It's hard to feel stuck. Whether it's relationally, occupationally, with a hidden sin, with your finances, or spiritually, there's a deadness that seeps into all other areas of your life when you're feeling like you can't overcome something.
And when you look at Scripture, it's really easy to see that's not the way God created us to live. At. All.
If you're feeling stuck, it's time to live blessed instead.
I was reminded this morning that Jesus gives us a really good blueprint through the Beatitudes of what it looks like to focus our efforts on the most important things. As we focus on what's most important to Him, it puts our own circumstances and struggles in perspective.
The hinge point of these beatitudes is in the beginning of each when Jesus says "Blessed are those..." or, in some translations, "God blesses those..." This isn't #blessed where something good happens or we're reminded of how nice we have it. This is a deep sense of peace and joy that God has for His people when we're living in the ways that matter most to Him. The Greek word here can even be translated to "lucky" (more on this here) to remind us that we've been chosen and called not based off anything good we've done but because God loves us and is using us.
We can start to see our life as it actually is rather than hindered by our limited view if we hold tight to these things:
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Stay sober-minded about whose you are. Your good works aren't yours. They're God's. In fact, your whole life is His. Keep your thoughts focused on whose you are, not on how well or poorly your actions seem.
2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
The deepest mourning is when we see how far our actions truly separate us from the holiest of holies: God. When we remember our own depravity, we can see his grace more clearly. True comfort comes in seeing this.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
We start to turn a corner here and see Jesus inviting us into a way of living. The term "meek" could more literally be defined as "the men who suffer wrong without bitterness or desire for revenge.” It's controlling our anger and choosing to love rather than dish out what we believe is deserved. God calls us to always live this way.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
This is not a "feel good" stanza. Jesus promises this. And of all the beatitudes, I'm most challenged by this one. I want to grow. I want to be closer to God. But is that the primary driving force of my life? Am I willing to forego all my selfish desires to truly experience His love and direction? Major heart check for me. And if you find yourself in a similar place, start praying this as often as you remember: "God, help me to hunger and thirst for your righteousness in me."
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
When we choose to give mercy to others who we feel may or may not deserve it, what we're really saying is, "God, I trust your justice over my own." And the truth is that you and I deserve judgment outside of the work of Jesus. When we treat others with the same mercy we've received from Jesus, we experience that mercy freshly.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
We can't do this on our own. Scripture's clear that our hearts are deceitful, wicked, and self-seeking. But when we continually seek to empty ourselves and live God's way instead of our own, we see His ways more clearly. And by reaction, we can see and know Him more clearly, too.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
"This does not describe those who live in peace, but those who actually bring about peace, overcoming evil with good." To witness and participate in bringing God's Kingdom to earth is one of His greatest calls. We do that in the small acts of grace we show to our coworkers or family members. We also do this in bringing relief and restoration to brokenness we find in our neighborhoods and cities.
8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Persecution is such a tough subject for those of us who live in "comfortable" America, where the highest amount of persecution we may receive is a dirty look from a coworker. My greatest challenge in this is to not live safely. It's easy for "American Christianity" to just be a part of our lives that doesn't stir the pot or create uncomfortableness for others or ourselves. When I think about the stories of the early church and true persecution, I think of men and women who were willing to look like complete fools that even one person would understand the God who loves them. How "out of my way" am I willing to go to listen and obey the true voice of God? To what degree would His voice be just a little too crazy or weird for me to say, "Yeah, probably not that." And how can I stretch myself and invite the work of the Spirit in my life instead of doing what just feels like enough to me?
I pray that Jesus' words would stir up your heart to think differently about your circumstances. I pray that you would live a truly blessed life. I pray that whatever you feel stuck by would loosen its grip on you as you pursue the way of Jesus. And I pray that God would direct your thoughts and actions to what matters most: His voice and His way.
Some thrill seekers are drawn to the unknown like a moth to a flame.
For the rest of us, THE UNKNOWN CAN FREAK US OUT.
It’s part of our psyche, especially for guys, to see the world as structured by formulas.
Do this and that will happen.
Try that and this will be the result.
But formulas only work every time when it comes to chemical compounds and taxes. Or something like that.
People are inherently unpredictable. We are fickle, needy, and uncertain. We break the mold, frustrate each other, and out of nowhere think of ways to help each other out.
That’s why when you’re struggling mentally, you need a counselor, not a mathematician.
And when it comes to anything unstable or erratic, our brains tend to fill in the gaps with the worst possible scenario.
If I don’t know where my child ran off to, she’s definitely in immediate danger.
If my pastor steps down from his position, the guy who’s going to replace him can never be as good.
Whatever the reason we do this, it is completely unfounded and unnecessary. We become instantly superstitious of something that hasn’t even happened yet. And treating it as though it is imminent, certain, or truth can dangerously warp our perception of the world we live in and the God who is in control of it all.
When we invite this fear into our lives, we are trading away the hope and peace that Christ intended our lives to be filled with.
The great news is that this trade-in offer doesn’t have a “must return” date. If you know that you’re being run by a feeling that isn’t even real, hand it over. Get it out. Take on something much better.
God didn't create you to always be looking over your shoulder anticipating the worst.
He created you to trust Him.
And through that trust, He begins to show you better ways to prepare for and engage in the trials and joys that come your way each day.
And that's way better in my book.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27