Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When You're Not Sure What To Do Next

There is one message the Lord keeps repeating into my life these days:
 "Do the hard thing." (Hebrews 10:36, 39)

I'm really good at goal setting and doing and formulating a plan and accomplishing and list checking, so for me, this "doing-the-hard-thing" means I'm suppose to be still, so still that all I can hear inside my head is Jesus and the ocean.  You know that sound a conch shell makes when you hold it up to your ear?  That's how still the inside of my head, heart, and body are suppose to be.  And for me, this is a hard thing. A very difficult thing. It takes spiritual discipline and work for me to rest in my Savior alone, to quiet everything about myself, to allow Him to quiet everything within and without me. (Psalm 37:7; Psalm 46:10)

For someone else, you love being still.  You would rather do nothing else but sit and rock and bask and ponder and just be in God's presence.  By nature, you are borderline lazy, at least that's your tendency. You ignore and/or avoid all forces that might make your body at rest begin to move, either physically, mentally and/or spiritually. But instead, God's asking you to move, to put feet to your faith, to dive in, to get busy, to say yes to everything He brings across your path. Read that book, attend that conference, do that mission project. For some of you, this is the hard thing. (James 2:14-26)

For me, I'm suppose to stop thinking.  I'm so hyper-aware of all the spiritual forces and realms that surround me and weave themselves in and out of my everyday life that I see meaning in almost everything, and I drive around town thinking and mulling and picking apart and piecing things back together in my head, trying to make sense of how God works, and it wears. me. out.  I'm good at being analytical and critical and all those higher-order thinking skills.  That's my sweet spot! So what does God speak to my heart? "Stop thinking. Do the hard thing and stop making this beautiful world I've fashioned just for your pleasure so dad gum complicated. Do the difficult thing and be simple. Enjoy. Don't think." (Psalm 19)

For someone else, you are oblivious to life on any level other than the immediate physical circumstances surrounding you.  You take each day at a time, exactly as it is, never looking past the nose on your face.  You are unassuming, possibly very resourceful and street smart, quick on your feet. But God is telling you, "Do the hard thing.  Open up your eyes!  Look.  Be aware. Connect the dots. Life is so much more than it seems. See Me in everything, everywhere. Learn more. Put yourself in a position to be held accountable for more knowledge, more virtue. Grow in Me. Do the difficult thing." (Acts 17:22-31)

For me, I'm suppose to pray.  Pray more often.  Pray about more things.  Pray without ceasing. Pray out loud. Pray whenever over whomever the Lord leads. Pray as the first resort. Pray about the stress of making a grocery list. Pray about the choice of salad dressings. Pray fervently with great passion for the people God brings to mind. Pray in tears, crying out for the Lord to listen. Pray until it hurts. I'll be honest, I don't know what this looks like.  I don't know what this feels like.  I don't even know where to begin some days other than to just start talking at any point in time to Jesus, other than to attempt to carve out time in my day to actually be folded over on my knees.  Because I'm really good at listening and learning, but I don't do so well actually interceding and asking and believing that God will really come through.  And sometimes it's just weird and uncomfortable to pray out loud over people, but God keeps telling me to do it anyway. Do the hard thing. (Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Timothy 2:1-2)

But for you, you may be an amazing prayer warrior.  You always know what to say, how to say it. Prayer is a talent, a gift, a calling for you in your life.  But maybe what's difficult is listening.  Maybe God is calling you to spend less time talking and more time bent over in silence at the foot of His throne, ears and heart open to receive what He's saying.  Maybe for you that awkward, deliberate silence, that active listening is the hard thing.  God says do the hard thing anyway. (Habakkuk 2:1, Proverbs 19:20, James 1:19, Psalms 34:11)

My type A personality has taken every personality, spiritual gift, whatever test, assessment, etc. that is on the market.  I've studied myself for a long time, and I feel like I have a real sense of who I am and where my strengths lie.  But God keeps repeating in my mind, "It's in your weaknesses that I am made strong." In other words, He doesn't want to use my strengths right now; He wants to use my weaknesses. He wants to make me work all the muscles in myself I've ignored and let atrophy because our culture shouts, "Play to your strengths!" God persistently just whispers to my soul, "Do the hard thing and let me go to work in your weaknesses." This is truly the hard thing, the scary thing, the most difficult of all things. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10)

And for you, maybe you are keenly aware of your weaknesses.  You can name every one. You dwell on them and use them as excuses for why you can't do anything or go anywhere or talk to that person or do this or do that.  Blaming your weaknesses has become a lifestyle. You need to take a closer look at yourself and face the demons inside that surface when you look at your past and how you have been formed by God's providence into who you are today. And God says, "Do the hard thing and learn to love yourself, learn to see yourself as I see you.  Learn how I've gifted you, how you can be completely and totally fulfilled when living within the unique set of strengths, talents, and gifts I've given you out of the generosity of My heart. Do the difficult thing and know who I say you are and who I've created you to be and why your story matters." (Psalm 139, Ephesians 1, 1 Corinthians 12)

And those are just a few small examples of how God challenges us to grow and stretch, of how He's growing and stretching me.  If it's challenging in the moment to focus on my husband and give him the attention he needs, then I need to do that.  If it's hard for me to stop everything and see and listen to and be with my children, then I should do that. If it's trying for me to not write everything I'm thinking on a blog or in my journal, then I don't write, and I'm learning to pray it all out to the Lord instead. 

Do the hard thing, the difficult, challenging, scary boundary-pushing thing.

If you're wondering what's next in your life, where God might be leading you next, if you're in God's waiting room wanting to be used, but you just don't know what to do next, I challenge you to do the hard thing.

Do the thing that seems impossible for you to accomplish in your own strength, but so abundantly glorious for God to accomplish in you through His strength!

Whatever it is that makes your stomach turn or knot, whatever it is that makes you inwardly cringe or shift in your seat nervously and uncomfortably, whatever it is that scares the life out of you when you even think about it--do that, volunteer for that, make time for that. Those small twinges of fear, doubt, hesitancy, all those "I-really-don't-want-to-do-that-right-now" moments--do those.  Do those hard things until they become easy, and you find yourself moving on to something else that is difficult for you to even imagine accomplishing.

Because people, God is fully present in the difficult, scary, challenging, hard things, no matter how small or insignificant they may be. God doesn't just call people to go live in foreign countries. He asks people to trust Him to travel to a foreign country for just a week out of the year. God doesn't just call people to pray over large congregations of followers, beseeching the Lord to incite revival among His people. He calls people to pray out loud over their neighbor when she tells you she's going through a divorce.  He doesn't just show up in the Beth Moores on stage in front of millions of people.  He shows up in the car ride conversation you have with your five year old about how God can be three people in one. He shows up in that moment when you share your heart in answer to a question during Bible study. God provides and sustains in the midst of ALL the hard things, big or small. (Philippians 4:13)

So if you need God to show up in a big way in your life, stop trying to do things the same way every day.  Stop ignoring the Holy Spirit because that hesitancy to do a good thing, a right thing, to take a holy stand in faith--that stomach ache or nervous heart beat in the back of your throat--that's the Spirit nudging you to do that difficult thing.  Stop ignoring that Voice or putting it off until the Voice fades and disappears and that uncomfortable feeling goes away and you can settle back into a comfortable life of ease and predictability. DO THE HARD THING.

Make that phone call. Send that email. Pray over that person. Write that letter. Send that gift. Buy that random item the Spirit puts on your heart for someone else. Take advantage of the opportunity to make that apology. Stop what you're doing and pray--pray out loud. Pull over to the side of the road so you can take advantage of a teachable moment or conversation.  Do the weird, crazy thing that makes no sense other than God is urging you to do it.  Don't feel like you have to explain it.  If someone asks, just tell them, God wanted you to do it!  Do the hard things and see if God doesn't follow through by holding up His end of the bargain and filling in all your doubts and fears and what ifs with Himself completely.

And fellow Christians, we have got to stop comparing ourselves to those around us because as I've hopefully tried to outline above what is hard for me to follow through with out of obedience is probably not what is hard for you, and I truly believe God is calling His people to deny themselves, take up THEIR cross and follow Christ. (Matthew 16:24-26) My cross may not be the same hard thing as your cross, but I guarantee you it's just as heavy.  It costs us all everything we have to follow Christ, so I'm praying God continues to remove my critical, comparing eyes and replace them with encouraging, compassionate ones instead. Let's do our hard things together instead of constantly feeling like we are less than or have to be better than someone else.

What is the hard thing today, right now in this moment, that God is asking you to follow through and do?  I hope you can hear me cheering you on to do it! Go for it!  Trust God and do the hard thing!!!

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