Defeating Defeat

For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. The sounds of words, like serendipity and fricasee. The meanings of words, like blessed  (Oh, how happy) and  Hallelujah (to boast in God). The process of stringing words together, creating alliterations and metaphors. I even think in words, not pictures. My dreams often consist of visual  words, like closed captioning in my sleep.

I don’t remember when I first began to write, for  I never really kept a journal or a diary with any sort of regularity. By adulthood, I wrote almost daily, and for a variety of reasons.  To remember … all the adorable things my children did and said, as if putting it down on paper would ensure that I would never forget a single moment. To clarify and organize my thoughts, especially when feelings didn’t match beliefs and I searched for the right perspective. My marriage felt apart, and I found writing helped me to grieve.  Somehow I realized through writing, I found myself … perhaps more importantly, I found God.

Along the way, through all this writing, God called me. He called me to write for His purposes instead of my own, for His glory instead of mine. I marveled at this plan for my life. I laughed with joy when, on my 40th birthday, God Himself gave me a verse, confirming what I already knew in my heart that in this next season of my life I would write for Him:  “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the King; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” Psalm 45:1

And then I very promptly got the worst case of writer’s block ever.  Eight months of nothing … I couldn’t not write a single sentence, not even prayers in my journal.  At first, I felt annoyed. Soon, I was concerned, then anxious and finally devastated.

God had called me to write. I knew it as sure as I knew my name. Then why was I unable to pen words? Over and over I tried, I cried and I prayed.  Nothing changed. I felt completely defeated. One morning, out of my complete misery,  I wrote in my prayer journal, “Lord, I feel defeated. Why? And how can I find victory again?”

To my surprise, God’s response was instantaneous.  From the tips of my fingers came words, written in the form of an acrostic. Since I’m sure that I’m not the only one who experiences feelings of defeat, I’ll share what God showed me.

I will feel defeated when…

D: I am in DENIAL of the truth.

It goes without saying that what I believe and what is the truth are often completely different things. Satan is constantly whispering things in my ear, lies that he wants me to believe. But Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) When I am willing to listen to God and embrace His truths, I discover that I am free from feelings of defeat.

E: I hang onto my  EXPECTATIONS (which are often unrealistic).

Expectations are a problem for me. Often I realize that I’ve got assumed, but unspoken, expectations of myself and others (including God). Furthermore, it seems, more often than not,  my expectations are unrealistic. When I have an expectation that is unfulfilled, blocked, uncertain, lost or even fails, it opens the door for me to experience feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, and perhaps shame. Rarely are these emotions founded in the truths of God. Rather, most often, I’m listening again to the lies of Satan.

God has been showing me how to let go of my expectations for this life, and embrace His plans for me.  I love the words of Jeremiah 29:11.  ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare, not your destruction,  to give you a future and a hope.’ “

F: I  FOCUS  on my  FAILURES.

Just like I listen to lies and have unrealistic expectations, quite often I spend the majority of my time pondering my failures … failures which often exist only in my own mind, failures which often are only measured by the world’s successes.  I’ve been learning that I should focus instead on two wonderful truths.

The first is this:  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2). God’s plans for my life will look a lot different than the world’s idea of success, therefore I cannot use worldly standards to measure my success.

And the second truth:  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)  If God has called me to do it, then He will give me the strength needed to succeed.  All I need to be is willing to follow Him.

E: I  EXTEND  myself in areas that God has not called me.

God has specific callings for my life. I am a wife, mother and writer.  These are my three most important roles. Too often, I allow other activities to get in the way of my responsibilities in these areas, and when I do that I am going to feel strained and stress.  Quite often I know when I am over-extending myself because I will begin to feel weary and worn down.  It’s a sign that something is out of balance.

Jesus told His followers, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mattthew 11:28-30)  I have to be careful to put up guard rails and protectors in order to keep myself centered in the path God has laid out for my life. When I am careful to do this, my life isn’t marked by feelings of defeat.

A: I  AVOID  dealing with my sin.

But sometimes I just do not want to give up whatever it is that is making me miserable.  I don’t know why sin works that way, but I’ve found this to be true time and time again. I get caught up in some sin, and even though it makes me moan and groan and whine about the state of my life, I refuse to confess it to God. I just don’t want to give it up.

Wise King Solomon wrote, “Whoever conceals his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)  If I want peace in my life, I’ve got to continually confess my sins and turn back to choosing to live God’s way.

T: I am unTEACHable.

Quite often, when I am stuck in a rut of defeat, I know that God is trying to teach me a new way of doing things.  He wants me to grow and mature so that I am living a faith-filled life.  I don’t know about you, but I can be ridiculously unteachable.  I just flat refuse to listen and learn.

In 1 Peter 2:2, it says, “Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so you may grow by it.”  There are many things I desire in this world:  a strong marriage, children who love the Lord, financial stability, my daily chocolate . More than these, my heart should desire God and His truth in my life.

It’s been more than two months since God shared with me the reasons behind my feelings of defeat.  It didn’t cure me instantly of my writer’s block.  However, God also shared with me how to find victory in my life, and as I began to implement those truths I found my ability to write returned more and more in the days and weeks that followed.

Isn’t it comforting to know deep within the soul that God does not want me (or you) to live in perpetual defeat?

How have you overcome feelings of defeat through Christ? I hope you’ll share your success stories with me!

Stay tuned for part 2, when I share how God showed me how to make a VICTORY PLAN for living my life according to His perfect will for me.

When Mountains Don’t Move

He (Jesus) told them, “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  (Matt. 17:20)

But what if we pray, and the mountains don’t move.

          One of my children cannot swallow pills. We’ve tried every trick in the book, bought several cool gadgets and throat sprays, and have even spoken with a variety of doctors and pharmacists while seeking for a solution to this exasperating problem. Nothing works.  The pills will not go down. Perhaps it is only psychological, but it is creating big challenges for my young teen.

I cannot lose weight. No matter what I do, the number on the scale doesn’t budge. From diet programs like Weight Watchers to medically-supervised diets like Medifast to diligently watching carbs and sugar while incorporating 20+ minutes of exercise a day … I’ve tried it all and nothing works to take the weight off my body. Hormonal imbalances caused by a medical condition and genetics are both partly to blame.  As much as I hate to admit it, I’m sure that age must play a factor as well. (In this particular way, forty is definitely not the new thirty!)

This past week, my child and I have both felt overwhelmed by our problems. We are hopeless things will ever change, and so we react to our situations from that deep, dark place of defeat.  It’s as if we are standing at the foot of a looming mountain, trying to figure out a way to get to the other side. And from our vantage point, it feels like trying to scale up a vertical cliff without a harness, rope or anchor to help make the climb.

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Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

      Mountains are an expected part of this journey called life, and truthfully mountains aren’t necessarily a bad thing. When looked at from a distance, mountains create a lovely and picturesque landscape. Traveling a path that goes nearer a mountain still adds a certain scenic quality to the journey. And though climbing up a well-laid mountain path might be hard, everyone knows the journey is worth it. Standing at the very top, the weary traveler can look out with confidence, knowing the mountain challenge was conquered. Hard won victories give extra meaning to the traveling, and at some future date the traveler will have a tale to tell with those he meets along the journey.

But there are times when a mountain is right in the middle of the road you must take. There seems to be no path around it. There seems to be no path that leads over it.  All a traveler can do is work to forge a road that will get them to the other side.  It’s at times like this that believers begin to pray for the mountain to move.

My faith tells me that even with just the tiniest bit of faith, the mountains that block my path will move.  With all my heart I believe this is true. I’ve known mountains in my life that have miraculously moved out of the way with a single prayer. I can testify time and again how a little faith  in God, combined with prayer, have made the impossible happen.

But what about when the mountain doesn’t move? What does that mean? Is it because I lack faith?  Perhaps I’ve sinned?  My typical response is to fret and fume while trying to figure out why my prayers seem to just bounce off the ceiling.  As defeat sets in, anxiety and depression begin to control my thoughts and actions. A sense of hopelessness takes over and soon I no longer believe my mountain can be conquered.  Thankfully, God is teaching me a better way.

~I need to trust the heart of God more than the hand of God.~

     My faith is too often based on the evidence of God working in my life.  But what sort of faith is that? After all, the Apostle Paul reminded us to “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)  A believing faith has to be more than a seeing faith.

~I need to remember that I am not ever alone.~

     When I pray and nothing happens, I begin to fear that God has abandoned me right there at the foot of the mountain.  Instead, I need to remember what Moses said to Joshua as he prepared to take the Israelites into the Promised Land,  “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”  (Deuteronomy 31:8)  Not only does God not leave me at the foot of the mountain alone, He promises to go before me!

~I need to believe God’s plans for my life are good.~

     God is showing me that in spite of the problematic mountains I encounter in my life, He still has great plans for me. My husband’s favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11, a testament to that fact.  “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.”   A mountain I can’t cross yet does not mean God is through with me.

~I need to remember the power and the purpose in praying without ceasing.~

     My mountains definitely keep me praying, and this is a good thing.  One of my biggest tendencies is to neglect talking with God on a regular basis whenever my life is humming along without problems. However, in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, the Apostle Paul reminds believers to “pray constantly.” I believe if nothing else my problems serve a great purpose just by keeping me on my knees, talking to God and laying my burdens down at His feet.

     And this brings me right back to the beginning:  Sometimes mountains don’t move out of my way, no matter how much I pray. But when the mountain doesn’t move, this simply means there is an opportunity for me to move closer to God.