When faced with a challenge, is it possible a hard stop can be your best start?
I stood completely still, nearly frozen in place, feet glued to the floor. My eyes were wide, staring into the unknown, while my tensed arms, bent at the elbow, stretched out as if to say, ‘whoa—stop.’
I had just been given some shocking news, the kind of news that makes you stop everything to rush into action. But I didn’t rush anywhere this time. I actually did the exact opposite. I paused.
This wasn’t my usual response to such things. Somehow, in a split second, I knew not to jump to conclusions and action plans. I like to think this moment of pause changed the course of the entire challenge I was facing. Actually, I am quite certain it did.
Without that pause, I would not have taken enough time to catch my breath, gather my swirling thoughts, and place them in the hands of the only one who could solve the problem—Jesus.
“Be still and know that I am God;”
Psalm 46:10 ESV
I don’t know about you, but these pausing moments are few and far between. I am an action person. In fact, I default to action, donning my super hero cape and whatever powers I can muster up to fight the evil or challenge that’s crossed my path.
The problem is—I am human. I am not a super hero. I have very little control over the storms of life. Moreso, I can actually make them worse by pompously expecting to conquer them on my own.
My sin of pride covers over the light of Christ inside me.
Friend, when we are faced with a challenge, a pause will give us the opportunity to trust the real Hero. Taking that moment to stop, breathe, take captive our thoughts, and bring the situation to God allows us the room to pray and place our trust in the only One who has the power to change it.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1 ESV
It’s not to say that He won’t lead us into action, but it will be HIS action plan, not ours.
Without a prayerful pause, we will probably allow our thoughts, emotions and human responses lead us. And, let’s admit it, they have gotten us in some sticky situations in the past, haven’t they?
So, how do we make the choice to pause?
Well, it is just that—a choice. May I recommend practicing with some smaller challenges?
For example, you are at the coffee shop and they ran out of your favorite coffee concoction. Rather than rolling your eyes, sighing dramatically, or even sheepishly accepting a subpar cup of coffee, pause. Take a breathe. (Don’t worry, the barista can wait the two seconds it takes you to do this.) Say a quick prayer to God—“Help me respond with love and humility” and see what happens.
I know that is an ultra-simple example, but it’s a good way to start practicing the art of the pause.
Once we have put on the brakes, we open our hearts and minds to change our focus. When faced with a challenge, we tend to stare at it. You know what I mean? We can’t take our eyes off of the circumstance. It’s similar to “rubbernecking” on the highway when there is an accident. It’s terrible to see an accident, yet we keep looking—to the point that we endanger ourselves!
Pull yourself away from the challenge long enough to change your perspective.
Focus your eyes on the solution—Jesus. When our perspective changes, we are able to view challenges through the lens of the Savior. It becomes a ‘what would Jesus do?’ moment filled with possibility rather than negativity.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Philippians 4: 5b-6 ESV
So, we’ve paused and refocused. Then, what do we pray for?
Our mind is a jumbled mess. We may or may not have all the facts and details of the situation. We probably have more questions than answers. Our emotions are vying for our complete attention. Emotions can easily take over the driver’s seat in our lives, when they should be acting only as indicators.
Pray for help. Pray for God’s will. Honestly, that’s enough.
‘Lord, help me. Your will be done. Guide me through this. Amen.’
That’s it? Yep, it can be. My friend, you do not need fancy words to speak to your Creator. He knows you! He knows the situation you are facing.
God loves you and He wants you to surrender this to Him.
He is going to be ok with whatever you pray. Seriously. He just wants you to release your grip and hand over the challenge to Him.
You may still be skeptical, and that’s ok. You may be thinking, “how can a little two second pause and a tiny prayer make such a big difference?” I get it. I have felt that way, too. I wouldn’t be writing this to you if I didn’t struggle with this in my own life.
How about just trying it on for size? Consider it an experiment. The next time you experience a challenge of any size or shape, try it out!
Pause and pray.
Then, take a moment to ponder how it felt. The Bible tells us that, when we release control to Him with gratitude asking for His help, He will give us an amazing peace. (Phil 4:7) That day I experienced a shocking circumstance, I also felt God’s beautiful peace as I paused to pray and ask Him for help.
I pray you experience that same peace the next time you are faced with a challenge. God is ready to help.
Pause and get ready to see what only He can do.
Here are some reflection questions to help you apply this concept to your life:
What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
What are the obstacles you are currently facing in that challenge? Name them all.
What if—rather than strategizing—you brought that challenge and those obstacles to God?
What if you did that RIGHT NOW? (Pause. Pray.)
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Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash