I can’t think of a better time than now to seek after the peace of God. I sit writing this post at my dining table surrounded by my two children who are now doing school work from home as we begin day one of a four-week lockdown due to Covid-19. A position I never would have imagined being in.

I am a person of faith and I believe in a God who through His presence, brings peace in any circumstance. But even for me, this season has brought with it anxiety and worry. I have popped out to The Warehouse a couple of times over the last few days to buy a few supplies to keep the kids entertained and I must admit, the masks, gloves, store restrictions, and people dodging had me wanting to run home, douse myself in hand sanitiser and never leave the house again!!!

My youngest son will sometimes come into our room saying that he’s afraid because he heard a noise, saw a shadow or had a bad dream. As parents we go in and we adjust all the things to make a more comfortable and peaceful environment for our little one don’t we? We open the door, or close the door. We put a night-light on. We show them inside the cupboard, out the window, under the bed – to let them know there are no monsters there. We show them and remind them of where Mummy and Daddy are just in case they need us. And if you are my husband, you show them the baseball bat that we have under the bed!!!

Can you remember being afraid of monsters under the bed? Convinced that something was under there? Remember how that conviction changed the way you got into your bed? You would switch off your light and then run and leap as far from the bed as you could so you were at no risk of being caught as you climbed in. And while you lie in bed, you don’t dare let a limb dangle free – because of course you might be grabbed at an opportune moment.

As kids, we would adjust how we did things in order to accommodate the monsters under the bed and in the closet.

I think we have never grown out of this habit as adults. I think that too often we adjust our living to accommodate our fears. We are panic buying food, stockpiling toilet paper, isolating ourselves beyond just physical isolation.

What we need is not an accommodation of fear but an invitation of peace.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 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. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:6-9  (NLT)

1. PEACE IS AN ANCHOR.

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. Matthew 8:23-24 (NLT)

There are going to be seasons in your life when a suddenly will come – it’s going to hit you out of no where, it’s going to feel like a storm. It wont be what you ordered and it certainly isn’t what you prayed for, but it’s coming all the same.

But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Matthew 8: 24 – 25 (NLT)

It’s a frustrating moment when you know you have the creator of the earth and seas on your side, and yet it seems like he’s sleeping through your storm. Like, does he even care? Does he even notice?

 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!” Matthew 8: 26 – 27 (NLT)

I think we could all be honest today and say that as wives, we often complain about our husbands don’t we? (Or maybe I’m the only imperfect wife?) We want the big gestures, the flowers, the chocolates, the poetry. We are so fixated on those things that we fail to see all of the little ways that he actually shows he cares – helping with the kids, doing the dishes, hanging the washing, taking the kids out to give you five minutes of alone time.

Often when we are in a storm, what we want from Jesus is the big gesture. We want the grand response. We want the over-the-top miracle, the immediate answer. We want another ‘suddenly to match the sudden storm that came our way. But more often what he actually gives us is peace in the storm.

His peace acts as our anchor that stops drift. Peace is the anchor that keeps us grounded.

Let me explain it this way: God has set you on a path. Jesus and the disciples were on the boat and they were going somewhere. God has you going somewhere. Storms will come, and a storm has the capacity and tendency to throw you off course and prevent you from getting to where God sent you out toward in the first place. But the peace of Christ turns up like an anchor. It is that peace that will keep you steadfast and immovable. It will ground you and prevent you from drifting from the plans God has for you.

On the other side of that storm was a town who needed Jesus. When they got to the other side two demon possessed men were healed and they went on to tell everyone about it.

On the other side of your storm is a God-ordained purpose and calling – let the peace of God ground you so you don’t miss it!

2. PEACE IS A COMPASS.

I have a terrible sense of direction. You know how there are some people who can follow their nose? Well my nose is broke! So, I don’t care what anyone says, I thank Jesus every day for GPS and Google Maps! Because for a person who struggles to get to where they know they need to be, anything that directs them is going to provide an enormous amount of peace.

When it comes to setting direction in our lives and moving toward the path God has for us, peace is one of the most common ways that God speaks to us.

Peace guides us, directs us, and so often confirms God’s purposes for us.

I can think of so many occasions in my life when I experienced the peace of God when it came to decision making. In situations when it should have felt big, overwhelming and out of my league. In times when I should have felt fearful, worried and anxious. I didn’t have any of those feelings, I simply had peace and because I had peace I knew I had made the right decision.

So often the answer to your question, “Should I?” or “Shouldn’t I?” is found in the absence or presence of peace.

3. PEACE IS A REFUGE.

I think you may have read about my husband, Steve, walking the 100km Oxfam walk before. Well, along the way there were refuge stations. Planned pit stops. At every stop they had a support crew, who knew them, had food and supplies for them. They had a seat for them, clean socks for them, new shoes for them, warm, dry clothes for them.

These stops became invaluable along the way, because there were moments on this 100km walk where they were walking in the pitch black, there were moments when they were walking in the dead of the night. There were moments when they were walking through forest, trudging through water and up mountains. It was gruelling and painful and anything but peaceful.

In moments like that when they were hungry, thirsty, tired and in pain, the thought of someone who cared about them waiting at a stop with a seat and food and new socks was what literally kept them going. Their peace was in the knowledge that there was a refuge for them just around the next corner.

So often, when we are in a storm in life, our tendency is to give up rather then head for the refuge. And the peace that God has for you is a place of refuge. In his peace you can stop and take a breath. You can sit and wait a while. It is in his peace where you can feel shade from the sun, shelter from the wind and water in the dry land.

When my oldest son Judah was one year old he was rushed into the Intensive Care Unit of Starship Children’s Hospital with a condition that was very rare. It was an abnormality in his bowel that presented itself with a large and sudden bleed. He lost a lot of blood and had to undergo an emergency blood transfusion and surgery to remove the abnormality. He recovered quickly and completely but I have to admit, it was a week I will never forget.

So many people said to me then (and now), “Wow, that must have been terrifying?” I can remember having to think about my answer because the obvious answer should have been “yes it was, it was petrifying”, but that wasn’t my experience – because even in the terrifying, all I felt was peace.

I don’t know what is happening in your world right now, and I don’t know what the obvious emotional response “should” be, whether it’s fear, worry, pain, grief, panic, anxiety, confusion, disappointment, I don’t know – but can I remind you that God has got a peace for you that surpasses all human understanding. In other words, when the world is telling you that you should worry, you can instead have peace. When the world is telling you you should be afraid, you can instead have peace. When the world is telling you you should panic and be fearful…instead God has a peace that will anchor you, guide you and be a refuge for you.

My prayer for you during this season is that you would experience an overwhelming sense of peace.

Now, stay at home – but live like you believe it!

Over the summer I read “The Road Back to You – An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It was a brilliant eye-opener, not just pulling the veil back on my own personality but on the personalities of everyone in my world. One of the most accurate personality profile tests I have ever encountered. But it wasn’t all feel-good and fun – it was at times, a great big kick in the guts. Reading my own profile including my deadly sins, negative attributes, thought patterns and attitudes left me feeling almost winded and wondering if someone had read my diary. And worse, I realised that everyone who read this book and worked out that I was a type one would now know my deepest fears and my greatest downfalls.

After reading a book that shakes you up as much as that one you simply cannot go back to living and being as you had before you picked it up. So, at the end of 2019 I sat down and came up with a few things that I was determined to start doing so that I don’t spend another year going around some of the same mountains.

So here they are….

1. MASTER MY INNER CRITIC.

Type One, also known as The Perfectionist, is the personality type on the enneagram with the loudest inner critic. It shouts at us constantly. In my mind, there is always the right way and the wrong way, and I have to do it the right way. If I don’t, I’m not sure what will happen but surely it must be bad, right? Your inner critic is the first one right there to tell you that you aren’t doing it right, that there is a better way you could be doing it, and  there is always room for improvement.

The problem with the inner critic is that it never sleeps, it never celebrates and it never lets up. Leaving you feeling deflated, discouraged and downright exhausted. And if you don’t learn to master it – it will leave you paralysed. Stuck because of fear of failure.

Perfection – the unattainable attribute. A quality too many of us strive for and yet Christ makes it clear that it doesn’t come by striving. It actually comes by resting – resting in the perfection already attained for us through Christ.

So how do we master the inner critic? We talk back to it. Learn to converse with it, rebut it, and stand up to it. Whatever you do, don’t let it push repeat. Master it, or it will master you.

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. Romans 12:2  (TPT)

2. RECEIVE CRITICISM WITHOUT DEFENSIVENESS.

Once again, the perfectionist in me hates getting it wrong – it’s even worse when someone else tells me I got it wrong. So often, our first response to criticism is to get defensive. To explain our side, to fight our corner and to convince you of why we did or didn’t do whatever it was we did or didn’t do.

But what if criticism wasn’t met with defensiveness but rather with a gratefulness that someone cares enough to say something? What if it was met with a willingness to listen and a genuine attempt to understand what they are trying to communicate to us. Criticism (or critique – which everyone thinks is nicer but we really dislike it just as much) could move from highlighting our weakness to making a weakness a strength. Criticism could in fact begin to grow us. It could become a friend instead of a foe.

Next time someone brings you a critique, stop and say thank you.

3. REFUSE TO LIVE WITH RESENTMENT.

Most of us walk around with expectations. Expectations of ourselves and of others. The only problem with expectations is that we very rarely write them on a street sign and carry them with us! Expectations are more often than not, unspoken.

Resentment is that feeling of frustration when someone isn’t doing what you think they should be doing. Resentment so easily creeps in. It is like a quiet anger that bubbles and brews below the surface.

When the hubby doesn’t put his dishes away after you have clearly just tidied the entire kitchen, and now you roll your eyes every time the poor boy takes a dish out, like “do you expect me to wash that too?” Honey, that’s resentment.

And when your colleague who asked for your help on a project gets acknowledged by the boss, you find yourself snickering to yourself because, “they couldn’t have done it without me, I did my job and part of theirs and I don’t get a pat on the back”. That my friend, is resentment.

But what if we chose (made a deliberate decision) to forgive ourselves and others more. What if we chose to forgive those around us for not meeting the expectations that they didn’t know they were supposed to be living up to. What if we refused resentment entry and chose instead to believe the best in each other. I kind of think maybe, you would walk around feeling lighter (and much less frowny).

Forgive us the wrongs we have done as we ourselves
    release forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
Matthew 6:12  (TPT)

SOMETIMES WE NEED REMINDING.

I listened to some teaching by Craig Groeschel recently where he shared about retraining the pathways of our brain to begin believing what God believes about us. He challenged his listeners to begin every day by saying out loud a list of daily declarations that deliberately challenge some of your negative self-beliefs. I realised that if I was going to change some of my deep seated old habits I was going to have to retrain some deeply ingrained neural pathways.

Here are my daily declarations:

  • I am more than enough, through Christ.
  • I am who I am and do what I do, but by the grace of God.
  • Jesus is first in my life.
  • I exist to glorify Him.
  • I love my husband and I will serve him each day. My husband loves me.
  • I love my kids and will teach them how to love God.
  • I am disciplined.
  • Christ lives in me therefore I can ask in his name and see miracles.
  • I am growing closer to Jesus every day.
  • I am a leader who develops leaders.
  • I will rejoice in pain.
  • I am creative and driven and a blessing to my home and others.
  • I take all thoughts captive and surrender them to Christ daily.
  • People matter over tasks.
  • I bring my best and then some.
  • Mistakes are ok, they are what grow me.
  • I am forgiven; therefore, I forgive others.
  • I am content, I do not need to compare myself to others.
  • The world will be different and better because I am here.

The Israelites – God’s people living in slavery in the land of Egypt under the iron rule of Pharaoh. Until God speaks to Moses, an Israelite who grew up as an Egyptian Prince, and asks him to lead the campaign for Israel’s freedom. Moses asks Pharaoh to let his people go and when Pharaoh refuses God sends 10 plagues to sweep through the land.

  1. TURNING THE NILE INTO BLOOD.
  2. THE PLAGUE OF FROGS
  3. THE PLAGUE OF GNATS
  4. SWARMS OF FLIES
  5. DEATH OF LIVESTOCK
  6. THE PLAGUE OF BOILS
  7. THE PLAGUE OF HAIL
  8. THE PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS
  9. THE PLAGUE OF DARKNESS
  10. THE DEATH OF THE FIRST BORN

Now, I have learnt something interesting about these plagues: For every plague that was inflicted upon the people, Pharaoh and the land, there was an Egyptian god associated with it.

  1. there were Egyptian gods known as the guardian of the river source, the spirit of the Nile and for the god of Oasis the Nile was believed to be in his blood stream
  2. there was a frog goddess of Egypt and a god of fertility
  3. there was a god of the earth
  4. the fly god of Egypt
  5. gods associated with bulls and cows
  6. goddess of epidemic and healing
  7. the sky goddess, agricultural goddess and a god of the atmosphere
  8. a deity protector from locusts
  9. sun gods
  10. and lastly, Pharaoh himself.

For every plague Almighty God – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Israelites – was showing that He is the God above all other gods.

“I execute judgements against all the gods of Egypt”. Exodus 12:12 (CSB)

When God led the Israelites out of slavery He was giving them more than just their physical freedom. He was setting them free from every power and authority of oppression and slavery – both from things that they could see with their physical eyes and from things that they didn’t even know they needed to be set free from.

I want to remind you today that you serve a God who wants to set you completely free.

And he wants to set you free from things you know you need freedom from and from things you are not even aware are holding you captive. His freedom for you goes so much deeper than just the promise of eternal life and salvation. He came to set you completely free.

“For freedom, Christ sets us free.” Galatians 5: 1 (CSB)

The Israelites didn’t realise their complete freedom. Once they had escaped Pharaoh they went on to develop a habit of continually grumbling and complaining. At every hurdle and every obstacle we see that their response is usually the same.

On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, the whole company of Israel moved on from Elim to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!” Exodus 16: 1 – 3 (MSG)

The Israelites were physically free but they were still bound by their slave mentality. They were physically free from captivity and yet they were still held captive in their thinking. They were no longer slaves and yet they still thought like they were slaves instead of like they were beloved children of the Most High God.

The Israelites were like a bird whose wings had been clipped and caged. They had been freed from the cage but were still not free enough to fly.

I think many of us live like the Israelites, we are free, but only to a certain extent. We can be physically free from a past relationship but still plagued by bitterness and resentment. We can be free from our old life of sin but still held captive by shame or condemnation. We can be physically free from any danger and yet we can still be imprisoned and paralysed in our minds by fear, worry and anxiety.

We might be free but are we completely free?

What is it in your life that still holds you captive? What mindsets are you allowing to play ruler in your life that Christ has actually already set you free from?

“For freedom, Christ sets us free. Stand firm and don’t submit again to the yolk of slavery”. Galatians 5:1

What is Paul, the writer of this letter to the Galatian church saying? In chapters four and five we read as he urges them to not get caught back up in the slavery mindset that God has already freed them from. Don’t get caught up in the religious thinking and in the law that once bound you. He’s saying: You are free! Don’t enslave yourselves again!

So how do you live completely free?

 Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be  in the likeness of his resurrection.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin  might be rendered powerless so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin. Romans 6:4-7 (CSB)

How do we have complete freedom? We walk in the newness of life. We can do that in a few ways. I want to give you three of them today.

Keys to complete freedom:

1. Establish a new way of thinking.

A little later on in Exodus 32 we read the account of when Moses was on Mount Sinai and God was communing with Moses and inscribing with his very finger the two tablets. Meanwhile Israel was building a golden calf to worship. Listen to what they say:

They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them; they have made for themselves an image of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it, and said, ‘Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’” Exodus 32:8 (CSB)

When you don’t understand your complete freedom, your past will try and tell you that your prison was actually your place of freedom. The enemy will speak lies to you about the brokenness that was in that place, Oh it wasn’t so bad was it…Isn’t it better than where you are now?

For every prison still holding you captive there is a lie you have believed that has kept you thinking like a slave instead of a Child of God.

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 (CSB)

Establishing a new way of thinking allows us to discern the barrage of thoughts that assault us daily. Have a renewed mind, Romans says, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.

The NIV translation says, when you renew your mind you can test and approve. You don’t have to allow every thought access to your life. In fact, this passage states clearly that we are to test and approve anything trying to gain access to our thinking.

I love airports and I love travel. I even love watching those airport shows, you know the customs ones? It always astounds me what people try and bring into the country.

I must admit though, I am thankful. I am thankful that we live in a nation that wants to protect us from nasty bugs, drugs and baddies. I am thankful for airport security and our shipping ports that test and approve anything and anyone entering our country. I’m thankful that they don’t just let anything and anyone in.

I wonder what might change if we were to use the same strategy with our thinking? When a thought enters could we begin asking questions? Do you have anything to declare? What is your purpose here and how long do you intend to stay?

Is there a lie I am believing? Is this thought here to bring me down or lift me up? Is this thought contrary to the word of God?

Test it. Discern it’s purpose before you give it approval to enter your mind.

Being completely free means you have to train yourself to think a new way.

Your freedom begins in your mind before it can take place anywhere else.

2. Teach yourself a new language.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken. ”Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 2 Corinthians 4:13 (NIV)

Complete freedom requires a language of faith.

When we are born again, as a child of God, when we enter Gods family we actually have to learn a new language. A language of faith says, while I may not see it, I am going to speak it. It is a language of hope and expectation.

We have all experienced the power that words can have over our lives. Words spoken by others over us, but just as important are the words you speak over yourself. What words are you saying about your marriage? About your family? About your business? About your financial situation? About yourself?

Your words have the power to frame your world.

3. Begin making different decisions.

You can change your thinking, and you can change your language but if you are still making the same debilitating decisions then you are still not free.

Making different decisions begins by changing your first response. Much of our lives are actually built on the patterns of behaviour that we begin developing from a very young age. These patterns of behaviour are what will end up guiding our decisions as we grow into adulthood.

Where the Israelites’ first response was to grumble and complain they needed to change their pattern of behaviour and instead of grumble and complain, turn to God for help, for provision and for the fulfilment of their need.

There is a quote that says,

Live less out of habit and more out of intent.

If your habits lead you toward decisions that continue to imprison you, can I encourage you to begin living your life with intent. Nothing left to chance. Mindful of your actions, your decisions, your responses and the habits that are out to trip you up.

If you want to begin making different decisions you need to begin creating some different intentional habits in your life.

I am going to remind you of the very thought I started this post with; we serve a God who wants to set you completely free. Not partial freedom or once in a while freedom – complete freedom!

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

There was a man named Elkanah who lived in Ramah in the region of Zuph in the hill country of Ephraim. He was the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, of Ephraim. Elkanah had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. Each year Elkanah would travel to Shiloh to worship and sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies at the Tabernacle. The priests of the Lord at that time were the two sons of Eli—Hophni and Phinehas.  On the days Elkanah presented his sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to Peninnah and each of her children. And though he loved Hannah, he would give her only one choice portion  because the Lord had given her no children.  So Peninnah would taunt Hannah and make fun of her because the Lord had kept her from having children.  Year after year it was the same—Peninnah would taunt Hannah as they went to the Tabernacle. Each time, Hannah would be reduced to tears and would not even eat. 1 Samuel 1:1-2 (NLT)

I think it’s safe to say that Hannah had problems right? To be honest I think Elkanah had a problem or two of his own with those two wives but that’s another conversation.

Hannah had problems. She was childless, which in her culture was a big problem to have because children were a sign of God’s blessings toward you. She also had a rival who continually reminded her of everything she didn’t have. She was taunted, provoked and reduced to tears. And just to rub it in, in our very introduction to Hannah, she is defined by her problems. She was not defined by what she had or could do, or by the kind of person she was. She was defined by what she didn’t have and couldn’t do – she was defined by her lack.

Have you ever had a problem? A taunting, provoking problem?

I think we would all agree that on a daily basis we face problems. Rich or poor, good looking or not, short or tall, single or married, qualified or unqualified, employed or unemployed. None of us can escape problems. Even the person who causes you problems has problems. The person who you look at and think “I’d love their life”, guess what? They have problems too. Everybody has problems.

The question I want to ask today is, where do we go with our problems?

What I love in our story is that Elkanah built a particular habit into his family’s way of life. He was the habit of going to Shiloh a certain number of times a year. Shiloh means “place of rest”. Elkanah built such a habit in his family that in Hannah’s time of striving, pain, conflict and turmoil she had somewhere to go – she had somewhere to take her pain, her problems, her turmoil and her brokenness and receive rest and peace.

It is so important that we build the right habits into our lives. Because when our problems threaten us, taunt us and provoke us we will have somewhere to go and take our problems. What habits are you building now that will be your place of peace in the midst of your problems?

Are you building a habit in the Word? Are you building a habit of prayer? Are you building a habit of worship? Are you building a habit of getting to church – even when you don’t feel like it? Are you building a habit of offering? Giving? Sacrifice? Elkanah built a habit.

So what did Hannah do with her problem?

Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle. Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.  And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.” 1 Samuel 1: 9-11 (NLT)

1. Hannah gave her problem purpose.

In fact, Hannah turned her problem into her purpose. Hannah came to God saying, “Lord – I have a problem but I don’t want it to simply remain a problem, I want purpose to be born out of this problem”. From a position of brokenness and desperation Hannah was determined to give birth to purpose in a way that would glorify God!

Your problem serves a purpose.

Often when we have a problem we try and pray it away and we try and get God to take it away instead of realising that perhaps there is a greater purpose at work amidst the problem. Perhaps through the problem God might be trying to produce something in you that would, in time, give glory to him.

What is God trying to birth in you through the problem? What character is he trying to build? What story does he want you to tell? What does he want to teach you about himself?

“Give me a son, and I will give him back to you”. I have a problem, but may it have purpose.

2. Hannah took her problem into the presence.

While she continued praying in the Lord’s presence… 1 Samuel 1: 12 (CSB)

Let’s be honest, we love to talk about our problems right? We talk to our friends, our husbands or partner, our work colleague. We talk to the pastor, the doctor, the naturopath and the receptionist. We talk to our neighbour, the dog, we even tell the Uber driver about the problem but we fail to go to the one who can actually bring peace, rest, purpose and promise to our problem.

We too often take our problems to enablers – because it feels good to have our problems confirmed and justified.

We go to the enablers instead of going to the God who is able.

Hannah didn’t lash back at Peninnah and she didn’t whine to Elkanah. She took her problem and she went into the presence of God and she prayed.

Steven Furtick: “The presence of God will not fix your problems but it will clarify your perspective”.

While she continued praying in the Lord’s presence, Eli watched her mouth.  Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk  and said to her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!” “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord.  Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”  Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the request you’ve made of him.” “May your servant find favor with you,” she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent. The next morning Elkanah and Hannah got up early to worship before the Lord. Afterward, they returned home to Ramah. Then Elkanah was intimate with his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her.  After some time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, because she said, “I requested him from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:12-20 (CSB)

I love that Samuel’s name means “Asked of God”. Designed to continually act as a reminder of God’s favour to her in answering her prayers. Upon every mention of his name – it gives God the glory!

The story goes on to tell us that Hannah waited until Samuel was weaned from her (we can’t be sure at what age but commentaries place him to be at about pre-school age somewhere between two and five). She then takes Samuel back to the place of her desperation and she dedicates him back to the Lord. She gave him back!

 “Please, my lord,” she said, “as surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord.  I prayed for this boy, and since the Lord gave me what I asked him for,  I now give the boy to the Lord. For as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.” Then he worshiped the Lord there. 1 Samuel 1:26 – 28 (CSB)

It’s one thing to have faith and believe for an answer and receive it. It is another thing to receive what you have been believing for and then let it go again, giving it back to God.

Luke Brough: “The true test of faith is not in the praying, believing and receiving of what you are asking for. The true test of faith is, can you give it back to God?”

You might be asking for a job, but are you willing to tithe? You might be asking for a home, but would you be willing to make a commitment to build God’s house? You might be asking for purpose but will you go wherever God sends you?

So often we make promises in our desperation that we forget about once we have our answer. The question is, when God delivers on his side of the bargain can we honour our commitment? Can we give it all back to God and still have faith and believe that God is good?

The beautiful part about this story is that we know from 1 Samuel 2:21 that God gave Hannah five more children after Samuel. Because you can’t out-give the God of Heaven’s Armies.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

Relationships are hard! 

Wherever and whenever you find yourself, you have to work with, get on with, live with, do church with or co-exist with other people. It is inevitable that you are going to run into some kind of relational conflict.  It’s bound to happen! I have noticed that when it comes to conflict, different people respond and react to it in different ways.  

Here are a few types of people I’ve come across along the way:

Bulldozer Barry – He loves to smash into conflict and will leave a trail of rubble behind him.

Avoider Anne – She will sidestep the problem and avoid engaging in the conflict at all costs. Avoider Ann pretends it never happened or simply just ignores the issue entirely.

Revenger Rosie – Watch out, any conflict is highly personal and will come with pay back.

Passive Aggressive Pete – Snarky comments and bitter undertones are his favourite, he’ll tell you it’s fine, but believe me, it’s not.

Apologetic Ange – Always takes the blame, says sorry over and over, wants to make it all better but doesn’t address the real issues.

Blame Shifter Beth – Puts all the blame on others, it is never her fault. Be careful, if there’s a bus coming, you’re likely to be thrown under it.

Emotional EmmaCries, gets over emotional and any sign of conflict equals a melt down.

The truth is that no matter who you are, whether you are a follower of Jesus or not, you will have relational conflict. The challenge is resolving it and dealing with it in a healthy way.

In the book of Proverbs 23:23 Solomon gives us this advice: “Buy truth and do not sell it, buy wisdom, instruction and understanding.”

In all our dealings, these four things are what we should pursue. Truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding.

Truth

In any conflict the goal is to attain truth.  What has happened? Why has it happened? How can we see this for what it is and be better for it? TRUTH. Truth is what we want to get a hold of. We have to buy it, it will cost us something if we want to possess the truth. Go after it and do not let go of it.

In order to get to truth we need to also pursue the other three things mentioned in this scripture.

Wisdom

You’ve probably noticed that young people are prone to doing dumb stuff.  To be honest, I’m surprised that I lived to see my 25th birthday.  I did so many dumb things when I was younger. Things that I would never do now that I’m a little older and a little wiser.

The reason young people do dumb things is because they haven’t gained wisdom yet, because gaining wisdom takes time! In order to resolve conflict, you are going to have to be willing to invest time to figure out what’s going on.

Wisdom is about trying to remove the emotion.  Wisdom doesn’t have emotion. Wisdom speaks slow. It is not in a rush.

In the book of James, he instructs us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.  That’s wisdom.

There has never been a moment where I have sent a quick email in a moment of frustration or anger and it worked out well.  Never.  It always goes badly. I regret it every time and it doesn’t achieve anything. 

Slow down, take time to process.

In our marriage, Becs and I have spent countless late nights sitting up talking until two and three in the morning trying to sort out an issue or a conflict.  Why? Because wisdom takes time.  It’s not often resolved quickly, sometimes you have to invest the time to gain wisdom.

Wisdom is also about going to the right place for advice.  For many of us our default place of advice and processing are places of gossip, not wisdom.

The bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom!  Wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord.  If I want wisdom on a situation, I need to go to someone who fears God!

Instruction

I hate following instructions.  I hate it with a passion.  I don’t like flat pack furniture, there are too many instructions.  I don’t like following recipes to make dinner, again…instructions. Let me be free from the tyranny of your rules Mr Instruction Manual!

Dealing with conflict requires a lot of grace and even more humility. Many conflicts don’t get resolved because we can’t take instruction.  We believe that all the blame lies with the other person and none with us.

Seeking instruction involves a willingness to put your need to be right aside and accept that in every relational conflict, you had a part to play in it.  Even if you don’t see it or agree with it!

If you want to be able to deal with conflict then you will need to be ok with correction.

Always be teachable, always be correctable, always seek instruction. Own your bit. Say sorry. 

Understanding

Don’t insist on being right.  You don’t have to be right.  In fact, if you need to be right then, relationally, something will always be wrong. The goal is not necessarily to discover who is right or wrong, the goal is understanding.

If there is a winner and a loser then there will be two losers. 

When facing a conflict, here is my advice: Seek first to understand, then to be understood!

I hope that something of what I have shared gives you some tools to grow and further develop healthy relationships – even in the more difficult seasons!

Steve.

Before there was Sunday, there was Friday.

Do you remember what it was like growing up as a child in those pre and early school years? For most children life starts out pretty optimistic. They have a positive view of the world. Kids are full of hope and big dreams. They are going to be a princess or a superhero, a professional football player or a policeman! They walk around most of the time, believing that “everyone loves me and anything is possible!”. And why wouldn’t they?

Our eldest son, Judah, has always been super optimistic about the world around him. He sees the best in everything and everyone. He lived, for most of his early years, in his imagination. He believed he had laser eyes and could fly – like he really believed he could!

With that in mind, Judah loved the Narnia movies. After watching The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe we had to have many sword fights where the loser would be brought back to life by using the “Healing Cordial” that Lucy gets given by Father Christmas. Just a little drop and away we go! The fight continues.

Well, one day, when I was hugely pregnant with our second boy, Rocky, we discovered a mouse in our house. Now this mouse used to give me nightmares and Steve was instructed to get rid of it any which way he could. But we just could not catch this mouse. So we had to resort to the tried and true snap and trap, old school mouse trap. Well it only took a day or two and Steve entered the garage to see poor little mousy was no more. However, before he could close the garage door and discretely dispose of him, Judah walks in behind him to see the mouse.

You should have seen the look on his face. Then with child-like faith he says, “But we will just give him healing cordial aye?” And there it was, the conversation we knew we would one day have to have. The one where we explain to him that healing cordial wasn’t going to work this time.

Let’s be honest, we all face moments like this.

It’s as though we have gone round the back of Disneyland and seen Mickey with his head off, having an argument with Donald.

It’s the moments in life that threatened to rock our faith. It’s the moments when our childhood faith is tested by real life adult happenings. It’s the moments when we begin to question things, when we no longer have all the answers and uncertainty creeps in.

It’s those moments where we feel like giving up, like we are just not sure how we are going to get through. We don’t see the light at the end and right now the pain we feel seems like too much to bear.

Have you ever had those kinds of moments? When you literally shake your fist at the heavens and scream “WHY? WHY GOD WHY?”

On Good Friday I am often drawn to think about the disciples. Because I think that Friday would have been one of those moments for them.

I think that even though he told them this would happen and even though they knew the prophesies, I don’t think anything could have prepared them for their loss.

He was their Saviour, He was their Healer, their Redeemer, their Leader, their Teacher. He was their friend. And on that Friday their pain, discouragement, disappointment and grief would have been overwhelming.

And then they faced Saturday, where I am sure all of their doubts and all of their questions and all of their uncertainties would have been surfacing and wrestling for attention.

On that Saturday, they didn’t have the benefit of hindsight that we have today. We have read the end of the story, we know the punchline, we know that in two days, Sunday is coming.

But sometimes, the Fridays and the Saturdays in our lives can become so all consuming and so overwhelming that Sunday just seems too far off.

And so the question is, where is God in my Friday or my Saturday?

Three things I hope will be helpful to you:

1. God is at work in you.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4

It is in the most difficult seasons of my life that I have built the most strength, patience, character and resilience.

God is always more interested in your character than your comfort because he knows that the Fridays and the Saturdays in our lives build character in you that the comfort-zone never could.

Your BEING will always trump your DOING because God is more interested in the process than the progress.

2. God is at work for you.

We recently bumped into a lady that my husband’s family knew many years ago. She began asking Steve what he was up to now and he went on to tell her that he was now leading a large and growing church in our area. She was absolutely blown away, and said: “I can’t believe that you were one of the little baby twins that I used to pray over every week”.

You see, Steve is a twin, and one day his mum was at the supermarket and was having a really tough day. A lady, also just at the supermarket, approached her and said, “Excuse me, but you look like you could do with some help”. She introduced herself and offered her time. So from that day on she would come over every week and just help. She would do laundry and groceries and cooking and nappy changing. And she would pray…over the two little boys who lay sleeping in their cots. Little did she know the journey that would take them on.

After our recent encounter with her I said to Steve that what amazes me about his story was that even though he found faith at 18 years old, God was never absent from his life. From the time he was a baby through his primary and high school years, there were moments like this one where you can clearly see God at work in the background. Strategically orchestrating moments and encounters which have all culminated in making him who he is today.

I don’t know how absent you feel God is in your circumstance but can I reassure you, He is working in the background, behind the scenes to orchestrate moments and encounters that will one day be revealed to you.

3. God is at work through you.

It is your biggest mess that becomes your greatest message.

When the trial becomes the triumph it is less about the circumstance and more about the God who overcame in the circumstance.

There is a passage about another dead man in the bible, named Lazarus. When Lazarus first became ill, his sisters Mary and Martha sent a message to Jesus – “the one you love is sick”. But Jesus didn’t come, Lazarus died, and it wasn’t until four days later that Jesus showed up. (Ever felt like Jesus is a little slow on the uptake?)

Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him,[c] and he was deeply troubled. 3“Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 3But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 4And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11: 30-44

What I have learnt about going through difficult journeys is that God doesn’t want us to travel them alone. He actually wants us to take others on the journey, that they too may see the miracle.

Sometimes, God asks that we just wait a little longer for our miracle, for our answer, for our resolution. That we might share the journey with someone else. That someone else might see the miracle. That others would see his power working through you.

You can be assured that no matter the circumstance, God is always at work.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it!

But he answered me, “My grace is always more than enough for you, and
my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” So I will 
celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the
mighty power of Christ living in me. So I’m not defeated by my weakness, 
but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment –
when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution
because of my love for Christ – I am made yet stronger. For my weakness 
becomes a portal to God’s power. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (TPT).

This message is for all of us.

It is a message for the woman who feels like no matter what she does, it’s never enough. Like the expectations are never ending. It’s for the woman who feels like she is failing as a mum. It’s for the girl walking through picking up the remains after a broken relationship. It’s for the woman who is full of regrets because she feels like she could have done this, and she should have done that. It’s for the girl who feels like she’s drowning, overwhelmed by everything that surrounds her. It’s for the woman standing in front of what looks like an impossible mountain. It’s for the one who feels suffocated by grief and loss. And it’s for the woman who feels inadequate, insufficient and overwhelmed.

This is a message for me too.

I don’t know why but for much of my younger years I always felt very inadequate. I was shy and I lived as though I was forgettable. I lived in the shadow of many of my larger than life friends, riding on the coat-tails of their confidence. I dreaded social situations because I felt awkward meeting new people. I thought I didn’t have anything interesting to say and that they would forget who I was the moment they turned away. The truth is, I would often pretend that I was meeting someone for the first time because I had a core belief that they wouldn’t remember me from our original encounter – so to save us both the embarrassment I would pretend I had never met them and introduce myself for “first” time – but really I knew it was the second or third time. I don’t think I ever felt enough.

And then we moved to Whangarei. I was 27 years old leaving the only environment that I had known to a place where literally no one did know me and I really was meeting everyone for the first time. In this season, I realised I had an opportunity to let God bring out in me who I really was.

This word enough became God’s echoing song in my heart.

Heres what I have had to come to understand:

1. God is enough.

Steve and I had been married for about 3 years when he had to travel to Hawaii to a best friend’s wedding. We couldn’t afford for us both to go so I stayed at home. It was the first time since I met him that we would be in different countries. We worked together so we were with each other 24/7. This felt like a big moment for me; a young wife, husband leaving her for the first time. For some reason, when he left, fear began to grip me. I became incredibly anxious that something awful would happen to him while he was away and the question ringing in my mind was: what if he never came back? I knew that my thinking was fear based, not fact based. It was emotionally driven, not faith driven. I knew my thoughts were completely irrational. But they still felt very real.

Our thinking can be like that cant it? It can seem completely irrational and yet at the same time, completely real.

This was the first moment God gave me this scripture. “My grace is enough”.

I began to learn over the next few weeks that God is enough. He is all that I need. So as hard as it was to think about, I actually came to a place of peace where I realised that if the worst really did happen, whether it was now or in 20 years, or 50 years – that I would be ok – because as long as I have God, I had all that I need. Because He is more than enough.

Let me ask you this: Have you allowed him to give you the peace that says, even in the most difficult of circumstances, I am going to be ok?

It’s an unexplainable peace, it’s a peace that can’t be put into words or given logic.

Jeremiah 23:6 tells us that because of Christ’s righteousness, because he is perfect, holy, and righteous – because he is enough; we can dwell securely.

Regardless of your situation. Regardless of what your emotions are trying to tell you. Regardless of what your head says. Regardless of what others say.

You can dwell securely because he is all that you need.

2. I am enough.

My youngest son Rocky is really loving his costumes at the moment. He loves to dress up. He will set out a costume the night before and have it ready for first thing in the morning. He has even started wanting to wear costumes to church every Sunday. Rocky will dress up like Where’s Wally, Peter Pan, Spider Man – anything but himself.

I wonder how many of us are grown up versions of Rocky? We may have grown out of the costumes phase but we still wish we could go somewhere in disguise, put a mask on, and cover the real us. Because the real you just doesn’t feel like it’s ever enough. It’s not exciting enough, talented enough, gifted enough, loud enough, quiet enough, funny enough, intelligent enough, witty enough, smart enough, tall enough, short enough, pretty enough.

In fact, if you look back to Genesis we have been doing it since the very beginning of time. Sin came into the world and all of a sudden shame became our prison and we hid.

shamea painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming,
or impropriety. Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Shame will tell you that you are not good enough. Shame will remind you of your shortcoming, your guilt, your inadequacy and your failing. Shame will keep you hiding who you really are, because who you really are doesn’t feel like its enough.

But let these words wash over you for just a moment:

For 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,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,[
a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139: 13 – 18 (NIV)

You don’t have to do anything to be enough. You don’t have to achieve anything to be enough. You don’t have to work to be enough. JUST BEING – IS ENOUGH.

3. His grace is enough.

There is nothing like a school bake sale to make you feel inadequate right? I am not a baker. I do not bake things. I don’t enjoy it and I am not good at it. So you can just imagine what happens in my head when they announce a bake sale at school? Do you know what I do? I go to the supermarket or a cafe and I buy the most homemade looking item I can find and I put it in a Tupperware container (ice-cream container for ultimate authenticity) and I pretend that I baked it. Yes, I do. Don’t judge me.

But the bake sale is quickly followed by the Book Character Dress Up day!!! I send my child in a sack with a tea towel on his head only to find these other kids turn up and their mothers have made them elaborate and amazing life like and life size costumes. Like, don’t they have anything better to do with their lives than to try and show up all the parents who don’t have the time or creativity to keep up?!

There are many times in moments like that where I stand there and think What am I even doing here”? I am the wrong person for the job!!!!

Ever felt like that with your whole life? Like everyone else makes it look so easy and here you are feeling completely inadequate for the job, role or place that you are.

Can I tell you that He has given you everything that you need to do all that he is asking you to do.

It is a grace and He gives it to you for the purpose and the season that you need it.

So you don’t have to question if you have what it takes to be a mum – because He has graced you for it, and His grace is enough.

And you don’t have to fear that you are going to let others down – because He has graced you for it, and His grace is enough.

And you don’t have to worry about whether you are going to get it right – because He has graced you for it, and His grace is enough.

So, go out there and live like you believe it!