You wake up in the morning, feeling hopeful and looking forward to your day. Then you switch on the TV or radio, or check out your favorite online news source, and there it is: another terrorist attack, school shooting, or other heinous, senseless act of violence. Disturbing images of death, horror and destruction instantaneously transform your hopeful, optimistic mood into one of sorrow, disgust and fear. Terrifying questions and scenarios fill your mind: Where will the next attack happen? What if my loved ones or I are the next victims? Will there ever be peace on earth? Is it futile to plan, hope and dream about the future? Do we even have a future?
During these troubled times, especially following the latest deadly terrorist attack, we are naturally concerned about our own country and the world. We wonder what we possibly can do to help. It’s important to maintain the right perspective so that we don’t become frightened and discouraged, because excessive grief, fear and anxiety about the world’s troubles will keep us from functioning effectively. Each of us is on earth to fulfill a unique purpose, and unless we do, we will never feel peace, regardless of what is happening in the world. We need to stay hopeful, and open to God’s light and love, grounding ourselves in prayer and living our faith as completely as possible.
Heavenly Father, I give you this day. Please get me through it, because I am not sure I can handle it on my own. I don’t feel I have enough strength, enough courage, or enough staying power to do what I have to do today. Help me to fight my sorrow and grief. Help me do what I need to do in a better way than I did yesterday. Help me to achieve my high ideals. Give me hope, trust, and faith. Be with me totally as I tend to business, and forgive me if I do not always do right. Give me hope about the future, the right attitude about my past mistakes, and strength to deal with the present.
My life is not going too well right now. It seems as though I have adversity at every turn, and giving You my trust is very difficult. At this time in my life, I don’t think I can drive myself any further, and I require Your help to give me the push I need to keep going. I have fears right now and don’t know how to overcome them. I don’t show enough faith. My soul is in a great struggle to fight its own fear and find true peace.
I give my life to You for guidance; I give my body into Your Fatherly care; and I give You my soul, that You will provide it with the growth it requires. I give You all my personal relationships with others, asking You to give us enough time together to fulfill what we need in order to enjoy eternity with one another. You have given me great gifts, for which I thank You from the bottom of my heart. I want to honor You, Father. Help me to do this. Amen.
A legend tells how, once upon a time, birds had no wings and couldn’t fly. One day, God handed them each a pair of wings, which He instructed them to carry. It was grueling at first, because the wings were heavy and cumbersome. But the birds obediently carried the wings at their sides and struggled along. Gradually, the wings began to merge into the birds’ bodies. Their resilience in dealing with this adversity that had seemed like a burden, soon freed the birds from their earthbound state and enabled them to experience the miracle of flight.
As the legend illustrates, God’s plan is always far greater in scope and better for us than anything we could imagine with our limited perspective. When we are too complacent, we can get lazy. Instead of seeking new opportunities for personal and spiritual growth, we cling to the job, routine, environment, and people that feel comfortable and safe. We are like children who fear the first day of school because it is a new and unfamiliar experience. But if children are to learn and mature, they need to trust and obey their parents, get an education, and face new challenges. Likewise, if we are to grow spiritually and reach our full potential, God has to “shake us up” a bit. This often involves adversity in the form of unwelcome changes, difficult situations, painful events, or the loss of someone or something we cherish.
While Joe was out fishing one day, he spotted an old man observing him from a distance. As the hours went by, the man continued to sit there and watch. As Joe was leaving, he approached the old man and said, “I couldn’t help noticing that you were watching me fish all day.” The man replied, “Well, you see, I used to fish myself years ago, but I gave it up ‘cause I just ain’t got the patience.”
For many of us, patience is one of the hardest virtues to practice. We want to be more patient, but in this age of “instant everything,” waiting for anything seems a waste of time. Being patient is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I usually find it relatively easy to be patient when dealing with clients, working with animals, or when writing, doing artwork or other enjoyable pursuits, even when they sometimes prove difficult. But it is often much harder for me to be patient with other drivers, at home, and with the people closest to me, when the tedium and annoyances of familiarity and the daily routine grate on my nerves and make me irritable and “snappish.”
Impatience can damage our relationships with other people. It can even affect our relationship with God, implying a lack of trust that God will do what’s best for us. We want what we want when we want it. But the fact is, our idea of good timing is often not good at all. God knows this and gives us things as He sees fit, so that we won’t fall into disastrous situations.
This is the last post in a 3-part series. To read Pt. 1 click here; for Pt. 2 click here. In Step 3 of my previous post, we listed all our talents and abilities. Step 4 dealt with finding opportunities to share our gifts. Now on to our last three steps:
5. Give without worrying about your imperfections or limitations. “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8 NIV). You don’t have to be a saint, genius, or the next winner of “The Voice” TV talent program to bring joy to others with your gifts. Let’s face it, the vast majority of us will never reach those levels! Give without restraint, and it will free you to be more than you ever imagined. Don’t get discouraged by what you see as your limitations. My mother couldn’t drive in her later years, but she used her talent for knitting to make sweaters and other items for charity.
Your gifts are only as great as you allow them to be. If you feel the need, read books or take a class to improve your skills. But it is by using our gifts, and seeing the happiness they bring, that we gain the greatest confidence. Our skills will grow as we continue to share them. We will also gain valuable feedback about where we are succeeding and how we can keep improving.
In my last post, I listed some of the benefits of sharing our talents and gifts. I also outlined the first two steps, which were praying for guidance and staying receptive to whatever answers you receive. You can read Part 1 here.
Here are the next two steps of our 7-step program:
List all of your talents and abilities. “Then Moses called…every skilled person in whom the Lord had given ability, and who was willing to come and do the work” (Exodus 36:2 NIV). Like a designer of great artistic creations, God gives each of us unique gifts and the power to use them to touch other souls with His light. Open your mind and heart to honestly evaluate your abilities:
Do you have a creative gift like music, art, writing or dancing?
Are you good with animals? With children?
Do you excel in sports?
Are you a good listener?
Can you make people laugh?
Are you good at gardening, sewing, cooking, or carpentry?
Have a talent for public speaking?
Are you a compassionate, nurturing type of person?
Ask people who know you well for their input. This is no time for false modesty! True humility is the ego rising to a higher level by honoring the will of God. It is the attitude that God is the creator of our gifts, and our duty is to use them according to His plan, to honor Him, serve others, and make the world a brighter place.