Yikes! It’s time to make a change: How to find the strength you need

Feet overlooking waterHave you ever known that there is a change that you need to make in your life but you have absolutely NO desire to execute that change? Have you ever wrestled with the impossibility that you will be able to follow through or be successful in making the change you know is needed? Maybe you know that you need to start an exercise regime, but you’re completely overwhelmed by the prospect of all that is involved with getting to the gym, going out for a run or walk on a regular basis or of sticking out the commitment to be physically fit.  Or maybe there is a habit that you know-that-you-know you need to quit but the thought of living without “…” is daunting and totally unappealing.  You hate the habit but you NEED the thing you’re attached to, and it makes you almost panicky to think of life without it. Or maybe you want to add healthy choices into your life like better ways of eating, being a more connected friend or serving in your community, but the thoughts of what the cost will be and everything in your life that will have to adjust in order to make room for this new lifestyle is keeping your feet in the blocks.

If any of these life challenge screen shots describes you, I GET IT!! I have been there in each and every one of those tight squeeze places where who I am and who I know I am supposed to be are as far apart as the edges of the Grand Canyon.  But I have a word of encouragement for each of us.  The good news is that God knows that we cannot traverse that chasm in our own strength.  He sets the vision for the next place that He wants to take us and He is fully prepared to get us there.  The problem is that since we’re locked in these things called “Time” and “Space”, we get freaked out when the change doesn’t happen overnight.  We would prefer that the moment the revelation hits that we should start to exercise, cut out sugar, stop cussing, turn our gossiping and critical mouth into a thankful and praising mouth, or start being faithful in reading the Bible and prayer, that the desire and the ability to execute would also be there.

But it doesn’t work that way. Unfortunately, I have found that the Preview of Coming Attractions comes way before either the desire or the ability.  And even once the desire comes, it can be quite a while before the strategy or the ability come as well.  And that can cause a lot of frustration (What is wrong with me? Why do I still fall short in this area? Why can’t I quit “…”? Why can’t I start “…”? and so on).  But from this frustration is born the moment of choice that God needs from us. He will never shove His will down our throats.  He simply pulls back the curtain and lets us see the better way but at the end of the day, it will always be our choice whether we want to go down the path that will bring life and freedom or remain in the place where we are.

Let me give you an example from my life.  Years ago, I was struggling with two things that I felt were important for a healthy spiritual and physical life: Daily devotions and exercising.  Like most people, I had to be at work early in the morning, and I woke up in just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat, shower and get out the door.  And even then, I was hitting the snooze button until the very last minute. As a result, my daily devotions (time in Bible study, journaling and prayer) were almost non-existent.  And in the area of exercise, I was failing there, too.  At the end of the work day, and after picking kids up from school, making dinner and doing whatever other chores needed to be done, I was like a pre-programmed zombie staggering to bed.  The thought of getting a workout in at the end of the day was a complete joke.

So I brought the problem to the Lord. Mistake #1: Don’t bring a problem to the Lord unless you’re willing to actually do what He says.  Because once you ask what to do and He tells you what to do – and you don’t like what you hear – you’re still accountable for the information!! The Lord told me that I needed to wake up at 4:30 AM to have one hour for devotions, one hour for exercise, and almost one hour for making a healthy breakfast and getting ready for work.  I think I laughed out loud! I’m pretty sure I said, “You do remember that it’s ME you’re speaking  to, right?? I’m the one who can’t wake up at 5:45 and hits the snooze button until 6:15.  And you think I’m going to be able to wake up at 4:30? That’s IMPOSSIBLE!” Well, I guess I forgot Who I was talking to because #1) Impossible is what God does best and #2) He doesn’t ever speak without giving the ability to perform what He said. So in that conversation the only person who was going to have a change of mind was going to be ME!

So did I come to my senses and set my alarm for 4:30 the next day? Not at all.  I wrestled with that strategy for over a YEAR.  Yes, a year.  And every time I would come crying to the Lord about how bad I felt that I wasn’t spending enough time with Him or about how out of shape I felt, yada-yada-yada, I heard the same strategy repeated back every time.  It was annoying.

And then one day, I was at a party with some of my girlfriends and for some reason I got really vulnerable with one of them and told her about this problem I was having with finding time for devotions, and exercise and being a working mom and a wife and all of the pressure I was feeling.  It was quite a sad story.  But she didn’t get choked up at all. She looked me in the face and said, “You need to wake up earlier to get more time out of your day.  I’ll text you at 4:30 to wake you up, OK?” I was in shock! What was HAPPENING???? How had the conversation gone so sideways? Now I was stuck.  I didn’t have the nerve to show her that I wanted an answer that wouldn’t inconvenience me in any way.  So the next morning, she texted me as promised…but I was already up.  And the same thing on morning 2 and 3.  Until finally, I was texting her at 4:25, saying, “Good morning! I’m already up and I hope you have a great day!”

And waking up at 4:30 has been my successful strategy ever since.  I was able to enroll in classes at my gym that start at 6:00AM (a time I would previously have been just crawling out of bed), and I have already had a cup of coffee and spent some really great time in the Bible before I even darken the doorway of the gym.  I am taking control of my day before my day takes control of me and I wouldn’t change a thing.

So I encourage you, if you are wrestling with a change – either something to add or something to quit – don’t give up.  Don’t get so down on yourself that you push yourself out of the ring. Keep coming to the Lord and asking Him for the grace to make the change.  Grace is the desire AND the ability to do God’s will and he pours it out on the humble – those who are smart enough to realize that they can’t even WANT to do His will unless He first gives them the desire.

And surround yourself with people who are winning in this area.  When I was a tennis player, I never played better than I did with people who were more advanced than I was.  Their excellent skills somehow brought out my best game.  The same is true in our spiritual and natural lives.  If you want to eat clean or exercise, hang around and talk to people who do.  You will hear their passion and see their fitness and it will motivate you.  And in the area of your devotion to God, there is nothing that will spark your flame more than being near people who on fire! And this is the area where being tepid the most dangerous.

If it’s time to make a change, keep coming to God, crying out for help and strategy and then do the NEXT thing that you can do towards that change.

Let’s pray.

Dear Lord, I come to You completely bankrupt in the area of __________________. You and I both know what changes I need to make and I know that You have a strategy for me that will bring me into freedom and victory.  You didn’t create me to be a slave to anything except Your love.  You created me to be above and not beneath but I feel “under” the weight of this area that is too heavy for me. I can’t lift it, move it or get around it. And I know that there are some good things that You want to move into my life that will require some adjustments. Please help me to be pliable in Your hands and willing to surrender my comfort for Your best plan.  Pull back the curtain so that I can catch a glimpse of the good that You are bringing and please help me to reach out to and be vulnerable with the people you are putting in my life to get to the next level.  Thank you for Your patience and mercy that is new every morning! Amen.

Now you:

  • Is there an area of change that you have been avoiding thinking about and pushing to the back burner of your mind?
  • Have you asked the Lord for His strategy?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • Have you tried to make a change in this area before and failed?

If you have tried in the past to make a change in this area and failed, I understand the fear of getting back on the horse and trying again.  It’s not just that you can’t imagine winning at this now, but you lost faith in yourself at being able to see this through.  But that is the past and this a new day.  Just like there are seasons in the natural world, there are seasons in our lives and this is your season to accomplish what God is putting in your heart.  In that last season, maybe it was time for you to learn that you can’t lean on your own strength and in this season, you are wiser and more dependent on the arm of the Lord to hold you and pull you across the finish line.  The enemy of your soul will dog you every day with memories of past failures so be ready to shut him up with scriptures like this:

1 John 5:4 – For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Luke 1:37 – For no word from God will ever fail.

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Psalm 3:3 – But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

John 1:5 – The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

1 Tim. 6:12 – Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

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