Which Goal Will You Choose?

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These days I am engaged in an online course on effective teaching methods for kids. It includes child development, child psychology, teaching methods, modern techniques in education etc…etc. and there is lots to understand and learn about a child’s world. It’s one of my efforts to teach my highly active 1st grader in the easiest way possible and also understand his unique learning stages and needs.

In one of the modules related to elementary learning, I came across an interesting fact about the motives and goals students have for their academic achievement. It uses the examples of three students who have different achievement goals.

The first student finds the subject interesting and is passionate about learning and excelling in it. This goal is called the mastery goal.

The second student however, is concerned less about the subject than about getting top marks on the exams and in the course. Here’s a performance-oriented goal because he is focused primarily on looking successful. Learning about the subject is merely a medium for performing well in the eyes of peers and teachers.

And the third student is primarily concerned about avoiding poor or failing marks. Here’s a failure-avoidance goal because he is not really as concerned about learning the subject, as the first student is, or about competitive success, he is simply planning to avoid failure.

As I moved on to read and understand about these goals and their outcomes further, a thought stuck me…..

At some point in our lives we often choose these goals in relation to our call.

The moment we dedicate our lives for God’s service and decide to live for Him and share His love with the world, we are so passionate and genuinely zealous to know Him more. We simply want to pursue Him out of our love and enthusiasm. We are like the first student who is willing to learn the subject out of interest and passion.

But as years go by and we don’t see our lives bearing as much fruits as we wished when we answered the alter call, we become more like the performance–oriented student, who isn’t concern more about the subject but getting a higher score to look successful in the eyes of peers and teachers. We want to keep up with others, maintain the work updates on social media and want to serve God not out of passion or love for Him but out mere performance.

By doing so, eventually we lose sight of our passion, our purpose and the very meaning of our existence in the midst of comparing our success with others which further results in the failure–avoidance goal; like the third student who is only concern about avoiding poor or failing marks. We begin to do the mission God called us for, out of the failure–avoidance goal. We don’t feel the passion anymore, we can’t measure up with others and we don’t want to look like a failure in the eyes of others. So we begin to live with a vacuum in our heart not knowing which way to go.

Can you relate?

Here’s the question!

But, what kind of achievement goal or success does God want us to have when we work for His kingdom?

God is more concern about what we become in Him than what we do for Him. He defines success by our obedience to His purpose for our lives and our willingness to do His work in His way. Success doesn’t mean how much you have achieved compared to others, but it simply means how much you have achieved compared to what you are called to achieve.

He wants us to seek Him passionately and know His heart. He wants us to genuinely feel the pain and the burden He feels for the perishing world. He wants us to get our focus and goals in His direction. He wants us to seek Him for what He wants us to be and not what we want to become.

Often times, we shift our focus from His ways of success to the world’s way of success. We strive harder, want to look successful among our friends, family and society and want to achieve the goals of our Calling in our way. Eventually we become less concern about what God wants from us and more concern about how we can measure up with others.

……and as I read about the outcomes of the different achievement goals the students had, the mastery goal resulted in excelling and deep-understanding of the subject, the performance-oriented goal resulted in failure to understand the subject well, and the failure-avoidance goal resulted in failing in the subject due to less interest and inadequate knowledge.

What is your goal of success in His kingdom work?

Do you want to know Him deeply, seek Him passionately and excel in your calling or do you want to work in His kingdom out of performance-oriented and failure-avoidance goals?

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the PRIZE.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

 

When you feel to give up!

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“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Here’s a beautiful view of my orchid plant!

Several months back in the summer heat the plant was almost dried up. All its green leaves were withered. It didn’t look like it will survive or bloom again. But I kept watering it every day along with all other plants. One morning, to my surprise a tiny green leaf sprouted. Then another one came along.  In few months’ time, orchid shoots were showing up. And they began to bloom rapidly.

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Now my plant is full of orchids and gives me so much happiness to see and admire it while working in the kitchen. It also conveys a great message for me to ponder on.

In our lives too, there are seasons of dryness. Where it all looks so miserable and disappointing. Our dreams which once we cherished, looks impossible. During those difficult times, we can hardly believe that our efforts will bring any result to our situation. We are tempted to give up assuming that nothing will ever change.

But if we keep on persevering, keep on giving our best, keep trusting in the Lord for His favor, and keep on nurturing our dreams, one day to our surprise, we will see them being fulfilled.

In those season of dryness, when we think nothing is happening, the change will be taking place underneath. It means during this season, God will help us to grow and be matured in our faith and understanding of His promises. In this season He will equip us for the fruits He is about to brings forth through our lives. He will be making us ready for the new and upcoming season of our life. On the outside, we may look unproductive but in the inside, a crucial change will be happening to make us everything we are created to be.

Life Lesson: Seasons of dryness can be discouraging. But don’t give up on your life and your dreams. Keep nurturing them, give your best, have faith in God, and one day a tiny green leaf will show up.

Those who sow with tears, will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5

 

 

 

 

It’s His Love!

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Can I ask you a question?

What brings you a sense of self-worth? Your answer will probably be: your success, your earnings, other’s good opinions about you, your best performance at your workplace or maybe the applauds you receive from your friends, family or your colleagues and leaders.

For me, I had based my self-worth on people’s approval for my performance. And all I wanted was to receive “Good Job” badges.

Every one of us longs to feel worthy, significant and approved. It’s our basic personal need which drives us to do everything to get into the spotlight, to get applauded, to strive harder to be successful, to be recognized and appreciated by others.

We have subscribed to the belief that our self-worth comes from our performance and other’s opinion about us. But there will be times we may fail to live up to the expectations of others, to give our best in our workplace or may not always get applauds as we expect. If we base our self-worth on the constantly changing measuring stick of the world, we will get disappointed. Soon we will feel inadequate for not able to meet the standards of validation required of us. We will fail to recognize the true source of our worth.

 So, where should our self-worth be based on? Only the creator knows the value of his creation. In the same way only our Creator knows our worth. He values us so much that He sacrificed His own son. Jesus laid down His life on the cross not only to free us from the wages of sins but also to give us a life of worth, fulfillment and purpose. His resurrection promises meaning, hope and a new life for us.

 In his book “Search for significance” Robert S. McGee shares a beautiful truth: Our true source of self-worth is not dependent on our ability to earn the acceptance of people, our success, wealth or our performance but rather its true source is the love and acceptance of God.”

It’s His love which makes us worthy! It doesn’t matter what our job title is, how much money we earn, how much successful we are, or what people says about us. What’s important is to know the truth that our heavenly father values us so much. He alone knows our worth because He knows how much it has cost. Let this truth always be a secure foundation for our self-worth.

Prayer: Dear Father! Thank you so much for finding me worthy of your love. Thank you for choosing me to be your daughter. Help me to remain rooted in my identity in you. Help me not to look at others for defining my worth, not to depend on my achievements or good deeds but guide me to take each steps towards the treasure you have for me. Let my true worth be always founded on your unconditional love for me. Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You On A Detour?

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Last week we were travelling to my husband’s place to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday and spend a few days with her. It wasn’t very good weather but still we decided to move on as we didn’t want her to be alone on her big day. It was the same week when our Kerala state was hit hard by heavy rainfall and flood. Though we were safe, most of the places we were travelling through had water overflowing onto the roads. It was rainy and windy weather which took us much longer than usual to reach home.

The usual time it takes to reach there is only one and half hours. But with the road blocks we needed to take a couple of detours along the way. In the rough weather, these unknown and unplanned detours felt very overwhelming, unending and uncomfortable. We felt lost and confused. The windy weather felt so threatening and all I could do was to pray for God’s protection over us.

The distance we would otherwise cover in a few minutes on the same roads had taken an hour as we had to take roundabout routes instead of the usual roads. A usually smooth journey became very exhausting, bumpy and time-consuming.

But these same detours kept us safe from the possible danger we would otherwise encounter travelling on those flooded roads. Through these detours we were able to get to our destination safe and sound. Without these detours, we might have ended up stopping our journey in the middle.

Detours of life

In our lives too, we sometimes have to face some unexpected & unintended detours. The challenging cicumstances of our lives force us to take a different turn. The journey isn’t always as smooth as we wish it to be. We get exhausted, it feels unending and uncomfortable being on these unknown detours of life. All we wish for is to have smooth and fast travel with no inconvenience or interruptions in-between. But most of the time, the same detours takes us to the right place we’re supposed to reach. These same detours make us resilient, determined to reach our goal and keep us safe from the possible danger of pride, personal glory and self-dependence. These unknown, uncomfortable and exhausting detours help us to focus more on the Lord for guidance, comfort and strength.

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Are you encountering any detours in your life?

It might feel longer, tiring and unending. There might be rough and stormy paths along the way. You may feel lost and confused. But let your focus be on Jesus. He will stand by you and get you through. Trust His heart of love. Though these detours may sound extensive, unknown and rough, they are the assured paths to your destination. They will guide you to go on with your life journey with focus, resilience, watchfulness, resolve and dependence on Him. And trust me these detours are much safer to travel on:)

 

 

 

 

When Your Faith Doesn’t Make Sense!

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A couple of weeks back we had an appointment for the assessment of our 6 years old son in relation to his inattention and performance issues in School. The assessment went on for more than two hours including separate counselling and Q/A sessions for both the parents. The assessment was much needed to help us understand his challenges and help him improve and perform well in all activities.

I sat in the glass cabin of the assessor at the assessment centre with my daughter on my lap as my son played in a room filled with toys, books & puzzles outside of the cabin. The assessor brought in a few questionnaires and began asking me questions. She asked about the family history, pregnancy complications, medications, challenges at home, Asher’s performance at home and school, difficulties he is facing, home atmosphere, family support etc. She filled all the needed information in the forms and gave one questionnaire for me to tick my choice of answers.

After completing all the questionnaires, and perhaps getting a glimpse of the depth of my emotional state, she couldn’t stop herself from asking me a very personal question – So how are you coping emotionally with all these challenges? What is the source of your strength?

….I told her that I have a faith in God and I believe He gives me strength to face each day.

I wondered how much my secret of strength made sense to her as all she knew about me was that I was someone who was in a complete mess – “a 4 years old child on my lap who is almost in a vegetative state, another child who is struggling to fit himself into a world which doesn’t function as per his system and I am a wornout mom, sitting in the assessment centre hoping that they track his uniqueness and not just his flaws and give me some handy tips to parent him well.”

….But to my surprise she nodded her head with a smile and tear-filled eyes, agreeing with me as to what I claimed to be my source of strength.

I thought my complicated life might disqualify me from sharing my faith in Jesus. But sharing my faith through my brokenness actually revealed His strength and power in my life. As Paul rightly says, His power is made perfect in our weakness.

“My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8

Often we want to glorify God through our strength and we wait till all things get better in our lives. But God wants to use our brokenness too, for His glory. He wants us to share our faith right in the middle of our trials.

I love the words of Rick Warren in his book “The Purpose Driven Life”

Your weaknesses are not an accident. God deliberately allowed them in your life for the purpose of demonstrating His power through you. Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.”

If you are in the middle of pain and the darkest moments of your life, don’t waste your experiences. Use them to glorify God. Don’t wait till everything gets perfect. Let Him minister to others through your very chaos. Let His strength be shown through your brokenness as you lean on Him for courage. The very thing you feel disqualifies you from sharing your faith is the one thing which will become your biggest testimony. I hope this message encourages you today.

 

 

Anchoring Your Hope in Him!

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Last week has been very challenging for me, because my daughter fell sick all of a sudden. She had vomiting and an episode of seizures. She slipped into a critical state so we had to rush her to hospital to sustain her health. It was painful for me to see her frail body hooked to the tubes and wires. The doctors and nurses were trying to figure out what went wrong with her with one blood test after another.

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Hospital stays are always hard but it’s even much harder when you see many people suffering from different ailments. Looking around the Emergency Room, I was feeling much pain seeing the suffering of people and their loved ones. Being inside the home, I always thought I was the only one struggling greatly and I often complained to God to ease my challenges. Hospital visits always give me a glimpse of how trivial my struggles are…

As we were taking my daughter for an E.E.G., we happened to meet a lady and her 10 years old son in an elevator. She looked very weak and fatigued. Her hair had all fallen out due to chemo. I could hardly see any hope in her eyes. I knew she must be fighting for life at this time, struggling to face the reality of her life. She touched Jennie’s face and said she will pray for her. I looked at her and smiled as we got off the elevator. A few seconds of meeting made me look at life from a different perspective.

In this fallen world we will have sickness and pain. We may encounter life’s most challenging and heart-breaking realities. But there is still a hope.  A sure hope of His healing, comfort, strength and peace. This hope is eternal. Even after our earthly being passes away, we will still live for eternity…a glorious life with our King.

In the midst of all our trials, Jesus brings this hope to our heart: all God’s promises are possible through Him.

“For all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, to the glory of God by us.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

He assures us that our hearts should not be troubled. We are to anchor our hope in Him when we face hardships because He alone can give us strength for our weakness, joy for our sorrows, healing for our sickness, peace for our anxious heart and comfort for our weary souls.

His hope reminds us that we are not alone. His hope leads us to trust in His promises. His hope reminds us of the greater purpose we have in Him to share His promise and assurance with the suffering and broken-hearted.

which hope

When the winds of adversity,
throw you off course . . .
there’s an anchor that holds
no matter its force.

When the seas of calamity,
toss you all about . . .
there’s an anchor that holds
till the danger runs out.

When the storms of life,
catch you off guard . . .
there’s an anchor that holds
to make them less hard.

When the hazards of living,
come straight at you . . .
there’s an anchor that holds
till you pull your way through.

The only anchor that holds,
is strong, sturdy and sure
Jesus is that anchor . . .
keeping you safe and secure!

– Deborah Ann 

 

When Persevering is Hard!

When keeping up is hard

Over the last few days I have been working on a piece of art. I am not a professional artist but I do like to use my hobby to make some art and craft items which give me joy. I had downloaded a painting image of a tree and wanted my painting to look exactly like that one.

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The original image of the painting

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My painting

If you think, I have painted this piece sitting at a peaceful place, a cup of coffee next to me and beautiful music playing around, then I would say I wished it was so. But I had to paint it when my two kids were having a nap and I was at constant peril that either one of them would wake up at any time:). So I had to finish it up as soon as I could. But sometimes, it wasn’t possible to make both of them have a nap at the same time and it was a challenge finishing the piece at one stretch.

Another challenge was my 6 years old. Out of his curiosity he would try touching the paint and mess the painting many times. Every time he messed up the paint, I had to work on it again with patience. After working for quite a few hours on this piece of art, I could finally complete it.

A thought came to my mind; what made me want to complete this piece with much patience?

Because, all the time the original image of the painting was on my mind and I wanted my piece to resemble with it.

No matter how many times it got messed up, how many extra hours I had to spend finishing it or how many times I felt like giving up…all I desired was to see my piece of art look beautiful, complete and striking like the original one. And that was the only thing made me want to complete it.

In the same way, when we have dreams & visions of life imprinted on our hearts and minds, no matter what the challenge is, we will strive hard to make sure we fulfill them. When we know the clear image of our purpose of life, we will focus on it rather than focusing on the obstacles and the hurdles that are coming our way. We will be determined to make our dreams and vision look exactly like the picture we have on our minds and hearts for our lives.

We all have been given a purpose, a dream and a vision from God. Each one of us is born for a purpose. When we discover it, we are thrilled to fulfill it. We begin with much excitement and can’t wait to see it come to pass. But life isn’t always easy going and there will be times when we will doubt our calling, about the surety of our vision and purpose in the midst of all of life’s hurdles. There will be time when all the odds will be against us and we will feel no excitement to go on.

What will keep us going?

It’s the clear image we have of our purpose and vision which will help us to move on, stay encouraged, patient and persevere despite of all the mess that comes  along, all the challenges that try to block our way, all the delays and all the unexpected things and detours we have to take in our life journey.

If you feel like giving up on the dreams which once you cherished and were hopeful for, if you are doubting your life’s purpose, if you are feeling confused, if you have done your best to keep up but you think you have hit rock bottom, I want to encourage you to keep the original image of your purpose on your mind, keep it in focus rather than focusing on the hurdles. It’s the only thing which will keep you moving, encouraged, persevering and excited about the final outcome. 

“Blessed is the man who persevere under trial” James 1:12

When someone believes in you!

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Have you ever experienced a situation in your life, when you have thought you can’t make it but someone was there by your side who believed in you? The difference this person has made in your life by always encouraging you, believing in your ability and nurturing your untapped potentials ultimately helped you reach heights which you never dream you could.

Three years ago, while searching for a suitable school in the city for our son who was very much delayed in his speech, we came across a school which seemed the right choice for him. When we met the Principal and the facilitator of the school, we explained our son’s speech delay and we hesitated to ask if they could give him admission to their school. But they lovingly welcomed him in and assured us that he will improve as he begins his schooling. Their words felt so soothing to our worried minds and we left the school feeling a bit relaxed but at the same time wondering how things would be for him in the school…

He began his schooling facing many obstacles initially as he wasn’t able to keep up with the other kids in learning and doing other activities. He couldn’t talk like other kids did, couldn’t understand what is being taught and couldn’t adjust to the school atmosphere even after 6 months. We were worried about him. Many times, we thought to discontinue his schooling and send him to a special needs school. It was very frustrating time for us as we couldn’t give enough attention to him because of our daughter’s health issues.

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First day of School.

This ugly duckling wasn’t fitting in and this thought always brought tears to my eyes. His limitations were making him act in a bad way – throwing tantrums, pushing other kids and falling on the floor. Most of the time, he wouldn’t even eat his lunch box and stayed hungry during school hours. Sending him to school and bringing him back became very stressful for us. When he would come from school, I would ask his Dad if any teachers had any complaints about him or were they asking us to send him to another school? Tension always hovered over my head.

But things began to change slowly over a period of time. In the later years, we were getting more good reports than bad ones. His school performance was improving. His hidden skills were showing up. He was improving in all the activities and most of all he was becoming very excited about going to school. He could make few friends, He was able to communicate with teachers, was able to follow instructions and was able to participate in sports and dance. Moreover, he felt accepted.

These changes were only possible, because his class teacher believed in him. She didn’t give up even though we felt like giving up our hopes. She made all efforts to help him in all the areas. With her gentle but firm discipline, she encouraged him to read, write, eat and participate in all activities like other kids. She encouraged us to support him. The only words she had for him were: “Asher is a brilliant boy”. Every time, she would be so happy to share about his improvement, his spoken words, his talent and his reading skills. Even though she knew the challenges he had, she was very patient, understanding, supportive and loving. She was a silent corrector and a loud encourager which helped Asher to come out of his shell, to learn, to grow and to be happy being all he is.

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Asher with his Class Teacher Mrs. Seena Sankar ( School Facilitator)

Today is his last day of School. I don’t know if he will have the memories of these three years spent in this school as he grows up or if he will remember his teacher who made a big difference in his life. But one thing I am sure about is the seeds of confidence which his teacher has sown in his life will definitely yield good results. When he goes to the new school, where his favourite teacher will not be seen but I pray and hope “someone” will be there for him who will continue to cultivate those seeds and believe in him.

Isn’t it amazing that God brings people into our lives who believe in us and stand by ourside? They might be our teachers, leaders, family members, friends or colleagues. They help us go forward, overlooking our weaknesses and encouraging our strengths. Their words give us positive energy, a new perspective and a confidence to believe that there is still a hope. They are always trying to bring out the best in us. They are indeed a beautiful reflection of God’s love for us. Let’s be thankful to Him for placing them in our lives.

The Real Me!

sonu blog real me
Recently I was fascinated (hooked on actually) by a photo editor app on my phone. I was only familiar with the brightness and cropping to edit a photo until I came across this app which had many more options beyond what I knew. I was just stunned to see the options – slim face, large eyes, slim nose, many types of makeup tools, hairstyles, eye colours, skin tones, tools etc. Out of curiosity, I tried them to see how my picture would look with all these alterations. Even though this app made me look better and different, I knew that wasn’t the “real me”. It was just a trick of the app which made me feel happy for a moment in what I appeared to be.

In the same way, when I look at my life, I so wish to have it look different. I try to present it as best as I can. I put a smile on my face, hide the tears in my eyes, and try to make my voice as bold and cheerful as possible. I pretend that I am very strong in facing all the challenges of life and I am just happy being all I am. I am no different than my next door neighbour. I also want to appear better emotionally by answering: “Yes! I am doing fine and all is well here”, to the questions of my family & friends. But deep down in my heart I know that isn’t the “real me”. I am just trying to appear different than who I am.

Sometimes we feel so much relief not to show our real self to the world or show a better version of it. Maybe because we think our real self will disqualify us from people’s approval, their acceptance and any significance. Maybe we think that no one will understand our struggles and pain even if we share them. We might even think people will judge us for who we are. We want to be part of the crowd and have a picture-perfect life without any flaws or failures. But in the attempt to appear perfect and flawless often the “real me” gets buried and hidden. We can be at ease in this pretend play but deep down in our hearts we know that isn’t the “real me”.

But the beautiful truth I want to share with you is: God knows this “real me”. He sees your heart, he knows your emotional state, your hurts, your fears, your doubts, even your lack of faith, your not so good thoughts, and your each and every feeling. And He invites you to be the real you in His presence so He can bestow His grace upon you. In those quiet moments with Him, He wants to search your heart and revive your soul letting you remove all the masks and allowing you to be the real you, inviting you to bring your brokenness to Him, shed tears in His presence, lay your hurts, your confusion, fears, and your every feeling at His feet.

Dear Father, I come into your presence setting aside all my pretensions and masks. Please search my heart and fill it with your joy and peace today. Here I stand; broken, worried, confused, angry, hurting, resentful and trying to grasp onto the little faith I have in my heart. And deep down in my heart I know it’s the “real me”. Thank you for embracing me with your outstretched & loving arms. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

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When all you need is endurance..

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Every month I flip the page on our calendar, I stick labels on the dates of important days, I also place my hand on the month and say a prayer for God’s favour for the plans and goals I have made for that particular month for myself and for my family. I ask God’s protection and provision for the month. As, in the beginning of every month I do this, I thank Him for all His grace over me in the previous month.

28309524_1766363293384004_386204527_oOver the last few years, as I have been doing this, there is something I have learned: God’s timetable is totally different from mine. His plans are unlike my plans. Many times, what I have planned or fixed the stickers on the calendar just didn’t turn out the way I desired but that doesn’t mean it never turned out right! It has just taken a bit longer than I expected. It all fell into place in His timing.

The strategies I made for my son to improve his speech and behaviour, for my daughter to get regular physiotherapy and see her develop, to give her the best care possible, for my family to have a schedule & a well-planned life (which is too challenging), for me to be more productive in my God-given skills and my family to be more effectively contributing to the Kingdom haven’t fully been achieved the way I thought.

Sometimes I would find myself struggling, trying to reason everything and getting frustrated by my failed expectations. I would even question God, “Why don’t things ever turn out the way I want?” Why do I face setbacks when all I do is right? Why does life get harder for me with each single day?…and so on…

And it kind of felt unfair many times when I put a lot of my efforts in trying to change my circumstances with all possible ways I could, with all the possible plans I could, and with all my understanding and intuition. But at the end of the day, all I could see was no result, no change, not even a slight glimpse of the possibility of change!

But in the process of setting goals and plans, praying over them and believing for the desired results, I realised that all I need to do is to keep trusting His plans for my life, keep enduring, keep going even if it gets harder, keep depending on Him instead of depending on my understanding and strength, and most of all give it all to Him and rest…being confident that He holds the key to my future.

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I don’t know which circumstances you are battling in. It could be a family issue, a prolonged depression, a struggle in your workplace or with a relationship or you can name it. If you feel you have hit the limit, you have done everything you can do and you can’t see a way out, and all you want is just to quit, let me encourage you to keep enduring, keep giving your best, keep your focus on Jesus and His promises for your life. Don’t withhold your hope, prayers or faith. God has not brought you thus far to leave you in the middle. Remember that every trial you endure has a purpose. Let these truths continually strengthen your heart and encourage your faith to be stronger on your endurance journey.