Working through disagreements

Genesis 13:5-8  “Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

 8 So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives.'”

Over and over we see the connection between pride/desires and conflict with others.  When we feel that we deserve something: a job, a prize, or a certain lifestyle, we can forget that for which we can be thankful.  I believe that one path to healing is to turn to God and to thank Him for anything that is a blessing.  It’s good to be reminded to praise God through good and bad because He deserves getting credit for providing for us regardless of what we do for Him.  Furthermore, it at least functions as a distraction if nothing else.  When we do this, we also can remember that all is not lost, and that there is still a bit of hope left.

Recently, I have been pushing through some disagreements in my household.  When reading the scripture above, I noticed the exact situation happening–people quarreling over the divisions of the rooms in the house (based on how much everyone could pay).  Pride comes into play when some people do not want to give up and compromise and I’ve found that it’s easy to get angry when something stands in the way of what I’d like.  Ultimately, this scripture is helpful in reminding me that people are more important than anything else.  God asks us to be loving and merciful to each other in the same way that He is to us.  Remembering God’s mercy helps to build patience in these matters and also helps to relieve some stress about the situation because God helps us to accept rather than holding on to the fight.

Forgiveness

1 John 4:10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Luke 6:3636 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you.

Forgiveness is one of the biggest themes in Christianity–mercy, grace, forgiveness.  Remembering these passages of scripture reminds me of the importance of forgiveness in the lives of those who desire to follow God/Jesus.  Luke 6:36 summons us to be more like God-by showing mercy to each other.  Although it is easy to make up hierarchies of sin and to rank “bad actions” based on our personal morals, it’s good to remember that all of us have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Yes, even those of us who call ourselves Christians.  Judging situations and people seems almost like an automatic process, but this is a good reminder to curb that response and to remember that only God has the authority to judge.  These are important parts of our belief in Jesus Christ.  The difficult part is letting go of anger, hurt, and other negative emotions caused by others or oneself, and to fully forgive.  Cutting the habit of judging, or at least stopping that reaction when it comes, can only be directed and possible through God.

My first thought was to write on forgiveness because I often wonder: have I really forgiven this person? I like to say that I have forgiven anyone who has caused me grief because I know that it is what we are called to do.  Yet, when I am reminded of pain caused by a certain situation or person, I realize that I must have fully accepted and forgiven that event and person.  This is what I have been praying about recently.  When something or someone leaves a great negative impact it can take a long time and be very difficult to let go and forgive.  When I talked to a friend of mine about this, we got onto the topic by talking about Star Wars and Anakin Skywalker’s transformation in Darth Vader–he was so bitter about the hardships in his life and enemies hurting his life that he could not forgive.  As we see, his choice not to forgive puts him deeper into pain and darkness.  It’s good to recognize that harboring negative feelings about someone else’s wrongdoings only proliferates the pain.  It takes God’s strength and Spirit to help in the process of forgiveness.  Letting go is freeing–“where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  As I continue to pray about this throughout my life, I pray the same for those (maybe some reading this) who are desiring to live a life of forgiveness and mercy.  I ask that God give us the strength to let Him work in us to forgive and accept his freedom.

Trusting and walking closely with God

Jeremiah 17:5-8 “Thus says the LORD, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6  For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of saltwithout inhabitant. 7  Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. 8 For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fearwhen the heat comes ; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” 

When life gets more stressful than usual and things start bursting at the seams, it’s natural to  jump into action and try to fix things on our own.  Maybe we can’t do everything on our own so we rely on some other people to help us through the rough times.  In all of the planning, fixing, and stressing, where does prayer and trust in God fit in?

I’m experiencing one of the many busy times that can come in life: graduation from college.  Moving on from college (searching for jobs, searching for a place to live, searching for a community, and in my case–trying to prepare for graduate school) can be a confusing time.  As I have been preoccupied with career/current job, school, and relationships, I have started to be overwhelmed by all of these things that I had chosen to face alone.  Today, I was reminded once more by John 15:5 which says, 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” This scripture speaks to me time and again about the importance of depending on God.  The words, “apart from me you can do nothing,” are bold, but they are true.  As the passage from Jeremiah states, those who put trust in other people or themselves or anyone but God are lost and confused.  I will confess that I have been in that place repeatedly.  Yet, I praise God and am grateful that He brings me back and still offers me provision.

It’s hard to understand why we have the impulse to trust in ourselves and to find a solution on our own, but we find that it’s easy to make mistakes and to lose our way.  Although it’s hard to hand over our worries to God because we cannot visibly keep track of the planning and progress of the solutions, He has shown that He can see beyond what we can see.  It’s a hard lesson to learn that we really cannot fare extremely well without God, but it’s a blessing to experience His answer to prayer as He provides for us in times of uncertainty and uneasiness.

Prayers answered

Matthew 6:5-12  And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

One of the most helpful things that I learned at the women’s small group at my church back at home was tips on how to pray.  Friends of mine, who do not practice a specific faith (but may still be familiar with Christianity), find it difficult to pray when asked to pray before a meal or for any other occasion.  Many times, even Christians may find it difficult to feel genuine and purpose-filled when praying.  I have found that this passage, as well as a few other areas of scripture, is very helpful in guiding prayer.  Since I began to pray differently–through using the tips that I learned–I noticed many prayers being visibly answered.  At the same time, since I changed what I asked for (submitting to God’s will instead of holding tight to my desires), I also probably became more accepting of whatever would be the answer to the prayer (this seems very important).

Since I keep going on about them, the tips that we covered included:

1. Let prayer be praise-filled

2. Let prayer be God-centered (His will be done, not mine)

3. Pray persistently and hopefully

4. Pray with the belief/trust that the prayer will be answered

When we noted these things down, I remember that there were bible verses that presented these same tips.  Yet, because I am writing them down from memory, I did not include the exact verses although I am sure they could be found.

As noted earlier, I think that the biggest change happens when the prayer moves away from being self-centered, and becomes God-centered.  For me, this is definitely an ongoing process.  At the beginning of this school year, I didn’t have much of an idea about where I would be by this time.  It’s three weeks till graduation.  Two months ago I did not know that I would be accepted into/planning to attend graduate school.  Two weeks ago I still did not know where I was going to live for the summer/next school year.  I did not know for sure if I’d have a summer job.  Within these few weeks, after tensely waiting for longer than I would have wanted, I have seen these prayers answered: I have been provided with a summer job, a place to move into right after graduation, a place to stay through the summer and the next year.  Praise be to God–it’s amazing to see things come together (once more in this time of transition).  Right now I am still looking for a job for the academic year, but I will just need to wait.  It’s hard to leave everything up to God–all possibilities, even those not yet imagined–but I am learning that this is a richer way of life.  I just need to remember that every time I leave everything up to God in prayer and wait to see how He will direct the path.

Hope through hardship

Romans 5:1-5  “1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

I have heard many stories about devout Christians experiencing some of the most difficult situations–the pastor from my childhood church lost his two sons over a period of time (one was randomly shot at his college, the other had a brain tumor), my friend told me that recently a friend of hers, also a dedicated Christian, lost her husband and home in the tornado that swept through the south last week.  As we talked about this, we thought about that difficult question: why do God-fearing people have to suffer?  As I’ve been studying “abnormal psychology” aka mental disorders through a psychological perspective, we ask a similar question–why do specific people suffer from depression, schizophrenia, etc ? It does not particularly mean that they suffer from disorders because of sins that they have committed.  This is at least what we conclude when viewing the presence of mental disorder.

The scripture that comes to mind when asking this questions is Romans 5:1-5, which I posted above.  Sure, at times God may discipline us for our own good and the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin so that we can be directed in the right direction.  “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” John 15:2  At other times, even though people may feel that they are walking closely with God, tragedy can and does occur.  Rejoicing in suffering is probably the least reflexive response, but looking ahead to hope can help at least with acceptance.  I believe that experiencing hardships can improve quality of character.  Growing up, I could not see advantages to having divorced parents, having to rent, living with lower SES than most other friends, and having frequent anxiety.  Now that I am older, I have found that the hard times have made me more understanding.  It is easier to be moved to love and care for others when you have been in some similar situation.  Therefore, I can thank God for the hardships, even.  Even though it’s hard while it happens, God gets us through–and that is the hope.  We can persevere because God pushes us through.  Especially if we have made it before, with His help, there is hope that we can make it yet.

Permanent worth

Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth…And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.  And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”

Success is important in the lives of most people–that is a fair statement.  We hope to be successful in our jobs, relationships, academics, goals, and whatever else is important to us.  Yet, because things do not always go smoothly and easily, we encounter failure now and then.  Some people are very resilient while others take the failures personally.  As someone who has had the tendency to feel discouraged by shortcomings, even to the point of giving up on something, I found it necessary to assess my “self-worth contingencies” (or in other words, what I think makes me valuable).

Being a younger adult, female, student I can easily get caught up in basing my worth on: acceptance from others, external appearance/beauty, and academic performance and other skills.  These are common things from which many of us gain our worth, but they are not stable enough to be healthy measures for us.  When we think, “I’ll only have worth if I get good grades/a specific job that I interviewed for,” or “I will only have worth if I look like so and so celebrity,” we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.  So what to do?

Focusing on inner factors, such as values/beliefs can be more positive in influencing feelings of worth.  Since we have more control over our actions and trying to make them align with our values/beliefs, we can feel worth in the way we live.  Even when we fall short in this, we can make changes.  The passage above reminds me of this inherent self worth–God made us in His image, whether that is literal or symbolic, we are born with great worth because God created each one of us in His likeness, as His children.  Even though “acceptance from others” is important to me, if some people treat me as if I’m not worth their time, it is amazing to know that God, who is greater than any human being, cares for me.  Being valued and loved by God really is the way to feel the greatest worth–and that cannot be taken away.

God’s work and my rest

Psalms 127:1-2 “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.”

My goal was to keep up with this devotional blog each day, but I realized that sometimes I will need to pay attention to other important parts of life.  For example, spending time reading scripture or engaging with people (whether they need support or just deserve to have time) can be just as meaningful, or more.  As I learn more about how I should approach this little project, I am reminded that I cannot effectively make something without the Lord’s prompting or guidance.  The passage above reminds us that actions and work are best when they are done through God.  Yesterday, I sat for a little while trying to think of something to write about.  After some time, I realized that if I do not feel directed towards any topic and am not reminded of anything that I recently learned, I do not have to produce anything.  If I formed the blog on my own (out of the motivation to make a quota), I would have done it in vain.  I also would not have done it sincerely.  So I’ve learned that, more realistically, I will write as long as I feel inspired and directed by God.

Before ending this entry, I also have found that rest is important.  Reminded by, “he gives sleep to his beloved.”  Although it is a commandment, I do not know how many of us strictly observe the sabbath/day of rest.  I always do some kind of work on every day of the week–in the past I have even worked at my job on my sabbath day, Sunday.  That may be why many of us never feel rested and are constantly desiring a vacation.  The other day, I was tired, but had the urge to do more and more.  This did not work so well.  Although we can get caught up with work and start to be focused on self-sufficiency, the passage above is a good reminder that God provides.  Things done through/with the Lord, and not by our own efforts, are the best.  And secondly, we need some rest anyway.

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