“And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’ “
—Luke 22:31-32 (NKJV)
I’d love to tell you about all the things God’s been teaching me over the past couple of months, but I’m not sure what those would be. I am in utterly confused-and-somewhat-bitter mode. Nothing’s turning out as planned! There are too many unresolved lingering issues.
I trust you’ve been in a similar spot. I’m not trying to be vague here; things are just a little foggy right now.
“This isn’t what I thought it was going to be,” is a line we say around our house to describe how expectations are not being met. We once heard a relative give that as an excuse for why they were getting divorced: The marriage wasn’t what they thought it was going to be. Well, no kidding.
How often do our expectations actually align with reality? Not as often as we’d like—I think we’d all agree.
But what do we figure the problem is?
Many factors contribute, and wrong expectations top the list. But for purposes of discerning God’s will and gaining clarity—getting back our spiritual groove after an attack as mentioned above—I think we need to “recalculate” our lives with God’s purposes by concentrating on the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture, and worship.
At least that’s what I’m doing. Maybe you’d like to join me in tapping into these time-tested practices.
Prayer: A mistake I often make and I know others do, too, is thinking (or talking) about problems, instead of actually praying about them. We end up feeling like, Why is this issue still around? It’s so old, and I’m so tired of it!
But have we earnestly prayed about it? Prayed without ceasing about it? Probably not. James 4:2-3 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…”
Sometimes I really don’t like what the Bible says. It’s just too convicting!
But let’s take away this from James: Pray! Pray in accordance with God’s will! And pray with pure motives! (Easier said than done, but try it anyway.)
While prayer is not a guarantee to having the issue resolved, at least once we’ve prayed, we know we are one step closer to God’s heart.
Along with prayer, we need to check our obedience. Is God telling us something we don’t want to hear? Just like a child plugging his ears and chanting, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you,” we can try to ignore what we know God is saying. The basic choice is: His will or ours?
Maybe we hesitate because what He’s saying doesn’t make any sense or because it is downright painful. (Don’t ask me how I know.) Just remember, God often asked His servants to do nonsensical things in trusting Him. And those crazy actions (think Moses and Joshua) brought about God’s will and ultimate peace.
Scripture: I love what Acts 17:11 says about the Berean believers: “They searched the Scriptures daily.” How wise! This is our spiritual food, so let’s not subsist on the junk food served up by the culture. Of course, I’m talking about Facebook here. Instead, let’s head straight for proper nutrition.
As much as I love reading and collecting books, I know there is none comparable to The Bible. When I feel distant from God, it’s probably because I am not studying Scripture as earnestly as I should. The answers lie within.
Truth is timeless, so while circumstances ebb and flow, human nature remains the same (that is to say broken). The Word of God gives it to us straight, but holds out the light of hope so that we needn’t despair.
When in a spiritual fog, my humble advice is: FLEE to the Word of God.
Worship: We were built for this. And the biggest benefit I find is it reminds us of who God is, and that—in and of itself— restores perspective. Who He is is Creator, Sovereign, Savior, Healer, Comforter, Provider, Restorer, Teacher, Judge, and so much more!
While corporate worship is great and necessary, I often find some of my best worship comes while I’m singing praise songs around the house. Worship isn’t limited to Sunday mornings; it’s a lifestyle—one worth cultivating in order to maintain connection to our power source.
Try praising God throughout the day for small blessings that remind us of His provision. I find this practice keeps spiritual ties tight and makes trials more bearable.
And those trials will come. With Satan on the prowl and wanting to “sift” us like wheat, we need to work our battle plan.
So take heart, friends! God is greater, but He does allow these times of testing in order to grow us.
No, it’s not pretty. But you already knew that, right?