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Look Where You’re Going

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I’ve been thinking about training for a marathon. I thought about it this morning as I reached for a second Krispy Kreme donut. I like to think about crossing the finish line. I just don’t like thinking about what it would take to cross the finish line.

I do know a friend who ran a marathon. I asked her what went through her mind the moment she finished. Did she feel euphoric? Did she feel like she could do anything? Did she feel like Wonder Woman without the outfit? She said her main thought at that very moment was that she needed to use the bathroom.

Then she told me the euphoria really set in the next morning. As did muscle fatigue. I’m calling it "fatigue," however she would call it total muscle shut down. She said she could barely walk … until she accidentally discovered that walking backwards was much easier than walking forwards. I pictured her hobbling backwards in the grocery store and wondered what people must have thought. She told me that walking backwards must have used different muscles, because it wasn’t as painful as going forwards.

It reminded me of a recent sermon I heard at church. In it, my pastor, Kelly Williams, said there are some people in life who walk backwards into the future. They’re more focused on the past—what they did wrong, who failed them and how they’ve been hurt—he said, than on where they’re headed and where God wants to take them through it all.

I wondered if these people thought that turning around to face the future would be too painful. That because they’ve been disappointed in the past, they fear having hope for the future.

I love what Pope John XXIII says about this,

"Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do."

In my own life, I think about the hurts I’ve experienced in the past and have come to believe it’s more painful to walk backwards into the future than to face it. My father was—and still is—an alcoholic. It has caused a lot of pain for my family and has wounded me in many ways. But it’s amazing how God can heal. A psychologist would label me as an adult child of an alcoholic, but I simply call myself a child of God. I learned that an important part of my healing included facing those hurts, but it was equally important to turn away from them at the right time with God’s help. It’s not that I am ignoring my wounds. Just the opposite: I am acknowledging my brokenness. Through it, I have realized how God wants to use those wounds for redemptive purposes in my life.

All of us have experienced disappointments, hurts and pain. Some of it was out of our control. But what about the pain we’ve experienced that was in our control? What do we do with past sins that we can’t seem to let go of? When we’ve asked for forgiveness but can’t seem to accept it and move forward?

Again, my pastor answers this question powerfully. He says:

"Most of us live in regret. But regret is not brokenness—it’s just another form of pride. It’s saying ‘I wish I hadn’t done it.’ God doesn’t care what you’ve done if you’re only going to live the rest of your life in regret. He cares that you let what you’ve done in your life break you. Because until you realize you are broken, you can’t experience redemption."

I know there are times when I’ve asked for forgiveness for a sin … but I’ve held on to a little self-loathing about the matter, just for good measure. You know, just in case Christ’s death wasn’t good enough. Just in case His blood didn’t cover all of my sin. But true repentance is not just regretting what we’ve done. Or hating yourself for it. And it doesn’t end at having your heart broken with remorse over sin. It requires turning from the sin and handing over our broken hearts to Christ. It means turning around, walking forward and looking ahead to where God wants to take you.

But it’s easy to look away. I think about the time when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus and how the storm came after He fell asleep. As the storm raged, the disciples took their eyes off Christ and fear instantly filled their hearts. Can you blame them? I picture angry waves smashing into the sides of the boat. Lightning bolting into the water. Dark clouds thundering and making their hearts pound even faster.

And I wonder, how could Jesus sleep through something like that? I imagine many of us have wondered this at some point. When storms come into our lives, when we’re standing in the boat, and the waves are crashing all around, it’s easy for us say to Jesus, "Do you see what I’m going through? Don’t you care? Help me Lord! I am scared."

And Jesus always says, "Turn and face me." He’s not panicked about the storm. He’s not panicked that you don’t have a clue what you’re going to do after you graduate. He’s not worried that you’re struggling financially. He is not alarmed that you are feeling alone and wonder if you’ll ever get married. He is saying, "Turn, and face me. Trust in me and have faith that I will calm the storm and make a way."

For some of us, looking backwards is all we know. It’s like man in the Bible who was lying next to the Bethesda pool waiting for healing. He had been invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him, He asked him, "Do you want to get well?" Part of me wonders if the man really wanted to reply, "Uh … duh. Hello? I’ve been ill for 38 years. Do you think I’m lying next this a pool for the fun of it?" Yet, Jesus knew exactly how long the man had been sick. He knew how long he had been waiting to be healed. And still, Jesus asked the man, "Do you want to get well?" For those of you who are focused on your past and are hurting, Christ is also asking you, "Do you want to get well?" Turn and face Him. He will begin a healing in you if you pick up your mat and walk toward Him.

When we’re walking backwards into the future—when we’re focused on the stormy circumstances of our lives—we miss all that God has for us in the present. The Christian life isn’t about getting beamed to heaven. It’s about living, struggling, and learning to love God more every day. He wants to show us His redemption and His goodness in the midst of the journey—in the midst of a storm. He wants to give us joy for the present and hope for the future.

The good news is God can help us turn around. We just need to look where we’re going. But that doesn’t mean focusing on our circumstances or putting our hope in our future success. We’ve got to remember that where we’re "going" is toward Christ. That means putting our hope in the Lord Himself. And that kind of hope does not disappoint.

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Kara Schwab loves being a freelance writer and mommy to her two little girls in Davidson, North Carolina. Since writing this article, she has finished two marathons and is training for her third, committed to moving forward through the aches and the pain of running ... and of life.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Look Where You’re Going

by Kara Schwab time to read: 5 min
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