In my thirty-plus years of counseling, I’ve never seen parents feel as much pressure or as much like failures as they do today. I’ve never had as many parents in tears in my office. And I’ve certainly never seen as many parents who live in a perpetual state of worry.
How would you say worry affects you, as a parent? I certainly believe, after sitting with parents day in and day out in my office, that not only do you worry more because you are a parent, but those worries affect you differently as well. I list five ways anxiety affects parents in my new book, The Worry-Free Parent, but here I want to highlight two major ways anxiety impacts the parent.
1. Anxiety distracts us.
One of the things I hear parents say most often is how distracting anxiety is. In fact, I’ve learned through my work with kids and parents that anxiety and ADHD, particularly the inattentive kind, are almost identical symptomatically. Both cause restlessness, a lack of focus, difficulty regulating emotions, and even sleep impairment. Do any of those sound familiar? Even more specifically, have you ever found yourself
- not listening to your child because you’re worried about what’s happening next on your schedule?
- unable to remember the conversation you had with your daughter before the birthday party because you were concerned about how she would do once she got to the party?
- unable to laugh and play with your kids, simply because of all that’s pressing in on you?
There are a million ways worry distracts us on a daily basis. But maybe one of the saddest is that it robs us of time connecting with the kids we love—really connecting in hear-their-words and look-them-in-the-eyes ways. That connection is foundational not only to building but to maintaining your relationship over the long haul. And the long haul really isn’t long enough. We want to be present for these long days and short years. We want to be able to let go of our worries in a way that keeps us in the moment, instead of imagining the future years based more on our anxious distortions than on reality.
2. Anxiety makes us attach future meaning to present problems.
In my counseling practice with kids and teens, I hear the same refrain from parents every day:
“I don’t think I’m preparing my child well for the future.”
“I haven’t had him in travel sports, and now he’ll never be able to keep up at a high school level.”
“I haven’t had her in enough Kumon classes or tutoring, and now she won’t be able to get into the right school that will help her get into the right college.”
“She didn’t start cheerleading at four, and now we’ve lost our chance for her to ever make a competitive team.”
Do you hear the familiar thread? The parent fears something not done today will negatively impact their child’s tomorrow.
The worries can be over what we believe we haven’t offered them. The sports or academics or lessons or learning opportunities we believe we’ve missed that will hinder our child’s future in some life-altering way. Or the characteristics we haven’t taught. The things we feel “all the other parents” have been doing that we haven’t been able to get done. We haven’t started chores. We haven’t been saying our grateful lists at the dinner table.
We’re not keeping up, which means our children won’t be able to keep up—or measure up—in all the ways that will lead to their success, our anxiety tells us. But it’s simply not true.
The worries can also be over skills or traits our kids currently lack.
“Because he can’t sit still in kindergarten means he’ll never make it in grade school, and there’s no way he’ll be able to hold a job when he’s older.”
“How will she ever be able to function as an adult when she doesn’t keep her room clean now?”
“If he’s not responsible enough to remember to take out the trash at thirteen, why would I ever believe he’d be responsible enough to drive a car?”
“She thinks about herself all the time as a middle schooler. I’m not sure how she’ll ever be able to have a healthy, caring relationship with another person.”
The list goes on and on. In our worry, we become fortune tellers for our kids. We decide what’s happening now will be happening five, ten, even twenty years from now. Or what’s not happening now—either what we missed or the characteristics we believe they’re missing—will handicap them for the rest of their lives.
Kids are developing people. Their job is to learn under our roof while they’re still home with us and we can help them learn. Our job is to eventually raise healthy, well-functioning adults. Eventually is the key word. They are not those adults yet.
In terms of brain development, the last portions of our brains to develop are the frontal lobes, which house the executive functioning part of our brains. The frontal lobes help develop our working memories, dictate impulse control, help us think logically, manage our emotions, and plan for the future. In the last twenty years, neuroimaging research has taught us those frontal lobes may not be fully developed until approximately age twenty-five.i Your eight-year-old isn’t capable of managing her emotions in the same way she will be at eighteen. Your twelve-year-old doesn’t yet have the skills to carry the same responsibilities he will be able to at twenty. Your fourteen-year-old is somewhat narcissistic. It’s a normal and even an important stopover on the journey of development and individuation for all kids. The narcissism will fade. He will get there. And so will she.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the kids we love, our worries take over and cause our shortsightedness to become long reaching. We decide, based on their own developmental immaturity, that something is wrong. They already should be able to _____________ (fill in the blank). Rather than seeing the gap as a normal part of their development, we believe it’s a character flaw. And worse still, one that will mark their lives, both personally and professionally, forever.
What is one way you’ve been fortune-telling about your child’s life? What’s a future, problematic meaning you’ve attached to an area in which they’re still growing?
Your child is growing into who God has created him or her to be. It is a journey and one that takes many unexpected and messy twists and turns along the way. Think back on your own becoming. What were some of your missteps, and how have they impacted your adulthood? What were some of the clumsier, less mature moments, and how have those contributed to who you are? My guess is that all of them have folded into the strengths, the character, and the wisdom that now mark not only your life but your parenthood. The same will be true for your kids. Trust the process. Trust your child. And trust that there is Someone in charge who is a much better predictor of the future than you or I.
Excerpted from The Worry-Free Parent by Sissy Goff. Copyright © August 2023 by Bethany Publishing House. Used by permission. www.RaisingBoysandGirls.com
Sissy Goff, LPC-MHSP, has worked as the director of child and adolescent counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries since 1993. She speaks to parents and children’s ministers across the country and is a frequent guest on media outlets such as Southern Living, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, Focus on the Family, That Sounds Fun, Family Life Today, Fox News, and many more. Sissy Goff is the author of 13 books including her latest, The Worry-Free Parent. She co-hosts the chart-topping Raising Boys and Girls podcast, with fellow Daystar Counselor David Thomas. The podcast just celebrated more than 5 million downloads to date. www.RaisingBoysandGirls.com @RaisingBoysandGirls
To be human is to suffer. As we will eventually see, the question is not if we each suffer. It is, rather, To what degree are we aware of it? and How are we in relationship with and responding to it? These questions reveal not only the story we believe we are living in, but the role that suffering plays in that narrative.
I make no promise that we will suffer less. But I am confident that we will suffer differently and will become even more durably hopeful as a result. Primarily, I expect us to come to see that hope is actually a word that, in the world of interpersonal neurobiology, serves as a proxy for an ever-deepening attachment love with Jesus and the commensurate awareness of God’s relational presence of lovingkindness.
I’d like to invite you to pause and direct your attention to what you perceive your embodied responses to be when you consider what it means to “trust” God. Your embodied responses are what you sense in your body upon imagining Jesus telling you, “Indeed, it is finished. It’s all done. All those things that we both know keep you from receiving my love for you—I’m not paying attention to them. I’m paying attention to you. And I want you to only pay attention to me. I want you at my banquet. I want you sitting right next to me and to the others who I know can’t wait to sit next to you when they see you. I would love for you to believe me—that it’s all true.”
How difficult is it to receive that? What do you sense, imagine, feel, think, and want to do physically in response to hearing Jesus say this? Moreover, were you to imagine such an encounter, could you receive it as having represented something genuine, something real that has taken place in the real world? Or, since we have come to believe that if we are imagining something “in our minds” then it could not possibly “exist” as a real event in the real world, would you dismiss it?
We have been trained by many cultural forces over the last five hundred years to believe that if something can’t be currently measured in material terms, if it is limited to the “imagination,” then it can’t be “real.” But you know that just because you can’t see your friend sitting before you and can only imagine their face and the sound of their voice in your mind, they are not merely imaginary.
What are we to do with findings of research that demonstrate how athletes and musicians can enhance their performance on the court or in the concert hall by repeatedly practicing those very actions in their imaginations?i They are effectively shifting their embodied responses in certain contexts (the athletic court and the concert hall) by wiring their brains to anticipate those very scenarios. In this way, their brains—from which emerge the functional feature of their imaginations and their conscious awareness of them—and then, by extension, the actions they take as a result are essentially on a continuum, connected as they are within their bodies and to the intentionality of the musician or athlete.
Similarly, who of your friends could tell you how they feel about you and you would live, at least for the next few hours, as if you believed them? As if what you felt in your chest was real. On more occasions than I can tell you, people have told me how much I mean to them, how much they love me, only for their words and presence to vanish like vapor from my mind the moment they are no longer in my sight.
I am left with only the memory of what they have said and what I sensed, imaged (that is, to literally construct a visual image in my mind), felt, and thought as they said it—and often the memory is not durable enough for me to sustain the same felt sense of their affection for me which I had for that brief moment. Hence, I have to practice—literally—bringing those moments to memory over and over in order for them to become embedded not only in my cognitive recollection but in my embodied sensations, feelings, and images as well.
In this way, by practicing with real, embodied relationships in my here-and-now life, I am granted what it gets close to being like when I imagine Jesus coming for me in the same way. This is how the body of Jesus works, and it is why Paul’s words of us being Jesus’s body, and not merely his followers or his church, capture everything that we are to become for each other and the world. And it is why hope is first given life in the context of securely attached, physically remembered relationships rather than being merely a function of our cognition.
Hope—the future state of time that our minds long to occupy—must begin with a relationally grounded, material experience with Jesus mediated through the Spirit, the Scriptures, and, often most powerfully, his body. We become increasingly receptive, experientially and thereby theologically, to our having been justified—declared free of our guilt and shame and welcomed into God’s family—to the degree that we encounter that justification in an embodied fashion, one in which we are ever living into earned secure attachment. Upon this taking place, the prospect of hope—even in the presence of suffering—begins to form in our minds.
Taken from The Deepest Place by Curt Thompson. Copyright © 2023 by Curt Thompson. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
Inspired by deep compassion for others and informed from a Christian perspective, psychiatrist Curt Thompson, MD shares fresh insights and practical applications for developing more authentic relationships and fully experiencing our deepest longing: to be known.
Through his workshops, speaking engagements, books, organizational consulting, private clinical practice, and other platforms, he helps people process their longings, grief, identity, purpose, perspective of God, and perspective of humanity, inviting them to engage more authentically with their own stories and their relationships. Only then can they feel truly known and connected and live into the meaningful reality they desire to create. Curt and his wife, Phyllis, live outside of Washington DC and have two adult children.
Servanthood shapes our lives in a vast number of ways. We serve others when we help meet their physical needs. We serve others when we teach them or offer guidance. We serve others when we feed them, care for them medically, or provide them with comfort. Servanthood shows up in big acts of kindness such as these, but it also shows up in small ways with the people who are the closest to us.
I serve my children, for example, when I take extra time to help them with a homework problem. I serve my wife when I offer to cook dinner, do the dishes, fix the car, build a set of bookshelves, or simply lay down my desires for what is in her best interests. Servanthood manifests itself in an almost endless number of ways. Therefore, a chapter that focuses on what a servant does could be longer than anyone would care to read. Suffice it to say that servanthood shows up in virtually every action of our lives.
Because servanthood manifests itself so broadly, the last thing I want to suggest is that there are just one or two ways we primarily serve Jesus. Being a servant applies to everything we do. Yet I want to argue in this chapter that as servants, we must always be faithful to one priority—sharing the love of Jesus Christ with the people God puts in our lives.
Too often, Christians busy themselves with silly debates over the best way to help people experience the love of God. Some say we should show the love of Christ by our actions, being cautious not to offend others with our words. However, if we don’t connect the dots between our actions and God’s love, the result will be people with nothing more than fuzzy misunderstandings about God’s love and grace.
On the other hand, others say we shouldn’t focus on showing our love for others but on preaching Jesus to them. However, this approach often doesn’t accomplish what we seek because the message doesn’t line up with the actions of the messenger. Advocates of these two differing approaches are often deeply critical of each other.
Notice the either/or nature of the debate. For both sides, it is either their approach or the other approach. Might we ask, however, why is it an either/or? Or, to press the point harder, shouldn’t we think of acts of service and evangelism in a both/and way?
I firmly believe the both/and approach is the better way. Kind service and clear gospel proclamation are not antithetical to each other. Even more, they are both mandated to us by Christ Himself. So then, the doing of servanthood, which has almost limitless application, should be accompanied by clear gospel sharing. But the opposite is also true: our gospel sharing should be accompanied by clear demonstrations of servanthood. While some want to debate approaches, I want to join the two. We must serve others with our actions, and we must also share Jesus with them. Next I will highlight a few simple points about how to share Jesus as we serve.
Proclaiming and Serving Together
First Corinthians emphasizes the point I made above. In 1 Corinthians 2:1–2, Paul writes, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Paul here reminds the Corinthians of what matters most in his ministry to them. Above all else, he wants to know that they believe in Jesus who was crucified for them. For those who think all we really need to do is preach the gospel and forget about showing love through our actions, these verses may seem to make their point. After all, Paul does seem to say that preaching Jesus is what matters most. Paul wasn’t concerned with impressive arguments or eloquent wisdom. Instead, he just preached Jesus.
However, this view ignores the rest of what Paul said in his two letters to the Corinthians, as well as everything He did for them when he visited them. The full picture of Paul’s ministry makes clear that he cared for them in every possible way. Paul gave himself to them and served as a faithful shepherd. In 1 Corinthians 9:19–23, he describes the way he became a servant to all people for the sake of the gospel.
Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law—to win those under the law. To those who are without the law, like one without the law—though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ—to win those without the law. To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.
We shouldn’t take Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 2:2 as an indication that all we need to do is share the gospel. Such a view fails to capture Paul’s full teaching and example. At the same time, Paul upholds gospel proclamation as the ultimate goal of our service to others. In Paul’s teaching and example, therefore, we have both/and on display. Yes, he cared for the Corinthians and served them. He did this so that he could share the love of Jesus with them. It was not either/or for Paul, and it shouldn’t be for us either.
Through kindness and service, we gain an audience with people who might not otherwise listen to the gospel. Once we have an audience, we can unpack the gospel. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In Acts 4:12, Peter told the Jewish leaders that there “is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” Paul also wrote in Romans 5:6, 8 that “while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” With passages such as these, the gospel should always be on our lips around the people we serve. We demonstrate Jesus’s love with our actions, but we also communicate it with the gospel.
Why Servants Proclaim the Gospel
Why should we be intentional about sharing the gospel while we serve people? As students of the Scriptures, we know that salvation cannot be achieved through our effort or spiritual labor. In Galatians 2:21, for example, Paul writes, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”
Notice that if a person could earn merit before God through their own effort, then Christ died for no reason. Yet the Father would not have had His Son die without a purpose. Paul’s point is that Jesus’s death is necessary for our salvation. In Romans 4:4, Paul tells us that even if we did work for our salvation, it would count against us, not for us. Clearly, God saves not through our effort but through His saving grace found in the death of His Son. Nonetheless, most people believe that salvation is up to them. We cannot assume they understand grace; it must be made clear to them.
Furthermore, we cannot take for granted that people understand what motivates our kind service to them. While Christian love is unique and powerful, it is not uncommon for people to encounter nice people who are caring toward them. Unless we tell them about God’s saving love, they may fail to understand it. Paul reminds us of the need for clear gospel communication in Romans 10. He says:
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. But not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. (vv. 13–17)
Anyone who calls on Christ will be saved. Paul assures us of this in verse 13. But Paul then asks an all-too-critical set of questions. How is it possible for them to call on Him when they haven’t believed unless someone comes to them with the gospel? In short, it’s impossible. Paul’s point is that we have to be the conduit through which Jesus is preached to others. It is essential that we share the gospel as we serve the people God puts in our lives.
Paul concludes, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.” When we couple the gospel with our kind acts of service, we both show and speak the love of Jesus into others’ lives. We cannot simply assume they understand the gospel. We have to be explicit about sharing it.
James K. Dew Jr. is president and professor of philosophy at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. The author or editor of several books, he served for many years as a senior pastor and in various pastoral leadership roles.
At least, that’s the term we use when a prayer seems to have no resonance, no evidence of heaven touching earth. In other words, God didn’t do what we wanted him to do, when we wanted him to do it.
You prayed for your parents to stay together and now they’re divorced.
You prayed for God to open the door for a career opportunity and now you’re even more confused about what to do than before.
You prayed for things to work out with your relationship and now your ex has moved on.
You prayed for healing and now things look worse than ever.
I was recently on a phone with a friend who’s become disillusioned with God, prayer, church, and what it all means. He’s a smart guy and has a way of cutting through empty sentiments with his wit and honesty.
At one point, while we were specifically talking about prayer, he said flatly, “Addison, I just don’t like waking up early to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t talk back. I mean, God’s the only one who gets away with not showing up for a moment that he expects you to show up for daily.”
My friend felt like God had let him down at key moments of his life, moments when he needed answers, moments when he felt lost and alone, moments when life had hit him hard. He did his part, but God didn’t “show up” . . . and that just seemed like a bad deal to him. His transactional view of prayer didn’t pay out, and he was left wondering,
“What’s the point of praying if God doesn’t show up or talk back?”
If you’re still reading this blog, chances are you’re serious about this whole prayer thing, so I want to give you a few things to help you on your journey.
I had a season of about five years when I felt abandoned by God. Insomnia stole my nights. Anxiety crippled my peace. And I was barely getting through the days. I felt stuck in a canyon. Doubt and discouragement were my companions and when it came to prayer the only words that I could hear were the echoes of my cries.
As you can imagine, I started to question the effectiveness of my prayers. I had to wonder if I was having words with God or just words with myself.
Through this time, though, God showed me that He’s not afraid of my doubt. I was reminded that even Abraham, the one who Scripture refers to as the father of faith, doubted God. His doubt led to some questionable behavior, such as giving his wife to other men and having sex with a servant to birth an heir. Yet in his letter to Rome (and us), Paul writes that somehow Abraham never gave into unbelief. That led me to search out the difference between unbelief and doubt, because surely Abraham doubted.
To put it simply, unbelief is the rejection of God himself, whereas doubt is the rejection of our idea of God. Unbelief is to deny God’s faithfulness. Doubt is to question when or how God will be faithful. Unbelief leads to apathy. Doubt often results in misdirected action.
I realized that it wasn’t that I doubted God’s ability to do whatever he wants to do, I just doubted myself, my worthiness, perception, and skill.
The truth is, God’s done a lot over the years with honest doubters. Doubt, when acknowledged, spoken, and surrendered to God, transforms into faith. To put it squarely in the form of a question: Can we even know that God is faithful until life’s given us a reason to doubt his faithfulness?
When we’re disappointed with the outcome of our prayers, we arrive at a crossroads between doubt and faith. And it’s here where many run from God. In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of people leave the Church and look for a more authentic way to live and make sense of pain. Life is hard, and the formulaic, transactional view of God and prayer didn’t cut it for them . . . or for us if we’re honest.
That is why we mustn’t keep God at arm’s length by hiding our doubts from Him. God’s not afraid of our dissonance, questions, and pain—He’s the One who knows us inside and out. When it comes to prayer, or anything for that matter, bring your doubts to God. Trust me, He can handle them. And real prayer has a way of reframing our doubts without denying the pain that they carry.
I was just reading Psalm 142 this morning, and in this psalm, David cries, “I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him” (v. 2 ESV). You see, Scripture gives us permission to have messy words with God. David was unafraid to embrace the tension between doubt and faith because he later writes, “When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!” (v. 3 ESV)
The challenge for most of us is we haven’t opened the conversation. We can’t see the interconnectedness of prayer in every moment of our lives. Paul’s words “pray without ceasing” sound like an impossible chore (and bore). We still view prayer as just a lifeline and not a lifestyle.
But what if we’ve gotten it all wrong. When understood for what it is, “pray without ceasing” is actually an invitation to constant rest, a rest that comes from the awareness that the Spirit is at hand. That God is indeed more invested in us getting Life right than we are. I think of what David writes in Psalm 37,
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand. (vv. 23–24 NLT)
Maybe it feels like you are stumbling through a Canyon, and the only sound you can hear are the cries and doubts of your heart, reverberating back to you in the thin silence. Maybe you’ve already given up on prayer.
If you’ve made it this far, your heart is not faint. So I will share a dangerous and terrifying truth with you…
The canyon, in all its wildness, is our pathway home. Like a child sent into the wilderness for a rite of passage, so our journey takes us into and through the doubt and silence.
It’s in the canyon that we wrestle with God and discover who we are and what we’re capable of. It’s in the canyon where empty words are exchanged for real connection. It’s in the canyon that we face off with our ideas of prayer, God, and many other things, so we can surrender to the mind of Christ. It’s in the canyon that we figure out that a “prayer life” is much more than a spiritual exercise; it’s the higher consciousness that reorders and integrates life, reclaiming every bit of living (and us) as holy and necessary to God’s purposes and design.
The canyon’s silence helps us join our voice—our holy amen—with the Voice again.
For even in the canyon’s echo, the Voice speaks.
Parts of this post were adapted from Words with God: Trading Boring, Empty Prayer for Real Connection by Addison D. Bevere, released April 18, 2023.
Addison Bevere loves disassembling the boxes that fragment and frustrate our lives—a process he calls integrative faith. He is the author of a few titles, including Words with God. A speaker, songwriter, and poet, Addison serves as the COO of Messenger International, a discipleship organization that impacts millions of people in nearly every country. He and his wife, Juli, have four children and live in Nashville, Tennessee.
How often do you feel overwhelmed? Does this season of life make you feel overwhelmed more times than you can count, too?
Just the other day, I got to have coffee with my friend (and Live Original ambassador) Georgia Brown. My thoughts and feelings were all over the place as we talked about the season of life I’m walking through as a new mom. As soon as I was done sharing, she responded with something so powerful not just for me, but for you, too: “This was all God’s idea.”
Those five words left me speechless for a second. Go ahead and give yourself a second to let that sink in. It is powerful, isn’t it?
The longer and longer I let that sentence simmer, the more my perspective started to shift. It got me thinking: What if there is a way to pivot our perspective when we start to feel overwhelmed? What if we traded feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances for being overwhelmed by the power, goodness, and faithfulness of God?
Think about it: God isn’t surprised by the blessings He has given to you to steward in this season. He also isn’t surprised by the deep waters you’re treading through. Not a single day in your life is without a plan or a purpose.
In fact, your entire life was God’s idea. He gave you your specific gifts that are unique to you. He gave you the people around you to love on and do life with. He not only created you, but He made a way to live with you forever. God chooses you. He loves and adores you.
What if we let these truths overwhelm us instead of whatever is going on in our life? If we let our circumstances or the situation that we’re in the middle of overwhelm us, we’ll feel stuck with no way to move forward. If we choose to be overwhelmed by who God is, how He has intentionally orchestrated our life, and what He has done for us, we’ll be able to walk out this season with the power and authority He gives us as His children.
Don’t you see? So often what we see as a dead-end is where God is just getting started. We don’t have to live like we are defeated – He has already won! We are far from paralyzed where we are. We are not without next steps where we are. We are not alone where we are.
We have an invitation to walk through this season and the next one with the One who already had you in mind before He created you. He is the same God who had you in mind when He made a way for you to spend eternal life with Him through Jesus before you were even born.
This won’t be the first or last time that we are overwhelmed, but it can be the last time we sit with the same posture and perspective we had before. There is a choice for us to make: What are we going to be overwhelmed by?
Will we choose to be overwhelmed by our never-ending to-do lists or will we choose to be overwhelmed by the One whose love for us is never-ending? Will we choose to be overwhelmed by our situation that seems hopeless or will we choose to be overwhelmed by the very One who gifted us with hope? Will we choose to be overwhelmed by the mess we’re in the middle of or will we choose to be overwhelmed by the One who makes miracles happen?
We can choose to sit with a posture of one who has already lost when we feel overwhelmed or we can choose to walk with the One who has already won. Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG says, “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”
As Georgia says best, “This was all God’s idea.” He’s got you and He’s never going to leave you.
Here are some verses we can set our gaze on to help us pivot our perspective and become overwhelmed by God’s power, goodness, and faithfulness today:
- “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 MSG
- “But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies into glories bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.” Philippians 3:20-21 MSG
- “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done that whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.” Ephesians 2:7-10 MSG
- “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” Romans 8:26-28 MSG
Keep going, friend! Let this set the tone for how you run your race today.
Hope Reagan Harris is a wife, new mom, coffee connoisseur, author, and corporate junkie on a mission to encourage you where God has you. You can become Instagram or TikTok friends with her today @hopereaganharris.
My grandfather grew up in poverty in the bayous of southern Louisiana. When he was a young child, he contracted polio and lost his ability to walk. The Shriners Hospital paid for a surgery that fused his knee and gave him some mobility, but for his entire life, he had to use a cane. Eventually, he had to use a wheelchair. He became very successful in business but was always so concerned about his safety and ability to be mobile that he hardly ever stopped moving. Always buying or selling land. Always trying to keep a safety net around him to compensate for his limp. He regularly had two or three backup mobility devices in his garage, just in case.
The last months of his life, he was bedridden. It was a dark cave for him. During his final weeks, I watched him surrender to where he was. I’ll never forget sitting next to him in his bed, just a few days before his death, when he said, “Joël, God has taught me more about who He is while I was laying in this bed for the last few months than I think I’ve learned in my entire life.” My grandpa was constantly running, trying to prove he wasn’t limited. He was always trying to provide and make sure he would be safe. He didn’t want to show any weakness. But the last few months of his life forced him to slow down. God was working—right until the end—helping my grandfather process a lifetime of seasons. God will accomplish his work, to the very end. But I’m convinced that we don’t have to wait until the very end to make some sense of life.
If you want to find some meaning beyond just survival right now (which is exactly what I hope this book is helping you do), acknowledge your reality and lean into it. Don’t despise the wounds and the limp you’ve gotten on the journey. Like my grandfather, we all tend to see our limp as the greatest threat to our security, connection, or control. It’s a sensitive spot that leaves us vulnerable— something we need to compensate for. But it’s our limp that God uses to give us a message for the world.
There’s an odd story in Genesis where Jacob, the grandson of Abraham the patriarch, demands a blessing from an angel and ends up in a wrestling match with him for it. Jacob does get the blessing, but in the process, the angel permanently injures Jacob’s hip. Then the angel (who, it turns out, is God Himself) changes Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “wrestles with God.” Jacob got his blessing in the very moment he got a wound he would carry for the rest of his life.
With that wound, he also got a new identity. He became Israel and stepped into fulfilling his role in the promise given to his ancestor Abraham of making a great nation. He was part of completing the work of his father, but first he had to enter the battle and emerge with a wound.
I think this story is a picture of what happens in our lives.
Every circle will come with wounds. Wounds people gave us. Wounds we gave ourselves. Others are wounds that God Himself allowed to be inflicted. But in the strange irony of God’s redemption, those wounds are often what He uses to accomplish His purpose in your life. The blessing you want in your life will often come with a deep wound that causes you to limp. The wound you got in the dark cave may actually be precisely what God uses to give you a new perspective.
What if you saw your wounds as the grace of God? Yes, a limp feels limiting. Sometimes our wounds make us feel like half the person we used to be. But what if they’re what God wants to use as the source of your strength, so you can truly say, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Talk about a perspective shift!
In Thornton Wilder’s short play, The Angel that Troubled the Waters, a man is sitting by a healing pool waiting for an angel to stir up the waters so he can jump in and be healed of a flaw he doesn’t like about himself. The angel appears, stirs the water, but then refuses to let the man enter the pool for his healing. The man protests, begging the angel to let him in. But the angel says: “Without your wounds, where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”
Your wounds have the power to speak life to others. Your wounds give you a message to share with the world.
Is it possible that the thing you’re most ashamed of—the thing you hate the most from your past—is what God wants to use as part of redeeming the world from darkness? In the words of an ancient mystic, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” What if the limp you try to hide—the wound—is the very thing that will open the door to make an impact in this world? As Robert Bly said it, “Where a man’s wound is, there he finds his genius.”
What about the parts of your story—the circles—you still can’t make sense of or bring any closure to? You’ve tried to find resolution, you even pulled back and spent some time pondering, but it’s not bringing any peace. I’ve been there, and I like what Rainer Rilke has to say about those unresolved parts:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Joël Malm is the founder of Summit Leaders, where he uses outdoor adventure and leadership coaching to help people find their calling and pursue a vision for their lives. His expeditions to places like Mount Kilimanjaro, the Grand Canyon, and Machu Picchu have taken him to more than seventy countries on six continents. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in counseling. Fluent in three languages, Joël speaks at churches, conferences, and corporate events nationwide and is the author of Vision Map (Moody Press, 2014), Fully You, Love Slows Down (Salem Books, 2020), and Guided by Thunder. He lives with his wife and daughter in Texas.