For many of us these last few weeks, (and especially the government’s announcement last night) leave us feeling like our lives have been turned upside down. For those of us in work, we have been asked to try and work from home, for those of us in school and university we have been told to try and learn from home, and for those of us in retirement we are being told not to leave home unless absolutely strictly necessary.
Much of what we used to do – we simply can’t do any longer. The bits that we can do, we are having to learn to do in different ways.
Perhaps you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and exhausted from the challenge, or maybe frustration or boredom have already begun to set in. Maybe you’re usually the kind of person who thrives on rising to a fresh challenge, but the latest restrictions seem very daunting indeed.
Whatever you are trying to do that is new, or that needs to be done in a new way – please be assured that you are not alone, that we are in this together, and that we will come through it in time.
Under pressure, it is understandable that we get frustrated. If you’re like me – I can then often find myself getting frustrated at my own frustration! When I’m frustrated, my fuse is shorter, my patience is thinner, and character gets weaker. And yet beating myself is so counter productive to lifting my spirits! (“human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” JAMES 1.20)
I love these words of scripture, as Paul looks back over his life and honestly shares a little of his own struggles:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (PHIL 3.12-24)
Paul says – I am not there yet, but am I not giving up either: I press on! What Paul says here about his spiritual progress I believe can be applied to our daily lives too.
It’s such a comfort and encouragement to me to know that what the Lord looks for is not perfection but progress! Maybe this week you have had to attempt to ‘home school’ your own children, maybe you’ve had to hurriedly set up a home office, maybe you’ve had to work out what your job can look like under new restrictions and budget for the changes as best as possible, or maybe you’ve had to work out what form caring for an elderly or vulnerable relative might take during lockdown. This are new, unique and trying circumstances, and the likelihood is that we won’t get it all right on day one – but when we face disappointments and demands I have some simple advice for us: press on.
What we have in these few short verses is an insight into what might be called Paul’s ‘self-talk’: his mental coach inside in his mind. You have one too, and so do I – things we say to ourselves. Take a moment to think about your self-talk right now: what kind of things are you saying to yourself? If you had a teacher or a trainer who spoke to you in that way – would you keep paying for that kind of advice? Would you offer that same advice to someone you loved?
What if we used this period to deliberately substitute our self-talk for the more of the words of scripture (or ‘Spirit-talk’: 2 Tim 3.16!!)? Maybe this passage would be helpful to you: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Our first attempt(s) at a new reality might not be pretty, and certainly won’t be perfect – but if it represents progress (another step towards the prize) then appreciate it and celebrate it; learn the lessons from it and move on.
Remember – in all of our frustrations and weaknesses – God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus! Your place in heaven was God’s idea! Your forgiveness was purchased at His own cost and power! Your progress is His project! We will get there, God is with us all the way, and so we press on.
“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (PHIL 1.6)
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (MATT 6.34)