freedom, God's Will, Intentional growth, obedience, Resting in Christ

Learning to Live in the Now

Image of candles

Learning to depend on God’s plan, not my own, is a constant struggle, and these last few months with the pandemic have made that painfully obvious.

I’ve been both completely aggravated and wildly liberated this spring and summer by the inability to plan—well, pretty much anything. And it’s teaching me a lot about what it means to be dependent on God and live in the moment.

By nature, I’m a planner, which is where the frustrating part comes in. I keep multiple calendars, including six different categories of calendars on my iPhone, a hard copy calendar on my desk and another on my fridge. This doesn’t include the daily to-do list by my side. This all probably sounds completely obnoxious to some of you, I’m sure, but I’m a busy woman and a working mom. For me, it’s how I do life.

Yet as a Christian I’m well aware my craving for a plan is all too often an exercise in futility. We humans mistakenly believe we are “in control” and that planning can put the chaos of life into a tidy little box. That is an illusion, for only God is in control. I know this intellectually. Still, my mind often all-too-conveniently forgets this, especially in times of stress when I crave a plan, order, structure, and routine.

It’s as if the plan, not God, reigns supreme. Ouch.

At the beginning of the year, I had a grasp of how 2020 would probably go—a hot mess of travel between work and a host of family commitments, not to mention the day-to-day juggle of business meetings, church activities, school events, youth theater, and everything else that sucks up all our time. When the pandemic hit and all those things were forcibly paused, I’ll admit I was a bit relieved. For the first time in what felt like eons, I had unexpected free time.

It was both freeing and frighteningly chaotic.

As a planner, this was good for me—really good. I soon trained my brain and my heart to let go of the nonessentials, to let each day dictate what was to come courtesy of God, not Jessica.

When life started getting more normalized and our state began to reopen, that familiar go-go-go began to rise up again inside of me. I found myself impatient again, wondering “exactly when” we’d do this or that.

How quickly I started to forget the most important lesson the pandemic taught me: let go of the steering wheel and let God be the driver.

How quickly I started to forget the most important lesson the pandemic taught me: let go of the steering wheel and let God be the driver. Click To Tweet

God created us to lean on Him and be in a dependent relationship with Him. I struggle to remember this on a daily basis.

Yet Scripture assures me repeatedly that God is the one in control, not me.
God created us to lean on Him and be in a dependent relationship with Him. I struggle to remember this on a daily basis. Yet Scripture assures me repeatedly that God is the one in control, not me. Click To Tweet

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminds us, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV).

Graphic quote: we're to let Christ live through us.

And, as He says in Luke 9:23-24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

Faith is about surrendering control, about understanding that control is an illusion. The only plan that matters is God’s plan.

Faith is about surrendering control, about understanding that control is an illusion. The only plan that matters is God’s plan. Click To Tweet

And God sees how this year, this decade, this century will play out with a perspective only God has. I cannot possibly understand all that God’s plan entails, or even why. All I can do is my part to bring myself into alignment with His plan and work to serve Him and spread His holy truth. All I can do is walk on the path God has laid out for me, and bring myself back on that pathway if ever I walk astray.

I think the Bible’s King David might have felt the same way I feel. For much of his life prior to his rule, David—while God’s anointed—lived on the fringe, his guard up constantly because King Saul resented, feared and envied him. For a time, he was forced to live in the wilderness, taking refuge in caves and other hiding places. Maybe he, too, fancied himself a planner, wanted to be able to say, “Next year, we will go here and do this,” or, “Next week, we will achieve that.” Instead, he lived on the run. Perhaps he felt forgotten or irrelevant. Perhaps he struggled with giving over his plans to God.

Yet the psalms, thought largely to be written by David, are filled with verses that acknowledge God’s reign and almighty power, a power we can trust and shelter beneath. Take a look at these three just as an example:

Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Psalm 28:7-8, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.”

And Psalm 62:6-8, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Again and again, the message is clear: I can trust God. God is my refuge. God is in command.

Today is a good day, for today I remember the truth: When it comes to a choice between my petty human pride about all I plan and want to do, and heeding God’s plan, I choose the latter. God’s way is the better way—the only way for me.

When it comes to a choice between my petty human pride about all I plan and want to do, and heeding God’s plan, I choose the latter. God’s way is the better way—the only way for me. Click To Tweet

One day, maybe life will go back to the kind of existence I feel I can “manage” with multiple calendars, to-do lists, life goals and more. But right now, God is showing me a new challenge—what I call a “no plan” challenge.

And it’s good for my soul.

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free e-copy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE.

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Enduring Trials, Hardships and Trials, intentional living, living in grace, Resting in Christ, surrender, Video Devotion

Peace in the Stress, a Video Devotion

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Hardships and Trials, Resting in Christ, surrender

Peace in the Stress

By Jessica Brodie

I’m stressed—and I mean capital-S stressed. Do you feel me? Have you been there, too?

My to-do list overflows beyond anything I can comprehend. The days are blurring one into the next. I’m so frazzled. I can’t even remember what I need at the grocery store, let alone whether that event with my daughter is tonight or tomorrow (and I’ve checked my calendar four times today).

It’s enough to give anyone a nervous breakdown. (Oh, wait—maybe that’s what this is!) Kidding. Sort of.

I started out this year with one word in my heart: Peace. We’re not even halfway through February and I feel like a hypocrite. Who carries on about peace in one’s heart when they’re so stressed and busy they don’t even know what day of the week it is?

Is it even possible to have peace when we are stressed out?

Good news: we can have peace in the stress, in the crazy-busy, and even in the downright bad.

How? Because of Jesus.

We can have peace in the stress, in the crazy-busy, and even in the downright bad. How? Because of Jesus. Click To Tweet

This isn’t a platitude; it’s a perspective switch. I used to think I could weather storms by hanging on and “being strong.” Now I know there’s only one way I can make it through—by clinging to Jesus, who gives me true peace.

Every day we have a choice as to how we look at the world. Sometimes our view is near-sighted—all we can see are the details, the to-do list, the piddly (and not-so-piddly) concerns. Other times, we get a glimpse of the big picture, a “God’s eye” view. And that’s the key.

Even when we are caught up in the difficult daily details, such as a sick child or a looming deadline or a catastrophic phone call, Christians can trust there is a bigger plan at work—far bigger than what we are going through.

While my life might be out of control and stressful today, I choose to rest in an important truth: I am God’s daughter. I follow Jesus and have the Holy Spirit in my heart. That means His plan is my ultimate plan—even when I can’t see His plan.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Matthew, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV).

And in the Gospel of John, He says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

My daily life might be hard right now. But at the end of it all, it’s just a piece of God’s grand jigsaw puzzle. God’s master plan.

My daily life might be hard right now. But at the end of it all, it’s just a piece of God’s grand jigsaw puzzle. Click To Tweet

I can have peace even in the stress by reminding myself I am His. I serve a mighty, mighty God of heaven and earth and everything else in the universe. His way is the priority. When I can step outside myself and allow myself to know and trust this, I have true rest.

When I can step outside myself and trust I belong to Jesus, I have true rest. Click To Tweet

Do you have trouble coping with stress? How do you handle this?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

identity

Owning the Label I Once Spurned

Picture of Jessica with text pulled from post

It took me a long time to own up to being a Christian. I believed in God and willingly accepted Jesus as my Savior—all that was fine.

I didn’t want to be lumped in with some of the other Christians I knew, and frankly didn’t like very much. The sanctimonious girl at school who invited me to church not because she wanted me there, but because she felt it was her job to expose me to her denomination. The cutthroat, super-ambitious guy at work who ogled me daily but wore his churchgoer status like it was his get-out-of-jail-free Monopoly card. The nosy neighbor who’d tell me all about her church bake sale and that Sunday’s sermon while simultaneously gossip-slaughtering everyone else on the block. No thanks.

So when my friend called and offhandedly teased me about having “turned into one of those Christians,” I was taken aback. While I knew what I believed, I certainly didn’t want to be relegated to the judgy, holier-than-thou classification she wanted to pin on me.

I’m not sure whether I laughed her off and changed the subject, or flat-out denied her tag to save face. But I do remember hanging up the phone and feeling just like the Apostle Peter after Jesus’s arrest.

Peter was extremely close with Jesus and part of his inner-circle, so fervent and loyal a Christ-follower that Jesus called him “the rock” upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18-19). When Jesus told him he’d fall away and, in fact, reject Christ three times before the rooster crowed that very night, you can almost see Peter’s “no way, never!” scoff (Matthew 26:34).

Yet, sadly, that’s exactly what happened. Trying to avoid capture himself, Peter insisted once, twice, and finally a third time that he “didn’t know the Man.” Just then, the rooster crowed, “And Peter remembered Jesus’ statement, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75 ESV).

That day on the phone with my friend, I denied my Lord. In my reluctance to get categorized as the “wrong kind of Christian,” in effect I’d taken myself out of the category altogether. What I’d done felt like a punch to the throat.

See, denying Jesus isn’t just rejecting our faith. It’s also being embarrassed about the label we carry. It’s being more concerned about the way others see us than the way God sees us. Click To TweetLooking back, I recognize I denied Him in other ways throughout my youth, like when I didn’t speak up when I witnessed injustice, or when I caved to sin instead of holding fast to what I knew to be right.

Today I’m proud to call myself a Christian. When I meet someone who gives me the side-eye, even better—I know it’s a chance to give someone a new perspective on the term, a chance to represent what it looks like to be a modern-day Jesus-follower. Click To Tweet

Owning my Christian label was a big step in embracing my faith and my identity in Jesus. As with Peter, it took understanding how I’d fallen short—and making a choice to step up from then on out—to experience freedom.

Have you ever felt hesitant to claim a label because you were afraid how you’d be perceived? How have you learned to overcome your discomfort?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!

And before you go … have you grabbed your free ecopy of our Bible study yet? If not, you can do so HERE! (You can get a print copy for just $5 HERE.)

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE. 

Faith, fear, God's Will, Hardships and Trials, obedience, Uncategorized

Training for Our Heavenly Race

By Jessica Brodie

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

It was harder than I imagined. There I was on the side of the lake, face beet-red and lungs about to explode, not to mention sweat dripping off every inch of my frame. I’d convinced myself I could jog the length of the dam, only my body was far more accustomed to race-walking and circuit training than a nonstop pounding run.

“How do people do this?” I asked my sister breathlessly.

“You just have to train,” she replied. “Few people can just lace up and run a 5K out of nowhere. You have to build up, little by little.”

I followed her advice. Every day, I’d start by walking, then I’d run—first just a few minutes before shifting back to a fast walk, then increasing my run time. Soon I was doing far more running than walking. By the morning of the 5K, I’d trained enough. I completed the 3.10686 miles out of breath but victorious. I’d persevered! I’d run the race! And now I could celebrate.

In our earthly lives, we know perseverance—resolve, tenacity, determination—pays off, and not just when it comes to running. We persevere in studying hard for our final exams so we can achieve good grades. Through difficulties in our jobs so we can remain employed and advance our careers. Through troubles in our relationships, fighting for a healthy family.

And when it comes to our spiritual lives, perseverance is critical.

When it comes to our spiritual lives, #perseverance is critical. Click To Tweet

When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, we receive eternal salvation. But sometimes our faith is sorely tested. We face trials and temptations. We pray for health, only to receive a scary diagnosis. We hope for relief, only to experience the devastation of a hurricane. We love others well, and get rejected. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith.

Sometimes our #faith is sorely tested. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep the faith. That’s when we need to hold fast and press on. #holdon #jesus Click To Tweet

But Scripture tells us to hold fast and press on. In the Book of Hebrews, the author reminds us that we are to model ourselves after Jesus, the “pioneer and perfecter of faith,” who ran the race with perseverance. “For the joy set before Him (Jesus) endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3 ESV).

Jesus encountered much difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes on God and did God’s will. He persevered because the future goodness outweighed the present suffering. He taught and healed, and He died for us so that we, too, may be saved for eternal life.

#Jesus encountered much #difficulty during His life on earth, even more than us. He was questioned, mocked, challenged, beaten, tortured, and ultimately hung on a #cross by the very people He had hoped to save. But He kept His eyes… Click To Tweet

When we set our sights on God despite opposition, we will follow Jesus and be victorious in our trials. How do we do that? We train ourselves to pray, to focus on God’s Word the Bible, to follow Him, to put Him first, and to love others as we love ourselves.

When we set our sights on God despite #opposition, we will follow #Jesus and be #victorious in our trials. Click To Tweet

Sometimes the race gets hard. Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, when we keep our eyes on the prize (eternal life in heaven!), our perseverance will pay off.

Our course might take us uphill over rocky terrain. We might slip or want to give up. But when we cling to our #faith and push aside any stumbling blocks, our #perseverance will pay off. #nevergiveup Click To Tweet

What is holding you down? What hardship seems too big to overcome? Little by little, lace up your sneakers by turning your heart toward God and make Him a priority. Build up your muscles and lungs by reading God’s Word. With Jesus, you will persevere and run the race.

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian author, journalist, editor, and writing coach with a faith blog, Shining the Light, at JessicaBrodie.com.