Dare to Hope

Believe Again Devotional Part 3

Scriptures

Lamentations 3:19–24 (NLT)

“The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’”

Romans 5:3-6 (NIV) 

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Devotional Thought

Have you ever felt discarded, overlooked, or forgotten? If so, I want you to know that your story is not finished yet. It is in these valleys, the place between our mountain peaks, that hope can be hard to come by. In situations like this it can be hard to even dare to hope. Can you relate?

In the midst of World War II much of the world was in a bitter time of conflict and suffering. It was in the middle of such hopelessness that Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, gave what would become one of the most famous speeches ever delivered. In it he said, 

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

I know I find it difficult to find this kind of resolve in times of testimony. I am guessing I am not alone in this. The heros of the Bible are not strangers to that feeling as well. In Lamentations the great prophet Jeremiah laments the awful suffering of Isreal. What resonates with me about this passage is that the author does not deny the difficult times. How often we feel less spiritual for wanting to admit things are not going well, and will believe covering up the bad times will make us look more spiritual. This, assuradly, is a lie of the enemy that diverts us from the intimacy and transformation of our souls and character that result from drawing close to God in our suffering.

When all seems lost, you can know two things: this is not the end and your inheritance is in the Lord. You do not need faith strong enough to last until the end of your journey. You just need faith for today. God’s mercies “begin afresh each morning.” They “never cease.”

Orson Wells once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” If you are not at the happy part, then you are probably not at the ending yet. Keep going. 

Reflection

Have you ever felt the pressure to minimalize your pain to be more spiritual? Why do you think that is? 

Is it less spiritual to admit that you are in a difficult situation or have experienced loss in the past even though you prayed for a different outcome? Do things not working out mean you have less faith than someone else? 

Lamentations 3:20 (NLT) says, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.” What does this tell you about the spirituality of suffering and grieving?

Why should we glory in our sufferings according to Romans 5:3-5?

Can you recall a time when you experienced God’s faithfulness even when you seem to be at the end of your rope?

Crossing Your Red Sea

Believe Again Devotional Part 2

Devotional Thought

How do you know when you need to believe again? It may not be evident at first. You might be like me. I enjoy working hard and giving my all to serve in ministry. Also, considering a different path includes a measure of risk. You could lose all you have worked for if you take the wrong path. Can you imagine what the Israelites must have thought when Moses first introduced the idea of leaving everything in Egypt behind for the uncomfortable unknown that waited for them in the wild, wild, wilderness?

I picture their initial response went something like this: “We are almost finished with the pyramids! I have a house here by the Nile. Have you seen the leeks and onions in my garden? Where will we live out in the wilderness anyway? I’ll keep making bricks. I may not be free, but at least I am safe and secure.”

That was me for a long time. I was unaware of how much I needed to hit the reset button in my spiritual life. I made excuses for my frustration and disappointment for far too long. I do not want you to experience what I did.

Sometimes external factors can bring about a need to believe again. Maybe you experienced a toxic leader that has caused you to give up on church or have encountered unpassable valleys in the form of a shocking disappointment that resulted in you doubting God’s faithfulness.

Everyone faces obstacles once they choose to leave their “Egypt.” When God called the Israelites out of Egypt, they came to the Red Sea. This land barrier caused them to be stuck in between a freedom they had never known and returning to their life of slavery. Your Red Sea is whatever is preventing you from stepping out of your comfort zone and following your heart into the uncomfortable yet satisfying life God promises. That is where real faith and your authentic-self begin.

Scripture

Joshua 2:1-11 (NIV) – 

“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

Psalm 106:9 (NIV)

“He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert.”

Reflection

Have you faced a difficult situation recently? What was your spiritual response?

Is facing opposition a sign that you have made a mistake? What should be the result of a Christian facing difficulty or doubts?

How did God provide for the spies in Joshua 2:1-11 even though they faced numerous obstacles? What does this tell you about how God will provide for you (See Psalm 106:9)? 

What was on the other side of the Israelites obedience to leave Egypt? Was it all good or all bad?

Think of a time when God asked you to leave your comfort zone in an act of obedience to Him. What did you leave behind? What happened as a result of your obedience?

Going From On Fire to Burned Out

This week I am able to be on The Nook Podcast.

In this episode I talked about going from on fire to burned out and how to come back spiritually and emotionally stronger. We also also talk about my book, Believe Again, and I tell parts of our story I have not shared anywhere else

This was a lot of fun, and I think you will enjoy listening.

You can find to the episode wherever you listen to podcasts or by following this link. https://www.podpage.com/the-nook-podcast/going-from-on-fire-to-burned-out-josh-roberie/

The Surprising Path to Overcoming

Do you ever feel like life is not fair? Of course, you have. We all run into those situations in life, but what are these circumstances telling us about God and our relationship with Him?

I have heard it said that there are two types of people in the world. There are mercy people, and there are justice people. Mercy people want to make the world right by giving others a second chance. Justice people want to make the world right by defending people who are suffering. I tend to lean towards being a justice person. Wait, does this mean I can be in the next Justice League movie?

Being a justice-oriented person causes me to feel the pain of mistreated people. When I see someone taking advantage of others, it hurts my heart and stirs me to action. Cut to workout montage where I prepare myself for battle like Rocky and Apollo Creed in Rocky III. 

The problem is, I cannot always correct the wrongs of the world. In my mind, I will overcome injustice, but that is not always the case. It is similar to when you are watching a show, and the bad guy gets the upper hand and then the show ends on a cliff hanger. Doesn’t that make you grit your teeth in frustration? I know it does for me, and that is how I think you should feel when you read Psalm 73:2-8,10-12:

But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.They seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong.They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty.These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others.And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words.“What does God know?” they ask. Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”Look at these wicked people—enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.

Psalm 73:2-8, 10-12 NLT

If you use social media as your guide, you might believe that overcoming mistreatment and unfairness is to put people on blast, stir up the mob, complain, criticize, and attack. For Christians, the surprising path to overcome mistreatment is different.

Getting stronger than those that come against us is not the solution. Running away is. That’s right, pull a Forrest Gump and solve your problems in a nice pair of Nike Cortez. When our problems are too big for us, then we should run – run to the one who is bigger than our problems, God. 

Not being able to overcome every injustice does show us something about God. It also teaches us about our relationship with him. It shows us God is merciful and gives people time to repent. Sometimes they do not. That is ok because God is also just. He will not leave us hanging, but He also wants us to learn something from situations where it seems we cannot overcome the bad guys in our story. 

We can see the solution in Psalm 64:1, 10 

O God, listen to my complaint. Protect my life from my enemies’ threats. The godly will rejoice in the Lord and find shelter in him. And those who do what is right will praise him.

Psalm 64:1, 10 (NLT)

We overcome by finding refuge in the Overcomer. We run away from our flesh’s and the world’s way of responding to problems and difficult people and run to our God. Not being able to be stronger than every difficult circumstance does not make you a weak person; refusing to admit that does. Unfair circumstances are just another (shall I say, good) reminder of how much we need God.

Enjoying the Journey

A story of happy accidents.

Do you have something you are passionate about but maybe are not the most talented in that area? For me, that is running. I started running almost by accident. One year, after moving to a new school, I found out I had missed football tryouts. Instead of sitting out of sports completely I decided to look for another option. That’s when I found out the Cross Country team doesn’t have tryouts. They will take anyway willing to suffer a hilly trail, blisters on their feet, and constantly sore calf muscles. While running through country roads, winding paths, and quiet downtown streets I fell in love with running. It was a hobby birthed almost on accident.

If only all accidents had a happy ending.

I heard the sticky note was created by accident. I wish I had more accidents like that. Most of my accidents would lead to me giving up on creating, not creating something that changes a company for the better. Most times in life an accident means trouble, pain, or at least a change of plans. 

Have you ever had an accident slow you down?

I set the goal of finishing a half-marathon under two hours. About six months later I finished a half marathon at 2:00:44 (Two hours and 44 seconds). I started slow and missed my goal by 44 seconds. I wasn’t exactly happy about this, but at least I was getting close. It seemed inevitable that I would break two hours at the next half marathon. When the next race came a few months later I finished at 2:00:04. Four seconds people!

At that point, I wanted to throw my running shoes over the nearest powerline (ala Marshawn Lynch) and give up forever. I would let my running dreams hang over the neighborhood by their treacherous laces as a reminder to all who saw them to never run. Running will break your heart.

Instead of giving up though, I doubled down on my efforts. I found a partner who was a Boston Qualifier, aka much faster than me. I went back to the gym and committed to a cross-training plan. I showed up early mornings at what I call the unforgiving circle of torture or what you may know as the local track. I put in the work. I even took it easy when I got too soar. I did everything right, and you know what. I was running much faster than a two-hour pace.

Everything was working according to plan until another accident found its way into my plans. Seven days before my race where I was almost destined to obliterate my two-hour goal I allowed my momentum to carry me down a hill too fast and twisted my knee in an awkward way.

I wouldn’t be able to run my race. I wouldn’t make it to my goal.

What really upset me was that I had never worked so hard, been so consistent, and invested so much time towards a running goal. So many times I got to the finish line and know I didn’t do my best in preparation. This time I had. I truly did my best but wouldn’t get the satisfaction of finishing. It felt like something I paid for was taken from me right as it almost touched my fingertips.

But was there any lemonade to be made from these lemons? The thing that caused me the most pain, the amount of time I had invested in this goal, would ultimately be my saving grace. When I really thought about it, yes it was a sacrifice, but getting up early to run and going to the gym to workout was its own reward. I was healthy, had lots of energy, and felt good about myself. Making new friends and growing in relationship with old ones all came as a result of the journey to get to that under two-hour mark.

I didn’t make it to the finish line, but that was always only 1% of the experience anyway. If you can’t enjoy the other 99% of the process than you probably aren’t investing in the best thing for you. When I looked back over the time leading up to that disappointment I can happily say that I enjoyed the experience of preparation. The final destination was not the two-hour half marathon expected through. Instead, the journey took me to a place that taught me a new lesson in enjoying the journey.

Life is full of unfinished business, unrealized expectations, and unfulfilled dreams. If we measure life by destinations then we ignore the lessons and pleasures of the journey to those destinations. Many times God is not just leading us to somewhere or to do something but to become someone. I want to be someone who enjoys the journey and helps others do the same.

Digging Ditches

Inspiration to Reach Your Mountaintop

By: Suzannah Driver

What could go wrong?

If you can do any other job other than church planting and pastoring, do that!” Joe and I looked at each other and joined the chuckles coming from other future church planters sitting in the room. We had a combined twenty-two years of ministry under our belts and knew God had called us to plant a life-giving church in Pensacola, Florida. So, what could go wrong?! The short answer is: Everything

Nearly three years into leading and pastoring Echo Life, I think back on the cautionary statement spoken to the eager church planters. Would we have ever chosen a different route? No. We know through and through this is exactly where we are supposed to be and what we are called to be doing. But this has single-handedly been the most challenging and difficult three years we have experienced in ministry. 

Reaching the Summit

Mount Fuji, though it is a mere 12,388 feet tall, is no joke. I have had the opportunity to summit this mountain twice. On both occasions, we began the ascent at midnight, guided only by our headlamps and a small, braided cord leading to the top. The climb is virtually straight up. The terrain is made up of unstable pumice stones. The air is thin, making it difficult to breathe. Most of my climb was alone, in the dark, feeling light-headed, stumbling my way up, and rolling my ankles at least 30 times. This is also church planting. 

I would love to say that everything has been a beautiful mountaintop experience, but that would be so far from the truth. It has been a lonely uphill climb full of bumps and bruises. For several months now, I have felt like I have been struggling up a mountain and have only seen the light of day for a moment. This is the kind of discouragement that leaves you sitting on your laundry room floor weeping and asking God if this really was the right move (by the way, the enemy is a jerk and loves to kick you while you’re down. Don’t pay any attention to the thoughts you have in these dark moments. Find a friend who can share a light with you and show you that you are still moving in the right direction). 

Kings Digging Ditches

As I have been fighting my way through the deep, dark, discouragement, my time with Jesus has landed me in 2 Kings 3. Three kings have come together to fight against Moab and they find themselves wandering in the desert and completely out of water. They call for a prophet and Elisha shows up on the scene and gives them a word. “Dig ditches all over the valley.”

I imagine these kings looked at each other in disbelief. Surely they knew about the exodus story (kind of a big deal). They knew God had provided water from a rock, manna from heaven, so surely He could do it again! But no, God instructs the people to…digditches.

This is the desert. The sun beating down, the tools are primitive. The prophet continues, “You won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water…This is easy for God to do; he will also hand over Moab to you.” (2 Kings 16-19 MSG) 

Can you imagine crying out to God for help and then Him telling you to do some back-breaking work in the desert. “Dig ditches.” How many? How deep? For how long? When is the rain showing up again? How are these going to be filled? The people had no answers but instead had an opportunity to operate in faith and obedience. 

Filling Up the Valley

Like many other believers and pastors, I am in a season of digging ditches. I am asking God for provisions, and I know He will provide, but the nagging question of when and how make faithful obedience even more difficult. Add to that the age of social media and I’m over here looking at other churches wondering why they got the provisions and I’m still having to dig with no end in sight.

This is where I have been the last several months. Many days of tears, frustration, anger, and feeling abandoned by God. Then I remember, “ You won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water…this is EASY for God to do…” My responsibility is to be faithful. My responsibility is to obey. My responsibility is to dig in where I am placed and not check to see whose ditch is already finished. 

Maybe you’ve been digging for weeks, months, or years. Maybe you feel like your ditch is significantly deeper than the people around you. Maybe God is preparing you to be a well of great depth for future generations. Maybe He is preparing you for far more than you could ever imagine. Don’t give up! Don’t keep looking for the wind and rain, but know and believe that He is faithful. He sees you. He will answer you! Keep digging! You are not alone. 

Suzannah Driver

You can follow Suzannah on social media at @SuzannahDriver. You can find out more about the church she pastors along with her husband Joe in Pensacola, Florida, at echolifechurch.com.

The Case for Critics

4 Ways to Benefit From Your Critics

You may think I am crazy, but I believe there is a place for critics in our lives. We can benefit from them if we approach their feedback in the right way.

Shake the Haters Off?

A couple of friends of mine once asked me to pray over them at their wedding. Let me pause here and say I am not a very ceremonial person. I am, by nature, a little irrerevant. I communicate in a direct, casual way. If you win an award, please don’t call me to introduce you. It would be awkward for both of us.

So back to my friends’ wedding. It was beautiful, and I was honored to have the chance to pray over this couple in such a significant moment. The prayer started sophisticated enough. But towards the end, I guess I got a little excited. As I was wrapping up, I all of a sudden blurted out, “And shake the haters off in Jesus Name! Amen.”

They have not spoken to me since. Just kidding. They thought it was great, at least that it was they have led me to believe…

A lot of advice out there in regards to critics sounds like my wedding prayer – just shake the haters off. I don’t think that is always a great idea. That may surprise you, but here are a few reasons why.

4 Reasons to Listen to Your Critics

What if they’re not a critic?

Not everyone who gets labeled a hater is actually sipping hater-ade. We should be slow to dismiss good advice we may not want to hear because it doesn’t line up with our immediate plans. Sometimes a little constructive feedback is what we need to keep us from taking the next step prematurely. It can also be the very thing that helps us prepare to move forward when the time is right.

Take it as a compliment

When someone criticizes you it means they are taking time to think about you, your point of view, or what you have created. “Why thank you, Mr. Critic. I had no idea you were so obsessed with me!” LOL

But seriously, you don’t have the chance to get criticized if your ideas are not being elevated beyond your existing sphere of influence. Critics show your influence is growing. “Thanks again, Mr. Critic, for that reminder of how awesome I am!” 🙂

Turn lemons into lemonade

A critic is someone keenly aware of your faults. They may not have the most delightful way of bringing them up, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of their fault-finding. Those shortcomings are areas we need to address to get better. We can turn a critic’s lemons into lemonade whenever we ask them, “what do you mean by that,” and learn how we can get better, instead of getting defensive.

Destroy your enemies

I know that sounds kind of strong, but check out this quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Abraham Lincoln

When this becomes your strategy of dealing with critics, life becomes more fun. You have more friends and fewer enemies. Instead of getting entrenched in your opinion and lobbing online grenades at those who have a different perspective than you, you get to disarm people and possibly turn them into a fan.

What I am not saying

I don’t think you should take all criticism to heart. Obsessing over what people who don’t know you have to say about you is a wacky way to spend your time. On the other hand, offering people grace and understanding, even when they do not give it to you first, is a great way to begin to make a small change in your world. I also think it is a fantastic way to reflect Christ in a moment we can easily make about our feelings.

We shouldn’t ignore everything we don’t want to hear. At the same time, we also shouldn’t take everything others say to heart. We should listen, though. It can lead to some fantastic things.

Your Story Is Not Over Yet

How to Find Your Happy Ending

What if the movie Rudy would have ended before he played in that final game? Our last image of him would not be of a courageous victor, but rather a bruised and defeated failure. It wasn’t that Rudy was the greatest athlete that makes his story so inspiring. It’s that he finds a way to keep his dream alive when it seems no one else could. His triumph was not in his success, but in his ability to never give up.

That kind of fortitude is hard to conjure up in our own setbacks. It’s like Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Redefining the Valley

When you find yourself in the valley, it is much easier to just accept the possibility that the best parts of your story have already ended. The peaks never seem further away. The shadows appear to linger so much longer. There is another way to view the valley though. You can see you valley as your lowest point, which might be true, or you can also see it as the halfway point to your next mountaintop. Maybe your happy ending is not in this chapter of life, but will be found in the next.

Whether it is a relationship that did not pan out as you had envisioned, a dream that seems to be delayed, or unfair circumstances, this life provides many opportunities to end our story before the desired conclusion appears. There will always be seasons we wish we could erase from the pages of life. Unfortunately, there is no whiteout for regrets. The good news is our happy ending is not based on our present circumstances, but on how we respond in those situations. You are not the first one to experience difficulty or find yourself at a dead end. Anyone who ever dared greatly, dreamed wildly, or attempted courageously, have all found themselves at those same crossroads.

In the Bible we get the luxury of knowing how each story ends. As a result, we can sometimes overlook being in the dark hours with some of these heroes of faith. In those moments they did not know if God would come through for them or not. There were no guarantees their stories would conclude with a happy ending.

Aren’t you glad it didn’t end when:

…Moses fled from Egypt in fear and defeat, but rather when he returned in faith as a deliverer.

…the flood waters of judgment fell around Noah, but rather when the rainbow of forgiveness rose above him.

…Abraham doubted God’s ability because of his own limitations, but rather when God did what was not in Abraham’s ability because of HIS promises.

…Joseph was cast into a pit, chased from Potiphar’s house, or chained in prison, but rather when he was put in charge in the palace.

…twelve spies were discouraged by their obstacles around them, but rather when Joshua and twelve tribes were encouraged by their opportunity before them.

…death gained access to man through the disobedience of Adam, but rather when man gained access to life through the obedience of Jesus.

“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

Orson Welles

Keep Writing Your Story

We must be careful not to stop our own stories prematurely. Comparing ourselves to others can cause us to quit because we do not get context when we focus on others. We don’t know what storms their ship just came out of or may soon enter. The best thing to do is to keep sailing, and hold on to our anchor of hope, Jesus. He is,after all, the author and the finisher of our faith.

When we focus on the pain left by people in our past, instead of the healing we can bring to others through Jesus, we become a supporting character in someone else’s saga. Turn down the cameo role of the person who falls victim to their circumstances. Be determined to assume the lead in your own story of redemption and healing.

The doubt we have in our most trying hours will one day turn to awe and wonder if we continue to trust the One who has the final say on how our story ends.

This is a repost of a past blog I have written and also shared at youthministry.com and other sites. I thought it would be something good to post as we go into Holy Week.

Enjoying the Journey

A story of happy accidents.

Do you have something you are passionate about but maybe are not the most talented in that area? For me, that is running. I started running almost by accident. One year, after moving to a new school, I found out I had missed football tryouts. Instead of sitting out of sports completely I decided to look for another option. That’s when I found out the Cross Country team doesn’t have tryouts. They will take anyway willing to suffer a hilly trail, blisters on their feet, and constantly sore calf muscles. While running through country roads, winding paths, and quiet downtown streets I fell in love with running. It was a hobby birthed almost by accident.

If only all accidents had a happy ending.

Most times in life an accident means trouble, pain, or at least a change of plans. I wish they were all happy accidents, but most of the time they are not. I heard the sticky note was created by accident. I wish I had more accidents like that. Most of my accidents would lead to me giving up on creating, not creating something that changes a company for the better.

Have you ever had an accident slow you down?

A New Goal

Last year I set the goal of finishing a half-marathon under two hours. About six months later I finished a half marathon at 2:00:44. I started slow and missed my goal by 44 seconds. I wasn’t exactly happy about this, but at least I was getting close. It seemed inevitable that I would break two hours at the next half marathon. When the next race came a few months later I finished at 2:00:04. Four seconds people!

At that point, I wanted to throw my running shoes over the nearest powerline (ala Marshawn Lynch) and give up forever. I would let my running dreams hang over the neighborhood by their treacherous laces as a reminder to all who saw them to never run. Running will break your heart.

One More Try

Instead of giving up though, I doubled down on my efforts. I found a partner who was a Boston Qualifier, aka much faster than me. I went back to the gym and committed to a cross-training plan. I showed up early mornings at what I call the unforgiving circle of torture or what you may know as the local track. I put in the work. I even took it easy when I got too soar. I did everything right, and you know what. I was running much faster than a two-hour pace.

Everything was working according to plan until another accident found its way into my plans. Seven days before my race where I was almost destined to obliterate my two-hour goal I allowed my momentum to carry me down a hill too fast and twisted my knee in an awkward way.

I wouldn’t be able to run my race. I wouldn’t make it to my goal.

Another Disappointment

What really upset me was that I had never worked so hard, been so consistent, and invested so much time towards a running goal. So many times I got to the finish line and know I didn’t do my best in preparation. This time I had. I truly did my best but wouldn’t get the satisfaction of finishing. It felt like something I paid for was taken from me right as it almost touched my fingertips.

But was there any lemonade to be made from these lemons? The thing that caused me the most pain, the amount of time I had invested in this goal, would ultimately by my saving grace. When I really thought about it, yes it was a sacrifice, but getting up early to run and going to the gym to workout was its own reward. I was healthy, had lots of energy, and felt good about myself. Making new friends and growing in relationship with old ones all came as a result of the journey to get to that under two-hour mark.

An Unexpected Destination

I didn’t make it to the finish line, but that was always only 1% of the experience anyway. If you can’t enjoy the other 99% of the process than you probably aren’t investing in the best thing for you. When I looked back over the time leading up to that disappointment I can happily say that I enjoyed the experience of preparation. The final destination was not the two-hour half marathon expected through. Instead, the journey took me to a place that taught me a new lesson in enjoying the journey.

Life is full of unfinished business, unrealized expectations, and unfulfilled dreams. If we measure life by destinations then we ignore the lessons and pleasures of the journey to those destinations. Many times God is not just leading us to somewhere or to do something but to become someone. I want to be someone who enjoys the journey and helps others do the same.

Unfinished Business

3 Ways to Handle Unmet Expectations

Have you ever thought of the perfect comeback except it was too late? Maybe someone put you on the spot and you didn’t think of the right response until the ride home. You left the conversation with unfinished business. Once you realized precisely what you wanted to say the chance to show the world your wit and brilliance had passed you by like someone waiting for a bus that has already come and gone.

It’s taking too long

Lately, I have been working on an outside project that is taking much longer than I expected. Ladders, tools, and pieces of wood are spread out all over the place. It has become a huge inconvenience. Not only that but each item is also a reminder that the project I want to be complete is currently just a mess. Parts of my heart can look this way at times as well.

Unfinished business can leave us with an uncomfortable weightiness. It’s like a cold for the soul. What do we do with this feeling? It can come from the abrupt ending of a hope or dream we wanted to work out. It’s the ache in the soul that arrives when people we love depart too soon. We know this feeling when the plans that we meticulously document in the journal of our heart are surprisingly blotted out by someone else’s intrusive marks.

What exactly are we supposed to do with unfinished business?

1. Honesty – This may be the most difficult thing to do, but we first need to be honest with ourselves. We should ask if this should ever have been our plan or desire to begin with. Was this ever the right relationship or career path or is it just wanted I wanted to work out? Is there a better fit elsewhere?

2. Healing – We need to be careful about continuing our journey on broken feet. Pushing through without pausing to heal may appear to be the best path but often leaves us stranded, vulnerable, and worse off than before. Wounded warriors are immortalized in film but are often the first casualties in the story of life when they do not stop to get the help they need. You will encounter pain in your journey but if every step hurts it may be time to not give up, but rest for the sake of finishing well.

3. Hope – Unfinished business can sometimes just be a reminder of who is the one actually writing our story. When we take the pen out of God’s hand we often settle for a dimmer version of the brighter story he had planned for us. Unfinished business reminds us to trust, have faith, and lean on the Author of our lives. You never know what surprise ending He may have in store for us if we insist on our own narrow expectations.

A missed opportunity, a failed accomplishment, and people who leave our lives too soon can leave us with feelings of despair. These are also opportunities for us to not only be reminded where our trust and comfort should really be but to also witness the miracle of God finishing the dream in a way that is beyond anything we could have ever expected.