When you’re wondering what to do next
December 28, 2011 | My Jottings
Have you ever fretted over something and said, “What am I supposed to do now?” Have things ever gotten so dire in your life that you truly had no idea what to do next? If so, you’re not alone.
Anyone who knows me knows I like lists. I think the Lord likes lists too. I was reading the book of James this morning and found a to-do list that the Holy Spirit wrote through James, who was one of the brothers of Jesus.
Read it through slowly, if you would, and then at the end you’ll see how it could be the Lord’s to-do list for us today.
“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:7-20
Here’s the list:
1. Be patient and stand firm. Are you ready to give up on your situation? Be patient and stand firm….ask God to give you strength and even joy as you wait on Him.
2. Don’t grumble against one another. I know from experience that this never, ever, ever, ever helps. Never. No matter how frustrated or fed up we might be, grumbling and complaining doesn’t make the situation better. In fact, it’s like joining with the enemy and swinging a wrecking ball of your own. Can we picture right now that the enemy of our souls is aiming to swing a huge wrecking ball against us and those we love, working round the clock to bring us all down into a pile of rubble? We need to stand firm against that, not help it happen.
3. Do not swear — let your answers be a simple yes or no. Language and words are so powerful. My words should be true and they should be helpful. Even if I have something difficult to relate, I can still say the words in a loving, constructive way. Also, if I’ve lived in such a way that the veracity of my word is questioned, the Lord will help me change that if I ask Him. Integrity can be lost, but with the Lord it can be regained.
4. When in trouble, pray. Pray! Out loud! Under our breath! In our hearts! Through our tears! While sitting on the toilet! When driving! When going to bed each night. When opening our eyes each morning. If all I can muster is a heartfelt, “Lord, please come and help me,” then that’s okay. Just call out to Him, over and over again. There are plenty of places in the Bible that teach us He likes persistence. So in prayer, be persistent. Help us, O Lord! Our eyes are on you! I’m not very eloquent when I pray, but He is my Father and understands my frailty. And I don’t think He’s moved by fancy words.
5. When happy, sing songs of praise. I think this is more powerful than we might suspect. If “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” is all that comes to mind, sing that. We are being watched. I think we should sing when we’re not happy too. I want the heavenly realm and the demonic realm to see me trusting my Savior when I’d rather take to my bed as my mother did. I want the angels to cheer when I’m trying to be patient and stand firm, and the demons to cringe when they see and hear me singing to the Lord even if I don’t really want to.
6. If you’re sick, call together some leaders in your church and ask them to pray over you. And then again every day, we ask for healing. Physical healing and spiritual healing, Emotional healing and financial healing. Social healing and familial healing. We are all ailing in some way. Every one of us. I think this verse is addressing a physical malady, but I believe the Lord can heal any kind of sickness. If you’ve asked others to pray, perhaps it’s time to ask again. And we keep praying every day that the Lord will bring His healing into every hidden place in our lives.
7. Confess your sins to each other. This means we have to let go of pride. And that’s the hardest thing for many of us, because we think we know others have sinned against us worse. Isn’t that what we all think? “Yes, well, I’ve done some things wrong, but she said this about me.” “Of course I shouldn’t have done that, but he did this first, and that was way more hurtful than what I did.” Miracles will happen when we lay down our pride, choose not to perseverate on what the other person did, and just humbly confess to the Lord and to each other, what we did. Do you think I’m preaching to you here, as if I’m some holier-than-thou person and have the right to tell you what to do? I am not preaching, I am not holy, and I know I have no special right. I’m just telling whoever will read that I have done things the other way, and they don’t work. I am talking to myself here too, taking my own self up by the collar and saying, “Look! Stop doing it your way and try doing it God’s way!” Humbling ourselves is hard, particularly if we have a family history of pride. But miracles will come if we make humility a way of life. I’m not talking about groveling. I’m not referring to exempting the person who hurt us. I’m speaking merely of humbling ourselves and admitting our stuff, and asking the Lord to deal with the people who hurt us. (And if you’re in a dangerous situation of abuse, you should go get help right away…I’m not encouraging anyone to sit quietly while someone is hurting you.)
8. Pray for each other. Why is prayer so often mentioned? Because it’s the thing we struggle with most. And it’s the thing that is most needed and most powerful.
Whether or not we see results right away, pray. Whether or not we feel like praying, pray.
And remember Who we are praying to:
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
None can ever ask too much. (part of a hymn written by John Newton)
So if we’re wondering what to do, we can pick up God’s to-do list for us today. Nothing He puts on our lists will ever be of no consequence. He gives us things to do that really matter, and He helps us to do them in His strength. If we could do all this by ourselves we wouldn’t need Him. But we do need Him.
Dear Jesus, thank you for giving me something meaningful to do today and tomorrow and for a thousand tomorrows. You know that I can’t do any of it on my own. So I come to you now and I ask you to accomplish your to-do list in my life today. Help me to be patient, help me to wait, help me to sing, help me to stop grumbling, help me to stand firm, help me to speak helpful words, help me to lay down my pride, and help me to pray.
I ask all of this in your name, dear Savior,