Posted by KJV4ME on 2/10/2011
Life is filled with reminders that we really aren’t in control. And when those reminders come—like a bucket of cold water—they can startle us into a carnal cycle of thinking. They can lead us into a downward spiral of emotional and spiritual distress. They can bring out the most fleshly of thought patterns.
These are really bad habits—far worse than nail-biting or over-eating. These are more elusive bad habits, and a lot more dangerous. They are the things that tend to creep in when life takes a turn we didn’t approve of. These are attitudes or behaviors we tend to default into when expectations go unmet or dreams are left unfulfilled—when our hopes are smashed on the rocks of disappointment.
If you haven’t already had this experience in the new year, you will soon. It may be something as small as a bad hair day or as large as a major life crisis—but guaranteed, something in your life, very soon, will not go as you expected or planned. Here’s the question.
When that happens, how will you respond?
May I suggest the following course of action:
1. Stop Complaining, Start Thanking
Just take a look at the book of Exodus and examine the word “murmur” in its various forms. You will discover that God takes complaining very seriously. And in contrast, He commands us repeatedly in His Word to give thanks unto Him—in all things and for all things. So, when things go wrong, start right here. Don’t complain. Don’t murmur. It’s a waste of emotional energy. Murmuring is against God—it is a formal complaint against His sovereignty. Refuse to do it. Instead, take the high road and say “Thank you!” It may seem impossible. It may feel awkward. But it is obedient, and it’s the first step to having real joy, even when things aren’t going according to plan.
2. Stop Moping, Start Hoping
Murmuring leads to moping. Complaints, whether kept in the heart or uttered on the lips, are like weights draped over the soul. They are heavy and burdensome. They laden the heart with self-pity and false feelings of “I deserve better.” Self-pity is a pathetic trap—don’t go there. Moping robs the heart of the blessing of God’s presence and power in the midst of the trial. It quenches the Spirit. Choosing to mope is the same as choosing to prolong and even worsen the agony of disappointment. Decide that moping is out in the new year. No self-pity. Instead, determine to hope in God, no matter where the road of life may twist or turn.
3. Stop Envying, Start Serving
First we murmur, then we mope, then we resent. We start to look at others and compare. We start to tabulate and calculate. And in our fleshly mind-set, we always come up short. Someone else has it better. Someone else has it easier. It’s a mind game we will never win. Comparison leads to envy and discontentment—a bad spirit festers and feeds on every perceived inequity or injustice. STOP!
Do you see the unraveling of life? Murmuring, moping, envying. Stop the cycle and start serving. From where you are—disappointment, burdens, and all—get up, shake the dust off, bandage your wounds, and reach out a helping hand to someone else. Someone has it worse. Someone has more pain. Someone has greater disappointment. Someone has a harder time (times 100) right now! Find them and help them—from the midst of your hardship, do something to bless someone else.
4. Stop Criticizing, Start Uplifting
If you fall into the first three bad habits, the fourth will follow quickly. Once you are well into murmuring, moping, and envying, the next step is criticizing. It won’t be long before you start talking about all the issues you see in everybody else. You will find another miserable heart, a listening ear that commiserates with your lot, and you will start to attack others, like a wounded animal. The things that are eating you will start coming out—out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Out of your pain and self-pity, the only way you’ll feel a bit of relief is to pick others apart and magnify their failures. It’s a pathetic tactic, but a bit like a spiritual narcotic. It makes you feel better temporarily and it can be addicting.
Choose to quit criticizing and start uplifting. Grateful people in the grip of God’s amazing grace always see the best in others and point it out. In the spirit of 1 Corinthians 13, they understand that love bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things.
5. Stop Discouraging, Start Encouraging
A moping, murmuring, envious, backbiting person will ultimately be a discourager. Another word for what I mean is “harsh.” This is when your moping, murmuring spirit begins to spill over into your relationships with harsh tones and sharp words. This is when those you love are hurt by your edginess, stifled by your anger, or wounded by your contempt. Anyone can be a discourager—all it takes is a bit of flesh and an out of control tongue.
Instead, choose to encourage others. Trade harsh for gentle. Trade caustic for caring. Trade insulting for inspiring. Everybody needs encouragement!
I don’t know what’s gone wildly awry in your life, but I do know that these five things won’t help make it right. Think of this—regardless of what’s going on—you have today. You have this moment. You are surrounded by people—each one an opportunity to bless someone else.
Rather than descend into these five behaviors—take a different path. Choose your words like an artist chooses his brush and color. Choose your deeds like a designer chooses his elements. Take every moment and every relationship and turn it into a serving, building, growing, helping opportunity.
In the first post we saw a downward spiral—a progression that starts in our minds when fleshly thinking creeps in during a trial. It starts with murmuring against God—“why me?” Murmuring leads to moping—draping complaints on the heart and weighing it down with despair. Moping leads to comparing to others and envying those who have it better. Envying always leads to criticizing which leads to a harsh disposition and hurtful spirit towards others.
But the progression doesn’t stop there. The first five things we looked at impact our spirit and relationships with people. But there’s another really bad side to carnal thinking during distressing times. The other bad habits on this list impact our direction and decisions. While God is trying to work something good in your life through circumstances you can’t control, the devil would like to try to bring you to total meltdown.
Here are five more things that Christians need to stop doing during tough times:
6. Stop Doubting, Start Trusting
When life becomes unpredictable, the natural response is to start questioning all the right things. The logic goes something like this: “If I was doing the right thing, why is my life suddenly so hard. Doing the right thing should make life easier. SO… I must have gone wrong!” At that point, we start to back track in our minds and allow doubt to call into question all the right decisions we’ve made.
We doubt past good decisions. Notice I said GOOD decisions. This is a different thing than knowing in your heart that you made a bad decision and disobeyed God. I’m talking about an all out assault on the spiritual things in your life. Your walk with God, your surrender, your pursuit of Him, your witness to others, your faithfulness in church, your financial stewardship, your faith. Doubt during difficulty attacks all of the good things in our life… and then we start hesitating…
7. Stop Hesitating, Start Obeying
Doubt leads us into an emotional and spiritual fog. Our bad responses start rippling cracks through the foundations of our lives—all the good things, biblical things, faith things that were put into place suddenly come into question and rather than pressing forward in obedience, we pause and panic.
If you’ve built your life upon the Word and the presence of God, you don’t need to freeze or panic with hesitation. Your purpose, your calling, your Biblical foundation is still strong and steady regardless of your circumstances. So step up and move forward with obedient faith. Act. Do the right things you’ve been doing. Keep doing them as much as you are able! Don’t question God or the good things you’ve decided for Him.
8. Stop Retreating, Start Committing
Sometimes doubt and hesitation lead to retreat—we run for our lives, start scrambling to “plan B” and strategizing how to take care of ourselves “since God let us down.”
My friend, God intends your present circumstances for good. And you are already on the winning side if you belong to Christ. So I dare you—while your world seems unstable, stand firm, march forward, and commit—or recommit. Commit to truth, to Christ, to rejoicing, and to serving God. Commit to using your hardship for God’s purposes!
9. Stop Guessing, Start Deciding
When we panic, freeze, or otherwise freak out in the face of hardship, it’s almost like we turn the reigns of our life over to random events and pandemonium. We start making rash decisions out of irrational thought patterns. The uncertainty of a trial can cause us to start guessing our way forward, like suddenly you’re standing on thin ice and wondering if the next stop will plunge you into arctic waters. The result—bad decisions.
No Christian should ever guess their way into a decision. We should decide—obey our way forward. Every step should be one of deliberation—every move made in assurance that we are obeying our Heavenly Father and following His lead through the fog. Even when all of life seems like thin ice, the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord!
10. Stop Dreading and Start Anticipating
Finally, when life gets hard, sometimes we start dreading what might be around the next bend. A lot of Christians go through life tentative and fearful from past hurt—overly anxious of what lurks around the next corner—like they’re walking through a haunted house. And some trials are filled with a million varying dark corners and unpredictable turns—medical tests that could lead to jarring results, relational hurt or betrayal from the bad behavior of another, sudden economic or industry shifts resulting in loss, and the list goes on. God does not give us a spirit of fear, but love, power, and a sound mind.
The opposite of this “dread” is confidence and anticipation. Trust and hope. God wants me to live with an anticipation that whatever waits around the next corner is simply my next assignment from God on this wonderful race that I’m running with patience for His glory.
One final thought: these bad habits make your trial a weapon in your enemy’s hands against you. The opposite behaviors make your hardship a weapon in God’s hands against your enemy!
Your trial is a weapon in someone’s hands—either God’s or the enemy’s. It really depend on who you hand it to. Decide now to keep it from your enemy, hand it to God, and let Him start using it for good!
By Cary Schmidt (published by permission)