You can stop trying so hard

psalm 46 NASB

It started with a road trip.

Our intention had been to make the 3-hour drive as a family, but a stomach virus incapacitated 3 of my 4 children, so it was just mom and daughter in a minivan for hours.

We had plenty of time to talk about life, love, growing up and superior travel snacks (AKA Twizzlers).

On the way home, we stopped to get her a hamburger.  My daughter looked at the 16-year-old-ish girl at the drive-thru window and asked, “Mom, did you work or have a job as a teenager?”

She’s 10.  She’s thinking ahead.  This is a good thing.

I tell her how I volunteered at my local library for years, babysat, and then my first real job was working as a legal assistant at a law firm.

“WHOA.”  She stops with her hamburger halfway to her mouth.

“How was that your first job?  You mean you didn’t work at a McDonald’s or anything?”

Yes, how did that happen?

Was it my eye-catching resume, my extraordinary job interviewing skills, or some career-launching internship that I had snagged in middle school?

Nope.

I tell her:

“It was God. I just worked hard at whatever God gave me to do and then He opened up new opportunities.”

Be faithful with what you’re doing right now and leave the future to Him.

That’s what I tell her.

I’m a striver.

I’m a do everything you’re supposed to do and more, work until you collapse from exhaustion, pack every day totally full and then spill the to-do list over onto the next day—kind of person.

As a mom, I fight Pinterest-depression because of everything a good mom is “supposed” to be doing.

As a writer, I’m supposed to Tweet and Facebook post hourly, pin on Pinterest 3 times a day, read 5 or so blog posts every morning and comment to them, write my own blog post every day, guest post to other blogs, send query letters and book proposals out monthly, write articles, write books, attend writer’s conferences, and read and study enough to make sure I have something worth saying.

But I fail.

My house is not organized.

I lose my temper with my kids at times.

I let my kids play outside some days instead of making them practice the piano.

I do not schedule enough play dates.

I occasionally forget to sign my kids’ agenda for school (shocker!)

I am sometimes too-much-mom and not-enough-wife.

And as a writer, well, let’s just say Twitter and I aren’t the best of friends.

So I’m talking with my daughter in the minivan about my first job, using the moment to teach her, but I’m also speaking truth to my own weary heart.

You don’t have to be a striver.

God doesn’t ask you or expect you to do everything.

He asks that we faithfully do what He’s called us to do.  Just that.

When we pack extra burdens down onto our shoulders of ‘must-do’s,’ should-do’s’ and ‘have-to’s,’ we collapse under the weight.

I’ve spread out face down at God’s feet before and said exactly what those exhausted disciples said:

“We worked hard all night…and we caught nothing” Luke 5:5

They had stayed up all night fishing, working hard with nothing to show for it.  Their fishing expedition was a capital-F Failure.

Their nets weren’t faulty.  Their boat wasn’t to blame.  They had the necessary skills.  The location was fine.

They did what they were ‘supposed’ to do.

They had slaved away trying to force success and make something happen, all in their own effort, trusting in their own skill, know-how and sweat.

In the morning when Jesus told them to go put out those same nets off the side of that same boat, they probably blinked tired eyes in disbelief.

But Peter promised to obey:

“You say to put the nets in the water, so I will” (Luke 5:5).

God brings abundance when we bring obedience.

They didn’t have to fish all night.  They only needed to fish when and where Jesus said. That’s when He loaded them down with enough fish to snap their nets.

That Psalm we always go to that says, “Be still and know that I am God…” Here it is in the NASB:

Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).

Cease striving.

He’s going to be exalted.

Not because we worked hard to exalt Him.

Because He is God.

What has God called you to do today?

Do that.  Put your whole heart into it.  Be faithful and passionate and focused.  Be obedient.

Trust Him with the future and stop trying so hard.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

What My Three-Month Old Is Teaching His Mama

I hear his sharp, startled cry.

It’s only been half an hour since I cradled him and tucked him into his baby bed for the night.  This awakening is unexpected.

I slip into his room and its deep darkness.  Even though I can’t see his tiny frame, I hear him squirming, kicking, tossing his face side to side searching for me and calling out for rescue and help.psalm46-10

The floor creaks under my footstep and he ceases the cries, lies still for a moment, just waiting for Mommy to reach in and scoop him up into arms that will soothe and fix and comfort.

He knows I’m there even though he can’t see me.  And for the moment, that’s enough.

I lift him out of the bassinet, snuggle him close and rock from side to side, patting his back and assuring him that “Mommy’s here, baby boy.  Mommy will make it better.”

Soon his muscles relax and his head droops down onto my shoulder.  His breathing slows and deepens.

Still, I sway back and forth in the darkness and quiet, cuddling this infant blessing, not ready yet to move and let go.

And I’m thinking about this.

After just three months of life with me, my son calms simply at the creaking floorboards that announce my presence in the room.

But me?

I don’t have an infant faith or a 3-month experience with my Savior.

Thirty years into this faith journey, still I scream and thrash and demand attention and rescue even when I know He’s with me, even when He’s assured me of His presence, even though He’s never once failed or abandoned me.

I cradle my son and continue rocking back and forth as God reminds me:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NIV

It’s not a verse about quiet times or somber worship.  It’s a battlefield Psalm, written when circumstances crushed God’s people and their hearts were trembling. The Sons of Korah wrote a song to remind God’s people of this:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1 NIV).

Ever-present.  That’s what our God is.  He’s with us.  Even before He lifts us out of the pit, we can hear the creaking of His footsteps nearby and know He’s there in the darkness.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Therefore—-because He’s always there—-we need not fear, no matter what rumbles and falls to pieces around us.  Even if the foundations of the earth shake, He is our unshakeable Foundation.

Indeed:

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:7 NIV).

So, “be still.”

Be still and know that He Is God. He will be exalted.psalm46

In the midst of any darkness, in any storm, in any crisis or struggle or pain, He will display His glory through the rescue and redemption of His children.

That’s me and you.

Those Psalm-writing sons of Korah say it again.  Maybe they know we struggle to understand.  Maybe they know that a three-month-old baby can trust his imperfect Mama, and yet we’ll fail to trust our perfect God.

So they repeat it for our stubborn, slow-to-learn shaky souls:

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:11).

It’s not just the earthquakes and battles that make me question His presence sometimes.  It can be as simple as the overwhelming rush of my minivan life.

But there, yes, even there on the busiest of breathless days, The Lord is with me and it’s His presence that gives me peace.

As I lay my sleeping baby boy back down in his bed, I find myself singing an old hymn, a favorite that I’ve sung through some of the hardest times of my life.

It’s a song I’ll be singing all month long as I pursue the presence of Christ by being still and knowing He is God.

What songs do you sing when you’re scared or overwhelmed and need to know God is with you?

Be Still, My Soul
by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegel

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below….

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last…

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!
To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Weekend Walk, 10/22/2011

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s weekend rerun will match up with her ninth chapter, “Who’s Got Your Back?” and today’s memory verse will match up with her tenth chapter, “Busyness Isn’t a Spiritual Gift.”

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Hiding the Word

Life has been a bit crazy and fast-paced at our house recently, full of busyness, activity, and constant motion.  So I’m choosing a verse to meditate on this week that refreshes me and reminds me that God is in control of all things, even the situations that wake me in the middle of the night.

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

Remember that we’re choosing just one verse to post up around our house, to memorize and meditate on for one week at a time.  I hope you chose a great verse for this week!

Weekend Rerun

Pray For Us, Part I, originally published 5/23/2011

You can read Part II of this post here.

“Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you”
2 Thessalonians 3:1

Bible Study time done, the group started sharing prayer requests.  Please pray.  Please pray.  Please pray, we ask one another.  For my friend.  For my child.  For my husband.  For my coworker.

For me.

Dialoguing with myself silently there at the table, I jotted down the requests of others and thought, “mine seems so silly, so selfish, so small.  Haven’t I prayed for myself already?”

Surely I had.  Not more than one hour before sitting down at that table to teach others, I had been face-to-face with my carpet, not just on my knees, but prostrate before God.  All stretched out before His throne in humble need (hoping my children didn’t come searching for me and find Mommy on the floor).  Not for cancer.  Not for death.  Not for brokenness.  For a string of bad days, for lack of sleep, for a husband who was away, for knowing that I felt far too ill-equipped to teach anyone from God’s Word that night.  What else to pray, but “help me, God!” and to tell Satan to get lost—in Jesus’s name, of course.

Yet, knowing full well that it matters when others pray for us, that the combined power of saints on their knees works in ways that my private prayers do not, I shared my tiny need with the group of ladies gathered at the table.  “I need the rest of this week to get better.  I need my children to sleep and not wake up grumpy, whining and so quick to fight with each other.  I need no more animal mishaps like 30 of my fish dying from some freak thermostat disaster.  We’ve had such a rough start; please pray for us.”

We prayed.  I went home, chased children around the house with pajamas and toothbrushes, climbed into bed all weary myself.  The next morning I woke up for the first time in months, not to the sound of a child, but just because of morning sunlight.  I awoke to a day that got better and better and a week no longer plagued with sleeplessness and stress.  I awoke to notes from friends and family saying they were praying for me.

We prayed.  God answered.

How often have you sat in your small group, though, looked around at Christians you love and you trust, and not shared your prayer need?

Because you were afraid to share the request you have, maybe even ashamed and embarrassed.
Because everyone’s prayer requests seemed so much bigger than yours.
Because it seemed so selfish to ask for prayer for yourself and much more acceptable to ask on behalf of others.

Remember these things:

We Need Others to Pray for Us

Paul poured out prayers in his letters to the churches, that they would understand the love of God, know His will, and persevere in the midst of trials.  To the Thessalonians, he wrote: “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).  Then, he asked for their prayers in return, “Finally brothers, pray for us, that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

There is no question that Paul himself was praying for the effective spread of the Gospel; nevertheless, he requested those same prayers from others.  He knew that corporate prayer has power and the unified petitions of the saints have impact.  So, praying in your own home and in your own car is good and necessary, but you should not be ashamed, embarrassed, or reluctant to call for backup and enlist the prayer support of others.  It is part of the giving and receiving that we do in the Body of Christ.  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

In some ways, Paul was giving the Thessalonian church a gift.  He invited them into ministry partnership with Him, asking them to pray for him and his missionary team as they traveled and shared the Gospel.  We give each other a gift when we invite others into prayer partnership with us.  They now have a part in healing marriages, restoring broken relationships, shepherding wayward children, defeating disease, leading ministries, and redeeming finances.  Not in their own strength, but because they intercede before God on our behalf.  They struggle in prayer and wrestle the Enemy and receive victory in partnership with us.

There are times when our friends must carry us to Jesus, paralyzed as we are like the man in Capernaum.  He could have lain their unable to move and simply hoped that Jesus would notice him on the outskirts of the crowd, but the needs were many and the mob of people overwhelming.  Instead, four friends carried him to Jesus, parting the crowds as best they could and then climbing up on the roof and lowering him down to Jesus’s feet (Mark 2:1-5).  We need friends with such faith, friends who will bring us to Christ’s sandaled toes and request healing for what paralyzes us.

Do you have someone to pray for you and with you?  It could be a small group or it could be one faithful praying friend.  Seek that out so that you do not battle the bad days or the life crises alone.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King