We all experience adversity in this life. Often it is how we respond to it that determines the environment we live in and the direction of our life. Adversity tests how much pressure we can actually take. “If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10 NKJV) The level of our strength is determined by how we handle adversity. Do we handle adversity or does it manhandle us? As followers of Jesus our faith should govern our feelings. Jesus said to his disciples that, “we are going to the other side.” When adverse wind and waves came against the boat the disciples were afraid. Although his disciples were afraid Jesus was not afraid. Let’s make it personal. Just because we experience adversity doesn’t mean we have to be anxious. We must not allow adversity to give us anxiety. Scripture tell us “to be anxious for nothing.” When scripture tells us to do something we are then able to obey scripture through the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Helper. He did not come to help us to do our will. The Holy Spirit is here to help us to do God’s will. The Holy Spirit is in believers to help us to obey God’s word. When we obey God’s word we experience God’s power and provision. When others are anxious we can be peaceful. Peace is not the absence of adversity, peace is what we can release to bring change to the adversity that we may be facing. The gospel teaches us that peace was more powerful than the storm. God’s peace is more powerful than the enemy’s storm. Jesus could speak to the storm that he could sleep in. We can’t speak to a storm that we can’t sleep in it. If we can sleep in it we can speak to it. Jesus rebuked the disciples for having fear of something they had authority over. The issue was they didn’t know they had authority over the storm. When we lose our peace and give in to anxiety or fear we surrender our ability to bring kingdom influence to the adversity that we may be facing. Hold on to your peace, because you will need it especially in times of adversity.
There is one common denominator among all successful people and it is this, they are committed beyond feelings. In other words their commitments are more important to them than their feelings. Their convictions about their commitments are stronger than their feelings of inadequacy or insecurity. Most people are more committed to their feelings than they are to their commitments. If you want to be successful at anything, if you want longevity in anything and if you want to leave a legacy to anybody you must be committed beyond your feelings. When you are tired you may feel like quitting, don’t. When you are offended you may feel like leaving, don’t. When you are unnoticed or unappreciated, don’t give up you matter. Anyone can quit, anyone can leave, anyone can complain. But you have the opportunity to be different. Faith (in Jesus) lifts us above our feelings and our circumstances. Faith allows us to live on higher and more solid ground. Faith allows us to live consistently above our feelings. So if you want to get married, stay married, raise children, pay debt, build wealth or have healthy relationships you will have to be committed beyond your feelings. Commit to being committed beyond your feelings in the end you will feel better anyway!
We live in a stressed out society. All you have to do is go to the mall or a rest stop on a major highway, and there is a very high chance that you will see a machine that you put in some change and it will tell you your blood pressure. You put in a little change and the machine basically tells you how much you need to change. The question is not, “do we have stress?” The real question is, “how do we handle stress?” or better yet, “does stress handle us?” Do we live in reaction to everyone, and everything or do we decide how we feel and how we are going to live? Let me be clear how we handle stress will determine how we feel, the relationships that we have and the legacy that we leave. How we handle stress may very well be a deciding factor in both the quality and the quantity of our life.
What we internalize and externalize is a determining factor when it comes to the quality of our lives. Thoughts become feelings, feelings become words, words become actions, actions make habits and our habits determine the environment we live in and the culture we project to the world around us. When we choose to forgive someone we are saying that his or her stupidity and sin can’t live on the inside of us. By not forgiving the only one we hold hostage is ourselves. Recently my wife and I paid about 14,000 USD dollars in debt. We kept the debt on an excel spreadsheet. Why? Because, we chose to take responsibility for our debt. We began to pay our debt, but we did not allow our debt to live in us. It lived in an excel spread sheet inside a Mac Book pro, not inside my wife or I. In other words, we had some stupid debts, stupid debts didn’t have us.
What to Internalize – You internalize something by thinking about it, remembering it and writing it down for the sake of remembering something (but for good.)
What God has said – In his Word (the Bible) or what he has spoken through his people. (Teaching or tested and accurate prophecy.)
What God does – The testimonies of the Lord. Remember the faithfulness of God in your life.
Success – Remember the successes you have had as a result of your obedience to God.
The counsel or the advice of the wise – Remember when someone corrects you, because correction is protection from both deception and destruction.
What to Externalize – We externalize things by speaking them out, and writing them down. Writing it down in the sense that you recognize there is a problem but you are not giving that problem permission to live inside of you.
Debts – If you have any debts write them down. Assume responsibility for them; formulate a strategy to pay them, but don’t allow the debt or debts to have you.
Debtors – If anyone hurts you don’t wait for them to say they’re sorry to forgive them. If someone owes you money consider canceling the debt.
Temptation – Renounce and reject any destructive desires that you may have. Remember whatever thoughts you don’t take captive will take you captive.
Needs – Write down, speak out and pray about any emotionally and spiritual needs that you may have in your life. (Make sure the needs are appropriate and spoken to a trusted friend. Don’t entrust your secrets to unsafe people.)
Failures – Learn from your failures don’t let them live in you. Just because you failed doesn’t mean you are a failure. Confess your sins to God. Admit when you are wrong.
If you have enjoyed this blog, you can listen to a podcast on – How to Handle Stress by clicking here. The podcast is only 16:40.
Choices are more powerful than feelings.
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:25-33 NKJV)
My emphasis will be on the words that are bold. Here Jesus is talking about the cost of discipleship. If you read the gospels carefully you will find that Jesus never looked for half hearted followers. He was always looking for the totally committed, those who would be fully given. Often people make decisions based out of emotions. Which means they make commitments they don’t intend to keep. We have all done this at one time or another. It is crucial to know that we can overcome our feelings with faith that is rooted in the truth.
Jesus uses two illustrations that make his point clear.
- You don’t build a tower that you don’t have enough money to finish. That is not faith its presumption. Presumption is usually rooted in selfish ambition. We should not make decisions based out of ambition because the decisions will always be unrealistic. The emotion of ambition will not lead you into a decision, it will lead you into a disaster. The fruit of that disaster will be shame. Don’t let ambition decide your trajectory, let faith decide your capacity and let integrity chart your course.
- You don’t start a fight you can’t win. Anger causes people to start fights they can’t win. We need to check ourselves before we make a decision from a place of anger. Anger will cause you to get into things you may not walk away from.
To make it clear we need to count the cost of our commitments before we make them. It is critical that we don’t make decisions or commitments based out of emotions when we haven’t counted the cost. Ambition and Anger can cause us to commit to building something we can’t finish or fight a battle we can’t win. Counting the cost is actually what helps us prepare to pay the price. Similar to stretching before you exercise. When we prepare ourselves we are actually positioning ourselves to succeed.
If you don’t deal with your disappointment it will deal with you. We all have problems; we all have dealt with pain. We all have experienced disappointments on some level. We have been lied to, lied about, falsely accused, abused and used. While the pain, problems and disappointments are real we must choose hope instead. Rodney McBride said, “Faith is often strengthened right at the place of disappointment.” If we respond correctly to disappointment we grow in faith, hope and perseverance. If we don’t respond to disappointment correctly we become discouraged, disillusioned and depressed. Here is an example. You were engaged, you thought it was going to work out but you found out that the man of your dreams was really a nightmare. You were hurt badly and the downward spiral began. You became disappointed, disappointment grew into discouragement, discouragement grew into disillusionment and that can cause severe depression or even self-destruction. The “you” may not really be you but it is “someone.” I gave you this role-playing scenario as a parable. The circumstances may be different but the negative downward spiral began in the place of disappointment. If you want to protect your future you must guard your heart.
Disappointment is a real place, it’s ok to visit but don’t live there. When you experience disappointment you are learning that maybe you scheduled the wrong appointment. Maybe you trusted the wrong person. Maybe you made a good decision with the right motives but the timing was wrong. Maybe you didn’t listen to a voice of wisdom and stability in your life. Maybe you did something you know you shouldn’t have done. For me personally, the deepest and hardest to handle disappointments are the ones that were my fault. The ones I could have avoided. If that is you what you will need to do is assume responsibility for your mistake or bad decision and learn a lesson from it, forgive yourself and move on. If you are feeling courageous share your story with someone else so that you can help someone avoid the pain that you went through. You can either have wisdom or regret, the choice is yours. If someone else is the source of your disappointment forgive them and put your hope in Jesus alone. Here are three things that I learned from disappointment. I hope my pain can be your gain.
How are your emotions? How you manage your emotions will determine the quality of your life. How you mange your emotions will determine how much people trust you. There is a direct connection between how you manage your feelings and how you manage your friendships. Many people are like a hard drive that is 98 % full and slowing down. When the hard drive is very close to full the computer is not only slower but it is also at risk of crashing. Crashing could mean that you loose what you have because you didn’t protect it well. Many people are one situation away from a meltdown. Your mind, will and emotions are limited in both strength and space. Keeping a clear conscience is not just about admitting when you are wrong or confessing sin, its also about managing your emotions. If you don’t manage your emotions you may have a meltdown. The same way if you don’t make space on the hard drive and just keep saving stuff your computer may eventually crash. The end result of not managing emotions could even be murder or suicide, so this is a very serious thing. Your emotional health is determined by what you internalize and what you externalize. Here is a model I have used especially during hard times.
What to Internalize and what to Externalize.
Internalize – think about and focus on.
- What God says in his word (the Bible) and by his Holy Spirit.
- What God does. (The Testimonies of the Lord)
- Success. (What I have learned from what I did right)
- The lessons I have learned and why? (What I learned from my failures)
- Good advice I have received from wise counselors.
Externalize – write them down on paper until you are done processing what was presented to you.
We should write down what we internalize as well. The reason I am saying to write down what you are externalizing is so that your problems don’t occupy precious and priceless space in your soul. I hope this helps you process what emotions you are feeling. Remember, emotions make a great servant but a terrible master.