Before digging into this post, I want to thank Cherry Drop Princess for the suggestion to include Philippians 4:8 in the Draw Closer Series. The verse and the corresponding verses bring home the purpose of this series, which is why I chose it to be part of the conclusion. So let us begin with Philippians 4:4 where Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” I believe that many can agree that rejoicing in God is vital for our relationship with God; regardless of what is going on in any of our lives, there is SOMETHING to be thankful to God for, right? However, being thankful ALWAYS can be the challenging part. Meaning it is easier to rejoice when life is wonderful, but it is difficult to do so when life is not going so great.
You might recall that I discussed a little bit of where I am (in terms of my career) in the previous post to this series. To sum it up here, my desire is for the book that I’ve written to be published, and the process so far has included multiple passes from literary agents. I anticipated the rejection—it’s part of being a writer. Still, I’m ready for the next step in the process to seeing my book published and in readers’ hands. I’m praying that God will open the door for my book at the right time, with the right agent, and the right publishing house. All of us should pray about the desires in our hearts; whether it is for clarity on if those desires are truly from God; and if they are prayer to trust God to bring them to pass in his timing.
There is a danger that might arise as we wait for God to give us the desires of our heart, and its root comes from the moment we begin to make our desires a focal point or an IDOL. In other words, we are consumed with what has yet to happen and overlook what God is doing in our lives presently. For example, let’s say you desire to get married, and you have dreamed for years of beginning the marriage journey. Within those years of waiting, you watch friend after friend begin THEE RELATIONSHIP with their one; in response, you are happy for them but frustrated because you don’t understand why it is not your time. Another example may be while you’re at church. You observe couples worshipping God together, and it reminds you of your desire to do the same with your boyfriend/husband. It also creates a longing within you that shifts to sadness because it hasn’t happened yet. How many of you reading this have had some form of those thoughts or feelings? I have to raise my hand and say that I experienced each example given.
What I should have done when it came to my desire to meet the man God has for me is highlighted in Philippians 4:6. Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I had no problem praying about my desire to meet the man God has for me. Even so, I was anxious about it, and I wasn’t as thankful as I should’ve been. Nearly four years ago, God showed me through a book called, How to Be Found by the Man You’ve Been Looking For by Michelle McKinney Hammond that my desire had taken too much of my focus. I wanted to begin the journey towards marriage so much so that I was missing the fact that God wanted me to focus this period of my life drawing closer to him.
I had a choice to continue being discontent by it not being my time yet or choose to ACCEPT AND EMBRACE that God wanted me to draw closer to him. I chose the latter and asked God to increase my desire for Him; and, in doing so, God has increased my desire to study His Word each year. Please understand that my desire to marry still remains, but a key difference from then to now is that I’m BETTER EQUIPPED to combat those tempting moments to wallow in negative thoughts on why it has not happened yet, with God’s Word.
When we are thankful for what God has done, and is doing in our lives (instead of focusing on what we are missing in our lives) God does something within us. Paul says in Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Notice that Paul says, “all understanding.” That means that there will be things in our lives that we won’t understand, and God may not enlighten us on those things until we get to heaven. Regardless, we have to accept this fact, we have to trust God, and as Romans 8:28 says, “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
By spending more and more time in God’s Word, my relationship with God has matured. For instance, God has pointed out things that I cannot use as much—like surfing social media—because it is my primary trigger for discontented feelings. By the way, seek and ask God on whether you need to remove or moderate something in your life that might be affecting you negatively. In addition, I believe that because my relationship with God is maturing, my MINDSET has drastically changed. This brings me to Philippians 4:8. Paul says,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
The word “think” is where I want to draw your attention too. Our moods (good or bad) are affected by our thoughts. You might be thinking that other people’s actions towards you affect your mood more than your thoughts. Sometimes people do say things that hurt us or do things that annoy us. However, our response can be to dwell on that person’s words to us by replaying it in our minds repeatedly, or we can choose to think on things that are pure, lovely, and admirable.
How can you think on positive things? Turn to God’s Word. For me, when it comes to waiting for the right literary agent, I tend to think on Proverbs 3:5-6, which says,
5Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
Although I may not understand why the door for an interested literary agent is not open, God knows, for he sees the whole picture. He knows the precise moment that the book needs to be out in the world.
In closing, I want to show you what happens within us, as we draw closer to God. Romans 12:2 says,
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Did you catch that it says that God transforms us by changing how we think? Meaning, our MINDS AND our HEARTS are crucial to changing how we act and speak. Real change cannot happen in our own strength and it certainly cannot happen from the outside in. One of the awesome things about transformation is the outward changes won’t be forced. For instance, the day you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior was not the day that you stopped cursing. I must say here DO NOT COMPARE your relationship with God to another person. TRANSFORMATION IS A PROCESS that is a life long journey for each of us; we all are at different stages in that journey, and the journey will look different for each of us.
The beauty of the journey with God is when you reach the end of each year; you can look back and recognize how much transformation God has done within you. Moreover, in looking back, we can be thankful and GRATEFUL for how far God has brought us.
Was there a verse that stopped you from wallowing in negative thoughts?
How about something the Holy Spirit or someone close to you said that cut those negative feelings short?
Think back to the start of 2016. Do you see the transformation God has done in you from then to now?
All Bible verses are from Holy Bible: New International Version and New Living Translation