“Stubbornness is an unintelligent barrier, refusing enlightenment and blocking it’s flow.”
Those words grabbed me this week.
They are the words of Oswald Chambers in his devotional My Utmost for His Highest. What gripped my attention was “unintelligent barrier.” Have I ever allowed stubbornness to block the flow of enlightenment or understanding in my life? And if it’s an “unintelligent barrier” then it’s something that I allow with giving it reasoned thought.
So I asked God what causes stubbornness?
Here’s my take from scripture:
- Leaning on my own understanding. God says not to. (Proverbs 3:5-6) God sees big. We see small. When we think our vision and understanding is the whole picture, we cling to our way as being the only way to think about something. That’s stubbornness. And in a word: pride.
- Fear. A previous employer once told me he believed I was unteachable in my attitude toward some work I did for him. (Read: stubborn.) His well-intended comment hurt and surprised me. I believed I listened and followed the instructions given me. I respected his discernment, but I asked my manager if he could confirm that observation. His perception brought tears. He told me he didn’t see me as stubborn or unteachable, but rather afraid because I didn’t know how to do some things. When he said that, understanding dawned. Fear can make us resistant and therefore stubborn.
- Allowing my basest desires to rule me. “Indulge me,” our flesh says. Eating, drinking, spending, sex–all normal, God created activities can get out of control. Then they take over, and we stubbornly cling to them or our right to them. Remember the spoiled rich girl, Veruca Salt, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? She wanted what she wanted, the whole world even, and wanted it right then. There’s a little Veruca in all of us, right?
God wants good for us.
He put desires in our hearts and promises to satisfy those desires when we delight in him. But it’s only when we think his way that he broadens our understanding and curtails our desires to be for the best things. (Psalm 37:4)
We all know as a parent, the best thing isn’t to give a child sugar at bed time no matter how much he may want it. (Bouncing off the walls, people!) God’s our parent and wants our best. He sees a bigger picture for us.
- That he will give us the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16) so we can think as he thinks. If we ask, he’ll give us wisdom without thinking badly of us. (James 1:5)
- We don’t need to be afraid. His perfect love for us drives out fear. (I John 4:18)
- Every good thing is a gift from him. (James 1:17) He knows what we need and delights in caring for us. (Matt. 6:8)
So we can say goodbye to that “unintelligent barrier” of stubbornness and “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Romans 12:2) Then we can let go of what we want and let God give us what he wants for us which is far better!
The dictionary definition of despair is “to lose, give up, or be without hope.”
“The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair.”
I would add that something done to us that is irreversible can also lead to despair. Despair is that feeling that every option is depleted and there’s no use trying anything else because nothing will yield positive results.
Haven’t we all been there at one point or another?
Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest had some great insights about despair and how to handle it. He explains how the disciples must have felt despair when they were asked by Jesus to keep watch and pray with him, but they fell asleep instead.
That night was a pretty big deal.
When soldiers came to take Jesus, the disciples realized they had lost their opportunity to participate in a special time with Jesus. And the worst was that they may never see him again. Since he was crucified soon after that, it ended up being the last moments they spent with him alive. At least until he rose again. But they didn’t know that then.
Whether a tragic event has occurred in our life, we’ve done something regrettable, or we’ve missed a great opportunity, with God there is always a future. Even if we can’t change what’s happened, we can act for what is to come.
Chambers reminds us that Jesus encouraged the disciples to “Get up and do the next thing.”
When faced with despair, I’ve learned to:
- Grieve over the situation. Acknowledge the reality of what’s happened. Neither denying nor wallowing is helpful.
- Leave what’s happened in God’s hands. He sees all and has a plan for everything. What’s been done to us, or what we’ve done is no surprise to him. Our plan B has always been his plan A because he knew what would happen. He’s granted forgiveness. He’ll bring comfort. He’s the God of justice and mercy.
- Remember that God has a future hope for me that can’t be cut off. (Prov. 23:18; Prov. 24:14 & Jer. 29:11)
- Look to that future. What is the next step I can take? Take it.
- And as Oswald Chambers says…
“Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step.”
Despair is real, human and expected from time to time. We may even feel we can’t pull out of it. But by taking these steps, and being patient with myself, I’ve learned to move ahead with my life–even when life seemed like it must be over.
It’s not over until God says it’s over.
What are some steps you’ve found to be helpful in dealing with despair?
Last week we talked about admitting the truth to take our life forward.
Sometimes we can be faced with the truth and know what we need to do, but we don’t act on it. I recently read a devotional in My Utmost for His Highest that addressed this topic so well and gave me a new perspective on putting action to what we learn.
“Refusing to act leaves a person paralyzed exactly where he was previously.”
How can I move my life forward if I’m paralyzed because of inaction? When I know the right or best action to take and don’t follow through with it, I become stuck in that place until I’m ready to take the next step and move forward.
“Once I press myself into action, I immediately begin to live. Anything less is merely existing.” Oswald Chambers
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live than simply exist.
Surviving day to day is not living, and it isn’t the best God has for us. He desires for us to have an abundant life full of good relationships, experiences and situations. (John 10:10) He planned for us to have purpose and live making a positive impact on the world around us.
Here’s the best part:
When we tap into God’s power by acting on something he’s instructed or shown us to do or say, we free ourselves and paralyze the enemy instead.
Oh, yeah. Boom!
Take that, Satan. I’m so on board with taking my life forward in freedom and abundance. How about you? What’s one thing you know you need to act on that you can do this week?
I’d love to hear about your experiences in action in the comments below or email me at email@example.com