For the past few days I had been feeling down. I had been reflecting on my past; seeing some of the patterns that have woven in an out of my circumstances. Talk about complete frustration. I normally take the train to work, although it helps with road rage, it can be a nightmare for those of us whose minds won’t stop racing and we are then left to our own thoughts. I had been struggling with feelings of inadequacy; not being good enough.
It seemed like there was always someone who could do things better, who was smarter, funnier, more organized, more biblically literate, well spoken, or articulate. In reality, my concerns were true, there will always be someone who does something better, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t good at what you do as well.
These feelings showed up when I was stepping out into new territory and when I was unsure of myself or the situation. And at times they were paralyzing; I wouldn’t be able to move forward with what I was trying to do. I would find some excuse and completely give up or find another way. I had dealt with this before, and I had prayed for deliverance. I know God answers prayers and I thought He had answered this one. So why was I feeling like this yet again?
The few days of feeling down was starting to take its toll on me. I had been praying that God will release me from this funk. My devotions weren’t giving me the motivation I needed to feel more optimistic or in tune with God. But I knew that He had something for me, I just needed to keep pressing on…I’ll hear from Him soon.
While I’m working I normally listen to Pandora to keep me focused and inspired throughout the day. Boy, did I need some inspiration on this particular day. Sometimes you can hear a particular song and it makes you feel the presence of God and appreciate all that He’s done on your behalf.
Well, on came a song that I had never heard before…Cycles by Jonathan McReynolds. OMG! After listening to the entire song, I had to get up from my desk as tears started rolling down my face. This song was speaking to me; speaking to my pain and the way that I had been feeling. He sings,
Didn’t I conquer this last year?
Tell me what I missed ’cause I fear
That it’s coming back up again….
See the devil, he learns from your mistakes
Even if you don’t
That’s how he keeps you in cycles, cycles
I listened to the song over and over again – at work, on the ride home, and even when I got home. I went from feeling down, to feeling inspired, to praising God. You see, He heard my prayers and He heard my hearts cry….and He answered….in song.
I have these periods where life seems to be going really well, and then in creeps the same issues or feelings that I thought I had already conquered. You know this particular issue I was struggling with, but you may be struggling with issues like financial troubles, weight management, destructive behaviors, unproductive relationships, inability to move forward, negative thoughts, abuse, procrastination, depression, anxiety, addiction. I could go on and on.
When I think about this constant cycle of ups and downs, repeating the same situation over and over again, I think about the book of Judges. I read the book of Judges and I get so frustrated. I’m like really, Israel, y’all just can’t get it together huh? They sin, God punishes, they repent, and God delivers. The same cycle over and over again. “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord….” (Judges) By the time we get to Jephthah, I’m like enough already! Get it together! Lord, I know you had to be at your wit’s end with them!
But then I’m quickly reminded that I’m not that different from them. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your bother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 17:3 NIV) Ouch!
I make the same mistakes over and over again, and I’m 100% sure He’s been at His wit’s end with me too, wondering why I can’t get it together either. But like the Israelites, He forgives, patches me up, and sends me on my way. I quickly had to take that plank out of my eye.
Thank you Lord for Your mercy, grace, forgiveness and deliverance!!
Those things you thought you’ve overcome but somehow they manage to creep back up and gain control again, pulling you back into a cycle, let’s call them “thorns”.
Thorn is defined as a source of continual irritation and suffering or a spiny plant. For the sake of this discussion we are going with the continual irritation and suffering definition. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul talks about having “a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” We are not quite sure what Paul’s thorn was. Some speculate that it was a physical ailment. Whatever it was, it prevented him from working at times and was a hindrance to his ministry. Paul had prayed to God three times for Him to remove this thorn, but God did not. God’s reply in 2 Corinthians 12:9 was:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul continued on despite his thorn and his ministry thrived.
The cycle of thorns is not the problem. They are the things created by the enemy to keep us distracted from God and His love for us. If the enemy can get us to focus on our thorns, our sufferings, our mistakes, our shortcomings, our additions, he knows that we are not focused on God’s provision – the only thing that can get us through.
God doesn’t always take away our thorns but He provides a way for us to continue on. Those thorns are there for a reason; they keep us humble. They teach us compassion, empathy, and to love one another. The lesson that we fail to get is to have faith and trust in God. The enemy knows the things we won’t turn over to God and allow Him to help us with. So he uses them to get at us and keep us under his foot.
But when those issues or feelings come up and we immediately go to the One that can heal, sustain, guide and gets us through, the devil then realizes he’s lost. He realizes he can no longer get at you with that issue……but unfortunately he’ll try to hinder you with something else.
My issue of inadequacy, I’ve come to understand, is my thorn. It will always be with me in some way, but I no longer let it stop me from moving forward. I put my faith and trust in God – that He will not take me to or put me in a situation that He has not prepared me for. And then He will give me the strength to get through. I am more sensitive to those who need a little understanding, patience, and encouragement when they too are feeling inadequate.
Cycles can be broken, but it’s up to you. You have to determine how you’re going to respond – are you going to go to the only source that can help you? Or are you going to let the evil one keep you on this emotional or situational yo-yo? The choice is yours.
What are you going to do?