Posted: November 7th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, disappointment, discouragement, election 2012, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with the result of the presidential election. My candidate lost. Actually, my preferred candidates weren’t even running. So I’m feeling disappointed along with at least 57 million others. But there are over 59 million people who are quite happy with the outcome today. Many of whom would profess to trust God, work hard, have strong marriages and love their children.
The results of this election, like others, cause me to step back and once again examine some of my core beliefs. For example, as I followed the election results last night on Twitter (I never even turned the television on), I couldn’t help noticing how many people kept encouraging others to pray for the outcome of the election.
But pray how? What exactly am I supposed to ask God to do?
I saw some who were encouraging prayer even after the polls had closed. And these didn’t seem to be requests to just pray for our country. These were people asking for prayer to effect the outcome. Were they wanting God to miraculously change votes that had already been cast?
But even if the polls hadn’t yet closed, how exactly am I to pray when it comes to an election? “God, please make my candidate win?” What exactly am I asking when I pray that way? Am I asking God to stop some people from voting? That would certainly work. Am I asking Him to motivate a bunch of apathetic people to drive themselves to the polls and vote for my candidate? That would work too.
Or is what I’m really asking, “God, please change the minds of about 2 million people who live in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Nevada.” Because that would have completely changed the result of the election. Apparently though, despite many prayers along those lines, God did not answer.
There are those who will say today, “Well, God is in control. This was His will.”
Okay, so what does that mean? When we say “God is in control” or “It was just His will”, what exactly do we mean?
Two states, Maine and Maryland, passed laws that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Was that God’s will? Is God in control in Maine and Maryland?
Then we have states like Colorado and Washington that voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. How does God feel about that? Do we know? Can we just write it off as, “Well, God’s in control. It’s His will.”
God is in control. It’s His will.
What does that mean?
Hurricane Sandy slammed into my hometown of Brick, New Jersey last week. As I write this, that area is again getting hit with a nor’easter, a major winter storm with rain, sleet, snow, high winds and coastal flooding. Is God in control of that? Is it His will for people there to continue suffering? And by the way, before you decide to get political and blame it on how people in the “blue” states vote–two of the counties with the worst damage from Sandy, including Ocean County where I grew up, are “red.”
My friend, Jeff, continues to battle colon cancer that has spread to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs. My friend, Michael, doesn’t want a divorce, but his wife is going ahead with it anyway. My friend, Mallory, has lost both of her kidneys and is on dialysis three days a week, which makes it difficult to find a job.
Was it God’s will for Jeff to get cancer, Michael’s wife to divorce him and for Mallory’s kidneys to fail?
Why are some people healed and not others? Why does God seem to miraculously intervene in some situations and not others? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Why are some babies born healthy and some with brain tumors?
Why does something so obvious to us–like a need for healing or a certain outcome in an election–seem to go unnoticed by God? And if He sees, why doesn’t He do anything? Is it that He’s uncaring? Unwilling? Unable?
As I continue to reflect on questions like these, I’m coming to some conclusions…
- There’s a lot I don’t know or can’t explain and I’m just going to have to be comfortable with that. God is just way too big for me to “figure Him out.”
- It’s very easy for me to place my trust in the wrong things, like money or a politician. Only God can be trusted.
- But even though I believe He is trustworthy, I’m confused by the things He does or doesn’t do. He could change the course of a storm, but doesn’t. Or maybe He sometimes does and I’m not aware of it. He could heal a young woman’s kidney, but doesn’t. Or maybe even more confusing–someone who lives a healthy lifestyle dies at the age of 35, but a two-pack-a-day smoker lives to be 85.
- I believe God is in control, but I don’t believe He always exerts that control. Look, God spoke the entire universe into existence, so of course He’s in control. But it sure seems to me that He has chosen to let some things (or most things?) just run their natural (or unnatural?) course. Storms happen. Some cells go rogue and become cancer. Stupid people drive drunk and sometimes kill others. And God doesn’t step into to change those things from happening. At least not always.
- God lets us choose. That applies to you, to me and to the other 7 billion people on earth today. We can choose to seek God, or not. We can choose to love others, or not. We can choose to be generous or greedy. We can choose to exercise or eat donuts or both. And at least as far as I can tell, God doesn’t often step in and make us do something we don’t want to do. So that means if 59 million people want to vote for one candidate and 57 million want to vote for the other one, God lets that happen.
- So yes, it’s true that God is in control, but it’s also true that we get to choose how we’ll live and who we’ll vote for and we get to then reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). At least in the United States, we get to choose our leaders, which means we also get to choose the consequences of the decisions our leaders make. That sure seems to be the pattern God established with the nation of Israel. If the king was good–and by “good”, I mean he sought God, obeyed Him and led the nation to do the same–then God blessed them with His protection and provision. When the king was bad and led the people to turn their backs on God, then He allowed His people to experience the negative consequences of their choices.
I don’t have all this figured out. But when it’s all said and done, I’m convinced that God is passionately in love with you and me. He demonstrated that on the cross. I believe it’s always better to seek God and obey Him than it is to go my own way. But even that doesn’t guarantee I’ll always experience a comfortable life. Nor’easters and rogue cells and drunk drivers and bad economic policies happen. And even though God sees and cares and is able to help prevent disasters in my life or in a nation, He doesn’t always do it.
But the good news is this: God’s grace is sufficient no matter what I face. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it in others. Somehow, when life is falling apart all around us, God is able to give supernatural joy and peace and comfort.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections or what God is teaching you. You can leave a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, one more thing. I released my new e-book last month, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I’m not really big on promotion, but I thought I’d let you know it’s available on Amazon for just $2.99. You can get it by clicking here, if you’re interested.
Posted: June 27th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, discouragement, God's character, God's love, seeking God | No Comments »
Very early in His ministry, Jesus was walking by one day and John said to two of his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
So the two disciples start following Jesus.
Jesus turns around and sees these two guys following Him and asks them, “What do you want?”
I’m thinking that maybe these guys were taken off guard by the question because they reply by saying, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
Really? That’s the best you’ve got? “Where are you staying?”
That’s not even an answer, it’s a question. Maybe that’s the best they could do on a moment’s notice. But you and I have more than a moment, so how would you answer the question? If right now, Jesus asked what you wanted, how would you respond?
Do you want more money? A better job? Or maybe just any job at this point? Do you want a spouse? Or a different spouse? Do you want a baby? A house? A car? To no longer be lonely or afraid or depressed?
What do you want? Think about it. Take your time. But give it some thought.
Now what if you gave Jesus your answer and then He looked into your eyes and said, “What do you really want?”
What would you say then?
Posted: May 28th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, God is good, God's character, God's word, pain, seeking God, worry | No Comments »
In Mark 7, there’s a fascinating encounter between Jesus and a deaf man who also has trouble speaking. Here it is…
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
What I find so interesting is how Jesus heals this man. First, He sticks his fingers in the man’s ears. Then, He spits on His fingers and touches the man’s tongue. And with a deep sigh says, “Be opened!”
So why did Jesus stick His fingers in the man’s ears? Why touch the man’s tongue with His saliva? And why the deep sigh?
In the verses immediately preceding these in Mark 7, Jesus told a woman whose daughter was at home and possessed by a demon that she could now go home to her daughter because the demon had left. Jesus could heal and drive out demons without actually being present. He could just speak it and it would happen. So why not just heal the deaf man by speaking?
Have you ever noticed that our “Why? questions often don’t get answers? Asking why really doesn’t get us anywhere. Even if God told us why something happened, we probably wouldn’t be able to grasp it. And sometimes I think our why questions are more of a demand that God explain Himself to us than a legitimate request for understanding, at least that’s true in my case.
Asking “How?” God will do something isn’t much help either. God is infinitely powerful and creative. We can’t possibly imagine all the ways God could meet our needs. Just because we can’t see how something can happen doesn’t mean God can’t see it.
So what do you need God to do?
Provide financially? Heal you? Restore a relationship? Comfort you? Open a door to a new opportunity?
Don’t waste your energy trying to figure out how God will do it. He’s got the “How?” questions all figured out.
The deaf man couldn’t have possibly imagined the unconventional, unexpected way Jesus was going to heal him. Maybe God wants to be just as unconventional and unexpected in your life.
Make it your goal to seek Him and trust Him. There’s great reward in it.
Posted: May 15th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God's word, Holy Spirit, seeking God, worry, Young Life | No Comments »
How desperate is your situation?
Are you at the point where you can’t see any way out? No way that things can get better?
Your spouse wants a divorce. Your company is laying people off. Your child is a drug addict. Your husband is addicted to porn. Your loved one was diagnosed with cancer.
Maybe you’ve been struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. Maybe circumstances are pretty good, but you can’t get free from the anxiety and worry.
How desperate is your situation?
And what are you going to do? Who are you going to turn to?
For the past few days, I’ve been reading in the book of Acts. It’s the Acts of the Apostles, but the book should really be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. He did everything. The apostles were just instruments in His hands.
He told people where to go. He told them what to do and say. He revealed truth. He filled people with power.
He gave them the ability to speak other languages. He gave them power to heal and raise the dead.
Wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit showed up–things changed.
Have you lost hope? Is your situation desperate?
Read the book of Acts. Read John 14-16 where Jesus spoke extensively about the Holy Spirit and what He would do when He came. Cry out to God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Give Him total control of your life. Don’t hold anything back.
The Holy Spirit can do things you could never do. He can change your circumstances or He can change you. Either way, you win. He will not force Himself on you though. He will wait for you to invite Him to be in control. You can continue to do things in your own wisdom and strength or you can turn to Him for help.
Are you willing to abandon yourself to the Holy Spirit?
My wife and daughter, along with four other Young Life leaders from Northwest Arkansas, are leaving on Wednesday (5/16) for a mission trip to Macedonia. Can I ask you to pray for the Holy Spirit to use them in a great way over the next week and a half?
You can follow the ministry of Young Life in Northwest Arkansas and the trip to Macedonia on their new blog.
Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, fear God, God's character, God's love, God's word, grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, prayer, priorities, Relationships, seeking God, sex, sin, trials, Truth, worry | 1 Comment »
- What if God wants to tell you something really important about the next step in your life, but you can’t hear Him because of all the noise?
- What if you exchanged the amount of time you currently spend on your phone, laptop and television with the amount of time you read the Bible and talk to God?
- What if God meant everything He said?
- What if that thing you believe about yourself isn’t true?
- What if freedom isn’t found in doing whatever you want, but in obeying God?
- What if you made it your goal to meet as many of your spouse’s needs and wants as you can…starting today?
- What if you took a big risk to advance God’s kingdom?
- What if heaven is going to be a lot like the absolute best day on earth you can possibly imagine…only a million times better and minus any pain, sin, conflict or difficulties?
- What if your word of encouragement is the only thing that will give someone the hope to keep living?
- What if God is a lot more interested in your response to problems than in getting you out of them?
- What if the same God who did all those miracles in the Bible lives inside you and wants to help you?
- What if you treated your family the way you want to be treated?
- What if how your child treats others is more important than getting an “A” on a test?
- What if God is crazy in love with you?
- What if your current level of obeying God never changes–where will you be in ten years?
- What if God said He was going to bless you financially in proportion to how generous you’ve been lately–would you be excited or disappointed?
- What if you don’t need to worry because God has things figured out?
- What if you’re going to come under spiritual attack and your only defense is believing the truth–how well-armed are you?
- What if someone in the Bible faced the same problems you are and you could learn from that person how to (or not to) handle them?
- What if God treated you the way you treat your spouse?
- What if you don’t have something because you haven’t asked God or if you have asked, you’ve asked with wrong motives?
- What if “fearing God” doesn’t just mean respecting Him or being in awe of Him?
- What if God invented sex and His guidelines for it were for our good, not to rob us of a good time?
- What if the negative emotions (fear, worry, anxiety, etc.) you’re feeling are signal that you’ve got a wrong belief about God or yourself?
- What if almost everything in the world is a distraction to keep you from experiencing life in Christ?
Posted: February 28th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believing God, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, priorities, Relationships, seeking God | No Comments »
I love NASCAR races and last night was the biggest one of the year–the Daytona 500
When that green flag waved, there were forty-three cars racing around a 2.5 mile tri-oval at 200 miles per hour. There were about ten yellow caution flags during the race, which slowed their speed to 55 miles per hour. And there was also one red flag, which completely stopped the cars until the track could be cleaned up after a particularly bad wreck.
200 miles per hour under green. 55 miles per hour under yellow. And zero miles per hour under red.
Which of those would best describe the pace of your life right now?
Between work or school (or both) and activities you’ve committed to and maintaining all of your relationships–does it feel like life is passing by in a blur? Does the fact that it’s almost March surprise you? Are you wondering where the last two months…or two years have gone?
I suspect most of us feel like we’re racing through life at 200 miles per hour. No time to slow down. No time to relax. No margin for error. We’re running under a green flag week after week, month after month, year after year.
There’s just too much to do. There are deadlines to meet. People are counting on us. We’re needed. Know one else can do what we do. And besides, even if we do slow down, it doesn’t mean everyone else will slow down with us. And you know what that means. We’re behind now.
And we can’t have that. Especially if we’re measuring our worth in comparison to others.
When the yellow flag comes out at a race, the pace car enters the track and the cars fall in line behind. The pace car does exactly what it says–it sets the pace.
You and I aren’t very good at setting our own pace. Sometimes we’re too slow, but most often, we’re too fast. Too busy. Over-committed and frenzied.
What would happen though if we not only slowed down and let God set our pace, but actually stopped once in awhile, as well? No running around. Nothing on the schedule. No place to be.
Just time to be.
Time to be alone. With God.
Time to listen. Time to reflect. Time to re-evaluate. To re-charge. And re-focus. On what matters.
It won’t be easy. It’ll mean turning off the phone. And computer. And television. And video games. And whatever other distractions we’ve allowed to rule our lives.
This is the season of Lent. A time of reflection and preparation leading up to Easter. We typically think of Lent as a time “to give something up.”
Well, what if we gave up our addiction to distraction? Even just a couple hours a week?
Will you commit to it? Will you get your calendar out right now and block of an hour or two?
If you’re not sure where to even begin, let me suggest you start with your Bible and a notebook. Read a few Psalms. Read a few chapters from one of the gospels. Ask the Holy Spirit to meet with you.
Maybe a few of these questions will help also help get you started:
- Is Jesus my first love or is it something or someone else? Money? Work? My grades? A relationship?
- Is there something in my life God has put His finger on, but I’ve ignored?
- Am I passionate about the things God is passionate about? Do I know what God is passionate about?
- Am I seeking the God “who is” or the God “I want him to be?”
- What do I think God is teaching me in my current circumstances?
- What negative emotions (fear, anger, worry, anxiety, etc.) am I experiencing? What lies am I believing that produce these feelings?
- Do I have a secret life that if I exposed would bring shame to me or my family?
- Am I a difficult person to live with? Do I regularly experience conflict with family members or c0-workers?
Maybe it’s time to throw yourself a red flag, so you can stop long enough to examine the life you’re living. No one else will do it for you. It’s up to you.
Why not do it now before you wreck or run out of gas?
The Daytona 500 is meant to be run at 200 mile per hour, but life isn’t.
Posted: February 15th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, fear, God's ways, God's will, God's word, marriage | No Comments »
We can do life our way or we can do it God’s way. It’s funny (the sad kind of funny) that we often choose to do it our way and then blame God or get angry with Him when things fall apart. It’s not like He hasn’t revealed His ways to us…
Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. (Deuteronomy 4:1-2)
Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. (Deuteronomy 8:1)
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:35-37)
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:11-12)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
I wonder when we’ll learn.
I wonder when I will.
Posted: February 10th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, faith, God's word, Jesus, marriage, money, remembering, seeking God | No Comments »
Last Sunday at The Church at Arkansas, we began a sermon series entitled, “You and Your Life.” We’re taking a look at six key areas of life that all of us are dealing with. We started with how to determine God’s will. We asked the question, “Am I making this up or is God really speaking?”
This Sunday, I’ll be answering the question, “Why do a lot of single people wish they were married and a lot of married people wish they were single?”
In the coming weeks, we’re also going to answer questions like: Does God want me to be rich? How can I stop doing the things I don’t want to do? And why is this happening–is God punishing me?
What’s interesting is that the answers to each of these questions are very simple. It’s basic, easy to understand stuff. That doesn’t mean change won’t be difficult. It just means the answers are simple to understand.
I’ve always felt like the Christian life is easy to understand, but hard to live. Maybe you can relate. Or maybe for you, it hasn’t been easy to understand. Maybe what’s obvious to others hasn’t been quite so obvious to you. If that’s you, you’re not alone.
In Mark 3, Jesus has been drawing large crowds. He’s healing people, answering questions and calling His disciples. One day, things get so busy that He and his disciples can’t even get in a meal.
Verse 21 says:
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Then the teachers of the law show up and accuse Jesus of being possessed by the prince of demons.
So his family thinks He’s crazy and the religious folks think He’s demon-possessed.
And yet the truth was that God Himself was right in front of them. He was at work in their midst and speaking to them, but they didn’t recognize Him.
Could God be at work in your life, but you’re missing it? Could God be speaking to you about your life, but because you’ve been too busy with other things or just not interested in what He has to say that you’re missing what He’s saying?
If you stepped back from the busyness of life…if you turned off the TV, the computer, the phone, the whatever…if you found a quiet place for an hour or two…and listened to God…what might He be saying? What if most of what’s happening in your life is really just a distraction from the few important things?
Do you remember the story in Luke 10 when Jesus goes to the home of Mary and Martha?
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Maybe the answers to the most important questions about life are right in front of us. Maybe we find them when we just stop long enough to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He has to say.
Posted: February 4th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's word, money, pain and suffering, seeking God, Truth, worry | No Comments »
I love roller coasters. I love the anticipation of that big first drop. I love that feeling of being out of control. And I love the speed. Now I can love all those things because ultimately I trust the ride is safe. Even though it’s a tremendous thrill, I have confidence that I will make it through to the end of the ride.
My default mode or what I believe about roller coasters is: enjoy the ride because you’re going to make it out alive.
You and I also have a default mode for processing life. We have certain ways of responding to people, circumstances, difficulties, surprises, disappointments, etc. If we do nothing to change, we’ll most likely continue to respond the way we always have.
There’s a lot that goes into determining our default settings. Parents, friends, teachers and coaches had a part in setting them for us. So did the media we’ve been exposed to and the books we’ve read. Without consciously thinking about it–we’ve developed a default mode for how we process life and make our choices.
I’ve noticed something about my default mode that I really don’t like. When faced with bad news or even just the unknown, I worry, I fear the worst and I doubt God’s goodness. That’s my default mode. And it looks like it was the same mode the disciples struggled with.
Mark 4:35-41 says…
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Some of these guys were experienced fishermen so they’d experienced bad weather before, but this must have been a really bad storm. There’s no record of anyone saying, “Hey guys, calm down! It’s not that bad. We can ride this out.”
This was a bad storm and they thought they were about to drown. Now what would have changed everything for them, what would have helped reset their default mode, was knowing that the one who was in complete control and who cared for them was asleep on a cushion at the back of the boat.
But they either doubted His power or His care because they wake Jesus up and ask Him a question we’ve probably all asked or at least wondered, “Don’t you care?”
It seems that our default mode, well, I won’t speak for you…it seems that my default mode is to question God’s goodness when circumstances are bad. I allow the severity of the situation to completely obscure the simple fact that God really does care for me.
Even when we don’t see Him doing anything, He is still good and He still cares. We will never escape His grasp. We will never be forgotten. We will never have to go it alone.
So Jesus got up and told the storm to be quiet and still. And it was.
What the disciples didn’t know was that their hearts and minds could have been quiet and still even in the midst of the furious storm. They didn’t have to wait for the storm to be quiet before they could be.
And that should really be my default mode when it comes to life. Sure, there will be tough times and painful circumstances and things I won’t understand, but because God is good and He cares and He’s in control, I can trust Him to see me safely through whatever ups and downs and twists and turns come my way.
Panic. Fear. Worry. Doubt. Discouragement. That’s my default mode. I wish I could say that resetting it is easy, but it’s not, at least it hasn’t been for me. Developing a new default mode requires ongoing effort and time in God’s word to believe the truth–that God is good, that God cares and God is in control.
What is your default mode for handling life?
Does it need to be reset?
Posted: January 19th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, faith, God's word, marriage, seeking God, sex, worry | No Comments »
Have you ever been feeling fine one minute and the next minute you feel anxious or worried or at least a little unsettled?
Does that happen to you? It does to me.
My feelings or mood can change in an instant without any apparent change in my circumstances. One moment I’m fine. The next moment I’m fed up with it all.
Peace gives way to worry.
Contentment turns to restlessness.
Joy fades and is replaced by gloom.
And this can all happen in just about the blink of an eye. But why? What can cause my feelings to change so quickly?
It’s my thoughts. My thoughts are what can change so quickly. And they have a wide-open, direct path to my feelings. Thoughts create feelings.
It’s easy to verify this. Just watch a scary movie. It’s late at night. The babysitter is alone in the house. She’s watching the news and learns a murderer has escaped from a nearby prison. Then the power goes out and she hears a noise. She quietly makes her way to the kitchen and discovers the door has blown open.
How are you feeling as you watch? Nervous? How would you feel if you were watching the movie while all alone…late at night…while babysitting? Anxious? Scared?
The movie is acting as a stimulus, which is producing a response of certain feelings in us.
Or is it?
The movie is the stimulus, but there’s a step in the process before we get to the feelings response. And that missing step is our thoughts about what we’re seeing on the screen.
As we watch, we begin to invest in the character. We wonder (think about) what will happen next? We start to anticipate the murderer showing up and breaking into the house. Our imagination (mind) starts to take over.
And those thoughts produce feelings of nervousness or fear.
Want your feelings to change? Just change your thoughts. Easier said than done, I know. But it is possible. It can be done. God wouldn’t give us a command like, “Do not be anxious about anything…” if it wasn’t somehow possible to obey it.
That passage in Philippians 4 goes on to say, “…but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” How do we deal with anxious feelings? We pray. We offer God our thanksgiving. We present our requests to Him. In other words, we believe God, know that what He says is true and then take action.
And then Paul writes, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Read the rest of the passage to see what else Paul says about thinking.
We can’t change our feelings unless we change our thoughts. And changing our thoughts isn’t very easy unless we also change our actions. And changing our actions will almost always require faith. We must believe God.
So how might this play out in marriage? Maybe for a husband who says, “I’ve fallen out of love with my wife. The spark is gone.”
What would you tell him?
Some people would suggest counseling. And that may be very helpful.
Some would jump to getting a divorce. You’re not happy? Get out. Get on with your life.
But what if the feelings are just a symptom? What if the real problem is a wrong thought? And what if the way to begin correcting the wrong thought is to believe God and start taking action by faith?
Ephesians 5:33 says, “…each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself…”
Do you think God is telling husbands to feel something? “Alright you guys, start feeling warm, affectionate feelings toward your wives!”
That wouldn’t really work, would it? Even if that’s what it meant, we’d still have to change our thoughts. If I told you to feel sad, you’d have to think sad thoughts. The same goes for feeling angry or scared or anxious. Again, thoughts produce feelings. So what needs to change is our thoughts. And those will change as we believe God and start to act in line with His word.
So what about the husband (or wife) who has fallen out of love?
If he’ll listen, he needs to know that he can fall back into love by starting to love his wife. Love is a verb. You do loving things and the feelings will follow along. Maybe not immediately, but they’ll come.
He can begin to serve her and sacrifice for her. He can put her needs before his own. He can engage her in conversation. He can take the initiative to meet her needs in the bedroom. He can cook dinner and clean the kitchen. He can prepare a hot bath for her while he helps the kids with their homework.
Will he feel like doing those things? Not at first. But we’re not talking about what we feel like doing.
We’re talking about the verb, love. And verbs are action words. Run. Kick. Laugh. Climb. Tickle. Love. All actions.
Believe God and walk by faith. Begin to love and think differently. Change your thoughts. Stop thinking love is just a feeling that you’ve “fallen out of.” You didn’t fall out of love. You thought your way out and you can think and act your way back in.
Is this easy? No. It’s going to be hard, because we’re so used to listening to our feelings and assuming they are our guiding light. But they’re not. Our thoughts are.
I know this is much harder if your spouse isn’t interested in the marriage any longer or is not willing to even try to make things work. Our responsibilities and actions are never dependent on someone else though.
We are to walk by faith, do what we know to do and trust God for the results.