Encouragement for the Stalled
Have you ever set out to accomplish a goal, full of energy and excitement, only to find yourself stalled or off track in no time? I don’t know how many times that has happened to me.
Goal setting is my jam! I love to set a goal and create a plan for accomplishing it. I think through all the steps I’ll need to do to complete the tasks and develop a plan for meeting each objective. I carefully study my calendar to ensure I set realistic deadlines, and then off I go, ready to crush it!
I usually start really well. But sometimes, I seem to hit a wall and find myself off course.
Mid to late January is when many of us find ourselves in those situations. The New Year incites new beginnings and seems the ideal time to set a new goal. We usually start strong due to the excitement born out of the hope of newness, but eventually, the excitement wears off, and our determination to continue wains. In time, we may find that the goal we set and carefully crafted a plan to accomplish has been pushed to the back burner, and we’re not working at it with the same vigor as when we began. That can leave us feeling discouraged and like a failure.
Over many years of goal setting, I’ve learned a little secret about why carefully orchestrated plans often fail—because we don’t consult God.
You may be thinking, Chrissie, you’re being a little legalistic here. Does God really want me to talk to Him about a workout plan or changing my diet? Does He really need to be involved in helping me start every new thing I do, even the tiny things? Yes, I think He does. Not only should we include Him, but He wants us to include Him! That’s not only exciting to me, but it’s also reassuring because I’ve learned He is the key to success in any new endeavor—large or small.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, CSB)
The book of James is full of sage advice and practical wisdom today’s Christians can learn from and live by. James is one of my favorite books of the Bible because it is easy to understand and applicable to every facet of Christian living.
In James 4:13-15, we are clearly told that we may make plans, but because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, they may not come to fruition. James reminds us that we have a limited view of history and the workings of life when he compares our lives to a vapor that appears briefly and then vanishes (v.14). He doesn’t say that to minimize us, but instead to remind us that we have an eternal God who knows all and can help us as we make plans. God is the beginning and the end. He is omniscient. Because He has always been and possesses all knowledge of the past, present, and future, it seems wise to include Him in our planning, doesn’t it?
Yet, I don’t know how many times I’ve missed this step in my in-depth planning sessions. Sometimes it feels silly to approach God with our plans because we think they’re insignificant and small. Surely, He has better things to do that help us determine a workout schedule.
Yet, throughout Scripture, God invites us to let Him be part of the planning process. Here are just a few examples of that:
“Many plans are in a person’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21, CSB).
“Commit your activities to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3,9, CSB).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6, CSB emphasis added).
Perhaps the most famous passage about God’s desire to help us plan and prepare for the future is Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you’—this is the Lord’s declaration—'plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (CSB).
For years that passage fueled my desire to set a goal and make it happen because I knew and trusted that God had a plan for my life. The desire to fulfill His design was all I thought I needed to jump in and get started. I assumed that desire would be enough to carry out the task. It wasn’t until I meditated on the passage directly following Jeremiah 29:11 that I realized how vested God is in our lives, how much He wants to be included in the details—large and small!
Jeremiah 29:12-14a explains, “‘You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you’—this is the Lord’s declaration” (CSB).
There it is--the answer to whether God cares about the minutiae of our lives. Yes! He cares! Notice, God does not put conditions on when He’ll hear and respond based on the size or importance of what we bring to Him. The only condition He gives us is that we seek Him with all of our hearts. That means humbly going to Him with our ideas and yielding to His will, even if He tells us we need to pass on that particular goal.
When we find ourselves off course, discouraged, and feeling like we’ve failed, we can find peace and encouragement knowing that the eternal God of all creation is in our corner and ready to help us! When we stall out on a goal, we can return to Him, lay our plans at His feet, and ask Him to guide us. He will either give us a renewed commitment to get back on track and show us how to accomplish the goal, or He will release us from it, revealing that it was never His plan for us. Then, He will lovingly redirect us to His best for our lives and give us everything we need to walk the course He has for us!
Isn’t it exciting and reassuring to know that He cares for us that much? It’s a bit overwhelming for me, but man, what a comfort to know we don’t have to have all of the answers because God wants to help us succeed!
If you’re feeling discouraged over progress on goals you’ve set, take them to the Lord today. Ask Him if He wants you to continue to pursue those plans, and if so, what is your next step? If not, ask Him to help you release the goal and not be overwhelmed with feelings of failure or discouragement. Nothing is too large or too small for our Father who cares.
Sovereign Father, thank You for caring so much for me. Thank You for the plans You have for my life. Am I doing the things You want me to do? Is this goal something You want me to be working towards? If it is, please give me renewed energy and excitement and show me what steps You want me to take towards accomplishing it. If it’s not your plan for me, please help me to let it go and not feel like I’ve failed. Please replace it with exactly what You want me to do instead. I trust Your plan for my life! In Jesus’ name, Amen.