Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the secret place of prayer. William Wilberforce
Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the secret place of prayer. William Wilberforce
Life is filled with twists and turns. Each day brings with it a fair amount of joys and challenges and even some major disappointments. How do you navigate the rough waters of life and stay steady on your journey? Here are three important questions to ask yourself along the way as you chart your course and sail onward toward your goals.
How can I grow from this? Whether it is an unexpected derailment from your schedule for the day or a major life change, it is good to consider what you can learn and how you can grow through the experience. Certainly we must grieve the loss of our original plan, but we must also think about the glimmer of hope or the upside of our situation. How can you become stronger? What are you learning in the process?
In what ways can I serve? There are always opportunities to use what we have learned or experienced to reach out and help another person. Look for ways you can use your gifts, talents and interests to serve those in your community who could use a helping hand. Whenever we lift up others, we ourselves experience a unique satisfaction and joy in serving – which is always an added benefit.
What is my motivation? It’s a good idea to do a little introspection and consider why we are doing what we are doing. This gives us a chance to examine and perhaps rethink our “Why.” Why am I pushing forward in this direction? Why do I think I need to accomplish this? Why am I being so hard on this particular person? When we check our motives, it helps us consider if our goal is worth pursuing, and it helps us recognize our own selfish ambitions or conceit. Knowing our “Why” can push us forward or help us redirect our path.
Routinely ask yourself these three questions as you face the ups and downs of life. You may even want to write then on an index card and keep them in front of you as a reminder. Life may be unpredictable, but positive questions can help us clarify what we want and where we are going.
Like a dense fog, sometimes the clouds of discouragement can descend on us blocking out any glimmer of hope. Perhaps there have been times in your own life where you felt a sense of despair. How do you have hope when everything seems to be going wrong? Let’s look at a few ways to part the dark clouds.
Look Up instead of At. When we are going through a challenging time, circumstances loom large and are sometimes the only thing we can see. Certainly we must recognize our grief or pain, but one of the first steps toward seeing glimmers of hope is to change the direction of our focus. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Set your minds on things above.” When we look only at our circumstances, it is easy to become overwhelmed, but when we look above our circumstances, we remind ourselves that there is a God who loves us. He is bigger than our challenges. He is the God who sees, and He is not surprised by this situation. When we turn our eyes upward, it helps us gain a broader perspective.
Praise. While we are looking up, let’s take a moment to praise God for who He is and what He is able to do. Actively praising God changes us within and opens our hearts to the possibilities of what He can do. Open the Psalms or open a hymnal, or play some worship music or simply pray something like:
“Father, I adore you as the God who is able to do immeasurably more that I ask or imagine.”
“Father, I praise you that you are Sovereign and Powerful. You know all things and can do all things.”
“I exalt you my God, because You see the bigger picture and You know what is best.”
“Praise you that you walk through the darkest valley’s with me. I am not alone.”
Or as Jeremiah prayed from the pit of despair,
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:19 – 24
Encouragement. One of the apostle Paul’s prayers for the early believers was, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” God is the God of hope, so let’s not hesitate to ask Him for hope, wisdom and guidance as we navigate rough waters. We can also pray that God sends a person into our life that can encourage us or walk along side of us through our dark moments.
James (the brother of Jesus) gave the persecuted church powerful and positive advice, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. “
My friend, there is always hope. It may come in unexpected ways and look slightly different than how you thought it would look. Keep looking up and keep your heart open to what God wants to do in your life. I believe there is always hope, because I believe in a God of hope. I believe what the Bible tells us – that He is a redeeming God, and He will never leave or forsake those who trust in Him.
Have you ever chosen a “word for the year?” I find that it gives me a great sense of focus as I pursue my goals and move toward what I want to accomplish for the year. Simply put, choosing a word gives me a constant core reminder of a way I can zero in on one area of improvement in my life. Here are a few thoughts on choosing your word and allowing it to encourage you throughout your days.
Pray, Listen, Observe. As you consider your one word, ask the Lord to guide you and give you direction. Be still and think about some of the ways you want to grow and become stronger throughout the next year. Pay attention to words that seem to continue to resurface as you are reading His Word or in conversation with others. Look for a word that defines some of your current interests, ambitions or drive.
Write It Down. As you figure out the word you want to focus on for the year, write it on several index cards and place them in locations where you will see them on a regular basis. Seeing your word will serve as a reminder to spur you on in your pursuits. I encourage you to choose a Bible verse or quote to memorize that goes along with your word and write that down as well.
Share it. Tell other people about the word you chose for the year. It will not only inspire others, but it will also strengthen your resolve to keep you on track as you now have accountability. I love to hear about the words my friends have chosen and why they decided on that particular word. It always reveals something about them and their desires for the year, and I can offer encouragement to them in the process.
So… what’s my word for 2020? My word is “deeper,” because I desire to grow deeper in my relationship with the Lord and in His word. I also want to grow deeper in my relationships with friends and family. Finally, I want to go deeper in my research for both my writing and my parenting organization. I’ll close with the Bible verse that I chose to go along with my word. It’s found in Hosea 6:3:
Oh, that we might know the Lord!
Let us press on to know him.
The end of December brings with it the opportunity to make some changes from the past and design a fresh start for the coming year. It is wise to take some time to ponder, pray and consider what you want to accomplish in 2020. Here are a few ideas to help you develop a purposeful plan.
Write Down at Least Three Things you Want to Accomplish. As you prayerfully consider the year ahead of you, think specifically about what you want to achieve. Perhaps you want to start volunteering at a local outreach or maybe you want to learn a new skill or there may be a project you want to complete. Guard against being too vague as you write down your desired accomplishments. The more specific you are, the easier it is to measure if you achieved your goals.
Create Doable Action Steps. Under each item you want to accomplish, design at least three actions steps that will help you get there. Ask yourself the simple question, “What will it take for me to reach this goal?” If you have a specific sales goal for the year, then consider how many people you need to call or meet with each month and/or week in order to reach your target. If you are targeting a certain weight, then ask yourself what changes in diet and activity do you need to make in order to achieve your goal.
Formulate a Daily Routine. Great accomplishments begin with positive daily habits. Initiate several new daily routines that will help lead you toward success. For instance, if one of your goals is to de-clutter one room of the house per month, then you may want to set a time each weekday that you will devote 30 minutes to an hour to work on re-organizing and throwing out old stuff. If you goal is to read 12 books a year, then you will want to etch some time into your daily routine for reading.
Chart your Progress. If you have set specific and measurable goals, then you should be able to chart your progress. We all need the motivation of knowing that we are headed closer to our goals and making progress along the way. You may want to keep a notebook or have a board or chart on which you can make notes of the steps you are achieving toward your goal. You may even want to share it with a friend or family member for the encouragement and accountability.
Review Monthly. Studies show that most people fizzle out on their New Year’s resolutions by mid-January, so make an appointment with yourself every first day of the month to review and renew your commitment to your stated goals. I encourage you to write out your personal mission statement and yearly goals each month as a form of review. This is also gives you an opportunity to regularly chart your progress and consider where you may need to readjust your daily routine.
If you are like me, you want to make the most of your days and live a life of purpose. Prayerfully putting a plan into action gives you a framework and allows you to use your strengths to make a positive difference in this world. Ask the Lord to lead you and guide you as you employ the gifts He has given you for His glory and to bless others. I hope that 2020 is a year of greater vision and purpose for each of us.
During this most wonderful time of the year, let us turn our hearts upward as we focus on the glorious majesty of our God. This month I want to provide you with a daily attribute of the Lord on which to meditate throughout your day. May this give your heart a reason to rejoice and your mind an opportunity to praise His glorious name throughout the holiday season.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7
I hope you have a wonderful Holy-Day season. May these verses lift your spirits and turn your heart toward Almighty God. Starting on Dec 26, I will begin posting specific attributes we see in Jesus, as we worship Emanuel, God with us.
Follow me on Instagram as I provide a colorful reminder of these daily attributes – @karolladd