Month: July 2020

The Pain of Unanswered Prayers

In January this year I was sitting in the caravan at Waihi Beach and I felt that familiar tingle in my elbow. I recognised the feeling as I had had a major issue a few years early with my ‘funny bone’.  Your funny bone is not a bone but the ulna nerve that runs through the elbow and there is nothing funny about it when it goes wrong.  Please God NO!

A few years early I had lost about a year of my life from pain and weakness in my arms because of the compression of the ulna nerves in both my elbows.  I had spent that time in agony with nerve pain which could not be control with medication, visiting doctors, specialists, physio and therapists, trying splints and braces and then finally had surgery on my right elbow and then six weeks later surgery on my left elbow, followed another 6 months of recovery gaining the strength and function back.  During this ordeal, I prayed, I cried, and begged for God to intercede for me. “Please God heal me or at least give me comfort or relief, even just a little bit”. 

I asked everyone I knew to pray for me, also people I did not know were praying for me on behalf of my friends who I had asked for help, but there was no answer to our prayers.  It was a physically challenging year, but the impact on my faith and my trust in God was significant also.  Why had God left me to suffer, had He forgotten about me?  I believed that God had a plan for me, plans for good, for a hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), that verse had been my theme song.  God had rescued me from addiction and total brokenness and now it seemed He had forgotten me. What had I done to deserve this? 

It is almost impossible to see the blessings in the trials at the time and looking back in hindsight, I learnt so much and realised how much I do trust God.  Despite everything I went through and what seemed like a lack of response or lack of answer to prayer, I still believed God loved me and was on my side, I just did not understand the path He had taken me on. I did gain a sort of peace with what I had gone through that year looking back and after coming out the other side. I thought I knew what it was all about, I thought I understood the lessons God wanted me to learn, that he was preparing me for the next part of my purpose in stepping up and writing my books.  What I was not prepared for was doing it all over again.

So, January this year when I felt the tingle, I was scared. I had had an incredible previous 18 months with writing my books and speaking, so many opportunities and response to my story. I was excited about where God was taking me next, I was on a mission for God to share my testimony of His love and faithfulness, serving Him and devoting my career in His service but then the pain started.  A little at first and then more and more until again it was unbearable. Once again I found myself on the couch unable to work, on pain killers which made me exhausted all the time, with a right arm that felt like it was getting electric shocks every time I moved. To say I was angry at God was an understatement.  I had been serving Him, following my purpose, working hard and faithfully.  I was helping people and encouraging them, but I was pretending as I was devastated and disillusioned in my heart by this turn of events.  This time I knew what lay ahead of me and I could not believe I had to face it all again. Why God? Was I not doing enough for you? Was I being punished for some sin? Was this the end of my purpose?  My confidence and self-esteem dived, and a deep depression set in.  I wanted to give up, why fight this time? I had picked myself up before and it had been a tough road, and I did not know if I could do it again. 

Initially I did not pray again. I had been disappointed last time as I hung all my hopes on God answering my prayers for healing, so my heart resisted opening again to that disappointment. As my health worsened my desperation grew and I did start to pray. Maybe God did not answer my prayers last time because I did not believe enough or maybe this time would be different.  But no, I did not get the healing I thought I deserved because of my prayers and faithful service. 

I did have to walk the same path again, through specialists, physios and ultimately surgery again. A much more significant surgery with a more difficult recovery.  Also, I had Covid to content with too, my surgery had been scheduled for 2 days before we went into lock down as a country. When the surgeon called suggesting my operation might be cancelled, that is when I fell to my knees in absolute humility before the creator of the universe. “God please grant my prayer, I cannot face anymore, let my surgery go ahead despite the world crisis”.  That prayer God answered, I was the last elective surgery slot before the country went into lock down and recovered on the couch with my family there to support and care for me.

The journey was awful, no glossing over how bad it was. I would never do it by choice and I do not want to repeat it. I can try to guess all the reasons God let me go on that journey and why He did not answer my prayers or at least in the ways I expected, but I will never really know.  I can ask why over and over and never get the answer that I want. I will never understand the eternal impact or see the larger picture for my life or the significance that period of ill health will have on my life and on others who went through it with me. What I do know is, I survived. I am stronger and braver than ever, and I trust that God is faithful, and that God does love me. Jeremiah 29:11 is just as true in the good times as it is true in the middle of heartache and the trials of life. God will make good come out of our suffering, there are always gems amongst the dirt.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

Jeremiah 29:11

Do you know how much you are loved?

Recently I went to a funeral of a very dear friend. She was a kind and caring person, who would help anyone, but she struggled with low self-esteem and confidence and she found it difficult to accept that she was loved by her friends and family or by God.

As I sat in her funeral listening to the people who loved her dearly, speak about the incredible sense of loss they felt, I just wished she could have understood how much she was loved. The room was overflowing with people who were all impacted by her life and by her passing. 

Had she been there sitting next to me, seeing what I was seeing and hearing the words of speakers, reading the messages of condolences and the tributes, I think she would have been overwhelmed. So many people loved her, and God loves her even more. I wish she had understood that when she was alive.

But do any of us really know and accept how much we are loved? 

Do we live our lives every day knowing deep down in our hearts that we are loved, accepted, and cherished by our family and friends? 

Do we really understand how much God loves us?

Our lives have the potential to be quite different if we can totally comprehend this love. If you knew you were loved unconditionally and completely, would you be fearful?  Would you feel insecure and unworthy? Would you be broken?  Would you feel alone or abandoned?  No. When we understand how much we are loved, we are confident, brave, courageous, loving, selfless, joyful, and strong.

Human love can be messy and complicated, but God’s love is not.  God is love. God’s love for us is complete, merciful, and perfect.  I love the song, ‘Reckless Love’ by Cory Asbury.  The chorus captures this picture of the love of God so well. 

The overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. It chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

God’s love is reckless. He gave it all for us. He chases us and fights for us, we do not deserve it and we can never do enough to earn it, but He gives us freedom, healing, and salvation through Jesus.  Jesus – the ultimate gift of love.

Know this, let it sink into your spirit and every cell of your body and mind.  You are loved and you are cherished by God. He wants to know you. He wants to cover you with love. He wants you to understand and feels His love and then live your life bathed in His love, serving and loving others.

Failure is not fatal

Stop letting your fear of a failure hold you back

For many people, the ‘fear of failure’ is the number one reason for not stepping out or creating something new or trying something they have never done before or to pursue a dream.  The fear of failure can stop more people than the fear of the actual activity.  It is not so much the jumping out of the plane that is terrifies us but the fear of the parachute failing. 

What if you have already tried and tried again? It is even scarier to try once more after you have already ‘failed’. 

The problem is not the fear of failure or the failure itself, but our concept of what failure is.  Failure is simply when something we did, does not meet our expectations.  The problem is not in the failure but in our expectations.

Life lesson – things will usually NOT go as planned or turn out as you expect, that is ok.  As soon as you accept this and adjust your expectations the sooner your concept of failure will adapt.  Failure is just information collection.  You tried, it did not work out as expected, what can you learn?

I have learnt that what I expect to happen and what I think success is, is often at odds to what God has planned for me and God’s plan is always so much better than what I could have thought of.

I might feel like it was a failure and I feel disappointed and discouraged, but God had planned for me to learn and grow.  Through my ‘failures’ I have learnt perseverance, patience, grit, obedience, courage, determination, joy and humour. My faith, confidence and trust in God has strengthened and my knowledge of myself and my purpose is stronger.  I gain more from a failure than a success. 

Reduce the fear of failure by reducing your perception of the risk. For most things we do, the risk is not as high as we think. We might risk some discomfort, some inconvenience, or some embarrassment, but what we will gain in personal growth, character development and drawing closer to God is invaluable.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston S. Churchill

Bad Hair Day?

Is your confidence dependent on your appearance?

Yesterday I saw an advert on Facebook it went something like this, are you shy or depressed, do you feel bad about yourself and unhappy with your life, do you want to be happy and have confidence and have an amazing fun life?  Then click here…

The answer to all these problems according to this advert was weight loss. If you use their product to lose weight you will be confident and happy.

I have a big problem with this.  Firstly, the assumption that if you are overweight you must be depressed, unhappy, timid and have a miserable life.  Secondly, that looking good and slim will make you confident. 

We are bombarded with messages that tell us we cannot be confident unless we look a certain way and if we don’t, we should be ashamed and disappointed. To feel confident, you must be (or appear to be) young, slim and beautiful.  Therefore, the reason you are unhappy or shy is your appearance, so change it.  

The answer we are told is to buy this weight loss product, or shapewear or contouring makeup or creams and serums or jeans that suck your tummy in or have plastic surgery. All this is driven by a multimillion-dollar industry, who profit from making you feel insecure and ashamed.

There is nothing wrong with looking after your body, your health and losing weight is you need to. Nor is there anything wrong with dressing nicely or getting your hair done or taking care of your skin. The problem is in where are you getting your confidence from and the damaging lies that you are believing.  Why can’t you be confident, assertive and capable just the way you are now?  Does your confidence come from what you look like or from who you are as a person? 

Recently I watched a plastic surgery program about a woman who had a nose job that did not go as she expected and she thought she had been botched. To me it looked fine and I would not have even noticed it if it had not been pointed out in the TV program.  She was so embarrassed about her ‘ugly’ nose she did not go out, never took her kids to the park and never went out to dinner with her husband. She was convinced everyone was staring at her ‘deformed’ nose.  Her confidence and self esteem was destroyed.  In the show her nose was ‘fixed’ and of course she was happy again, but the episode left me feeling disillusioned. How sad it was that this woman’s whole self-worth was tied up in her appearance and without a ‘perfect’ nose she felt useless, ashamed and not worthy of enjoying her life. Her nose is only a fraction of her physical body and no part of her character and personality, yet carried ALL the weight of her confidence. 

She is not alone or unusual, many of us focus on one small area of our appearance and let it control how we feel about ourselves.  How we feel about ourselves influences our careers, our relationships, our choices, our happiness and our future. Our body parts do not determine our value. My jiggly tummy just makes me a person with jiggly tummy not a bad person unworthy of love or a good life. 

Be critical of the messages you encounter through the media, social media and in advertising. Know your worth and your value is not from your appearance but from God who loves you and deems you worthy.  Focus more on your character and being a better person than on your outside appearance and you will be truly confident and happier. 

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Time is not the enemy

Take control of your calendar

Too busy? Time is flying by? Where did the day go? Do you feel like time controls you and you have no idea what is going on each day?

Stop seeing time as an outside enemy something you have no control over. It is time to take control of your time and use it to your advantage

Time can be looked at in the same way as a financial budget. Each week you get a certain amount of a resource—money in a financial budget, and hours in a time budget. Work out your essential time items like work, school, commuting, sleeping, and kids.

Then take a critical look at how you spend the rest of your hours each week. Where your time is going?

  • Are you spending enough time sleeping? Or too much?
  • Are you spending too much time watching TV or on social media?
  • Are you spending enough time with your family?
  • Are you working too many hours?
  • Do you spend too much time reading and responding to email?
  • Can you work smarter and more efficiently in your work and at home?
  • Have you scheduled in time to do things just because they are fun, because you enjoy them, because they challenge you, or simply because they make you happy?

Take a critical look at your time budget. Where can you make some changes? What can you cut back? How can you share the workload more to free up some time?

Try a Time-Budget Analysis

Download my Time-Budget Analysis form. Fill in your activities over a week and then add up the hours you spend working, travelling, cleaning, exercising, with family, hobbies, socialising etc. Then consider this against your ideal ratios. What can you change?

For more tips and ideas check out my latest book ‘I would love to, but..’ This book examines 10 common excuses including I’m too busy, that prevent us from doing the things we want to do. Check it out on my website.