Doubt in the Midst of Pain

Uncertainty has a way of creeping into our minds. During the dificult periods of our lives, we are found questioning. What is going to happen? When? What is next for me? How will…?

On and on are minds are barraged with thoughts. Some are good, yes, but many are not and must be swiftly dealt with before they take root in our hearts. Any thought we allow ourselves to dwell on will grow into fruition, for our minds care not whether they are good or bad.

Our minds take in so much information, they are truly magnificent. But they quickly dismiss thoughts that are not pertinent. They only care for the ones shown in the spotlight. All around the spotlight, people and things are moving, but the mind focuses all its attention on whatever is centered in front of that beaming light. We have the power to shine the spotlight on whatever is on that stage. The question to us, is, what are we shining the spotlight on?

That stage is made up of our lives. Characters come and go all the time. A tremendous number of events occur, moving the story along from one scene to the next. If we were watching a play and the person behind the spotlight refused to move it, as a participant in the audience we would grow weary. At first the scene may have gripped our hearts but eventually we recognize it is time for a change.

But how can we shift the spotlight on to something else? The truth is, we can’t shift it on to another thing until we first decide to take the spotlight off the thing it is currently on. Simply said, we cannot shine the spotlight on two separate things. We must choose the better of the two and change our focus.

If the spotlight is the storm that surrounds us – the ripping of the waves, the roar of thunder, the coldness of the night, then our hearts will be arrested. Paralyzed with fear and seized by doubt, our tiny ships will be tossed about in the raging sea. It is easy to see the evidence that fills our hearts with fear and doubt, for it surrounds us.

But there is a different area we can choose to shine our spotlight on. By faith, we can choose to shine our spotlight elsewhere. Right in the midst of our storm is Jesus, who calmed the winds and the waves in Mark 4:39. Even in the most turbulent sea God offered us hope in Jesus. This hope is an anchor for our soul, Hebrews 6:16-19. It keeps us from drifting off into a sea of despair and utter hopelessness.

When life is good, doubts seem scarce. But when we are hurting physically, mentally, or emotionally, doubts will flood our minds. In these moments we must change the focus of our spotlights from what troubles us to the One who knows the solution to our troubles. But it’s not just that He knows the solution but that He is the solution. Jesus is the way!

Give me a Smile

Symbols are used everywhere to convey a message. Smiles work that way too. It is one gesture that seems accepted all over. Perhaps one of the reasons is that babies smile all the time. When they smile, we smile too. Somewhere along the way, when life has crapped on you enough, you stop smiling as often, if at all.

But the amazing thing about babies is that they get over things quickly. Once they get fed, they are happy again. Life is good! They have no idea when or how the next feeding will occur, but they aren’t worried about it right now. When they have a messy situation they are rescued from, they are filled with happiness. They don’t dwell on that stinky mess they were just in. They stay fresh in the moment! Babies smile like no other. Perhaps we could learn something from them.

Some people are self-concious about the condition of their teeth. Fake teeth, no teeth, a few teeth, all teeth… I don’t care. I’d rather see someone give me a genuine smile with whatever they had than a fake smile with perfect teeth. A sincere smile is priceless and must be freely given. For something that is free to give, it’s a wonder smiles aren’t shared more often.

When you smile at people you interact with, it can change the tone of a conversation. But what happens when they don’t smile back? Smile anyway. Some people cannot muster up a smile for whatever reason. Don’t let that distract you. Smile for them. Smile big. Enjoy life!

A Moment’s Notice

Life can change in a moment. Some kinds of moments can be difficult to get through. They take your breath away and leave you speechless. It’s similar to the experience when that bully unexpectedly punched you hard in the stomach. Gasping for breath, you tried to regain your composure. Most of the onlookers turned away, as if they had not seen what happened. After all, what could they say that would make it better? Meanwhile, you were left with unanswered questions. Why me? What did I do to deserve that?

Sometimes the event is short lived and other times it can bring changes that last a lifetime. The number of struggles we face are too numerous to list. But regardless of the situation, things eventually to return to normal. “Normal” being loosely defined, that is. The shock of it all wears off and something else happens. We start looking for who to blame. People make fantastic targets for our problems, which is why we love to blame them so much.

But it can get so bad that we go even further and blame God. We may not come out and say it, for fear of repercussions. So, we instead internalize our struggle and push God away. Why did you do this to me, God? Or, why did you allow this to happen to me?

It is easy to rationalize things we do not understand. In our search for answers, we come up with all kinds of things trying to make sense of it all. Some things we bring on ourselves. Other things are brought on us by the actions of others.

Regardless of why this moment is here, a temptation will arise to let go of what you know to be true. You have been through too much to forget the times you have made it through other events of life. These events seemed manufactured with precision, intent to steal away your hope and magnify your fear.

When a moment like this comes, stay true to your beliefs! Know that this too shall pass. Remember the prior battles you have won. An example of this is King David from the Bible. In his younger years, he was a shepherd who watched over sheep. In times of danger, he had to fight. He once fought a lion and won. In another battle, a bear. Later on he faced a huge giant, one that taunted his people. While others stood by and did nothing, he decided to face the giant in his life.

Giants will always exist in our lives, and take on many forms. They will taunt us and try to get us to give in, to give up. But if a giant exists in this moment of your life, it isn’t there to crush you, it is there for your to conquer. Face what you fear and crush it instead!

Why Risk It?

Why build anything meaningful if there is a chance it will be lost? If you have lived long at all, you have asked why countless times. Life hurts so much when something is taken away from us. It can be a toy, a pet, family member, friend, or any number of things.

It gets to the point where we are afraid to want again. Our fear overpowers our desire to have. When this happens, all hope seems gone. When our hopes and dreams get dashed on life’s rocky areas, it leaves us in dangerously low periods. Thoughts warn at the slightest hint of hope. “Don’t get your hopes up. Remember what happened last time.”

If we remain stuck on these thoughts, life will live out as a tragedy. Living with no expectations seems like the easy way out. Less pain, less sorrow; it really sounds like a great deal. But it is a fool’s hand to play. Life has a way of swinging like a pendulum. If you do nothing, you will feel nothing and experience nothing.

However, when you decide to take a risk and hope, the pendulum starts swinging again. You will feel happiness and sadness. Understand that the more you swing in one direction, you open yourself up to swinging in the opposite direction when the pendulum returns. Basically, the greater the happiness you experience, the greater the pain you may feel if you lose it.

Again, why risk it? The shortest answer is because it is worth it. When you open yourself to experience all life has to offer, you will gain precious memories that will remain long after what created the memories is gone. As hard as memories are to look back on, they help us remember the love that we shared, a priceless gift to cherish for a lifetime. After tragedies occur in your life, take some time to heal. God can give you the strength, comfort, and healing you need in these times. Then embrace hope once more and live a full life!

Storms of Life

Life can hurt and at times, seem unbearable. When we are physically wounded, our miraculous bodies go into healing mode. Cuts begin to heal. Bruises begin to dissipate. Most of our bodies are programmed to fight infections also. Our minds know exactly what to do without requiring thought on our part. Even a small child can recover from an injury without knowing how to explain it. Emergency services, nurses, and physicians all rush to care for injuries to the body. But what about our minds, our souls? These injuries are not tangible but can still be devastating.

Contrary to our bodies, our minds work in a different way. When we are attacked mentally or emotionally, our mind tries to defend itself, but at times does so poorly. We lash out at others because we ourselves are hurt. The more they hurt us, the more we try to hurt them. The desire to get even can be overwhelming. But how does that mindset resolve anything? It only deepens the wounds on both sides.

If you find yourself in a situation in which someone has wronged or hurt you, try to exercise patience, gentleness, and mercy. Extend grace to them as if the roles were reversed and it was you that acted in an inappropriate manner. We all have our wounds. Some will heal completely, never showing they existed. Others will heal but leave scars.

Never look on your scars as something ugly to be despised. Instead, see them for what they truly are. Scars are proof of God’s love. You are a survivor. Look past your pain, struggles, and ultimately your own life, and watch God work through the lives of others. When others see your healed scars in the darkest moments of their lives, you will become a beacon of light and hope for them, living proof that they too can survive the storms of life.

Picture of Life

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If you have been given the artistic ability to draw or paint, then you have the ability to create an image. The more you practice this ability, the better your creation will be. However, some people have the artistic ability of a goose. A goose would simply stomp it’s feet into the paint and tramp around while honking hysterically. Wings would flap wildly and everywhere feathers would stick to the paint. After a final moment of observation, the angry and disgusted goose would poop on his work and head south for the winter.

It’s true; not every picture of life is a masterpiece. Fortunately, in most cases, if the picture we created for our lives is not the way we want it to be, we have the power to change it. You can create your own picture of life, the way you truly want it.

Learn to see the big picture . We see mostly what is, but can you see what can be? Not everyone can see things in a big way because they don’t have the vision for it. This is where we must learn to see beyond what is visible to our eyes. Artists learn to see the vision from within themselves and learn how to transform that vision into a reality for the rest of the world to see.

Be careful where you get your ideas from. Who are you continually listening to? Are they challenging you to grow and achieve, or do they enable you to fail? There will be no shortage of people that will tell you how your life should be. However, they cannot create your picture the way you like. They don’t have access to the internal feedback when you know something isn’t right. The danger is that if you don’t take action to create your life’s picture, chances are you will be subject to living according to someone else’s picture for you.

Keep working hard until the picture you’ve envisioned in your mind matches the one others see in front of you. It takes time to create a masterpiece. How much more so when designing a life. Many people spend more time clipping their nails than they do planning their lives.

Dream big. See the picture clear in your mind, as if it were right in front of you. Build on it. Add to it the details that bring you fulfillment. Then one day, you will sit back and look at your masterpiece and smile. “Magnificent!”

You Can’t Do That!

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Has anyone ever said these words to you? They have been said countlessly through time, only to be proven wrong by someone who dared to believe the impossible. I’m talking about a belief that resounds inside someone so strong that it lunges them past what others thought they could achieve. Many feats have been accomplished because people pushed past fears, doubts, and excuses.

Many people will tell you it cannot be done; that it’s not possible. Anyone who has succeeded in a worthwhile endeavor met resistance along the way. People think they are acting in a helpful manner to save you from disappointment. What they neglect to consider is that it tends to have the opposite effect. They may be genuine in their concern but don’t let their words hinder you from achieving your goals.

Find others who have succeeded and study their lives and habits. When you realize something was possible for another, it opens up the possibility that it may work for you also. It does not have to be success the same way. Sometimes just surrounding yourself with people thinking in the same direction helps push you along, like the current of a river.

Think bigger than you have before. So much has been accomplished because people endured to the end. They went beyond where others quit. They did not allow themselves the luxury of quitting. The fruit of their efforts made life easier and more enjoyable for each of us.

When things seem impossible, remember a long history of people who faced similar barriers. Many did not stop at these “insurmountable” obstacles. They pushed onward to better things that have benefited the lives of countless individuals and communities. So should we.