It happens to all of us at some point, disappointment, unmet expectations, or a conflict resulting in emotional pain. Our instincts may be to deny, suppress, medicate, or bear up under the pain, but it is impossible to live life safe enough to avoid painful struggles. I have found this to be especially true when I care passionately about something, or when I’m on a journey, stepping out in faith, or pursuing a dream or calling. Maybe you can relate to experiencing discouragement in the middle of one of those journeys where hope and faith have propelled you to a high place, only to find your feet suddenly at the threatening edge of despair, uncertain where the next step or handhold is to deliver you to your destination? What truths can we use to traverse these rocky places, to know where to hold onto in hope, and whether our footing is on solid ground along the journey?
Perhaps you have some suggestions gained from personal experience? Here is a brief list of perspectives that God has taught me over the years, and reminded me of recently when experiencing a series of disappointments.
God, and a godly view of his attributes as revealed throughout Scripture. It’s important to examine our godtalk and reconcile it with the Truth found in God’s Word. If we have a lacking or polluted view of God’s attributes we are vulnerable to Satan. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, he always answered Satan’s lies with God’s written truths. (Matt. 4:1-11).
love for others as ourselves. This topic requires so much, but briefly I want to share the foundational perspective of asking God to help us see others through his eyes. Where is he working, and how does he want to use this person for the kingdom? What does love look like in 1 Cor. 13? Whether in times of peace or conflict, do our motives match with this kind of love? Are we willing to serve a greater kingdom cause? Loving others is an opportunity to join with God’s heart through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit.
your identity in Christ. Just as we need a godly view of God’s attributes we need a godly view of ourselves as his redeemed people. We have it all in Christ! We have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing. He chose us before creation to be blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons. Freely he has given us glorious grace, redemption through his blood, and forgiveness of sins, and so much more! (Eph. 1:1-17; et. al). Examining our self-talk for signs of an enemy breach may reveal that we have given Satan an entry point.
the Potter’s hand. God often uses difficulties in our lives to transform our character into Christlikeness, and restore wholeness to our painful personal issues. He isn’t looking to use perfect people, but he will only advance those who humble themselves to the Master’s design. Is there a reoccurring pattern in your life? Let Jesus take you to a place of healing. 2 Cor. 3:17-18; 4: 7; Hebrews 12:1-8
today. While we persevere in faith for the promised hope of tomorrow we need to continue living in the present with gratitude, praise, and joy, even when it takes all we have to do so. Our eyes can easily become fixed on a future hope and neglect the gift of today. If we are not careful our promise can become an idol greater than our appreciation for the Giver. God is more than enough for today and tomorrow! Let the joy of the Lord feed your soul today.
Let go of…
extra baggage. We start out with intentions of traveling light, and end up gathering things along the way to help manage difficulties. In 12 Steps, these “things” that help us manage are referred to as immature and ineffective ways of coping or relating to others. In relationships they may look like using a sledge hammer to swat a fly. They come in varying forms of blame, unforgiveness, people pleasing, defensiveness, perfectionism, etc. If debris is scattered along the trail behind, it’s time to make amends with our past. (Rom. 12:18; Eph. 4:15).
the weapons of the enemy. Like avoiding poison ivy along the trail, we must not handle the weapons of Satan. Their forms are subtle, casting doubt and obscuring truth. Most often they are seen in misunderstandings and false attributions about the behavior and motives of others, or they are seen in how we make sense of our world, our explanatory style. They are particularly attractive because we appear like an innocent victim in our own eyes, while we see others as purposefully against us. When this happens we need to go back to the things listed above, to the things “we hold onto.”
control. It is our fleshly nature to try and control things ourselves, especially when God’s timing seems delayed. We see this example in Genesis when Sarai gave her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abram so that the promise of a son could be fulfilled. When we try to control situations or others we are depending on ourselves, not God. In your journey, “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
As God continues to teach these things to me I return to them often as a place to regain perspective. Though in some areas I continue to struggle, I have found that I more quickly come to a place of rest and perspective by knowing what to hold onto, and of what to let go. What has been your experience in difficult times? What thoughts would you add? Is there anything you identify with most? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I hope to expand further on these and others in future blog posts.