Counsel That Leads Us Forward

“I don’t know what to give her.”
“I can’t decide whether I should let him go to that–or not.”
“I don’t know how to have this conversation.”
“I not sure how to handle this situation.”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9.6)

Wonderful Counselor.
God desires that we know Him as Counselor—and He doesn’t specify ‘only for the big stuff.’

Any time of year, we have decisions to make, circumstances to deal with. Some are big; others are small. Yet sometimes the smallest matters stress us out or keep us up at night. Or, we think about it so much, that mental exhaustion plagues us.

Maybe we unintentionally categorize things that warrant prayer and things that are too trivial to ask God?

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4.5b-6)

“In everything” includes the trivial and every category of life. When we talk and listen to God, we practice having relationship with Him. We draw nearer to our Shepherd and learn to discern His voice. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10.27)  Relationship.

Instead of only thinking about something, ask God and learn to listen for His guidance. This season can be extra-busy.  Pause to practice prayer—to seek God’s counsel—as you drive to work, take a walk or jog, wash the dishes, shower, wait in line, sit on hold on the phone . . .

Practice with the small stuff. Consider this:  Your friend or child seeks your counsel or advice for a small matter like: Which shirt should I wear?  Do you think I should go to that? What should I give him for Christmas? Your availability communicates value, support, faithfulness. How much more does God desire that we experience His steadfastness?

The simplest of counsel is sorta like a recommendation: Lord, which would be the best appointment date? . . . Please show me who I should ask to lead this committee? . . . When is the best time to tell them the news?

When I began to practice praying about the small or trivial, God grew my confidence that He really is with me all day and all night. Plenty of times I didn’t receive a clear answer, but His peace guarded my heart from worry as I made decisions or moved through a long hour. He became my Wonderful Counselor, sometimes providing a person as His tangible vessel for me to talk with at just the right moment. He grew my understanding of his love as Father—He doesn’t grade what we seek His counsel about; rather, He delights that He is the One whose counsel we seek.

Practice. Then, when the big decisions or circumstances come, discover that God has built a solid foundation of faith in your heart. Your relationship is intimate, and your dependence is strong.

When we seek God, we decide to believe that God’s way is the wise way. And even if we aren’t sure of his answer, we trust that He is with us and leading. He grows us to know Him as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Dear God,

You know our need before we ask. Thank you for counselors that you provide in our life—professionals, family, friends, acquaintances—who seek you and serve as tangible vessels of your counsel and point us to you. Especially, prompt us to pray as we move through our day, to trust that you want us to come to you in everything, that we will know you personally as our Wonderful Counselor. Amen.

How To Pray When Our Mind Is Spinning

Sometimes my mind spins in so many directions that I stress my self out. I can’t focus or settle inside. Then I get frustrated, which seems to fuel my spin pace . . . and I just wanna scream or cry or run away for the day.

. . . There’s that project I need to tackle, but I’m not sure how best to approach it, so I just keep putting it off. There are calls I want or need to make, only I can’t seem to find the right time when there’s enough time to talk. Always, there’s that pile on the counter that I need to just deal with—but, y’all, every time I remove two items, at least four more materialize. What’s with that? And then there are those matters that I simply need to think through, process, and weigh, yet allotting time for those seems to require that I sacrifice  time earmarked for something else. Do you ever feel like this, or is it just me?

So the other day, when I was having one of those days, I vented, God help me! I guess I halfway expected Him to transform everything right there on the spot—which He can do, because He’s God. But that didn’t happen.

What did happen is God got my attention. All along He was with me . . . I just wasn’t with Him. My mind dwelt on the pile of things I needed to do and how inadequate I felt to accomplish most of it.

God waited for me to turn to Him—to take my thoughts and feelings to Him and dwell in Him. All along, He was right there, holding me. Our loving God holds you and me. Do we talk with Him as though He’s holding us? You and I are His Beloved. BELOVED. When this is my approach, I feel secure.
Try it.

When we turn to God, we practice trusting Him. We decide to rely on Him. Instead of leading our way, we ask for His.

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5.3)

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56.3)

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62.8)

Welcome God in to your thoughts—as you drive, wait in a line, take a walk, vacuum, shower, or stare at that pile on the counter.

God, I commit this day to you. Help me be present to your presence today.
God, I am overwhelmed. Please help me unload all this to you.
You are faithful. You are with me. I am your Beloved.

Invite Him to join that conversation. Better yet, ask Him to lead you through—with your boss, a co-worker, your husband, child, a friend.

God, help me only say what you want me to say.
Give me understanding, insight, and grace.
Please heal, strengthen, and grow this relationship your way. 

Include Him as you think through that project or assignment, ponder that looming decision, or consider the best way forward in a challenging relationship.

God, I don’t know how to go forward. I need your wisdom and guidance.
Please protect me.
Help me trust you, discern your will, and follow you.

Live like a lifelong learner. Every day we learn and practice. When we pray, we practice relying on God. We draw near.  Try it.

When Circumstances Overwhelm Us

I have friends in Houston, Texas, and surrounding towns—you may also—who are experiencing the rains and winds of Hurricane Harvey’s lingering effects. For all that can be predicted, they know they have to wait and then live through what actually comes. And that’s hard. At the same time, all other challenging matters of life haven’t evaporated. For the moment, they may shrink in comparison, but they’re still there.

You know what I mean. A new trial develops, yet the other hard things remain, too. We press on, hanging in there, until sometimes we wear down, fall apart, cry, pray, vent, and try our best to keep praying—to keep holding on to the One who holds us and holds all creation.

“I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD . . . speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” (1 Samuel 1.15b-16)

All week I’ve been planted in this passage in 1 Samuel 1.1-20, where God unfolds how Hannah perseveres in faith and how he attends her heart through her circumstances. Hannah prays for years to conceive a child, plus her husband’s other wife regularly provokes her that she’s born multiple children. One big trial compounded by another—Can you relate?

Hannah is “deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” (v.10)

Anxiety, worry, pain, and frustration accompany Hannah’s heart. Yet, the Companion whose company she steadfastly chooses is her LORD. She takes her experiences and feelings to God, not holding back. She unloads every aspect of her burden, letting tears wash her empty.

This is intimacy with God. Raw and honest, yet worshipful. God is Hannah’s heavenly Father and Lord.

“Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (v.18b)

Her face was no longer sad. She went “her way,” back to the circumstances that currently define her life. Yet, she went changed—changed by her encounter with the living God. Changed by his love that filled all places in her heart when she emptied all that burdened her. She “went” with God, with His peace that passes all understanding.

Hannah’s no-longer-sad face reflects a heart that has overcome the overwhelm of circumstances in the power of God’s love. She trusts God—that He sees, listens, holds, and loves her through all circumstance.

Dear God,
Thank you for sharing a segment of Hannah’s life and relationship with us. Help us seek to know you more as our Father and Lord, who loves us immeasurably. Teach and prompt us to steadfastly walk with You through all circumstances. Amen.