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Usually I try to publish a new Today’s Enlightenment blog post every two weeks, alternating with our Ray of Hope Ministries On-Line Bible Study mentioned above. However, due to some health issues I have been unable to keep that schedule over the past month (September). During that time I experienced two medical emergencies. An eye injury and extremely high blood pressure, which involved a week of daily visits to the eye doctor and a trip to the hospital emergency room. In addition I spent at least three days a week keeping appointments with doctors and physical therapy for my wife Joan. On top of all this there was unavoidable shopping for essentials (mostly food). During this time I wasn’t able to focus mentally or physically on doing much of anything, especially reading and writing.
That was the bad news. But with God there is always good news in the midst of bad news. There is always hope when things seem hopeless. My hope was that something worthwhile would come from my situation. The good news is that as it turned out, my hope was fulfilled. The good news was is that this unavoidable “down time” meant I had a lot of time to be attentive to God, who had some insight for me about my need to continue to make some changes in my life. Actually, this was not new insight but a reminder of what I had already heard from God over the last few retirement years.
My observation is that the major change in my life upon retirement has been that I no longer have to do something, or be somewhere, or keep a fairly rigid schedule, as I did from the time I was born until I fully retired three years ago at age 70. To put it another way, I am no longer required to be responsible to any human authority when it comes to deciding what I am going to do with my life. However, all too often I find myself feeling guilty about that. Why should I have such freedom? And sometimes, as a result of this guilt over not being busy enough, I become my own task master. Someone is telling me to be somewhere to get something done by a specific time. And that someone is no one but myself. And then the guilt would lead to worrying about not getting things done.
Now God was reminding me that I was creating all this guilt and worry myself, and there was no need for that. My problem was that I was making decisions about what to do with my life on a day to day basis without seeking God’s direction. One big change needed in my life was that I needed to start spending some time every day discerning God’s will for me. I was already faithfully starting each day with devotional reading. And I did seek God’s direction as to the big, long-term issues in life. But I was not allowing time for prayer and meditation concerning what God desires from me from day to day.
I was reminded that it was not how busy I was that mattered, but to what extent I was seeking and listening as to how to use my time in accordance with God’s will. That was what I needed to begin doing at the beginning of each day or the night before. There is no such thing as not having enough time to pray for God’s daily direction. God will always give me the time. So I need to take and use that God-given time to discern how God wants me to use (or how God wants to use me) the rest of the time every day for the the rest of my life.
As I said, this was not new insight. But like a lot of things that are important sometimes we fall out of the habit of applying them. I recalled that my past experience was that God will give me give me the direction I need. Over the years I discovered that if I took the time to seek and discern God’s will day by day, said “yes” to whatever that was, and then just did it, believing that God would give me everything I needed (God’s grace) to get it done, God would assure it got done and at the same time took away my guilt and worry. Sometimes it was a matter of keeping on with some routine I was very familiar with and did over and over again. But sometimes it was something entirely new. Something I had never done before. Something that, if I didn’t listen to God, I would never even try, because I would have convinced myself that it would be impossible for me to accomplish. Like becoming a pastor and preaching a sermon every week. Like writing this blog.
Now I needed to get back to faithfully applying that process. I know that if I get back to doing that every day, the the result will be that I will be more focused on and less distracted from what God wants me to be doing (what God wants to do with me) each day. It will also help keep me from being discouraged. If it is God’s will, it will get done. Whatever “it” turns out to be. This is the good news that came out of a not so good month form me. God has given me renewed hope where all too often there seems to little or no hope in our world. My hope is that what God has inspired me to write in this blog, will inspire you to continue, renew, or begin to spend some time with God every day, seeking and discerning God’s will for you. Saying “yes” to God. And then doing whatever God has given you to do. Always believing that God will always give you everything you need to proceed, and will never give you anything to do that you can’t do.
Grace and peace, Ray Gough