“Let him go. Move on, already,” your friends tell you. “Like, yesterday. You should be over him by now!” After all, it has been months. Years.
But still, he haunts your thoughts—dropping by frequently, oblivious to the fact that he’s not welcome—threatening to sabotage not only your past but your present. Like a shackle attached to your ankle, you drag this dead hope of a relationship with you wherever you go.
Meet Someone Else Who Couldn’t Stop Looking Back
You’re not the only one who can’t seem to stop looking back with longing. Over and over in the book of Numbers, God’s people, the Israelites, rebel against Him. They get hung up on their cravings, (“What I wouldn’t do right now for a leek!”) and wish for their past as slaves to Pharaoh. Here’s just one example of them looking wistfully over their shoulders:
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Num. 14:1–4).
“Let us go back to Egypt”?! The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for 420 years. It had not been a vacation. There were bricks to be made and backs to be whipped and no relief in sight . . . until God intervened. He sent Moses to perform mighty acts and deliver His people from their hard labor and heavy burdens.
So Close . . .
He then began to lead them to the Promised Land, the land He had promised their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In this particular passage above, they were poised to enter the Promised Land. Twelve spies had been sent to spy it out, and ten came back with a fearful report:
“The land . . . is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height . . . and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers” (13:32–33).
Two of the twelve spies, however, reported:
“The land . . . is an exceedingly good land. . . . Do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them” (14:7–9).
Stop looking back, and instead believe that your God is good—and that all He does is good—and move on.
But instead of believing the two spies—and ultimately believing God—the people of Israel chose fear over faith. They cried out with longing for the “good ol’ days” in slavery.
As a result of their unbelief, God destined them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness (one year for each day the spies spied out the Promised Land), and ensured their fears would become reality:
“What you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness . . . not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except [the two spies who gave the good report]. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in” (14:28–31).
Let Him Go, and Move On
This is more than just a Bible story. Did you know that 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that these accounts were written for us, for our instruction? I know your circumstances are different, but like the Israelites, do you believe God made a mistake? That God held out on you? Do you believe life would be better if only this guy had pursued you?
Are you obeying God’s command to avoid idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7)? My guess is that if you’re still living under the shadow of this relationship that didn’t materialize, you have most likely idolized this guy. Please don’t confuse love for lust, covetousness, and idolatry.
Please don’t confuse love for lust, covetousness, and idolatry.
Repent of making the hope of this relationship your ultimate hope. Believe God and move forward under His leadership. He wants to bless you, if you will only trust His heart. He is drawing you away from the slavery of idolatry and covetousness and into the Promised Land of contentment as His treasured possession, living under His rule.
Stop looking back, and instead believe that your God is good—and that all He does is good—and move on. Move forward, and watch God bring you out into a broad, spacious place.
You don’t want to be jealous, but you are. You feel overlooked and underappreciated.
Someone else made the cut for the track team.
Your coworker got that promotion at Chipotle.
Your best friend just became class president.
You know these are good things, but still you feel overlooked and underappreciated. I can relate.
A Front-Row Seat
I felt overlooked and underappreciated recently. I was given a behind-the-scenes job that gave me a front-row seat to others being being called up on stage to share their wisdom with others. Inside, instead of celebrating their opportunity, I felt like someone was cruelly twisting a knife in my stomach.
“I can do a great job, too,” I muttered to myself. “I have just as much to offer.”
A couple days later, while sitting on a pew on a Sunday morning, I heard the pastor briefly allude to James 3:13–18. Verses 14 and 15 nailed me to the wall:
If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts . . . this is . . . demonic.
My Jealousy Is . . . Demonic?
Waaaaaaiiiiiiiiitttttttt . . . demonic?!
Yep. Turns out you don’t have to dabble in the occult to serve the devil’s interests; you simply have to be filled with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. YIKES!
In James 3:13–18, James exposes true—and counterfeit—“wisdom.” There’s:
The “real-deal-wisdom” that comes from God and shows itself in humility, and,
This counterfeit “wisdom” that comes from Satan and shows itself in bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.
If we are truly wise—if we really do have lots to offer others—we will prove it through our “meekness,” our humility (v. 13). But if, instead, we are filled with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, we prove that we are not nearly as wise as we think we are (vv. 14–15).
We want to walk the path of wisdom, right? We don’t want to dabble with the deeds of darkness, do we? So what can we do the next time we’re feeling overlooked and underappreciated?
The Next Time We Feel Overlooked
He—the Creator and King—willingly made Himself nothing and took on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7). He—“very God of very God”—was despised and rejected by humanity (Isa. 53:3). He was made perfect through suffering (Heb. 2:10). This, by the way, doesn’t mean He had to be perfected morally; it means His suffering made Him the perfect Savior for broken humanity.
As we remember Jesus, let’s cry out to Him for help to embrace His way of meekness.
As we remember Jesus, let’s cry out to Him for help to embrace His way of meekness. Repent with me of our bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. These are demonic; they bear no resemblance to our older Brother, Jesus. Instead, let’s embrace “the wisdom from above,” that’s “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). When we do, we will sow “a harvest of righteousness” (v. 18)
How about you? Is your life marked by humility . . . or selfish ambition? Are you pursuing the way of wisdom . . . or the way of the demonic?
A Prayer for the Jealous in Heart
Jesus, You are my merciful, faithful High Priest. You sympathize with me in my weakness, because You too lived as a human being—but perfectly, as I have not. I want to pursue the way of wisdom, but I cannot do it on my own. Help me. As I surrender to Your Holy Spirit in me, transform me into Your beautiful, spittin’ image. I request this for Your glory, my joy, and the good of all those around me. Amen.
“Will I go to hell if I’m not a virgin?” a single girl asked me.
I wish I could scoff, “Of course not!” But the truth is, it all depends . . .
Hell: Our Default Destination
Let’s start with this basic understanding: Every person’s default destination is Hell. That’s because without exception:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
While our culture ridicules the notion that sex is off-limits to everyone other than a man and a woman united in marriage, God says otherwise.
We all sin in countless ways, but let’s specifically address this girl’s question about choosing to have premarital sex.
While our culture ridicules the notion that sex is off-limits to everyone other than a man and a woman united in marriage, God says otherwise.
First Corinthians 6:13–20 explains:
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?
For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Choosing to have sex outside of marriage is sin, and all sin results in death—physical death and eternal death in hell (Rom. 6:23).
That’s because our God is stunningly more holy than we can imagine:
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong (Hab. 1:13).
Believe me, I get how hard it is to swallow the fact that all of us deserve hell. To us, hell seems like “a divine overreaction.” But as author Randy Alcorn writes:
If we understood God’s nature and ours, we would be shocked not that some people could go to hell, but that any would be permitted into heaven. Unholy as we are, we are disqualified from saying that infinite holiness doesn’t demand everlasting punishment.
So the million dollar question is this. How can this girl who is no longer a virgin—and how can you and I—exchange our one-way ticket to hell . . . for heaven?
How to Exchange Our One-Way Ticket to Hell . . . for Heaven
We can’t on our own. But Someone has done it for us. Jesus chose to endure hell for you and me so we might have the option of entering the joys of heaven.
He [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
Jesus chose to endure hell for you and me so we might have the option of entering the joys of heaven.
Because of our sin, you and I deserve hell. But Jesus has made a way for us, instead, to enjoy Him forever in heaven. In response to this girl who asked, “Will I go to heaven if I’m not a virgin?” I have to ask:
Have you accepted Jesus’ unbelievably heroic, extravagant gift?
Have you confessed and turned from your sins?
First John 1:9 promises that:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Hell will be full of those who have sinned sexually (and in other ways). Heaven will also be filled with people who formerly sinned sexually (and in other ways). What’s the difference? It has nothing to do with the sins you’ve committed, but with whether you have embraced the Sin-Slayer, Jesus Christ, your righteous Substitute . . . and turned from your sin as a result.
PS: I am indebted to Randy Alcorn for his insights on hell in chapters 3 and 4 of his bookHeaven.
Recently I heard from a girl who was struggling to remain pure. She had just started dating a guy long distance. After her first weekend visit, she wrote:
The physical temptation is so real. Even the smallest thing will set off a wildfire in my heart. . . . It’s a war I didn’t realize I would struggle with. I wish I had been more prepared to guard our hearts in the most heart-racing moments.
I can relate.
My Rule-Making Strategy
Before Trevor and I married, we also dated long distance. I’ll never forget my first visit to spend time with him over Christmas. Unlike this girl above, I did anticipate that it would be tough physically. So I set a couple rules for myself before boarding the plane:
No lying down horizontally.
No kissing on the lips.
And while I technically didn’t break either of those rules on that first visit, I found myself flirting at the very edges of those boundaries, like a hummingbird hovering near sweet nectar.
I kept “the letter of the law” while ignoring “the spirit of the law.” I observed my literal rules but not the intent behind the rules: purity, so I might see and enjoy God (Matt. 5:8).
Don’t just run from sexual immorality, though. Run to Christ.
It was soon blazingly obvious: Rules weren’t going to do the trick of keeping me pure. For example, if I had set a boundary, “I won’t be in a bedroom with him with the door closed,” my flesh would surely have countered, “Okay, I’ll go to the garage instead.”
Pastor and theologian Gerald Hiestand describes this well when he writes, “Every ‘objective’ boundary can be worked around by sin-inspired creativity.”
Colossians 2:20–23 also explains that boundaries and rules aren’t enough to keep us from doing wrong. On our own, they’re not capable of getting to the root issue—they don’t deal a deathblow to our ungodly passions and desires.
What, then, is to be done?
Your Dating Strategy
First, as 1 Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality.” Get your running shoes on and start sprinting like mad! Don’t just run from sexual immorality, though. Run to Christ.
Flee sexual immorality and fly to Christ, in whom every treasure is found.
Ask God to send His Spirit to help you see and despise your sin.
Be brutal with your sin. Don’t just exile it; cut its head off!
I’m not saying there is no place in dating for boundaries. But even if you do set rules, don’t rely on them alone to keep you pure. You aren’t strong enough to battle your ungodly passions in your own strength. Run to Christ. Only He is strong enough.
Be brutal with your sin. Don’t just exile it; cut its head off!
How about you? Have you set any rules or boundaries for yourself once you begin dating? If so, what will you do when your flesh doesn’t cooperate with your good intentions? Then what?
Every once in awhile, I meet someone whose life nearly takes my breath away with its beauty. My friend Debra Fehsenfeld is a passionate follower of Jesus, a wife and mother of four, a lover of all people, and a praying woman. (She’s cool, too!) I asked if she’d answer my questions about prayer, and here’s what she had to say.
If you had to describe prayer to a new Christian, what would you say?
It’s the gift we’ve been given to talk to God, to take action before God, and to participate with Him in all He’s doing in the world.
Talk to God: He’s listening. Ask Him questions, tell Him what you’re thinking about, what you care about, wonder before Him about what He cares about, marvel at what you are seeing around you, both good and bad—there are no limits to what you can talk to Him about.
Take action: We see things, hear things, wonder about things, believe things, understand things . . . but we don’t always know what we’re to do in response to all these things. Prayer is what we do.
Participate with Him: Through interacting with God and seeking His kingdom in all that we see, hear, wonder, believe, and understand, we actually enter into the incredible privilege of working with God to make all that is wrong right. (There’s no geographical, racial, religious boundary to hinder us in this work!)
What motivates you to pray?
Aside from the fact that I really do want to obey Jesus who has told us to pray (Luke 18:1, etc.), I think I’m motivated by two things: (1) an awareness of need, and (2) my experience of the perfectly divine ways in which God does things—experience with the God who alone is the perfect head of wisdom, the perfect heart of love, and the possessor of perfect almighty hands. I pray because I have great needs and so does the world around me. I pray because I believe God intends to do something about those needs, and I want to see Him do it and be part of what He does.
When and where do you pray?
The greatest amount of concentrated time praying I do is in the mornings and afternoons while I’m running on the treadmill, and especially while I’m biking (recumbent). Both pieces of equipment are in our basement, and there is usually very little distraction.
I do pray at other times and in any number of places, but these would certainly be less intentional times of prayer though no less real or meaningful; they are usually responsive prayers—immediate responding to immediate circumstances or thoughts.
But my when and where isn’t relevant in any useful sense for anyone but me because it’s different based on one’s context and season of life. The thing relevant for us all, I believe, is that there must be a regular time where we arrange our days (and lives) to be alone with the One we love and are seeking to learn from. We have the example of Jesus confirming the importance of such a time. If Jesus needed set times of solitude with the Father, I do as well.
When my husband, Del, and I go on a date, we have the opportunity to really catch up with each other and make a deeper heart-to-heart connection. We obviously connect and touch base throughout the day, but these set-aside times are about us connecting on a deeper level. Likewise, it’s vital for me to create a space of solitude in order to really engage at a deeper level with my Father.
I’m assuming you didn’t always pray like you do now. What increased your commitment to—and hunger for—prayer?
Hands down, I started really praying intentionally when I began to realize that my children were going to need to make their own choices in life one day. I cannot make faith come alive in them; I’m completely dependent on the heart-changing, love-infusing power of God’s Spirit.
Now I’m motivated by more than need. I eagerly anticipate those daily spaces of solitude with my Father. We are so together in these spaces of solitude. I lose track of time; I don’t want to leave. It’s so personal.
What do you think is the most important thing to understand about prayer?
The focus of prayer is not what you say or don’t, or how long you pray, or how you feel while you pray. Prayer is doing life with God; aware of Him always; interacting with and seeking Him in everything.
How much time do you spend talking to God; how much time do you spend listening?
Let me refer back to those dates with Del. Sometimes Del talks more. Sometimes I do. But that’s not the point. The purpose of the date is connection, leading us to restored and more complete oneness.
The point of prayer is exactly the same. The goal is connection to God, leading to oneness with God—where what He cares about is becoming what I care about, where the way He sees things begins infusing the way I see things, His altogether good impulses generating in me good impulses like His.
What is the greatest thing you’ve ever asked God for?
To be born again.
What is the greatest thing you’ve ever seen God do in response to your prayers?
The thing I’ve seen Him do now over and over and over again is the thing that still blows my mind. He engages with me, with all of us who are walking in life with Him! GOD, the Source and Sustainer of all life, wisdom, glory, authority, power, love, and good is content—no, more than content, He is full to the brim giddy to hang out with me all the time!
If He can bring dead things to life, if He can call into being things that never were heard of or in existence before, if He can be crazy with delight about hanging out with me every day and convince me that He wants to continue this forever—all of these things I’ve seen Him do in and for me and in and for others—I have no doubt whatsoever that there isn’t anything for Him that is too hard.
I’d love to hear from you. What motivates you to pray? And how is God changing the way you think about and interact with Him in prayer?
I know that you associate singleness with punishment, but nothing could be further from the truth! How can I be so confident? Because God’s Word is crystal clear on the matter. Please do yourself a favor and give this lie the boot!
1. Someone else was punished for your sin.
You have a substitute. A Savior.
Jesus Christ willingly stepped into your place and took the full brunt of the Father’s wrath and punishment for your wickedness. If you have put your full trust in Christ, it is done. You are cleansed. Forgiven. Loved. Free.
“Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
“And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us . . . ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Heb. 10:11–18).
You can know that God the Father accepted Christ’s substitution for your sin because He not only raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus returned to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Intimacy was restored. The deed was done.
Clearly, it would be unjust of God to punish His Son for your sin . . . . and then turn around and punish you as well! And God is anything but unjust.
You will never know His punishment, only His favor through Christ . . . if you trust in Jesus alone as your Savior.
2. Jesus was single, and it was not because He had sinned!
Hebrews 4:15 says, ” For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (emphasis added). Obviously, singleness is not the result of sin, because Jesus never, ever sinned.
Not only is singleness not punishment . . .
3. The apostle Paul says that singleness is a gift.
In 1 Corinthians 7:7–8, Paul writes:
“I wish that all were as I myself am [single]. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am” (emphasis added).
Paul goes on to explain why singleness is a gift: because “those who marry will have worldly troubles,” because he wants you “to be free from anxieties,” and because the married woman’s interests are “divided” trying to please both God and her husband (vv. 28–34). Paul summarizes all this in verse 35:
“I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”
Sweet girl, the real problem is not that you are being punished for your sin. The real problem is that your hopes are misdirected.
Do not waste the gift that this season of singleness is.
Marriage is a beautiful gift . . . if and only if you are not looking to a man to fulfill you and complete you and replace your sadness with joy.
Marriage is a beautiful gift . . . if and only if you are running to Christ daily to fulfill you and satisfy you with His love and replace your sadness with joy.
Do not waste the gift that this season of singleness is. Use it to repent of your misplaced hopes and to find Christ to be your all-in-all. Only then will marriage or singleness be able to be received—not as punishment—but as the gift they both are.
Lately several girls have told me they’re convinced something is wrong with them because they’ve never had a boyfriend. Most chalk it up to being plain ugly, like this girl:
I’m twenty-three and have never dated anyone. I honestly feel like the weirdest, ugliest girl in the world, and all I can do is question what’s wrong with me. I feel if I was pretty like other girls or more dateable, I wouldn’t be single. And quite frankly, sometimes I even question if I’m worthy of being loved or if I’m so horrible I can’t even be liked.
I know life shouldn’t just be about dating, but it’s so awkward when all your friends are or have been in relationships, and you’re just there thinking, It must be because I’m ugly. I’ve come to hate everything about my physical appearance. It’s like my whole youth has passed me by. Because even when I’ve had any crush, they wouldn’t even notice me. I’ve now come to the point of thinking maybe love isn’t for everyone, but I don’t know how well I can accept it.
Single girl, nothing is wrong with you. Not in the way you think, anyway.
Nothing is wrong with being twenty-three and not having dated. In fact, you have the advantage, in my opinion.
My hubby was twenty-six when we started dating. Until I came along, he had never had a girlfriend. That wasn’t weird to me. It was pure relief!
If you read this blog often, you know my story. While I always had a crush on someone, I was boyfriend-less from ages sixteen to thirty—well over a decade. Do I look back and regret the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend during those long years? No way!
Let me try to give you a little perspective.
Having a boyfriend, dating, is a fairly recent phenomenon in our culture. But marriage was God’s design from the beginning of creation: one man and one woman exclusively committed to each other until death parts them. It’s okay—wonderful, in my opinion—if you don’t drag a string of old boyfriends into this lifelong covenant.
Also, if you’re not dating, you’re saving yourself a whole lot of temptation, as the world claims that boyfriends and girlfriends get to enjoy all the benefits of marriage, but God’s Word doesn’t back this up.
And then there’s the fact that you grow and mature so much in your twenties. You learn who you are, what you believe, what you stand for, what you actually want in a lifelong partner. This time of singleness is valuable.
I can hear you protesting, “That’s all good if someone eventually pursues you, but no guy will ever like me. I’m too ugly.”
If you’ve been telling yourself over and over that you’re ugly, why would one guy telling you you’re not ugly change your mind?
You need to choose to believe what is true about yourself before you put a poor boyfriend or husband in the impossible position of convincing you otherwise.
You are beautiful.
How can I know this, as I’ve personally never laid eyes on you?
Because I know that God, the ultimate source of beauty, made you. And God doesn’t make junk.
I was in your shoes once. You can read all about it in my book, Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey From Neediness to Freedom. A guy who led me on for over a year and a half finally admitted why he hadn’t officially asked me to be his girlfriend: “The spark comes and goes.” With that admission, the Liar (Satan) lodged a big, hairy lie deep within me: “You’re just not beautiful.”
That lie rang in my ears for months.
Until one morning when I lifted the bathroom blinds. The beauty before me nearly took my breath away—this delicate, purple flowering tree reaching up, up, up. While washing my face and combing my hair, I kept glancing at its beauty, drinking it in.
That’s when I saw it. You make beautiful things, God. At that moment, I chose to stop listening to Satan’s lies and to believe that my Creator had not made me ugly.
You make beautiful things, God.
As I write this post, I’m sitting in my backyard surrounded by wildflowers, vegetables, a Rose of Sharon bush, and decorative grasses. Each plant is different from the others, but I would never call anything surrounding me ugly! God doesn’t do ugly.
God made you, and you are not His one mistake.
May I challenge you to repent of believing this lie? Even if you don’t yet feel beautiful, agree with God that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Ps. 139:14).
Then I challenge you to change your focus—not on being loved but on loving God and others. After all, Jesus said that this is the greatest commandment in the law:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second
is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37–40).
This is what you were made for: to love as God has loved you. And ironically, as you shift your focus from yourself to God and others, this is what will put your beauty on full display.
This is what you were made for: to love as God has loved you.
So how about it, beautiful girl? Will you choose to believe that God makes beautiful things—including you?! (If you doubt this, I challenge you to take a walk outdoors for a glimpse of His beautiful world!)
Also, I need to ask, is being loved more important to you than loving God and others? If so, will you confess this as sin to God and ask for His help to keep the greatest commandment?
There is nothing wrong with you, single girl. Go live beautifully.
I can’t stop talking about it everywhere I go. Tim Challies’ book, Do More Better has revolutionized my life.
It’s a slim little book, which is probably why it’s the first book on productivity I’ve actually read cover to cover. Not only that, it’s such a practical book that I’ve been able to implement most of what I’ve read along the way! And oh, how drastically I needed someone to come alongside me and help me figure out how to change . . .
For years, I left untold emails unanswered. I have also been guilty of failing to return voicemail messages and asking for grace when returning a purchase a few days after the thirty- or sixty- or ninety-day return policy had ended. Piles around the house have remain untouched; great ideas of doing good for others have remained just that . . . ideas.
I have worked frantically, moving from one incomplete project to the next, attempting to keep my world from crashing down around me. As a result, I have not loved people well, I have not enjoyed life, and I have been a slave to work without ever feeling like I was getting anywhere.
This book has and is changing all that, though. When I read the true measure of productivity, I was stunned at its simplicity. I wrote in the margin, Could it really be this simple, God?
What Productivity Really Is
Productivity is not about crossing every task off our to-do list. It is about organizing our lives so that “you can do the maximum good for others and thus bring the maximum glory to God.” Matthew 5:16 summarizes this well:
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Tim Challies writes, “Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good.”
He then pointed out the “productivity thieves”: laziness and busyness. If you’re like me, you’ve come to normalize and even spiritualize busyness. But Challies puts an end to that with this enlightening paragraph:
Busyness cannot be confused with diligence. It cannot be confused with faithfulness or fruitfulness. Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. Busyness . . . probably just means that you are directing too little attention in too many directions, that you are prioritizing all the wrong things, and that your productivity is suffering.
Ouch! But it got worse. He went on to diagnose my condition perfectly. I have been “Busylazy”: I put tasks off until I absolutely can’t avoid them any longer, and then I work like crazy to meet the deadline.
With that foundation, Tim led me through some super practical exercises:
In chapter 3, he showed me how to define my areas of responsibility and then fill in the roles, tasks, or projects that fall under each.
In chapter 4 he encouraged me to define my mission. In his words:
You haven’t begun to live a focused and productive life until you have said no to great opportunities that just do not fit your mission.
In chapter 5 he taught me a basic organization tool: “A home for everything, and like goes with like,” and he recommended a task management tool, a scheduling tool, and an information tool. Because . . .
Appointments always need to go where appointments go, information always needs to go where information goes, and tasks always need to go where tasks go.
In chapters 6–8 he honed in on each of these areas:
collect your tasks
plan your calendar
gather your information.
In chapter 9 he encouraged me to “live the system.” He writes:
Your day needs to have two phases: planning and execution. . . . While planning does not need to take much time, it is very important, and when done right, will dramatically increase what you are able to accomplish throughout the rest of the day.
And then in the final chapter he emphasized the importance of maintaining the system consistently. “Nothing in this world coasts toward order,” he writes. “You need to free yourself from thinking that organizing your life is a one-shot deal.”
Ever since, I’ve scheduled a “daily review” first thing each morning (Tim outlines how to do this in chapter 9), and I’m starting up weekly reviews each Friday as he recommends.
He closed the book with two bonus sections that were perfect for me. The first, “tame your email,” taught me to start at the top of my inbox and take action on each email before moving on to the next:
reply to it
or move it to my reply folder.
And then his final bonus section included twenty tips to increase my productivity. A few I especially appreciated:
Stop multitasking. Whenever possible choose a task, take it to completion, and then move on to the next one.
Move around. Sometimes a change of scenery is as good as time off.
Learn to delegate. What you do poorly someone else may be able to do with excellence.
Don’t send unnecessary email. Send sparingly, and you will receive sparingly.
It’s For Us All
With all this talk of email, you may think this book is just for someone with an 8:30–5 desk job, but it’s not. I believe this book will be revolutionary for the student, the housewife, the women’s ministry leader . . . for you.
That’s why I’m so grateful Tim has agreed to give away three copies. If you think you, too, could use some help thinking about productivity biblically and practically, log on to the giveaway widget over at ReviveOurHearts.com for a chance to win one of three copies of Do More Better.
Do More Better: A Productivity Tool That Could Revolutionize Your Life was originally published on ReviveOurHearts.com.
At some point this school year you may bump into a girl who outshines you: on the basketball court, in science class, on the piano . . . or maybe with how well she is liked by others and how beautiful she is.
If and when you start noticing that you’re:
comparing yourself with her
criticizing her (if only in your thoughts)
being ungrateful for the gifts God has given you
minimizing the gifts God has given her
feeling hatred toward her . . .
. . . you can be glad.
Why? Because this girl’s success is shining the spotlight on the sin of envy in your life. That is a good thing because all sin is a disease that will kill you if left unchecked. Envy will destroy you . . . unless you ask for God’s help to destroy it!
How can you fight back against envy? The key lies in 1 Peter 2:1–3:
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
First, when envy pops up, you and I need to “put it away.” Wage war against it. Confess it as sin to God. Turn away from it and have nothing more to do with it.
Envy will destroy you . . . unless you ask for God’s help to destroy it!
Second, instead of miserably focusing on others’ successes, you and I need to take the “medicine” of the pure spiritual milk of God’s goodness toward us.
Jonathan Edwards does just that in this paragraph (read slowly so you don’t miss these rich thoughts that he wrote way back in the 1700s):
Christ came into the world to deliver us from the fruits of Satan’s envy towards us. The devil being miserable himself, envied mankind that happiness which they had, and could not bear to see our first parents in their happy state in Eden, and therefore exerted himself to the utmost to ruin them, and accomplished it. The gospel teaches how Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil, and deliver us from that misery into which his envy had brought us.
When Jesus came into the world, He humbled Himself beyond what we can imagine and gave everything for us. And He did it joyfully. I love how Ed Welch points to Luke 12:32 (“Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”) and says, “Fathers can give begrudgingly and kings can give simply because they made an oath, but God gives out of his pleasure and delight.”
Jonathan Edwards says it like this,
The doctrines of the gospel teach us how far Jesus Christ was from grudging us anything which he could do for or give to us. He did not grudge us a life spent in labor and suffering; he did not grudge us his own precious blood; he hath not grudged us a sitting with him on his throne in heaven, and being partakers with him of that heavenly kingdom and glory which the Father hath given him.
Have you ever thought a guy you liked was interested in you, but at the same time you’ve felt super confused after your interactions with him? Yeah, me
too. I think it happens a lot, unfortunately. Here’s what one girl asked me recently:
I’m in so much emotional turmoil. I cry almost every day over whether he’s interested in me or not. I know it’s absolutely silly and I determine not to do it, but I can’t help how I feel. I don’t know if I should just end my turmoil by telling him how I feel and then let whatever happens happen. Is that acceptable or is that wrong to tell him I’m interested and let him accept or reject me? I’ve never believed in the woman pursuing the man, but he is okay with that. I just don’t know if this is an issue if I should tell him I am interested in him. Please help!
Here are a few questions I sent her in response. I pray they will also help you if and when you find yourself in a similar bind in the future:
What specifically leads you to believe this guy is interested in you?
Have mature, wise adults in your life also noticed this guy’s special interest in you (Prov. 1:5)?
Are you aware of other girls who are confused by this guy’s interactions with them and who also wonder if he’s interested in them? If so, you may need to gently confront him about his unwise interactions with young women (Matt. 18:15).
If you put yourself out there and tell him you like him, how do you know your turmoil will end? What if he responds by telling you he’s not sure how he feels about you?
What do you think would be best for this guy at this point in his life? If he’s extremely busy, do you think he even has time for a committed relationship?
Can you trust God—and this guy—to open this conversation if and when it’s the right time (Ps. 25:3)?
Do you believe that if this guy is settled in both his feelings for you and in God’s blessing of your relationship that he will have the courage to tell you how he feels about you? If you’re not certain he has the guts to do this, is he really a man you could respect for life (Eph. 5:33)?
Imagine this guy doesn’t respond as you hope. Will telling him how you feel about him leave you feeling free and peaceful . . . or desperate and worthless?
What if, rather than pressing the issue with this guy, you changed your focus and began seeking and serving God wholeheartedly until He sends a guy who makes his intentions for you clear (1 Cor. 7:24)?
What do you think? Have you ever told a guy you liked him? How did things turn out? Do you think this girl should tell her crush that she likes him? Why or why not?