Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

You can’t find happiness by knowing what it isn’t

The United Nations proclaimed March 20, 2013, as the International Day of Happiness. Yesterday, people all over the world celebrated in many different ways.

I guess it’s good to have a day dedicated to celebrating happiness, and the purpose for the day is to remind the world that being happy doesn’t mean being rich or famous. But in all of the materials I reviewed (briefly), I couldn’t find one where they explained what happiness is. All I could find was what happiness isn’t. And one thing I’ve learned about happiness is that you can’t achieve it without a focal point. You can’t be happy just by understanding what it isn’t. You have to have a reason to be happy.

At least, that’s how it works for me. I can’t just be happy because I know it doesn’t come from wealth or fame or beauty. I need to know what it does come from.

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Jeremiah 17:7-8.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
    with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.

What does the word blessed mean? In some instances where it shows up (bless the Lord, call her blessed, etc.), it usually means to say good things about. When we bless the Lord, it means to say good things about God, remembering what He’s done for us. But in other instances, like this one, blessed means happy.

With that in mind, check the verse out again. “But blessed (happy) are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.”

And that’s what I’m looking for. If I trust in the Lord and make Him my hope and confidence, I’ll be happy. Why? Because like trees planted by a river, I never lack for anything I need.

You can’t find happiness by understanding what it isn’t. The only way to be truly happy is to understand where it really comes from. Not wealth or fame or beauty or even health. You can’t even find true happiness in the intangibles like family and security and love because none of those things last.

The only way to be truly happy is to place your hope and trust in God. So don’t flail around looking for happiness in all the wrong places. You can try, but you won’t find it.

Trust God and let His promises become the foundation you build your life on.

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Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Joy can be contagious

I like being happy. And I like being around happy people. There’s just something about happy people that brightens everything up. Even if it’s been the worst day ever, hanging out with someone who laughs and smiles from a genuinely happy heart is refreshing. Even if you’ve had a good day, a person like that can make it better.

But not everyone in life is happy. Have you noticed that? Do you know people who don’t like being happy? Unfortunately, I do. You know who I’m talking about. They’re those people who suck the joy out of the room just by walking into it. They’re the people who open their mouths and drain the sunlight of its warmth and the flowers of their brightness. They prefer dank, gray misery, and they aren’t satisfied until they’ve dragged everyone else around them down into the depths with them.

Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Baby Hoo, with the quirky little grin that makes me happy

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:4.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Yesterday I got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event: Baby Hoo in her first Halloween costume (Mickey Mouse, who else?). I don’t know much of anything about babies. I’ve learned more about babies in the last four months than I ever expected. But there is one truth about infants: bring a cute one into a professional office and instantly every responsible, intelligent adult becomes a babbling idiot.

The Hoo Child’s mama (one of my best friends) brought her by my office yesterday afternoon, and I got the opportunity to introduce my coworkers to the little bundle of awesome I’ve been talking up since June. She didn’t disappoint. As usual, she was her adorable, alert, flirtatious self, batting her big blue eyes at everyone and grinning just because she could. I think I had the cheesiest grin ever plastered across my face, but it didn’t bother me. This crazy kid just makes me happy. And a lot of that comes from the fact that she’s just so happy all the time.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say all the time, because I know she can throw a major fit when she’s unhappy. But generally speaking, she’s a truly laid-back kid, and it doesn’t take much to make her grin. I hope she holds on to that as she grows up because happy people are fun to be around.

I’d had a pretty good day yesterday, in spite of still being exhausted. But all it took was a few minutes with my friend and her beautiful daughter, and I was flying higher than a kite. Just coming to my office to smile at me made my day better. And that got me thinking about being happy in general.

Joy is a choice, and it’s a choice that’s rooted in our perspective. If our perspective is wrong, joy can be hard to find, but if we remember the things that matter in our lives and why we’re here, joy isn’t that hard to grasp.

This crazy kid just grins all the time. It’s not hard to make her happy. And that’s the kind of person I want to be. I don’t want to be one of those joy-suckers, those people who refuse to be happy even when they have every reason. I want to be the person who chooses to rejoice over and over again, in the good times and the bad times. I want to be that person who makes other people happy because I’m happy.

The Bible tells us to be full of joy. That word there, the one translated rejoice, is a verb. It’s an action word. That means it’s something you do. That means it’s something you choose. Joy doesn’t just happen; you have to choose it.

So whatever you’re facing today, choose joy. Remember that God has it under control. He knows what He’s doing, and He’s not going to ask you to face life’s challenges alone. And if you’re having a hard time being joyful, go find someone who is. Joy is contagious after all.

Baby Hoo, a.k.a. Cowgirl Hoo

Baby Hoo, a.k.a. Cowgirl Hoo

And because I can and because it’s just the cutest picture in the whole world, here’s Baby Hoo in her western wear:

Yes, I’m one of those people. I might be a little biased, though….

Old broken door to the granary at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Responding to brokenness with joy

Our world is a pretty sad place. Everything’s broken, and brokenness is always sad, whether it’s something small or something big in our lives. But I have met people who have every right to be unhappy and miserable yet somehow they are more cheerful than people who have everything. How is that?

Well, if you’re a Christ follower and you have the Holy Spirit inside you, you have access to a power you can draw on at any time that will help you make it through a day or a week or a month or a year with a cheerful heart. That power is joy.

Old broken door to the granary at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Old broken door to the granary at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

But what is joy? Is it just happiness? Is it healthy thinking? Is it a choice? We talk about joy a lot. We say we’re joyful or that we’ve lost our joy or that someone is joyous, but what does it actually mean?

This month I’m doing a study of the Fruit of the Spirit because part of living a life that is led by the Spirit is demonstrating these qualities. I want God’s Spirit to be a part of my life every moment and not just in the times when I don’t know what to do.

From what I understand, the word joy itself that is used in the Bible is the same as happiness. The difference is that many times happiness is something that can be taken away because it’s based on circumstances, but joy is a gift that God gives to people who believe in Him. So that gift doesn’t depend on our circumstances. It depends on the person who gave it, and since we can always trust God, we can always have joy.

But what it comes down to this morning is that joy is a response. No matter what happens in our lives, joy is how we are supposed to answer. Whether we have everything we want or just the things we need or maybe not even that much, we are supposed to respond to life with joy.

Joy is happiness. It is healthy thinking. It’s all of those definitions and more.

The fact that this kind of joy is a Fruit of the Spirit means that it will take some time to cultivate. The difficult part about this kind of joy is that it isn’t readily apparent until you truly begin struggling. If you haven’t had difficulties in your life, I’m not sure you know what this kind of joy is like because you have to know sorrow before you can understand what it’s like to know joy.

When I was younger, I thought I understood, but then I thought I understood a lot when I was young. But when you begin to live and when you truly understand how broken our world is, life is full of sorrow. I don’t know how God stands it. My heart breaks for this world and all the evil things we do.

People hurt each other. We tear down our own lives. We crush dreams. We interfere. Families are falling apart. Life is no longer precious, and what once was bad is now good. Heroes are snubbed and villains are exalted. Everything is backward. Everything is broken. And even where life is supposed to work, there is still dysfunction and sadness and sickness.

But in the midst of all of it, no matter what situation you’re in, you have the power to choose joy. Joy is a response to what God is doing, to what He’s saying, to what you’re learning, to what you’re experiencing. Whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s happy or sorrowful, whatever the situation if you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you can choose to respond to your circumstances with joy. And once you choose to respond with joy, life looks different.

Oh, everything is still broken. That won’t change. But once you choose to respond to that brokenness with God’s joy, your whole perspective shifts because you will understand that the things that matter are still intact. God isn’t broken. The Bible isn’t broken. And while our relationship with Him probably doesn’t look like what it should most of the time, He is still in control and He knows what He’s doing and if we let Him do what He does best, He’ll take the broken pieces of our lives and our dreams and put them together again in a way that accomplishes something awesome.

Granted, we may never see the outcome of the difficult moments in our lives, at least not in a physical way. But what we’ll experience goes beyond mere happiness. Real joy comes from peace and confidence and trust and unwavering knowledge that everything is going to be okay. And once you grasp that, you can respond to anything with a cheerful heart.

If you have the Holy Spirit, you have joy. So what are facing today? Frustrations at work? Frustrations at home? Frustrations in general? All of the above? No matter what you’re facing, you can choose to have joy. Just ask for it and remember that you’re not facing life alone. If you have the Holy Spirit, God is walking through life at your side.

So smile. The world may be broken, but if you belong to Christ, you’re not.

Moon in the pines at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God expects us to mourn

What have you lost recently? A job? An opportunity? A friend? Everyone loses. Loss is just part of life, and learning how to deal with loss is part of growing up.

For the first time since 1965, Wichita State University made it to the NCAA Final Four Championship. I’m not a sports fan (at all) but I am a Shocker. I bought a t-shirt, and I even watched the game. And while it was a great game (so proud of the Shockers for hanging in there), it didn’t turn out the way I hoped. They lost, yes. But they gained something else in return. And I think that it works the same way in most situations. Once we realize that we have lost something or once we accept that we have lost something, we can be open to accepting what we’ll receive in return.

Moon in the pines at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Moon in the pines at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:4.

God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

I’m still reading the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount this week, studying the things that God says matters. Most of the Beatitudes state pretty ironic things. Like yesterday: You’re happy when you realize you need help.

So what about today? You’re happy when you’re sad? For real? Is that what it actually means?

This is the same verse in the Amplified Version:

Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!

Let’s begin at the beginning here. What exactly does it mean to mourn? According to Dictionary.com, it means “to feel or express sorrow or grief.” I always thought mourning was something usually relegated to funerals, honestly, but with that vague of a definition, mourning can be expressing sadness about anything.

So when’s the last time you mourned? I know a lot of WSU fans who mourned last Saturday when those last 30 seconds of the game ticked by and Louisville kept scoring despite the Shockers’ valiant efforts. I know a lot of people who mourn significant losses and a lot of people who mourn insignificant losses. I know a lot of mournful people. If we think about it, we all do. So if this verse were true, wouldn’t that mean that all those mournful people would be happy?

Here’s something I’ve learned about mourning: If you desire sadness, you’ll never accept comfort.

Isn’t it true that there are some people who refuse to be comforted no matter what you say? They just want to make a big deal out of everything so they can get the attention? And that’s usually what happens. When they go on and on about how difficult their life is or how bad they have it, the compassionate, considerate people around them go out of their way to comfort them. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But if that person is only seeking the attention, they’ll never be truly comforted, and that sadness will never change them.

As a result, I’ve kind of cut mourning out of my life. I don’t do it. At least, I haven’t done it because somehow I started to see it as a waste of time and energy. I don’t like attention. I don’t like causing disturbances or rocking the boat. So making a big deal out of feeling sad about anything is out of the question.

But the Bible doesn’t say not to mourn. This verse says you’ll be happy if you do. God expects us to mourn. Why? Well, that depends on your definition of happy. Here the happiness Jesus is talking about comes from experiencing God’s favor, conditioned by understanding His grace.

Whoa. Let’s go over that for a second.

When you are mourning a loss–and I’m talking about a significant loss, not a basketball game–when you’re truly feeling hollow and empty inside, when the grief is just too much for you to bear, when you couldn’t care less about how people react to your grief, that is real mourning. That is the true expression of sadness, and that isn’t wrong. On the contrary, Scripture says over and over again that mourning is a natural thing. There’s a time for it. We need to allow the energy for it, because there are so many significant things to mourn over.

But as a Christ follower, we need to have a different perspective on mourning and grief and sadness. Loss doesn’t mean the same thing to us. Death doesn’t mean the same thing to us as it does to people who don’t follow Christ. When we experience loss, it’s a terrible thing, but while it’s okay to mourn that loss, we need to remember that this life isn’t all there is. That sense of mourning is temporary–or at least it should be, because whatever we “lose” on in this life will be returned to us in eternity much better than it ever was here.

Even when we’re mourning, we can still experience God’s favor. Even when we’re overwhelmed with grief, we can still grasp the concept that God is pleased with us. Why? Because as Christ followers, we need to understand that God isn’t punishing us. Yes, it’s a good idea always to check your heart to make sure there’s no sin there. But if your heart is pure before God, He’s not punishing you. He’s just doing the best He can with a world that we broke, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. And sometimes the trouble that comes our way is a sign that God is pleased with us–why else would our enemy take a sledgehammer to us?

So what have you lost today? Or this week? Or this year? Whatever or whoever you lost, you’ll get something in return, the least of which is comfort from God, knowing that He loves you and that He believes in you and that He’s got it under control. Don’t be afraid to mourn, as long as you’re willing to accept His comfort.

Chicken yakisoba I made one day just because I could, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

God will provide

What do you need? I’m not talking about what you want, because what we want and we need are rarely the same. But what do you need? Do you need a job? Do you need a car? Do you need food to eat? Do you need clothing to wear? I’m going to make the assumption that you are reading this blog post on your computer or your tablet or your phone, which probably means you have your immediate physical needs met at the moment. That is an assumption, and I never know where these crazy posts end up, so if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

All of us have needs. Our needs vary greatly from person to person, and our needs today may be completely different than our needs tomorrow. So when you need something, who do you ask? When I was younger, I would ask my parents. If I needed something, I knew they were there to provide for me. But I’m not that young anymore, and while I still sometimes turn to my parents for help, most of the things I need are things that they really can’t give me. Most of the things I need are things they shouldn’t give me if I want to call myself an adult.

So who do you ask? Friends? Family? The government?

Chicken yakisoba I made one day just because I could, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Chicken yakisoba I made one day just because I could, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:19.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

This is one of the closing verses of the Book of Philippians, where Paul is saying his farewells to the people of the Church. This verse comes off a previous paragraph (Philippians 4:14-18) that thanks the Church of Philippi for their support and their gifts that helped sustain him when he was on one of his missionary journeys. He identifies the Church of Philippi as “the only ones who gave me financial help.” He also says no other church did this, at least at that time.

And at the end of this paragraph where he is thanking the Church of Philippi for providing for him, he writes down this verse that says God will provide. God will provide? Sounds to me like the Church of Philippi provided. Is Paul being facetious? Is he being sarcastic about this? How can he go from saying “thank you for all the money you sent me” to “God will take care of you too” in one breath?

I really believe that you have to understand how God works for this to make sense. This is what I’ve learned through many years of following Christ: Whether through miraculous circumstances or the generosity of fellow believers, God will always provide for your needs.

If you’re a Christ follower, you’ve experienced this. You’ve been sitting in church and listening and all of a sudden you feel an undeniable urge to give money. Or you’re walking down the street and you feel this sudden pull to give somebody some money or help somebody out. Do you really think that’s you? I mean, maybe you’re a good enough person to just randomly walk around giving people money and helping people out, and if you are, good for you. I’m not that good. But God is. And God lives in me. And He tells me sometimes that I need to help somebody or I need to give somebody some money.

When that happens, I hesitate sometimes because honestly I live paycheck to paycheck. You would think a single person living in a paid-for house and a paid-off car with a full-time career would be fine, but it’s the little everyday expenses that kill you. But every time God has told me to help someone else financially, those times when it was a financial burden for me, He has always provided for me. He’s always made up the difference, and usually He provides more than I need.

Sometimes those needs are met through circumstances and situations that nobody has control over. In those instances, I can only thank God. But other times, people provide for me–like my parents or like my friends or like strangers on the street, and in those instances, I can thank them but I also need to thank God because He moved them to do it.

Philippians is one of those books that I never get tired of reading. It’s all about how to be happy. It’s about how to be content and joyful in living and following Christ. And a big part of that is trusting that God will provide for you, no matter what you need.

And God does. Maybe he’ll use a miracle, maybe he’ll use your next door neighbor (and maybe that is a miracle), but He will provide. He might even use you to provide for someone else, but you can trust that if He asks you to do something, He will provide for the hole it leaves.

That’s who He is. He is our God who provides what He requires. We just have to trust that He will.

We Americans don’t think about it because we don’t usually sacrifice anything; we’re not used to it. But standing up what Paul was doing back then could have been a death sentence. In all honesty, in parts of our world today it still is, just not in the U.S. Not yet.

Mountain lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

The secret to happiness

What is the secret to being happy? Is there a magic formula that you can just mix up some random things and expect to create happiness for yourself? Is it at the end of a rainbow, like a pot of gold? Does it even exist? Life can be so dark sometimes. People have to endure so many things, so many hurts, so many disappointments. How can you be happy when you have to face so many discouraging obstacles, whether they’re of your own making or not?

Yesterday, I posted about how Paul said we can be content. And it’s true. We can. There’s a difference between contentment and complacency, but we can be content where we are. In one of yesterday’s verses, Paul said that he had learned the secret to being content, but it didn’t strike me what it was until I read today’s verse.

Mountain lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Mountain lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:13.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13 is one of those hallmark verses that just about everybody knows, whether you realize you know it or not. People who don’t read the Bible know it. It’s almost as prevalent as John 3:16, but have we really stopped to think about what it means? It’s comforting, yes. And whenever I read it before, it calmed me down because it helped me to remember that God can empower me to accomplish great things.

But what we need to remember is that the Book of Philippians wasn’t originally broken down into chapters and verses. It was one long letter Paul wrote to the Church of Philippi, and while most verses can stand on their own, if you consider them in their original context, they take on a different meaning.

This is an example. This verse can stand alone and be true. We can do everything through Christ. Christ gives us the strength we need to get through life. That’s true. But where is this verse located in the grand scheme of Philippians 4? It’s in one paragraph that reaches from verse 10 to verse 14.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

It’s a good habit to get into that whenever you see a verse that begins with For or Since or But that you read the previous verses, because that word indicates a connection to the sentence that comes before it. So what comes before verse 13, our verse today? Well verse 12.

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

See what I’m getting at? Do you see the difference? Do you see what I saw this morning that I’d never really paid attention to before?

If there’s a secret to being content, to being happy with life, it’s right here. No matter what you’re going through, no matter where you are, no matter what you have or what you don’t have, you have strength to do everything because Christ is with you. Christ gives us strength for the bad days. Christ gives us strength for the good days. So whether you’re celebrating a win or mourning a loss, you can still be happy because you can trust that Christ will strengthen you no matter what.

Trusting that Christ will help me face a day no matter what it brings is enough to make me happy. It’s enough to make me content with where I am in life and where I’m going. I don’t have to be afraid of the future, because with Christ I can handle whatever is coming. I don’t have to have to regret the past, because with Christ I can learn from my mistakes and leave them there. I can love people, I can rejoice in difficulty, I can live without worry, and I can be secure enough to disagree with people I respect because Christ gives me the strength.

I think the Message encapsulates Philippians 4:13 best: Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Want to be happy? Want to be content? Embrace this. You can do everything through Christ.

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

We can be content where we are

If you have spent any time at all reading this blog, you’ll know that I’m both a control freak and a perfectionist, and while those characteristics have positive sides to them, they can also be quite negative when it comes to everyday living. While striving to understand a situation is good, trying to control every aspect will drive you nuts, and the same is true of perfectionism. It’s good to do your best, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t be perfect. And if you try to do so, you’ll nitpick and pigeonhole yourself into a dark hole of depression.

It’s good to control the things you can control, and it’s good to do your best; but we can’t go to extremes with either of them because we simple human beings can’t handle either of them. They’re too much for us. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

I’m so thankful that God doesn’t require us to be perfect. He knows we can’t be, and He understands that. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can just let down and live however we want. That’s not the point. Understand where I’m coming from. As a perfectionist, there’s a part of me that is convinced that my best is never good enough, and that I can’t just take God at His Word that He loves me no matter what. I have to perform, and I can’t ever be content with where I am in life. I always have to strive for the next level.

But is that really how a Christian is supposed to live?

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 4:10-12.

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, and always before I’ve focused on the fact that Paul is talking about being content with little or much. I’ve been in those situations. I’ve been in situations where I had everything I could ever need and even everything that I wanted, whether I needed it or not. But I’ve also been in the position where I had so little I wasn’t 100% sure where my next meal was coming from. And I’ve spent enough time out on the mission’s field to know what it’s like to have to give up the modern comforts and conveniences American’s really cherish. I know what that’s like too.

But these verses hit me differently this morning, because whether or not I have everything I need and everything I want or just enough to scrape by doesn’t really affect my level of contentment. My contentment really has never been based on my material wealth. I’ve always been thankful for what I have.

What struck me this morning was the plain and simple fact that Paul says he has learned to be content.

Paul learned to be content. He was content. Wherever he was, whatever he had, he was content. He wasn’t constantly putting himself down as a failure. He wasn’t always seeking the mistakes he made in order to fix them. He wasn’t always striving to reach the next level of performance.

He was content where he was.

Does that mean we really can be content? Does that mean we can accept where we are in life and not worry about being the best at everything all the time? If you’re a perfectionist like I am, that sounds almost blasphemous, doesn’t it? How dare anyone suggest that we don’t have to do our very best! It’s all for God, isn’t it?

Well, is it?

I run myself into the ground. Daily. Sometimes hourly. All in pursuit of perfection, but I’m not quite sure it’s always for God. I honestly think a lot of it is for me. I’ve admitted on here multiple times that I struggle with pride too. And it’s not too far a leap for perfectionism to turn to pride.

Don’t misunderstand. There’s a vast chasm between contentment and complacency, and I really think the width of that chasm depends on your heart. I think it depends on you and what you’re physically capable of. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know if you’re being complacent. You’ll know if you’re just accepting the things that come at you and passing them off without really considering what they might be about. You’ll know if you’re treating opportunities to make a difference for God like they don’t matter.

But you’ll also know if you’re killing yourself to achieve the impossible.

So the next time you start stressing out because something isn’t perfect or because you don’t have control over every detail, check your heart. Check your motivation. Do you want to be perfect for the glory of God? Or for yourself? And don’t beat yourself up because you can’t get there. It doesn’t do you any good, and if God would never think those things about you, what makes it okay for you to think them?

Yes, do your best. Yes, invest yourself, your time, your heart, your hope. Yes, strive for the top. But remember your place. And remember your purpose. We’re not here to be perfect. We’re here to praise God. And it’s difficult to praise God when you’ve beaten your own head into the ground.