What guidelines do you use to determine if things are running successfully? For some it might be a lack of conflict: “No one is mad at me so life is good”. For others it might mean that all your bills are paid. Others might decide that if there are conflicts or difficulties, they must have made a mistake somewhere. Or do we think things are going well based on how much praise we receive?
My point is that we all use some sort of measuring stick to determine how well we are doing. Some of our methods are healthy, some not. Determining how we are doing and keeping abreast of this is very biblical. It's called discernment and we are called to consistently be growing in our ability to discern what is happening around us and in us.
“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Heb 5:14
But what guidelines has God given us? Proverbs abounds in wisdom concerning acquiring knowledge and the New Testament gives us some valuable guidelines to test the condition of our hearts and lives by.
First, a caution. Proverbs states clearly
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15
Therefore, do not presume to be flawlessly self-aware, but seek those you trust who are without agenda, to help you gain insight into yourself. You might think you are at peace but if everyone is walking on eggshells around you, you might not be as healthy as you thought.
What are some of the signs that we are doing well, that we are in a good place with God and have not wandered off track? The fruit of the Spirit is a good place to start.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” - Gal 5:22-23
Another sign is our ability to operate out of a place of rest. Jesus promised us that His yoke was light. He hasn’t changed. He promised us rest and a light burden, not a never-ending cycle of burnout and recovery.
So, how are you doing? Have you accepted the lie that there is just too much to do and exhaustion is a fact of life? Or is your ability to walk in love and peace strained? I know, for me, these are good signs that I have strayed away from walking with God and instead picked up my “saviour cape”. I mean, if I don’t step in and help and save people who will? Catch the joke? It’s hubris to think I should be in the position of being the only one that can help, and even if I am, sometimes rushing in can do more damage than good. Sometimes things need to fall apart in order for change to occur. When we take on the responsibility for the growth in God’s Kingdom, we place ourselves in the role of God. For He says very clearly:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Mat 16:18.
God is building His Body, His Church, not us. Our job is to follow Him. And Jesus promised our yoke would be light. How can we hope to acquire the fruit of the Spirit that Galatians talks about out of a place of exhaustion and busyness, prompted by a misplaced belief that we are responsible for more than we actually are?
Personally, I can usually tell if I am off track with God when I get cranky and stressed, when I begin to become judgmental of others’ lack of “help”, or when my family begins to feel neglected. If I start making my commitments to serve outside my family greater than my relationships in my family, I’m in trouble. And so is my family.
Now things like tragedy and crisis can take our toll on us as well. Sometimes a crisis can momentarily swamp us and we need to give ourselves grace. But God’s peace and rest is always available to us, otherwise we would be limiting Him to the role of a fair-weather friend: only useful and faithful in the good times.
If we look just as exhausted and stressed as our neighbour, if our children and families are just as neglected, if our spouses are just as lonely, what does that say about the God we claim is so wonderful? The people we are helping may love us, but do our families see the same person?
Take time at the beginning of this year to read His view on your responsibilities in His word. Have you taken on a bigger burden than He intended? Do the fruit on the Spirit show up easily in your life? Or are they only for the public? Those that know me know that I regularly give God my imaginary day timer and ask Him what I have taken on that I need to stop doing. And if I don’t do that, my family reminds me to. For some, this may be adding to your days instead of removing things. Either way, holding our lives up to God’s word instead of others’ opinions or our own expectations will provide an excellent plumbline to get back to walking in God’s peace and presence if we have drifted away.
Then we will really be living testimonies of His faithfulness.