Our verse this week is Psalm 29:11: “May the Lord make his people strong. May the Lord bless his people with peace.”
You can flip on any TV channel or open any newspaper or magazine and see that there’s a serious lack of peace in this world right now. If I asked you about work, your relationships and your family, at least one of those 3 topics would bring up a situation that lacks peace. I totally understand, after all there are some seriously messed up people in the world. It doesn’t really matter how they got to be that way, but they sure challenge those of us who normally are pretty decent people (no one is perfect, right?).
First, let’s talk about those difficult people. Some are totally oblivious to the damage they cause, others are fully aware of the destruction they leave in their wake. I don’t believe that they should have our sympathy or sorrow, somewhere along the line they chose to live and act the ways that they do. The best thing we can do is understand that just because they’re miserable people we don’t have to let them make our lives miserable too. Given the sheer number, it’s almost impossible to avoid them, which is why it’s important to understand them. But just because we understand that they are who they are, it doesn’t mean we should spend tons of time with them.
Second, let’s talk about spreading peace around the world. Peace spreads through peaceful people. If you want to spread peace, you can’t overreact to miserable people (including drivers). You have to remain calm and collected. You can impact people by being peaceful yourself. And, there will always be opportunities that pop up that will allow you to spread the message of hope and peace with others verbally and through actions, like going on missions trips or when friends ask about your positive attitude in the face of challenges.
Third, looking back at Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were people who didn’t like Him, and He was a really likable guy. You can’t make everyone happy nor can you know the right thing to do every time. Jesus set the example of spending time with people who wanted to spend time with Him and were good for Him. While Jesus couldn’t avoid the teachers of the law, He didn’t make a point of spending a lot of time where He wasn’t wanted.
This week I encourage you to spend time with people who lift you up and encourage you to be the best version of yourself (including Jesus). You’ll feel better about your relationships and be able to find peace and satisfaction with your life.
I think one of the reasons I don’t watch the news very much is because when I really think about what’s going on I feel helpless to really do anything. I’m not a cop, I can’t chase down bad guys; I’m not a medical doctor, I can’t cure crazy diseases; I’m not a politician, I can’t change or help a vote; I’m not a conservationist, I can’t save a forest from logging destruction; I’m not a political scientist or foreign emissary, I can’t help avoid WW3. But it’s not just about the big things, it’s about feeling helpless when there’s an accident near me or someone’s struggling to walk to their car or someone’s lost a dog.
Yes, we’ve talked and will continue to talk about how important and invaluable the little actions that each of us do throughout our lives. Yes I can call in a tip about a bad guy I saw from the news, I can donate to medical research facilities, I can vote in every election, I can plant trees, I can drive safer myself, or I can help someone cross the road. I can do something in each of the situations mentioned, but when they’re presented on the news or on a video and there’s nothing I can do in that moment, how can I not feel some amount of helplessness?
I think feeling that helplessness is healthy and normal. It’s a good indication that you’re still feeling and emotionally connected with the world. It means that you’ve got concern for your fellow humans and everything else that makes up this great world of ours. Unfortunately, for most of us though it also means that we have to accept being uncomfortable and unhappy with some things in life. Most of us simply can’t fix everything, no matter how much we rant, rave and feel bad.
Sometimes it helps to find what’s ‘glass half full’ in the situation, and even doing that little something like I mentioned earlier can help you feel a little less helpless. Unfortunately, until we all find that magical spider or the DNA to make us a superhero, we can’t be everything to everyone everywhere in the world. We have to stick to being superheros in our own part of the world.
This month our topic is one that can be challenging for some, the topic of help. I know it’s not always easy asking for help, and we don’t always like the answer or help we get when we ask for help. But that shouldn’t scare us away from asking for help. There are a few things to consider with regards to asking for help. First, you’re asking for the help, that means you’ve come to a point that you really can’t do it alone anymore and need another person or need advice. Second, just because you ask, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to take that advice. Third, asking for help should not be seen as a weakness or point of humiliation or something wrong.
But in many situations it’s simply too much for us to do alone, for example the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey and Irma. There’s no way that anyone truly plans to recover from a natural disaster like this, but they happen. There’s also no way to plan for the death of a partner or child, no matter how long you’ve known about their condition, you’ll still have to go through the grieving process. And, there’s no way one person can lift a king sized mattress or move an extra large bookcase, you need at least 2 people. Sometimes you’re just admitting that you’re human and it’s easier with more than one person, and there’s a reason we’re all here together.
If you’ve been here for a while you know that I’m a big believer in not being everything for everyone. I know it can be tempting to try, but there’s really no reason to be everything when there are people who can do things far better or more efficiently than you can or have more knowledge than you do. I love celebrating the expertise of others and giving them the opportunity to shine at what they do best.
So today I would challenge you to go ahead and ask for help. Maybe it will be something small like asking someone to hold the door open. Maybe it will be something bigger like asking someone to look over a proposal you’ve received. Maybe you’ll be extra brave and talk with your partner about one of the things that’s challenging you in your relationship or ask how you can better fulfill their needs in your relationship. Start small or go big, but make the choice to ask for help today.
Today I have an interesting challenge for you, inspired by the words of Colette Baron-Reid: “So many people are realizing that in spite of outer conditions we all have the capacity to choose to face our lives, turn on our light and address the shadows we have cast head on.”
The words that stood out to me when I read this was that we first and foremost have the capacity to choose to face our lives. It’s really a big wake up call to those of us who are unhappy with our lives and haven’t made any decisions about how to move forward. You’ve heard it before: the only person who can really do anything to change how happy you are with your life is you. I may be able to help you be happier or bring you things that make you happier, but you’ve got to choose to be happy about those things and welcome them into your life.
The second thing that stood out to me was the reminder that we have to “address the shadows we have cast head on.” I get it, our shadows (and what causes them) can be scary. It’s not exactly exciting to look at the mess you may be in. It can be intimidating to talk with our boss, our family or our partner about our unhappiness. You may think that you know the reaction (or rejection) they’ll give you. I wish that everyone had the supportive relationships that I do in their lives. The unfortunate reality is that not everyone has someone in their life that supports them (shame on you if you’re not supportive of the people in your life).
Sometimes we can get through the mountains we face by drilling through, other times we have to take the time to go around, and sometimes we have to take what might be the most challenging route and go over those mountains. But we’ve either got to pick one of those routes or we’ll never get to the other side (it’s very unlikely that the mountain will move for you, although sometimes it does).
As you look ahead to the last few days of this month and what you’re going to do with the last 4 months of the year, I would encourage you to grab the courage and confidence to face those mountains, those challenges, those people, those fears, those things that you’ve let hold you back and choose that you’re going to move forward from this point on.
Psalm 23 is one of the most recognizable Bible passages. Many people hear it in church, but it’s also often shared at funerals or with those who are going through a challenging time in their lives. In some ways it reminds me of the Serenity Prayer which is used by countless self-help programs and groups. One of the things I love about Psalm 23 is that it brings us through the journey of our lives in just 6 short verses, talking about both high points and low points that we go through.
As I was thinking about this chapter and about our topic of the month I was reminded that sometimes what we need is to hear something as simple as Psalm 23 to find the peace, hope, encouragement, strength and perseverance to make it through another day. It’s not about having all the answers, having tons of money, having lots of friends, being well-known, or not having any issues or challenge or problems in life. That’s not the story of Faith or the Bible, despite what some people may say.
Throughout the Bible we’re reminded that there will be challenges we face and there is no guarantee of a great life on earth. However, we are assured if we’re people of faith that God will go with us through all challenges we face and that we’ve got the hope of heaven to look forward to because Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Earth is a chance for us to learn from the challenges we face, to
explore our individuality, to develop the gifts God has given each of us, to encourage each other, and to pave a better way for the next generation. Perfection isn’t expected or the goal on earth, instead it’s to live a life worthy of the God you believe in.
If you’re going through a challenging time in your life, I encourage you to print out copies of Psalm 23 and maybe even the Serenity Prayer to post in locations around your home, workplace, and car and anywhere else you go frequently. Don’t give up because it seems like the darkness is lasting for so long or the mountain seems too high. Rely on God to bring you through, and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. After all, Jesus didn’t do His years of ministry on earth alone, He had men who worked closely with Him and women that He taught and trusted too.
I always find it interesting that the Bible is so full of topics that challenge us if we take any amount of time to really study them. From love and war to relationships and faith, the Bible is filled from cover to cover with unique situations, emotions and unique people who lived real lives and faced real challenges; many of those challenges, emotions and situations are things we face in our lives today. While most of us don’t have to walk to a well or river to get water and buy bread or flour at the food store, we still have to navigate relationships, governments, war, love, hate, jealousy, death and birth just like they did.
One of the things that comes through really clearly in the Bible is how people worked through the challenges in their lives. It’s something we study in history books as we look at historic presidents and leaders and famous inventors, but we read about more of the “normal” people in the Bible. We see how they navigate through potentially thorny relationships (think about Mary being pregnant with Jesus and Joseph initially planning to divorce her in the New Testament), we learn how they deal with bad news (Eli learned that his sons weren’t good and that God was going to judge them in 1 Samuel 3 and accepted it as God’s will), and we learn how they work hard because they love their families (Ruth worked hard in the fields to care for her mother-in-law Naomi).
The question is that we’ll all face challenges, but how will we choose to work through them? Will we work through them with frustration and anger, bashing things around, shoving others and pushing just because we’re unhappy with how things are going? Or will we choose to be compassionate to yourself and the people in your life? Because even if you’re facing a challenge and you didn’t ask for that challenge or put yourself in a position to receive that challenge you’ve still got a choice with how you’re going to deal with it. Will you choose compassion and patience like Jesus so often did or will you get angry at the world for what they’ve forced on you?
“The clearest and prevailing reason why Jesus did what he did and said what he said was because of his compassion for others, his tender loving mercy. Pray for the people whom you could be glad you are not like. Pray for them until you are ready to receive them knocking at the door of your heart.” Br. Curtis Almquist
Each week, each day, we make thousands of choices in our lives. Our life is like one of those “choose your own adventure” books in which the choice you make determines what happens next. One thing may not ruin the ending, or bring us closer to success, but each choice we make does have an impact on our lives. If you make a really wrong choice you’ll end up on countless evening news stations as the talk of the day (or those crazy afternoon shows if you really mess up). But if you make a really good choice you’ll find doors opening for you and relationship possibilities you never thought could happen.
As a child I must have read the one or two of those books that I tried from cover to cover several times trying different endings. It was pretty frustrating because I do like a story to have a happy ending (I gave the series up pretty quickly), but it was a good reminder that unfortunately, unlike the books, we can’t go back and make a different decision if we don’t like how it ended up.
With every choice, action, or lack thereof making an impact on your future you would think more of us would do the right thing more often. It can get frustrating that we don’t see the progress, but one day we’ll realize exactly how far we’ve come and how many pages we’ve turned and we’ll either be thrilled or mad. Every decision we make has an impact on our lives. We can choose to have a positive impact on our lives and the lives of others, we can choose to do as little damage as possible on the world or we can choose to just do whatever and let the cards fall as they may. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a say in my future, and the future of the world.
If you were to turn the page and find that tomorrow morning your story ended, how would you feel? Choose to make this a week that gets you even a little closer to your goals.
“Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time.” Lyndon B. Johnson