I didn’t want the open the email. The subject line said it all.
After a few years pursuing this writing stuff, I knew what those two words meant.
“Thank you but no thank you.”
“Thank you but this doesn’t meet our needs at this time.”
“Thank you, and please try again.”
My finger hovered over the delete button before sending the words off into cyber space oblivion. I opened the Word document for an article I was finishing and the cursor blinked, mocking me.
Why do you continue with this craziness? It’s not going anywhere. You’re wasting your time.
These are the questions I asked myself as I stared at my computer screen three years ago. I questioned whether I heard God when he called me to write, or if it was just a figment of my imagination.
After sitting there several minutes with no answers, I slammed the laptop shut and busied myself with chores. At least I could do something right. An hour later, the laundry was done, the dishes were put away and I was ready to pick up my youngest from school. And I was on time, a tiny miracle all by itself.
But I still couldn’t get the nagging voices of doubt out of my head. I knew instead of mulling over the situation and getting nowhere, I should bring it before God.
Do I continue to pursue this dream, God? Is this something you want?
I was deathly afraid the answer would be “no,” but I asked anyway. I needed to know, one way or the other.
Sometimes when we come face to face with our fears, God speaks to us through a friend. Other times it’s through a song or a sermon. The ways He speaks are as limitless as He is, but he’s always trying to reach our hearts. On this particular day, He spoke to me through a story. And this storyteller loves stories.
It takes place during the years of the Old Testament when Samuel led the Israelites, and they’re facing an intimidating enemy who won’t stop pursuing them: the Philistines. In a moment of desperation Samuel cries out to God, and God delivers the Israelites from battle. (1 Samuel 7:9)
While this victory was impressive all by itself, God doesn’t stop there. Scripture tells us that for the the rest of Samuel’s reign, God suppresses the Philistines and there is peace.
To celebrate their victory, Samuel doesn’t just praise God and thank Him. He doesn’t count his blessings and move on. He builds a memorial. He builds an altar to the Lord and names it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12) As I read over this testimony of God’s faithfulness, I knew what God was asking me to do.
Stop focusing on the mountain in front of you and look at what I’ve brought you through.
We often get so focused on the obstacles, the next hurdle or project that we forget how far we’ve come. We forget to celebrate. We forget to slow down and take stock of the blessings God has poured into our lives.
Friend, if you’re questioning whether or not you heard God today, you are not alone. I don’t know about you, but I need to stop obsessing over roadblocks and start building altars. More reminders that even when the cards seem stacked against me, God is faithful. If I could attain each goal on my own, I wouldn’t need God. I wouldn’t need faith. And God wouldn’t get the glory, which is why I went down this crazy path in the first place.
The next time God brings you through a battle, remember to stop and take notice. Then, create a reminder. Build an altar, write it in your journal, or mark the date on your calendar. Do whatever it takes to commit it to memory.
The next trial will surely come, but we can face it with sureness of God’s power. When we remember what God helped us overcome, the mountain in front of us goes from threatening to surmountable.
If we want to see God in the midst of our struggles, we have to change the way we look for him. My book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God, is filled with practical tools and insights to help you do so.
Here’s what one reader said after reading it:
“Abby McDonald’s heart for her readers shows through in every word. Genuine and gentle, she leads us to a place where we can shift our lenses to see God’s presence in all the moments: good, bad, and—especially—in between. Because as much as we like to focus on the highs and lows, God longs to meet us in the middle. Shift’s practical approach will help you see Him there.” -Kelly S.
You can pick up a copy of Shift by clicking the image below.
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