Reflect Lately?

I was out running one morning recently, and as my feet pounded the pavement in the early morningsunset hours, I noticed the sky was a beautiful red and blue color. I didn’t stop; I kept running, trying to get my workout done. However, I felt as though the red was getting redder and the blues bluer as I ran. I still would not stop (I needed to get done). At some point, though, I felt God had been trying to get my attention gently, but because I didn’t listen, it felt as though He yelled, “Stop and look!” So, I did. I stopped and looked at the sky with amazement. I then took out my iPhone and began taking pictures. I posted those pictures to social media, and apparently, more than 100 people felt the same about how beautiful they were. As I viewed those pictures, I was able to reflect on God’s goodness. What a wonderful life I have lived. I thank God every day for blessing my life as He has done, and I want to be and do all that God has called me to be and do.

Like many of you, the last year has caused me to reflect a lot. Not just because of the pandemic, but as you grow older, I think one tends to look at life and wonder if you left the earth today, would you have made a difference. I am not saying that we must make some vast world-changing impact, but I wonder who will miss me when I am not here anymore. I realize initially, people are sad that we are no longer around, but after a while, even they settle into their own lives, and those they have lost may slowly fade into the background. Anyway, as I reflect on my life, I quickly recognize that I have more years behind me than in front.

What about you? Have you reflected lately? Have you thought about how each day you make a ripple effect into the lives of others? I have. Recently a person told me that I made a significant difference in her life years ago. She said that although college was accessible to her, it was just not something she had thought of pursuing until she met me. Today, she holds advanced degrees. As such, I began to think about several people I had encouraged to go to school so that they would have opportunities that may have evaded them otherwise. They did, and those doors opened. They don’t have to give me any credit; that’s not what I am looking for at all. But I will say it makes me feel good that this one person didn’t wait until it was time for my eulogy to let me see that I made a difference.

Person sitting quietly on the edge of a dock watching the sunset

Today, think about how you can impact others in significant ways. As much as people can frustrate, disappoint, and anger us, God calls us to think of others. I know it is hard, but God will make sure to reward you for your acts of selflessness. Remember, we don’t need recognition here on earth; although it is nice, we need to do what God has called us to do and let Him handle the rest. I am confident in saying that I guarantee He will.

Born to Thrive!

Most days, I feel as though I can conquer the world, and then, there are days when I think the world is defeating me. That feeling doesn’t last too long, however. I was born to thrive! At least that’s what I tell myself. The feeling of not just surviving but thriving has been with me since I was very young.

born to thrive

I recognize to hear someone claim that they thrive sounds self-assured and assertive. But, as much as I’d like to think I can face anything and overcome any obstacle, there is always anxiety behind the face of that courage.

The truth is, the fiercest of us experience our share of anxiety. Whether it is dealing with the loss of a job, an end of a marriage or relationship, or a betrayal of any kind, life can get the best of us. When I face struggles, I generally turn to scripture to ease my stress and I pray for guidance as to my next steps. Being a person who tries to control my destiny, I get frustrated when I feel I am not in control. Being a woman of faith, I caution myself to stop trying to control everything. To leave it, only to find myself going back trying to handle the situation again. If you are a control freak and feel you are not in control, anxiety comes. If you are a laid-back and carefree person and deal with those who are not, you probably feel that situation bringing about pressure.

Just remember, for anything that seems to overwhelm us, there is an answer. The answer to me can always be found in scripture. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in all things with prayer and thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This scripture puts things into their proper perspective. Stop worrying, focus on what is essential, and thrive mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

What do I thrive? I know it’s because I have the assurance through faith that God has my back. As Tauren Wells sings, “If I am on the mountain, He is there. When I am in the valley, He sees me there.

intention

Anxiety is as much a part of life as breathing but thriving takes intention. Someone said, “An intention is more than a thought or a theory about how you want to live; it is the thought and determination to make that change.” That change starts with our heart, and our attitudes will follow. How can you thrive? Think free like a child. Find an exercise that you will learn to enjoy and do it. Take risks. Take walks. Laugh a lot. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Now, these are easier said than done, but that’s why I say intention is key to thriving.

Fan the Flames?

Recently, I have thought seriously about just disconnecting. Some time ago, a person said to me that they could not keep a gratitude journal I had suggested because they did not see themselves writing the same things day after day in that journal. They were thankful, but they would get bored doing the same exercise each day. I remember thinking that I had done it for years and I could do it. But, I also felt that I would never stop doing it.

fan the flames

For years, I have gotten up in the early morning hours to read the Bible and pray. However, over the last year, I have noticed my early morning prayers getting shorter. I can remember saying to God to stir in me the passion for worship, His Word, and fellowship with others, just as I had when I was younger. I prayed that my prayer process did not become mechanical and mundane. Now, I feel that is exactly what it has become.

What do I do when I feel the very thing that has kept me is somehow losing its appeal? What happens when I don’t feel like reading, praying, or even interacting with others? Then it came to me. The reason I read, prayed, and took part in routine fellowship was for moments just like these. When I reflected on the “why” of my emotional state, I found that to be a good process. To ask myself questions that force me to look inward and evaluate my life is what many people go through. Those who have strong faith recognize what’s happening immediately. Do you know why? It’s because we have exercised specific disciplines throughout the years.

What do you do when you feel distant & disconnected from God or the people of God? How do you handle the feeling of ineptness, routine, boredom, or downright “I don’t feel like it anymore?” I will share what I have done. I have stepped back and asked the Holy Spirit to show me what to do. I have also asked the Holy Spirit to stir up a fire in me. I don’t believe that I would know to do that had I not read that in the Bible repeatedly over the years. In 2 Timothy 1:6-14, we are told the following: “That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you by means of the laying on of my hands.” This scripture speaks to me. Even more is what comes after in verse 7,  “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and love and calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. 

These scriptures are reminders of a couple of things to me. First, I have to know without a doubt that regardless of what I am feeling, God is with me. He said He would not leave me or forsake me. As such, I have to trust that if I would pursue Him, I will find Him. Stirring up the fire to me means to press through despite the so-called boredom. It means to think of the things of God or the enemy will have me thinking, “why bother?” Also, I realize that I have a responsibility to fan the flames and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Second, I have to be bold enough to say to myself or my distractions that there is power in the disciplines. I don’t have to feel an emotional high; instead, I have to trust God. If I go boldly to the Throne of Grace, He will be there waiting.

So, what do you do when you “feel” you have lost your fire? Fan the flame! We’re not as hot and burning as when we first received the Lord. But Romans 12:11 encourages us not to be “slothful in zeal, but be burning in spirit, serving the Lord.” So, remember, when you go through the season of slothfulness, God wants us on fire for Him. It may not be in your human spirit, but your born-again spirit will be willing.

2 Timothy1-7

These scriptures are reminders of a couple of things to me. First, I have to know without a doubt that regardless of what I am feeling, God is with me. He said He would not leave me or forsake me. As such, I have to trust that if I would pursue Him, I will find Him. Stirring up the fire to me means to press through despite of the so-called boredom. It means to think of the things of God or the enemy will have me thinking “why bother?” Also, I realize that I have a responsibility to fan the flames and trust the Holy Spirit to do the rest. Second, I have to be bold enough to say to myself or to my distractions that there is power in the disciplines. I don’t have to feel an emotional high, rather, I have to trust God. If I go boldly to the Throne of Grace, He will be there waiting.

So, what do you do when you “feel” you have lost your fire? Fan the flame! We’re not as hot and burning as when we first received the Lord. But Romans 12:11 exhorts us not to be “slothful in zeal, but be burning in spirit, serving the Lord.” So, when you go through the season of slothfulness, remember, God wants us on fire for Him. It may not be in your human spirit, but your born again spirit, is willing

Praise Him in the Hard Times…

It is so easy to lose focus right now. The Pandemic and all the things that go with it; working from home, teaching your kids at home, and balancing a full-time job all presents challenges. Also, there is racial strife and political tensions. For sure, 2020 has beedon't be afraidn a year that none of us could have predicted.

I was listening to a Pastor who had me raising my hands and praising God. He caused me to look deeply at Mark 5. Thinking of Mark 5, my attention turned to the famous story regarding the woman with the blood issue was healed after many years of being ill. I thought about how she had probably decided that she was not worthy of anything good in life. I wonder if she had written any life of happiness would ever be hers. I think of her desperation to touch Jesus, may have been a final act. Maybe she thought, what the heck, and just reached out and took a chance. That act of faith caused Jesus to heal her. Jesus met her desperation.

Keep in mind that Jesus was on His way somewhere else. He wasn’t supposed to be taking His precious time with a person who no one knew. She wasn’t a prominent person. In fact, He was with a prominent person, a synagogue leader, a CEO, who was taking Jesus to see his sick daughter. Wasn’t this guy much more important than this person?

As I listened and pondered the scriptures, all I could think about was how important that woman was to Jesus. After years of disappointments and let-downs, eventually, Jesus showed up. Amid people pushing and pulling and crowding her out, Jesus passing by got her motivated enough to reach out for him.

A desperate prayer

Now, think about the high-level synagogue leader. What about him? He was desperate too. He probably wanted Jesus to hurry through the crowd to get to his daughter. The girl is deathly ill, and if Jesus did not get there soon, she would be gone! I am sure he was exasperated when Jesus stopped and interacted with this woman. Oh, my and when Jesus finally finished, it was too late! The news came that his daughter had died. Wouldn’t you be upset with Jesus? I would.

As I looked at both of the people in this story, I saw myself. I recalled the days when I was desperate, and no one helped. I remember being overlooked, and those less qualified kept getting promoted over me. I was upset that Jesus didn’t step in and override those in authority who forgot me. After the initial shock and embarrassment of being sidelined, I kept reliving the disappointing experience in my head and many times feeling humiliated. That experience is probably closely related to the woman who had seen tons of doctors. No one did anything to help her.

Then there is Jairus, the synagogue leader. He was the authority in charge. He had control over people and processes. Yet, he had to wait on Jesus. He had

don't be afraidno control over what Jesus would do or when He would do it. Jesus took His time going to Jairus’ home, and his daughter died. Jairus had to be so upset with Jesus. He had to have questioned why Jesus did not care about him or his situation enough to hurry to get there.
That’s been me! I bet it’s also you. Haven’t you called for Jesus to hurry up and come to help you, and He stayed? Have you pleaded if He didn’t do something soon, you would be destroyed? Have you prayed and prayed about how you had been treated at work, and if Jesus did not intervene, your career would die? If He did not help you, heal your illness, your marriage, or your children, your life would be over? Of course, you have.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. I know that right now is the time to look at the words of Jesus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” I cannot recount how many times I had to tell myself to stop fretting and to believe. When promotions escaped me, I had to say that it wasn’t for me; He had something better. When I was ill and did not think I would live, I had to tell myself not to be afraid; God had more life for me to live. When I felt desperation, humiliation, and shame, God gently reminded me that He was in control. He told me to hold my head up because I could trust that He would never leave me or forsake me.

He did not forsake the woman with the 12-year blood disease. He did not leave Jairus with deep regret and resentment. He did not leave me, and He will not leave you.When we feel stressed because of restrictions brought on because of the Pandemic, when jobs are lost and stressors set in, when you feel forgotten and feel that no one sees you or cares, Jesus does. He knows what to do about the Pandemic and all the other things upsetting our world. He knows, and He cares. Just trust and believe. Don’t forget to praise Him in the hard times.

Uncertain?

 

I am sure you have seen the comments about the pandemic from the news media, your friends on social media, and probably family members and close friends. People who are experts in one area are now experts on the pandemic too. I believe we will all do well to press into God and listen to His voice, especially during these times of uncertainty.
We don’t know what the future holds; we I know who holds the future. No joke. I also know that even if I knew what the future had in store for me, I cannot do one thing about it except watch and wait. So, I sit at my home, just like you, and wait to see what’s next.

uncertaintyWhile I wait, I pray that my faith stays strong. I pray to shut out all the “experts” who are not experts, and I pray to take things seriously and also not to overreact.
I remind myself when the semi-experts begin to talk that God empowered professionals to study medicine and all kinds of diseases. I will listen to them. Also, I remind myself that everything is not a conspiracy. So when I read where people are spreading innuendo and gossip, I move right pass them. Listen, this is the time to trust God and listen to the scientists and medical experts.
I am no medical expert, nor am I a Biblical scholar. I am, on the other hand, a Believer. Not just a Sunday Believer, but an every day, Bible read and prayer Believer. I know that God has a plan and purpose for each of us. I do trust that His will be done. I also have to trust what the medical experts tell me and take their guidance seriously. So I wash my hands regularly, stay away from crowds, go out to exercise alone, and then I go back to my house and remain unless there is an urgent need.

Like you, I don’t like uncertainty. What keeps me going? Believing what the Word of God tells me. 2 Timothy1:7, “For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-faithoverfearcontrol.” So I try very hard not to fear, but to trust. His Word says in John 14:18, “I will not leave you desolate: I will come unto you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” So, I remind myself the God is here right amid this uncertainty. He said He would be, so I will not fear. The scripture that really speaks to me during these times of uncertainty is found in Psalms 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Feeding my mind with the Word of God rather than people reduces my anxiety.

There is no doubt that uncertainty fuels fear. However, faith can help us to overcome that fear. Recognize that having faith does mean we are void of fear; it means we can look at fear and trust God despite what we see or feel.
I want to encourage you today. If you do not generally read, start reading your Bible each day. Also, stop and say a simple prayer and remember to think about the needs of others. These acts will reduce your anxiety. More importantly, these acts will take the focus off yourself and cause you to care for the needs of your family, friends, and neighbors. These acts are contagious and will have a domino effect that can impact your attitude and the attitudes of those around you.

Brokenness…

I read something recently that said in sum, “when we figure out just how broken an individual may be, it is easier to show them more grace.”  I had to think about that for a minute. However, not too long after reading that post, I had to agree.

Some say “hurt people, hurt people.” Others, like me, understand what is being said, but I have a problem buying it.  Why is it that some hurt people go out of their way to be brokennessbetter? What causes them to recognize their brokenness and say, I will not do that to others? What makes some so different in their approach to their brokenness than others?  Is it that not everyone is able or capable of looking inward? Is it that it’s just hard to see how our actions affect others?

I cannot explain away the actions of others. Brokenness is a variety of things from broken hearts to messy lives and imperfections. For some, it is a way of demanding pity while for others, it is something that has motivated them to change the world.  In the Bible, brokenness means one who is crushed and torn, yet they are at the point of repentance. For example, look at David.  When Nathan confronted David about the horrible things he had done, after Nathan’s long rebuke, David said in 2 Samuel 12, “I have sinned against God.” David is known as a “man after God’s heart.”  He admitted his failure and sins. He didn’t make excuses, he owned what he had done wrong.

Don’t ever forget that we are all broken in some way. The Bible tells us that “we were born in sin and shaped in iniquity.” Therefore, we are capable of horrible things too.  What can help with dealing with brokenness? Who can cause us to exercise self-control when life becomes messy?  The Holy Spirit.  John 14:1 says, “do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in Me (Jesus). Another scripture says, “Come to me, all you who are tired and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). He will help with our brokenness.

Do we show more grace when we learn of a person’s brokenness? Maybe. I would like to think I do. Brokenness is no excuse to hurt others. Brokenness doesn’t give another person that right. However, when they do hurt me, I hope I am big enough to forgive them and pray for them more than once even if they never acknowledge, admit, or own up to their actions.

Think on These Things

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Each year many of us take into account what happened during the previous year. We stop and reflect. We also establish goals that we have the sincerest desire to accomplish. I, too, set goals every year. However, this year, I am most interested in one thing—God’s perfect peace and His will for my life.

As old as I am, I never expected that I would be caught up in the same stuff I was caught up in during my early years. Yet, last year, that’s exactly what I found myself doing. I was continually battling; battling trust issues, as well as competition, and other stress-related issues. I am not a worrier at all, but I found myself doing that too. For many years I have written and talked about my belief that fear and faith cannot coexist. However, during the last year, I found myself dealing with worry a great deal of the time. I dealt with ups and downs and constantly questioned my abilities. I questioned my ability to select the right relationships and I even questioned my overall judgment. Throughout the year, I feel, I was battling crazy people and the crazy ideas that were bouncing around in my head.

As I reflect on that time, I recall teaching a class over years titled “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyers. What Joyce talks about in that book is how to win the battle that goes on in our minds. What comes to mind now is that a woman like me, who has taught many people regarding thinking positively and relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit to help, found myself, battling the negative voices in my mind and intentionally trying to think positively in spite of my challenges. I desperately relied on the Holy Spirit to help me. Still, to turn around and find myself feeling doubt, confusion, anger, fear, and many other negative feelings caused me to feel condemned. 

I know the Scripture. I know that “there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1. I also know that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, but does not condemn us. Why then, was I feeling condemned? I was suffering from negative thoughts although I read my Bible daily. I began reading and consuming more of the Bible and other positive faith-based books that would help to edify my mind with positive thoughts.

The Word of God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “ Do not be anxious for anything, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I remember running during the early morning and repeating that scripture to myself. I also read Think on These Things by John Maxwell and Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. I was in prayer constantly, asking God to keep me in perfect peace during my most trying times. I reminded God that His Word said that He would keep me in perfect peace if I kept my mind on Him, so I tried to keep my mind on Him. God is so good. What I found was, when my days got too frustrating, too disturbing, and I wanted to throw my hands up and walk away, God would have someone send me a word of encouragement. I would get an invitation to go and speak somewhere, or some small thing would happen that was bigger than what I was experiencing but spoke volumes that it was God. He would reassure me and encourage me. 

I share this to say to you, do not be discouraged; do not be afraid. God knows what is going on with you. He knows the ups and He knows the downs. He cares for you and is willing to step in and help you through it all. Trust Him and when your times get hard, trust Him more. Remember, we are bombarded each day with all kinds of negative thoughts. Don’t let them overtake you. When the voices get loud, let the Word of God get louder. You won’t hear God, though, if you let the negative words saturate your thoughts each day, and you sit idly by and let that happen.

How do you combat those negative voices? The answer is found in Philippians 4:8: “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

A New Year. There Was a Lesson in the Challenge…

When I hear someone try to tell me that a challenge I am facing will help me grow, I challengeswant to say hogwash! However, at my age, I can honestly say that many of my challenges have equipped me for greater things. I know, I know, you might say that I am only saying that because I haven’t faced what you are facing. That may be the case, but you never know what people go through. We don’t really share our deepest troubles on social media. At least I don’t.

Anyway, I would like to share a little about what I have endured over the last year and point out along the way that repeated challenges can get to any of us. Trust me, they have gotten to me. As for me, however, I choose to move beyond them. I learned long ago not to hold onto stuff. If you allow your challenges to get the best of you, you will most assuredly become beaten down, you may get despondent and decide to check out altogether. Counter your challenges. Find joy elsewhere, and I don’ mean in a bottle of drugs either. Find it in a walk, a run, with an animal, at a spa. Just find it.
I find joy in Christmas. The reason I love Christmas so much isn’t because of presents; it is in the people I get to share life with. The hustle and bustle of Christmas can be exhausting, but I always feel joy this time of year. This past year has been one of the most challenging I have experienced in a very long time. Things I thought I was done with years ago, visited me again but in grand design this year. I had not felt the sting of a person trying to demoralize and marginalize me in such a long time, that to experience it at this stage in life really shook me. I had to take stock of my life over and over again. I kept telling myself, “You must be crazy. You don’t need this. Why are you subjecting yourself to this?” I would ask God repeatedly if I was doing the right thing by remaining quiet, ignoring the actions of others, and staying the course. When I was about to throw in the towel, I would get an impression from God that I was supposed to stay the course. What I heard from God was this: “LaSharnda, don’t give up. I didn’t make you that way. Besides, trust me. I am teaching you a lesson. There is always a lesson in the challenge.” So I said, “Ok, Lord.”
At one point during the year, I felt that I was at my wit’s end. I was on my morning run, suddenly, a scripture began to play in my head over again. The scripture was Isaiah 43: 19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Well, of course, I felt God was about to break the cycle I had been experiencing. I waited and waited, and nothing happened. I got discouraged again. Too many things gave me hope throughout the year, only to get my expectations up and dashed back. To this day, I still do not know what God is doing in my life, but what I do know is that I am a different person today than I was a year ago. I know that I have learned some powerful lessons through my challenges.
Challenges can cause flight or fight, and even the strongest among us can get to the point of flight. Don’t feel bad when you finally throw your hands up and walk away, but before you do, I want you to ask yourself, “What lesson am I supposed to learn in this?” Take your time, pray, trust God, and trust yourself. Look at the challenge and determine what brought it on and decide what you can do about it. You always have a choice; you don’t have to put up with anything. However, you may learn to trust God more and rely on yourself less.
If you decide to stay the course, you may find that He is equipping you for something far more significant and even better than what you had before. The skills you develop during the challenges are skills you will take with you to the next level. You may also find that you are stronger, tougher, and brighter than you thought.

Learn from the past and look to the future.  God is about to do a new thing. Can’t you see it?

 

Determine to Live Positive

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Topic: Be Determined to Live Positive
Recently, I’ve watched the most positive people go from 100 % to zero in a short time. I have observed how joy has left them. I have even watched people slip into a state of worry and despair. I have seen people who are generally upbeat, happy, and joyful destroyed by the words and actions of others. Words that anyone would understand as being belittling, denigrating, and disrespectful. I have been left wondering what has happened in a person’s life that causes them to treat people so horribly.
As I have watched these kinds of situations, I have also watched my reactions to bad behavior. What have I learned? To be careful about who I vent and share my deepest feelings. The betrayed becomes the betrayer. Those you think you have something in common with, may not be the ones you can trust. Don’t think for a minute because you are having the same issues as another person that you can share with that person. If you do, be careful. You might end up in a deep dark well trying to crawl your way back up. It is so easy to fall into talking and talking because it seems like you are getting the frustration off your chest.
The positivity you generally feel gets lost in those conversations, and before long, you begin to talk negatively—defeatism sets in—and you will begin to act negatively; no longer experiencing joy and happiness. So, what is the solution? I think I found it in Romans 12:21.
“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” This scripture is easier to read than it is to do. I think what I can offer is something I learned from another author who said, “be the best where you are. God is preparing you.” This hit me like a ton of bricks because as a Believer, this should be my daily mantra. Honestly, you can tell if people are out for your best interests. If you pull away from the drama and refuse to allow yourself to get caught up talking and talking, watch how those you confided in react. Don’t get caught up. If you have (I have before) decide to pull away and don’t engage anymore.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…”
Instead of seeking conversations that will keep you depressed, and questioning who you are, seek God’s guidance. Call on Him, go to Him, and pray. His Word says He will listen to you. Who better to talk to than the most excellent Counselor?

Consider it Pure Joy…

Hand lettering Count it all Joy, James 1:2. Biblical background. Text from the Bible Old Testament. Christian verse, Vector illustration isolated on white background

I was sitting in the early morning hours reading my Bible. I do this every day no matter what.  Anyhow, I was beginning to read, yet again, the Book of James.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have read my Bible in its entirety, and as many times as I have read the Bible, I am certain I have read James much more. This time I got stuck reflecting on the first couple of verses—

  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of 

                    many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces 

                    perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature

                    and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should

                    ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given

                    to you.”

As I was reading these verses, I had an epiphany and I thought to myself, the reason some people do not succeed in life is because they have not learned how to look at their challenges as learning and growing experiences. They allow their circumstances to define whether they will live joyful and victorious lives. God wants us to be joyful and content regardless of our circumstances because there will always be a lesson we can learn from them.

Let me explain what I mean.  Every time I have faced something in my personal or professional life, in hindsight, I can see where God was maturing me.  Not only did I learn how to cope with a person or situation, I learned how to rely on Him more and less on myself. When I learned to trust Him and not turn to others (who will only gossip or cause you to doubt yourself) He provided me with the insight I needed to not only survive, but to thrive.  Also, when I turned to Him, He allowed me to see that I was growing in some skillset that I would later leverage in my personal or professional life.

“Consider it pure joy…” means not to worry or get stressed over a situation that you cannot control. It means to rest in the Lord and to be still and allow His work to be done in and through you. It means to trust Him and do so with a joyful heart. If you trust Him, you will probably be a lot more positive and relaxed.

During those times when you become frustrated, short with others, and impatient with the situation, know you won’t remain in that condition for long. Why? The Holy Spirit will remind you that faith tested builds perseverance and perseverance causes you to completely mature in all that you do.  If you don’t know how to face your challenges with joy, ask God. He will give you the answers you need.