Aimlessness

Last month, I had a job-interview where I was asked: “What motivates you to get out of bed each day?”

I wouldn’t always have been able to answer a question like that, but I said: “Knowing God has a good plan for my life, and that I can do something useful for Him.” How do I know that? Because it says so in the Bible. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). That’s a good plan. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). That’s one of the reasons we’re here on earth.

Everything we can know about God, we’ll find in His Word. Nothing Godly will ever contradict it, so when we’re told to test everything, that’s what we test it against – for our benefit. I’ll give you an example. “All you who are thirsty, come and drink. … Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1). In other words, God’s offer to nourish us is unconditional, so if someone asks you for money in order to receive something from God, alarm bells should start ringing. Jesus was so passionate about everyone having access to God’s kingdom. Listen to what He said against the religious teachers: “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” (Luke 11:52). Jesus doesn’t want any barrier to stand in the way of us getting to know God. He wouldn’t want people taking advantage of us.

If I keep on about the Bible, it’s because I’ve found it so helpful in the decisions I’ve made. When my attitudes have been wrong, God’s Word has put me right. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Who became flesh and came to live among us? Jesus. God’s Word is Jesus. When we read the Bible, it points us to Him.

Before I was a Christian, I didn’t have the privilege of being God’s and not my own; I didn’t know what I know now – that my life is His, not mine. As we’ve seen earlier in this series, I may sometimes be homesick for heaven, but I do have someone to live for – a God who takes great delight in you and me.

If you’ve taken anything away from these 31 Days of Positive Spin, I hope it’s that God cares about you and all the difficult things you’ll ever have to go through in your life. I’ll finish with the chorus of a song I wrote:
Jesus, what You did for me –
The pain You had to bear –
It shows me that whatever I go through,
You’ve already been there,
And so I ask the question:
Why should I complain
?

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Self-Consciousness

Have you heard about the woman who’d been bleeding for twelve years, who touched Jesus’ clothes and was instantly healed? Jesus felt power go out from Him and asked who touched Him. Jesus was a Jew, and she would have known that according to Jewish law, her bleeding made her unclean. She probably didn’t want to draw attention to herself, but there was no alternative: She had to own up and face the consequences. I’m not surprised she was shaking. Self-consciousness is rooted in fear, but the humiliation never came. Instead, Jesus reassured her. “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

I wonder if sometimes my worship of Jesus is stunted because I’m too preoccupied with what others might think. Jesus’ words to the woman set her free, and I’m sure He’d want that same freedom for us too. I can’t promise you’ll never come up against negativity. When Jesus was worshipped extravagantly and perfume poured on Him (Mark 14:3-11; John 12:1-11), people protested that the perfume could have been sold for more than a year’s wages. Judas Iscariot was so incensed, he decided to betray Jesus, but Jesus (who deeply loved Mary) said: “She has done a beautiful thing to Me. … Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

As Hebrews 12:28 says, let us worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.

Independence

This is a big one for me. As a blind person, independence is something you strive for. As a Christian, independence tends to be viewed as prideful because ‘We all need each other’. As a Christian blind person? Help! How do we get a balance?

I wrote about this subject before, and then I came across a quote in the handbook I use to support people recently diagnosed with sight loss. Torch Trust is a Christian organisation that works with blind and partially-sighted people. I think their aim is exactly right: Independence in activity and interdependence in relationships.

When someone’s said to me in the past: “You’re very independent”, I’ve replied that I’m God-dependent because I know there’s so much I wouldn’t have done without Him. Before I was a Christian, I wasn’t comfortable using my cane. At nineteen, when I left the house, I would always be with someone. Now I’ve lived in two flats on my own; I’ve taken myself as far south as London and as far north as Scotland on the train … Some might say I would have done that anyway as I matured, but even if I had overcome the self-consciousness, I probably wouldn’t have done it quite the same way. I would have regularly got angry or impatient when I couldn’t control outcomes; I might have treated staff who met me at stations as people there to serve me, rather than as people I could relate to. God has an amazing way of taking our focus off our own needs and putting it onto the people we’re with.

If you want to be competent, choosing to rely on God shouldn’t take that away from you. I read about a little boy trying to type. His mum had the power to tell him where the keys were, but she didn’t because she knew he had to learn. I believe God’s like that too. He wants us to learn how to navigate life, but don’t just take my word for it. Look at Jesus and His disciples. Jesus was asleep and they woke Him in a panic. He said: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” then He calmed the storm (Matthew 8:26). Later, there was another storm. This time, they were in the boat without Jesus. He came walking towards them on the water, and the Bible says: “He was about to pass by them” (Mark 6:48). I believe His desire was that they would have learnt from Him, and stilled the storm themselves. Independence in activity; interdependence in relationships.

For the rest of this series click here, or you can find other blogs on the Write31Days site

Isolation

I really like being with people, but I also like to have some quiet time in order to process what’s gone on. Being amongst people from different backgrounds who don’t understand where you’re coming from and don’t necessarily say things the same way you would – it can be hard, and if I’ve had one of those difficult days, I like to come home, flop onto the sofa and get into a book that’s going to lift my mood. Sometimes I get far more encouragement and strength from reading a book by someone in my situation than I do from people who’ve never experienced it.

The problem comes when my four walls become my safety net. I’m tempted sometimes just to be around family and close friends, and not to bother with anybody else. After all, no one can upset me if I’m not there, but here’s a Bible-verse that really hit me earlier in the year: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire” (Proverbs 18:1). So it’s saying isolation is selfish? I always thought of it as unselfish. If I’m feeling fragile, I won’t go, they won’t upset me, I won’t fly off the handle and everybody wins … but that’s not what the Bible says. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

Brian May (my hero as a teenager) said once: “If you’re hardened off, you’re not living,” and he’s right. I have to let people see the real me – not just me when I’ve got it all together. “The fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is … self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Fruit needs a chance to grow. If I choose to be with people and let the growth happen, surely that can only be a good thing.

Have you ever been tempted to isolate yourself? If you’re unable to leave the house, what ways have you found to connect and grow?

Insecurity

A friend was talking on her latest radio-show about someone daunted by their new job, who really needed peace. If anything’s unusual or doesn’t go the way we think it should, it can cause panic, can’t it? Because we don’t know what a future employer, a spouse, or whoever, might be thinking.

I remember another friend telling me about her husband’s funeral – how people said such lovely things, and she wished he had known what he meant to them. That’s why I try to point out the good in people. It does no harm to give encouragement, and better now than when it’s too late, but not everyone expresses themselves in words. If you haven’t read it, I’d really recommend Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love-Languages” for ideas on various ways people can show their feelings. They might buy you a gift, or do something extremely kind. If I expect a certain response from someone, eventually, they’re going to let me down. That’s not their fault; it’s just that nobody’s perfect, and (thankfully) nobody’s exactly like me.

My lovely friend Becky from New York is a reader of this blog. After her husband proposed, he wrote her a poem. It’s really beautiful and I’ll just share a little of it here:
When you feel your feet slipping down into the deep and you’re looking for something to stand on,
My love will never be enough …
When you are determined to rely on God and not give up,
Then my love will be enough
.”

Can we take a leaf out of Becky and Dave’s book? If we feel the weight of insecurity, let’s give whatever’s troubling us over to God. “In Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). That means if I haven’t been the person I’d like to be or if I feel let-down, God can help us with our shortcomings. It’s only through Him that real transformation is possible.

If this has brought to mind a situation in your family, or the family of someone you know, why not pray about it? “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Inadequacy

This morning I read about the three servants, who were each given different amounts of money to steward. Let’s say one had £10, the second £5, and the third £1. The one who had £10 used it wisely and was given ten cities to take charge of. The one with £5 got five cities, but the one with £1 gave it back and said to his master: “You are a hard man, and I was afraid of you” (Luke 19:11-27).

There’s a similar story in Matthew’s gospel and the measurement’s in talents, which makes me think of the gifts and talents we’ve been given. Have you noticed that someone who’s afraid to use their gifts tends to have very little self-worth?

I’ve been given the ability to write songs. I’ve made CDs with them on because I think if God enabled me to write them, He must want people to hear them. I totally understand not wanting to draw attention to yourself, and so does Jesus. After all, He said: “If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honoured” (Luke 18:14), but you don’t have to use the gifts God’s given you in a flashy, attention-seeking kind of way. Someone might have the gift of hospitality. They could hold a big, lavish banquet and invite the whole neighbourhood, or they could invite a couple of people to lunch on a Sunday. In either case, they’d be using that gift.

Have you ever thought about God’s commandment: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Matthew 19:19)? If you’re going to love another as much as you love yourself, then surely, first you have to love yourself and appreciate what you’ve got to offer as a person.

If you struggle with feelings of inadequacy, like I do sometimes, can I encourage you to bring them to God? Ask Him what He sees in you – what it is He loves about you. If He’s given you something you feel you can use for His glory, please let Him give you the confidence to do that because the world around you really needs to hear your voice.

Darkness

It surprises me every year – the amount of Christians who involve themselves in Halloween, dressing their kids up in costumes etc. When Compassion had its own website for sponsors, I asked one of them why she did it. She wrote back with a link to an article by someone I’d never heard of, which I found sad because I was genuinely interested in her thoughts – not somebody else’s. I don’t want to let some article by someone somewhere justify my actions; only the Word of God. I’ll be honest and admit I was brought-up in a home where we did go out trick-or-treating our neighbours and grandparents, but I think this was probably done in ignorance. The only parts of the Bible we read as a family were the famous stories – Adam and Eve, Noah … We certainly didn’t study or consider it when living the rest of our lives.

As a Christian though, I became more interested in how God wanted me to live. The first year, I went to a Halloween party. I thought as long as I didn’t actually do anything evil, it would be all right. I didn’t know this verse: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). By going to a Halloween party, I was involving myself in that celebration, whereas God says have nothing to do with it.

Galatians 5:19-20: “The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: Committing sexual sin, being morally bad, doing all kinds of shameful things, worshiping false gods, taking part in witchcraft” … This is why I can’t understand people going round dressed as wizards and witches, as if God’s ok with that.

I would avoid a murder mystery night for the same reason. If we really are made to glorify God in whatever we do, then why have fun celebrating things that He (a holy God) can’t even look at? The idea of murder hadn’t entered anyone’s minds before Adam and Eve did wrong. Their son committed the first murder, and that wasn’t something to be celebrated. He had to leave God’s presence and live in the land of Nod – a Hebrew word that means ‘Wandering’ (Genesis 4:13-16). Can you imagine wandering aimlessly on the earth, knowing your home was with God but you squandered that by killing your brother?

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). What about a praise party? If we believe in Jesus, we’ve been freed from the power of darkness, so let’s do as Peter suggests: “Declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Persecution

How do you find the positive from someone put in prison for their faith? In North Korea, it’s even done by association. You might be imprisoned because an uncle believes in God, and if you’re pregnant, then your children are born in captivity. “Escape from Camp 14” showed me they’re not taught about love; they only know survival. Families have so little that they’re in competition with each other, even for daily food.

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19). Christians can hold onto this truth: Rescue is coming. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven” (Luke 6:23). We may not be persecuted the same way as North Koreans. For us it might be people showing hostility, or mocking our faith. Perhaps your relatives follow a different religion and are doing their best to steer you away from Jesus. “They will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. And so you will bear testimony to Me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life” (Luke 21:12-19). “Everyone will hate you because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9).

If you’re a believer in Jesus who’s being persecuted, keep relying on His Spirit to give you the right words and attitudes. Hold on till the end, and focus on your heavenly reward.

Rejection

My tweets can be seen by everyone, so I have very few deep conversations on Twitter, but I saw a tweet once:
“Rejection is a short-term setback, not a permanent condition.”

I had to respond to that, because I heartily disagreed! I’ll use the example of a job-interview, but you can apply it to whatever your situation might be:
You go for a job – your dream job.
You don’t get it.
You thought you could do that job, so you’re hurt that you weren’t chosen.
After a while you get over the hurt, but you still haven’t got the job.
You may be offered a different job, or you might stay unemployed and continually struggle to find work.

Do you see? Rejection can be short-term and of very little consequence; it can also greatly affect someone’s life. My heart goes out to you if you’re living through the misery of being rejected, and I want to share with you Isaiah 41:9: “I have chosen you and have not rejected you.” That’s become one of my favourite verses. It’s amazing that God chose me – God, whose standard’s the highest of all. It doesn’t change my circumstance, but it does cheer me up.

Anger

“A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Apparently this works not only for humans, but for cats too.

When I thought about diffusing anger, my first answer was gentleness, but Paul gives some other ideas: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). Did you see his strategy? Kindness and forgiveness. Conversely, that means when anger is present, there are unkindness and unforgiveness going on. How true! When I’ve been angry, I haven’t been very forgiving. You tend to look for the worst in someone – not the best.

One thing that’s helped with my anger (and I’ve only learnt this the last few years) has been first to think how my action’s going to affect other people. If I leap up in the middle of a meeting and storm out, for example, someone will probably follow to see if I’m all right, causing them to miss the meeting too. I suppose the reason this thinking helps is that instead of being angry, there I am doing the opposite – being kind.

You must have your own anger stories. Maybe you acted unwisely, like I have in the past, or maybe you handled it well. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by someone else’s bad reaction. Perhaps kindness and forgiveness really are the way to go.

For the rest of this series click here, or you can find other blogs on the Write31Days site