moment working out that plan, and that He’ll guide me and the one I love step-by-step toward His perfect and hope-filled will. Resting in who He is frees me to love well and without fear and to focus on the long-term growth, of myself and others, rather than whatever is going on today.