Keeping it Real
This week did not start well for me. I had a full day planned Monday in preparation for two weeks away from home. My early morning exercise routine was interrupted by a sharp pain in my right chest. I consider myself to have slightly above-average pain tolerance, but this took me to my knees. I took a few deep breaths while it subsided and tried to continue, but every time I moved my right arm, the pain returned with vengeance. I had to stop. I was so frustrated. This was not part of my plan for the day!
I had morning and afternoon appointments that couldn’t be rescheduled. So, despite the pain, I pressed on. I kept thinking the pain would go away. It didn’t. I started Googling my symptoms. I know, I know. We are not supposed to do that, but I was becoming concerned. Chest pain, tingling in my right arm, back pain, nausea…needless to say, I didn’t want to read what the Internet had to say.
I won’t say I panicked, but my mind started to race a bit. I didn’t want to over-react, but I didn’t want to be reckless either. Should I go to the emergency room? Should I wait it out? Should I self-medicate? To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do, and my husband (bless his heart) was willing to do whatever I thought was best. Sweet, but not helpful.
You might be wondering if I prayed. If you call talking to God throughout this ordeal praying, then the answer is yes. I truly believe nothing happens to us without God’s knowledge. Ever since I accepted Christ as a young girl, I have never felt alone. What a gift of God’s grace. I didn’t feel alone in this situation, but I’m just keeping it real here – I was a little scared.
By late afternoon I had to make a decision. I simply told the Lord I needed help. Keeping it real means being honest with ourselves and honest with God. As I write this a few days later, Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” I had no choice but to trust Him and sure enough, direction came.
I suddenly remembered a local chiropractor who had helped me with an ankle sprain a few years ago. For those of you who regularly visit the chiropractor, you are probably wondering why I didn’t think of this option first. Frankly, I don’t go to chiropractors. There is something very unnerving about hearing my bones crack. It seems extremely unnatural to me! However, I didn’t feel I had many choices at this point. I didn’t have peace about going to the ER, so I called and was ushered into the exam room within 30 minutes. Would you believe I had the pleasure of listening to the Christian radio station while I waited? I don’t know if this was a sign of God’s direction or not, but I’ll take it!
I won’t go into detail about the exam, but I’m happy to report the problem was diagnosed and treated. Did it feel good? No. Is the pain gone? No. Did it help? I think so. Did it calm my fears? Yes. Now, why did I take all this time to share this less-than-ideal experience with you? Because when life doesn’t go as planned, when circumstances throw us for a loop, we need to keep it real. Not every day is great. Sometimes situations happen to us over which we have no control. Sometimes we get scared. Sometimes we hurt. It’s okay to admit it when that is the case. We have to keep it real.
I know my situation is minor (no pun intended). I personally have two teacher friends who have battled a cancer diagnosis this year. Their journeys are far more challenging than mine, but I’ve watched as they have kept it real. Here is what they have taught me.
1. Claim God’s Sovereignty.
It’s so important to remember we are not in control. This is easy to say but harder to embrace. However, when we are honest with ourselves about who is in control, our perspective of our situation changes. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We view life through a small window; He has the entire street view. He is the author of our lives, and He knows where He wants to take us. While we may be concerned with our comfort, His primary focus is to make us more like Jesus. Let’s keep it real by acknowledging that He is sovereign.
2. Communicate with God.
Start talking. Getting real with God should always be our first step, not our last resort. We can and should be blatantly honest with God. One of my favorite verses is Philippians 4:6-7. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
God wants to hear from us. It does us no good to try and fool ourselves or God. Keeping it real with God is what relationship is all about. It doesn’t mean it will always feel good. It doesn’t mean the pain will go away. It does mean we will not be alone (Deuteronomy 31:6). Every difficulty we walk through with Jesus draws us closer to Him as He loves us through the pain.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer this warning. Don’t wait for hardship to come to start keeping it real with God. Relationships are about trust. It is difficult to trust God in the hard times when we haven’t trusted Him in the good times.
3. Commune with Friends.
We were not meant to walk this Christian journey alone. It is important to surround ourselves with a few believers with whom we can share our thoughts. We all need others who can keep us grounded. Solomon, one of the wisest men who has ever lived (I Kings 4:29-34), offered some sound advice.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12
Keeping it real with others requires vulnerability and transparency, so it is important to be selective. It’s not about choosing others who will only tell us what we want to hear. Christian friendship is about love, trust, honesty, and keeping it real!
4. Cling to God’s truth.
I chose the word “cling” because sometimes we find ourselves holding on by our fingernails feeling like we are going to slip at any moment. It’s during these times we have to ignore the enemy’s taunts and hang on to what we know is true. Here are just a few verses to tuck into your back pocket. Meditate on these truths until you keep it real by reciting them over and over!
· God is good. (Daniel 9:4)
· God is with you. (Hebrews 13:5)
· God has a plan. (Jeremiah 29:11)
I don’t know what you’re going through right now. Maybe life is groovy (as my husband would say). Maybe life is simply bland. Maybe you are struggling. Whatever your circumstances, don’t wait. Now is the time to claim God’s sovereignty, communicate with God, commune with friends, and cling to His truth.
Just keeping it real!