The Study With Friends community includes a team of bloggers who bless us with authentic and honest musings about how their faith informs their life, and how life informs their faith. These blogs offer insights and advice from the heart. They are experiential. For instructional insights, visit our bible study page.
This week is April Fools’ Day, the only day of the year, some have noted, when it’s ok to pull pranks and practical jokes. It seems many countries and cultures have a similar tradition of a day dedicated to hoaxes and mischief, not necessarily occurring on April 1. I used to love to try to fool people on April first each year, but when I married, I discovered that not everyone liked the day. I suspect my husband may have been the object of some nasty jokes as a child, as he never found the day humorous.
First, not every woman’s pregnancy journey is joyful. Be mindful of that. (Now I know a lot of women struggle with infertility, and would give anything to become a parent. And I don’t understand God’s reasoning behind those struggles, either. But I’m not going to get into that today.) But I know for me, it was difficult to slap on a smile day in and day out when this is NOT what I had signed up for. I struggled a lot to brush off insensitive comments from strangers, friends, and family. Sometimes I just shut them out because it was less painful. One of my favorite verses that is hanging up in our living room is, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12, NIV) I tried to keep that as my mantra in pregnancy, and now in parenthood.
Many in the world today understand the importance of looking around to be aware of others in need, so we can help. As a Christian I know that the Bible both encourages and commands us to care for others. But the Lord tells us that even before we look out to others, we should first look up to Him. The first 15 verses of Psalm 105 are also recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:8-22. There is a lot of meaningful stuff in these passages and Psalm 105:4 is no exception: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” (NIV). The Amplified Bible puts it this way: “Seek and deeply long for the Lord and His strength [His power, His might]; Seek and deeply long for His face and His presence continually.” I can’t continually seek God’s face if I am only paying attention to my own agenda—even when my agenda is filled with things that are good or even necessary.
My husband and I are in the midst of raising four teenage daughters…yes, that’s right, four girls between the ages of 13 and 19. Our oldest will be 20 in a few months, so there is light at the end of the tunnel! Raising these kids always puts me in mind of where they get their sense of worthiness. It’s in our human DNA to belong. This is especially true in kids. When we belong to a group, we feel a sense of worthiness and well-being and are at peace. Instead of my kids getting their sense of belonging from the world, which is fleeting and ever changing, I want them (and me!) to get it from the Lord, who is eternal and everlasting.
Could He really be thinking “You’re all my favorites?” What about when I am not my best self? When I am cranky, selfish, too worn out to care? I’m not even sure I deserve to be a wife or mother some days. I don’t deserve to be anyone’s favorite. Certainly not the God of the universe! That’s when I need to be reminded that God doesn’t love me because of who I am; he loves me because of who he is.
Over the next few days, there were many questions about that door. Why is it there? Where do the things go? Why don’t they come back again? I showed him that the dirty clothes fall into a box near the ceiling of the basement; I open a door on the box and pull out the pieces, I explained, and then I wash everything. He wanted to help pull out the items, and was especially excited at finding some of his own clothes there. Then he asked, “Why can’t I see where it goes? Where’s the other part? Why is it dark?”
This more recent flight was different; it was extremely windy, we had a few bumps, but not the amount of turbulence I would have thought. As we got close to our destination, the captain came on the speaker to tell us we would be having turbulence on our way down to land. He also told the staff to take a seat, it would be bumpier than they were used to as well. Landings are difficult for me, but as we prayerfully descended I was feeling such peace that I just don’t usually have at that point. I was relieved because we were about to touch down and this feeling of relief was starting to flood through my body. But then we weren’t. We were not touching down. We were not slowing down. We were speeding up. We were lifting up. We were going higher and higher. You could hear a pin drop on this fully filled flight. The babies weren’t even crying, singing or yelling. It was quiet. Everyone was scared.
Time has somehow transported us to a new year. Time flies, as they say. It’s an interesting phenomenon that day to day life can somehow move slowly but at the end of 365 days linked together we say how fast the time has gone! This time speedway brings us to the intersection where we find ourselves looking in multiple directions to attain the safest and quickest route to emotional, physical or spiritual wellness.
If I only do ______, I will get to that place of happiness I’m striving for. If I only have more _____, I can move on to greater security. When I lose ______, I will be beautiful. When those people _______, then I will not be a loser.
Can you relate? Maybe you have your own blanks you could fill in which describe your thoughts.
Many years ago, I quit my job because of significant stressors arising from said job. I felt really guilty, as a lot of training and education went into my attaining this job. I really did not think God wanted me to quit, but I was so depressed and stressed that I hated going to work to a job I once loved, (some parts of which I still loved). I had prayed and prayed and saw no clear answer over the course of several years. Then one day, my “Ananias” called to ask how I was. I burst out crying on the phone, as I had had a particularly difficult and complicated night the evening before. I told my friend I needed a “mental health day.” Wisely, she asked me to explain what I meant by that. I told her how unhappy I was, how much I had prayed about quitting or staying, and how I did not hear a clear answer either way from God. My friend’s sage advice, prompted by the Holy Spirit, I am sure, was “Sometimes you have to take the first step in faith and see where God leads.”
Our friendships grow and change over our lifetime, with some staying, some going, and some being just for a season. We know this, but our relationships can still be a source of much confusion when we’re in the thick of a conflict or when a relationship ends entirely. There have been some relationships in my life where I have felt hurt that the other person let me down, or didn’t meet my expectations. I’m sure this is a universal experience! God gave me a wonderful gift when He helped me to realize that I needed to adjust my expectations of others. I could let it bother me that someone didn’t do what I thought they should do, or I could accept that my agenda is mine, and not theirs.