Last night, I was reading a book I purchased on a whim about a year ago and finally picked it up again. It is Happy You, Happy Family by Kelly Holmes. In the book, Kelly discusses the overwhelming burnout she experienced and provides people with tools to find joy again. As a blogger and stay at home mom, I find her story very relatable. In her explosion, she struggles to understand why she is so completely unhappy. A feeling I am familiar with.
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The first time I read the beginning of this book, Kelly asked me to give up items on my to-do list because they were a heavy weight on my mind and placed shame into my environment. I was not willing to let it go, so I continued to struggle for months and wrestle with my ability to be productive enough to finish my list. In the end, I swallowed my pride and allowed myself to let things go. It was hard, but I feel so much relief from giving up the things I cannot possibly do. Maybe and Someday to-dos were crushing my joy because I was not productive enough. I was never good enough.
In the depths of my heart, I told myself to trust my own ability. My pride kept me from allowing God to have space to move in my life. I kept trying to make myself a job instead of trusting for His provision through writing. I would find myself distraught in the task of letting things go. A gentle pull on my heart lead me to read Daniel and John intermittently, and I found a common theme: Have Faith.
Faith to Truth to Testimony
Jesus dealt with many people in John who needed a miracle to have faith. Yet Christ specifically blesses those who have faith before they see God work and hear His truth, and then go on to testify of His goodness. I have been thinking over this pattern for a few weeks now trying to understand why it is so important to do so in order. What does this pattern do in our lives?
I was reminded of something I learned in college. When our mind finds something contradictory to our beliefs, we tend to dismiss it or debate it instead of trying to understand what the truth is. Our minds are wired to look for confirming beliefs. In a broken world, this leads to racism, sexism, and most other -isms. It can increase oppression and ruin even our most joyful circumstances as we spiral down the path of “I’ll be happy when…”
In a good and perfect world, however, this process confirms the goodness of God. When we have a pre-existing belief that God is good, we look for His goodness all around us. Then, when God speaks truth or performs a miracle, we are prepared to give Him the glory for His works. Our testimony is more encouraging and powerful if we are prepared to seek His goodness. In the first twelve chapters of John, we see Jesus work in the lives of those with faith over and over again, and they always testify and bring more people to believe in Christ. From choosing His disciples and feeding the 5,000 to raising Lazarus and palm Sunday, Christ shows himself to those who have faith. It is one of the building blocks for spreading the Gospel.
So If we are to have faith in God first, then I have to let go of my pride so I am focused on His goodness. My joy depends on understanding that God can do every good thing, and I cannot. While I continued to add to my list and requirements, I simultaneously pushed away the freedom Christ has given me. I am freed from the chains of laws and requirements. God requires three things:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 (ESV)
If I do these three, I can allow God to use me to spread His word. Cluttering up my mind and time with to-dos inhibits faith and supports my pride. I must learn to simplify and let go so I might have time to seek His goodness and spread the testimony of my life.
As I read through Daniel over the last month, I read his testimony of God’s faithfulness in his life. Daniel looked in the face of death and oppressing power multiple times and had the faith to seek God’s provision. I found myself wondering if Daniel ever thought he was going to die for God. He certainly did not act like it, but he also never told us that God had promised his survival. Was he so sure of God’s goodness to never doubt God’s provision? I am baffled by his boldness.
Many times, I find myself comparing my situation to somebody’s testimonial resolution instead of looking at how they got to that place. When bloggers share their stories of the lean years and hard times, I start to realize how important my lean years are in building my character. Daniel spent years building his faith through his habitual prayer time before God ever placed him in a moment requiring boldness. If I allow myself to believe the testimony of scripture and other believers, I can trust God to prepare my own testimony as well.
Glory Over Productivity
Simplifying my to-do list is only the first step in a long road ahead. Christ prunes us and prepares us in ways we do not understand until we can reflect on them. During a weak moment, I struggle with this. I have to constantly remind myself of truth and testimonies to build my faith in preparation for God’s will to be done. I pray I would allow God to refine me through the fires of life so I might bring Him glory. It also terrifies me to pray this prayer.
Instead of perpetuating the lie that we are not good enough, I hope to be a testimony of God’s love for us. The biggest mind shift yesterday was this: God did not design me to be productive. Humans are not made like computers, required to use inputs to make outputs with a 100% effort and progress rate. In fact, God instills a deep need for rest and restoration in us. We were created to bring God glory. Glory comes through trusting relationships and incredible stories. My effort and to-do list needs to reflect story-telling opportunities, caring for others, and habits to grow my faith in Christ. Joy, along with the other fruits of the spirit, grow naturally in an inviting environment where the Spirit moves freely.
In my life, this means prioritizing writing, editing, and posting blogs and other story-telling forms. Building habits of reading scripture and prayer, and putting away distractions during relationship moments like meals and snuggling fests. Other habits can become supporting habits in these efforts, such as going to sleep at a decent time, reading positive content before bed (instead of going on social media), and making meals simple by easy meal-planning.
Whatever these habits and to-dos look like in your life, I pray you can find joy by seeking God in your everyday actions. To truly be wholly devoted in every area of life.