Choosing Worry Over Trust

CT.3-7
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
~ Matthew 6:33

The Comparison Trap:  Week Three, Day Seven… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

My takeaway is short and sweet today:  When we worry, it’s often because we don’t trust God enough.

Someone once shared that concept with me, and it’s just stuck. If we’re seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness (the condition or state we’re in that is approved of and acceptable to God), then we will be in a place where worry won’t be necessary. If we’re seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness, we’ll know and trust that He’s got control over what I can’t control.

Sandra says “worry is a crutch for things we can’t control.”

Have you ever tried to walk with one crutch? It’s awkward. You feel lopsided.

When we worry, we aren’t trusting God to take care of the circumstances. Worry is lopsided. Worry is a crutch, and it makes life unbalanced and uneven.

Don’t worry.
Be trusting.


 

The Quest for Real Happiness

CT.2-3
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
~Matthew 5:8

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

One of the biggest takeaways for me in today’s devotional is the photo above. The locked gate has two sides and two perspectives. Some of us might look at the closed gate and see that the lock keeps us from getting to the other side, but some of us might look at the closed gate and see that the lock keeps in what it’s meant to keep inside its bounds.

Which one do you see?
I hope you can see both.

With the ugliness in our culture and in our world, these are times when we need both sides of that gate to exist. The challenge with the gate is in finding our purpose, our joy and our happiness within the confines and within the freedoms the gate might offer. It can seem like an elusive search.

In today’s verse, the word blessed can also be translated as happy. This isn’t just your “chocolate makes me happy” kind of happy; it’s much more.

It’s the most supreme happiness.

Strong’s Definitions defines the original word makários (from the Greek word μακάριος) as supremely blest. If you go to Blue Letter Bible, you’ll see that Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines the same word as the nature of that which is the highest good. This is a pretty special word, and it means a pretty special way of being blessed.

These are the people who will see God.
These are the people who will behold Him.

The first qualifier to being blessed this much is being one who has put their faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Without this, there is no blessing. With this, we can know the eternal blessing of forever being in His presence, but we can also learn to fully experience His blessings and presence on this side of eternity. We will find a special happiness when we do.

Whaaaat? When? It can sound pretty big, but it’s something every Christian with a personal relationship with Jesus wants to have happen to them. I know I’ll walk in His presence someday, but I’m working toward that dwelling place right here on this earth and in this lifetime. It is possible to achieve a truly happy version of that right now.

How?
Do you know that?
Are you working toward that?
Do you live a version of that now?

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
~Proverbs 4:23

For the purposes of this study and where we are in walking through the Comparison Trap, it’s about ridding ourselves—as best as we can—of the temptations and comparisons all around us. Doing so as a follower of Jesus will allow us to start to have a pure heart… one pure enough to allow “us to recognize God’s gifts, to discern his will, [and] to feel his nudging.”

Sandra Stanley closes today’s devotional with a sample prayer. Do more than just repeat the words… approach them with a purely guarded heart:

“Heavenly Father, I so very much want a pure heart. I commit today to doing the work it takes to clean out the comparison and other temptations that make it harder to see you and your will for me.”

When we start to figure all of this out, we’ll see that the locked gate provides us some guarded protection in this life by keeping out what will keep us from being pure AND by keeping in all He wants us to know in order to be supremely blessed by knowing, feeling and walking in His presence.

 


 

 

 

The Search for Contentment Continues

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:12-13 

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways for today include:

Paul inspires me. I want to learn to be more like Paul, who was always striving to know more of Jesus and to live by the path the Lord had prepared before him.

His contentedness awes me. Like many of you, I’ve read and studied his story. With all he had done in his past life (before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus), and with the beatings, shipwrecks, sufferings, hardships, time in prison, and challenges he faced, he was still able to know that finding his own strength and purpose through the strength of his Lord was his pathway to contentedness.

I haven’t met Jesus on a dusty road, nor have I been physically blinded by His presence, but I’ve traveled on roads of uncertainty seeking His answers, and I’ve been blindsided by quite a few harsh realities in life. I’ve lived seasons of being well-fed and with plenty in my life, and I’ve gone through seasons of hunger and emptiness, begging to be relieved of my heartaches and hurts.

Comparing these seasons to one another can be a trap, and when I’ve failed to reach out to Him, failed to dig for His hope, and when I’ve chosen to close His Word in frustration and wondering, then I’ve fallen into a trap. The snare has only seemed to tighten when my focus has been on comparison and discontent.

Just like you, I’ve, too, looked around me and asked, “Why me?”

In Day Three, Sandra writes, “The habit of praying and reading Scripture before my day gets going loads me up with the strength and perspective I need to resist the comparison trap.”

I’m still working on finding my perfect peace in contentedness, but I do know that the more I allow His presence to fill me, to surround me, and to overwhelm me, the more contentment and patience I find in my circumstances. The more time I spend dwelling in Scriptures and reading through His Word, the more I continue to learn that it truly is Him who gives me more of His strength to be more of the woman He is calling me to be.

When I dwell in His Word, I dwell in His presence. It is there I find His peace.

 


 

 

 

Monday’s Musings — NO Coincidences

The Bridge Builder

There are no coincidences. None.

There just aren’t.

In a life built on faith, there is always a reason. Always.

We don’t often understand the fullness of the incidence or of the reason, but just because we don’t understand, does not mean a reason does not exist.

A friend introduced me to this poem several months ago during a women’s Bible study. We were studying Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, and on pages 55-73, Ann takes us through a lesson about bridges. Ann cites this poem on page 71 of the Study Guide, but I say that “a friend introduced it to me,” because until my friend Sarah read it out loud, I hadn’t really “read” it while studying it. Sarah is a poet at heart. She’s a writer, but also a poet. She’s been blessed to see, experience and re-tell her own stories through His poetic lens and license, and when she read it to our group, I closed my eyes, and I “got it.”

Today, my son brought this to me to begin working on it as a recitation during his homeschooling speech class. The photo of the poem is from his textbook.

A coincidence? No … a God-incidence.

I had to have seen this poem a few years ago when my daughter went through the same curriculum and speech class. I had to have seen it at that time. Why didn’t I recall it from back then? I’m pretty sure I didn’t recall it, because God hadn’t spoken it into a part of my heart until Sarah read it in our small group time. That’s when it spoke to me.

It spoke then — that day in our small group, but I didn’t do much with it. I oooo-ed and aaaah-ed with the rest of our group about the meaning and the depth, but I’m not sure it really intersected with my heart at all in the days, weeks and months that followed.

In my church yesterday, the pastor gave a message about being “good soil” from Jesus’ parable in Luke 8.

There is a lot in common with bridge building and being good soil.

With a heart filled with gratefulness to Him, I can say  — because of Him — I am good soil. I’m grateful our Lord has given me a heart willing to be good soil, and I’m also grateful for all of those who have uprooted thorns in my life, pulled weeds, tended to my soil, nurtured it, planted the Word in it, and have spoken into my life at some point along the way.

The last few months have found me struggling with the task of perseverance in my life. I’ve been called to persevere through some tough stuff, and it’s been wearing on me. The soil message was one I needed to hear. It reminded me that the tasks to which He has called me have a greater purpose He wishes to bring about. Yes, some of this is about me, some of it is about the others it involves, but the soil He is turning and the bridges He is building have a purpose for which He has not fully revealed to me.

Happenings in our lives are woven together by the Master. Nothing is allowed to occur in our life without first passing through His hand. We’ll never know the reason for much of it, but when we can see glimpses of how He is weaving His story into our lives, it should awe us to no end.

So when I struggle with perseverance, and when I happen to hear a message at church on Saturday night about the storms of life, and then I go to church on Sunday to hear a message about soil, and the storm and soil messages are reinforced on Monday by a bridge message, it is NO coincidence. It’s Him speaking something into my life that He wants me to hear.

I recognize His presence and His weaving in the circumstances of my own life, and I recognize them in His calling on me to persevere through the storms, to maintain good soil and to continue building bridges for His purpose and for His will.


Finding Hope in the Storms of Life

 Storm.HS.Presence

The sun is shining, and it’s a beautiful day here today. Yesterday, however, a huge storm overtook the morning. The sun came up, and it was bright and beautiful as it crested the horizon, but I could hear the rumble of thunder far off in the distance. Within the hour, the storm loomed close and the skies grew dark.

Thunderclaps, lightning bolts, and pounding rain raged outside for a few hours. Pellets of hail fell in bursts. I went online to find the forecast giving hope it would all be gone by the noon hour.

The storms of life often appear similarly, don’t they?

The sun can be shining in our lives, and we might hear the distant grumble of trouble looming.

When we’re in the depths of the storms of life, they are often all we can see.

The rest of our life is still there, but the storm is what dominates the present.

We’ll see the darkness taking over the light.
We struggle to see the horizon.
T
he winds feel like they are swirling around us.
We’ll often allow the negativity to overtake us.
W
e may feel like we’re drowning and being pelted with despair.

If you are anything like me, you wish you could have access to His forecast. If we could just know how long the storm would last and what might be over the rainbow, it would make it easier to jump into our rainboots and wade through the muddy yuck, wouldn’t it?

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In Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew records an account of a storm that came in fast and went out even faster:

“Then he [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!””
~
Matthew 8:23-27 (NIV)

A mighty storm raged around them, and the disciples were in the thick of it. Jesus was sleeping in the boat; He was with them in the same storm. They called upon Him for help. He provided it, but He also rebuked them for their lack of faith.

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Dr. Tom Constable’s commentary in Sonic Light tells us that when whenever Matthew uses the phrase “little faith,” in his Gospel, “it always reflects a failure to see below the surface of things.” (Study Notes/Matthew/page 149)

That phrase and commentary on the phrase makes an impact on me.

When I’m in the depths of a storm, a challenge, a trial, a crisis, some kind of trouble, (…whatever label you and I want to attach to it in the heat of the moment…) I’m often self-consumed.

How will this go?
How will I be impacted?
What about this?
What about that?
What about them?

I often fail to “see below the surface of things” when the waves are sloshing over the side of the boat. I’ll have my bucket in-hand and be bailing fervently, but I’ll often forget He’s in the boat with me. Right there. Right there in my presence at all times – even in the storms.

He calmed the seas He created. He pushed back the winds He controls. He did so to the awe and amazement of His closest followers.

He doesn’t always calm our storms as quickly as we call upon Him and ask Him to do so. I don’t have the specific answers as to WHY He doesn’t, but I can imagine Him looking at me saying, “Why are you so afraid?”

I want to often skip over that “You of little faith…” rebuke, but there are times when I know I deserve it.

When I can stop focusing on trying to bail the rising water out of the boat and, instead, focus upon His constant presence with me in the storm, I can then lean on learning to grow a bit more in faith while not being so afraid.

Perhaps He desires for me to realize my “momentary troubles are achieving for us [and also for me] an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4:5

Perhaps He allows those winds to swirl around me, the horizon to remain hidden and the short-term forecast to be unknown because in the midst of the storm, He wants my focus to be on His presence. Perhaps He knows that when my focus is there, my faith will be greater and my fears will be calmed.

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  As always, if you would like to use, download or share the image associated with this post to share with others or to offer encouragement,
you are more than welcome to do so.
I only ask that you not alter the image in any way
so that it continues to be referred back to Hope Surrendered.
Thanks so much. 

 

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