Despite Your Best Efforts

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Not your best week.

You walked 10,000 steps a day, and ate salads at lunch, and stepped on the scale.
You gained 2 lbs.

You spoke your mind, and wrote your senators, and finally did something.
The other side won.

You practiced patience.  You listened, and tried to comfort.  You nurtured, even.
But your teenager is locked in their bedroom, pouting.

You went to 2 meetings.  You met with your sponsor.  You prayed.
Yet here you are, sitting at the bar, a drink in your hand.
At what point in time do you just throw in the towel?  There’s nothing more demoralizing than working really hard for something, only to be greeted by failure.  We’re conditioned to believe that our best efforts will always be rewarded, that success comes to those who earn it.  When that doesn’t happen, it’s as if the world has stopped functioning properly.  We begin to question God’s plans.

11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. –Jeremiah 9:11

After all, why wouldn’t God want us to be successful?  Why wouldn’t God reward our hard work?  Why wouldn’t God’s plans match up perfectly with the responsible, healthy plans we make for ourselves? Actually…

When I think of God’s plans for us, I don’t think of God charting out our weight loss or even our alcohol consumption.  God’s plans, to me, are played out at more of a cosmic level.  Plans for our souls to flourish, plans for us to be adopted as children of God.  Plans to prosper us with long-term benefits like hope and a future that spreads into eternity.

And so, while God is always present and gently nudging us with Grace, I see the work of our daily lives as our work.  God provides a space for that to happen, called free will.

That means, some days our best efforts will yield us a bounty, and somedays we’ll fall flat on our face.  This is more of a gift than we realize, because the uncertain nature of our lives is what helps us grow.  Think on this:  We cannot always count on life to be fair.  Instead, God offers a lifeline– a future, with hope.

A tomorrow that allows today to be what it will be.

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

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I’d give this devotion a 4.

Cootie_catcher

Come in!

Have a seat.

Allow me to predict your future for you.

You have two options:

BEST CASE SCENARIO: What’s next for you will be AWESOME and lead you to a lot of happiness in your future. Congrats! OR…

WORST CASE SCENARIO: Whatever is next for you will be AWFUL and lead to a lot of struggle in your future. Sorry!

That’s about the extent of my ability as a fortune teller. See, I’m one of those “either/or” types. When I think about life, it tends to be in either/or terms. Black or white. Good or Bad. Thumbs up or Thumbs down.

Anybody else do this?

Well, I know you’re out there. Here’s a great example:

Nowadays, if you watch a video on Youtube, you can give it a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”.

Do you know why?

Up until 2009, Youtube videos used to be rated on a 1-5 scale. But time and again, this is what happened:

A few people would give the video a “1” — as in terrible.

A whole bunch of people would give the video a “5” — as in awesome.

And pretty much NOBODY rated a video a 2, 3, or 4.

Those middle-of-the-road numbers were all but useless. In terms of liking or not liking something, this anecdote would at least suggest that people seem to be pretty dual-minded about it.

Now, does this translate into how people approach their own lives? I don’t really know, but it makes sense to me.

I think there are people for whom gray is a very uncomfortable color. Life seems so uncertain these days. With black or white, you know where you stand and you know what your options are.

1’s and 5’s are easy to discern — it’s those subtler shades in the middle that take real work.

I, for one, believe it’s valuable work, even if I’m not particularly good at it yet.

We must face the possibility that, whatever’s next for you and I may be….just okay. Or maybe there will be good parts and difficult parts. Or maybe it will be really hard at the time, but looking back, we’ll be so glad for all we learned. Or…

Whew. Giving up either/or thinking adds so many dimensions to life. But it may allow us to live more fully and more deeply.

Life is more than a best or worst case scenario. In fact, life is so much more than a “scenario” — It’s a rich and unfolding journey, and the more we accept the nuances, the more we can enjoy the ride.

But if it’s hard for you to let go of the lingo, hold tight to this:

Faith makes any next thing in your life…

A Blessed Case Scenario.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

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