You Are Here

Sometimes in life, you will find yourself in a place that you don’t want to be. It may be a job you don’t like, an unhappy marriage, a lower financial status than you’d hoped for, or many other things. In some of these situations, it may be appropriate to try to make a change. Seeking a new job that you enjoy more may be a good thing, for instance. However, in many of those types of circumstances, it is simply a matter of learning contentment. Remember, God allows trials in our lives to mature us spiritually. You can’t and shouldn’t change things every time you don’t like them; you shouldn’t get a divorce, recklessly quit your job without thinking, or start buying everything you’ve ever wanted on your credit card just because you’re unhappy. Instead, you need to learn contentment.

The key to being content is relying on God for joy, instead of seeking it in the circumstances of your life. If you are depending on yourself to make changes in order to find happiness, then that happiness will never be permanent. Permanent joy can only come from God, and learning to be content in any situation is one of the keys to finding that joy in Him. Of course, sometimes changes do need to be made.

So when is it right to change your situation, and when do you need to learn to be content? Well, maybe there’s a middle ground for some situations. For instance, although you should not get divorced, you also shouldn’t have to just accept an unhappy marriage. A middle ground here could be working on your marriage in the areas that can be improved, and working on contentment in the areas that can’t (because no spouse will ever be perfect). In some cases, it would be better for you to learn to be content with the way things are. If you have enough money to live a healthy life but not enough to make you “happy,” then you should work on being content with what you have and killing your idolization of money. In other cases, you should not try to learn contentedness at all. If you are being abused, for example, getting out of that situation is an important and God-honoring change for you to make. 

Here are my guidelines for when to make changes in life:

1) If the situation you are in is hurting you or others, then change the situation (and remember to do so in a loving way.)

2) If the situation you are in is causing you serious discontentment despite continuously seeking joy through God, then make a change where appropriate. More importantly, continue learning contentedness through God in the areas you can’t change.

And finally,

3) If the situation you are in is causing you discontentment and you are not seeking joy through God, then don’t change your situation, but do change your attitude to one of God-seeking contentedness. Remember that God is the only source of true joy! Work on surrendering your earthly desires to Him and focusing on Godly desires instead.

I’ve recently had to put this system to the test.

I am currently a college student at a private university near my home, where I’m working towards my bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts. I’m a sophomore, and I’ve done very well in school so far. The problem is… I hate school. Ok, so “hate” may be a strong word to use here. But basically, I find myself very discontented in the day-to-day tasks of school. I dread going to class, and when I do, the relatively short class period drags on for what seems like forever. Daily homework assignments are so uninteresting and unattractive to me that I end up just not doing them, or doing them with as little effort as possible. Essays and projects are looming burdens that I try to put off for as long as possible, and then eventually crank out as quickly as I can. Learning at school is just not something I’m interested in. And no matter how much I try to focus on God and seek joy through Him, it’s been difficult for me to be content in this situation. For all of these reasons, I spend much of my time in auto-pilot, simply trying to get things done so I can get out of school and move on with my life. Unfortunately, I’m still not even half way done.

When I recently expressed these feelings of frustration to my close friends, one of them suggested that I consider whether college is really in God’s plan for me. Hearing this was like a shock to my heart, and it woke me up to the fact that I have other options! Contrary to what I used to think, I am not stuck.

After that, things happened pretty quickly. I did a lot of praying and thinking, spent some time researching, and finally came up with a plan. Instead of simply dropping out and wasting all of the money, time, and energy I’ve put into school up until now, I’m going to get my associate’s degree. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, an associate’s degree is basically a lower-level degree that you can get in two years instead of four. By transferring my units from my current university to my local community college, I can finish my degree in another semester and a half. I can also take a lot of those courses online, which will cut back on one of my least favorite parts of school—sitting in class.

In forming this plan, I’ve also had to do a lot of thinking and researching about what I’m going to do after college. After all, I won’t have a bachelor’s degree, which is required for many jobs. So how am I going to support myself and my family? Well, after praying about the issue for quite a while, God gave me an answer. I now have a clear sense of my passions in life—children and writing—and how I can use them for God’s glory while at the same time financially supporting my family. I’m going to do this by running a daycare, and later a home school program for my children and others; being a stay-home mom to take care of the kids and house; and writing novels to make extra money. It’s pretty much my perfect dream come true!

However. Yes, there is a however. Despite the fact that this plan sounds great and will probably work out, there is always the chance that it won’t. After all, life is not perfect. I need to be prepared to find contentedness even if the situation changes again. And even if it does work out, realistically I won’t always be completely happy with the situation. For example, I probably won’t be all that happy when I’m in school for the next year, finishing my degree. I probably won’t be completely satisfied when I’m trying to get on my feet financially after college, and waiting for my husband to establish his business so we can start our family. I probably won’t be thrilled when I’m dealing with the numerous and uncomfortable medical appointments during my pregnancy, and I definitely won’t be cheerful as I approach the terrifying prospect of childbirth. So you see, even though I’m making positive changes for my life, I still have to learn contentment for the times (and there will be many) that aren’t so great.

Which brings me to my main point; making changes in your life can be helpful, but even then, learning to be content is still an important skill. As a Godly man recently said to me, “the grass isn’t greener on the other side; the grass is greener where you water it.” In other words, changing your life to find a better situation will only help if you put an effort into being content in the new situation. And sometimes, it may not be necessary to change the situation because a simple “watering” will do. For example, the solution to a rocky marriage isn’t to get out of it; the solution is to give the relationship a little more care and attention, and to nurture the marriage back to health.

So when you find yourself in a situation that you don’t want to be in, ask yourself this: am I discontent because I’m not trying to make the best of this situation and improve it, or am I discontent because I’m in a situation that God isn’t calling me to be in? If it sounds more like the first, then it’s time to put in some work to improve things, and more importantly to focus on God as your source of joy. If it sounds more like the second, though, then change it. Just remember that life will never be perfect, and continue to seek joy through God and contentment in your life situation.

This is your life; you are here. Don’t like it? Then do something about it.

Decisions, decisions…

For most people, life doesn’t always go according to plan. Things come up that dramatically change what we had previously pictured for our futures, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Even the bad things, though, can turn out to be good. Well, “good” may not be the exact right word, but I do believe that God uses all bad things for the good. So even though the bad things aren’t good, they do result in good things. For example, the death of a loved one is never a good thing. However, it can bring people closer to God, give them a wake up call about how they are living their lives, or end the suffering of the loved one who died. So while bad things are still bad, God does use them for the good.

There are other things that can change the path of our lives besides the significant good or bad things that happen to us. Often, our lives change because of a realization we make, a calling that we feel, or a roadblock that gets in our way. All of these things are out of our control! Of course, our reactions to these things are under our control for the most part, but overall the reality is that life is not something we can control.

For some people, that prospect may be scary. For me, though, it’s comforting. That’s because I know that while I’m not in control, God is. And to be honest about myself, I think that’s a much better deal than I would get if I were in control. Why? Because I’m human. My perspective on life is unbelievably limited compared to God’s. The decisions I make are often flawed. My desires and dreams and goals are changeable, and as I often find out later, they are many times not the best path for me after all. If I were in charge of my life and everything that happened to me, things would certainly be a mess.

Fortunately, the one who controls my life is all-knowing, all-powerful, and unchangeable. He is perfect, and he knows what is best for me. That makes me feel pretty confident!

However, that doesn’t mean that everything will go perfectly according to plan. In fact, it probably means the exact opposite. Trusting God with your life means exchanging your plan for his plan, which in turn means that you won’t always know what’s going to happen next. And even though I’ve surrendered control over my life to God,  I still have to make decisions and act on them in order to get where I’m going. Unfortunately, there is no magical GPS device that you automatically receive when you start a relationship with Jesus, telling you what to do at every turn.  All you know is where you are and where you think you’re supposed to be headed.

So how do we know what the “right” decision is in any given situation throughout our lives? Well, there are several components of making decisions that honor God.

First of all, pray. Pray, pray, pray! Ask God to help guide you to make the right decision, and spend a lot of time listening. In fact, in these situations I think it is best to spend much more time listening to God than you do talking to Him. And don’t expect Him to answer you in a booming voice from the heavens! Although God is perfectly capable of that, for some reason beyond my human understanding, He seems to prefer more subtle ways of speaking. It can come as a thought he puts in your head, another person he speaks through, a circumstance, a Bible verse, or some other way entirely. No matter what though, if you earnestly and patiently seek His guidance, He will answer.

After praying and listening to God, you should test the answer that you think He gave you. Is it contrary to God’s nature? If you think he  told you to divorce your spouse, for example, then it’s not God. That’s because we know from the Bible that God intends marriage to be permanent. Another example is if you think God is telling you to do something illegal; in most cases, this is definitely not God speaking. God only condones breaking the law when the law forces you to disobey Him. So keep that in mind if you are considering doing something like that.

If you aren’t sure if your answer is contrary to God’s nature, then do some research! Look it up in the Bible. One easy way to do this is searching it in Google. Just type in “Bible verses about ______” and then double check the verses that come up in your Bible for accuracy. Find out what God says about the decision you are considering, and make sure He approves.

You should also test your answer by seeking the counsel of Christian brothers/sisters you can trust. This one is not necessarily as black and white as God’s opinion of course, but in most cases it has some merit. For example, if all of your Christian friends and mentors strongly advise against something you are thinking about doing, then it’s probably not a good idea. On the other hand, if just a few of them advise against it or if they advise against it based solely on personal biases, then that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do it. There are many cases when people are simply misled and give you advice that may not be the best, no matter how good their intentions. So definitely seek guidance from your church, but remember that you are trying to make a decision that pleases God, not necessarily people.

On that note though, you shouldn’t do anything that is harmful to others. As a Christian, I am a servant to Jesus and a servant to others. If my decision selfishly disregards the needs of others in favor of my own desires, then it is not a Godly decision. It is important to distinguish between the needs of others and the desires of others, of course. Just because your friend or family member wants you to do something doesn’t mean you should immediately disregard your own desire to the contrary. However, if your desire is something that will keep you from serving others or disregards the needs of others, then you shouldn’t act on it. Finally, there is the certain importance of your own needs. Taking care of your needs is not selfish; instead, it allows you to be a better servant to others and enables you to love others more. What it all comes down to is this; when you’re trying to make a decision, 1) don’t feel guilty for taking care of your own needs, and 2) make sure that your decision is loving and considerate of others.

There is one last thing that I feel needs to be addressed. It’s a question that I’ve asked myself many times before; “What if I make the wrong decision?” Well, the good news is that it doesn’t matter. Ok, that’s a bit of an overstatement. All of our actions have consequences (whether good or bad, minor or major). What I mean by “it doesn’t matter” is that in the long run, God will get us to where we’re supposed to be. Us making a wrong decision is simply not enough to ruin God’s entire plan for our lives. He’s way too powerful for that! Instead, He allows us to choose the path that we will take (all the while knowing what path we will choose), and He bends it to make sure that it goes where He wants us. So don’t make decisions lightly, because it can make your path much more difficult than it needs to be (although, of course, He’ll use even those struggles for the good). But that being said, don’t worry too much about making the wrong decision. God is big enough and strong enough to cover for all of our bad decisions, and He promised to do so when He sent His son to die for us.

Although I’ve already said a lot about God-honoring decision-making, there is still more to say about determining whether or not a decision even needs to be made in the first place. I’ll be writing about that next week, but for now, I encourage you to focus on how your decisions can be more God-centered.


Sexy Time

That’s right− I’m doing it. I’m taking the plunge and writing about sex. I’ve been tossing the idea back and forth for a few weeks now, but couldn’t decide if I really wanted to cross that line. Finally, I decided to go for it. After all, it’s one of the biggest differences between married life and single life (at least for Christians), and practically everybody’s interested in it. Did I mention that I have relatives who read this? Well, no worries. I won’t make this overly personal or go into too much detail. Instead, I’ll approach this fascinating topic from a generalized point of view. That way, there’s no danger of sharing too much. Thank goodness!

To start off, I want to talk about the importance of intimacy in marriage. As Christians, we believe that marriage is the process of two people becoming one; this means being united emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and in many other ways, including physically. The physical union between a husband and wife is something that God thought up when He first created us as humans. He molded our bodies in such a way that we can physically be united with each other, and he planned that union to occur only in fully committed, permanent relationships such as marriage.

Why did He do this? While we can’t know for sure until we meet Him face to face, we can definitely hypothesize using the Bible. For one, we can see that God made our bodies with sexual pleasure in mind; after all, we don’t enjoy sex for no reason! We also see the effect it has on us, making us feel closer to our partners emotionally. Last, we can see that God made our bodies in such a way that we can create new life when we engage in sexual intimacy. So what’s the point of this shared pleasure, emotional closeness, and life-creation in a marriage? They all lead to unity!  

A husband and wife are united both physically and spiritually when they share this gift. The after-effects of emotional closeness lead to unity in the relationship by resealing the bond that they share. And when a couple uses physical intimacy as a way to grow their family, they are then united in a common life purpose as parents. Clearly, sex is not just fun and games. It is a tool for marriage and an experience that God wants us to enjoy in that context. Well great! But what happens when sex doesn’t work the way you want it to?

Let’s face it. Sex is not exactly easy. It’s a skill that takes time to learn, and in a marriage, this is one of the most beautiful new skills you can learn together. But it does take time! Nobody is born as a sex-god (thank goodness), and starting this new adventure together doesn’t always go smoothly. In fact, there are many unexpected problems that can arise as far as the sexual relationship in a marriage goes.

One potential issue is that, well, sometimes you just don’t want to. A couple, no matter how united they may be, is composed of two individuals. Each individual has different moods, desires, and patterns when it comes to sex. This is one reason why it’s important to be selfless in your marriage. There will most likely be times when you want sex, but your spouse doesn’t (and vice versa). But if you refuse to have sex with your spouse simply because you don’t feel like it, you may end up doing it… never. Because what are the chances of you both wanting it at the exact same time? Not nearly as often as you might think. So take Nike’s advice, and Just Do It. If you are both others-centered in the bedroom, then your partner should have no problem making it worth your while.

Another potential issue is that sex is messy. Even in one-partner-for-life situations, there can be health issues that result from sexual activity. Plus, almost all couples have to deal with the reality that once a month, us girls are pretty much “out of service.” So sometimes, it simply may not be an option. In the case of sex-related health issues, it may take a while to get everything sorted out, and this time without intimacy can be difficult for couples. Either way though, I think the best solution during these times is to remember that sex isn’t the only way to be physically intimate with your spouse. Never underestimate the power of hugs, kisses, caresses, and midnight spooning sessions! (In case you didn’t know, “spooning” just means cuddling).

Another potential problem is less physical and much more mental and emotional. Sometimes, especially for Christian women who have been taught all of their lives that “sex is wrong,” trying to switch from that mindset to the mindset of a marriage, where “sex is good,” can be very difficult. Or perhaps the wife (or husband) has experienced sexually traumatic events in the past, making it difficult to enjoy this type of intimacy in the marriage. In both cases, sex can end up being much less fun, and much more frightening or even repulsive. What can you do in this situation? Honestly, I’d suggest seeking counseling. Many churches offer counseling for free or little cost, and a counselor with the same Christian background as you might be extremely helpful. Or, if you aren’t comfortable with that, then why not seek counseling elsewhere? The most important thing is that you are able to work through your old thought pattern or trauma. Sex is not supposed to be scary or gross, and seeking help is not shameful. It is a brave and loving decision to make that will help you improve intimacy and unity in your marriage.

The last thing I want to talk about is one of the well-known results of having sexual relationships; babies! Now, I was careful not to say “issues” or “problems” for this one, because I firmly believe that no baby is a mistake. God plans each life that he brings into this world! It’s just that sometimes, we aren’t on the same page. In many marriages, the couple doesn’t plan on having children right away, and in others, they don’t want to have children at all. There’s nothing wrong with that! God still created sex for unity in marriage, whether or not you plan to use it for bringing new life into the world. The “problem” results when you didn’t plan on having kids, and you get pregnant anyway. Of course, birth control is a perfectly acceptable option, but nothing is perfect and things can happen. So what do you do when you carefully mapped out your plans, but God had something else in mind? Here’s a hint; go with God’s version.

As a full-time college student also working 10 hours per week, I understand the desire to wait to have kids. It would be financially irresponsible for us right now, and we have about enough extra time in our schedules to take care of a plant. So no, taking on the responsibility of a baby anytime soon is definitely not in our plans. Plus, we’d like to enjoy at least a few years of our marriage without a third person involved. And while we are doing our part to be cautious and mindful, as I mentioned before, things can happen. Nothing has happened to us, but my husband and I are always prepared for this type of situation. We knew this fact of life before we got married, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to honor God’s plan for our lives.

If you are married and you don’t want to start a family (yet or ever), that’s ok. You should still enjoy physical intimacy in your relationship. However, it is a fact of life that sex often makes babies, and as a married couple engaging in such an activity, you have to be okay with this possibility. Remember, God has a plan in mind for you and He will never put you into a situation that you can’t handle! Trust His wisdom and submit yourself to His plans for you; I promise, the rewards will be amazing.

So there you have it! Those are my Bible-based beliefs about the purpose of sex, why it is important in a marriage, and what you can do when it gets messy.

I sincerely hope that every marriage can experience the joys of physical intimacy, for they are great. And for those of you who are not yet married, I pray that you look to God for the strength to resist sexual temptation. It’s definitely worth the wait, and things will be so much easier when the time comes!

Busy, busy, busy!

Life is busy. Whether you’re going through college like me, raising a family, or working full time, life can often seem to resemble a never-ending to do list. Just taking care of one’s basic needs like sleeping, eating, grooming, and exercising takes up more than half of a day! Then on top of that we have jobs to do, errands to run, people to talk to, chores to get done, and problems to solve. To me, it often seems like a miracle that I can even manage all of these necessary day-to-day tasks, let alone have time left over for doing the things that I want to do.

Something that has been bothering me lately is that in every area of my life, from my physical health to my spirituality to my social life, I am constantly being berated by messages telling me that I need to be better. I need to exercise more, eat healthier food, spend more time reading my Bible and praying, talk to people more, etc. As if it’s not impossible enough just getting by in life! According to the rest of the world, I’m not doing a good enough job. And for me, doing a “good job” at life is something that brings me great satisfaction. As a result, every time that I don’t quite measure up, I start to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Can you relate to this feeling?

Well I think that it’s time to change our views. First of all, the old saying really is true that “nobody is perfect.” Let me say that again; Nobody is perfect. When we feel the pressure to do better in certain areas of our lives, what are we really hoping to achieve? Are we honestly just trying to improve ourselves, or are we foolishly reaching for perfection? I have a feeling that, at least for me, the truth is closer to the latter.

But is it really wrong to long for perfection? Surprisingly, I don’t think so. Remember how I just said that nobody is perfect? Well, it’s true that no human is perfect, but God is. And we humans are made in His image. So while we can never actually be perfect, I believe that we all have the natural desire to be because God made us that way. We desire to be more like Him, to be perfect. There’s nothing wrong with that! What’s wrong is when we actually expect to get there while we’re still here on Earth, a planet full of imperfection.

So what does this all mean and how can you apply it to your life, not to mention your marriage? (After all, this is a marriage blog). Good question!

Unfortunately, I’m not really sure what the answer is. I don’t have the magical cure to all of my own problems in life, let alone yours. But that’s the way life is! We don’t have all the answers. All we have to go on is the one thing that we know to be true and perfect, which is God, and the book of truth that He lovingly gave us. I’m talking about the B.I.B.L.E., otherwise known as the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. (Thanks to my friend April for sharing this clever acronym!)

The Bible tells us that love is the most important thing in life. Romans 13:9-10 says that “…(God’s commandments) are all summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” The well-known verse in 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “Three things will last forever- faith, hope, and love- and the greatest of these is love.” In 1 John 4:7, the Bible says, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” Could it be any clearer that God wants us to love people?

So there you have it. Love. It’s clearly important to God, and can anybody honestly say that it isn’t important to them, too? That’s why I think love should be the top priority in life. Love is more important than making money, gaining knowledge, making achievements, being physically healthy, and many of the other things we put so high on our to do lists. Love should come first! What I mean by this, of course, is not a superficial or weak kind of love. It’s love as it is described in the Bible (read 1 Corinthians 13 if you need a reminder), love as it was displayed by God when He sacrificed His son for you and me. That kind of love is the kind that God wants to see from us.

I know that life is busy, and that it can be difficult to make time to do everything that needs to be done. But one way to make it a little less overwhelming is to put it into perspective. What is going to matter in the long run? Probably not this one homework assignment, or that work problem, or the fact that your kids won’t clean their rooms. No, what’s going to matter in the long run is how much you love others. You should still try to do your best at everything you do for the sake of bringing glory to God, but busyness shouldn’t consume your life. If you need to prioritize, cut back on some things, or make some major life changes, than do it! Do whatever is necessary so that you can focus on what is most important; loving God, your spouse (if you’re married), your family, your friends, and everybody else you come into contact with on a daily basis. Don’t be so busy that you don’t have time for love! It truly is the greatest gift in life.