When waiting, failures, persecutions and cancelled plans come all together in one season, it’s natural to be frustrated, discouraged and bitter. I am in such a season and it’s so hard to be thankful and selfless when circumstances in it compel you to be otherwise.
To persevere is the first thing I want to do right now but the last thing on my mind, too.
Two trips I have been praying and preparing for quite a time got cancelled. I have been waiting for the approval (or perhaps disapproval?) of a speaking proposal for weeks. The subject I needed this semester in order to graduate next year was not offered. I am contemplating on whether or not I should still pursue a part-time faculty job while waiting for my thesis semester. One of my loved ones is going through a battle against cancer.
There is an incredibly big amount of money for a discipleship conference needed for the next seven months that is beyond my capability to work on. One of the ministry areas I am attending to every week needs a new and bigger venue as soon as possible.
Persecution inside the church has been surprisingly real and intense for the past months. I need an x amount of money to sustain daily needs for family and ministry. I also need to pray, plan and prepare for a ministry goal targeted in about nine months time, Lord-willing.
Time is getting swamped and strength is being vacuumed by day-to-day duties. It’s getting harder and harder to get by and show up each day. I’m tired. It’s tough and confusing. I need grace.
It’s okay to tell God you’re tired.
Few days ago, I arrived in a small group schedule grumpy. I was not only tired from the two-hour travel/traffic time; I was physically drained from all the month’s work in general.
Then on the last minute, the people who committed to show-up did not show-up. One of them said she will still go, but she said she’ll be late. I stayed and waited in the venue tired and discouraged.
I went to the comfort room, locked the door, looked at myself in the mirror almost teary-eyed. I closed my eyes and prayed. I told God, “Lord, to be brutally honest, I do not want to be here. I am tired. Really tired. My head aches and I am really sleepy. I just want to go home and sleep. But You made me come here today. I’m doing this because You told me to. But I do not want to do this because I just have to. Please be my source of sustenance and encouragement tonight. I am just really tired.” I got out, went back to the table and waited.
Angela arrived. She just got out of her class. It was supposed to be a small group Bible study time, but it became a one-on-one Bible study session for me and her. It then became an opportunity for me and her to converse more — about what she has been up to, how she is doing, her personal desires and struggles in her walk with the Lord, etc.
Then I asked her if she has memorized the Bible verses I challenged her to memorize last week, and yes she did! It was so encouraging to know that in spite her hectic academic and athletic schedule, she was still able to set time to meditate and memorize God’s word.
I challenged her with another set of memory verses then I asked her, “What did you learn from the verses you just recited? How is the experience like?” She went on by enthusiastically sharing her recent experiences of sharing the gospel to her classmates and even inviting them to a Bible study!
I was not only surprised, I was also encouraged!!! I went home completely forgetting the exhaustion I was feeling. I went home praising God for Angela and our time together.
A week after, Angela showed up with her classmates — about 13 of them! We were able to share to them Jesus, who He is and what He has done! It was a fruitful and heartfelt time together as a small group! Yet again, we all went home filled with rejoicing!
I learnt that it is okay to admit to God that you are not okay; that you’re tired and discouraged. It’s best that we come to God in openness and honesty. We can come to God as we are, asking Him for whatever seems lacking or empty. He can immeasurably supply.
Thankfulness is learnt all the more in frustrating situations.
It’s so hard to be thankful when things are getting out of hand. As I have shared earlier, this season is filled with frustrating and disappointing situations. Yet I realized that God is not just continually teaching me contentment in and dependence on Him; He is also teaching me to count His blessings!
The harder it is to be thankful, the more we should thank God in all things. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us that it is God’s will for those who belong in Christ Jesus to be thankful in all circumstances! Psalm 34:1 also encouraged us to extol the Lord at all times and praise Him always.
I recently followed Amy Hale’s Instagram account. She is the one who wrote the viral post, “When Someone Offends Me”. In many of her posts, she would share the things she is thankful to God for. But what makes such posts unique is that she is literally counting it! I was inspired to do it, too! And it transformed the way I begin my personal daily quiet time with God.
I started to list down and count the things I am thankful to God for at that moment — from God letting me wear a pair of shoes to work to God letting me take a powernap to regain my energy; or from God reminding me to be more intentional and prayerful in my relationship with Him to God expanding the gospel to oikoses.
I find that counting the things I should be thankful to God for results to praises and rejoicing. It leads me to contentment and security. It also reminds me that I can always put my hope and trust in Him. It’s not invalidating the frustrations or disappointments I am having/feeling; it’s more on focusing on Jesus and not my circumstances as told in Hebrews 12:2.
There are many things we should be thankful for not just every day but everytime. However, we tend to forget such things because our thoughts and focus are on the circumstances that we do not have the control of to begin with. We tend to forget to thank God for waking us up today for His purpose. We neglect thanking Him for the air we are breathing, the gift of family, friends and loved ones and/or even the functions of our senses!
Battles are won on bended knees.
I am re-reading “The Timothy Principle” by Roy Robertson. One of the chapters in this book emphasizes the importance of prayer. It re-tells Daniel choosing to spend time with God intentionally and consistently despite the threat and eventually the persecution of being killed and eaten by lions! Daniel stood his ground by faith, fully secured of being and walking with God all the way (Daniel 6).
And there I was, already resolved with my daily prayer times. No threats, no lions yet already complacent — not aiming for more depth or duration with God. God has reminded me yet again to come close to Him in prayer… all the more in battles! He does remain in me but I have to remain in Him, too! Or else I won’t bear any fruit (John 15). I cannot be victorious apart from the One who is!
If I can worry about it and complain about it, I can pray about it. If I have the time to sulk, I definitely have the time to pray!
Will prayer assure me that circumstances will go the way I want it to be? Of course not. But being with God assures me that He is always sovereign; that He always knows best. Will prayer make me no longer affected by all the oppositions and frustrating things going on around me? Of course not. But being with God teaches me the things I should or should not do or think.
The two trips that I have been praying and preparing got cancelled because God is telling me that it should not be my priority as of the moment. Had I gone to these trips this October, a lot of things at work, in the family and ministry would have been scrambled. God reminded me to focus on eternal things, not earthly things.
The subject I needed this semester was not offered because God wants me to prioritize a lot of important things before 2019. Had I entered August with such workload, I would have been burnout by now. God reminded me to trust His perfect timing. He always knows better.
The reason why I am contemplating on whether or not I should still pursue a part-time faculty job while waiting for my thesis semester is not for me to be weary but for me to be still. God is reminding me yet again to settle my motives before Him as to why I should or should not pursue it; then entrusting to Him all things for none of these is in my control.
The need for provision for ministry is getting bigger or perhaps heavier. But along the way, God taught me that vision should always be bigger than provision. If it were not so, faith won’t take place. I should not limit God’s work based on the amount of money and time I may or may not have. It is only through Christ that the amount of money we need for the next seven months can be provided. It is only through Christ that a new and bigger venue for one of the ministry areas I am attending to can be provided.
And so we continue to show-up in honesty before God, thankfulness to God and dependence on God. We show-up even when it’s tough.