I have had times of profound peace in my life and this isn’t one of them! Because I know what it feels like to have no worry and no hurry, I am determined to find it again. If you want to be able to rest in the Lord, no matter what storms rage around you, I have help for you.
First, I want to share a story with you. I was seriously ill. My chronic nasal allergies were the worst they had been. I had the most severe heartburn I had ever had and I wasn’t pregnant. I had other major GI problems, including trouble swallowing. I was losing hair. My right leg and the right side of my face were numb. One day when I was out running, I found myself going off the road and I couldn’t stop.
I was terrified that I had multiple sclerosis. I hoped that it was related to a food allergy, so I ate only the most obscure foods I had never had before. I lost tons of weight, but the symptoms remained. I took hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplements. I stayed up all hours of the night researching my condition.
I did not have peace.
After prayer and fasting, others’ prayers and fasting included, I knew what the problem was: I was afraid. I was afraid that I couldn’t trust God. I was afraid that I couldn’t trust my husband to stay with me if I did have MS. I was afraid I was going to die. I was honestly afraid of just about everything. I noticed for the first time that my gut was twisted in knots every time I was running late for something, every time someone seemed mad at me, every time I had messed something up.
But when I realized what the problem was, I prayed and repeated “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” every time the fear came. Not only did all my physical symptoms disappear, but I had a profound sense of peace. I had a speaking engagement at the time and forgot my notes. Normally, my stress level would have been through the roof! But I felt completely and totally calm. I was able to have my son email me the notes and all was well.
In the years since then, I have lost that complete, blissful sense of peace I had. I want it back. I need to practice the principles I described in the article I wrote for Intentional in Life. I pray that you and I are both blessed by pursuing peace in the right places.
This is a guest post by my friend, Sharla Fritz. Be sure to grab your copy of your free lesson in achieving a more focused life here.
Last year started out with grim news.
My husband was diagnosed with lymphoma.
It was a shock for this guy who never takes a sick day. He never had any symptoms. He didn’t feel ill.
Soon all of our to-do lists were relegated to the garbage can. Instead of our usual work and social activities, our schedules were crammed with doctor visits, tests, and treatments. Our over-packed lives had to make room for more important things. I personally needed to weed out the frivolous to find time for what was necessary—being available for my husband.
Thankfully, after six-months of chemotherapy, I can say my husband is doing fine. The treatments worked and he is now in remission.
But that experience demonstrated that I needed to be more purposeful with my time. Before the crisis I would read Ephesians 5:15-16—
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
—and interpret “making the best use of the time” as packing as much as possible into each hour. I filled my calendar like I was stuffing clothes for a three-week vacation into a carry-on bag. My to-do list was as long as a grocery list for hosting a party for one hundred of my closest friends.
But my husband’s health crisis forced me to see that I needed a shorter to-do list and a longer “not-to-do” list. God showed me that making the most of my time didn’t necessarily mean stuffing more into my day, but eliminating distracting activities to focus on what is truly important.
So I resigned from a leadership position, gracefully left a club, and said no to a weekly study group. I concentrated on the work I needed to do and to helping my husband recover.
Now that my husband is in remission, I am trying not to go back to my usual mode of operation. I am trying to live my life focusing on the essential instead of dividing my attention between a million distracting activities.
I encourage you to do the same. Life is short and we want to use it well. There are many good things that we can do with our time, but we want to choose the best.
To do this I suggest making a list of all the things you do. Write down everything on your schedule.
Then discern what is best by asking yourself two questions:
- Do I need this activity? Discover what is essential and what can be crossed off the schedule. Consider: Is it something I have to do? (Yes, you need to feed the kids.) Is it something God is asking me to do? (Or have I taken a job that was meant for someone else?)
- Why am I doing this? Discovering your motives may make it easier to find what is non-essential in your schedule. Reflect: Am I doing this to keep up with my friends? Is this pursuit simply an ego boost?
After you have examined each activity, compile a NOT-To-Do List—an inventory of the things that you now see are unnecessary or the endeavors God is asking you not to pursue right now. By eliminating the items on your NOT-To-Do List you will achieve a greater probability of successfully completing the items on your TO-do list.
Find focus. Find peace. Ask God to help you make the most of your time by deleting the trivial and keeping the essential.
It was Daylight Saving Time and my husband tried to change the time on our oven. He told me had had some trouble with it and I wasn’t worried. I’d changed it many times before. But when I tried to change the time, I noticed that I couldn’t do anything with the oven. It wasn’t working. There was some kind of strange error code. I tried flipping the breaker, but to no avail. It was time to call appliance repair.
The repairman arrived and glanced at the error code. “Oh, it’s in Sabbath mode,” he said.
“Yup. You just need to look up how to get it out of that mode in your manual.”
I couldn’t find the manual quickly, so Google explained that I just had to hold the clock button down to change it.
“That’ll be $75,” the repairman said. OK, so he wasn’t that rude, but that’s what it cost us to fix our oven. Ugh.
Why Do You Need a Sabbath Mode?
My husband kept thinking about the $75 bill, but I kept thinking about an oven mode that kept you from using the oven. Why would one need that?
I know that Jewish people observing the Sabbath aren’t allowed to cook. But why would you need to disable your oven? Couldn’t you just not bake?
A few weeks have passed since I asked myself these questions–a few weeks full of stress and busyness and what one of my Periscope viewers (catch the replay below) called “the creep.” In that time, I have felt exhausted, sick, and discouraged. Guess why.
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working past 8 p.m.
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working on Sundays
- I had been ignoring my rule about not working through lunch
The short answer to why I was starting to fall apart is that I hadn’t used my Sabbath mode.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong physically.
Lack of sleep and unscheduled time can lead to illness and exhaustion that can sideline us for weeks or months. Our bodies weren’t created for continuous operation. In Mark 2:27, Jesus says: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” God asked His people to rest, not because He needed them to, but because they needed to.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong emotionally.
I don’t know about you, but the most exhausting parts of my life are emotional, not physical strain. If I don’t have down time to process it, pray about, and talk about it, I will get testy. If it goes on long enough, I will get depressed. I love what Psalm 127:2 says about rest: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Rest is God’s gift to us.
We need a Sabbath mode so we can be strong spiritually.
Exodus 20:11 says: “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” When we work seven days a week, we can begin to believe that we are even more important than God. Even though I use my oven A LOT, life in our home wasn’t much different. We got to go out and I made meals that didn’t have to be baked. If you take a Sabbath rest, your family will survive, too.
When Are You Going to Go Into Sabbath Mode?
I determined that I need to turn my Sabbath mode on again at lunch time, after 8 p.m., and on Sundays. I asked not to be scheduled for tennis matches on Sundays unless I am really needed. I am going to tell my family to object if I try to keep working after 8 p.m.
Decide when your Sabbath will be and how you will keep your buttons from being pushed to keep working.
Need more? Catch the video where I discuss needing Sabbath and consider reading
I was praying using my Spiritual Circle Journal. I had told the Lord about my dissatisfaction with my appearance, my kids’ behavior, and the progress I had made (or really had not made) on the language arts curriculum I’m writing. I waited to hear the action steps He would give me for fixing these problems.
Instead, He said:
The real problem is you aren’t content. I think you wrote about that.
I was surprised by that answer. I found the series of blog posts I had written on contentment (you’ll find them at the bottom of this post) and was convicted. But I wanted more than what I had written. The Apostle Paul said that he had learned the secret of contentment, regardless of circumstances. But what was that secret? I was on a mission to discover it and I wanted to share it with you.
Why Contentment Matters
1 Timothy 6:6 says that godliness with contentment is great gain. It is an amazing blessing to be content and miserable to be discontent. Proverbs 19:23 tells us that when we rest content, we are untouched by trouble. That doesn’t mean that we won’t HAVE trouble. We know we will. Jesus says that’s a given. But Proverbs says that our trouble can’t have its way with us. We will be at peace despite our circumstances if we are content. If I’ve sold you on the value of contentment, read on.
The Secret of Contentment
1. Receive Christ
In Philippians 4:13, Paul tells us that he can do all things (including being content) through him. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life, it will be difficult–if not impossible–for you to have contentment.
2. Surround Yourself With Contented People
In verse 14 of Philippians, Paul goes on to tell us that despite the power of God enabling him, he is comforted by the encouragement of other believers. If you spend most of your time with people who are never satisfied, how will you be content? But when you share your burdens with contented believers, they will remind you of the promises of God and your contentment will grow.
3. Focus on What You Know
In Psalm 131:1 the psalmist tells us that he doesn’t concern himself with great matters or things too wonderful for him. We can become discontent when we want to know the answers to difficult questions like, “Why did God let this happen?” or worrying about the future. We KNOW that God is good and He loves us. Focusing on that truth gives us contentment.
4. Get Out of Situations That Make You Discontent
The psalmist continues in 131:2 to say he that he has calmed and quieted himself like a weaned child with its mother. As a mom, I know that when my baby is fussing, the best thing I can do for her is get her out of the situation. She needs to get away from the noise. I was watching a lot of home remodeling shows and found myself being discontent with my house. Suddenly, everything seemed so 80s! I have stopped watching those shows to quiet myself.
5. Fear the Lord
Truly the only thing we have to fear is God, because He is in control of our lives. Even if He permits something into our lives that we don’t want, we can be confident that He will give us His grace to endure. He will use it for our good and His glory. That truth fosters contentment. (See Proverbs 19:23)
6. Rejoice in Your Relationship with God
He is our portion, better and more satisfying than anything we are pining away for. He will never leave us or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5 tells us that this truth is what makes us content. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us that continually rejoicing, praying, and thanking God is the antidote to discontentment. Our blessings can be like the bucket of popcorn at the movies that we mindlessly consume. The 5 Minute Journaling app has been helpful to me in focusing on my blessings. I have copied and pasted these contentment Scriptures to pray through on my Pocket Prayer app on my phone.
Do you have any other suggestions for fostering contentment in your life? Comment or tell me about them on Facebook.
My 16-year-old went off to school for the first time this month.
My neighbor who knew none of my children have ever gone to school outside our home asked me:
Was it hard?
I heard myself answering, but I was sitting across from my then 15-year-old son in a restaurant last spring when he said, “I’m thinking I might want to go high school next year.”
I watched him as he fidgeted and explained his reasons for wanting to finish his education outside of our home, but all I could really see was a two-year-old holding up letter-shaped puzzle pieces and asking, “What dat?” All I could hear was this little boy insisting, “Read, Mama. Read!” I could only see an older boy who read everything he got his hands on, including his Bible. I saw a teen who questioned absolutely everything. And back in the present, I saw a young adult seeking his mother’s approval for something he felt led to do.
As I continued to answer my neighbor’s question, I saw myself weeping alone. I saw myself talking and praying with my husband. I saw my conversation with my son in which I told him honestly, “I don’t want you to go to school!” And I heard him answer, “So why are you letting me go?” I felt the ache in my throat once again when I answered, “Because it’s not about what I want, but what’s best for you.”
I kept talking to my neighbor while I watched my boy heft his backpack on his shoulder and walk toward the bus stop, wondering if he would get picked up, if he would find all his classes, if he would have anyone to sit with at lunch, if he would miss me.
And I realized that answering my neighbor’s question was like answering whether natural labor is hard or grieving a loss is hard or parenting is hard.
I wondered why I had never thought to ask God that question.
Was it hard to send Your only Son away from home, knowing what He would suffer?
I suppose I haven’t asked because I already know the answer:
Love is hard.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Have you ever had a hard time sending a child off to school? How can you encourage another woman who has sent her child out of the nest?
If you ever sang traditional Sunday School songs, you know you aren’t supposed to hide the light of Christ under a bushel basket. You’re supposed to share the Good News with others. But often, when it comes to our talents and gifts, the bushel basket seems like an acceptable option.
I wrote a book in the summer of 2007 and aside from selling it at several speaking engagements, I haven’t shared it with many people. The copies aren’t under a bushel basket, but rather in a cardboard box under our ping pong table. I decided to take one step to share it and that was putting the link to it on my email signature. A woman I corresponded with saw the link, clicked it, read the sample chapter, ordered the book, read it, and loved it. She has been raving about how it has changed her life ever since.
The point is we all have gifts and talents given to us by God that were meant to be shared–not stored under a bushel basket. Often we get confused and think that we have to be celebrity quality in order to share our gifts. What a shame! I’m no Beth Moore, yet my book has been a blessing to others.
In the interest of sharing my book with even more readers, I am doing an interview with Felice Gerwitz on Monday, April 9th at 11:00a.m. Central time. Hope you can listen in or that you’ll share this link and this blog with the people you know who would benefit from it. All the proceeds from my book are donated to charity and missions.
Are you a closet writer, photographer, artist, singer, musician, athlete, speaker, teacher, leader, or money manager? Don’t hide it under a bushel. Use it for the glory of God and to benefit those around you!
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b]do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8
How are you going to let your light shine this week?