When Life Is An Upstream Swim

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.
Colossians 3:23

Living a life of faith is difficult sometimes. I go through periods when I feel like I’m all alone, swimming against a current of resistance. I’m trying to follow God’s direction while most others around me are living by the world’s guidance. And there are days I want to give up and go with the flow. Weary of defending the choices I make for myself and family, I long for the ease of common ground.

It’s during those hard days that I am encouraged by Paul’s perspective in I Corinthians. In a letter to the church in Corinth, he describes his plans:

But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. (I Corinthians 16:8-9) 

In the same breath, Paul embraces his calling to preach and the resistance he will face. The importance of his assignment is not altered by its difficulty. He will be like a salmon making the treacherous journey upstream, swimming against the current, navigating fish going in the opposite direction

What strikes me most in this passage is how Paul acknowledges there are many who oppose me – those who wish to undermine his work are just as important as those who are open to it. He embraces both the challenge of spreading the gospel and the opposition he will face as a result. Paul understands that God has specifically chosen him for this challenging, tumultuous ministry because of his courageous dedication to effectively sharing his faith. He will not allow discouragement to replace a passion for sharing the Gospel.

All too often, we can be distracted by the opinion of others. They chip away at our confidence and leave us second guessing our convictions. We may feel the need to defend ourselves, but the reality is, there is nothing to defend when we are doing God’s work. Let us remember that if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

If your life feels like an upstream swim, be encouraged by the promises of God: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10) Let us walk in bold obedience as we live long and prosper. (Deuteronomy 5:33) God has a specific assignment for you just as He did for Paul. So in the words of Dori, just keep swimming.

When the Words Won’t Come

The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.
Luke 12:12, the VOICE

 

I found myself in unfamiliar territory.

Something I had previously been passionate about wasn’t even peeking my interest. After falling in love with writing, I looked forward to weekly blog posts. It wasn’t difficult to find inspiration and the words came with little effort.

But the honeymoon phase ended and I was left feeling disenchanted by the whole thing. Previously, I couldn’t bear the thought of missing a week – my goal when starting this blog was to post once a week. I was committed to that goal and achieved it for over eight months. I spent time in the Word, praying, and asking God what to write. I knew this was something He had called me to do and I desperately wanted to avoid failure.

Now, as the weeks passed, I wondered if I would post again. I began pushing the guilt down deep enough to pretend it wasn’t there. I struggled to find the words and was ready to give up. I didn’t really care if I continued to do something I believed the Lord was calling me to do.

Finally, I did some soul searching. I had to shake off the funk. While checking my email one evening, a sentence caught my attention – “If we do what we want, when we want, we will waste the little time we have”. I realized that I had been doing what I wanted rather than what God wanted me to do. My indifference was masking a deep fear I didn’t want to acknowledge. I was disappointed by the lack of progress I was making and questioned my ability to be successful as an author.

Sometimes, doing nothing feels safer than risking failure.

I reasoned that if I didn’t expose my tender underbelly by sharing my writing, I wouldn’t risk being injured. I wouldn’t risk rejection. I wouldn’t risk the uneasiness that comes with stepping out in faith to do the Lord’s work.

Then it hit me. I was letting fear hold me back. Again. Fear has been my constant companion. The thorn in my side. I could rattle off numerous reasons as to why I shouldn’t move forward and as I did so, I was reminded of Moses. He really didn’t want to go to Pharaoh and ask for the freedom of the Israelites. He was allowing fear to cloud the Lord’s calling on his life. He thought he knew better than God and tried to talk Him out of it:

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

“Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (v. 13)

“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” (Exodus 4:1)

“Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (v. 10)

“Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” (v. 13)

Despite Moses’ pleading with God to change His mind, the Lord used Moses. He coupled Moses with his brother, Aaron, and together, they went to Egypt and Pharaoh eventually freed the Israelites. In spite of his fear, it was the Lord’s plan for Moses to do this.

The Lord has a specific plan for my life as well and nothing will prevent it from happening. He may allow me to complain, make excuses, and procrastinate, but He will never give up on me. He is not alarmed when the words won’t come. He isn’t bothered by my questioning. He doesn’t worry when I take a break. He knows how my story ends.

He knows how your story ends, also. Is fear holding you back from something God wants you to do? When the words won’t come, ask God to share His. The Bible says He “will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12) Believe that “the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.” (Luke 12:12, the VOICE) And trust in His promise of a plan for your life – a plan to prosper you; a plan to give you a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)