Do not let your heart be troubled

My mom used to tell me when I was a little kid that I was choosing to have a bad attitude. She tried to teach me early on that my attitude was my choice, and I had control over it despite the circumstances. Often I had a bad attitude because something wasn’t going my way or I didn’t have control over the situation. But how I dealt with those feelings was always my choice, she said. I hated it when she said that, because it was always so much easier to blame her or the situation for my tantrum.

Even now, I still throw tantrums. I’m still very much a baby Christian. I’ll throw a “spiritual” fit and get frustrated with God because of all of the work He’s doing on my heart. He’s taking the time to teach me a lot about myself, Himself, and how the world works, and to be honest, it’s resulting in me often feeling spiritually and emotionally drained. And that exhaustion often leaves me frustrated with myself, God, and the people around me. When I’m not frustrated, I’m mopey and pouty. I don’t really have a reason to be… but I still like throwing my baby fits.

But the “mature” side of me knows what the Bible says:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” John 14:1

Our pastor brought up this verse during his sermon on Sunday. I know it well, but it hit me in a funny way on Sunday. And as I was laying in bed this morning pouting about my circumstances (even though, like I said, I don’t really have a reason to pout), God reminded me of this verse. “Do not let…” If I don’t let something bother me, I have a choice. Which means I have a choice over whether or not my heart is burdened.

But how do I make that choice?

I don’t know the Bible through and through, but one thing I’ve seen from the passages I know is that our thoughts have power. Anxiety, lust, jealousy, pride, and anger all have physical manifestations, but they begin in the mind. David pleaded with God:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

Where our thoughts go most often is where our heart is. The things that I think about the most are probably what I’m putting first in my life. God is often not far from my thoughts… but I tend to focus on the hard parts on my journey with Him more than the easy parts. I put my God-approved troubles and experiences above my God-given strength and encouragement. He is so good about sending me reminders and demonstrating how easy His yoke is (Matthew 11:30), but even still, it is so easy to let my heart be troubled and focus my thoughts on how hard life is.

A friend of mine made an art/photo collage for me a few weeks ago that has this verse affixed to the middle. It’s something I seriously need to take to heart and live by:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

On a more personal note… I sit here typing this, being all “spiritually mature” with my Bible verses, after throwing a tantrum last night. I was up late pouting, went to bed pouting, and woke up pouting. But then that verse, John 14:1, came to mind. I know it was God, slapping me gently and reminding me that I didn’t have to be a baby. Dang it.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m up, down, and all over the place when it comes to my walk with Christ. Most of the time I’m in the middle, and I feel like my high points are getting higher as I spend more time in prayer and reading the Bible, but I’m still soooooo far from where I want to be. I know that I’m not who I’m supposed to be yet. There is still so much that God has to do within me. He’s done a lot these past 6 months, but He’s only getting started. In some ways that’s encouraging, but it’s also a harrowing idea to entertain because there have been so many difficult steps these past few months already. However, I have an idea of the person God is growing me to be. I can almost see her… and I want to be her, really badly. I get glimpses of her when I’m really on fire for Him… selfless, gracious, pure in deeds and thought, and most importantly, a champion for Christ. But I’m very far from that ideal right now, so I guess God and I are going to keep working (Philippians 1:6)…….

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Toddler Christians

I spent most of Thursday angry with God. There was even a moment where I was running through my house, screaming at Him. I then stopped, realizing that screaming in a close-knit condo complex was probably a bad idea. After waiting for a minute, half expecting someone to come knocking at the door or the phone to ring, I decided it was safe to keep on yelling. So I did. I told God exactly how I felt.

It’s been a long time since I last threw a temper tantrum, but I was definitely throwing one on Thursday. As I ran through the house screaming, I remarked at how spiritually young and immature I felt.

I’ve written before on how I’ve started feeling like a new Christian. Those feelings have only gotten stronger as I go through my weeks. I used to stand firm in my faith; it was something I could always rely on, and I took a lot of pride from it. I was GOOD at this whole “Christian” thing. But now things are different. I’m back to basics:  figuring out what faith is, how I’m supposed to feel about things, how I’m supposed to live out my faith, and what a relationship with God is like.

I feel like I’m spiritually walking around, running into things, and stubbing my toes like a toddler. I used to know the Bible really well, or I thought I did. I know the verses, the stories, and the people. I’d been raised in church, so I had Bible trivia down pat. But now I’m reading everything for the first time, seemingly. I know the words, but the words take on actual meaning now. They’re not just a cool phrase or a “food for thought” tidbit.

And on top of that, just when I think I know how to approach something, God comes alongside me and correct me in His soft, encouraging voice. There have been many times where God has corrected me. I’ll be struggling with something, and just when I think I’ve figured it out, He sends a person, song, or sermon to adjust my thinking. I’m usually not too far off base, but He keeps reminding me that not only do I not know everything, I don’t know anything. He’s teaching me daily humility. It’s hard to be cocky and proud when I keep running into things and making a fool of myself.

So I apologize in advanced if I appear clumsy or if I spend a lot of time licking my spiritual wounds and tending to my bumps and bruises. I might be a bumbling mess for a while. But I know that eventually I’ll stop getting knocked around so much, once I  develop a little more balance and coordination.