Chapter 22: Submission to Authority

Unfair decisions that are made without our input can frustrate us.
When a person of authority goes over your head, what is your initial
reaction and does that often cause more conflict?

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Have you ever had to submit to your superior even though you know the decisions they are making are unfair or unwise? Perhaps this is common in your career field, or with your boss. Maybe you experience this in the classroom, or even with your parents or spouse. Do you react with anger and vengeance when this happens, or do you submit to authority?

Tessa finds herself planted in a sticky situation when her new coach makes her arch nemesis the co-captian of the volleyball team. Tessa knows that their combined leadership won’t serve the team well, but the coach is not willing to budge on this decision. With great effort, Tessa keeps her opinions about the coach’s decision to herself. “I purse my lips knowing that there is nothing I can do about this situation, and with determination, I offer a curt nod” (page 271).

When a decision is made that affects us, but we have no control or input in the situation, what is the best way to respond? Titus 3:1-2 says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (NIV).

This verse definitely challenges me, even to this day. If you’re anything like me, you think your way is better, or you believe that if you argue enough, the other will see your side and eventually agree with you. However, the Bible instructs us to be obedient, peaceable, considerate, and gentle during these moments. It also instructs that we be ready to do whatever is good, so if what you’re being subjected to isn’t good (challenging and good could mean two different things), keep in mind that the Bible doesn’t say submit to destructive behaviors/actions.

I pray this challenge applies in your life, one way or another, today. Maybe the challenge will be met at work, school, or within your family, but maybe this simply means to be gentle when speaking of your government, making the wise decision “to slander no one.” No matter what this might mean for you, pray that God will give you the strength to follow these commands, because we can’t do it without Him…I know I certainly can’t!

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Chapter 21: Are They Worth It?

We can often perceive friendships to be deeper than they actually are.
When you feel like you’re not loved or valued in your friendships or other relationships, how do you determine what relationships are worth keeping?

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The friendship between Tessa and Mason continues as this chapter progresses. However, Tessa is grappling with the fact that this thing she has with Mason is really only a friendship in Mason’s eyes. “Tonight has proved that Mason only wants to be friends…” (page 265). Tessa is weighing whether or not she should throw in the towel. She loves Mason, and that will never change, but she is trying to determine how much her heart can handle at this point.

So, is giving up on a friendship biblical? Maybe it is, given the situation and the circumstances. However, the Bible does say, “…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV). You see, if Mason needs Tessa’s friendship, although it may be difficult for her heart, she shouldn’t give up on him, especially if they are spurring each other on toward good deeds.

And there we have it – a lens to examine our friendships/relationships. What is the relationship producing? Love for others and good deeds, encouragement in Christ, spiritual mentorship with the Day of Christ’s return approaching? If so, then don’t give up on that friendship! However, if the friendship is actually causing you to stumble in any way, especially in a way that may cause you to sin, it’s worth stepping back and asking God to lead in that friendship.

Spend some time praying through your friendships so you can determine how to spur others on toward love and good deeds. No matter what frustrations you may be experiencing, remember that God uses you to help your friends as much as He uses your friends to help you!

Chapter 20: Lending a Helping Hand

We have opportunities to pour into the lives of people around us,
sometimes by using our personal experiences and other times by offering comfort.
When you hang out with friends who are experiencing trials of their own,
how do you tend to respond to their troubles?

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Sometimes we just need a good friend in life that will help us through our trials. But other times, we need to be that good friend lending a helping hand to those around us in need! In this chapter, you will find that Tessa has made a transition from being the one who needs help to serving as the one who extends help.

Not only does Mason turn to Tessa for some assistance in his walk with the Lord, but Tessa’s best friend also discovers just how much help she might need in her spiritual journey. Tessa has certainly come to understand that “…there is nothing that compares to the love Christ offers” (page 252), and she wants those around her to reach the same conclusion in their personal relationships with the Lord.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 explains that “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (NIV). What a challenging truth these verses offer. We are stronger if we can come alongside one another during trials and tribulations. Sometimes you may be the one falling, but you also may be called to help others through the troubles they are facing.

Do you know of someone who may need to hear an encouraging word from you today? Have you been aware of a friend’s trial, yet intentionally turned a blind eye because life is just too busy? Have you recently “changed the subject” during a conversation with a friend because you don’t want to get bogged down with their troubles? Don’t shy away from an opportunity to help a friend out. Pray that you can be a blessing to someone in need today! We don’t want to “pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” when we can provide the spiritual guidance and support they need!

Chapter 19: Emotional Rollercoaster

There are some seasons in life where we find ourselves on an
emotional rollercoaster. In what ways do you deal with the
highs and lows of life, and where do you find your strength?

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Tessa decides to remove Mason from her life as much as possible, and she starts by filling a box with all his memories so she can later dispose of it. After working through her emotional pain from trying to let go of the wonderful memories she once shared with Mason, she finds out that Mason has been asking about her, showing an interest that he hasn’t entertained in months. “My face contorts with a range of emotions. He asked about me. Not entirely sure how to handle my thoughts, I fall into the recliner, cover my face, and sob” (page 238).

Tessa has a negative encounter with Mason later in this chapter, but then is able to reconcile with him toward the end of the chapter. Talk about the highs and lows – she experiences them all! So, how does she find her strength in the midst of this emotional rollercoaster?

The Bible encourages us with a verse that says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NIV). This is such a simple verse, yet it holds so much truth. It doesn’t matter what life throws at us, we can do all things by relying on Christ’s strength to get us through.

What kind of emotional rollercoaster are you on today? Do you find that one day you can celebrate a victory, but the next, you are struggling with a defeat? Maybe your emotional rollercoaster is more frequent, like on an hourly basis. Either way, our heart struggles to find ways to cope when we are being slung back and forth to opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. This is when we know we need to rely on Christ. It’s difficult to find strength, but if you pray for it and trust that the Lord provides, he will give you strength to get through whatever it is you’re facing today!

Chapter 18: Interrupted Joy

It is so easy to focus on the negative, or what we don’t have, rather than the positive, or what we do have. Where does your joy come from, or do you often find yourself overlooking the positives only to focus on the negatives that interrupt your joy?

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Ever feel like your optimism is draining? Like you can only focus on the negatives in your life, even if you have some positives surrounding you? Tessa certainly felt this way as she was weighing the good things coming into her life throughout this chapter, but unable to break away from the bad.

Tessa celebrates the arrival of her niece, but she is still grappling with the negatives in her life. She misses Mason terribly, and she is finding the pictures that surround her at her family’s house are hard to face.  “‘…They all have to go.’ With my final remark, I break down in tears. Admitting that our house should be free of all traces of my ex confirms once and for all that he will never return” (page 230).

No matter the positives in her life, Tessa is choosing to focus on the negatives. However, she doesn’t want to anymore. She doesn’t want her joy interrupted by being constantly reminded of her former relationship with Mason through the pictures that paint her home. Thankfully, the Bible addresses how to remain focused on the positives. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

We are called to meditate on the positives, on the things that bring us joy. What is it today that is interrupting your joy? Can you focus on those things around you that are lovely, noble, and praiseworthy? Choose to focus and think about those things that bring you joy. Don’t let the negatives in your life interrupt your joy today – instead, celebrate the good!

 

Chapter 17: Discouragement

Even when we pursue all the right measures for comfort,
we can still experience discouragement. In the midst of heartache
and the feeling of defeat, what keeps you rooted in hope?

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This chapter begins with Tessa feeling hopeful, but by the end of the chapter, you discover just how discouraged she is. In the midst of heartache and the feeling of defeat, Tessa yells at God in her empty car, “What are you doing to me, God? Jeremiah 29:11 says, ‘…plans to prosper me, not to harm me,’ this certainly cannot be what you had in mind!” (page 218).

Let me elaborate on this verse by giving you the entire passage, “‘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 a hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). If we place our trust in Christ, we know that he will direct the desires of our heart, even in the midst of heartache. This is the hope we are rooted in, no matter what feelings of defeat we are grappling with.

The potential issue that we may face with this verse typically pertains to whether or not we actually trust that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Tessa certainly wonders what God is doing in her life, and how any of the heartache she is facing is leading her to a hope and a future. However, I know how this story ends…and if you don’t, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my book!

God was using Tessa’s heartache to grow her in areas of her faith that would never have been challenged if she didn’t endure such hardships. If you’re facing something difficult today, I want to encourage you to place your trust in God. He wants to prosper us. He wants to give us a hope and a future. Trust that He knows the plans He has for you, and that if you follow him with all of your heart, those plans will prove to be more prosperous than you could ever imagine! That is all the hope we could ever need!

 

Chapter 16: Searching for Answers

Humanity is searching for answers. Although the world tries to offer some help, how does God provide the help we need as we are seeking answers?

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Tessa is feeling down after witnessing Mason’s redirected attention in Chapter 15, so Rachel mentions the idea of attending a party. “I half laugh, ‘Why is it that whenever I’m down, you always suggest a party?'” (page 204). Isn’t this the answer the world offers – when life isn’t going the way you intended, you should find worldly things to distract you from your pain?

That is often how we respond when we are struggling through different emotions. We want the easy fix – but when that wears off, we are still left with the pain and hardships that drove us to seek those answers in the first place. However, there are answers that will satisfy.

Psalm 18:1-2 says, “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (NIV). This is the answer we are seeking, whether we know it or not. It’s so easy to focus on your troubles and refuse to focus on eternity in the midst of trying to find answers. However, if you are willing to step back and have an eternal perspective, what is your answer?

If you’re answer isn’t God, let me just stand before you today as an example of how unsatisfying the things of this world are. Whatever troubles you’re facing today won’t matter if you know where you’re going in the end as you rely on Christ, your stronghold, to get you through your hardships. This time here on earth is fleeting. Take refuge in God – He is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer. Everything hinges on this truth.