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.

VBS for Grown-Ups: Even When You’re Afraid

Vacation Bible School.  That’s just for kids, right?  Silly songs.  Silly skits.  Silly costumes.  Kids stuff.  Sure.

But is there any message in Scripture that God delivers just for people 12 and under? We older and ‘wiser’ ones sometimes make faith so complicated when the simple beauty of truth is what we really need.

This week, I’ll be singing songs and doing those silly skits from Group Publishing’s Weird Animals VBS at my own church.

Here on the blog, I’ll be sharing with you those same stories, the same lessons, the same truth, but for grown-ups.

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I wish I had my four-year-old’s bravery.

She’s this tiny powerhouse of courage, stepping onto roller coasters and water rides that drop you straight down and splash you in the face as you land.

She handles shots, injuries, and dental repairs without tears or drama.

But me?

I’m tossing and turning at night, not thrilled at the thought of food, outright terrified, edgy and far too prone to cry, and I’m wondering how I can bottle up this tiny daughter’s courage to fill up my own wimpy soul.matthew14, photo by Decha Thapanya;

Funny how trying to obey God, trying to step out and do what He’s called you to do can be exhilarating and frightening at the same time.

Sure is like a roller coaster, I guess.

But you know what?  I hate roller coasters.

Maybe that’s what makes this so difficult.

In one month almost exactly, I’ll be swimming in a huge ocean of other writers at my first ever writer’s conference.

It may be a month away, but the battle is here and now.

What if everyone is better than me?

What if every woman there looks more polished and more confident and has all the style and pizzazz that captures attention and I’m the easily overlooked tag-a-long that no one remembers?

What if I stumble over my words? 

What if everyone hates what I write or hates my ideas?

What if I’m just not good enough?

What if I make all the sacrifices to be there and walk out with nothing more than capital F Failure and capital R Rejection?

God calls us to daily obedience.  That’s hard enough some days.

Then sometimes He calls us to all-in, risk-everything, put-yourself-out-there, this-is-crazy kind of vulnerability and trust.

It takes courage.  That doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid.  Courage means you obey Him even when you’re terrified because you trust Him with the results.

The disciples had that courage.  They walked right away from their fishing nets and steady paychecks.

The prophets spoke up for right against all that was wrong despite raging kings and queens and the bounties on their head.

Esther stepped into a throne room not knowing if the king would kill her or lower that scepter and hear what she had to say.

Paul strode into city after city and taught in the synagogue every time, knowing he faced the possibility each time of stoning, imprisonment, beatings, death.

And here I am, doing what I’m supposed to do to get ready:

Write the proposal. Come up with a tagline. Pack a briefcase.  Print business cards.  Connect with other authors. Build a platform.  Choose a snazzy outfit.  Get your hair cut and colored or at least maybe some highlights (maybe that terrifies me more than anything).

Most importantly: Pray.  Pray some more.  Pray every single day.

Here’s what I need:  Holy Spirit courage to do what He’s called me to do and leave the rest up to Him.

Like it says:

But Jesus spoke to them at once. Don’t be afraid,” he said. Take courage. I am here!” (Matthew 14:27 NLT).

Take courage because He’s here, right here with you, present with you, not abandoning you, not sending you out all by your lonesome self.

Ananias needed courage like that, too.  The Lord called Him to seek out a man from Tarsus named Saul.

Not any Saul from Tarsus either:  THE Saul from Tarsus, the notorious Christian-persecutor and murderer.

He had to choose.

Risk it all, even death, and obey?  He knew the cost.  Ananias recited the risks for God, as if God clearly didn’t know the details before sending down the divine orders.

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13-14 NIV).

“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go….” (Acts 9:15 NIV).

Maybe God has called you out, asked you to do something that takes true courage and your heart just trembles at the thought of the call.

Yet, He says, “Go….”

Take courage, dear one.  He is with you.  Even when you’re afraid, Jesus loves you.

He knows the risks.  He knows what makes your heart quake.  He knows the results.

And He promises to be with you.

May I ask this of you?  Would you pray with me and for me this month as I prepare to go to She Speaks in July?  I am so blessed by your prayers for me!

 

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 © 2014 Heather King