Don’t fight battles that aren’t meant for you

There is no discouragement quite like facing an impossible task, especially if you’re someone who’s used to getting things done. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t make progress. The more work you do, the deeper into the hole you go. The more it feels like you accomplish, the more work appears to regenerate.

People talk about money pits. Well, projects can be time pits. Hope pits. Excitement pits. Where no matter how much energy and enthusiasm you pour into a project, it’s never satisfied, and you don’t have enough to keep investing in it. And pretty soon you feel like an empty shell because you’ve poured everything you are into the black hole of your aspirations, and you still haven’t accomplished anything.

Anybody been there? Anybody been at that moment where you just don’t care anymore? The irony is that you’ve convinced yourself that you haven’t accomplished anything, and that’s a complete lie. Because if you were thinking straight, you’d be able to see what you’ve done, and you’d be able to see how good it is. But when you get to that point, everything feels wrong and broken and not worth doing.

So what do you do? How do you handle discouragement on that level, when you can’t escape it and you’re not strong enough to fight it?

black-and-white-person-sport-competitionToday’s verses are Exodus 14:13-14.

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

When I get discouraged, my first reaction is to work harder. If I have the time to feel sorry for myself, I must not be busy enough. Or if I’m feeling like I’m not accomplishing anything, I just need to get more done, and that will fix the problem. Neither of those reactions are helpful or even true. That’s usually why it’s important to have someone close to you around so they can remind you of the truth.

Even the biggest projects can be completed one step at a time. It’s just having the discipline to keep taking one step at a time over and over again until it’s finished. That’s the hard part. And on some days it can feel like all you’re doing is spinning your wheels, and in those moments, discouragement is always hovering close at hand.

But when you start feeling that way, just stop what you’re doing. If you’re discouraged and you keep plugging away at a project to make yourself feel better, just stop. It won’t help you.

If you’re facing a physical problem that’s keeping you from accomplishing your goals, that’s one thing. If you’re facing a financial problem, that’s something else. But discouragement is more than that. Discouragement is spiritual and emotional, and you can’t overcome discouragement by loading yourself down with more work.

When the Israelites were scared, God didn’t want them to do anything but trust Him. He wanted them to stand still and be calm, and He’d take care of the rest. And that’s the lesson I need to learn today.

I have a lot of challenges facing me. There are things I know how to handle. There are things I don’t. A lot of it I’m just making up as I go along. And if I think about it all too much, I get overwhelmed, because I know how little control I have over my own life. I’ve always known that I’m not in control, but this is the first time I’ve tried to embrace it. And it’s harder than I thought it would be, but once I let go, it’s not up to me anymore. Which is funny, because it was never up to me in the first place.

Too many times I try to fight battles I can’t win. I jump into the fray because I want to be useful. I want to help. I want to show God that He can trust me, that He can depend on me, and show Him that I’m willing to do whatever He asks me to do. But what if He’s just asking me to be still? Do I love Him enough to do that for Him? Do I love Him enough to step back when He asks me to? Do I love Him enough to slow down?

Maybe you’re facing an impossible task, and if that’s the case, great. God will help you achieve it, but you have to let God work. If it’s truly impossible, you can’t make it happen. So you have to take a seat and let God do His thing.

You may be watching God work, but God is working. Let Him. And then focus on what He is doing, what you get to be a part of. Once you see it from that perspective, it will be difficult to stay discouraged.

Lion in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Living an undefeated life by standing still

Sometimes I look at the responsibilities I have and feel like I’m the wrong person for the job. Anyone else ever get that way? There is just so much to do and it’s all so much more than I can handle. I feel like there’s no way I’ll ever get it done.

If you feel like that, don’t worry. Everyone gets there, I think. And if you aren’t there yet, someday you will be, especially if you want your life to honor God. If you want to live a life that God can use in a big way, He’s going to drop you in some situations that are out of your depth.

You’re going to feel like the least qualified person in the world. You’re going to fear making mistakes that will damage your future and the future of the people around you. You’re going to want to play it safe, and I’m telling you right now: Don’t.

Lion in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Lion in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Exodus 14:13-14.

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Just recently I posted on verse 15 from this same chapter, where God tells Moses to get off his hiney and do something (that’s my own personal translation, in case you were wondering). So many movies have tried to capture this moment in biblical history–where the Children of Israel were trapped against the banks of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army bearing down on them.

I don’t blame them for freaking out, honestly. I probably would have too if I had been in their shoes–er, sandals.

I mean, think about it. These people hadn’t met God. God, to them, was a fairytale their parents and grandparents and great grandparents whispered about. No one in their generation had see Him work. And then all of a sudden this wild man comes from the desert demanding in the name of I AM that Pharaoh let them go. Then plagues. Then death. Then freedom.

They didn’t know what to do with freedom. They’d never had it before. How terrifying must that have been? And then how frightening to see freedom within their reach only to have it snatched back at the first sighting of Pharaoh’s charging army?

I don’t blame them for despairing. It was too much for them to handle. They didn’t understand it. They didn’t know what to do with it. It was so much easier just to give up.

How many times have we been there? When it seems so much easier to just stop trying than it Is to keep pushing forward? When you aren’t even sure where you’re going, it’s hard to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When every challenge that rises up to greet you in the morning is more than you can manage, it’s just another reason to roll over and pull the covers over your head again instead of getting up.

But hang on. Yeah, that’s what it feels like, but we shouldn’t rely solely on our emotions. Emotions change. Emotions are broken. Emotion needs to be tempered with truth, and there’s a really important truth we all need to remember on those days when the realities of life are weighing us down. It’s the same truth the Children of Israel needed to hear when they were facing death at the hands of Pharaoh’s army.

It’s not your fight.

Did you get that? This isn’t your fight. If you are a follower of Christ, your life isn’t your own, so why would this fight be yours too? Yeah, you’ve got to show up. Yeah, you’ve got to keep standing. Yeah, you need to be strong, but when it comes down to taking the hits, you aren’t the one who has to stand in the ring.

God Himself fought for the Children of Israel, and they didn’t have to do anything. They just had to stand still and be calm and watch. And, Christians, that’s where we are today too.

Are you fighting to get through the day? It’s exhausting. And not many of us have the strength to do it day after day after day. I don’t.

So stop. It’s not your fight anyway.

If you’re living the way God has called you to live, following Christ, trusting His Word, God has put you right where He wants you, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. You don’t have to do the fighting. God will take care of that. Your job is to show up and be calm and watch.

That’s it. You don’t have to be a super human. You don’t have to know every answer. You don’t have to be everywhere at once. Just love people the way Jesus loves them and trust God to do the rest.

Stand still. God Himself will fight for you, and He is undefeated.

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Letting the toaster do its job

I just got back from eating breakfast in a hotel lobby. Some hotel breakfasts are really awful; this one wasn’t too bad. Lots of options. Hot and cold. Everything covered, which is nice because half the people in there were coughing.

There was a guy at the table across from me who was like a veritable chef, taking the different options at the breakfast counter and turning them into some crazy fancy meal. But it was funny. Because he didn’t seem to be able to stay seated for more than a minute. He kept getting up for one reason or another. And then I realized he was making toast. Maybe he didn’t trust the toaster (understandable). I don’t know. But I found it interesting because the way he was acting made me think he thought there was something he could do to make his bread toast faster.

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Canoe crossing a river between Kekchi villages, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Exodus 14:13-14.

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? You have a goal to accomplish, and you set things in motion but then you have to sit back and wait. And before long you find yourself getting involved again and sticking your hands back into the process because you need to make sure things are still moving along–when really all you’re doing is slowing things down.

I do that all the time because I’m a control freak. I don’t like letting go of things. I don’t like having to trust that other people will do their jobs, especially if the success of my whole project is riding on their perspective of responsibility.

Maybe that’s good in some cases, but when it comes to the big issues in life, it doesn’t work. Because those big moments in our lives are far larger than we are and there’s no way we could even begin to control them.

This passage today comes just before God parts the Red Sea so the Israelites could escape Pharoah’s army. Moses and the Israelites were backed into a corner, so to speak. There was no way they could have survived on their own, so God had to intervene. And there was nothing any of them could have done about it. They just had to sit back and wait.

I find myself in that position almost daily now, where events in my life have gotten so big and so overwhelming that even if I wanted to have control over them I couldn’t change anything. I’m not strong enough, not smart enough, not fast enough, not resourceful enough, not powerful enough to do the things I need to do to achieve success in my life. Maybe I could have when I was younger, but I’m in over my head in so many different areas of my life now that I need God for every step I take.

It’s difficult, admitting you don’t have the skills or resources required to be completely independent. But let’s be honest. Who wants to be completely independent?

The trouble is we have to wait. And the more we fuss and fret and try to stick our noses where they don’t belong, the more trouble we’ll make for ourselves in the interim before God does what He was going to do all along.

The guy who wouldn’t leave the toaster alone this morning probably should have just let the toaster do its job. With all his fussing and poking and adjusting, he ended up with burned toast.

Are you facing struggles? Are you facing challenges? Are difficulties rushing at you in a tidal wave bigger than you think you can survive? God hasn’t left you, and He won’t. Trust Him. Follow Him. Believe Him. And He will make a way for you to get out. He’ll step in and save the day, just like He has done throughout history. But He’ll do it in His own time.

So be still. He’s God. He’s got it handled, and He doesn’t need our help.