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Gaining effectiveness through suffering

September 27, 2018

 

1 Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

I recently re-potted my indoor plants and was quite encouraged to see that Spring had already taken it’s toll on most of my plants, ushering in new growth. This gets most plant parents ecstatic to say the least!

And then I came across my elephant ear… this was the only plant which was showing growth, but at the same time it’s older leaves were yellowing, with one leaf turning fully yellow and wilting. It looked pretty strange because Spring was in effect, but the season was affecting part of the plant differently to the other parts.

This gave me a picture of what our lives can look like in seasons of suffering or difficulty. On Sunday we looked at how we can get through suffering, and how part of this is dealing with bitterness. God’s heart for us is to better us, and He can use our seasons of suffering to do this! But what does it mean to be better? I find that when it comes to suffering, allowing it to make us better means that we come out more effective for the call God has placed on our lives.

When we’re aiming to be “better” - more effective - then we have to expect that there is going to be some things that drop off of our lives; the things that will lessen our effectiveness in the next season of life. We tend to focus on these things as a negative happening, but if we expect this to happen, then we can embrace it and lean into it, knowing that whatever we “shed” will be for our benefit. These could be old habits, desires and/or mindsets.

Here’s how I’ve learnt to keep my chin up in the “shedding” seasons, and keep my focus on the effectiveness that is to come:

1. Celebrate the things that are going well(ish):

You might not be able to say with confidence that anything is going well - we have a way of thinking everything sucks, when we’re struggling - but I encourage you to fight that urge, and celebrate any sight of health. Like I mentioned, plant enthusiasts love that new growth!! Even if the leaves haven’t fully unfurled or the flowers haven’t fully blossomed, I always celebrate over the beginnings of these! How much more should we celebrate the promise of good growth in us? I’m still working on this for myself!

2. Keep coming out of hiding:

Your struggle might not look pretty, and cause you to not want to be around people. However, I encourage you to be deliberate about positioning yourself to get the best growth, even if it means that people see you at your worst. I don’t really want to display my elephant ear right now, but if I remove it from it’s setting and hide it away, it has less chance of growing new leaves. Where you place yourself when you’re struggling matters; you can get around people who will sharpen you, helping you to become more effective. Or you can isolate yourself and lose effectiveness…shrivelling up completely, like a poor neglected elephant ear. You never know when a conversation with someone will challenge your thinking and bring a lift to your soul!

3. Be realistic about progress:

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was going through a particularly rough patch with parenting. We were talking about how in these times that it’s better to be realistic about what you can actually achieve, rather than playing to the usual task list, and feeling like a failure because we’re not getting half of the task list ticked off by the end of the day. For my plant, I have to expect that I’m going to lose some leaves in order to gain new ones. What expectations do you need to adjust, even if it means losing some things, in order to gain new effectiveness?

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