Burdens are too much to bear alone

Sometimes the burdens in life are just too much, you know what I mean? Life can be exhausting, discouraging, and just plain awful at times. And it seems to love getting your hopes up only to stand back and watch your plans turn to dust. How do you cope when life throws you curve balls like that?

Well, the Bible has a lot of answers for how to survive (and even thrive) in the midst of life’s dirty little tricks, but the one that first comes to mind for me is that Christ-followers are supposed to help carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). God doesn’t expect us to struggle through life on our own. He put us on this planet surrounded by other people so we wouldn’t be alone, especially when our lives turn upside down.

Share the load

Instagram Burdens are too muchEveryone has burdens. Maybe you don’t think you do, but you do. We’re born with them. Some of us are born with more than others, and as we grow older, we accumulate more and more with every passing day. Health problems. Family issues. Job trouble. Impossible deadlines. Crushed dreams. Crazy kids. Insane in-laws. Lazy spouse. Nagging wife. Whiny kids. Name the thing that’s causing all your gray hair today, and I can almost guarantee it’s something that would fit in the burden category of your life.

Not all our burdens look alike, but we all have them. And the simple truth about our burdens is that we were never meant to carry their weight alone. The weight of our worries and troubles and fears is too much for us to bear without help.

So why are you trying? Why do you feel guilty when you ask for help? Why do you feel shame when you realize you can’t do it by yourself? You shouldn’t. God didn’t make you a pack horse for emotional trauma. It’s not your job to haul all that hurt and fear around on your own strength. So knock it off. Ask for help. And don’t be afraid of accepting it either.

But accepting help—and even offering help—is one part of the process.

Hand it over together

But what do you do when your fellow Christ-followers are worn out and beaten down with their own cares? If that’s the case, my wonderful supportive friends, I have to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. And believe me, I’m talking to myself here too.

I’m a fixer. I like to give people answers and help them understand how and why things happen. I want to do something to help, and usually that starts with me trying to solve their problem for them. I take their problems on my own shoulders. I feel their anxiety and despair and fear. And somewhere in my frazzled brain, I tell myself I’m helping, because at least they don’t have to suffer alone.

But I’m only making it worse. By taking their problems on my own shoulders, I blind myself to my own purpose. I’m not there to help them carry their burden; I’m there to help them carry it to God.

Psalm 55:22 Give your burdens to the LordGod didn’t make us to spend our days worrying and fretting over everything that’s wrong or everything that will go wrong. That’s not the way He wants us to live. And even though we’re supposed to help each other carry our burdens, we’re still not supposed to carry them in our own strength (Psalm 55:22).

God has promised to give us strength, to uphold us and sustain us. His power is right at our fingertips, free for the asking, yet we still convince ourselves that our troubles and worries are our own problems. And that’s not true.

God cares

He knows what you’re going through and how scared, uncertain, insecure you are. He understands that you feel like you’ll never measure up. And He gets that you’re afraid to ask for help because you don’t want to seem weak. But if you care for someone, it doesn’t matter what they need or how many times they need it.

God cares about you (1 Peter 5:7), and He is standing ready to help you carry all those things that are weighing you down.

Give your burdens to the Lord, and you Christians who are helping your brothers and sisters carry their burdens, remember that you’re supposed to be carrying them to God—not shouldering the load yourself.

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When things don’t go your way, get excited

You don’t always get what you want. It’s one of those life lessons we learn at an early age, usually when birthdays or Christmases come around. You know what I mean.

Even if you’re overwhelmingly grateful for the gifts you receive, if someone has totally guessed wrong, it’s a little sad. One year, a relative gave my brother bedsheets for Christmas. And it’s not that he wasn’t thankful for the sheets. He needed them. But for Christmas? When you’re like 7 or 8?

It’s a good lesson to learn, though, to be thankful for what you’re given, even if it isn’t what you wanted. It’s good to learn it early because that’s a lesson that doesn’t change as you age. Most of the time, you aren’t going to get what you want out of life. So decide how you’re going to handle it now.

christmas-xmas-gifts-presentsToday’s verses are James 1:2-4.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

I have a lot of plans. I want a lot of things. But what I want is rarely what I end up getting, and that’s okay with me. God isn’t keeping me from achieving my goals or hitting my deadlines because He wants to make me miserable. He isn’t holding back all the things I want because He’s mean. If He holds anything back, it’s because He’s got something better in mind. If He prevents me from hitting a deadline or making a goal that I think is important, it’s because He’s got something bigger planned.

God never intends for us to go without. He never wants us to have less than we need. But if we want to have all the things He’s promised for us, we’ve got to get on board with Him. We’ve got to follow His plan. We’ve got to get on His schedule, because He’s the one who can make things happen. So that means we have to start living life by His rules and seeing life through His eyes.

That means we rejoice when we don’t get our way. That means we get excited when we have to work harder to achieve something we thought would be easy. That means we leap for joy when someone makes like tough for us.

It goes against everything we feel, I know. When we hit tough times, it’s tempting to want to sulk, but don’t give into that mindset. That’s not an attitude God can bless.

So the next time you don’t get your way, thank God for it. It won’t feel natural, and that’s okay. It isn’t.

Keep trusting even if you have to keep letting go

When I give my worries and problems to God, I struggle with leaving them there. How about you? That’s one of those Christian metaphors we like to talk about–casting our cares on God, laying our burdens down, etc. Practically speaking, it means you do what you can according to God’s rules and then you let God work it out. You don’t spend time worrying or speculating about what could go wrong. You don’t invest emotional energy in fretting anxiously.

Has anyone mastered this concept? I haven’t.

Every time I entrust my fears and failures to the Lord, within moments I’m taking it back. And then I have to go through the whole process of letting go all over again. I get so angry at myself. I get so irritated. But I realized something the other day.

I don’t know anybody who’s mastered the art of trusting God completely. We all fail at this. We all try to carry our own burdens without His help. So instead of beating ourselves up about how often we take our troubles back from God, maybe we should focus on how many times we’re willing to let go of them.

pexels-photo (1)Today’s verses are Luke 11:9-10.

And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

God wants to hear from us. He wants us to pray and talk to Him. He wants us to hand over our burdens because they’re all too heavy for us to carry on our own. But what if we have to ask Him over and over again? What if we have to turn over the same problems again and again?

I don’t like to pester people. I don’t like asking the same questions over and over again. I don’t like being asked the same questions over and over again (this is one of the reasons I would never make it as a journalist). But sometimes you have to. Sometimes you’re not asking the right question. Sometimes you’re asking the right question at the wrong time.

God will always answer. He is unfailingly patient with us, and He doesn’t get upset or unhappy if we pester Him.

Granted, if we know the answer is No, we shouldn’t keep asking. That might bother Him. But if you honestly don’t know what to do or to believe, ask Him. And don’t just ask Him once, ask Him over and over again until you get an answer. And I believe it’s the same with our troubles.

God remembers that we’re not perfect. He knows us inside and out. He knows our control-freak tendencies, and He isn’t angry at us when we try to take things back from Him. But He grieves when you try to keep it.

Don’t keep your troubles because you’re afraid to give them back again. Don’t beat yourself up or assume a negative perspective because you lose patience with God’s timetable. Everybody does. We’re all in the same boat.

It takes a lot of faith to trust your worries and your fears and your problems to God. It takes even more faith to keep giving them to Him, even after you take them back.

Just keeping turning your problems over to God. There’s not a time limit or a transaction limit, like at a bank. It’s better if you don’t take things back from God after you turn them over, but if you do, you can always give them back again.

I’m like a little child who doesn’t know the way

I have to be creative when I work. It’s in my job description. Part of being a writer (some people would call it being an artist) is making stuff up. You have to be really good at creating imaginary scenarios with imaginary people, which is all just in your head but real enough that others would believe it’s true if you told them.

The downside at being really good at making stuff up is that sometimes people think you really know what you’re doing. And to a certain extent, it’s true. You use experiences you’ve learned from other people and other situations, and you apply it to your current circumstance. It’s not rocket science. But what happens when you run into a situation that you can’t fabricate an answer for? What happens when you barrel headlong into something you don’t know how to get out of? What happens when you’re so buried in life’s troubles that you can’t even pretend you know what to do anymore?

It can be nice to be the person in the room with the answers, sure. But there’s a certain amount of freedom in being able to admit that you haven’t got a clue.

C52A64EA10_1505x1004Today’s verses are 1 Kings 3:7-9.

Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?

Solomon, the son of David, is one of the best-known kings of Israel. Israel experienced an unprecedented time of wealth and prosperity during Solomon’s reign. But that didn’t happen because Solomon was a great businessman. No, early on in his kingship, Solomon and God had a chat, and God gave Solomon the choice between material possessions and wisdom. And this was Solomon’s response.

We lose something from the original language. There’s always something lost in translation. That phrase, “I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around” is what I want to key into this morning.

This was Solomon. The King of Israel. The Son of David. He was rich and powerful and successful, yet in speaking to God, Solomon had no problem admitting he didn’t know jack. That’s what that means, you understand. Solomon was calling himself a baby. In some translations, it says Solomon compared himself to an infant that didn’t even know how to enter a room.

Compared to God, Solomon knew he knew nothing. And by demonstrating this kind of humility, God blessed him immeasurably.

When life get tough and surrounds me with trouble, my first response is to shake it off. I don’t want people worrying about me or fussing over me. I usually just want to be left alone so that I can puzzle through the situation on my own. I’ve heard enough stories, I know enough Scripture, and I’ve had enough wise council in my life to get me through just about anything–or so I thought.

God likes to keep me humble. So He’ll let things come at me that I have no idea how to handle. And I flail around ridiculously for a while until I finally break down and ask for help, like I should have done first. But I don’t like admitting I have no answers. I don’t like being the person who stares blankly at a hurting friend’s face and has nothing helpful to say. I may not like it, but it’s the truth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t always know what to say.

You’d think that by now, after all these years following the Lord, I wouldn’t need Him as much. You’d think I could stand on my own by now. But that’s not the case. I need Him more now than I did as a child, because I’ve come to understand just how big the world is and just how little I really know about any of it.

Are you feeling lost today, trapped in a situation you can’t find answers for? Are you flailing around trying to fix an impossible circumstance, doing the best you can with what you have and utterly failing? Have you hurt someone else? Have you screwed up big time? Join the club.

Just know you aren’t supposed to have all the answers. That’s God’s job. Your job is to ask God for help, to listen to His answers, and put them into practice.

You don’t have to know everything. Isn’t that a relief? Isn’t that a weight off your shoulders? You simply can’t have the answers to all of life’s problems. It’s too big for you. But it’s not too big for God, and if you believe in Jesus, you have free access to God’s ear, to God’s wisdom, and to God’s strength.

The road leading to Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Use your tough times like a stepping stone

I’ve been walking quite a bit in recent weeks, though not recently. Most recently I’ve been locked in my room trying to finish the two books I have in the works (the third AlwaysPeachy devotional book and a romantic comedy for Crosshair Press). But while I was walking regularly outside, I made it about two miles every evening after work. And I remembered something that I had forgotten.

My house is on a hill. Whether you come at it from the east or the west, you have to go up hill. Now, granted, it’s not a huge hill. This is Kansas, and while we do have some variety in our topography, generally speaking we’re pretty flat. But walking to my house isn’t all on level ground. When you start out, the going is easy. Then, you get to the far section line and turn around and bam! You’ve got a really good walk ahead of you.

The road leading to Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The road leading to Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Timothy 3:14.

But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.

When you experience trouble in life, you develop your own momentum as you deal with them. I didn’t take Physics, but I understand momentum and inertia. An object in motion stays in motion. So if you can get an object moving, as long as no other force counteracts it, it will keep moving. When you go through trouble in your life, you have to start moving, but when you stop is up to you.

When I’m in the thick of dealing with a big challenge in my life, I engage mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes even physically to get through it. I have to, or it’ll bury me. And sometimes when that challenge has been conquered, all I really want to do is collapse on my couch and watch a Jane Austen movie. And sometimes that’s what I do.

But on some occasions, I have the blessing of being able to see more problems on the horizon. I can see them coming, so they don’t surprise me. And instead of relaxing, instead of letting down, I keep up my high level of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical alertness. Why? Because while they’re already at a high level, it’s easier to keep them that way than it is to let them fall only to have to build them back up again.

It’s like going downhill. At the top of a hill, you can go downhill really fast, but at the bottom, at the foot of another hill, you have the choice. You can stop and catch your breath, or you can use your momentum to get most of the way up the next hill before you slow down.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t stop and rest. Trust me, if you’re about to fall over or pass out, the best thing you can do is stop and take a breather. But I know that the second hill is a lot easier to get over if you can use the momentum you gained from conquering the first hill.

Have you got troubles coming your way? Maybe not even trouble. Just busyness. Everybody has that. The holidays are coming, and that usually means we all go nuts.

Get ready now. Start climbing the hill now so you can hit your downhill stride when the craziness gets here, and that way you can coast for quite a ways up the oncoming hill without straining. Sure, you’ll have to kick it back in gear eventually, but part of endurance is knowing when to coast and when to pedal for all you’ve got.

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

How do you trust God when life isn’t fair?

Life doesn’t always work the way we want it to. We can make as many plans as we want, but we can’t know the future. We can’t control our lives, as much as we try to. And when those moments come that blow all our carefully laid plans apart, we have a choice. We can either give up or manage the broken pieces as best we can, trusting that God will put them back together again better than they were before.

But it’s hard. It’s really hard. Because we get our selfish little hearts set on things that we want, and we are totally capable of convincing ourselves that God has told us we can have something. And maybe He has. But it has to be on His terms. And the plain truth is that when God says yes to our wants or our desires, we’re rarely in the place in our lives when it’s time for us to have them.

We have to live some more. We have to learn what the desire of our heart really is. Many times it changes and grows as we get older, and even when stays the same, as we age, it gets bigger, broader, as we understand more about ourselves and the world.

But that answer is difficult to accept when we want our way. And it’s so easy to sit back and focus on how unfair life is.

Because it is.

Life is unfair. Work is unfair. Ministry is unfair. Because the world is unfair.

And I don’t know where we (Christians, that is) get the idea that life on earth will be fair when nothing here is fair. The world is broken. We broke it, and it’s not going to be fixed again until after Christ comes back for us.

There’s nowhere in Scripture that says life is fair. There’s nowhere in Scripture where God promises that we won’t have trouble. In fact, the Bible says the exact opposite.

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO

St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs, CO (where I spent my weekend)

Today’s verse is John 16:33.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

This is Jesus talking to the Disciples. Maybe you read that differently, but to me that sounds like a confirmation that sometimes life is going to suck.

This world isn’t our home. We don’t belong here. I think it’s in Hebrews where the writer calls us pilgrims and strangers, aliens in a world we’re just visiting. We’re just passing through.

So why are we surprised when things don’t go our way? Is it the well-meaning teachers of the prosperity gospel? I’ve heard what they say. Those people claim that if you do what God says is right, you’ll have everything you want. Never mind the Bible never says that.

The Bible does say that if you obey God, you’ll be blessed. But being blessed has very little to do with getting what you want. So many times we don’t even know what we want or what we want is bad for us. So how would God be good if He allowed us to have something that would ultimately hurt us?

How many times has God provided what I needed? How many times has He showed up in my life at the pivotal moment? How many times has God let me down? I mean really let me down? I can’t think of once. I can’t think of one promise He’s made me that He hasn’t kept–to the letter.

And how do I repay Him? By whining when I don’t get my way? By grumbling when life isn’t fair? Hasn’t He proved Himself to me by now?

It’s hard to see the big picture. It’s hard to fall back on God when we’re so disappointed. It’s hard to keep trusting when you feel betrayed or let down or like God didn’t hold up His end of the bargain. But when you feel that way, ask yourself if you really understood the bargain to begin with.

God never promised we wouldn’t have trouble, and He never promised that He’d give us whatever we wanted. He just promised that we’d never go without what we need, and we’d never face the struggles of life alone.

We’re going to have trouble. And we’re not always going to get our way. But God always knows what He’s doing. God always keeps His promises.

So just hold on. The world isn’t fair, but Jesus has overcome the world. That means He’s bigger than any trouble you’re facing right now. And if you can just hold on long enough, He’ll prove it to you.

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

It never rains, it hails

I live in Kansas. Have I mentioned that? Because I do. But I don’t just live in Kansas. I live in a small, remote area of wheat fields and sheep farms that tends to attract the most extreme weather in the state. And Kansas is a land of extreme weather.

I have multiple friends who are trained weather spotters, and one of them calls my house the Bermuda triangle of weather. Generally speaking, if there’s bad weather going on in Kansas, the strangest weather will be right over my house.

Take Wednesday night for example. The whole state had storms, yes. But the big, glaring red spot with Ping-Pong ball size hail was where? You betcha. Centered right over my house. And yesterday morning I got up for work and looked at the house, and in the morning light it looked fine. My brand new vinyl siding had weathered the storm! Hooray!

Well, hold your horses. I didn’t check the south side of the house where there were a dozen holes in the siding–some the size of tennis balls. Brand new siding–totaled. Brand new window screens–totaled. Brand new gutters–dented and dinged.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. This same thing happened in 2007. We had a horrible storm, Broke windows, destroyed the siding, totaled the roof. So we got it fixed. And the week after–maybe even the day after–the last bit of work finished, another storm blew through and did twice as much damage.

And don’t think I’m complaining. This is life in Kansas. And we got off easy this time, honestly. None of the windows broke. The cars were all under cover. And all the trees that could have come down have already come down. If I wasn’t willing to handle this kind of life, I would have moved years ago.

But what struck me as I stood in the back yard, gawking at my Swiss- cheese-formerly-known-as-vinyl-siding is the timing. Oh, the timing of this storm is just amazing. Smack dab in some of the busiest months of my year. I’m running wild. My parents are running wild. And in the last few days, it feels like everything has just blown up.

What do you do in moments like that? How do you keep moving forward? How do you press on when it feels like every step you take is just the prelude to taking three steps backward?

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 1:6-7.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Life here isn’t perfect, and it’s never going to be perfect. If we think it’s going to be, we’re just asking to be disappointed. And, let’s just face it, Christians, we have an enemy out there who doesn’t want to see us succeed for the cause of Christ.

Now, that doesn’t mean we should start jumping at shadows. I’ve met people who like blaming their difficult situations on Satan when it’s usually fairly obvious that their own bad choices have led them to where they are.

So don’t hesitate to examine your life. Check your heart. Check your attitude. See where you are with God. Before you start blaming all your life’s problems on Satan, make sure that you haven’t made decisions that have led to your current trouble. And if you find out that you have made mistakes, stop.

But, if you examine your life and you find that you have done the best you can, that you have held to what the Bible says, that you’ve put God first in every aspect of your life–and you’re still having crazy insane issues that don’t seem to stop? Well, then it’s a good chance that the Bad Guy is trying to slow you down.

And in that case? Don’t let him.

When you can step back and recognize that what you’re experiencing is simply our enemy picking on you, his petty schemes are easier to spot and they’re much easier to laugh at.

Yes. Laugh at.

And honestly that’s the best thing you can do. If he has to resort to throwing sticks and (hail)stones at us to upset us, he really must be desperate.

Don’t let him win. Don’t give in. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s overwhelming. But think of the big picture. Remember who’s already won this war. And when you put the whole thing into context, you aren’t in as much trouble as you feel like.  Because God is bigger than anything Satan can throw at you.

So remember that the next time it hails on you. Siding can be replaced. Houses can be repaired. Lives can be rebuilt. And, in the end, Satan has already lost because he can’t take the things that really matter away as long as they already belong to Christ.