Roadblocks and Forced Stops

Have you ever taken a road only to find it’s a dead-end or there’s a roadblock keeping you from traveling on? It can be extremely frustrating, especially if you are running late or just in a hurry! Or if you are dead-set on having your way!

I was all ready to go, and so looking forward to the women’s Christmas event, then I went to the garage only to find my left front tire extremely low on air. I immediately knew I couldn’t drive my car like that without ruining the tire. So I went back in tbe house in tears, I had so been looking forward to attending this and now I was stuck. I felt sad and frustrated, and rather than seeing my being stuck home as a gift, I saw it as me not getting what I wanted. I pouted like a little child after being told a final “no.” I cancelled the other plans I had for the day and pushed through working at Saturday housework.

Now this past weekend came with our church’s Christmas sing-along, and early on in the weekend I found myself coming down with a cold, my sinuses plugged and a throbbing headache. I went to sing-along sick, but only sang a few songs. It felt disappointing.

I have been pushing hard through life being all-responsible in making sure my mom has gotten the care she needs and taking care of everything involved in that. I didn’t stop doing anything else in my normal schedule, my “plate” overflowed with too much. I refused to say “no”, I refused to give in to my exhaustion, I pressed on.

I had breakfast with my brother last week. Sometimes the Lord speaks through the unexpected. My brother and I have been arguing about how I am handling things. I felt misunderstood, unappreciated, and angry. He finally told me, “You have to stop, you can’t do it all, either you choose to stop or you will be stopped,” He went on to list ways I could be stopped, telling me it could be a heart-attack, or cancer, or a car accident…and the list of horrors went on. I heard his words and set them aside, I didn’t have time for any of that! Well, when you refuse to listen the first time the Lord will repeat His words.

I am reading Shelly Miller’s book “Rhythm’s of Rest” and a few days ago I read about forced stops. She says,”We can interpret interruptions as roadblocks to peace or as moments for deepening relationship, trusting in the path God dictates.” Reading it made me stop and think about what my brother had said as well as the things that have been happening. I interpreted both “interruptions” as roadblocks to peace, because I only wanted my way. Later in the chapter Miller goes on to say, “God wants our attention no matter the circumstance, we must be willing to surrender.”

The tire with low air, and the sinus gunk were opportunities to say no to good things because the Lord knew my body desperately needed rest. I didn’t get it. Like a stubborn child, I wanted what I wanted!

The Lord loves us so much and wants the best for us. He knows the fragility of our human bodies. He knows we just cannot keep going and going pushing on overwhelmed with stress.

He lovingly gave me two opportunities to take time to rest and I chose my own way. The first time I set to work out of anger and frustration. The second time I chose to go to an event even though I was sick.

Sometimes the good things we plan are not really the best things for us. I see now that I need to be more aware, and look and listen for the Lord to really show me what He wants for me. When my schedule is already overflowing and I am already beyond exhaustion, I do not need to add more to my to-do list even if it seems like they are fun and relaxing activities.

My eyes need to be on the Lord rather than on all I have to do or want to do. He wants relationship with me, He wants to show me His loving-presence. He wants the best for me. He wants to take care of me even when I forget or lose sight of caring for myself.

How are you doing this busy Christmas season? Are you taking time to listen to the Lord? Are you finding time to rest?

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Growing in Grace through Soul Friendships

Are you growing in grace?

Do you have friendships in your life that draw you closer to the Lord?

The most important goal in life as a believer in Jesus Christ is to grow in knowing Him more and becoming more like Him. So, if that is your goal in life, then it only stands to reason that you would desire to have friends with similar feelings and wants.

We end up with many different relationships in life, and there is a range to the depth of intimacy our relationships reach. The people you are closest to have the greatest influence on you and you on them. Their influence can be for good or for the worst. This helps us recognize why it is so important to make wise decisions or choices especially in our closest relationships. This is also why I asked if you have friendships that draw you closer to the Lord. Growing in grace should be a top priority and a soul friend can be a great help in that.

You may be wondering at this point what I mean when I say “soul friend.” Soul friend is a term I read about when I was doing a little personal studying on the spiritual disciplines. I was familiar with many of the disciplines mentioned, like meditation, prayer, study, solitude and silence, but I had not heard of that of “soul friendship.”

The following qualities are found in a soul friend, she or he:

  • has an intimate relationship with the Lord
  • lifts you up in prayer
  • shares honestly and truthfully with you
  • listens and empathises with you
  • helps you find your way to the Lord when you are distracted, frustrated, hurting, angry, or overwhelmed
  • helps you to hear and know the Lord’s truth about your situation

Mindy Caliquire says that a “spiritual friend” or “soul friend” helps us sit with God and helps us pay attention to Him.

We can be real with a soul friend, confess our problems, sins, share our needs, and be fragile enough to say ‘I need help.’ These kinds of friendships take time to form and develop, and often, I believe, they really come in answer to prayer.

I have been blessed with three soul friends in my life.  Three women who I have known varying lengths of time, but have grown deep with each because of our sharing. These friends do not know each other, they may have only heard me mention the others names. In each of these relationships our sharing with one another is all about honesty, asking probing questions, encouraging each other to seek wisdom, and praying for each other as we would pray for ourselves.

Each one of these three friends is a person I can share my deepest pain with. I can share the part of myself that I rarely tell anyone about. The pain that gets triggered at the most unexpected time, the pain that really makes no sense in the current situation but is all about the hurt of the past. I can be real and share the hurt I feel in a situation, or explain why I reacted. I can explain my reaction as it is connected to my pain, and they will know and connect with me in it. They will reassure me. And it works both ways, I know their inner conflicts and deep hurts, as well as their insecurities and I can be there for them.

Our conversations center around life, how we feel about life, what the Lord is teaching us, and where we are struggling. Our conversations always include how we can pray for each other, sharing Bible verses that touch our hearts, and giving God the glory for what He is doing.

None of us are squeaky clean, on the verge of perfection and knowing it all. We all are struggling in our own ways and we all need help for this journey called life.

We each need at least one soul friend in our lives. There are a couple of verses from God’s Word that come to mind as I share about soul friends. One is Proverbs 27:17:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. 

A soul friend helps you grow in the things of the Lord, in learning about Him, in learning His Word, in learning about living in Christlikeness. Iron is sharpened.

The other verse is just a couple of verses further into chapter 17 of Proverbs at verse 19:

“Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friends counsel that comes from the heart.”

The “sweetness of a friends counsel,” words spoken in truth and with love are so sweet. Those words connect our hearts in very special ways and keep us coming back to one another for more support, encouragement, and help. And, more importantly, we find our soul friends leading us back to the love of the Lord, to His wisdom, and that is truly irresistable.

If you do not have a soul friend in your life right now, ask the Lord to show you who He desires you to have that kind of relationship with, and let Him lead you in it.  He can and will make it happen, because there is nothing He wants more than for us to be growing in knowing and loving Him as we enjoy His love in others. He wants us to be growing in grace. He answers these prayers in amazing ways! You won’t be disappointed.

Next post we will consider Growing in Grace through Meditation, Reflection, and Journaling.