wishing things were the way they used to be

Some SERIOUS TRUTH! So good that had to share!

This is mindset-shifting truth. I find it so easy to think to myself, “aw I wish I was as pretty/good in school/popular/blah-blah-blah… as I used to be”. BUT that is not how I should be thinking and living!

It says in Ecclesiastes 7:10:

Don’t ask, “Why was life better in the ‘good old days’?” It is not wise to ask such questions.

It is not wise to dwell on the past, wishing things were how they used to be. This includes your past weight, your past appearance, your past achievements, your past friendships and relationships, even your past purpose.

Things come in seasons and you will gain NOTHING from wallowing and wishing for something you used to be, or something you used to have. The only thing you will gain is blindness. You will become blind to the blessings in your life now – the people, the beauty, the opportunities… You will miss what God is up to in this season right now! The only things that come from dwelling in the ‘good old days’ are discontentment with right now, stagnated growth, and missed opportunities to live life to its fullness now! God’s promises are the same as they are now as they were then! You can still have life in all its fullness now, even if it looks different to the fullness of the past. God is not done blessing you or working in you — the best is yet to come. God’s mercies are new every morning! So grab hold of those new mercies instead of straining your head looking back, wishing for the old ones!

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Comparison

Lately, I’ve realised how big of a problem comparison is. It’s the root of so many other problems. Discontent, low self-esteem, insecurity, feeling inadequate… I realised this when I began to try and think about the source my own feelings of insecurity, inadequacy and discontentment within myself – be that in looks, friendships, academic achievements, even in my faith. I realised that it all was rooted in comparison. I was insecure and unhappy with my looks because I was constantly comparing myself not only to other people who I thought were more beautiful than me (be that on Instagram or in real life), but to my past self, as well as comparing myself to an imaginary ideal of what “beautiful” is. I sometimes felt insecure in my friendships with people because I kept on comparing myself to my other friends, thinking that they were more fun/interesting/caring/loving/wise… than me which made me feel disposable or replaceable. I felt bad for not being able to keep up with the readings for my subjects, comparing myself to other students who seemed to be so on top of their work. I would sometimes feel insecure in my faith, thinking that others were closer to God than me, and that God was using them more than he was using me.

But all of these insecurities and feelings of inadequacy were not founded in any truth. They were seeds of lies that were planted in my mind that grew rapidly into weeds of discontentment, fed and watered by comparison. When I kept on comparing myself to the people around me and imagined ideals, I became blinded by the insecurities and discontentment that sprouted up from that. I was blinded to the things that I was blessed with and the many reasons I had to celebrate and be thankful. I was too busy consumed by what I looked like to see not only the beauty in myself, but to truly appreciate and celebrate other people’s beauty without feeling insecure about my own. I was too busy caring what others thought of me to fully enjoy being blessed with great friends and people to spend time with. I was too busy worrying whether I was achieving academically to enjoy learning. And I spent so much time worrying about whether I was good enough for God, and whether God was doing what I expected him to be doing, that I became blind to what he actually was doing in and through me. Comparison truly is the thief of joy.

But this is not how it is supposed to be. We are not created to be creatures of comparison and competition. We are not created to feel trapped in insecurity and discontentment because of comparison. God calls us to life in all its fullness, which is a life free from feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. God knows that we struggle with comparison, he knows the damaging thought patterns and mindsets we can get into from it. Not only does he want to free us from those thought patterns, but he tells us how to become free from comparison:

Fix your eyes on him.

It is not God’s will for us to measure ourselves against each other. We are all equal in his eyes. He doesn’t call us to look at those around us and then try and change ourselves to compete with or conform to that. He calls us to fix our eyes on him and to be transformed by growing close to him. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Resist the pattern of this world to compare and compete with others, instead “fix your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of your faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) This will cause you to be “transformed” within “by the renewing of your mind” which will not only result in freedom from the thoughts of insecurity and inadequacy and discontentment, it will replace these thoughts with all the beautiful, wonderful ways that God is transforming you into the person he has called you to be, and it will allow you to celebrate the beauty and talent in others too.

But God doesn’t just leave us there. He doesn’t just tell us to turn our eyes to him and away from comparison and to then just wait for mind transformation to come. He also gives us the truth we need to replace the lies of self-hate, insecurity, discontentment and inadequacy with. He tells us truth that we can speak over our lives, that we can use to fight our negative thought patterns. These truths are found this in God’s word, the Bible. So, now I’m going to share with you some truths to hold onto in different situations that you might be struggling with comparison, insecurity and discontentment in:

If you struggle with comparison of outward appearances:

I’ve struggled with this one a lot, and it can really be hard – especially when all around us people seem to be holding outward beauty as the most important thing. We live in an image-based culture, obsessed with looking good in order to feel good. It holds outward perfection as a high measure of personal worth – just think of Instagram which is an app entirely centred around photographs. It is fueled by people’s obsession with images and their desire to cultivate a certain image of perfection. But even though the world seems to place outward beauty and perfection high on the list of priorities and values – this is not what God values.

It says in 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

What makes people truly beautiful is not their outward appearance but their heart. Their character. Outward beauty may gain momentary admiration and be pleasing to look at, but inner beauty is what actually makes a positive impact on people. The heart is deeper and more valuable than a pretty face. A beautiful heart blesses people, makes them feel love and joy and peace.

Not only that, but outward beauty is fleeting (Proverbs 31:30) but the inward beauty that grows in the heart endures. My favourite verses that encourage me about the inward beauty that God is cultivating in me is 2 Corinthians 4:16 and 18:

“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day… So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

And, even still. You are beautiful. Whether you look like the imaginary ideal of what society deems as beautiful or not. You are beautiful. You are created by a God who makes beautiful things – and you are one of those beautiful things! It says in Psalm 139 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and it’s true! And we are wholly beautiful. Not just the bits of us that we don’t hate. All of us. It says so in Song of Songs 4:7:

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”

If you struggle with comparison of talents, gifts and abilities

When I say talents, gifts and abilities, this applies to many realms. In all the realms of our life – academia, creativity, friendships, spiritual life… – we can find ourselves comparing our own abilities with that of other people’s, and then feeling down about not being as good as someone else is at something. But what I want to say is that just because you see talent in others doesn’t mean that there is a lack of talent in you. Let me say that again. Just because someone else has a gift, talent, skill or ability, doesn’t mean that you don’t have any. Other people’s talents don’t diminish the talents that exist in you. And talents doexist in you. It says in 1 Corinthians 12 that each one of us are given gifts – and that does not exclude you. But that doesn’t mean that we all have the same gifts. We are a body made of different parts, as is says in 1 Corinthians 12! We all have different talents, and just because one person as a different talent to you, doesn’t devalue the worth of your own gift! In the passage 1 Corinthians 12:15-18, Paul illustrates this best:

“Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, just as he wanted them to be.

God has given gifts to everyone, and he has given them deliberately. No gift is worth more or less than the other. So, we can rest in the fact that there are gifts and talents within us that are just as valuable as anyone else’s. And when we begin to grow in assurance that we are not worth any less or more than anyone else because of our abilities or achievements, we will begin to be able to celebrate other people’s gifts from a place of joy, sincerity and security. We are not made to compete with one another, we are made to build up and celebrate each other. Your companion is not your competitor. Your neighbour is not you’re your competitor. Your fellow students are not your competitors. Celebrate people’s creativity, their intelligence, their musicality. Encourage those who you see with spiritual gifts. Build up and rejoice with your friends whose love, wisdom, and humour you admire. The celebration of other people’s talents and achievements doesn’t lessen your own – it only increases your joy. It is an undoubtedly more joy-filled experience to celebrate others than to be discouraged by damaging comparison.

And if you don’t know what gifts you have, I encourage you to pray to God that he will reveal what he has placed in you. Ask him what he has placed in you and ask him to grow and cultivate that even more. God is a kind and generous God and he loves to encourage us, so he will answer. Maybe even ask some close friends or family what gifts they might see in you, because often we can become blind to our own gifts and talents, and it’s useful to get an outsider’s perspective on it.

If you can’t see God working in your life, but can see it in other people’s lives:

This is common but it doesn’t mean that it’s true. It is normal to be in a place of longing and waiting. It’s normal to be in a period of time where you’re waiting to see God’s plans/promises come true or for prayers to be answered. In these times it’s easy to start comparing yourself with other people, thinking that their lives are all falling into place whilst yours isn’t. But that is not true. And you are not alone in this struggle. The Psalms talk about this all the time. For example, it says in Psalm 119:81-82:

“my soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word. My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, ‘when will you comfort me?'”

This psalm shows how normal it is for our souls to come into a place of longing, and how normal it is to feel like God is not answering prayers. But just because it is normal doesn’t mean it’s true – it just means that this is not something to feel alone and hopeless about.

These verses highlight something important about living this period of waiting: we hope not in the feelings of our souls, but in God’s word. “I have put my hope in your word.” God’s word tells us that God is doing a good work in us (Philippians 1:6), and that all things work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28), so we can hold onto that in periods of waiting when we can’t see God at work. We can trust in his word that he is in work. Also, note that when we can’t see God’s promises coming to fruition it is our eyes that fail not God’s promises. “My eyes fail, looking for your promise.” In these moments, don’t be discouraged. Don’t feel like a failure. Just put your trust in what God has promised you in his word, rather than in your own ability to see whether God is working or not.

Sometimes we can see God’s promises happening in other people’s lives but not our own. But this doesn’t mean that God is working everywhere else and not in your own life. This is just a time where your eyes fail to see God’s promises – you may be seeing them in other people’s lives, but not seeing them in your own life means that there is still partial blindness. At these times, this is when we need to speak truth to ourselves, to remind ourselves that God’s promises are true, and true for everyone. They are true for you as much as anyone else. And then we will not need to compare and despair when seeing God work in other people’s lives, because we will realise that seeing God’s promises in other people’s lives is proof that God’s promises come to fruition in all of our lives. We can learn to celebrate other people’s joys even in the middle of not seeing our own. We can take their joys as encouragement and assurance that God’s plans and promises will come to be in our own lives too!

And, finally, I want to just reiterate that God is working in your life, even if you can’t see it. I encourage you to pray to God that your eyes will be opened to all the ways that God is working in your life. Like I’ve said before, God is a generous God, and loves to encourage you, so he will answer.

If you struggle with spiritual comparison

Spiritual comparison – this is one that I find myself so easily come into. I trick myself that it comes from a place of good intentions, wanting to become a better Christian – but this is a damaging mindset and is a lie. Because no comparison is constructive. It either leaves us feeling worthless, inadequate and dejected, or on the opposite side of the scale, it makes us feel prideful and puffed up (which is also damaging). God neverwants us to compare our faiths with those around us, he calls us to fix our eyes solely on him. He does want us to celebrate and encourage those around us. He also calls us to learn from those around us, and to help those around us – but this is all very different from comparison.

Spiritual comparison can often be a comparison of talents and abilities like I’ve mentioned above, especially if you feel like someone else is better at ‘God stuff’ than you. So, again, we have to remember that we should not devalue what God is doing through us by comparing it to other peopleand despairing over that. That is not giving God the glory he deserves, because he is working through you, and by saying that you’d rather he did what he was doing through someone else, then you’re not valuing what he’s already doing through you. My friend Anna has said to me a few times, not everyone is called to do everything, and she is so right. We are called to do what God has called us to do. We are not called to do the same as the people around us. Not all of us will be preachers – if everyone was a preacher, then we wouldn’t have anyone to lead the worship; if everyone led the worship, we wouldn’t have anyone welcoming people with kindness and hospitality. Humans are diverse, God’s love is diverse and is expressed in many forms. So, one person being used by God will look different from someone else. God created people uniquely, and delights in using us uniquely. He loves to use our passions, desires and skills to show his love to the world in many ways.

But also, there is a kind of spiritual comparison that I often find myself falling into; which is the comparison of spiritual contentmentor closeness with God. Sometimes we go through dry seasons and don’t feel God, and it can really hurt to feel that and then compare yourself to someone who is in a season of real closeness to God. I have two things to say to this. The first thing is that just because you feel far from God doesn’t mean that he isn’t working in you! Philippians 1:6 says “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This means that God is working in us right now! He has begun working, and he is continuing to work! And he won’t be done until the day Jesus returns, so we haven’t already peaked. The best is yet to come. God is drawing you nearer to him each day. And even if you feel like you have been closer to God in the past, you have not peaked. You have not gone backwards. God’s way of working is mysterious and doesn’t always look the way we imagine it, but we can trust that whatever seasons we are taken through, our souls are growing through it. Because plants can’t grow backwards. 

And secondly, it’s often hard for us to see how God is growing us during seasons, but sometimes it is as simple as spiritually hungry seasons forcing us to remember to go to God’s daily bread (the Bible) for sustenance. Or feeling spiritually thirsty forces us to come back to Jesus, the source of life-giving water. If you are in a period of spiritual dryness, I encourage you to persevere – continue pressing into God. Jesus says in John 15:4 “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” If we are wanting to see the fruit of God’s love in our lives, remain in that love.

But even if you still can’t figure out what God is up to, that is okay. We can trust that God works even when we don’t see it, just like it says in Psalm 77:19,

“your path led through the sea, your way through mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

God moves in the waters of our lives, and the waters do move. But we don’t always see his footprints. So, my advice to you if you’re going through a period of feeling far from God, and you’re finding yourself comparing yourself to others who you think are closer to God than you: trust that God is working in you. He is growing you in your faith continually even if you don’t see it. Trust that he is working and seek him through it all – go to his word to equip yourself with the truth of God’s promises for you, the truth of what he has done and is doing for you. And go to God in prayer, be honest with how you’re feeling, and what you’re struggling with. Invite his Spirit to change your heart, away from comparison and towards God. Invite the Holy Spirit to work in you and ask God to open your eyes to be able to see how God is working. I keep on saying this because it is true: God is a generous God and a caring God – he listens to us when we speak to him, and he answers.

I hope these truths helped you in some way, whatever form of comparison you find yourself struggling with. And thank you for reading this longer-than-expected blog post all the way down to the end!

under siege

Today I sat and prayed and read my Bible for the first time in what feels like a long time. I’d been feeling quite spiritually dry, or neglected… I certainly was feeling the effects of not reading God’s word, or soaking in his presence for a while. This week I’m on Spring break, but because of all the catch-up and assignments I had to do, I kind of put these spiritual-filling-up times to the side, thinking uni work was the main priority. I thought that reading my bible and praying for an hour was a waste of time when I could be working. (I was wrong!) Today I lost it, feeling so overwhelmed by the work I had to do, and frustrated at the emptiness I’d been feeling for a while – I just needed to have some time to pray, read God’s word, and soak in God’s presence. I just needed to meet with God. I missed Him. I missed the joy, peace, fulfillment and purpose I had when I spent time with Him. When I finally did sit down to do it, I realised that this was my priority, this wasn’t a waste of my time. It was a necessity. My soul needs time to breathe and just be, instead of always doing doing doing.

I realised all this as I prayed. I was grateful for the present breather I was getting with God, but I started to be filled again with a dread and anxiety. I began to think about how the next few weeks when I go back to university are going to be so hectic. They’re not only filled with big course work assignments, the regular tutorial work that I normally struggle to stay on top of – but also lots of other non-academic commitments and things I’d agreed to do. I felt like I was staring at three weeks of intense doing doing doing doing. I had such a sense of impending drowning. When I thought about it, the next few weeks felt like I was on a pair of skis, going down a mountain, but my skis are ahead of me and I’ve lost control. I’m being pulled down the slope at a speed faster than I’m comfortable with, but I can’t stop or slow down, and all these tree branches keep on hitting me as I ski beside a forest edge. And I thought to myself Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like? Am I just going to be flying through life from one task to the next, uncomfortable at the speed I’m moving at but unable to stop? I got breathless thinking of how much time would fly past if my life was just living for the next deadline to pass, lost in the momentum of desperately trying to get things done, unable to truly stop and have a breather.

But then, I brought myself back to where I was. In the moment I was resting, reading the Bible, praying. This was my breather now, so I wanted to make the most of it. Make the most of the peace of God’s presence around me, because in the next few weeks I knew I would struggle to slow down long enough to feel it – and that made me sad, but I didn’t want to dwell on that right now. Then God placed a verse in my head: Psalm 31:24.

Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.

This was a nice reminder, a nice little pep talk to prepare me for the next few weeks. I can be strong and take heart, and continue to hope in the Lord as I am faced with uni. But then I wanted to read more of the psalm – and this was when God really began to speak to me. Verse 23:

   The Lord preserves those who are true to him.

Even though I was feeling burnt out just thinking about the next few weeks of uni ahead, God said to me it’s okay, you don’t have to do this all on your own. You don’t have to sustain yourself, I will sustain you. I won’t let you burn out – I will preserve you.

And then came the final truth-bullet that hit me in the chest. Verse 21

Praise be to the Lord,
    for he showed me the wonders of his love
    when I was in a city under siege.

I felt like going back to uni would be like going into a city under siege. Bombarded with deadlines, commitments, pressures. And I had felt that in that place, I would be too distracted or too under pressure to experience God’s love. But this verse showed me that even when I am in a city under siege, God still shows me the wonders of his love in the middle of it. He doesn’t always promise to remove me from it, but he does promise that he will be with me in the middle of it. And that is the greatest comfort I could ever hear.

what we think v.s. what the Bible says

I’ve realised lately how much our thoughts control how we feel and how we interact with the world – and how damaging it can be when we believe lies.  Proverbs 4:23 says “Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life,” which I’ve found to be totally true. In times when I’ve been feeling down about myself, I’ve been consumed by my thoughts of low self-esteem – so consumed by them that I couldn’t enjoy the things or people around me. I’ve been trapped in my head, feeling almost sick with the repeated worries, fears, negative thoughts going round and round. It could be so consuming that it would feel like I couldn’t escape these thoughts – let alone control them. But after a while, I reached a point where I just couldn’t stand these negative thoughts any more – I didn’t want to feel so down all the time, and I didn’t want to feel so detached from the things going on around me. I wanted to stop feeling guilty for not enjoying the people and places I was in because of the way I was thinking. This was when I realised two things:

  1. God cares what we think, and he listens. And acknowledging how we feel through telling him gives a lot of relief.
  2. We may not be able to stop these thoughts from coming into our heads – but we are able to bring new thoughts into our heads to combat the negative ones. This is where speaking truth becomes important.

When we find ourselves thinking negative or damaging thoughts, acknowledging them, laying them down to God, and then speaking truth over ourselves is such a powerful way to begin to see our minds transformed. But how do we find the antidote truth to the damaging thoughts and lies we might face? Read the ultimate truth – the Bible! It is the sword of the spirit – a weapon against the lies and negative thoughts we face. It’s so cool that God gave us a book brimming with uplifting and encouraging truths that we can speak over ourselves! So here I’ve found some bible verses that you can speak over yourself when you’re having negative thoughts…

Our thought: What will people think of me??

God’s Word: “Do you think I am trying to make people accept me? No, God is the One I am trying to please. Am I trying to please people? If I still wanted to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10.

I’m ugly

“You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful” Psalm 139:13-14

It matters what I look like

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

I can’t do it

“I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

 God isn’t working in me

“I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

I need to do this all on my own.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

No one loves me

“We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his people.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4

What I also find cool about the Bible is that it doesn’t brush off how we’re feeling, and it doesn’t deny the fact that we suffer and can have negative thoughts that are very real. It actually acknowledges these thoughts we have, whilst also providing an uplifting truth alongside it – so God acknowledges that, yes, these thoughts are genuine and real, but we don’t need to be trapped by them, we can be uplifted by the truth he brings us. For example, when we think:

Nothing matters

The Bible says: “Meaningless! Meaningless!… Everything is meaningless!” Ecclesiastes 1:2

as well as:

“‘For 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 29:11 

Where is God in all this?

“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?… But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand.” Psalm 10:1,14

I have nothing to live for

“I want to leave this life and be with Christ, which is much better.” Philippians 1:23

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

being weak

Hi guys, it’s been a little minute since my last blog post. I don’t really have any excuses other than I’ve been taking time to rest and have fun this holiday and haven’t had much time to blog. But I wanted to share with you guys something that’s been on my mind for a while now. Something that I’ve been learning, and have made into a kind of new year’s resolution:

It’s okay to be weak. God’s grace is sufficient for me. I don’t need anything else. No perfection or any of my own strength needed. And I should be open about my weaknesses.

I can glorify God through my weaknesses. I don’t have to be perfect to honour him (in fact, his strength and provision is shown most in my weakness and imperfection!) I just need to allow him to work despite/amidst/through/in my weakness, and give him the glory in that.

These realisations and resolutions came when I was feeling stressed and uncertain about my semester 1 uni exams. I had placed a lot of pressure on myself to work really really hard – to the point of over-working probably. I didn’t want to admit to myself that doing my best wasn’t over-working, I didn’t want to admit that I was feeling burnt out and weak. But then I read the passage 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, and it made me realise that it’s okay to be weak, and that God is glorified in our weakness. His grace is enough. We don’t need to be perfect:

But the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

All my life I’d been struggling with perfectionism, and this struggle reemerged in these exams. But this perfectionism was different from the one in the past. I wasn’t so much working to please my parents, my teachers, or to be the best. In the past I would have been like that: ambitious and striving for self-sufficiency, striving to achieve things out of my own strength, striving for perfection. But as I’ve grown in my faith, God’s been helping me learn to let go of the pressure to be perfect – in school especially… But as I did these first semester uni exams, I realised that there still remained a more subtle (and just as draining) kind of perfectionism: spiritual perfectionism.

This is a tricky thing. Because it comes from good intentions and motives. I was wanting to honour God and live my best life for him, pursuing him and obeying him. Working hard to honour God is a biblical thing: it says in Colossians 2:23:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man and woman.

So, it’s easy to think that we have to work hard and work hard and work hard to make God happy. But this was where I had gotten mixed up. I somehow thought that this verse meant that I needed to work hard to earn God’s love – or at least, more of his love. And I was doing this all out of my own strength. I was striving. Not abiding. But the truth is that I can’t do anything to earn God’s love – it’s a free gift, that’s why it’s called grace. And I can’t do anything to earn more of God’s love, because his love is immeasurable and not based on what we do! It’s based off of who we are: his beloved children. This verse wasn’t intended to make us think that God is some kind of task-setter, that we have to kill ourselves over everything we do because “God’s watching over everything” and we must glorify God in all things. Yes, God is watching over us all the time; yes, we should glorify God in all we do – but glorifying him doesn’t come from working for him in our own strength. It comes from giving him the glory in everything we do, because he is the one strengthening us as we do it. This verse isn’t saying we should strive in our own strength. It’s saying that we should see every situation as an opportunity to honour God – to invite him to work in and through us, to strengthen us in every situation. It’s saying that God is not just in the “God stuff” (the church-going, praying and bible-reading), he’s in it all. No situation is worthless to him. Just because we’re not missionaries in some far away country doesn’t mean we can’t honour God where we are now. God is helping and empowering and strengthening is missionaries abroad as much as he is helping, empowering and strengthening us in our everyday mission field (normal life!).

But that means that we should live in God’s strength – not try to do it our own. Because when I try to do that, I just realise how hopeless and weak I really am. I’m weak, but it’s an opportunity for God’s strength to shine through that weakness. So, my bible verses for this year are 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. I want to daily live a life reliant on God’s sufficient grace. I want to be open and honest about my weaknesses – firstly, honest to myself and to God about my weaknesses, inviting God’s strength and power to be made perfect in my weakness. And then I want to be honest to the rest of the world about my weaknesses. I want to be real and open about where I am too weak to do things in my own power, to share how God’s strength and power truly is sufficient for me.

things I’ve learnt in first semester

So I finished my first semester at university six days ago, and I still don’t quite believe that I’m a uni student at all! It’s gone by so fast, it feels like only a week ago that I was moving into my room in halls. But then when I think about all that’s happened since then, I realise how long it’s been! Agh! Time really does keep moving – and moving quickly!! But I’m glad I now have time to rest and recharge, as well as reflect on all I’ve done and learnt in my first semester at university. It’s been a busy and hectic period – but never boring. As hard as it was trying to keep afloat in a new environment, meeting new people, with new workloads, this new challenge made me learn so much more and grow immeasurably more than if I had just remained in my comfort zone. And the things I have learnt certainly wouldn’t have sunk so deep if I was just reading about them or thinking about them from a little bubble, rather than being forced to learn and grow by living through the situations myself.

So, here are some things I’ve learnt this semester:

  1. As much as we are called to serve God and to live our lives as sacrifices to God, God also wants to bless us and wants us to enjoy our lives. Enjoyment of our lives is the most sincere thanks we can give to God – enjoying the people, places and opportunities he has placed in front of us is what God planned for us. He is not the almighty Task-Giver; he is the loving and generous Father who loves us and wants to bless us. So we’re allowed to stop striving and worrying; we’re allowed to just enjoy the lives we have been given.
  2. Patience. Things take time. It takes time to become established in a place. It takes time to settle in, to make friends, to get into the rhythm of things. Be patient, be okay with not seeing immediate results. You may not see immediate fruit, but you are making patient progress. And the times of waiting, the periods of patience, can be fun! We can enjoy the process of becoming established, of getting to know people, of finding our rhythm – which brings me to the next point:
  3. We can have joy in all circumstances. Joy is not dependant on circumstances, it is rooted in something deeper and more stable than our situations: it is rooted in hope, in our relationship with God, in our approach to every day. Joy is a choice. We can decide to face our challenges with joy rather than dread. We can choose to enjoy the little things, the mundane things, the things that are naturally stressful, with the strength of the joy that God gives us. We can know that we are promised lives of fullness with God – and so that means a fullness of joy across all circumstances.
  4. Authenticity is more important than appearances. It is more important to have a true relationship with God than to present yourself as being close to God.
  5. I’m a work in progress, and that’s okay. I’m not perfect and that’s okay. I don’t need to be good at everything. I don’t need to be daunted or overwhelmed by all the places where need to grow or improve – I can rejoice in those places because these places are where God can still work and is currently working! (Philippians 1:6)
  6. We glorify God not by how well we do something, we glorify him by doing it for him. God doesn’t call us to succeed or to be the best. He calls us to remember him in all we do, and then success will flow from that (Proverbs 3:3-6, NCV translation). This success will not always be what we define as success, but it will be what God defines as success.
  7. The pressure is not on me to bring God’s plan into existence. I don’t need to strive. All I need to do is abide in God, and be close to him, and to let my whole life flow from that – everything I do and say to come from a heart that loves God and loves others in an authentic and natural way.
  8. I do not need to cultivate influence. Influence is God-given. It takes time to see your influence grow or bear fruit, but it is always there – even in the smallest, seemingly insignificant places.

So, that’s what I’ve been learning. I’ve learnt some stuff in my lectures too, but this stuff seems more important. 🙂