Faith versus Fantasy

“Faith is not denying reality. It’s not pretending you don’t have a problem. Faith is not saying ‘I’m not in pain’ when you are….It’s not saying ‘I’m happy’ when you are grieving inside. That’s not faith; it’s phoniness!” (Rick Warren)

I have been meditating on these words for a few weeks. They are powerful! I do my best to be real and not wear a fake smile, pretending all is well in Deb’s Domain if it’s not. I certainly don’t live in a fantasy world where I only talk about rainbows and sunshine. I have days when I simply want to be alone with my misery and hide. However, the problem eventually becomes suffocating and you have to come up for air. You have to face the facts.

Our pastor, Richard, recently preached on the topic of faith, as part of a series on tough questions people ask. I am not surprised it was on the hot list of things people struggle with. We all have unanswered questions. “Why, God? Why?” This is a frequent cry of our hearts, is it not? There are problems everywhere but the lesson I have learnt this week is that I don’t need to be discouraged because I know God is greater than any situation I am facing. When we have no control over our circumstances (and if you are anything like me, having no control over something is a scary place to be) we need more than a positive mental attitude.

There is a school of thought that says we are to deny our problems and speak positive confessions over everything. I don’t think that is what God expects us to do. We cannot live in a world of fantasy and deny reality. Sometimes things are simply out of our control and no amount of positive thinking is going to change the situation. Positive thinking is important in areas over which we have control, however, it is not the same thing as faith. Faith is facing the facts without being disheartened by them. We need faith in God because He can control things when we can’t. The situation may be out of our control but it is not out of God’s control.

Think of all the things God has done for you. We spend too much time looking at what is taking place now instead of looking at the finish line. God is faithful; He will do what He has promised. Look beyond your circumstances and focus on Him.

“If we want to grow in faith we must be open to listening to our own stories, perhaps familiar or forgotten, where we have not mined the rich deposit of God’s presence. With better eyes and ears we will sense how God has worked to redeem even the most tragic experiences.” (Dan Allender)

Sunny Side Up

Last week I wrote about letting go of disappointments and allowing God to do a new thing instead. We talked about how we cannot ‘unscramble eggs’ and the need to rise up and move forward again. I had to apply this lesson shortly after writing that, as we celebrated Mother’s Day here, and it was a particularly tough one for me. I was tempted to dwell on the terrible disappointments I had endured and felt that yet another year had passed and nothing had changed. My arms were still empty, I might as well give up hope. But no matter how many setbacks we’ve suffered, God still has a great plan for our lives. We have to keep hope alive in our hearts and never give up on our dreams. The good news is that nothing is impossible for God and He can take those scrambled eggs (your mistakes, heartache, broken dreams) add his own ingredients and turn them into a delicious breakfast fit for a king! He doesn’t want you to have to scrape through life and barely get by. He wants you to have a life filled with joy, peace and fulfillment.

I was wondering what to write about today, and as I was peeling a boiled egg, and glancing outside at the brilliant sunshine, the title ‘Sunny Side Up’ popped into my head. It made me smile and the fun, happy thought of a fried egg, sunny side up, reminded me of that scrambled egg analogy from last week and I think God was using this connection to speak to me. He wants me to know, and the same applies to your situation, that we need to keep our confidence up and believe that although we may not see anything happening, God is at work on our behalf. We need to have faith and picture our circumstances turning around. I am making a commitment once again to having a positive outlook for my life and not allow disappointments to defeat me.

In the middle of this sunny moment with God in the kitchen, I was interrupted by a knock at my front door. As I went to answer it, I imagined opening the door and finding a woven basket on the mat, covered in a blanket and an envelope with my name written on the outside, stuck to the handle. (Do you know what I mean? Like you see in the cartoons or movies? Inside the basket would be a baby of course!) However, that thought bubble burst as soon as I opened the door, and there stood my elderly neighbour, holding an empty jam jar. He gave it to me, said he was out of milk and asked if I’d mind giving him some.

At least there was some common ground between my neighbour and the imaginery baby in the basket: milk! But seriously, the lesson I took away from this was that we have to have the correct vision and conceive our dream in our hearts through faith, even though it may seem impossible in the natural. We may not know how God is going to solve our problem but it isn’t our concern to figure it out either. His ways are above our ways and our job is to believe and trust Him. Stop focusing on what you cannot do, start focusing on what God can do and always look on the bright side of life!

Avoid Comparisons

The main theme of this blog is “Choosing Joy” and the joy that I am speaking of today is found in doing the best we can, with what we have and not comparing ourselves to others.

We are constantly fed the lie that we need to be something other than what we are and that a certain product or prescription or lifestyle can help us achieve greater recognition and happiness. However, if we strive for this illusion, we are guaranteed to end up miserable. Confidence begins with self-acceptance. Personally I think the only true way that this is possible is through a strong faith in God’s love for you and His plan for your future. That is something you need to pause and think about for a while. God loves you. Once you accept God’s love for you, you will realise that being loved and loving, make life worth living.

God does not require you to earn His love and He does not look for people who are worthy of His love either. His love is unconditional and He looks for people who need His love – that’s you and me. I think this topic deserves a few future blog posts of its own, but I wanted to introduce it now, as it came up at my posing practise yesterday (I am pleased to report that walking in heels is getting a little easier!) One of the ladies in the group saw me vibrating from fear before doing my solo routine, and said “God loves you, be confident in that”.

It was just what I needed to hear and to be reminded that I have what it takes because I am a child of God and He is pleased with me and I can do all things with His help. So can you! If you are always comparing yourself to someone, you are in fact rejecting the very person God created you to be. Entering the fitness industry this year is a real test, as it is easy to feel critical towards myself, especially when you are literally lined up alongside others and it is automatic to start comparing and wishing you were more like the woman next to you. These negative thoughts and defeated attitude can become rooted and sadden our spirit, while also preventing us from achieving higher and becoming all God intends for us to be.

This doesn’t mean you cannot make progress and improve. I do look to others for inspiration but we can’t let them be the regulation or rule that we follow. God won’t help you be someone else. Recently, while at gym, I caught myself thinking, I’m never going to have long, shapely legs like ‘Mary’ next to me and immediately this train of thought started to bring me down. Wishing won’t get me anywhere. It won’t help my calves and quads develop! Instead, I can work hard to build the best legs that my unique body and structure can possibly achieve. While comparing ourselves to others isn’t beneficial, negative self-talk isn’t either. I lay awake in bed at 4am this morning (our alarm went at 3:30am for my husband to get up and run a race and I couldn’t fall back to sleep) because I was rehearsing all my mistakes from the day before and stewing over how I battled to present myself in a confident manner at posing practise. I had to quickly shake off those negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations about my improvements from the previous week and instantly a new level of boldness rose up within me. A friend had complimented me during class but I struggled to receive the praise. You believe what you say about yourself more than you belief what someone else says. Unless you change what you believe on the inside, nothing is going to change on the outside.

Reprogramme your mind and pay attention how you talk to yourself. Always remember, God loves you. Be content with who you are and don’t compare yourself to others. Celebrate your uniqueness! And finally, appreciate others for who they are, while being confident and enjoying the wonderful person that you are too.

Be Bold, Be Strong!

When we consider our natural personality traits, it presents us with different challenges. In my first blog post, I mentioned I have low confidence, which is something I need to overcome, as well as the temptation to withdraw from challenges because of it. The good news is that when I do take the step of faith, into the unknown, I realize that God is right beside me. He created us all differently and although I will always tend to lean towards my introverted ways, I won’t let that stop me doing something I believe God wants me to do. If He has led me there, He will guide me through. It may be difficult and uncomfortable at first, but it will be worth it in the end.

I don’t want to live my life wondering “what if”. I am learning to be bold and take action!

I am nervous to stand up on stage in a few weeks time to compete in my first bikini fitness competition. My mind automatically thinks of all the things that could go wrong. But daily I capture my thoughts and focus on the exciting things that can happen instead. Disappointment hurts and I used to think I was protecting myself if I didn’t expect anything good to happen. But this is a lie. We can trust God to bring good out of any situation. He wants you to focus on the possibilities, not the problems in your life. With God’s strength and the support of my friends, I am winning this battle. Positive thoughts are always full of faith and hope and produce a positive life. I refuse to be afraid to hope and this belief has kept me going through some very difficult times.

In the same way that I need to practice walking in those heels, I need to practice being positive in each situation that arises. If whatever is happening in your life right now is far from ideal, expect God to keep His promise and bring good out of it. Even if things don’t work out the way you would like them to, if you have a positive outlook, you can go ahead and enjoy yourself no matter what the circumstances.