Monthly Archives: March 2015

Our Problems Are Not The Problem – Overcoming Series, Part II

by Lydia Floren

In the last blog Learning to Fish, I said:

“It is so easy to forget who Jesus is, and what God can do.  We have seen Him do amazing things yet when we face difficulties, we tend to focus on the problem instead of on The Solution.   When we fixate on the problem, we might get to work trying to find a solution on our own.  The busier we get “solving problems,” the harder it is to remember what—and Who—is important. “

In other words, our problems are not the problem.

As long as we are in this world, we will have problems. In fact, Jesus words are startlingly clear:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The problem is we forget these 2 key truths:  problems are a part of life on earth, and Jesus has overcome the world.

Problems are a part of life on earth.  “In this world you will have trouble.”

We all have problems.  But no one wants them.  We want a life of comfort, undisturbed by pain or distress.  So one reaction we might have to difficulties is to deny that they exist. If we aren’t careful, avoidance or denial can become our primary modus operandi, and it is driven by fear. We are afraid of future problems, or that a difficulty won’t be resolved to our satisfaction. We try to please everybody. We smooth things over.  We worry.  We think that burying our heads in the sand will just make problems go away.

In order to truly overcome, we must first accept that we will have problems throughout our lives.  No one escapes this reality.  According to one study, in a person’s life the average time span between one problem and the next it is 2 weeks.  2 weeks!  That means that, at best, we may have a 14 days reprieved after our last “issue” before we are faced with our next one. While that may sound depressing on the surface, it is really quite liberating, and here’s why:  when we know that difficulties will come, we are less surprised by them.  We can see them as part of the fabric of life, rather than a “detour” from the life we imagined.

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The Eeyores among us

Now there are some “Eeyores” among us.  Eeyore, the donkey from the Winnie the Pooh stories, was a cup-half-empty kind of guy.  He always found something to worry about.  Lest you become like—or more like– Eeyore, let me be clear:  Accepting that there will be difficulties on our journey does not mean we are to anticipate trouble around every bend.

When we expect the worst, we live in a pretty dismal reality, and so we tend to cope with this by either enduring or escaping.  Here’s what I mean:

Enduring. If we believe that life is no more than a long series of problems, we might decide that the best we can do is endure it.  We may develop a victim mentality or become poisoned with self-pity.

Escaping. An alternative to enduring is to try to escape life—to check out, via our favorite addiction (food, social media, TV, games, work, thrills, sex, porn, substance abuse, etc.) But the distraction doesn’t cure our hopelessness.

Choose to accept problems as a part of life, but don’t stop there—also embrace the truth that Christ has overcome.  The second half of Jesus’ statement is much more important than the first:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus has overcome the world.

While it is important for us to accept troubles as a normal part of life, it is even more crucial to remember this:  Jesus has overcome the world.

What exactly does “overcome the world” mean?

In Greek, “overcome” means “to conquer, or prevail”, and the literal translation for “the world” is “an ordered system.”  Putting these together, Jesus said that He has conquered the ordered system we have been living in, a system riddled with evil and deception. His victory is far more profound than a political coup or a military conquest. His victory is over evil itself! His triumph spans generations and penetrates every willing soul.

So where does that leave us with our troubles?

  •  Even though we have troubles, those troubles won’t defeat us.
  • Even better, every difficulty we encounter can be used by God for our good.
  • Here is something truly amazing:  not only did Jesus overcome this system of evil, He gave each of His children this same power to overcome.   
  • We can have peace in Him. Even in the middle of difficult circumstances, God can give us a profound sense of inner peace, a stillness deep within ourselves that no circumstance can touch.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Next week: 4 Practical Steps In Overcoming Problems

 

Related posts: Learning to Fish

Learning to Fish on the Right Side of the Boat – Overcoming Series: Part I

boatPainting by Alexei Birvukoff

by Lydia Floren

There is a great story in the Bible where Jesus was at the shore of a huge lake, looking out over the water. He was watching a boat approaching:  His disciple Peter was returning home from a fruitless night of fishing.  Peter must have been discouraged.  Who wouldn’t be after working their tail off and seeing no results? As he stowed away his gear, he glanced up and noticed someone standing on the beach: Jesus.

“Hey Peter, throw your nets out on the other side of the boat”.  Jesus hollered out to him.

That’s nuts, Peter thinks.  He just doesn’t understand. We’ve been at this for hours and hours.

“I’ve been fishing all night,” Peter hollered back, “we haven’t caught a thing.

Silence. I can just hear Peter talking to himself:

OK, Peter, that was kind of stupid. Jesus knows everything.  I’m sure He is aware that it’s not been a good night of fishing. Yet still…he said to put my nets back down, this time on the other side of the boat. Maybe he knows something I don’t know about where the fish are. I’ve seen him do some pretty amazing stuff.  Like the whole feeding the 5000 thing. [sigh] If Jesus says to do this, it is probably worth a shot to haul up the nets and throw them out one more time, wherever He says to throw them. 

  “OK guys let’s do this,” Peter ordered.  “Grab the nets, and cast them on the far side of the boat.” 

His crew might have just stood there, incredulous.  They were as bone-weary as Peter was, and were savvy enough fishermen to know when to pack it in.  Maybe they muttered a few choice comments to each other, waiting for Peter to come to his senses.

Peter didn’t care.  He knew Jesus.  They didn’t.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” He shouted. “Get moving.”

The sailors suddenly scrambled into action. They gathered the nets, and then cast them once more, this time in a most unpromising place. Or was it?  Their skepticism shifted to awe as their nets immediately started filling with a catch so huge that they started to break.

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Peter just shook his head, bemused.  He’d seen Jesus do this kind of thing before.  Yet even with all Peter’s experiences–after having witnessed miracle after miracle–it was still so easy for Peter to forget who Jesus was, and what God could do.

2000 years later, nothing has changed.

It is so easy for us to forget who Jesus is, and what God can do.

In our lives today, it is so easy to forget who Jesus is, and what God can do.  We have seen God do amazing things in our lives–and the lives of others–yet when we face difficulties, we tend to focus on the problem instead of keeping our eyes fixed on The Solution.   We worry about what we see, instead of looking beyond to what God is doing.  When we fixate on the problem, we might get to work trying to find a solution on our own.  The busier we get “solving problems,” the more distracted we can become, and it gets harder and harder to remember what—and Who—is important.

In overcoming problems in our lives, we must stay focus on God, and do our best to follow His lead.

                Next week:  our problems are not the problem.

How do you stay focused on God when you have problems?

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Recent posts: Circling Back, Sharing a Sunset, Enjoying God’s Presence.

Savoring A Taste of Heaven. Joy Lives In Contentment.

by Lydia Floren

One Saturday last August, Andrew and I blasted ourselves out of our rut and spent the day boating on nearby Lake Wissota. It was a perfect Wisconsin summer day. The water, hemmed by lush green, shimmered in the quiet morning light. The sun was warm, not hot, and a gentle breeze was rustling the trees.

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For the first half of the day, we puttered from one end of the lake to the other. I was preoccupied. My thoughts kept drifting away from this beauty to the restlessness of “I wants.” I want to live on the water. How could we find a way to do it? Where would be the best place to live? Wonder what the property values and taxes are? Is it feasible? Wonder how much that property costs? I was distracted by what I didn’t have, instead of focusing on what I had been given:

  • A gorgeous day.
  • The company of my wonderful husband.
  • A panorama of natural beauty.

About midway through the day, I pulled out my camera and started snapping pictures. My attention was captured by lily pads and weeping willows, craggy cliffs, wild flowers, and of course the water–rippling, reflecting, shimmering, and sparkling. An awareness of my surroundings remained long after I stowed my camera. I noticed the quiet sounds of crickets buzzing and water lapping. I felt the tangled senses of sun-warmth and cool breeze. I experienced the gentle rock of the boat lulling me to sleep. I was content.

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God offers me tastes of heaven every day–and every day I choose. Do I strain to look beyond the amazing gifts in front of me? Or, do I savor the blessings I have already been given?

Joy lives in contentment.

(BTW, I didn’t photograph a single house.)

Share with us: How do you remain content? We would love to hear from you.

Recent posts: Circling Back, Sharing a Sunset, Enjoying God’s Presence.

Circling Back

by Lydia Floren

God loves me—personally, and intimately.

 I feel like God has taught me a lot over the years, but it all seems to circle back to the fact that He loves me.  Me personally.  Not me as a part of the universal blob known as Humanity, though He does love every person He created.  He loves me–individually, personally, intimately.

I can feel like such a stranger to that love.   

I am so frustrated that after all this time of reading and writing on God’s love I can feel like such a stranger to that love. I don’t know what the barrier is, but I want to break through it and let that love stream into my heart and soul.  It has before.  What is hindering it now?

I have drifted.

I think it is what it always is.  I have drifted. My focus has drifted away from God somehow. I get caught up in what I am doing, the project I am working on, the plans I have made.  Or I get distracted by obstacles, or fears, or hurts.  I don’t stay focused–in my mind and heart–on Him.

He knows this happens.

He knows this happens.  Maybe even expects it.  Yet He isn’t angry, or impatient, or annoyed.  He is just waiting.  He is waiting by the well of His living water—His love.  He is waiting for me to come back and drink deeply, and resume our conversation.   He is waiting for me to recognize my fear as the sign it is—a lack of focus on Him—and to return.  And focus.

Circling back

When I do return—and I do, because once I have tasted the joy of being loved, I don’t want to be without it–He doesn’t want me to fill up my canteen and take off again.  He wants me to wait:  to wait with Him, and to wait for Him. To wait with Him as He heals a wound or rectifies a false belief or misunderstanding. To wait for Him to signal when it is time to move ahead once again.

Hopefully in my journey, as I learn to wait with Him, and to wait for Him, I will find myself circling back less and less,. Because I know God’s desire for me is to travel in tandem with Him every day, enjoying His loving presence as I go.

How do you circle back?  Please bless us with your insights!

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