Here are some other things I also know:
Please don’t miss this. This is the good news. We don’t celebrate His death because He died, we celebrate His death because He LIVED and LIVES! This is why we celebrate. This is the "good" in Good Friday.
PURSUE PEACE! And I’m not talking about the peace we find from self-care or rest. I’m talking about peace that God gives us when there’s unity among followers of Jesus (Ephesians 4:3). I’m so thankful for the freedom we have in Jesus, but as Christians it’s so easy for us to make decisions based on what we want. Our freedom can create an unnecessary divide. Sometimes I exercise my “freedom” before thinking about the effect it might have on others around me, how others might stumble due to my actions. Other times I am paralyzed by what others might think, I am weighed down with the pressure to help the Holy Spirit do its job.
Pursuing peace and keeping someone from stumbling should outweigh my personal freedoms. That to say — I don’t think it’s right to have a god-complex… Satan can quickly turn our cautious into straight up worry and pressure (which is not from Jesus btw)! As believers, our goal should be to clear a path in front of those who are prone to stumble, to help protect them from a weaker conscience or commitment to God. For me, I’m still trying to figure out the balance between forbearance and freedom, but I'm so thankful for a God that gives me the freedom to make mistakes and new mercies every single day.
I get frustrated by circumstances. I get angry with people. I get disappointed when things don't turn out like I want them to, or think they should. Many times, when life throws me curve balls or knocks me with a one-two-punch, I have to vent to someone. It's not necessarily considered gossip (although it's close enough), so I go ahead with it. To be honest, when I come to you to vent, 5% of the time I want your advice, and the other 95% of the time, I want you to simply listen and feel bad for me -- I want your sympathy. I want the person I'm venting to validate my feelings. I want to be told that I am right, and the person that upset me is wrong. I want someone to hear my side of the story and side with my side of the story.
So, where does this leave us? If the person we're venting to shocks us and gives their unsolicited opinion, we either don't like it, get upset they gave their input at all, or we [might] take what they say with a grain of salt. On the flip-side, if the person we're venting to sides with us, tells us everything we want to hear, understands our thought process, and sympathizes deeply with us -- we should feel better, right? Maybe we do! ... until the next person hurts us and the cycle continues. So, what do we do when our friends' sympathies aren't enough? How can we break this cycle?
I hate to say this, but there's not exactly a formula and I don't know how to exactly answer those specific questions. BUT here are 2 facts I do know... 1. Expect disappointment! This is a cynical point of view, but people will let you down, always. It's sad, but a sad fact, nonetheless. Whether they personally let you down, or if they unknowingly give you bad advice for a situation you were counting on them to help you fix. People are sinners and people will let you down, and you will let people down -- just facts. 2. Jesus will never let you down. You live on a planet full of sinners, so in this life, you will never escape the disappointment, or the need to vent. But Jesus will not only never let you down, but He promises to always be there for you, to unconditionally love you, and to give you strength.
In all reality, sympathy from your friends is great, but strength from Jesus is better.
So, I got to thinking about this message and I believe that when we, not only as women, but as humans start to discover how loved we are, THAT is the moment we start looking outside of ourselves. THAT is the moment everything can change for us. We are not loved because of what we do. We are not chosen because we're better than the person next to us. We are not beautiful because of our bone structure.
Jesus is the one who makes us worthy. God created us beautiful in His image. He loved the world so much He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and Jesus rose from the dead. He calls us to a relationship with Him. When we start to see that we are totally unworthy, but we are chosen by the grace of Jesus anyways, we gain a kind of holy confidence that is unbreakable.
During this season, I don't know about you, but I tend to become a little numb. December is a season full of hurrying, shopping, parties, scheduling, mailing, studying, visiting, cleaning, cooking, and so much more. For me, I get caught up in all the added to do's on my list. I tend to go day-to-day, completing tasks and doing the things that need to be done, and before I know it, I look up and there's TWO WEEKS until Christmas! Yikes, how does it come so slow and fast at the same time? It's not the added to-do's that get to me though... it's that moment I look up and notice that intentionality has slipped out the window. Any heart, or thought behind the presents I'm sending, or smile I'm giving is just a formality. Before I know it, the reason for the season has become checking things off my list, not because I'm placing other's first for the sake of Jesus, but because it's rude if I don't participate in all these holiday activities. So today, with all the hustle and bustle of the season, I encourage you to slow down, and take a minute to read Romans 12. I promise it will help shift your mind-set to be more intentional with others around you, and your own walk with Jesus.
Here are some things I'm going to try and remember for these next 2 weeks:
- When we serve and are giving ourselves, we are worshipping God
- Give yourself grace
- Don't compare your house, grades, family bonding ability, literal gifts or spiritual gifts
- You were designed uniquely and specifically for your life, and yours alone.
- Genuinely love, even when it's hard
- Always try and out-serve one another
- Don't gossip with your families or with one another (it's going to be difficult, but don't do it!!)
- Try to live at peace with everyone
- It's going to be really easy to get upset, annoyed, and impatient, but instead try reciting the fruits of the spirit, then act on them.
Romans 12 just kicked my butt and told me how I needed to live. A lot of those phrases and statements are very cliche and you have heard them before, but they're just an encouragement to live intentionally and to not miss it this Christmas season.
"I have kept my feet from every evil path, so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path." Psalms 119:101-104
Contentment is a word that's kind of easy to say, and pretty hard to achieve. And I'm not talking about the just-worked-out-now-I'm-happy-with-myself kind of contentment. Or the I-love-my-outfit contentment, but actual contentment. I think this is true for every Christian that real contentment lies in our attitude and hearts. Being content is a state, not a feeling. And honestly, I'm still learning what this means in my own life. But here are a couple things I learned that have helped with creating a daily habit and lifestyle of contentment.
4. Give Regularly // This kind of goes along with focusing on others. The sooner you realize your things are not actually yours (their God's!), the better you'll feel. The more you focus less on yourself and what you have, the more you'll be content with what the Lord has blessed you with.
5. Balance Your Life // This one is the most difficult for me. Making priorities and sticking to them. When you're able to put your life and relationships in perspective, it'll be easier for you to focus on the things that need attention, and places you might need to grow.
6. Worship is a Must // Whether you're worshipping through prayer, to worship music, or doing something else to worship God - to have a content life, you must live a worshipful one.
7. Reject Satan's Lies // The devil is out to steal, kill, and destroy you. He wants you to be afraid of the next thing that'll go wrong. He wants you to be anxious about finances. He wants you to not give your relationships to God. He wants your focus off of the true contentment only God can bring you! Be fully aware of Satan's lies and reject them! God is stronger than the lies, and YOU ARE GOD'S!
8. Stop Waiting // The word waiting could be interchangeable for comparing. I really think that we're waiting for our lives to get as good as the next guy's. We want and crave for our lives to get better, and we always want what we can't have. But I implore you to stop waiting for God to hand you something and be content with what you have (while continuing to work hard for what yo want).
9. You Can't Do It Alone // This one goes hand-in-hand with the first one. Jesus is the only way you will ever be truly content. You can be rich and think you're "happy". You can be poor and try everything to fill you up -- but you will never be fully content nor satisfied until you give your entire heart, soul, and mind to Jesus!
So, just an encouragement to you to accept that good things take time. Hard work is just a part of the recipe. Constant affirmation and praise for small steps is wanted, but might not be realistic (this one is hard for me to comprehend because I love all the words). Keep on keeping on. Life is hard. Pursuing dreams to create the life you want is harder. But perseverance and obedience to God's call can make the hard things bearable, and the harder things worth it.
But... the second thing I want encourage you with is... do not stay there! Feel those feelings, yes! But do not stay in them. Do something that brings you joy when you're feeling sad and defeated. Work harder and wipe your sweat with the towel you wanted to throw in on your dream. Be willing to accept the answer or silence from the creator and sustainer of your life (God). Listen with a grain of salt to your friends and family, most of them have your best interest at heart! Pick up one foot after the other and persevere. Personally, I have a hard time with this lesson, but I have never regretted persevering through a trail I've had.
So, if you're in a season, know that it is just a season. Know that God has you and be encouraged to keep going.