Day 7: “Peace. Not People.”

Photo: Caique Silva

God gives us family and friends for community, support, encouragement, wisdom, fun. He wired us all differently and we each come with our own opinions, experiences and expectations. Navigating relationships is tricky on the best of days. What God means for good, the enemy loves to use to bring division, conflict and pain to our lives.

“He made me do it. It’s her fault. If only THEY would cooperate.” Blaming bosses, spouses, friends, or neighbours for your emotions and problems only gives your power away to someone else. Accusations and criticism don’t bring resolutions. You allow other people to rob you of peace and they don’t even know it. While they rest happily in their ignorance, you are tormented, angry, unforgiving. You play scenarios and pretend conversations around in your head like a bad playlist on repeat.

You might be struggling in some of your relationships right now. Your goal: to be understood, heard, loved, appreciated. Communication may seem difficult and you either can’t find the words, or your words are misconstrued, further complicating the situation and your life.

Discord is a thief to your peace.

Unfortunately, many times, resolving issues with others can be out of reach. You just don’t see eye to eye. Or, you’re so different in your approach, finding common ground is impossible. You can become discouraged and even so hurt that you withdraw, allowing yourself to miss out. Your expectations are unmet, you feel ashamed. You even question God when you’ve tried everything in your power and you just can’t find a resolution.

God wants us to live at peace; with others, yes. Ultimately, with him. You must learn to have a Godly perspective regarding people in your life, viewing them through a lens of understanding. This doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. It means you know where they might be coming from – their pain and past hurts, their dysfunction. Hurting people hurt people.

When you feel your peace is being threatened by a relationship, you must seek God for his wisdom and pursue his ways. Remember, peace is the personhood of Jesus Christ. Keep him close and allow him to mediate the conversations in your head. He will bring clarity if not resolution. He can help you to love those who have hurt you despite their unwillingness to budge.

*Today, write down the names of anyone in your life who is causing you pain. Ask God to show you if there’s something you can do to find common ground. Forgive them. And give them over to God. He will deal with them on your behalf. The battle is not yours to fight.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
 if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)
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Day 6: “Peace. Not Perfection.”

Artwork by: Bartosz Kosowski

Ten tiny fingers and toes, skin like velvet, total contentment with eyes closed all swaddled up in a cozy blanket: PERFECTION. Unblemished body, shiny leather, sleek and ergonomic with all the bells and whistles: FLAWLESS. Tall, dark and handsome with straight shiny white teeth, adoring eyes, and a sense of humour: IDEAL.

Some of you grew up aspiring to be the paragon of the school, the cream of the crop, the epitome of excellence and achievement. Your hard fought wins taught you that putting in effort gets you results and attention. You thrive on other’s approval, keeping order, juggling all the balls so they remain elevated at just the right height.

Perfectionism: the antagonist in this chapter on peace. Your desire to experience breakthrough during this fast is robbed when your aim is 100%. Every. Single. Day. The house must be clean. The kids must behave. The cooked meals should meet everyone’s standards. A raise at work. A good body. It goes on and on, as exhausting as walking up ten flights of stairs.

The problem with ideals beyond reach is the subtle message they send: “You’re not good enough.” Your life, your bank account, your job, your spouse, your kids, your size… measured against utopia, you have failed. When you feel you’re not enough or your life isn’t enough, you will find yourself striving, controlling, battling on every front. You’ve lost your composure and the lull of relaxation feels like guilt.

Give yourself permission today to let go. Give up your ideal and allow your present reality to suffice. You are not a problem. Comparison is a trap. The hamster wheel of achievement is hard to get off; you may feel the more you achieve the more others expect you to perform. Relax even if you know more could be done on your project, at work, in your home.

Pay attention today to the things that bring you angst and set them aside. Spend ten minutes meditating on gratefulness. Giving thanks for your current circumstances and looking for the good in yourself and others will resolve the tension in your life. God loves you just the way you are and he wants you to spend time with him, leaning into him for wisdom AND a to do list. Prioritise Jesus and HIS ways. After all, only God is immaculate, without blemish or stain. Glean from him and allow a cease-fire between your expectations and your reality today.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)

Day 20: “Put It Into Practise”

intentionalEat less. Exercise more. That’s how you lose weight. Spend less, save more. Have a nest egg for retirement. Doing things with purpose means accomplishing your goals. Your time of prayer and fasting was calculated. You were intentional in your sacrifice. You spent time praying specifically over these last three weeks.

Considered meditation on the things near to your heart has brought you closer to Jesus.

Let the rest of 2018 be a continuation of the progress you have made. Keep putting into practise what you have begun. Let the nourishment you have received for your spirit propel you forward and become the floor for your next layer of growth. Exercise your spiritual muscles by concentrating on what you’ve learnt.

Don’t fall into neglect, rather launch yourself into everything God has for you.

You’re just getting started!

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practise what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9).

 

Day 8: “Pursue Freedom.”

freeWeek 2 of the fast hopefully finds you more rested, clear-headed and at peace. Pursuing freedom is a lifelong journey, not to be oversimplified here. However, you have hopefully identified some blockages in your life which rob you of your peace and inhibit your ability to receive God’s gift of rest.

The Holy Spirit wants to rid your life of shame, guilt, un-forgiveness, offense, anger and strife… whatever torments you or holds you back.

Today, meditate on this:

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5 MSG)!

Allow the Holy Spirit to flood your life with more of his Word, an abundance of  love, additional blessings. Let your heart overflow today with worship and thanksgiving. When you see your troubles developing passionate patience in you, you can even count them as benefits. Divulge your secrets to your God. Declare victory over your past.

As you speak these things out loud in your prayer time, you’re pioneering your path to freedom.

Day 7: “Free From Insecurity”

free from insecurityEveryone knows a pubescent teen battles insecurities; they can own up to their self-doubt. Insecurity is a common vocabulary word in a young person’s vernacular and you empathise when an adolescent acts out. You know where it’s coming from.

When you’re all grown up (18? University graduate? Marriage? Parenthood?), it’s suddenly no longer socially acceptable to admit you’re insecure. On the contrary, it’s entirely EXPECTED that you never show weakness, that you exhaust yourself covering up your problems, and that no one knows your pain.

Women might admit they feel embarrassed in a bikini but they hardly confess how insecure they feel in bed. Men appear overconfident by dominating conversations about work yet fall silent when asked to open up about their feelings.

You cover up uncertainty by gossiping and judging… it’s so much easier to tear down others so your own short-comings are masked. You feel belittled by your wives and criticised by your fathers, so you retreat and self-medicate with porn or alcohol.

Living a life of cover-up is exhausting. Vulnerability is a scary word, one you avoid at all costs. You’re weakened by your negative self-talk and proving yourself to the world. Relaxing in your own skin is about as comfortable as a fish is out of water. You may not call it insecurity, but it is.

The opposite, (self-acceptance), stems from knowing your identity in Christ. Author and research professor Brené Brown says, “Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.” Where do you acquire love and belonging, especially if you’ve ever been rejected?

God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. He says he has plans for your life, that you were created with a purpose uniquely yours. He loves you and says you’re created in his perfect image.

In a world longing for validity, you, as a child of God, are the legitimate and conclusive evidence of God’s love; you belong to HIS family. Your imperfections merely highlight your need for Jesus and they aren’t something to run from. There’s no greater peace than embracing the skin you’re in and loving the only you you’ll ever have.

As you go deeper with Jesus during your fast, allow vulnerability to expose your insecurities and expect God to re-define and re-align your identity.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Day 6: “Free From Fear”

I will not fearFear – obvious when it makes you sweat, keeping you up at night. Other times it’s subtle and heavy and creeps in like dread. Fear can cause you to make poor decisions (like marrying the wrong person because you’re too scared to wait for Mrs. Right). It compels you to overspend if you’re afraid of missing out.

That one four letter word represents anxiety as your mind anticipates unknowns and worries that your worst case scenario will come to pass.

Fearful parents are controlling parents – unrealistically believing they can protect kids from pain or from making mistakes.

If you’ve ever been hurt in a relationship, you’re too scared to risk again so all your suspicions turn to distrust. The root of your brokenness – FEAR.

You can be afraid of failure; and, equally, you can fear success.

Fear is a spirit that can manifest in every area of life. However, Jesus came to give you a full and wonderful life and you can’t have that if you’re walking in fear. Trusting your Heavenly Father is the antidote to fear. It’s the key to true rest and peace. Author Ann Voskamp says, “You have to let hope always carry you – or fears will carry you away.”

God’s desire for you is total surrender and acceptance of him and his plans. He wants you to believe in a blessed outcome with the battles you face; Jesus has already defeated your enemy. Recognise that your eternity is secure.  Believe God has your back. Learning to REST in these truths isn’t easy but it IS simple.

If fear has a hold of you in any area of your life, you CAN be set free. Slow down, breathe deeply, and allow your mind to settle on the goodness of God. Repeat. Daily. Hourly.

Maybe even minute by minute.

Live in reckless abandon alongside Jesus and see what peace it brings. Go on, I dare you! You’re strong and courageous. Look how far you’ve come and what you’ve been through and let that give you strength. Sleep well tonight and fear not.

The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart. Day and night I’ll stick with GodI’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go” (Psalm 16:7-8 MSG).

Day 19: “Be the light.”

be-the-lightAs you mature in your faith and continue to pursue God, your life reflects his glory. God is on your lips, in everyday conversations. This time of prayer and fasting has created new habits for you and you have received revelation of who God is in your life.

Do people around you know that you are a Christ follower? Have you stepped out to encourage someone by sharing what Jesus means to you? You may be surprised at how open others actually are towards him when you make known the goodness of your God.

Remember, no one can take away your personal testimony of how Jesus has touched you. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar or have all the answers in order to shine the light of Christ.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 MSG)