Isaiah 48:17 - This is what the Lord says--your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
Sometimes in life we get lost. The way ahead is shrouded by the clouds of fear of failure and loss of direction. The way used to be so clear. But now. Now we’re just not sure.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spoke about decisions and how when we’re trying to make a decision, we have to weigh the cost of our choices. But loss of direction is a little different.
You’re not just unsure about a decision you’re trying to make, you’re unsure of what your choices even are. One path leads up a steep hill and climbing is difficult. Another leads down into a deep valley, with the grade being so sloped, that you easily lose your footing and tumble down a ravine.
What’s a person to do? Maybe you could just sit still until somehow an easier way will make its way known. The hours tick by as you wait. And then the day slips by. And then another.
Then one morning you wake up and think you see something ahead. But the way is covered with smoke. Should you head that way? Wouldn’t it be a risk to go where there might be a fire? Then you hear a loud crash; as two trees, now engulfed with fire, fall across the path up the hill and the other across the slope downward.
Fire quickly surrounds you. Just as you think you’re not going to survive; another path can be seen in the midst of the smoke. It’s a bumpy road with many boulders and jagged rocks. But the way ahead doesn’t look steep or sloped downward toward a ravine. And with the fire surrounding you, you must make the only choice available to you.
But you must give up your fear of failure and try. You must pick a direction to go.
This is a picture of what life looks like. Life is hardly an easy climb on a smooth path. And it’s not one where you can see a long way into the distance. It’s only one step at a time.
Yet, as you walk ahead, be aware that you’re path is going to run into people who want to tell you what to do. They can also criticize you when you don’t follow their suggestions. Listening to wise counsel is important. But I’m not talking about that. This is blatant controlling. And they can make you doubt your choice of direction. Listen respectfully. Yet don’t just follow their blind led either. Thank them for their opinion and make a choice, even if you make some people angry with you.
But don’t let making decisions a chore you have to do, worrying about failure, or worrying about displeasing others. There’s a measure of excitement when trying something new. Yes, it can be scary, but it can also be fun.
Some of the suggestions on finding your direction in life can be found in wikihow.com in their article, “How to Find Direction in Life,” such as taking notice of what you really enjoy doing and then doing it. Don’t fear that new choice. Jump into it with anticipation of something good coming into your life not something bad. Take a small step to start. It can be overwhelming to try taking on a whole new direction. Break it down and don’t forget to enjoy the journey not just the destination. In addition, commit to a direction and work hard at it. You will be rewarded if you persevere.
I would also add: God can teach you what is best for you if you ask him. He will direct you in the way you should go. And not only that, he will walk with you and even carry you when the road ahead is bumpy and has jagged rocks. Give up that fear of failure and try!
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Next week my oldest grandson will be leaving for the Navy. He will serve five years active duty and two years in the reserves. Saying goodbye to him this week was so very hard to do.
Even when he earns leave time, coming home will not be the same. Because he won’t be coming home the young man he is now. The military will change him. I’m not saying that going into the Navy is a bad thing because it isn’t. I just mean that who he is as a person will change. It will have to. He is going to be thrown into situations he has no clue on how to react. But I know the real person inside of him won’t change. Those deep-down parts of him will still be there even if his overall person will be changed.
So, how do you say goodbye? I wrote him a card and a personal note to encourage him. I watched as he read my note. He read it, and that is something to note. He didn’t just push it aside because he’s been taught to value others and himself. That’s why I know that he will be okay. He’s strong on the inside and will become stronger through his experiences.
There is another kind of goodbye, though. It’s the gut-wrenching pain of losing a loved one in death. There’s no going back. There are no chances for relationship do overs. Death is final. It is here, in this grief, that we find our hearts broken as we go through the grieving process.
Though nothing can compare to the loss of a loved one, there is a third kind of loss: loss of the world as we know it. Battling emotional pain is also a gut-wrenching ordeal. And many times, there is also no going back. It becomes a time to try to find a measure of relief by focusing on the good things in our lives. When you are being attacked by an episode of PTSD, though, it seems impossible to find anything positive about our situation.
How do we move on in our life even in the face of emotional pain’s constant onslaught? Eddinscounseling.com in their article, “9 Ways to Cope with Emotional Pain (without Food, Alcohol or shopping) gives us practical guidelines for coping with emotional pain. Finding a new hobby and moving your body are top on the list. Finding something new to do can change your focus and distract you from constantly thinking about your emotional pain. Moving your body is important because if you chose to stay in bed all the time, not only will it prevent you from healing from your emotional pain, it will affect you physically also. Another idea that’s on the top of my list is don’t ruminate. Don’t constantly rehash what happened. You’ll never move forward if you stay stuck in the past. Easier said than done sometimes. The last one I will share is stop telling the story. It’s easy to find a listening ear who is willing to listen to you. But if all you do in conversations with friends is tell your story over and over, you may find that your friends start distancing themselves from you. You can let them know that you’re still struggling without having to have the same conversation over and over.
Saying goodbye whether it’s to a relationship, the loss of a loved one or the loss of an area of our lives can be so very hard to do, but it’s possible to do so. Refrain from going over things in the past and imagine the good things that can happen in your future like the Bible verse above speaks of. God’s plans are for our good. There still may be struggle ahead, but you never have to face that struggle alone. God is never going to say goodbye to a relationship with him. He is always available to listen to and will bring you the hope you need just when you need it.
1 Corinthians 14:33 – For God is not a God of disorder but of peace – as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
So many decisions.
So many worries.
So many thoughts swirling inside your head.
When your mind is filled to the brim with decisions that need to be made, worries, and thoughts, confusion shows up and threatens to tip your boat over.
When you’re in a hurry or when you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, all the expectations and responsibilities, you can’t think. There’s so much pressure. You don’t know what to do.
Water begins to pour into your boat.
You bail the water out, but it’s not enough.
Then a wave towers over you and floods your boat.
How do you stop the confusion? Life can be hard. And with life comes change. You might not want to change. But if you’re in a storm of confusion, change may be your ticket out of the storm and back onto the shore where you can ground your thoughts and take that deep breath and find peace.
You may need to write down what you’re confused about. You might even want to read what you wrote out loud. Or maybe you need to take a break and focus on something else for a while.
Huffpost.com in their article, “4 Ways to Find Direction When you are Feeling Confused,” gives us some ways to let go of confusion and find joy again. First, accept where you are, then take a deep breath, focus on what you know instead of what you don’t know and be patient.
And if you seek God, he will help you make it to shore safely. For God is not a God of confusion and disorder but of peace.
Isaiah 43: 18,19 – Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Now that a new year has begun. I have to ask, did you make New Year’s resolutions?
I’d like to not just flippantly make a resolution, but one if tackled, can change my life all together.
Here are a few of the most common ones:
You get the gist of it. So, what’s my resolution:
Life can be full of the “awesome” things. Find yours today. It can be kinda fun to do, as many changes can blend in together to make a new you this year. People.howstuffworks.com gives us some ideas about new year’s resolutions such as stop procrastinating and just do it, learn to take risks, forgive someone, and learn one new thing. Find more ideas in the article, “10 New Year’s Resolutions Might Actually Keep.”
Now, go out there and make your list, keep it small, believe it can be accomplished then strive for it. Take a look at the Bible verse above, it challenges us to forget the things that are in the past and believe that God is doing a new thing in your life. God will make the way for you, if you believe that streams can flow in the wasteland of your life. Can you feel the shower starting? It may be scary to begin with, but it can be just the start you need to make and keep your New Year’s resolutions.
Luke 10:41 - “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things.”
Do you ever feel like you’re being put down when others accuse you of being worried all of the time when in fact, you’re just being cautious?
This can include trying new prescriptions for mental health issues. We may have had bad reactions in the past and are cautious about trying new medications. This is a valid concern and not just being worried about trying them.
Let’s take a look at the difference between being cautious and worried from Merriam-webster.com:
Cautious – Careful about avoiding danger or risk.
Worried – Mentally troubled or concerned; feeling or showing concern or anxiety about what is happening or might happen.
As you can see, being cautious is not the same as being worried. When deciding if you should follow a course of action, it’s important to weigh all of the pros and cons to see if there is any danger by following it. A certain amount of danger or risk happens if we take a step into new territory. But it doesn’t necessarily mean we are showing excess worry.
In fact, there are more risks worrying yourself sick over what may never happen even if you feel they will. Doors that were open can be shut to you, because you didn’t act when the time was right, but waited and then it was too late. The door slammed shut.
On the other hand, if you are cautious, you may find that it’s not in your best interest to walk through an open door. However, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get upset about it. We aren’t always supposed to walk through an open door.
So how do we know if we’re being cautious and are examining our options, or are worried about something going wrong when it may never happen? Here’s some tips on making life decisions on psychologytoday.com in their article, “How to Mindfully Make Important Life Decisions.” Their tips include slowing down, unless it is an emergency, and reflect on your priorities, your goals and your values; and, accept that making important decisions can be hard because they have lasting consequences.
When you’re tempted to go into worry overload because you don’t know if you should move in a certain direction, remember that even Jesus pointed out to a woman in the Bible named Martha, who was worrying about all of the little details of preparing a meal, instead of doing what her sister Mary was doing and listen to what Jesus had to say. We can be like Martha if we’re not careful. Look at the facts in front of you and take them to God before making a decision. He can help us realize that if he’s placed a decision in front of you, he is capable of helping you weigh the risks and use caution instead of just worrying and not taking action.
Luke 14:28 - Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
Some people approach a problem and before they move forward they first see if they have the resources and if they can solve it by themselves. All the outcomes and procedures they know may indeed lead them to the answers, thus allowing them to complete the task; but they must be sure they must first look at what it will cost them to complete in both time and money. Then a decision can be made.
Second, if the task is more than they are trained for and have experience in, they may decide they cannot complete it by themselves and must ask for help. The cost for this choice may involve hurting their pride a little, but seeking help may actually show the willingness of an individual to join in partnership with others and find they can solve the problem together.
Unfortunately there is a third approach that’s possible. This group of people will never “stoop so low”, to ask for help. They would rather watch the problem grow in intensity thus causing other problems to pop up that they hadn’t seen coming. So they try to prove they can find the solution, but in the process they use up resources they which were meant for another task to be completed. And so they fail in completing the current task and also the one that was to be done in the future. If they had only counted the cost first, they may have succeeded.
There is one more approach that many choose. They decide to do nothing. They have counted the cost, but are too afraid to try to solve the problem on their own. And they won’t ask for help because in doing so they feel that they may look incompetent to not only solve this problem, but are also unable to do their job.
Which group do you fall into?
No matter what your choice is remember that there is always going to be a cause and effect as a result of your decision. You must count the cost, because it includes not just the time and finances it takes to get the job done, but also the emotional cost and how it can affect our well-being.
As I mentioned above, when you find yourself in need of help, in asking for it, you may feel like you’re less than competent or your pride gets bruised. These costs may seem minimal, but as one project follows another, doubts about yourself can lead to depression and anxiety. We can become afraid of what will happen to us.
If we have someone to cheer us on, our depression and anxiety can be set aside and the new goal acted upon. But if those around us tell us that we can’t complete it our well-being takes a downward turn.
How do we count the cost to our emotional well-being when decisions have to be made? Take a look at Harvard Business Review’s (hbr.org) article, “Don’t Let Emotions Screw Up Your Decisions.” In the article it discusses how our feelings can offer relevant and important feedback about a decision, but irrelevant emotions triggered by a completely unrelated event can take us off track.
A decision always comes with an emotional cost. But if you take that decision to God, just as the Bible verse above states, he can help you sit down and estimate the cost and help you take the best course of action.
Isaiah 65:2 - All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations.
Couldn’t I have?
Regrets. We all have them. We have things we think could’ve been prevented. But once something’s happened, you can’t take it back no matter how much you wish you could.
I’ve spent the last few weeks looking back over what’s happened. I think of all the things I could’ve done differently. I think of all the things I wish someone I care about would forgive me of.
And the more I looked back, the more that ache inside my chest began to rise up.
We have to ask ourselves if we really could’ve done things differently. Maybe if I hadn’t shared my feelings. Maybe if I’d listened more and talked less. Maybe if I’d reached out sooner. Maybe. If only. I regret. But we can’t go back in time.
No matter how hard we try, no matter how strong our regrets are, we’re only wasting time imagining how things could’ve looked like. But the past is the past. The only way we can keep from developing things we may regret later is to stay in the moment. Focus on what you can do today. Right now. This will lessen the possibilities of regret.
No one is perfect. Not you, or the person you may have hurt. But is it only the other person who was hurt? Are things always our fault? No. Sometimes the person you care about just decides to vomit on us with their negative, fault-finding words.
Let’s decide that we are going to try our best to let go of our regrets and move forward. But how do you move forward and stop letting regrets rule your live? Huffingtonpost.com has a great article titled, “10 Ways to Live Life with no Regrets.” In it they list let your loved ones know you love them and keep your work at work.
There is a warning we must heed just as the Bible verse above says. We walk in ways that are not good if we pursue our imaginations. That means that if we keep thinking about our regrets, we will eventually create another situation we regret. God can help us see more clearly if we turn to him as our hearts aches with regret.
Ezekiel 12:21-23 - The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, what is this proverb you have in the land of Israel: ‘The days go by and every vision comes to nothing’? Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to put an end to this proverb, and they will no longer quote it in Israel.’ Say to them, ‘The days are near when every vision will be fulfilled.’”
Visions. These are things we work toward in our lives. They give us direction and focus because we are driven to pursue them with all our strength and resources.
So each day we take one step forward toward that vision of our life. But what happens when life caves in on us and buries our visions; sometimes for good.
Now, we are unsure of what to do. We’re even unsure of where our lives are headed.
Do we find another dream or do we throw each rock that buried our vision and try again? Sometimes we don’t just give up on the vision we were working toward, but all visions. Maybe we just don’t believe in them anymore and we stop striving for anything in our life.
Sometimes trying again is all we need to achieve our vision. But what happens when no amount of digging unburies our dreams?
It’s time then to take some steps to finding and working toward the visions for your life. Huffingtonpost.com has an article titled, “A Vision for Your Future,” which discusses what makes a vision and how to create a bigger version of yourself.
Lastly, take a look at the Bible verses above. Israel had been in captivity and their visions of living in the Promised Land and they thought that all visions would come to nothing. Most of the people had been exiled but the few that were left found out there would be more visions. The Lord told them that now a day would come soon when every vision would be fulfilled. Our visions, too, can become unburied and come to pass.
Philippians 3:12 - Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
It had been an awful day. The things that happened weren’t supposed to happen. I found myself with thoughts of what was and what might have been and I traveled down the staircase of regret.
It just seems like after I think I’ve gotten over something, it comes back and slaps me across my face. And the pain and sorrow threaten to ruin me again.
But it isn’t just climbing back up that we must put our energies into. It’s also the attitudes we hold in our hearts.
Sometimes the hurts are so strong that they drive us into a dark cave where we press our face against the back wall. But we can’t stay in hiding forever.
When awful things happen in our lives, how to we move beyond what happened and into the hope of a new tomorrow?
Psycologytoday.com posted the article, “Let it Go,” which can help you make changes in your life such as changing your story and ruthlessly discarding the things in the past that are necessary in order to move forward. It isn’t easy, but it’s better than living the way you are now.
So I say as the Bible verse above talks about, I try to press forward and aim for the prize that awaits me just around the next corner in my future. God will help us gain the strength we need and that staircase won’t be as hard as we think it is to climb.
1 Samuel 18:7-9 - As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David.
In life there is always a trade off:
Yet, you wonder.
Why are there so many trade-offs in life?
The answer may lay in the way you look at your life. You may feel like you have every reason to be bitter, but who does that help? Certainly not you. It only deepens the sorrow and may make you want to give up.
Life is full of trade-offs, but that doesn’t mean that your life is completely an unfair gathering of pain and suffering. Psycologytoday.com shows us in their article, “Life is a Series of Trade-offs,” that trade-offs mean that you have the chance to show the world that though there are trade-off, there is freedom to be found if we can accept life on life’s terms.
The article above provides a way that we can find a balance in our lives. Focus on what you can do. What you will receive, if you take the step that has a trade-off.
The Bible verses above takes place when David was anointed the future king of Israel. The positive trade-off was that he gained popularity with the people. However, David’s successes were causing the current king, Saul, to felt threatened and he tried to kill David. But it didn’t stop David from believing in the future God had promised him. We too, can feel the rush of being “chased after” by the negatives of a trade-off. Trust that God will help protect you while you wait for the positive of a trade-off to become stronger than the negative just as God did for David.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.