We’re heading into that crazy busy time of year known as the holiday season. And according to the store decorations, the holiday music on the radio, and multiple social media posts of friends putting up their trees before Thanksgiving, we’re already there!
For a lot of us, though, we’re just not ready for the holidays because it feels like we’re starting the season with our tanks on empty. This year, our levels of fatigue and frustration are already off the charts. So looking at calendars and to-do lists can be extra overwhelming as we gear up for the season ahead. From that perspective, every day holds another mountain to be climbed. And at the end of the day we drop into bed only to do it all over again the next day. Another day, another mountain.
Unfortunately, we are in danger of missing the awe and wonder—the joy—we’re meant to experience when we get wrapped up in worry over all the details, demands, and tasks that lie before us.
That’s exactly how I was feeling as I was finishing up a major book project on a deadline a few years ago. All I could see was the mountain of work ahead and the seeming impossibility of finishing it on time. But God stepped into the midst of my stress and anxiety. He had different plans, and an unexpected assignment for me. Every time I think about how God redirected my steps and shifted my focus that evening, I’m reminded that His plans are so much greater than mine.
I told the story in my latest devotional Find Joy: A Devotional Journey To Unshakable Wonder in an Uncertain World, and to encourage you as you face your own mountain today, I’d like to share it with you! (It’s just one of a total of sixty days!)
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An impossible mountain was looming that night, and it was all I could see. After two years of work, I had eight days to finish the most challenging research and book project I’d ever done. The deadline couldn’t be extended again. I was exhausted and discouraged. How on earth was I going to get this done on time?
Then I got a tearful call from my college-freshman daughter, Morgen, who had just started final exams. She had three finals in the next two days . . . and was suddenly feeling sick and miserable, like a bad cold was starting. The drugstore was closed. What was she to do?
I prayed for her and suggested she ask if anyone in her dorm had one of those cold remedies that reduce the severity of a cold if you start it quickly. As we hung up, I tried not to let the worry about her overwhelm me. I had a major chapter to finish.
But something wouldn’t let me start typing. Or, I should say, Someone. I started to feel this crazy sense that I should take a few hours and drive to Morgen’s dorm with some soup, ginger ale, and the medicine she needed.
I know it sounds horrible that I even wrestled with it, but I did. “But Lord,” I said, “Surely one of her friends has a cold remedy!” “But Lord, if I take hours for this, how will I meet the deadline? Our finances for the next year depend on this book being published on time!”
As if God didn’t know that already.
And I knew what God was saying. My little girl was feeling miserable. She needed the cold remedy quickly. But more importantly, she needed a hug from mom. So I waved farewell to my mountain, hopped in the car, and went to see my daughter.
When I got there, she broke into tears again and told me my visit made a huge difference. But I realized it was making a huge difference to me as well. My heart started to feel a sense of simple enjoyment of life that I hadn’t felt in weeks. Funnily enough, it energized me so much that I was able to drive home and finalize that entire key chapter that night.
Sisters, we can stare at our looming mountain for so long that we take our eyes off of everything else. We lose the big picture. But serving someone else gets us out of ourselves. We are suddenly able to remember that we are the hands and feet of Jesus, serving at His pleasure and willing to be redirected to whichever mountain He chooses that day.
And when we do, stress is replaced by trust and an expectant eagerness to see how He will work. It brings delight. Allowing God to pull us away from our schedules and use us to serve others allows Him to minister to us, too.
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This article was first published at Patheos.