The sun was hanging by a string in the bright blue sky, brilliantly shining down on the Alabama red clay that hugged the two lane highway. The car was silent and I could hear the tires protest as they pressed into the hot pavement. My mind was a wander, filled with events from recent days. I noted, strangely, in spite of the difficulties as of late my heart felt light.
My mood seemed to be as bright as the day.
Today I felt stronger than I had in a long time. I’m not talking physically, that’s an ongoing battle as the years roll by.
I mean mentally.
I think I’ve lived my life on a quest to please others. When I was young it wasn’t something I did consciously, I just liked being nice and making people smile. I learned early on kindness and goodness brought about better results than their polar opposites. I was grown before I really put my finger on what it meant to be a “pleaser.” During my growing up years we didn’t really analyze personalities or behaviors, at least not in my neck of the woods. We just sort of lived, one day after another, without thinking much about why we acted the way we did; it just “was,” you know?
It was probably about my mid-twenties when I began to understand I had “pleaser” tendencies. Pleasing being the desire to make those around me happy even at the cost of my own personal happiness. That’s not all bad unless you take it to an unhealthy level, as I did. But, I was okay with it, I liked being nice. At least most of the time I liked being nice. (Insert winking emoji here.)
Because my pleasing tendencies misunderstood what true kindness was, I lived to make sure every difficult person in my life was happy with me. I would bend over backwards, give up my say in any matter, be walked on or whatever it took to receive that precious “stamp of approval” for which my needy soul longed.
You know what I’ve learned?
You cannot please some people. You simply cannot. Spending your time, your ONE precious life the good Lord gave you, trying to make some unhappy soul happy is a waste of your days. Trust me. It took over half my life to fully understand what I really longed for wasn’t their approval, but my own. I needed to come to terms with who I was and begin to like that person and no one else on the earth could do it for me.
I know some of you will read the last statement and feel like it is a rather obvious revelation, but it wasn’t for me, it took feeling “unlikable” to the point of desperation.
When I finally came to the end of me and all of my empty attempts, God began his work.
My husband and I committed to read the Bible through this year. We found and started a three hundred and sixty five day plan on the YouVersion Bible app. We even formed our own little group of two to keep us accountable. So, every morning I get up, get a cup of coffee and read the devotion and scripture for the day.
It has become my routine.
Well, something kind of hard happened this week. When hard things used to happen to me I would shrink inside and start to figure out ways I could escape the uncomfortable feelings that go along with difficulty. My “pleaser” side would come galloping up in my heart and work overtime to try and keep everybody happy. But, interestingly, as I thought the previous events through, I noticed I didn’t feel like running for cover from the situation.
I felt something that felt a lot like…strong.
The kind of strong that doesn’t want to run. Don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for conflict but I am learning sometimes conflict brings resolution.
I began to rehearse all the passages I’d read in scripture over the last several months reminding me of the great power and unmatched strength of my God. I honestly feel my cause is a righteous one so I brought it up in prayer like I have so many times in recent days. It was in the middle of this train of thought, while I watched miles of Alabama red tilled up dirt fly by, the Lord showed me something.
I wasn’t afraid.
Yes, I wished the situation would just magically work itself out.
But, I wasn’t afraid.
You know in any tough situation there is always a chance you’ll get the shaft, or you’ll be talked about, or be misunderstood, judged, or all of those things. But, when you’ve taken your situation to the Lord, and you lay it before him faithfully in prayer, He has promised to be your defender.
Scripture tells us He is, if only we will be quiet, settle down and let him work things out.
Being quiet and still is so very hard, especially for someone like me who wants it all to work out. I can’t stand the idea of someone having hurt feelings. I wish for everyone to stand around, hold hands and sing kum by yah. And I want them to do it quickly so no one feels awkward.
This world can be a mean place.
But, we don’t have to be mean to thrive here.
We do need inner strength. The kind that weathers storms bound to invade our lives at some point. The only way we can have healthy inner strength, that isn’t derived from anger or fear, is by filling our hearts and minds with God’s word. His word is strength and in it lies the power to be strong in the face of adversity. Not the defiant kind of strength we’ve all had at one time or another in our lives, but the quiet strength that comes from really believing God can handle the situation.
Not just knowing he CAN handle it but trusting he WILL.
I need to tell you as of right now, while I’m writing this, so far everything has not worked out and everything is not fine. But, I want, no, I need to remind myself and you that we can be okay in the midst of very hard things.
I find myself at peace.
I know he is going to make sure I am kept safe. There may be some storms to weather, but he controls the weather so, there’s that.
The objective of this writing is to encourage us all to STAY IN THE WORD. Make time for it, get up early, stay up late, read it at lunch. Do whatever you need to make sure you have time to stick your nose into God’s word. It’s worth it. When I read from day to day to day, I don’t necessarily feel strength overtake my heart like a flood, it’s more of a slow seeping that builds until I find myself driving on a two lane highway on a sunny Alabama afternoon, feeling peace even though a “storm” is blowing around me.
I know the Lord has my best interest at heart and he has my back, my front, he’s above me and below me and completely around me.
In him I am kept safe.
And so are you.
And that is a pleasing thought indeed.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God?” Galatians 1:10a