More Than We Can Handle

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  I’ve heard this said so many times to people when they are facing difficulties.  It´s meant to encourage. I’ve heard it preached from the pulpit.  I’ve read it in devotionals.  Just this morning actually it was part of the devotional that my husband read to the kids before they headed out the door and off to school. I spoke out and said, “that’s not true!” And actually, it’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine actually, because I don’t believe it to be true. I believe at times that God absolutely gives us more than we can handle.

I can almost hear people saying…” Wait a minute! It says that in the Bible…that God will not give us more than we are able to bear! ” But does it really? For a long time I thought so too. Then I tried finding scripture to support that thought and found none. I can assure you, you won’t find it either.  I used to think when times of difficulty came that God must thing I am super strong because I sure didn’t feel like I was handling things so well.  Quite the opposite in fact. I used to think…how much more am I supposed to take, God? I used to wonder when things would ever end.  Would there ever be a light at the end of the tunnel? There were times it just seemed like it was one trial after another.

So, why have we heard so often that God won’t give you more than you can handle? The verse that is so often taken out of context and the verse that people are thinking of is this…

1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

The verse is referring to temptation. Not trials. Not sorrow. Not the burdens we carry. Not the things that break us….but temptation.

My thinking is that if God does not give us more than we can handle than why would we need a Savior? If we could do everything on our own and in our own strength we would not need to depend on him. We wouldn’t need him in our lives. We wouldn’t need to cry out to him when the hard times come because we could handle things just fine on our own.

2 Corinthians 1:8b-9 We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God who raises the dead.

There will be times in life where we feel like we are drowning, times where we feel like we can’t possible take any more. There will be times when our world is falling apart. There will be times that we feel like we have no more tears left to cry. There will be times in our lives when something will blindside us, and times where we are powerless.

But, here is the thing…We were not meant to do life on our own and in our own strength. God wants us to rely on His strength. Maybe we can’t handle it…but He can.

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

Isaiah 41.10 Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will HOLD YOU UP with my victorious right hand.

 

Matthew 11:28-30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

1 Peter 5:10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So, after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support and strengthen you. And he will place you on a firm foundation.

One more thing that brings me a bit of comfort…. knowing that our Lord felt the same way. He knew what it was like to feel lonely, and rejected.  He knew how it felt to be hated, to be made fun of and accused of things he did not do. He knew how it felt to be in deep anguish.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

So if that is where you are right now, in this moment of your life…feeling like you just can’t take any more…know that He gets it. He has been there. He understands your pain and all you are going through and he cares.

1 Peter 5.7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Take Courage!

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

2 Chronicles 15:7 says “But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

Rewinding life about nine and a half years ago, I vividly remember the feeling I had after my firstborn and I were settled into our hospital room together. Labor and delivery now behind me, nurses reassigned to new labouring moms, husband sleeping soundly in the cot beside me, my sweet friend home to catch up on the nights sleep she sacrificed to help me as I laboured—and I remember wondering if I could ever fall asleep again because life was just too good to miss.

As I stared into the bluer-than-blue eyes of my precious newborn baby boy, I was ever-aware that God had everything to do with this dream come true.

I was finally a mom.

1 Samuel 1:27 says “I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.”

God answered our prayer, and gave us a beautiful family. I have many more moments like this one in my memory bank to pull out when those less-than-amazing moments arise. And they do.

There have been many moments as a mom that I wish I could go back and do differently. Pages from my mom story that I wish I could re-write. Moments that I wish I could erase, while other moments I wish I could bottle up and re-live as often as I would like.

The older my children get, the harder this mom-job gets. It is in those less-than-amazing moments, when I am elbow deep in the grit of loving and disciplining, that I desperately grasp that very first moment when I was ever-aware of the Lord’s blessing me with these miracle lives. I choose to allow the blessing of the job to outweigh the stress of it, and I press onward, holding onto the promise found in 2 Chronicles 15:7.

Are you struggling with a lack of gratefulness for a known blessing, my friend? Let’s “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Finishing Well

Written by: Conny Varga

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.” (2 Tim 4:7-8)

Whenever I come across these verses written by the Apostle Paul, I can’t help but to stop and marvel. For someone – anyone – to be able to make this statement seems almost impossible.

I would venture to say that most of us, when on our deathbeds, will look back with at least a little regret, and wish we had done some things differently. Some common regrets are: I wish I had spent more time with my kids; I wish I had worked less and lived more; I wish I had shared the gospel with my extended family more often; I wish I had reconciled with so-and-so; I wish I had done more for God.

Why is this such a common phenomenon? I believe that in our heart, we all want to finish well, we all want to be able to look back and feel thankful and satisfied about our lives, knowing we did our best.

Most likely, the culprit is a wrong perspective, which results in wrong priorities. Our human tendency is to focus on the few decades we have on this earth, and to work tirelessly to make our time here cushy and comfy. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting a good life, it becomes a grave mistake when that notion becomes our priority. Suddenly, we lose sight of eternity. We get so focused on the house, the job, the retirement plan, the next vacation, that the things most important in our lives are left by the wayside.

There are times when I think that a clean house is more important than time with my kids. Having my fridge and pantry stocked is more important than giving to the cause of the poor and needy. I deserve a nice house with a finished basement, while I ignore the countless people in this world who don’t even have a place to call their own. Having a good time with family and friends sounds a lot more fun than sharing the Good News of God’s grace with them. Working extra hours to afford the better lifestyle seems more attractive than being satisfied with what God has already given me. The never-ending work around the house and property takes precedence over meaningful time spent with my spouse and children. Hockey and dance practice trump the hard work and dedication of hiding God’s Word in our hearts.

I believe this is where the Apostle Paul had it right. He dedicated his whole life to the service of God. From what we can tell, he did not lose sight of that, even when he did every-day things like earn his own living. In his writings, he often indicated that he dedicated himself to the cause of the Gospel to the point of exhaustion, persecution, and even death. He did not let a single opportunity go by without using it to glorify God, and he considered it a joy and blessing to be spent for the Gospel of Christ.

Will we re-dedicate our lives, re-focus our vision, and re-prioritize our goals to fight the good fight? It is incredibly hard, and truly counter-cultural, but so rewarding and worth it. I believe this is what Jesus meant in Luke 12:22-34. In this passage, He urged His disciples not to worry, not to run after the same things the pagans (unbelievers) run after, because our Heavenly Father knows our needs. And then He made this startling statement: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” God wants to give us the Kingdom, if we only let go of our petty little things and seek Him first! He wants to give us so much more than what we can ask or imagine. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask me! Let’s take Paul’s words to heart, fight the good fight, and finish the race well! Then we will have no regrets when we breathe our last breath!

Words of Life

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

According to Webster’s dictionary the word proverb means, “a brief popular epigram, adage,” or “a short saying that is widely used to express an obvious truth.”  Often a proverb indicates a positive action necessary on the part of the reader.  Even when you break down the word proverb into its two parts you see the smaller words pro (positive) and verb (action) within.  In essence, a proverb is positivity moving forward!

I recall a time when a proverb from the Bible, one read many times before, struck me in a new way!  Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  I was walking through a particularly difficult time at work, feeling the weight and pressure of deadlines, financial upheaval and staffing dynamics.  There were days all I wanted to do was turtle from my responsibilities and take as many days off as was allowed.  There were also days where I was ready to approach every situation and interaction with fire, fury and an unparalleled ferocity.  I must admit that there were days where my words matched the latter.

Thankfully, through his incredible grace, God brought this verse along my path and by His Spirit it pierced my heart and filled my mind.  I was reminded that words have incredible power over situations and over people.  The Lord showed me again that there are words of life and words of death; that words spoken carelessly or negatively can seriously damage the work God wants to do in others and definitely wreak havoc in my own life.  He showed me that my ability to verbalize is a God given privilege, because I am made in His image, and one I should protect and use responsibly.  That I must be careful when, if and how I wield my tongue.  That I must begin to speak the name of Jesus over every broken part of my workplace so that life and healing can take place.

Daughters, it is so easy for us to bend to the world’s standard of quick-witted retorts, petty insults, hurtful accusations and slanderous gossip, in an effort to relieve our feelings of frustration and of being wronged.  The world feeds us a steady diet of revenge and retaliation, of standing up for our rights and making others pay.  We are conditioned to take action and deal quickly with situations, to speak our minds freely and pat our self-esteem.

However, God shows us a very different path of communication with others.  In James 1:19 we see that God wants us to be, “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  Much easier said than done, but an action we must all adhere to for peace and life to abound in any and every situation.  We must engage the Holy Spirit in helping us to achieve this, sometimes each and every moment of the day!

We can simply pray, “Holy Spirit, help me,” before answering a feared phone call, or interacting with a particularly toxic co-worker, or entering a heated meeting, or facing a financial partner.  Whatever we face, at home, work or play, we can enlist the help of the Almighty God, through His Spirit, to effectively communicate words of life everywhere we find ourselves.  Our words will no longer pierce, but heal!  These are split second prayers, but they keep us in touch with God’s presence, and are powerful against our flesh and the enemy!

I have learned that as I positively act to change my speech patterns, bringing them in line with the Spirit of God, I find greater joy in life and can confidently handle all that life throws my way.  My hope is this encourages you to do the same.  I will leave you with this one final verse, Ephesians 4:29.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Unity…What Does It Look Like?

Written by: Jody Mugford

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of unity among Christians.  If you’ve listened to a handful of sermons, you’ve probably heard some teaching on how God wants us to be unified as a church, a body of believers representing Jesus.  But what does that mean?  What does it look like in our daily lives?  This has got the wheels in my head turning…

Let’s look back to Genesis 11, to the story of the Tower of Babel.  The people came together and decided they would build a tower that reaches the heavens, to make a name for themselves.  God saw what they were doing and said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6).  So He intervened by confusing their languages so they couldn’t understand each other, thus incapable of accomplishing what they had set out to do.  Granted, the people’s intentions were not honourable, but even God acknowledged the power of their unity.  He said Himself that they would be able to succeed in anything they decided to do, when they decided to do it together.  How much more can WE, as believers, accomplish when we join in unity?

Throughout my life, I’ve heard many conversations about the need to be unified but we often don’t know what to do next.  It’s unlikely we will all agree on every theological detail or that we will have the same opinions about various ministries.  So how are we to be unified?

There is one thing that we can be undeniably unified about, across all churches and denominations, and that is the need to show Jesus to a lost world.

“I in them and You in Me – so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.  John 17:23

When we are functioning in unity with one another, the world will see Jesus.  When we are not living as a unified body, this presents a confusing Jesus.  We may say with our words that Jesus loves and saves, heals and restores, but if all the world sees are Christians arguing with each other, intolerant of differences, and hopeless under the stresses of life, this behaviour will speak much louder.  So what can we do?  Take some time to read Romans 12.  You will find much of the answer there!

“Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.”  Romans 12:16

Living in harmony is a great concept.  Harmony means to be in agreement with one another and to join different components together to create something even better, such as a musical chord.  In a chord, the notes are different but when played in unison they make a beautiful sound.  When we look at the common goal of showing God’s love to the world, we cannot forget Paul’s teaching on the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8), and how we are not the same but all part of one body.  We do not have the same functions but we work together, using the gifts we have been given, to the show the world who Jesus really is.

“So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:11-13

We may feel the urge to exclude our responsibility from this verse because we are not pastors.  We may not be pastors of a church but we are certainly evangelists and teachers for Christ.  And as such, we should be looking for ways to encourage each other to use our gifts.  Some are great musicians, so let’s be intentional to give them opportunities to use their musical talent to minister to others.  Some are great conversationalists and can make anyone feel welcome and loved.  Let’s give them opportunities to chat and connect with people!  Some love to bake and it does their heart good to whip up something delicious for a person in need of care.  Some love to fix things and take care of those that may have repairs they can’t afford.  Some are great administrators and would flourish if left in charge of organizing an event for the community.  Friends, let’s start to get creative.  How do you and your brothers and sisters in Christ want to show Jesus to others?  When you think of showing love to another, what are the ideas that come to your mind?  They are probably different from someone else’s ideas because they stem from your own passions and how you would serve others best.  Let’s start creating opportunities where we can all minister in the ways God has equipped us.  Not everyone fits the same mould, and thank God we don’t!

The opportunities are endless and I’m getting excited just writing about it!  So here’s my challenge, for you and for myself.  Take some time today to think and pray about the gifts and abilities God has given you.  Do not downplay yourself, friends.  You have much to offer in the body of Christ and to those around you.  Also, take some time to think about the gifts God has given those around you.  There is probably quite a variety and you can rest assured that God has designed it that way intentionally to meet the needs of your community.  Start asking the Holy Spirit to show you ways that you can use your abilities to minister to others and how you can encourage your brothers and sisters to do the same.  Be prepared!  God will likely give you amazing ideas you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.  Lastly, when He speaks to you…obey.  Have faith and step out.  He’s with you, friend.

I believe that having eyes to see each other’s gifts and a servant’s heart to reach those in need will help immensely to unify our church.  That unity will break down walls of hurt and isolation and it will allow us to show Jesus to the world, the true Jesus.

Love and blessings,

Jody

EMBRACING FENCES AND GUARDRAILS

Written by: Christianne Williams

A few years ago, our family decided to adopt two beautiful dogs.  Our oldest boys were requesting a pet, and they were adamant that they could handle the responsibility.  Now, truth be told I’m a cat person.  They’re independent and social so you get the benefit of love from a furry friend but they can pretty much look after themselves.  No regulating food or walking necessary.  My husband, on the other hand, is a dog lover and so he sided with the boys saying it would be a good opportunity for the boys to learn responsibility and how others are dependent on our choices.

We brought the dogs home and the first few weeks were great.  The novelty of having them around ensured that they were brushed, fed, walked, cuddled, and cared for.  We made sure they felt the love.  But we began to notice that these furry kids had a wandering streak, one that compelled them to explore the far reaches of our community.  The problem with this was that they loved to go unleashed and seized every opportunity to escape our yard, leaving our children running through every neighbour’s yard trying to chase them down.

We decided that the only way to fix this problem was to put in an underground electric fence. We were certain that this would solve our problem, after all, one of our neighbors had one and his dog stayed within his boundaries. After the expense of buying the system and the labor to put it in the ground, we very quickly learned that the dogs were smarter than we thought.  One day, about a day after the fence was installed, one dog couldn’t get away from his wandering ways and so he decided to ‘jump’ it.  He started at one corner of our property and we could see right away what his intent was.  He began to run, and kept on going, right through the electric force, realizing that once he reached a certain point, he really was free.  The other dog was quick to follow, and so were the kids.

After a few years and many attempts to keep those dogs safe in our yard, we made the difficult decision to send the dogs to live on a farm.  We didn’t want them to be tied to a tree in the back yard, unable to explore and be free.  They had lots of space to run, and although we missed them greatly, they were safe.  We had done everything we could do to make them feel loved, safe, and cared for but still they chose to run outside the boundaries.  When they went outside, they were putting themselves at risk and our boys at risk, the boundaries were there to keep them safe.

As our children grow we similarly have rules in place that allow them to grow and become responsible while still keeping them safe.  We don’t do these things because we hate them and want to make their lives miserable, although that’s usually what they think, we do it because we have wisdom that they don’t and we want to give them a safe ‘yard’ to grow in.

In the Garden of Eden God gave Adam and Eve the boundary of not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He wasn’t doing that to withhold good from them, but to protect them from the evil that would come from it.  Unfortunately, they felt the need to go outside the boundary God had set for them, and it cost them greatly.  There’s nothing harder as a parent than watching your child decide to go outside a boundary you’ve set for them and learn the hard way that you were only trying to protect them.

There have been times in life when looking at the boundaries God has set for us, we’ve likely felt the compulsion to push them a bit, to see what’s on the other side, like the cartoon I once saw that showed two people standing in the road with what looked like a fence in front of them.  One had decided that he didn’t want to be fenced in, he wanted to see what was so good on the other side.  The other was saying,

“It’s not a fence, it’s a guardrail” but it was too late because the other had already jumped over and was falling off the cliff that was waiting on the other side.

Let’s not despise the boundaries, fences, or guardrails that God puts in our lives.  Let’s embrace them, knowing that everything we need to go on in life is within the spaces God has allowed us to live in.  Learn from Adam and Eve’s example that God won’t withhold any good thing from us.  If it’s on the other side of the fence, perhaps then it’s not meant for us.

He Goes Before You and Me

Written by: Cindy Morrone

I love watching the Royal Family.  I am amazed at how when they enter a room, the doors are swung wide open for them and all attention is on their entering.  They carry nothing in their posed, gloved hands.

When I enter somewhere it is nothing like royalty.

I may appear disheveled on any given day.  I am fumbling to open any door with one arm carrying a car seat filled with a precious one.  There is usually a diaper bag, purse and often times a book bag slung on the other shoulder.  I may draw attention to our entering but only by those wondering, “What on earth?”  Haha!!

I was anticipating something I had never done before.  It was big.  There would be a lot of major decisions made in that one meeting, that would affect myself and my family directly.  It would impact my everyday life and my life’s calling.

I was so anxious.  Wondering about the ‘What Ifs?’ Not having control, except for a small voice, over the outcome.

I don’t know about you but the new, the unknown, the uncertain are difficult for me.

Beforehand, I was so thankful that I reached out to some dear friends because I was reminded;

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

In his last days Moses, spoke these words to his successor, Joshua.  Joshua was to cross the Jordan and enter into the Promised land.  Moses assured Joshua that the Lord, Himself would go before him.

We have that same assurance.

And as soon as I entered that meeting, it was immediately evident that the Lord had gone before me.  He had already prepared the way.

I pray, that you are reminded this very day that whatever your Jordan looks like that the Lord goes before you.  He never leaves us or forsakes us.

Not Forgotten

Written by: Carolyn Ruttan

The other day at the table my family was reminiscing about some funny albeit embarassing times. We shared a lot of laughs. One of those times was a particular Saturday when we lived in Stratford. I had taken the van to get groceries. When I was finished getting groceries, I locked everything up in the back of the van and walked over to Dollarama in the same plaza. I found whatever items I needed there, checked out and began the short 5 minute walk home.

I was not home long before reality hit. My husband Dale was napping on the couch. A few minutes before this, I had walked up an empty driveway still not cluing in.  I even asked him, “if you are here, where’s the van?” He responded with the obvious.. “Didn’t you take the van to get groceries?” Duh!! Of course! I still can’t believe that I could forget buying an entire week worth of groceries, and walk home without them! I guess my son Ben would say it was an “honest mistake.” Normally, if I only needed a few items at the grocery store, I would walk. It was such a short distance after all, and I do love to walk. Until moving to Honduras,  I was of the mindset, why would I drive if could walk?

Now, I can’t imagine that ever happening again. However, I will say that I make a list when I get groceries or I will inevitably end up forgetting something that I need to make a certain recipe for that week’s menu.  Often though, I forget my list at home! I hope I am not the only one who does this!

Isn’t good to know that God does not forget us?  Sometimes, we may feel like he has. Sometimes we go through things and we may question Him, God, where are you? We may not feel his presence in our lives. We may feel like he is silent. Sometimes life is hard. Really hard.  It can throw us curves when we least expect them; like my dad getting cancer….again.  Or suddenly winding up in the hospital. Or being robbed.  Things don’t always go as we plan and I think that is especially true here in Honduras! Those who live here will totally understand that! We have the word flexi-juice for a reason.

I read this verse in my devotions this morning:

Isaiah 49:15-16 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

We are engraved on the palms of his hands! How amazing is that? How many of us have written things on the palms of our hands so we won´t forget? Like a phone number for example or something we don’t want to forget.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 139:17,18 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot even be numbered! I can’t even count them. They outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me.

We recently spent a few days of vacation on the north shore of Honduras during Holy Week.  I spent a lot of time walking on the beach, because I love to walk and I was reminded of that verse. Think for a moment how many grains of sand would be at the ocean or on the ocean floor. One grain of sand is so tiny you can hardly see it….and yet His thoughts of you….of me outnumber those grains of sand. I so love that visual. Oh how he loves us!!

Two Little Pink Lines

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Who knew two little pink lines could bring one so much happiness?! As I watched those two little pink lines grow clearer and clearer I was filled with an unforgettable happiness. Just a few years before that doctors were telling me I would never be able to have children of my own and yet, here I was, watching confirmation of a third pregnancy appear right before my eyes.

Nathan and I shared in the happiness as this was an answer to our prayers! After blood tests confirmed what those little pink lines already told us we visited the doctor and learned we were about ten weeks along! What a wonderful miracle!

The afternoon after our doctors appointment we baked a cake together and decorated it with fondant creations that resembled a pregnant belly, a bowl of ice cream, and a dill pickle along with the words “we’re expecting” written across its top. When our friends came for dinner that evening, we showed them the cake and they too shared in our happiness! Baby Hill number three would soon join our precious little tribe.

Just one week later experiencing the high of happiness this new pregnancy brought with it, we were experiencing the opposite— complete and absolute devastation. At eleven weeks gestation our precious little one was no more. Until these circumstances, I had no idea it was even possible to feel so many emotions at one time.

My husband and I came home from spending the night at the hospital and grieved. As I laid my head on my pillow I cried tears of sadness like I never had before.

A friend sent me a message that morning, not knowing anything of our situation, that included these verses from scripture: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” —Job 1:21; “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper, not to harm, plans to give you a bright hope for the future.” —Jeremiah 29:11

I couldn’t believe it as I read these words. Knowing the story of Job and all he endured, I knew the Lord was showing me that even through these unimaginable circumstances, He was the Hope I needed to put my complete trust in. He knew all the details, and my job was simply to continue lifting up and blessing His holy name!

I don’t know what circumstances you are facing today, but I do know that God knows all things and holds the knowledge of every detail of your future in His hands. Trust Him. Bless Him. And know your only hope comes from Him and Him alone.

The Fishbowl Syndrome

Written by: Conny Varga

We are creatures of habit. Of comfort. Of mindless routine. We love the security of a predictable life. We are happy hanging out with people who are just like us, who think and feel and live like us. We find satisfaction in following to-do lists and placing checkmarks beside the “good deed for the day”.

When Jesus lived among humanity, He was anything but all that. In fact, He had some pretty critical comments reserved for people whose lives were marked by outward, mindless routine. And with good reason: The Gospel does not fit into that mold. The Gospel is radical, unconventional, even scary. There is no predictability in how God will choose to act in a person’s life, how He will choose to open our eyes to His truth, and how He will choose to involve us in His Kingdom work. The only constant factor in it all is God Himself, and His redemptive work of salvation on the cross.

Maybe you are like me. I love serving God, as long as it’s on my terms and I feel fairly comfortable about the task set before me. I like staying in my own little box, and I expect God to fit into that box as well. I like calling this box a fishbowl. Have you ever watched a fish – or group of fish – in a fishbowl? It’s kind of boring, isn’t it? We shake our heads at how mindlessly they just swim in circles, over and over.

But aren’t we the same? We love the comforts of our little sandcastle, the fake plant, the other fish that are forever around us. And we are busy, oh so busy, swimming in circles, doing the same things day after day and never changing.

Jesus called us to change radically! He urges us to leave our old, boring, meaningless life behind, and He offers freedom and purpose in return! In a way, He made a pathway out of our little fishbowl into the great sea, and all we have to do is to swim through that pathway to get to it. But the sea is scary, it’s big, and it’s unpredictable. Do we keep swimming back to the safety of our little bowl? I know I do!

I believe we can even view church that way. We love the comfort of our fishbowl called church. We love the other fish in the bowl with us, we love how we do church, and we are happy and content within the four walls of our church. If a stray fish or two from the great sea happen to come really close to our little fishbowl, we even go as far as inviting them into our circle of fish, telling them how great life inside the bowl is.

So then why did Jesus command us to “go and tell”, to “go to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all nations”? Because He knew that the Gospel could never be contained within the walls of a structure, within the security of routine and rules. God’s work on this earth is vast and varied, and Jesus knew that the only way we can truly be effective disciples is if we venture out of our little world into His big wide world, see the world around us the way He sees it, and follow Him everywhere He goes.

Let’s encourage each other to break out of our detrimental habits and routine, to “be” the church, not just go to church, and to go out there and get involved in God’s redemptive work on this earth. There is so much to learn, so much to do, so much to pray for, so much to grow. Be a fish who is not afraid to swim against the current, who is not afraid to follow Jesus out into the great sea and become a “fisher of men” instead of just a fishbowl maintenance guy. Then encourage your friends to do the same! We can be a “school of fish” who can accomplish much for our Lord if we only venture out!