Today’s entry is actually a guest post I wrote for Patrick Badstibner’s blog, Grace Through the Desert. Pat is an incredible man with an incredible story. I have included the full article below, but I hope you will also visit Pat’s blog today…and often.
What if the rug that has been pulled out from under you was really a magic carpet ride?
The economy – it has become such a major issue that we personify it by calling it “The Economy” (kind of like “The W” or “The Donald”). People are suffering. We are suffering. My business is down, way down from any historical mark other than my first six months of start-up. Too many potential customers want to “wait and see” what happens next. I kid you not, they are waiting to see if their circumstances change before they make many more decisions. Scary but true; this is true victim thinking.
People who take the “wait and see” approach during tough times want God to make the first move. That’s not what he taught the people of Israel when they needed to get to the other side of the Jordon River.
Joshua 3:12-13 (New International Version)
12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD – the Lord of all the earth – set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
I’m sure the people would rather have said, “God, how about you stop the waters first, THEN we’ll step into the river.” But God wants us to demonstrate our faithfulness, and He will deliver us.
At times, I feel trapped at the river’s edge. I feel like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I have lost my footing, my bearings, my balance, my focus, my nerve…let’s face it, I have “lost it”. I have wanted to escape my current circumstances, so I pray that God will deliver me. I want Him to make his move. God almost always wants me to “take the first step into the Jordan”.
I know I am not alone. Maybe you have felt the same way for reasons unrelated or related to the economy. All of us lose our way from time to time. We risk joining those who merely wait for their circumstances to change. This “wait and see” attitude is especially troubling for me, since I am in the business of helping people get to the other side of whatever challenges they face. I should be able to get to the other side of my own undesirable circumstances. But I wasn’t doing it. What was missing?
What are you trying to get to the other side of?
I have become a huge fan of author and emergent church leader Mark Batterson. His books “Wild Goose Chase” and “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day” continue to inspire me and inform me. “In a Pit with a Lion…” Batterson references a quote from famous psychiatrist Carl Jung saying this about how he helped people:
“Most people came to me with an insurmountable problem. However, what happened was through our work together they discovered something more important than the problem and the problem lost its power and went away.”
I find that amazing. I also find it to be true. My coaching clients tend to “solve” their own problems when I help them refocus their attention to intention. That’s why I tell them, “No one knows your circumstances better than you. Know one knows the right answers better than you. My role is to help you with the right questions.” Sometimes the most valuable service I provide is that I help you recognize how the outcome of your life is determined by your outlook on life. Batterson refraims the issue in this way:
“the circumstances you complain about become chains that imprison you. And worship is the way out.”
And worship is the way out… How does that work?
As Christians, don’t we say that we follow Christ and that he is in charge of the direction of our lives? Sure, but when we don’t like the direction He seems to be directing us, we ask God to change our circumstances, right? Yet, very often, God is behind the very circumstances we find undesirable. “Worshiping our way out” is shifting our focus from what’s wrong with our circumstances to what’s right with God. Batterson likens it to hitting the refresh key on your computer. “It recalibrates your spirit. It renews your mind.”
It’s not easy praising God when nothing seems to be going right, I know. I tend to pray that He “make things right” when He already has made things right for what He has planned for me. He’s helping me with the right questions. But things sure don’t seem right. I want to measure God’s love by my current circumstances. That leads me to doubt God in bad times, even to doubt God’s existence, let alone His everlasting love.
What if your praise for God wasn’t so circumstantial? What if you mixed things up a bit, instead of thanking God for the circumstances you appreciate and begging Him to correct those you cannot appreciate, what if you praised Him throughout – knowing that He IS in charge of your direction?
A struggle designed by God
What if the rug that has been pulled out from under you was really a magic carpet ride designed by God? What if your prayer was “Lord, things are BAD; Jesus take the wheel”? That’s our usual response. We fail to recognize that, maybe, we need to keep the wheel but allow Jesus to navigate. He has the map but he may be taking us on a most adventurous ride, on some of the roughest terrain possible. That’s what makes life fun, adventurous, meaningful and memorable. Faith doesn’t keep us safe; faith traps us at the river’s edge where only God knows what will happen next. He does not want us to “wait and see”; He wants us to take the first step and see what He will do in response to our faith.
But we keep trying to grab control. Our problem isn’t circumstances. Our problem is perspective.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (New International Version)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
I consider one phase of my career as a 9-year “staging area” that God was using to prepare me for what would happen next. I couldn’t understand “how I got here” or why I was thrust into new, undesirable circumstances. I often was unhappy with my circumstances, but I sure am happy where God took me and all He has produced from those years. Those 9 years followed a situation in which I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me, and they led to my Magic Carpet Ride. I wouldn’t trade my magic carpet ride for anything.
- I found the love of my life and got married.
- I found my Purpose, which guides my every day.
- I developed the skills, attitudes, resources and stories to build my own business.
- I wrote a book that shapes what is as much my ministry as it is part of my business.
- I became the father of three boys, and Ryan (our third) has brought so much more meaning to our lives because God, during those 9 years, was preparing my wife and I for the fact that Ryan has Down Syndrome. Other new parents in our circumstances were grieving; we were celebrating the possibilities this new child would bring into our lives.
Why not take the Magic Carpet Ride?
Things may be bad for you right now. Maybe you wouldn’t wish your circumstances on anyone. Maybe despair is beginning to edge out your faith and your trust in God. Maybe you are lost, feeling alone and forgotten by God. But there is hope when you put your trust in God. Trust that He has a plan for you.
Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)
11 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.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.