Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Optimist Challenge Day 5

If you are unhappy with your life or circumstances, pray for God's intervention to make change happen, instead of merely complaining. 

"If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it." ~Anthony J. D'Angelo

"When any fit of gloominess, or perversion of mind, lays hold upon you, make it a rule not to publish it by complaints." ~Samuel Johnson

I have learned from many a personal experience, that complaining never amounts to anything - except more complaining.   Philippians 2:14 says "Do everything without grumbling or arguing,".... yet unfortunately, this is a challenge I struggle with.

It is much easier to whine and grumble, than to take action to make change happen, especially when  problems seem looming or overwhelming or out of our control. Or maybe we have just gradually developed a chronic habit of complaining, no matter what the issue is.

When I think about changing our habits and attitudes, I am reminded of Luke 11:9 which says,"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Before I really began to spend time reading scripture and trying to understand God's Word, I used to think that this verse implied that we could ask for things. "Cool!" "I'll ask for a new wardrobe, a perfect marriage, problem-free kids, and an unlimited amount of cash. " ( just kidding - although those things would be nice!)

But the true meaning of this verse, is to encourage us to pray, with the motivation coming from knowing that God hears us, and that He will answer. It informs us that there are advantages to praying, because when we pray, God moves  - but always in ways that are in agreement with His will.

I seem to have several storms in my life right now.  Some have been growing over time, and others have raged in unexpectedly.  I desperately wish some circumstances were different, and I do not yet understand how God could bring glory out of them. Yet, what I do know, is that they compel me to pray.

A couple months ago, I prayed for something that I had never prayed for before. I prayed for deliverance from a certain situation, and when God answered that prayer, I was shaken to the core and moved to tears.

It became crystal clear that God had not only heard my prayer, but acted on it. To fully grasp the understanding that the One and Only God heard my prayer, and acted upon it, shook me with such great humility that it made me feel weak in the knees. There was no other way to explain what had happened - except God.

It was a situation that had been concerning me for years, and changed dramatically, just a few weeks after finally fully surrendering that problem to God.

Although He did not answer my prayer in the way I would have chosen, I knew that God had moved in my situation, on my behalf, and I was in awe.

I asked. And I had received.  I sought out God's will, and intervention for change, and He showed up.  I had knocked, and God opened the door.

You see, I had spent a lot of time, and I mean A LOT of time, complaining about this storm, and to be honest, had begun to feel a little irritated and frustrated that God was not paying attention to all of my whining.  

I now see, that God could not take action in the midst of my whining and complaining, always trying to tell Him how I wanted Him to fix this problem. But He could take action in the midst of my honest, heartfelt prayers, when I handed the problem over to Him and trusted in His ways, no matter what they might be.

Our prayers are like knocks on the door of heaven, and when we knock with hearts desperate for Him, God opens the door, and can then begin to carry out His promises in our lives. 

The promise of hope during circumstances that seem hopeless.

The promise of the ability to hang onto our faith, when it seems impossible.

The promise of comfort, as we seek to understand why.

The promise of peace that surpasses all understanding, until we do.

The promise of answered prayers - in His time, in His ways, with His sovereign knowledge.

The promise of knowing that in His time, all things will somehow bring Him glory.

One example I think of when considering today's challenge, is found in Matthew 14. Remember, when Peter was sitting on a fragile boat in the middle of an ocean? Torrential rains beating down on his face; waves beating the boat into shreds; lightning and thunder booming from every direction?

Although he feared for his life, when Peter realized that Jesus was near, he stopped complaining and had faith. He believed that positive changes would take place within the storm, even though he had no personal power to make that happen.

Jesus summoned Peter to walk on the water, and Peter obeyed, looking straight into the eyes of Jesus.

But then - he got scared; his faith wavered; his human rationale took over; and he began staring at the black clouds above him and the deep waters below him.

He took his focus off of Jesus, and focused on the problems around him instead. He began panicking and complaining and saying "Lord, save me!", as his fears and complaints took precedence over his faith.

Jesus's heart sank because of Peters lack of faith, but yet He still rescued him, calmed the storm, and changed the situation - which changed Peter's heart as well.

First - God changed the storm, then He changed Peter. But He could have done it the other way around, if He had chosen to.

Faith is believing that God hears our prayers, and understanding that He cannot act on complaints alone. When we seek His intervention, and knock on heaven's door, we are tapping into a power that we cannot even fathom.

God may change our circumstances through our faith, or He may choose to change our faith through our circumstances.

The choice is His, yet the journey is ours. We can spend it complaining, or we can spend it praying, but knowing that supernatural change can only come about when we knock.

Day Five Challenge Activity:  Pray for God's intervention to make change happen, instead of merely complaining.

To begin this challenge, develop a mock goal setting form for the changes you want to see occur.

To create this goal setting form, take a few minutes to jot down the current problems or 'storms' that are raging in your life right now. Then, draw four columns on a piece of paper.

      In the 1st column, write down all the things that you wish were different in your life, or situations  that you wish would change.

     In the 2nd column, write why you want that certain aspect of your life to be different, or how you feel you would be happier if that situation or circumstance changed or improved.

     In the 3rd column, write down how you would like to see the situation change, or what your best case scenario for change would be.

    And in the 4th column, write down what you can begin doing, if anything, to start making some positive changes about the problem(s) or situation(s) that you wrote down in column one.

If you are able to brainstorm some solutions to implement or induce change about a situation in your life, then stop complaining about them, and start working towards making change happen!

But if you recognize that some of your problems are completely out of your control, then pray with all your heart for God to begin working in those situations. Turn those situations completely over to God, and let it go. Surrender it to the cross, and entrust its' outcome to God, in whatever way He deems best.

Then keep your spiritual eyes open, so that when He does work, you know it is Him.  It may take time to see answers to your prayers, but it will be in His time, which we know will be perfect.

Sometimes putting things in writing helps me to be able to see things clearer, which enables me to think more rationally about what actions I can take to meet my goals.

This simple process also helps me to recognize when I have been stressing, worrying and complaining about things of which I ultimately have no power to change, thus reminding me to lay those burdens at Gods feet - and open the door for Him to work.

Some changes require a little work on our part, but other changes require a lot of prayer from our heart. Seek God's wisdom to know the difference.

Now - most importantly - take time to pray over your list. Not just today, but every day, trusting that God hears your prayers, and believing in the promise we have been given in Luke 11:9.

Optimist Challenge Day 5SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Julie said...

Once again, Tracie, this is EXACTLY what I needed to hear today. There are always things I complain about and sort of pray about, but don't really DO anything about! I AM going to take this challenge and today I am going to do those columns and see how GOD will work! Thank yo SO much for these challenges. Things have seemed even more challenging to me since I have been pregnant. Gotta love those preggo hormones! GOD Bless you and your awesome ministry! Julie Spearing

Laura said...

I've been learning lately to surrender situations to God, trusting that He will work them out His way and in His time. In the meantime I keep praying.

Thanks Tracie,

Raspberrymama said...

Your comment, "We can spend our journey complaining or we can spend it praying..." really puts life into perspective! I want to be found faithfully sitting at His feet, basking in His goodness and love instead of grumbling and complaining. Thank you, again, for being used by God...He is doing great things!

Lynn Bowman said...

This is amazing! My pastor has been preaching on complaining and fussing for the last two Sundays. This post just reaffirms what I've already heard. I'm learning to stop complaining so much and instead take all my requests to God. Thanks for continuing to challenge my behavior!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your struggle with us. It's encouraging to see how God is using your situation and the triumph He gave you to help others. Today was a HUGE reminder that I've been praying, I've been waiting and I've been hoping, but, alas, I've been complaining too. And while I can't change my circumstances or other people, I most defintely can stop myself from complaining about it.

cupcake said...

What a great idea!

Babs said...

i've been really enjoying reading these challenges and have just read todays after talking to someone about self development and the whole confidence thing. and not only that but i was reading another artical about being confident in myself and how that makes you attractive to others.

Joanna said...

"Do something about it!" Those are often the first words my husband says to me when I start to complain about a circumstance... in a loving way, of course. My "out" for doing something proactive is usually, "...but I don't have any control over that!." It is then that I receive the next reminder: "Pray about it." God has complete control, and He can certainly work in every situation and enable me to rest contentedly in His sovreignty.

Janine said...

Wow! Day 5 already! Okay, this homework assignment will take more time than I have first thing in the morning. BUT I recognize the value of writing complaints down and I LOVE the idea of using columns to help me sort my thoughts. SO-O-O, I've sent myself a reminder to do this on my lunch break. I just know it will be tremendously helpful. AND I will continue reminding myself to be optimistic each day. Thank you for this 10-day challenge! Blessings to you.

Kirsten said...

I needed the reminder that even though He can change our circumstances, sometimes He chooses to change us thru them instead. It's so easy to complain and make no effort to fix the problems, but so much more useful to put it in God's hands and trust Him to work His perfect will in the situation.

Anonymous said...

I love the comment on spending our time praying rather than complaining. I think that sums it all up!


Mary S. said...

Oh my, straight to the heart. I have been complaining about a relationship and today's message hit home. Instead of complaining, pray and keep my eyes and heart open to God!

LaTara said...

Thank you so much, Tracie. I think God is "choosing to change my faith through my circumstances" right now and it was helpful to read it that way. I had never really thought about it like that. The last part about knowing which circumstances we can work on improving and which ones we just need to pray about reminded me of "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."
A very powerful message again! Thanks!

Shonda said...

Yep,ok, this is exactly what I needed. I like the action part!

Debbie C said...

Ouch! Talk about straight to the point. I love the action plan of using the four columns! It allows a great visual of where you are, what you expect, with plan to get there. Bottom line for me; it boils down to do I trust God enough to obey? My answer is unequivocally YES.

one-step-at-a-time said...

Today I felt the attacks of negativity severally throughout my day as everything kept going wrong. I had a long list of complaints I wanted to keep listing. However, I felt the negativity and kept asking God to work in the situations, to take away my anxiety and help me to see positively. A friend and I try to txt each other three things we are thankful for from our day each day and I can always see the change in my thinking and mood afterwards.

Jewels said...

I certainly do my share of complaining. Thank you for bring this topic up. I sure liked being reminded of that verse. I need to start knocking rather than whining. Thank for reminding us of Peter and Jesus on the water.