Archive for discouragement

Getting Help {Ministry Wives Series}

We’re continuing our Ministry Wives (MW) series where I try to answer your questions about ministry life. Last week we talked about difficult friendships. This week, we’re answering a frequent question: “Where do I go for help? Who’ll mentor me when I struggle?”

I’ll tell you what I’ve done and hopefully it will give you some ideas.

It’s pretty much a universal truth that none of us feels like we completely know what we are doing. When we struggle with sin, embarrassment can keep us from getting help. See, we know the right answers, but sin has a way of deceiving and entangling everyone. We can either fake it and take the bull by the horns not knowing the damage to us or others, or we can admit we don’t know and ask for help.

finding help

We are all just all sinners at different stages of sanctification. Pretending to have all the answers or living like we are “above” getting help is not only proud, but it puts people off—the same people who can see clearly that you don’t have all the answers and the same people you try to encourage to get accountability for their struggles. Integrity and truth are your bff’s in ministry.

We are all just beggars at God’s grace table along with everyone else. We’re all dependent creatures, held together and breathing the air of our Sustainer God. Any time we take ourselves out from under that place of dependence, and place ourselves in a position where we believe we have no need, or worse, where we think we have it all together, we are in trouble.

Here’s what I’ve seen and heard from the MWs I talk to. We avoid going to people who could judge us for help. We head to self-help books or commentaries, our spouse, or our mother. Although these all have their place and can be good things, I do think they have drawbacks.

  1. Books allow us to hide. They never look you in the eye and ask heart-probing questions about our sin or blind spots. A book doesn’t gently tell you that your attitude is wrong and your spirit, sour. Books let us skirt the issues reading what we think we need. There’s no uncomfortable confrontation with a book.
  2. Spouse. Until death do us part. For better or for worse. Our spouse is safe and isn’t going anywhere and we know this, so we ask him. Our spouse is resigned to our quirks–sometimes even our sin. He may, for the sake of peace, avoid confrontation and just listen to you vent. It’s almost hard to gauge whether he can see clearly through the situation because he’s so close to it.
  3. Mother. “Mother love” blinds us to our own kids’ bad behavior, therefore, when we need help with a struggle against sin, Mother is probably going to be too soft with us.

Taking advantage of a variety of counselors helps us to see our potential, and brings us face to face with our failures so we can deal with them. Though painful, it’s good because we don’t want our testimony to be a stumbling block to others.

One of the biggest challenges is finding “the woman” to mentor us.

It’s like we’re looking for superwoman–the one person who has it all together in all areas of life. Mary Poppins would be nice. Obviously, that person doesn’t exist.

Instead, look around and notice excellence. I look for a woman who has ONE excellent quality that I want to emulate. If she also has the character qualities I mentioned in the last post, namely the ability to keep her mouth shut…keep her counsel and not gossip, I’ll ask her to help me out. :)

I’ve sought counsel for writing, bible study, counseling, organization, health, parenting, marriage, etc…

Most recently I asked for help for weight loss.

A few months back I had a physical and the doctor told me I had gained 15 pounds in the last 8 years. Disturbed, I called my friend, Toni, who is a health coach. You might remember her from this post, Missionary Wives Speak: Have We Lost Something?

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In her sweet, unassuming way, she asked me a battery of questions about my eating, sleeping, and exercise habits and I have to tell you, my eyes were opened to several glaring problems with my weight loss struggles. For one thing, I don’t get enough sleep. I also skip meals when I am busy with the kids, reeking havoc to my metabolism. Just these probing questions were enough to help me correct several issues. (If you want to contact her, her email is tonihealthcoach@gmail.com . She’s super helpful and just a lovely person!)

All this to say, don’t be afraid to ask help from the people who really can help you and won’t be too soft on you.

Side note:

I think it’s very interesting that “Life Coaching” is an exploding, trendy industry in 2016. If you’ve not heard of life coaching, it’s a wonderful blend of consulting, mentoring, and therapy that focuses on practical, everyday stuff.  The Harvard Business Review reports that Life Coaching is a $1 Billion/year industry. The three most popular reasons people hired a life coach:

  1. to develop higher potential in their personal life
  2. for a sounding board
  3. address their negative behavior/habits

In our isolated world where a blue screen frequently replaces face to face friendship and interaction, people are going back to what they know works: mentoring and discipleship in all areas of life.

This is exactly what Titus 2 prescribes! Women, helping women. The older, helping the younger. The more experienced and excellent helping those who want to learn. Walking life with others. Isn’t it great that God knows exactly what we need and tells us how we work best? Life Coaching is a Biblical concept that works!

I know you’ve probably had bad experiences with people who shared your struggles or who talked about you behind your back. Don’t let that stop you from getting help to better yourself, and don’t let a negative experience push you into a life of isolation and fear. We really need to let go of the fear of man, and instead live for an Audience of One who calls us to a holy lifestyle. Maybe your humble desire to grow and change will be the catayst for change and growth in your church? Maybe your life will encourage others to seek God more passionately.

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Prov. 11:14

“A wise man will hear and will increase learning. And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” Prov. 1:5

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Prov. 15:22

“Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Ps. 119:24

If you are still struggling to find help, pray. I’d be happy to pray for you, too. Ask God to guide you. I know He’ll guide you to the people and resources you need.

Are You Accomplishing Anything For God?

Maybe you’re discouraged today, dear friend.

Maybe you’re wondering if what you’re doing matters in the long run.

Last week I wondered, too.

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I was reading over a list of New Year’s questions (meant for personal reflection and growth) from a sweet friend in a writing group. It was a wonderfully thorough list, meant to prompt confession, repentance, acceptance.  Questions like:

  • “If the last year could be summed up in a word, what would it be?”
  • “What are the two or three themes that kept occurring.”
  • “What are some major life lessons I learned this year.”
  • “What’s one thing I can do this year to increase my enjoyment of God?”

I breezed through them until I came to this one:

What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of?”

I sat and thought. What one thing did I accomplish that I was most proud of?

Honestly, I couldn’t think of one. I sat on this for a few days, thinking about it. Still nothing. This really bothered me.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t done anything. We live a busy life. But to not be able to think of one thing? This bothered me enough to write a dear friend to see if she could think it through with me. (THIS is the benefit of having iron-sharpening-iron friends.) We hashed it out a little and she helped me gain perspective.

Some seasons of life cannot be measured by accomplishments.

There are times when life happens so fast and people need you so intensely that what you accomplished hardly makes the highlight reel. (Think sickness, death, new baby, foster child, new adoption, moving, etc…)

This Christmas I planted a lovely amaryllis bulb that a sweet reader, Becky, gave to me. I’ve been watching it grow and bloom against the backdrop of the grey bare trees outside my window. It started as a brown bulb, a stump really, not very pretty but full of potential. I planted it, put it on the windowsill, and gave it water. Things must have happened underground, because now it’s in full crimson bloom. The flower was alive and accomplishing its task underground before any of us had any clue it was accomplishing anything. The growing season was an accomplishment that allowed the flower to blossom.

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I believe our mundane days are the same–underground work, unseen, undetected, un-celebrated, but vital.

Maybe you are in a mundane season right now. Maybe all your hard work is unseen because it’s undone the very next day– the clean house dirtied, the once shiny sink now full of grimy water.

Moms, we feed hungry bellies. We wash clothes and remove stains. We wipe tears and console hurt feelings. We listen to little hearts. We make meals for others and host people in our home. We bake cakes to mark milestones for family parties and church fellowships. We bathe dirty bodies and change messy diapers. We stir stew and kneed bread. We watch our neighbor’s kids. We calm irrational fears and keep toddlers on our hip when they are whiny. We make sure our kids do their homework, get to their appointments, and make their beds. We sit with hurting women. We stay behind so that our husband can minister to others.

It’s not hollywood stuff and it may not be memorable, but it’s important. This is the stuff of life and it’s where God has called us to bloom. It may not feel like an accomplishment. Nobody’s going to celebrate that you made your bed and got tangles out of the two year old’s hair.

But it’s our sacred work. It’s our reasonable service.

My friend sent me this wonderful verse:

Ps. 37:3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

God doesn’t require accomplishments. God just wants us to be faithful right where we are. He wants us to take joy as we serve others in hidden ways that no one will ever know about except God.

My friend also sent me these lovely lines from Robert Louis Stevenson that I hope encourage you as much as they encouraged me!

“The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain common work as it comes certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.”

and

“Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.”

And from Elisabeth Elliot:

This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

Straight Talk About Renewing Your Mind

Maybe you assume that because my blog is named Joy-Filled Days, that I am naturally a half-glass full, Pollyanna type who always sees the good in everyone and everything. That is not true. You know from reading here that choosing joy is a choice I have to make, and by God’s grace I have.

Maybe you didn’t know that I sometimes struggle with my thought life. Discouragement lurks in the corners of my heart, and I’m not alone in this struggle, and neither are you.

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We see many examples in scripture of godly men like Job and David who struggled with low thoughts as well, prompting Job to write “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” and David to write “”Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (Psalm 6:2-3, 6). 

{This post is about temporary depression or discouragement, not clinical depression.}

I’ve had to learn to examine my thoughts, especially when it comes to my children. I can be washing the dishes, and in ten seconds in the theater of my mind I will have played out a worst case scenario: a child drowning or being abducted. I’ve parented from a place of fear because of these tendencies, believing the lie that I could somehow shield my kids from all evil if I were vigilant enough. Of course, this is a burden reserved for God alone and one that I was never meant to carry.

I’ve learned that what I dwell upon greatly helps or hinders my emotional and spiritual well-being.

God, in His mercy, has taught me a few things about the importance of renewing my mind and that’s what I intend to share with you today. I’ll warn you, I have to be hard with myself. It is a battle, so if these things seem harsh, I apologize. I’m usually hard on myself and easier on others and don’t intend to burden you at all. If this helps you, great. If it doesn’t, and maybe you’d benefit from another approach to renewing your mind, feel free to do what works for you! The end goal is renewing your mind, not following my steps  Whatever approach you take, the battle can only be won through the help of the Holy Spirit, Word-saturation, and prayer. And remember, God will daily give you the grace you need.

1. Transformation comes about by renewal.

This talk is hard because it’s about submission.

Our culture hates the idea of submission to any person, group, religion or organization, and if I am honest, my flesh hates it as well, because my flesh loves to do what it wants to with no consequences.

But as a believer,  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20 This means that my “flesh” is in a casket somewhere and that God is living within me helping me to believe and live by faith.

“Biblical” thinking is scorned by society, and submission to biblical teachings is deemed primitive, backwards, enslavement, or akin to having rocks in your head.

Culture teaches that I am the greatest god, and if it’s right for me, then that’s all that matters. There’s no higher authority than self.

But no matter what our culture says, as women who are bought with a price and want to serve God, we line our lives up under His Word. (Or at least we try!) God is our authority and we voluntarily and happily submit to God’s word as revealed in the Bible. When culture contradicts scripture, God’s word is what we follow. And when our flesh rises up against scripture, it’s time to “put off” the old man, “put on” the new man, both of which take effort and will on our part.

Romans 12:2 teaches us that instead of conformity to the world, what we really need is transformation through renewing our minds.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In Christ, we are new creatures. I’m not how I used to be.  So when my thoughts start returning to the old way of thinking, I need help. It comes by renewing my mind by knowing God, His glory, and His word. The word transformed in this verse means metamorphosis.

How does this happen? Where do you turn?

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Cor. 3:18

 

The triune God is the only thing large enough and interesting enough to bear the weight of glory, and ultimately worship. Anything else will break your heart…We were created by God and for God and until we understand that, we are restless, brokenhearted glory chaser, always seeking something more.

Matt Papa

2. We are not alone. He have a Helper.

The Holy Spirit prompts you to change as you behold God’s glory.

Your job is respond.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is always with us to encourage us to pursue godliness and to remind us of all we have and are in Christ Jesus. He reminds us that we are one with God, and that our ultimate happiness comes when we live in that place of oneness.

3. The Bible encourages us to check our thoughts.

Just because we think it, doesn’t mean it is true, and just because we dwell on it, doesn’t make it right.

One of the most valuable actions you can take when a thought comes to your mind is to evaluate it before you believe it.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 

2 Cor. 10:5

Think of a toy-sieve that your child uses at the beach. They pour all the sand through the plastic grid, and as it slides through, the rocks, seaweed, glass, and sticks are more clearly seen and separated. Little hands pull out the junk and unwanted pieces and toss them aside.

Although hard to swallow, our thought life is our responsibility. We are responsible to discard the junk, and the Bible is our sieve.

As thoughts come in, think:

  • Where did this thought come from?
  • Where will it lead me if I follow it?
  • Does this thought agree with scripture?
  • Is is true, honest, just?
  • It is pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, or praise worthy?
  • It is judgmental, proud, expedient?
  • Does it promote unity?
  • Does this thought show the character of Christ?
  • Does it lead me to love this person or despise them?
  • Does it lead me to hope in God or believe that He has abandoned me?
  • Is this thought self-centered and therefore proud?

Our emotions are like smoke from the fire of the alter of the true god we worship. ~Matt Papa

 

4. We reap what we sow in our thought life. We get what we plant and our thoughts have consequences.

When we think too much about ourselves and how all the people around us are not living up to our expectations, when we dwell on our problems and make big of them, or we indulge in self-condemning thoughts about how we’ve messed up our lives and how nothing will ever turn out right, we are planting a crop that will grow and bear fruit. 

When you plant unloving thoughts about another person, you will reap broken relationships and hate in your own heart.

When you second guess everyone’s motives, you’ll reap walls built up by your lack of love.

When you dwell in self-condemnation {when in Christ you have no condemnation!}, you’ll surely end up discouraged or depressed.

When you think too much about how others relate to you, or too much how others have wronged you, or too much how you’ve let everyone around you down including yourself, you have thought too much about SELF.

Self focus sends me spiraling, friends.

When I make big of problems, or dream up the worst, and think too little about God, and forget His glory and goodness, or neglect my Bible, I’m setting a course and choosing a path.

I need truth to wash over me and renew my mind so I can see truth as it really is and arm myself against Satan’s lies.

This is the truth right now:

  • God loves me and took extreme measures to have a relationship with me.
  • Nothing can separate me from the love of God–not a wayward child, a financial crisis, a broken marriage, nothing.
  • God gave me His Holy Spirit so I wouldn’t be bogged down by the broken thoughts of this world. Although I am in a broken world, I don’t lose hope because God is greater.
  • Hard truth:: I deserved hell for my sin, not only in my future when I die, but I deserved hell today, but I didn’t get what I deserved. This is all due to God’s goodness. That means that no matter how hard today may seem, it is FAR better than what I deserve and with eyes of gratitude I can thank God for the day before me.

5. Fight back.

I’ve learned that renewing my mind means putting scripture before me in an intentional way.

I post verses because I need to see them.

I post Bible based art because it’s beneficial for my mind and soul.

I fight back because I sometimes desire social media over my bible reading.

I keep an open Bible on my counter because I need every little glance on the days when my phone is ringing off the hook and problems are piling and kids are in chaos and my soul is crumbling under the weight of it all.

I put God’s word on my fridge and my mirrors, smack dab in front our faces because as John Piper said, “I wake up in the morning with Satan sitting on my face.”

The struggle is real, and I want you to know you are not alone. I hope this helps you and encourages you to be intentional to renew your mind, read God’s word, fight to see Him in a world where everything is vying for your attention.

What do you do to renew your mind? Share your helps in the comments or on FB. Thanks, friends.