For the next several weeks I plan to address an issue that is important to each of us. Faith is vital to us in our practical, everyday life as well as things we often refer to as “spiritual.” I believe all things related to our lives have a spiritual meaning or component but for the sake of clarity I will address the faith topics or questions individually. Today’s blog is about the kind of faith we use daily, what I like to think of as practical faith.
Trust or faith is operative in practically everything you and I do. Without it we would be frozen in a state of overwhelming fear and inactivity. Think about how literally true this is. Your very life depends upon your ability to trust the safety of the food you eat and the water you drink. If you do not trust they are safe and refuse to eat or drink you will eventually die of hunger or thirst.
Think further about how ordinary living requires a certain amount of faith. Are you sitting down as you read this? You must trust the chair or whatever you are sitting on to hold you up. Did you sleep in a bed last night? Few things in our life are trusted like our bed. When you lie down do you tense your muscles in an attempt to support yourself while you sleep? Of course not, instead you lie down with an abandon, giving your tired body to the comfort of your bed. Resting is one of our greatest exercises of practical faith.
Where would we be without the constancy and reliability of the things we trust in life? As I take a break from typing I rest my elbows on my desk. I just take for granted the desk will support me. I am very comfortable doing this because somehow I learned my desk is dependable and will easily tolerate the weight I put on it. What if this were not true of all the things we rely on without question?
Faith is vital to everyday living, isn’t it? Well, it’s also important in our health and the way we see life. So, in future weekly blogs I will be dealing with some of these critical questions: What is faith? What is “saving” faith? How is faith developed? How do we come to faith in God? What is the difference between belief and faith? How does faith affect the way we live?
These are just a few things for you to “chew on’ ’til next time. Thanks for reading. I always appreciate hearing from you. Questions or suggestions are always welcome. Cos
Our nation is in a time of transition. One president has left office and another administration has assumed leadership of our country. A different political party is in control and responsible for the leadership and direction of our nation for at least the next two years. Whether you are saddened or happy about the prospect of new leadership, the fact is that change is coming.
Living well requires us to handle transition or change well. This is true in all areas of our life. Think about some of the transitions you have already survived. You and I have transitioned from being a baby to being an adult. I’m sure some of our parents wondered if we would make it through those turbulent teenage years, but with their love and patience and God’s grace we did!
I, like you, have had difficulty with some of my transitional times. I was an emotional wreck when my first child left home but I adjusted to the reality that God’s plan is for parents to give our kids roots and wings and to celebrate their independence, often through our tears. And, I continue to face the challenges life throws at me.
Someone has observed, “The only thing that doesn’t change in life is the fact that things change.” Well, that may be true to a large degree but not entirely accurate. But what can we do to ensure that we come through these transition times with our sanity and soul intact?
Whatever the challenges you face, I believe we can live faithfully by doing the following:
First, I must face the reality of whatever challenge I’m dealing with. Denial is not the solution. To deny that my body is going through physical change or that life will be the same when I move from the house I’ve loved for years is a sure formula for getting stuck in an unproductive and stagnant place.
Second, I need to size up the reality of my situation, decide a course of attitude and action and move ahead. When change knocks at my door, I will answer it and act responsibly in the things I can do.
Finally, I will rely on the fact that my God does not change. He is the Unchangeable, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God and Father of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I will live in the promise of Psalm 46:1-2: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea…”
May God find you faithful in the challenges your transition s bring your way.
We live in an anxious world. This rings true on a global scale as well as in our individual lives. Across the world, there are uprisings of religious fanatics whose aim is to bring suffering, persecution, and death to those who do not believe as they do. They are driven by hate and will use any means to accomplish their end. This ominous cloud is gathering in many countries and creating anxiety concerning our way of life and our future.
Our nation is in political turmoil, rocked by scandal and polarization. It seems we have put much responsibility into the hands of leaders who have little moral or spiritual grounding and whose actions seem to be guided by base and immoral values.
If this is not enough to make you anxious, there is the personal stuff of marriage, raising kids, health issues, aging parents, making ends meet financially, and fitting more and more things into an already overcrowded schedule.
Obviously, we are limited in how we can control the actions of others but we can do much to deal with the anxiety which can result from those outside forces. The following are suggestions you may want to consider to be able to have a sense of peace in the midst of the turmoil which surrounds you.
The good and the bad of anxiety. All of us experience anxiety in one way or another. It is part of the human condition from birth to the grave. The baby often cries anxiously as a way of getting the caregiver to deal with his hunger or physical discomfort. The anxious parent tosses in his bed awaiting the return of his teenager from their date. Moms and dads watch a news program concerning a military action and their minds struggle to put away the pressing thought that their loved one might have been wounded or killed in the battle. Day after day they live with the anxiety that the one they have seen grow up before them may return maimed or may not return at all. Been there, done that.
It may surprise you that I suggest there is something good about anxiety. I believe anxiety can both serve us and do great harm to us. While we cannot and should not hope to be rid of all anxiety we can take steps to use the good part of it and arm ourselves so as not to be controlled by it.
What is the good part of anxiety? Anxiety is good when it alerts us to some danger or impending harm to us or someone or something we care about. It is good when it cautions us to be careful, to use discretion about a decision. For example, the wise parent becomes anxious when his child does something which can easily lead to physical harm or death. Anxiety alerts the parent to act, to rescue the child from his foolish decision or from someone who could harm him. Anxiety can push us to take action to remedy a problematic situation. It can alert a student to prepare well for an exam, a soldier to be vigilant at his task, or a worker to give his best to his job. In these ways and many others, anxiety, when properly used, can spur us to avoid carelessness or laziness which may lead to failure or even death. Seen this way, anxiety can have a good, beneficial effect. It serves as a warning signal, an alarm to awaken us to potential harm. You might even say it is a sign of wisdom to respond well to the good side of anxiety.
So, when does anxiety cross the line from good to bad? When does this gift become harmful? It is one thing to respond to an anxiety-producing situation in order to resolve the issue but quite another to have anxiety control much of your thoughts and actions. As with anger or other issues, the question comes down to control. Anxiety has crossed the line between helpful and harmful when it is out of control.
What does bad anxiety do to you and others? If you have experienced times when anxiety has controlled you or if you have lived with someone controlled by it you will readily recognize the following symptoms of bad anxiety.
It tends to distort or exaggerate the reality of the situation. People controlled by anxiety often overreact to life events. The smallest incident can trigger a major emotional reaction. People not controlled by anxiety would probably see the incident as a minor annoyance or inconvenience and move on.
The person controlled by anxiety doesn’t seem to have the capacity to put the incident into perspective. Already very nervous about something, they tend to connect the small event to the pile of things they are worried about and overreact to it. They may do what I call “going from A to Z.” They are faced with a relatively small problem or challenge but make it much bigger and more threatening than it really is. For example, a person may dread their annual physical with their physician. There seems to be no sign of a physical issue but they become almost frozen by fear because of the possibility the doctor may find some problem. They fear what might be and distort or exaggerate the situation without any rational basis for their concern.
Folks who experience this level of anxiety are miserable. Such people live in fear of what could happen and tend to instill fear in the lives of those who live with them. They go beyond sensible precautions that are healthy and reasonable and are often consumed by worry which results in overprotection and limitation of normal activity. They are controlled by anxiety.
Bad anxiety depletes one’s emotional and physical energy. Anxiety takes its toll emotionally and physically. Being vigilant all the time is emotionally taxing and wears you down and flattens you out emotionally. When that happens you notice your physical energy is also sapped. That’s because emotions are energy in our physical body and when they are expended we feel tired and depleted. When you are worried about something it works on you physically. You likely will not sleep well and, thus, a cycle may begin in which your physical and emotional energies are not renewed.
A person controlled by anxiety can become vulnerable to more serious health issues such as depression, high blood pressure, and various other ailments. Professionals who deal with the medical and emotional needs of people are becoming increasingly aware of the interconnection between the emotional and physical health of their patients. We have not been created with separate, unconnected parts. What affects one aspect of our life has an impact on other parts of us.
It impairs your ability to focus or concentrate. Anxiety takes away our ability to pay attention to the task at hand. It interrupts or overrides our concentration. For example, the anxious person finds it very difficult to read for extended periods of time without anxious thoughts breaking through. Anxiety creates a sense of being at loose ends, not able to settle down to the job before us. Anxiety makes ordinary tasks more challenging and can help create dangerous situations such as leaving a burner or oven on, failing to disengage the gas pump before driving away, and not paying attention while driving or operating machinery. Anxiety also makes it more difficult to listen to family members and, therefore, can undermine our relationships.
Out-of-control anxiety infects you with doubt and negativity. Besides all the issues just mentioned, anxiety can turn you into a person who has a sour attitude about life in general. Anxiety robs you of your joy and happiness and can make you difficult to be around. Most people don’t find it pleasant to be around a person who is always negative or doubtful. Anxious persons can suck the hope out of the room.
Flawed ways to deal with anxiety. I believe many of the ills of our society can be traced to the inadequate or flawed ways we attempt to deal with anxiety. We want quick fixes and shudder at the thought of being emotionally uncomfortable or just riding out the anxiety until it subsides. We don’t want to experience any discomfort. However, reality and healthy living dictate there are going to be times when feeling bad or threatened is okay.
The result of trying to escape real life and its attendant anxiety can bring serious consequences. Several addictions may be traced to the attempt to escape the difficult realities of life. Among them are alcoholism, illegal and prescription drug addiction, and food addiction. You can probably add many workaholics to the list of those who are trying to assuage the demands of anxiety. Also, depression usually has an anxiety component to it and may sometimes be considered a means of escaping reality.
The antidote for anxiety. There are a number of ways to address approaches to dealing with debilitating anxiety. Here, I have chosen to briefly touch on the medical and, physical aspects of treatment and give a more detailed discussion of the spiritual side from a preventative perspective. Although I have chosen to separate these aspects for clarity I recognize that, in many instances, they are combined with good results.
Medical treatment involves the prescribing of a drug to counteract the ill effects of anxiety and re-establish a chemical balance in the brain. Medical treatment may also include treatment of physical issues that may be attendant with the anxiety. Prescription drug treatment can be helpful in restoring a sense of balance to the person but, by itself, does not cure the problem. Unless the source of the anxiety is discovered and dealt with therapeutically through counseling or some other means, the real issue is left unresolved.
Anxiety takes a toll on us physically. Exercise, such as walking, stimulates chemicals in the brain which can help control anxiety. Exercise, when done as part of one’s lifestyle, is a good way to work off nervous energy and maintain emotional balance. When combined with medical and/or spiritual help physical exercise can prove to be very beneficial in combating anxiety. There are many enjoyable activities such as gardening, swimming, or biking that can have a positive effect on your physical and emotional health. The issue is to make physical activity a part of your lifestyle, if possible, and refuse to become sedentary. This investment will pay good dividends physically and emotionally.
I personally believe a great deal of the personal pain and problems caused by anxiety could be avoided altogether if the correct spiritual prescription were followed when we first realize anxiety is becoming a problem. I say this not to condemn or judge anyone who deals with chronic anxiety but to emphasize the need to recognize and deal with anxiety before it gets to the controlling stage. We need to” nip it in the bud.” I believe that those with debilitating anxiety can benefit from the spiritual suggestions I discuss but may need some serious medical intervention as well.
What can you do to guard against anxiety becoming a controlling factor in your life? What is the spiritual antidote for anxiety? Simply stated, the antidote for controlling anxiety or worry is prayer. “That certainly seems simple enough,” you say, “but I pray every day and I am still worrying all the time. Praying is not working for me.” I know many wonderful Christian people who seem to make a practice of trying to worry their problems to death. What they find is that it doesn’t work and they are subjected to many of the problems that come to those who worry. They often feel defeated and may begin to believe that praying about things isn’t useful. At this point, they may stop praying at all.
However, it is a clear teaching in scripture that we are not to be overcome by worry or anxiety. It is also without debate that we are taught to pray for what we need and trust God to supply it. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus contrasts the futility of worrying with trust in God to supply the basic needs of our life. Worry accomplishes nothing related to our needs but does indicate we have taken God out of the equation. Worry is an attempt to not depend on God and solve the problem on our own. Not only is worrying useless, but it also depicts a lack of trust in God and is an affront to him. Worrying is a serious spiritual issue.
Let me mention a few of the many reasons why a person can pray about something and continue to be overwhelmed by anxiety.
The motive of praying may be wrong. For example, a person may pray for something in order to simply advance himself or his cause and not to honor God. James 4:3 tells us that one hindrance to answered prayer is selfishness in the way we ask. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Effective praying involves an important caveat that some may not be willing to obey. That is, the request must conform to the will of God. Another way to say this is; the prayer must be one that honors God and advances to his purpose. In the model prayer, Jesus gives us a broad outline of how to pray. One very notable feature of that model is the phrase, ” Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” While God wants us to live in his peace, anxiety may overwhelm us because the issue we pray about is not completely released to his will. We may not trust that whatever he decides is best or really what we want to happen.
Effective praying requires unwavering trust in God. Here again, James’ words are instructive. James 1: 6-7 reads as follows: “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Answers to our prayers require that we trust God to do for us what we ask within his will. Doubting nullifies our praying.
Effective praying also has a quality of persistence. Do we really want what we ask God to do? How do we show we are deeply committed to what we pray for? By continuing to pray, to hang on, persist day after day. Only when we prove we are serious about our praying will God give us what we ask for.
After considering these four things about effective praying it is quite easy to see why God doesn’t answer according to our wishes or why a person may give up on the work of praying. True prayer involves work on our part. It calls for us to keep our selfishness and pride in check, to abandon the idea that we can do things on our own, to be unwavering in our trust in God, and to hang on, to persist until what we pray for becomes a reality we can celebrate.
With these ideas as a backdrop let us consider a couple of Paul’s ideas in thinking about prayer as the real antidote for anxiety. One of the things we know about Paul is that life got much harder for him after his conversion on the Damascus road. He faced many anxious times in his attempt to share the good news about Jesus. Paul suffered some type of chronic physical ailment, was imprisoned, beaten, run out of town, shipwrecked, contended for the gospel with unbelievers in hostile situations, criticized for his preaching, at times totally dependent on the goodwill of others to supply his basic needs, and put on trial for his faith. He knew about anxiety and how to deal with it.
The first thing that seems obvious about Paul’s approach to troubling situations is that he firmly believed in God’s sovereignty in the life of the believer. Simply put, Paul believed that whatever God allows in our life he will use for good. We are never abandoned to the whim of fate or without an anchor in the storms of life. For the believer this means that there is gain, there is good to come from the pain, problems, and disappointments in life. This is a most hopeful and reassuring reality which should help us pray with thanksgiving and assurance. My favorite verse related to this idea, and perhaps Paul’s clearest statement, is Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The specific statement about prayer as the antidote for anxiety is found in one of Paul’s “prison epistles.” It is called a prison letter or epistle because Paul was imprisoned and facing a possible death sentence for his faith. These words Paul wrote with the assurance that comes from having seen how prayer had calmed and focused him in many uneasy situations in life, and even now as he awaits what is before him. Philippians 4:6-7 reads as follows:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Let’s consider some of the practical applications of these words as they apply to anxiety.
First, this is a negative command. We are to stop, quit, to refrain from being controlled by anxiety. This is not a polite suggestion but a directive, a command
Second, it is an all-inclusive command. We are not to be anxious about “anything.” There are no exceptions. There is no anxiety by which we are to be controlled. Marital problems, money issues, sickness, world calamities, aging parents, unruly children, and whatever else you can name or imagine are covered by this command. This gets uncomfortable for us because it destroys the illusion that we have control over some things in our life. Paul tells us we are to be overcome by worry about absolutely nothing.
Third, is a transition indicated by the word “but.” Paul does not strip away our useless worrying about real-life issues without giving us a better solution. The word “but” signifies he is going to tell us what we need to do about the things that worry us.
Fourth, we are given a positive command to compliment the negative one. In the negative command, we are told not to worry about anything. With the positive command, Paul gives us a new and effective way to handle anxiety. And, it, too, is all-inclusive. “…but in everything. ” What? What are we to do? We are to pray to our Heavenly Father.
Fifth, we are told how we are to pray concerning the things that make us anxious. This is not to be a flippant, light-hearted approach but an earnest, heartfelt, sincere asking. Praying like this is a serious and sober matter. It requires a willingness to come time and again and to prove our earnestness about what we pray. This is the idea behind “prayer and petition.” It has nothing to do with God’s reluctance to bless us. It is about proving our readiness to receive the blessing and to give God the glory for it. Paul uses the word petition, I think, as a way of telling us to be specific, to be clear in our own mind what we want God to do for us. Generalized phrases such as “God bless us” do not qualify for a petition. How, specifically, do you want God to bless you? A petition is a specific statement of our need or desire. Search deep within your heart for what you need and say that to God. Paul also adds the idea of giving God thanks with our petition. We are to pray, to petition God “with thanksgiving.” This stirs gratitude and confidence in our prayers. It also is a powerful aid in dealing with anxiety. We simply cannot be anxious and thankful at the same time. You may notice that anxious people are not very thankful people.
Sixth, peace, instead of anxiety, will be our state of mind when we pray this way. When we truly turn the situation over to God something beyond human understanding happens. God gives us a sense of peace that will stand like a sentry or guard over our mind and heart. Like a powerful guard protecting a valuable treasure, God’s peace will keep you safe from the devastating effects of anxiety.
How do you know this is true? There’s just one way to find out; try it.
A quarter of a century ago Henry Cloud and John Townsend published a book entitled Boundaries. As I have been perusing its pages lately it has dawned on me that this book holds the secret to solving many of life’s problems. You name it: sexual abuse, theft, adultery, lying, and all the big and little sins and crimes human beings commit could be resolved if people would just observe proper boundaries. Does that sound too simple?
Think about it. That’s what Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24 concerning loving God, self and others really implies. Proper respect for God, his boundaries and those he places on us, and the boundaries we need to develop within us would eliminate the behaviors which hurt us and others.
There is just one problem with this solution. There must be a radical change of heart, a conversion of thinking and acting which changes our self-centeredness to acts of genuine love for God, our self and others. Such a change is possible if we are willing to give up our claim to be God and ask the true God to save us from our self destruction and accept his gift of salvation provided in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God has determined how he will handle the issue of our sinfulness. We don’t get to make that decision, it is a matter of boundaries. Either we accept his love and do it his way or we don’t do it at all. And, he will not cross our boundary to force us to choose him. Now, that is real love.
I believe the purpose of communication is to develop understanding and acceptance of the other person, even though we may strongly disagree with their position on a given subject. We don’t need to follow the example of many of our public figures who demean or smear the reputation or character of another person because they have political differences.
Be very careful about “judging” a person because they are a “liberal” or “conservative.” Let’s try to discuss the issues and not attack the character of the one with the opposing view. Yes, character matters. Absolutely. But, people with stellar character may have a bad idea from time to time and folks with crummy character may have a good idea once in a while. The point is to maintain our good character while dealing with sensitive and emotionally-charged issues.
If we claim to be followers of Jesus, let’s look to God as our example for how we communicate. The incarnation represents a point in history in which Someone with perfect character attempted to communicate with people whose character was/is like”filthy rags.”
He had already done some communicating through commandments, miracles, prophets, and some of the kings but just at the right time he sent Jesus, the perfect revelation of himself. God understands us, accepts us as we are, and offers forgiveness for the sin that separates us from him and others. Perhaps some of us need to reconsider how we communicate about tough issues and try to build some bridges to those with whom we differ. This doesn’t mean we must give up what we strongly believe. It does mean we can allow others the same right to their opinions without judging them as persons.
We do not need to “turn a blind eye” to the evil that is so evident in our society. We must be wise in this day of division and heated rhetoric and be a force for good and healing rather than perpetuate the hatred and vile behaviors that will destroy us. Remember: “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20.
I awoke from an afternoon nap recently with a startling awareness about living and dying. I was wide awake and aware that I was alive but something deep within my consciousness told me I am going to die. This was not a premonition about an accident or illness that was going to take my life in the near future but a reminder that my death, however that may come about, is a reality I must learn to reconcile in the way I go about living.
People who know me well will testify to the fact that I am not a morbid, pessimistic individual. I believe myself to be a rather energetic, somewhat “driven” and hopeful person who seeks to encourage others and get a good 24 hours out of most days. I think there are several reasons for this way of approaching life. The reality that I am on borrowed time certainly plays a large role in how I try to live each day. So, my choices about how to deal with my death basically boil down to my world view and how death fits into that larger picture.
My faith, my world view, tells me that death is a reality I must take into account. I will not escape it no matter what I do to try to avoid it. Denying reality is not the solution either. Many people who will not face reality do all kinds of things to distract from the truth. They tend to get involved in excesses of eating, drinking, living carelessly, and other behaviors that are very destructive to themselves and others. In my opinion, this is not really living at all but a slow but sure way of dying before you die. So my question is, “Why not live until you die?”
The centerpiece of my faith is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He has dealt with my sin through his sacrifice on the cross. And, He has dealt with my physical death by His resurrection from the dead. By my faith in Him and what He has done, I have received eternal life, His life in me. And, my physical death cannot, will not, defeat Him! Yes, death waits for me but it will not destroy or be the end of me. Jesus has taken care of that for me. My hope is in Jesus and He is the reason I can live with confidence and a deep sense of purpose and meaning in my life. That’s what it means to me to “live until you die.”
If you are not living in this sense of hope I have just described, I challenge you to think about why not. There seem to be at least a couple of possibilities for the sad state of life. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, perhaps you have lost your way. The cares and frustrations of life may have caused you to lose focus on the implications of the gospel for your life. You have allowed your emotions to control your outlook and behavior. You are acting and living like you don’t really believe what your confession and baptism say you believe. How we live is the evidence of the vitality of our faith in God.
The only other reason I can think of as to why a person is living without hope is that you are not a believer. You have not wandered from the faith you once confessed, you have never had a deep life-changing encounter with Jesus. You may have taken many routes to try to escape the reality of your death but you haven’t done the one thing that can solve your problem. Ask God to forgive you for your sin of unbelief and trying to play God in your life and to give you the eternal life that overcomes physical death. Commit yourself to live the abundant life of obedience to His will for you. This is the secret of really living ‘til you die.
Now, I have one suggestion for you to consider if you want to live life to your best.
Be proactive. What does that mean? Being proactive involves thinking about and anticipating how you want to live, planning and, where possible, making decisions, and taking actions that will help you live well. It means understanding what you are responsible for those things. It is about living responsibly, being an adult, about your health, your marriage, your parenting, your job, your relationship with God.
Why is it important to live proactively? Because God didn’t make you to always be dependent on others to take care of you. Dependency is for childhood and those who cannot for some reason take care of themselves. He made you be active and productive for all your life, to contribute to the betterment of yourself, your family, and others. You are not to live with the mentality of a victim. Sure, bad things may have happened to you. Bad things happen to most of us at some point in life but they do not define who we are.
I got unjustly “fired” from a very good job at age 51 with one kid in college and another scheduled to begin that fall. That was a very difficult time, I had to reinvent myself and change careers at age 51. Looking back at that, I consider what was done to me wrong but the overall effect to be one of the best things that could happen to me. I somewhat anticipated what was going to happen with the job and began thinking about the “what if’s” but when it actually happened, I kicked being proactive into high gear. I asked God to give me grace and strength for the challenge. I also decided to not spend time and energy wallowing in my anger and frustration and telling everyone what a victim I was. I dealt with my anger through therapy and journaling and made a decision about my next career and got on-the-job- training to make that happen. I worked like a man possessed and God blessed it! I am now retired after a very fulfilling second career and I continue to be proactive about my life because that works well for me. No matter where you are in life, become proactive and hang in there and God will bless your faithfulness. I have often said to others struggling with difficult issues, “God meets us at the point of our effort.”
What does it look like to be proactive? What are some of the characteristics or traits of proactive people? Here are some words which describe people I believe to be proactive: independent, inter-dependent, anticipatory, planner, accountable, energetic, optimistic, and celebratory. Let me attempt to digest these ideas into a few descriptive sentences.
Proactive people are usually self-starters and can work alone and enjoy using their individual gifts. However, they are wise enough to realize the giftedness of others and can be interdependent when the situation calls for the combination of individual gifts to get the job done. A great example of this is a marriage of independent people who work together to build a functional marriage and to rear healthy, well-adjusted kids.
Proactive people think ahead and anticipate possible challenges so as to not create unnecessary problems. In other words, they don’t create problems for themselves by being lazy and irresponsible by the way they live day today. They realize actions have consequences and they attempt to gather good information and make plans accordingly. They are wise enough to realize that life has enough crises to deal with without creating additional ones by poor decisions and actions. Proactive people plan ahead.
Proactive people hold themselves accountable for the consequences of their choices. They do not blame God or others for their poor choices. While they may have been wronged by the actions of parents or others, they own their choice of how they will respond to what has happened to them. Instead of becoming angry and bitter, they choose to work with God to learn and grow from the experience and to “make lemonade from the lemon.”
Optimism and energy also describe proactive people. While recognizing the reality of evil, wrong, and dysfunction in so many areas of life, these people don’t give up, they persevere and dedicate their energies to making life a little better for themselves and others. These wonderful people have faith that the ultimate victory over sickness, loss, evil, and death belongs to God and they face the daily battle to do their part, large or small, to further the Kingdom of God. Though times are tough and dark, the proactive person of faith knows how the story ends.
Now, here’s a final word about celebration. Those of us who are proactive learn how to enjoy the simple things of life: a flower, a beautiful spring day, a robin searching for a worm, a snow-covered hillside, and the company of a good friend. We celebrate the life we have been given. We celebrate the lives of our families and friends and their successes and blessings. We are a grateful lot. Every day is a day of thanksgiving. We celebrate the gift of a new day, food, clothing, housing, and health. We celebrate having enough to be able to provide for the needs of others. Most of all, we celebrate the fact that God loves us and has done the most incredible thing of bringing us into his family through the work of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
With all of this in mind, why not choose to really live as long as God gives you life?