Archive for April, 2015

I seem to have a hard time accepting things I can’t change. I keep rehashing the past to try to change it so that today will be different.

What I have a hard time accepting is that I can’t change the past. What’s happened has happened and I need to accept it.

I had a recent ministry and a childhood home that I wish had been different. But it wasn’t. Now I need to accept the past that I can’t change, learn from it, and move on. No amount of hindsight and rehashing will change it. Otherwise, I will remain stuck in my grief, hurt, and anger. I will continue to heal as I accept what I can’t change, pardon the guilty, and expect that God will eventually bring good from it.

Why It’s So Hard

I think one of the big reasons that we don’t accept what we can’t change is that we want the past to be different. We want to call the shots. We get angry when God works or allows things to go differently. Dang it! We want to be God!

For example, when we’re hurt, we often want to take the law into our own hands and hurt those who hurt us. But God says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19).

This makes it hard to accept the hurt because God doesn’t want us to overcome evil with evil. Instead, he wants us to overcome it with good (Romans 12:21).

Another reason it’s hard to accept hard truth is that we are immature. We still harbor fantasies of greatness and grandiosity that run up against hard facts that we can’t change. We have limits on our I.Q., opportunities, and energy that we often refuse to accept because they interfere with our dreams of pleasure and ego.

Another reason we fail to accept what we can’t change is that daily reality is not what we want it to be. For example, it’s hard to accept the fact that without God, we can do NOTHING of eternal value (John 15:5).

But we don’t like that truth. We love living the fantasy of being the Captain of our Ship, the Master of our Destiny. It feels good! But it’s a lie.

Can we accept what we can’t change, that we need God to succeed in life? Or will we stay stuck in feeling good but deceiving our self by a whirlwind of activity that is a waste of time (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)?

What a sad result for failing to accept what we can’t change.

What’s Helpful

So, what would help us to accept what we can’t change?

One thing that is helpful is to know that our circumstances were allowed by God – and he has promised to work them for good. Rather than viewing the pain of the past with anger and regret, accept it and expect God to bring good from it.

Paul rejoiced in his painful situations because he knew that they would bring him closer to God. “Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Would we be who we are today without some of those things we’d love to change?

Another thing we can do is to avoid comparisons. For example, it would’ve been nice if my childhood home had been as loving as my son and daughter-in-law’s home is that they are creating for their kids. But it wasn’t – and that will never change. I need to get over it. I need to grieve the past, forgive who needs forgiveness, rejoice in the good, and make lemonade out of lemons.

A final thought is that painlessness has never been God’s goal for us – godliness has. God says, “Better to be godly than comfortable and immature” (Proverbs 15:16, paraphrased). As we move forward in life, may we use the Serenity Prayer to accept what we can’t change.

The Serenity Prayer 

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.  

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I was talking to a friend a few days ago. I asked him how it was going. He said that it wasn’t going good. He said that he thought that he had learned how to deal with anxiety, but for the last few mornings he had awakened with his heart pounding from fear. He said that he seemed to be anxious about his work, family, ministry, and whatever else was going on. He knew what he needed to do, but it didn’t seem to be working yet. He wondered if he would ever learn.

I assured him that I knew how he felt. I too was dealing with a problem that I thought I had learned how to handle.

I have a life-long habit of stuffing negative feelings. This is not good. I need to resolve the issues that give birth to the feelings and also express the feelings.

When I don’t do that, I often get body pains. I have had backaches, neck aches, toothaches, hand pains, and finger pains, all resulting from stuffed feelings like anger, hurt, grief, fear, and sadness.

I know that this is true, because the pain has gone away at least 20 times in the last seven years, as I have applied techniques that I learned that assume the pain is being driven by emotions. This chronic pain has ranged from a few days to three years. No doctor was able to get rid of the pain.

But now I have back pain again, which two doctors are clueless about what is causing it. From what I’ve learned, it’s due to stuffed anger.

So what’s going on? Will I ever learn how to deal with my feelings so that pain never comes back?

Why It’s So Hard

The sad truth is that it’s hard to change. The Bible teaches us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). This means that the way we were trained from childhood will tend to be the way we deal with our issues as adults, long after we have learned to do it better.

God knows this. He says, “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:2). And, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).

How We Learn

We learn better ways of dealing with life by being retrained. Not just learning about doing better, but actually doing better as a habit – which can be hard work.

We often don’t get it the first time — or the second, or the 20th time. Old habits die hard.

Jesus knew this when he was training his disciples. He does a miracle and feeds 5,000 with five loaves of bread. Then he does another miracle and feeds 4,000 with seven loaves of bread. But later, the disciples worried about having enough to eat (Mark 8). They still didn’t get it.

So, we can expect to have to revisit the challenges of our past–with one twist. In some ways the challenges will often be harder. God seems to peel away our old ways layer by layer.

In my case, the pain this time is in an area where it’s never been before. And my capacity to ignore a physical source is diminishing as I continue to age.

But God is relentless. He doesn’t give up easily, if ever. We shouldn’t either.

As David grew in faith and skill, he was prepared to take on Goliath (1 Samuel 17). As we grow in our faith and skill to deal with our challenges, we will become more useable and like him.

So, as we revisit challenges that we thought we had already learned how to handle, may we remember that it’s hard to change deeply. Also, our challenges often will have new challenges within it. But this is God’s process to transform us gradually into godlier people, “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).


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Sowing In Tears

In my desire to be motivated and grow as a writer, I attended a Christian writers conference last week. In one of the workshops, the leader gave us a homework assignment to ask God what he thought of our writing.

This was a little scary. It was kind of like getting a report card from God. But I did ask him, and he did respond.

He indicated that although my writing was very good, I was in a season of sowing in tears. This means a lot of work without many results.

Sounds depressing doesn’t it. But he assured me that he would help me through this season, including helping me become a better writer. He also indicated that in his time there would be considerable results.

But I have been trained to misuse results to determine God’s direction, my worth, or the worth of what I am doing. I have often regarded low results as an indicator of not being in God’s will, not being important, or a waste of time.

Therefore, little results are painful for me.

So, is it worth it to continue to sow in tears? Wouldn’t it be better to do something else less painful that has a bigger immediate payoff?

The answer is “No.”

Why Do It

God has called all of us to live by faith. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). But what does this mean?

It means that we follow God’s will no matter what. No matter the pain and no matter how ridiculous it may seem, we follow what God is leading us to do.

We are to lean hard on his promised support, not on our often failing strength, to endure and thrive in seasons of sowing in tears.

We need to remember that our efforts are not in vain if God has led us to do it. God says to us, “Be steadfast, immovable, always doing what I want you to do, knowing that your hard work is not in vain, if I have led you to do it” (1 Corinthians 15:58, paraphrased).

And can we really know what the results are as God sees them? Can numbers adequately measure the work of God?

I have heard about a missionary who spent 50 years in a foreign land without one convert. Yet, time has shown that although the missionary never saw the results, there was a great spiritual harvest after the missionary was gone.

How To Do It

So, how do we persevere and not give up when God wants us to sow in tears?

One thing that can encourage us is that we will eventually reap. If we do as God leads, in dependence on him and for his purposes we shall reap a harvest of blessings. “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, NLT).

Life can be very discouraging when we have little to show for our efforts. But our eye needs to stay on our Father who smiles on us as we look to him for strength to do as he leads in our season of sowing in tears (Isaiah 26:3).

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