Obstacles vs. Opportunities

As I wrote in an earlier blog, perspective is everything, especially when it comes to attitudes. I have often found that if I change my perspective, I can change my attitude. For instance, a slow car in front of me may make me irritated and in a bad mood, but if I think about it being God’s providence, then I can lighten my mood and maybe even work up some gratefulness for unknown mercies, such as avoiding a potential wreck. When things happen that don’t go according to our plan, we see them as obstacles in the negative sense. For instance, a little while ago I started writing a blog post, but didn’t save the working copy. Usually auto save in Word will at least save a copy that can be restored, but I walked away for 10 minutes and my computer froze without Word even attempting to save what I had written. I had a choice:  I could curse the computer and get upset, or I could start over and see it as an opportunity for something better. I opted for the last choice, which culminated in an example for another blog idea I had jotted down in my bullet journal.

We often get a plan in our heads without consulting God as to what He wants. Those plans rarely come to fruition, but when they do, it is usually not to our benefit in the end. God’s ultimate purpose is to have a relationship with us. He wants us to depend upon Him and not the things of the world. He sometimes has to put up obstacles to keep us from going the wrong way, like a parent putting up a baby gate. Sometimes he puts up obstacles so that we can strengthen our faith through working our “faith” muscles in overcoming the obstacle. Sometimes he puts up obstacles so that the only way out is reliance on God. We can do all things through Christ, not through our own efforts. We must start with dependence on God, which is easier said than done.

This week I have been in a constant waiting mode. I haven’t been able to make plans in advance because circumstances kept changing on a day to day basis. I have had to let God have the reins and work on what I could that day. I tried to use it as an opportunity to do what God had given me to do that day instead of worrying about what needed to be done tomorrow or next week. That is how we should live…one day at a time. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof “(Matthew 6:34).

I am trying to start out each day focusing on what God wants me to do today and leave everything else in His hands. I’m not saying I succeed at it, but I am trying, and that is all we can do. So, stop worrying about tomorrow and just deal with today by putting it in God’s hands and see what He will do with it.

One Step at a Time

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by something on your To Do List? You know it needs to be done, and there may even be a deadline approaching, but you just can’t seem to get started? I have several of those projects staring me in the face. Some days I procrastinate, and some days I can’t even bear to think about them. Today I had great plans for tackling at least one of those projects but was diverted by a problem with my car that took up over half of my morning. One of the biggest issues is planning to do it all, or most of it, in one day. That approach rarely works because of days like today, so we should take a page from Nehemiah’s playbook.

Nehemiah came to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city. It was a daunting task that two other groups had failed to complete. Nehemiah approached the problem differently than the other groups, and that approach can be applied to any project. First, he started with prayer. There was nothing he did that wasn’t preceded by prayer. Next, he looked at the project objectively from every angle to see what needed to be done. Then, he designated out sections to different groups. Finally, he followed through despite obstacles and opposition.

Starting with prayer is always good advice for any situation we may encounter, but sometimes we don’t think about in when doing practical everyday tasks. God wants to be involved in even the smallest details of our lives.

Looking objectively at a daunting task can be overwhelming at first, but until we get all of the details down, we won’t know exactly what is required or the best way to approach it. It is like cooking a recipe. You need to know what ingredients you need for the recipe to see if you have them all in the kitchen. If not, you need to add a shopping trip to the list.

While you may not have other people helping you with a task, it still helps to break things down into smaller jobs. That way if time is limited, you can still accomplish part of the job. Progress of any kind is still progress.

Finally, it is just a matter of not letting the world and everyday problems get in your way. You have to keep working until the project is done. It may take longer than you first thought, but it doesn’t matter as long as it gets done.

Take advice from Nehemiah and tackle big tasks one step at a time. Don’t let naysayers get you down. Focus on the goal and keep moving. Let God lead and he will help you through step by step until you get to the finish line.


The way we feel about life and any given situation often has to do with our perspective. Two people can look at the same set of circumstances and have two totally different responses. Take for example having to get up to go to work. One person may get up with dread, while another may get up thanking God they have a job. There are usually at least two ways to look at a circumstance: negatively or positively. How we choose to look at our circumstances can vastly affect both our attitude and our response.

In Numbers 13, the 12 spies come back from Canaan with their report. Ten of the spies gave negative reports:

31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…33 And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

They saw the land was good, but they decided the negatives were too overwhelming to be overcome. They did not even want to try.

On the other hand, Joshua and Caleb were positive and enthusiastic, “30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” They were ready to take the land, fully believing they could overcome any obstacles in their way. What was the difference?

Caleb saw the promise of God, a land flowing with milk and honey. God was fulfilling his promise, and all they had to do was take possession of the land. The others saw themselves through the eyes of their enemies, as grasshoppers, instead of through the eyes of God, as conquerors in His name. It doesn’t matter what those around us think; it only matters what we believe. If we believe God’s promises, and we do our part, God will follow through on his part. If we believe what the world says, we will never even attempt what God calls us to do. We fail before we start.

So, we should face our circumstances from our belief in God, knowing that he is molding us into the person he envisioned us to be. Sometimes that takes us through challenges that look insurmountable, but if we remember that God is on our side as long as we follow His will, we can know that He will make a way for us. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks; it only matters what we believe because our response to circumstances will be a reflection of that belief.

The next time you are tempted to complain about a circumstance, take a moment to reevaluate the situation. Pray and ask God to reveal His will to you. It could make a real difference in your attitude as well as your response no matter what the outcome.


As The Tongue Wags

It has been said that you are what you think and do daily. Someone recently said as the tongue wags so goes the rest of the body. I think there is a lot of truth in these statements. Matthew 15:18 says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” What we say comes from what we think. Thoughts lead to words and words lead to actions and repeated actions make habits, some good and some bad. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” If we start with focusing our thoughts on good things, it will most likely lead to good actions and good habits.

It is very easy to get caught up in negative thinking. Focusing on the negative leads to self-pity and discontent. What we focus on really does affect our words and our behavior. For instance, when I have an ache or pain, the more I focus on the pain, the worse I feel. However, if I focus on something else, the pain often lessens. If I constantly talk about the pain, then it becomes even worse until it is all I think about.

The same can be said of our circumstances. If I focus on what I don’t have, I become discontented and have a bad attitude. It can lead to complaining and eventually to poor choices. For example, I have wanted a chaise lounge for my living room. If I focus on the fact that I don’t have one, I can begin to feel like I have been cheated, and then I may complain that I don’t have one. This could lead to me buying one on a whim, say on credit or by ignoring other bills that will be coming due. Poor spending can lead to financial problems down the road. However, if I focus on what I do have, then I have a spirit of thanksgiving, especially when I think about how much worse my circumstances could be.

Once I focus my thoughts, I can then change the focus of my words. I often complain out loud when I should be grateful. I also notice that when I am around people who complain all of the time that I am more prone to complain myself. How much better would it be if I was the voice of thanksgiving and possibly changed the tone of the conversation and the thoughts of others instead of encouraging the negativity?

Once my thoughts change, my words change. When my words change, my attitude changes as well as my actions. I become more productive and happier in general. So, if you want to change your life, start with the way you think and the words you say, and you will soon find that it will change your attitude even if it doesn’t change your circumstances.


Fear is not Faith

Recently, I read The Crossroads by Beverly Lewis. The main character, who was in the midst of trials, tells herself that fear is not faith in order to bolster her courage. It becomes her motto of sorts. I have encountered a seeming multitude of stressful situations in the last year or so, and I am trying to adopt the motto myself. When faced with trials, our first response is often fear. We worry about the future and wonder what we will do, but this is not the life of faith.

In Mark chapter 4, the disciples are with Jesus in a boat away from shore when a storm arises. Jesus is asleep, and they wake Him up in fear. In verse 40, “Then he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Jesus then calms the storm. Despite the fact that Jesus was on the ship with them, the disciples were still afraid. How often is this true of our own behavior? As Christians, Christ is always with us, along with the Holy Spirit, yet we often cry out in fear.

When I feel fear and anxiety trying to overcome me, I repeat the phrase fear is not faith to remind myself that Jesus is present and that God is in control of the situation. I have nothing to fear. Faith is trusting that God will take care of us and our situations in His own way and that we only have to rest in His strength. It is a lot easier said than done because we live in a fallen world that is prone to fear and turmoil, but if we keep our eyes on Him, then we can overcome.

Already today, even before writing this post, I have had to repeat the phrase several times. Each time I think of it I am reminded of God’s love and presence, and it changes my focus from my circumstances to where it ought to be…on God. It is a daily struggle, sometimes even minute by minute, but with God’s help it can be done. So, whenever you feel overwhelmed and afraid, remember that fear is not faith and look to God for help. He will never fail to give it.