One of the subtlest enemies of spiritual life and growth is the influence of other’s expectations of you. The world expects you to continually seek possessions and prestige. It expects you to fill your time with busy activity, whether meaningful or not.
Are you allowing the world’s expectations to dictate your life? How often do you act in order to please others rather than because you want to please God? Sometimes pleasing God may actually require that you disappoint others because you can’t fulfill their demands on you.
What do people expect of you? What do you do when the world’s demands are pressing in on you? Solitude can help you break free from other’s expectations. When you spend some time quietly alone you can see more clearly what the world is asking of you. In solitude you’re more able to evaluate these expectations in relation to God’s desires for you and to decide which demands should or should not be fulfilled.
Following one of the busiest days’and nights’of his ministry, the book of Mark tells us that Jesus ‘awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray.’ Is your life busy? Are you feeling pressure from your work, your wife, your friends, or your kids? Follow the example of Jesus. Make solitude a priority in your life today. You’ll be better for it.
Are you living with a strained relationship? Restoration of human relationships doesn’t happen instantaneously. If you’ve broken someone’s heart or trust, you have a responsibility to face your failures. And you also have the tough responsibility of avoiding the urge to blame others for the problems you’ve caused. It may take some time before you’re able to face up to your failures. Expect the process of restoration and regaining trust to take time.
The prophet Hosea was a remarkable man. He was told by God to marry a prostitute. His marriage was to be a living example to the nation of Israel of her infidelity toward God. It must have hurt Hosea deeply when his wife returned to her life of prostitution. Hosea said, ‘Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go and get your wife again. Bring her back to you and love her, even though she loves adultery. For the Lord still loves Israel even though the people have turned to other gods, offering them choice gifts”. Hosea needed some time before he could be close to his wife again, for such deep restoration takes time.
It’s your responsibility to wait patiently while God helps you restore your broken relationships and the hearts you may have broken. God can give those you’ve hurt love when love has been lost; he can help you trust and become trustworthy again, but these things take time.
Discouragement will drain your energy, especially when you face trials. That’s why, it’s very helpful to spend time with people who know how to encourage. Some people know just what to do or say to remind you that life is worthwhile, even in the midst of pain and failure. They know how to inspire when there seems to be nothing to hope for. Barnabas, an early follower of Jesus whose name means ‘son of encouragement,’ was just that kind of guy.
Barnabas’s gift of encouragement was demonstrated through his financial generosity, his leadership, and his teaching of new believers. He accepted the apostle Paul when others were afraid of him. And it’s probably accurate to say that Barnabas changed the course of church history by persevering in his encouragement to John Mark.
On his first missionary journey John Mark abandoned his friends. Barnabas was willing to give him a second chance. Paul wouldn’t hear of it. But with Barnabas’s encouragement, Mark became faithful in his missionary ministry and was able to renew Paul’s respect and friendship. Later he would write the Gospel of Mark.
Are you feeling discouraged? God’s forgiveness offers you the chance for a new start. Persevere. God is a God of second chances. And in time, you’like Barnabas’will have the privilege of encouraging others along the way.