Gradient Week 2
When Your Way Isn't Working
Bianca had been dating Ralph for nearly 2 years. He had a great job, nice car and made her laugh like a hyena. He was chivalrous and always thought of new ways to make her feel special. They never fought and had all of the same viewpoints on topics like politics and religion. Her friends all thought he was great and a perfect match. She was fairly certain he was the one. Yet, something wasn't right. It made her not feel 100% confident in the thought of a forever commitment. Making lists to help sort out her thoughts was her thing, so she made a list of what she enjoyed about him and all of the not so great things about him. The list of good was long and included criteria looked for in a guy. The list of not so great things wasn't as long. Its points could be lived with or a compromise found. The unrest she felt didn't seem to have any definitive factors. She prayed and asked God to show her what she wasn't seeing. She had to be missing something in Ralph or needed to let go of whatever expectations she had.
Emily loved her job. It was the first time her salary matched her efforts and she was overjoyed. As the manager of her department, she was well respected and valued; things she hadn't experienced at her previous employment. She loved the responsibility and the prestige that came with her position. She quickly became integral to the company's daily operations and had no reason to worry about losing her job. Emily should have been thrilled, but she couldn't shake the feeling of something not being right. No matter how many times her coworkers voiced their high opinions of her, she went home feeling unsatisfied. She was confused about her feelings because she had been praying for just this type of career and it seemed as though her prayers had been answered. What more could she want? Why wasn't this job satisfying her? Lisa loved her family. She felt blessed to be able to stay home with her children and run a successful home business. Her husband's support and obvious devotion to her only made it that much better. Her children were thriving in school, her marriage was solid and she loved her business. She felt like she was living a Hallmark channel dream, but there was a hollowness she couldn't put her finger on. It made her feel ungrateful. She knew her life resulted from God's provision so she couldn't understand why she was feeling so dissatisfied. Surely there was something wrong with her.
Maybe your life isn't the same as these women, but you're experiencing the same unrest. You should be happy with the life you have been given. The things you have or are working towards are good. They may not be as complete as having it all to the point of where you'd ultimately like it to be, but even with what you have you're not feeling at peace.
For a lot of us, we think we're the ones to blame. We think we're just not appreciative or we have unrealistic expectations. We might see the person we're with, our career or our family and chastise ourselves for not being happy where we are. We attempt to fix it by trying harder and praying for the ability to see the good in our circumstances. When we aren't happy with what seems to be good on paper it's an opportunity for us to rethink our definition of good. It's a chance for us to look at what we're fighting to hang on to in the light of truth. For most of us, it boils down to what we're putting first and declaring as important.
Bianca began to ask God to show her specific reasons why she was so unsettled in a relationship that seemed to be leading to marriage. She let go of trying to find satisfaction in the nice things Ralph did and the comfort of being with someone. Instead, she let God show her the core behind her motivation to remain in the relationship. When she let go of trying to make it fit her mold and let God show her the truth, she soon realized there were more not so great things about Ralph she couldn't live with. Most importantly, she realized his focus was not on making God the center of their lives together and it never was. With that revelation, Bianca made the difficult choice of letting go of a relationship that only worked out on paper. She understood her pursuit of finding the perfect looking relationship had become greater than the pursuit of her relationship with Perfection. She also saw that God had been showing her this truth all along, but she had reasoned it away.
Lisa looked to God to find the root of the dissatisfaction with her career. It was especially difficult because it answered all of her needs and seemed to be where God had placed her. Soon, she began to see how the position caused her to compromise her integrity on a daily basis. The things she had chalked up to being part of the job were actually the things that were making her feel unsettled. She also realized the amount of importance she had placed on the prestige and how it had started to redefine her identity. She allowed the Holy Spirit to show her how to maintain her integrity regardless of popularity. She saw the points she had reasoned as being part of the job and understood that it was actually the Holy Spirit showing her the things she needed to be aware of. By doing this, she was able to make changes to her job that allowed her to maintain her character while still fulfilling her job requirements.
Emily couldn't figure out why she felt so empty when her life was so full. So, in order to pray about it, she began to carve out time each day to talk to God and ask Him why she didn't feel happy. She felt foolish asking, but couldn't think of anything else to do. Eventually, the time with God became her top priority. Through it, she realized time with God had been what she was missing. She had become so focused on the schedules and to-do lists that she had lost sight of the One she was doing it all for. Looking back, she was able to see how gradually her quiet time with God had lost its importance and was able to see all of the ways the Holy Spirit had spoken to her heart.
It's truly this simple. Getting back to having God as the focus and center of our lives brings clarity to the unrest. It fills the hollowness and calms the unsettled feelings. Through our time with our Father, we allow Him to reveal to us where our priorities lie and strengthen our relationship with Him. He is our provider, our refuge, and our strength. He will always direct us towards what is best while leading us from the things that harm us.
When has the Holy Spirit made you aware of a situation that wasn't quite right? How did God speak into your circumstance and guide you through your time of exploration? What lessons and insights did you take away from the experience?