10 Things to Do When You Can’t Do Anything

“Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).

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“COVID-19 ruined 2020” is a frequently heard comment these days. Ruined the whole year? Maybe for those who define “a good year/season/day” as one where everything goes as planned and they can go where they please.

No one likes feeling helpless, not even the youngest and most vulnerable. Listen to an infant screaming louder and louder when Mom is slow to respond; or try to hold on to a toddler (or even a kitten) who just wants to get down and play.

At least when life gets threatening, the young still run to stronger protectors for help and comfort. Adults, though, typically feel obligated to “fix things” ourselves–and when we can’t, we often make things worse by yielding to anger, panic, or depression. Or by resorting to “expedient” solutions that generate more problems than they solve.

Look again at the above Bible verse: the believer’s best course of action is to wait for God to act. As you may gather from “be brave and courageous,” though, this doesn’t mean going totally passive. Here are my top 10 suggestions for Christian waiting, undertaken patiently and bravely:

  1. Pray about it. Obvious, right? But even among Christians, prayer is often forgotten until the point of last resort. It should be our first action in the face of any difficulty.
  2. Avoid rushing through your prayers. Firing off a quick, “Lord, help me get this right,” then plunging right back into “trying harder,” rarely improves a situation–or your confidence in God’s help.
  3. Keep on praying. If a situation is important enough to think about more than once, it’s important enough to pray about more than once. God may want you to prepare for His answer by first sorting things out with Him.
  4. Remember to pray in strength and courage. Mountain-moving prayer isn’t normally manifested in frantic pleading, but in quiet confidence that God is all-powerful and wants to do what’s best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask God for “audacious” things, or to thank Him in advance for His answers.
  5. Keep an eye out for God’s answer when it comes. Many people get so focused on their own preferred answers that, like the man who literally didn’t see the car parked across from his driveway until he backed into it, they become blind to everything that doesn’t fit their expectations. They may step right over God’s best without realizing it.
  6. Decide in advance that you will accept (and act on) God’s answer when it comes. “Show me what You want, and then I’ll decide whether I want it” is not a healthy attitude to take toward God or any other authority figure.
  7. Beware of setting your own time limits. What you consider a “reasonable” waiting period may prove shorter than God’s planned schedule–and that can snare you into giving up just short of a miracle.
  8. Keep moving, but don’t become frantic. Often, there’s some action we can take to improve a situation, but we get carried away with momentum and let “do what you can right now” become “try to force a full resolution right away.” Not knowing when to take a break can devolve progress into chaos.
  9. Ask a Christian friend or mentor–or your spouse–to be your accountability partner. Even if you’re fully committed to all the above, it’s hard not to get impatient–and hurt your best judgment–when you have no human input besides your own. Team up with one or two wise and discerning fellow believers to “wait” with you for God’s answer. This also adds their prayer power to yours and improves chances of seeing God’s answer more quickly.
  10. Never forget that God is God and you are not. It sometimes does happen that all the prayer and waiting in the world “fails” to head off tragedy. In that case, all you can do is accept that, in some way you don’t yet understand, God will still work everything out for the best. It won’t make you any less helpless, but it will enable you to continue looking to God as your Help. And in the end, trusting Him is what really matters.

Self-Esteem: Virtue or Sin? 10 Points for Discernment

“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me” (John 15:15).

Even the secular world isn’t always sure whether self-appreciation is good or bad. People who constantly put themselves down are as annoying as they are ineffective; but neither does anyone have use for the “I’m better than you” snob, or for the rowdy child who never gets disciplined lest his self-esteem be damaged.

Christians have the added challenge of deciding how God says we should value ourselves. There are dozens of Bible passages emphasizing our sinfulness and insignificance, and dozens of others emphasizing how precious and useful we are to God. It’s easy to fall into the habit of noticing only one emphasis: so if you wonder how well your opinion of yourself matches God’s opinion of you, try the following list to evaluate your attitude.

  1. Are you consciously keeping God in the picture? The Scriptures are clear that we can do nothing worthwhile without God’s support, and can do incredible things by His power. If you think solely in terms of “I have to/I should be able to”–regardless of your actual situation, something is deficient in your attitude.
  2. Are you going directly to the Source for guidance? A surprising number of people devote the bulk of their waking hours to “Christian work”–and go weeks without taking time for private prayer. Not only are they missing out on chances to receive God’s direction, they’re missing out on His perspective–on their work and their selves.
  3. Do you honestly believe that God loves you whatever you do or don’t do–or are you trying to “earn” His approval? “Work hard for extra credit” syndrome is almost universal–and whatever good it accomplishes on the surface, it still makes things about us more than God. If you really doubt you’re “good enough” for God to work with as is, ask Him (and a wise human mentor) to show you specific ways His power is made perfect in your weakness.
  4. Do you trust that your sins truly are forgiven? If you’ve done something truly awful, it’s tempting to think, “I messed up so badly God could never use me again.” This will definitely kill your effectiveness–and it also implies that your ability to sin is greater than God’s ability to forgive. Remember, God has mightily used people (Moses, David, Paul) who were guilty even of premeditated murder.
  5. Are you more concerned about glorifying God or yourself? It’s not just the egomaniac who falls into the living-for-praise trap; the chronic self-criticizer may be doing the same when she obsesses over pleasing/impressing everyone “or they won’t like me.” Either way, it’s making a goal and end of your own feelings, with little attention to how it serves God.
  6. Do you have a clear understanding of your innate personality traits, interests, and abilities–strengths as well as weaknesses? God designs everyone for a unique role in His “business plan.” If you’re automatically believing what someone else (or “everyone”) says you should be, and that’s not the person God intended you to be, of course you’re going to be frustrated and self-critical.
  7. Are you watching for opportunities to match your God-given skills and passions to existing needs? The “be who God made you to be” principle also applies to everyday jobs and activities. If you’re trying to fill the wrong role for you (which is not the same thing as shirking legitimate duty because “it’s not my gift”), you’ll be not only self-critical, but less than maximally effective.
  8. Do you have the fishing-for-compliments habit? People who say, “Oh, I’m not very good at that,” when it’s obvious they are, quickly become a nuisance to others and feed unhealthy self-doubt in themselves. It’s fine to acknowledge your God-given skills: just remember they are God-given and the credit doesn’t belong to you.
  9. Are you able to accept compliments with a healthy attitude? True, the only compliment that should be your goal is God’s “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But don’t discount human compliments, either. Besides taking offense at a blunt “You’re wrong” (which is exactly what comes across in oh-this-old-thing replies), peers often serve as God’s voice in affirming that you’re where He designed you to be.
  10. Are you willing to let God show you when your attitude starts to slip out of line–and are you prepared to quickly follow His directions when they come? “Yes, but” is a phrase we can all get along without, especially when receiving God’s guidance. Quick response to His course corrections (they will come) is the best way to keep your life effective–and your attitude one of godly humility, untainted by false self-deprecation.
  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at www.PositiveContentFactory.com.

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
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