Still Suffering

I thought when school ended last year and mask mandates in our state of North Carolina began to lift, and when the gyms, movie theaters, restaurants, and other businesses reopened at full capacity, that we were “getting back to normal,” so to speak. In my naivete, I believed the blessed rest of summer would also signal the dying out of the virus. I believed the worst was over. I hoped the worst was over – the worst we would see of this pandemic called Covid-19.

But, I was wrong.

Now, the people I personally know who have tested positive for the virus are sicker than the people I knew who previously had the virus.

Image Credit: Dailyverses.net

People are struggling alone in hospital rooms. Families are struggling at home in the absence of their loved ones.

And it isn’t just Covid that is causing the suffering, but everything seems to be amplified because of the virus. All suffering seems to be more oppressive now.

Many of my friends have been sharing praise and worship music on social media and in group texts to encourage, support, and bring peach and comfort.

Seeing all the music shared and knowing the power of hearing and singing the lyrics of God-centered music reminded me of my friend, Laurie Hogle, and her work at “Singing Christ’s Hope Into Your Suffering.”

I met Lauri in Flourish Writers, a writing group I found through social media, and I have shared her blog posts a time or two here. I’ve even recently collaborated with her on a blog post about interrupting suffering by helping others.

For all those suffering right now, I share Lauri’s words again. They always bring me peace and comfort. I pray they’ll do the same for you. I encourage you to check out her most recent post and subscribe to her email list (at the bottom of her post). Each week, she sends a post along with a playlist of songs curated for their message of praise and worship of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When Satan Tries to Lie: Part 3

One of Satan’s main tactics against those who follow Christ is distraction. He doesn’t have to tempt you into some “major” sin to be successful in his mission to steal, kill, and destroy. He simply needs to encourage you to take your eyes off God, to distract you from what God wants you to do.

Image Credit: Makingthemostblog.com

In the past few years, I’ve been learning how to catch the enemy at his game. It started a few years ago, when I realized he was trying to use the size of my t-shirt to distract me from worship and fellowship at a women’s retreat. Another time, I came to understand that the enemy was trying to overwhelm me with a to-do list. He wanted me to think I had too much to do and get overwhelmed so I wouldn’t start anything. More recently, I caught myself buying into the lie that I didn’t have time to complete short, simple tasks. Satan was encouraging me to procrastinate on things I needed to get done, to put them off until later.

And just the other day I caught the enemy planting seeds of discouragement and shame so I wouldn’t write this post.

For this week’s post, I planned to write about focusing on others. This topic is an important part of my writing focus; I seem to gravitate toward the idea of focusing on others in my own quiet time with God and to study scripture that encourages this when I read the Bible, so I was writing more and more around that theme.

I started working on this article, as I often do, by free-writing in my notebook about the topic for the week’s post. Suddenly, I remembered something: I don’t focus on others. I wrote in my journal, It’s hilarious that this has become one of the main “cogs” in the wheel of my writing because it isn’t something I do.

My pen kept going: I know I should. I see it in scripture. I just don’t follow through. I don’t live my life that way. I’m not even a social person! Ha! I’d rather not engage in too much conversation with people. I don’t know how to make small talk and get conversations going, so I just don’t – at least not as often as I probably should. I want so badly to be liked and to have friends and to be someone others want to be around, but I’m not. I’ve never been. My life is a testament to being unfriendly.

Whoa!

Thankfully, God opened my eyes to what was going on. I needed to take captive those thoughts because they were all from Satan. He was and is still telling me I can’t write about focusing on others because I don’t focus on others, and I was journaling those thoughts as fast as I could as if they were the gospel truth.

Image Credit: United Faith Church

I shifted my focus back to God. I acknowledged what was going on. That Satan was distracting me by feeding me the now-familiar mantra about me not being friendly and not wanting to engage with people. I began to pull back the curtain, so to speak, and see the mantra for what it was – a distraction. God sat me down to write this week’s article, and Satan immediately set out to derail me.

Once my focus was in the right place, God led me to write this: God made me who I am. He gave me the personality I have. He put me where I am. Obviously, He is going to work through me in spite of myself. I just need to move forward. I just need to act when He says to act. Not worry about my personality. Just follow Him. He’ll show me how to focus on others.

Just because I’m not the most outgoing, introverted person doesn’t mean I can’t focus on others.

I can give of my time, energy, and resources for other people.

I can serve others.

As I was freewriting, I came to understand that I’ve been focusing on the response from others, and that’s the wrong way to approach it. I want a large group of friends who think I’m totally awesome and want to hang out with me all the time. I want to be cheered and celebrated because I’m so great at putting others first and everyone knows it…but that is totally the wrong approach.

My reason for looking to the needs of others shouldn’t be what I stand to gain from it or how popular I’ll be if I do it. The point is God told me to do it. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else in the whole world knows what’s going on. I shouldn’t put others first in order to gain recognition or acclaim. I should put others needs first because the Lord of my life calls me to.

How does Satan try to distract you from what God calls you to do? How do you take captive your thoughts and refocus yourself on God?

How do you focus on others? In what ways do you serve? In what ways to do you offer your time and resources?

I’d love to hear from you.