Category Archives: Listening to God

I met with my best friends yesterday. I have been unwilling to let go of resentment. As a result I have suffered spiritually. The wonderful thing about close Christian friends is that they can admonish with love. I needed that yesterday, and as they quietly challenged me about something unwise, I felt convicted. We meet in a coffee shop and then go and pray in the car. This is our pattern. As we walked to the car we were reflecting on psalm 23. Our shepherd King makes us lie down in green pastures and even uses his rod to enable us to do it. For me, this picture is so wonderful. God disciplines us. We see hurt and cruelty in it, and yet if we saw it from God’s perspective he is driving us from brown parched land, to lush green pastures, where the quiet waters are.


So as we got in the car, we all prayed that we would love those we don’t want to love, and that they would be made to lie down in green pastures. Since this prayer, my whole mindset has changed. Joy has returned to my soul. God is leading us beside the still waters and yet  for God to do it, it often causes us pain because just like stupid sheep, we don’t understand what’s good for us. 

We have such an amazing Saviour. Such a great God. The discipline we receive enables us to lie down in green pastures. I pray that when God disciplines us in the future we will have the green pastures in view, and thank God for the discipline and not rebel against it. 

There are many lenses I have viewed my husband through over the last eight months. The lens of anger and hurt, of bitterness and displacement. Even though the world would say that I have a right to all of these reactions, I am learning that we have to be very cautious about which lens we choose to view our life through. Viewing our life through a wrong lens distorts our understanding of the gospel and brings disaster into our lives. 

After many hard knocks I have come to understand that it’s only the lens of God’s word that should influence our lives. It’s the only way for true contentment and fulfilment with the one who knows us best.

When we are looking through a wrong lens, sin is crouching at our door.
 

Proverbs 17:9 says:

Love forgets mistakes; nagging about them parts the best of friends. 

God forgets our mistakes, he hurls our iniquities into the depths of the sea. If we are loving God before ourselves, then we do the same when people hurt and offend us. 

James 1:25 says:

 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it, not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it, they will be blessed in what they do.

When we experience betrayal and hurt our instinctive reaction often turns to bitterness and distance, anger and unforgiveness. Looking through the lens of God’s  word  enables us to see that God reacts to us very differently. God  reacts with kindness and forgiveness, with tenacious love and with no thought to his own feelings when we have hurt and offended him. When we are looking through the right lens we begin to view those who have offended us as loved and precious to God. When we break it down, we begin to view ourselves as no better than those who have hurt us. We are all sinners that don’t deserve the outrageous kindness of our Heavenly Father. So, if  God reacts with love, grace and forgiveness when he is hurt and offended, so must we. 

Eight months on and I have experienced first hand that bitterness hurts us.

Like all the lies of the devil, he tells us that we have every right to be angry and bitter, and that its the best route to take. How can we possibly forgive after such catastrophic sins have been committed against us. This is the world’s view also, so when we are sinned against, our default position is anger and bitterness, resentment and self pity.

For all of us who have felt the full force of harbouring resentment, we know that after a while, nothing good comes from it and we lose our joy in the Lord. There is a huge spiritual dimension to this, but also a physical one too. Below is an extract from an article I’ve been reading lately:

“Brain Affected by Thoughts?”

“We’ve all heard doctors warn that fits of anger may cause high blood-pressure or even lead to coronary heart disease and heart attacks.

new research shockingly reveals that unforgiving, resentful, pessimistic or negative thoughts cause the “memory trees” in a brain’s dendrites to become sparse and thorny. They no longer look like healthy, abundant “branches” sometimes referred to as “magic trees” by neurologists and brain researchers. Anger Makes Abscesses in the Brain. Let me put it another way. When we are unloving, angry and unforgiving of others, special photographs of the dendrites in our brains begin to look as if dark abscesses have taken root. Literally. We develop black holes in our brains.” ( Valorie Mays)

The author goes on to say that when we begin to forgive the damage is reversed and brings healing and restoration.

This has really turned my thinking around today. Everything in Satan’s kingdom brings havoc, destruction and damage. He is so subtle and quietly urges us to nurse grudges and bitterness. At the beginning of this process I felt that God was almost cruel in commanding me to forgive and love. I felt I had the right to nurse hate and resentment. But in fact, God gives us every command because he is kind and loving, and wants the very best for us.

We haven’t suddenly got an easy solution, but we have a knowledge that God does everything for our ultimate good. So when we are tempted to hold a grudge and nurse resentment and be full of self pity, we can remember that we are in satan’s realm and only damage will come from it. Praying that we follow God’s wise commands even though it feels costly, because it will bring joy and healing, but most importantly it will bring glory to himself.

Philippians 4:11-13

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

My life has plateaued, and the adrenalin that was frantically pumping in every direction has finally halted. Being in a constant state of high alert is finally over, and I am faced with my new life which I didn’t ~choose. I have struggled to find contentment with my life as it is now.

Rick Warren says:

“Contentment means my happiness is not dependent upon circumstances. Most people get caught in “when” thinking — “When I get such and such, then I’ll be happy.” ”

This morning, driving to work I prayed for contentment. I also acknowledged that I didn’t want to pray this prayer, and I needed God to work In my life to enable me to mean the words that I was saying. This took energy and effort because I was asking God to make me content with something I was discontent with. Its hard to ask God for true contentment if we don’t feel proactive about changing our attitudes.

Paul says in Philippians 4:11 that He had to learn to be content. It wasn’t something that came to him naturally. I’m sure he didn’t want to be in dire need or in prison or shipwrecked or hungry. Yet paul experienced all these things and through it, learned contentment.

I know my heart is rebellious and I know how wrong I am. I am struggling and grappling and trying to work through finding contentment in this situation I am now in. The key is loving God more and wanting every situation we find ourselves in, good or bad to please God.

This is my prayer for today:

Lord,
I am discontent about many things in my life. There is an unwillingness to accept the here and now. I am discontent over all I have lost. Forgive me for my rebellious heart that is so slow and reluctant to ask for contentment with the life I now have.

To know contemtement in every situation pleases you. You know best, and whatever happens in our lives, help me to trust you and understand that you are working out everything for my ultimate good. Help me to know that contentment can only come from you. It has to be learned and applied as we look to you for help.Thank you for your willingness to forgive again and again. Thank you for Jesus who gladly gave up everything, and yet was content to submit to your will. Help me to do the same.

Amen.

Every blog I have written so far I’ve asked my husband to read.  I wouldn’t want to publish anything unless he sees it first, and he’s been kind and supportive about me expressing myself in this way. He has encouraged me, even when it’s hurtful and upsetting for him to read.

I have observed  that living with guilt is an awful thing. It produces nothing good. It manifested itself in ways that were unkind and hurtful. I felt that the friend I once understood, I understood no longer.

But  God is kind, and orchestrated many things to enable him to step back into the light. God was gracious in putting key people in place to love and support him as he confessed all. 

Confessing is hard because we are in Satan’s territory. Satan blatantly shouts his lies about the consequences of  revealing all, and my husband believed those lies and he became despairing. Satan’s  desire is destruction and separation from God. He wants Christian marriages  to be broken and damaged and delights in disharmony and conflict. Because God is kind,  He always makes a way through for the Christian on the wrong path. 

Whatever the consequences that we face because of sin, stepping into the light is always the best way. Whether it’s saying sorry to someone we have been unkind to, or facing and dealing with situations that heavily impact others -the only way for peace, and restored relationship with God is to get out of Satan’s kingdom by confessing all and coming to the cross.We cannot experience God’s love and joy with a known barrier that we are unwilling to deal with. The consequences may seem overwhelming, but to be outside God’s kingdom and care is even worse.

 I really believe that when we are willing to lose all, in order to do the right thing before God, he is gracious and kind. The worst fear for my husband was that he would lose me. In fact, God has given me a huge heart for him. It’s all grace when we are willing to confess all.

For me, Inconsistency is now replaced with consistency. That consistency is filled with kindness and gentleness. I thank God for the change I now see, for relationships that are mending and healing, and for satan’s lies that although believed, were indeed just lies. 

I have really felt a sense of joy now and then over recent days, which has been welcome. I am making progress, but this morning I had a trigger that overwhelmed me. It weighed on my heart like a millstone. I have started helping in the toddler group at my new church. As we set up and then prayed, I felt suffocated with grief for all that I had lost. I missed my old group and the fellowship I had with them. I missed being known. I missed all the people I served with. All their names were in my heart. All that served the coffee, precious ladies that I caught up with over the hatch. I missed the mums and carers and grandmas. I loved all those I served with, and at that moment in time the hole in my heart felt unfillable. I began to quietly sob and had to escape. I know my life will be hard for months and months to come. 

There will be no easy fix. It’s a season I have to go through in order to get to the other side. There is nothing that can be done; it can’t be fixed or mended. As I write, I am quietly standing in a quiet spot in town and thanking God for smart phones. I can pour my heart out as I write, which helps me to put my emotions back in their proper place. 
Later in the morning, I talked to a mum from Morocco. She was telling me how hard it was to settle. I was able to see how bereft she must have felt and I was able to express that to her. At the end of the session she came and found me and hugged me. Empathy is often born out of pain; I learnt this morning that no difficult situation is wasted. 
Two steps forward and one back. We go on in God’s strength. 

Galatians 5:22-23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

I have been reading through Galatians this morning, and I have been reminded of the beauty of living with Christ in view. God is so kind and generous in the way he enables us to respond to one another by  his Spirit. 

 That simple list seems at first glance to to be such an easy thing. And it is easy to react like that with those who please us, those  we get on with, and those who make us feel safe.

These verses become less easy when we are hurt, under the cosh, and offended. I was struck also by these verses in Ezekiel which reminded me that any goodness we have is a gift. 

In  Ezekiel ch 36 :25 God says to his people,

 ” I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees.” 
Praying that the Holy Spirit does his work in our hearts today, enabling us to go God’s way; being kind to those who have hurt us. Not avoiding or giving the cold shoulder to those who have offended us. Reacting with gentleness and kindness in the face of unkindness.
We need Gods help, it goes against our natural inclination. But God is willing and able and He loves to pour his grace on those who want to go his way, for his glory.

Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. (Psalm 25:12)

In life, I like everything to be tidy. I am not referring to my house, but my relationships.

 If there is mess,  I have an overwhelming need to fix things. If I have offended someone I am in a state until I have righted it.  I have a need to reconcile no matter how difficult the situation appears.  I wanted my marriage and family to look neat and have pretty edges. Instead, whopping flaws were exposed for everyone to see. I wanted love and harmony to reign and only acceptable sins to be on view.


 My husband’s wrong doing cannot be referred to as “an acceptable sin.” I wanted the hurt to my church family to be put right, but I couldn’t fix it. I didn’t want our children to be impacted negatively  by their dad’s behaviour, but they have been, and I can’t fix that either. A  hard  lesson I have learned in this process is having to hand control over to God, and trust him with the consequences. This has seemed unbearable and impossible at times, but I am learning that there is no other way. We have to leave the fixing to God. 

We find it hard when others see our failings;  I want people to think well of us; I desire affirmation not shame, and it’s hard to cope knowing that people now see us with all our massive failings on show.

 It’s difficult admitting failure to one other. We know we can’t impress God, but we often try to impress each other. But when  I have been with Christians who are brave enough to talk openly about their flaws, and confess their sin and failings to others, my heart has been impacted for great good. It’s liberating and transforming to hear from others about their struggles and failings; not because we can gloat and feel superior, but because it gives us permission to be open and transparent back.  When this happens we connect on a spiritual level and  we are mutually encouraged by one another. Also, the focus is off us, off our own efforts to live good lives and instead our focus is on God’s almighty forgiveness and grace. This results  in looking at Jesus and his righteousnes, not ours. 

Whether our sins are big or small, we still fail. Confessing to one another is biblical and is of great worth. It helps stop pride and a judgmental heart. It forms solid friendships with a spiritual foundation which is based on truth and honesty and accountability with one other. Confessing  our sins to each other gives others a liberty  to confess back, which brings us  from darkness into light, and reminds us that God is not interested in our good  works, but he is interested in a contrite and penitent heart. So if God loves us to confess and come to him with nothing, then this is how we must be with each other. The out-working of this is that we can tangibly help and pray for others in their struggles which would never come to light if we hadn’t  been open and transparent first. When we confess our sins to each other, honesty and transparency reign, and we are reminded that it’s all of grace, and all our works in God’s eyes are like filthy rags. 

James 5:16 says:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I pray that as we confess our sins to one other, we may be built up and rooted in Christ who bore all our sin. This takes the focus off our own goodness as we look up to Christ, who was the only one who was ever good.

Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God alone. ( Mark 10:18)

Trust and obey. 


I have been reminded over the past few  months that in order to know God’s comfort and help, we have to listen to him first. He gives us the ground rules from his word, and if we choose not to obey,  we suffer for it, and ultimately lose out. A lot of what God expects us to do, goes against the grain, and in order to do what’s right we need God’s help. He needs to soften us and give us a desire to go his way. 

We live in a messed up and broken world. I can relate to this in a way I have never been able to before. I never expected my life to turn upside down and inside out. The things in my life that were constant and sure suddenly became liquid, and ran down the plug hole. God was my only hope.

As his children, he expects us to conform to his pattern, but under pressure we are often tempted to go in the opposite direction.  God says: 

  1. Love others  (1 Corinthians 13)
  2. Forgive others  as Christ forgives us  (Matthew 18 )
  3. Choose  joy in all circumstances  ( Philippians 4:4)
  4. Know contentment in all circumstances. ( Philippians. 4:12)

This is totally impossible in our own strength. 

But God has given us everything we need for life and godliness.(2 Peter 1:3). Even with this verse in mind, when life falls apart at the seams,  and we’ve been hurt and feel overwhelmed by the unkindness of others, these ground rules really smart,  and we don’t want to abide by them. We want God’s help and rescue but only on our terms and not on his. Then we wonder why our prayers aren’t answered.
At the beginning of this process I almost felt it was harsh of God to expect me to conform. 

But I found fighting  with God about what he commands puts us in a worse position. When we don’t follow the rules, we end up with selfish, bitter and self- pitying hearts which are often unwilling to forgive others, and full of resentment towards those who have hurt us. The end result is that we can feel bewildered and even angry with God because of the awful path he has put us on. 

I needed to listen to God’s word in order to experience God’s grace in my life. I began to understand that obedience to God really matters and shows our love for him. When we obey him by doing what he commands we experience joy and relationship with him, and it’s the only route to true contentment and joy in him.

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him” psalm 128:1
There is a lovely old hymn that talks about true happiness resulting from true obedience. Praying that we continue to walk in it. 

When we are overwhelmed 

“But my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is is made perfect in weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”

(2 Corinthians 12:9)

There are many situations that I feel overwhelmed by. Sometimes it’s just getting up in the morning. Sometimes it’s the thought of having to find work after the trauma of the last months. I feel overwhelmed in the night when I wake up because I have a knot in my stomach and can’t remember why. I have been overwhelmed living in a new place. I’ve struggled in a new church and I am finding it hard to connect with strangers when I feel disconnected and grief stricken.

My heart hurts as my children go on this excruciating journey of working things through, and I have felt pained, and been in agony for them.

I am totally overwhelmed.

If my faith is real, God will eventually see me through. I may feel that my situation won’t right itself, but I know that God is using it to teach and to grow me.

So, I don’t need to fear, but I do need to trust in the one who knows it all. All I can do is take one day at a time and rest in the knowledge that I will get through this because his grace is sufficient and his power is perfect in my weakness.