There’s little doubt that we are collectively embroiled in a season that tries the soul. It doesn’t matter which side of an issue, an event, or what persuasion you happen to be personally, politically or professionally, at present it is seemingly impossible not to be at odds with another—often a family or friend, co-worker or relative—with whom you’d prefer to coexist in peace.
Intense times often create this challenge, and few deny times have not been extremely intense. Unfortunately, and for some reason that escapes me, there are a multitude of people perpetuating the discord and division. Why? I’m sure their reasons are as diverse as the people themselves, but the result has netted unnecessary fear, upset, and led many to conclusions not seated in logic or science and definitely not in good will toward others.
So, since we cannot control others only ourselves, what do we do about it? How do we stay balanced and on a scale of reason, logic and common sense during these times?
I’m sure different people have different coping skills that work for them. For me, I’ve made some changes, big changes, in my life that have proven to be productive.
I read about Isaiah, who definitely had a soul-trying season. Early on, I noted two things: “Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid” from 2 Kings 19:6. That leapt off the page at me and I felt an inner calm. The second thing noted was Isaiah asking God for a sign. He was ill and, he thought, dying. It wasn’t the illness or dying that snagged my attention. It was a sundial of sorts in 2 Kings 20:9: And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?
That really caught my attention. The specificity of his prayer. God knows our hearts, yes. Of that I am certain. But something else niggled at me to think deeper, so I paused there to ponder on the matter.
God granted us free will, and He always keeps His promises. That includes respecting our wishes with regard to our free will. Reason then follows that the more specific we are in petitioning Him in prayer, the more assured He is that we are expressing our free will and He is acting in accord with us and not violating His gift to us.
I confess, it is hard for me to ever think in terms of God violating me in any way. He comes from a place of love and protection, after all. But His desire to not violate makes sense, too. For any violation would be a violation of Himself, and that God would never do. He might say no. He might chastise, correct, make us aware of our flawed thinking or actions. But He would never violate us or Himself.
That makes specificity extremely important, doesn’t it? I think so. And I examined my prayers and things we’d talked over, and I wondered if I had been specific in the way that wasn’t (when you get down to it) an affront to God. None was intended, and He would know that, of course. Still, I wonder if I haven’t made His efforts to guide and instruct, to assist, harder. If in a sense, I haven’t often tried His soul. And if my specificity could make guiding, instructing and assisting easier, then I must attempt to do it.
To that end, even more important during this season of trying times, I made some changes:
- I stopped watching the news. I go directly to the sources to seek information and stay informed, but I do not rely on those I once did in the media. This helps one to avoid slant and spin, misinformation, and to skip the drama and sensationalism.
- I limit discussion on current events. If someone specifically asks a question and I can, I answer it. But I do not enter into debate. Right now, many consider everything political despite knowing full well that not everything in life is about politics. Yet everyone is entitled to their own view and opinion. That’s as it should be since we’re all at different points on our personal journeys.
- I start my day with a constructive, positive thought. It sets the tone for the day. I want a good start, not a day I spend grimacing. The point? Be the change you want to see. If you want positive, then be positive. I particularly like thoughts about gratitude for all the blessings in life. Mine, loved ones, everyone’s. Gratitude is both humbling and liberating. A wonderful way to start the day.
- I’m doing things in small doses or increments. Rather than trying to eat an elephant in one bite, I’m taking little bites of everything. Work projects, tasks, the to-do items. I prioritize it all so the “must-dos” get done first and then work in bits. There’s less frustration when one stops before hitting maximum overload and when one switches from a physical task to a mental one, to a spiritual one, to work, then to another physical task, perspective of the task and what is being accomplished is fresher on each effort. You’re not worn to a frazzle before you start. Instead, it’s as if you’re energized.
There are other changes and other benefits, but I wanted to share just enough to give you the idea without taking too much of your time. I do want to share the most important lesson I’ve learned in this.
We all endure times that try our souls. They are seasons, not life sentences, and they will pass. The harder we work to make our time during them as painless as possible, the less we suffer during them. Our view of these times aids and assists us in dealing with them.
The most significant point is to hit your knees first and not as a last resort.
Talk things over, have an extremely active prayer life. I’m not saying you have to pray every minute or for hours. I’m saying be mindful and active in prayer. Some prayers might take a while, particularly if you’re puzzling through something that confuses or confounds you. Other prayers might take a second or a minute. One of my daily favorites: “Thank you.” Two words. But heartfelt and important to me.
During some rough health issues, I learned any morning you wake up is a good morning. Life holds the potential for hope. So, thank you isn’t a canned phrase to me. It’s profound and brimming with potential and hope and, yes, healing.
God wants this close relationship with us. He wants to be involved in our lives. He wants us to live life abundantly. Not wearing rose-colored glasses or unaware of things but keenly attuned to Him. Each of us matters to Him. He needs to know He matters to us.
It benefits all to pray and live and keep moving forward on our journey with gratitude, without fear . . . and with specificity.