When Others Don’t Do What I Want …

Whenever we desire something from another person in life, one of two things eventually happens: We get what we desire or we don’t.
Profound, I know.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I respond to that second reality – not getting exactly what I desire from another person. I’m not talking about correct change from the cashier, although that could be involved. What I’m really talking about is not getting something almost all of us desire every time we interact with others: Understanding.
This, I believe, is one of our most primal needs and one of my biggest sources of frustration. As I’ve grown older, I’ve hidden that frustration better. I don’t throw as many temper tantrums. But I also know I still don’t always handle it well.
Here’s how it usually goes down: I tell someone something and expect a certain reaction or response. They don’t understand (for whatever reason), so they don’t give the reaction or response I desire. Physically, I tense up. My forehead resembles a prune. My effort to thoughtfully engage through better eye contact is piercing rather than soothing. And in an attempt to be clearer, I speak slowly and come across as condescending. This usually prompts frustration on the part of the other person, who rightly sees me as defensive and difficult.
The practical result is this: I may or may not eventually get what I desire from the other person, but I almost always cause damage to the relationship.
To “grow in favor” with people (Luke 2:52), I need to model Jesus more accurately and represent Him more honorably. Here are a few things I’m trying to remember that help me and might help you, as well:


A Jewish friend reminded me recently of the power of a smile, not just on others but on me. We’re taught this idea early in life, but we tend to forget. It seems too simple and elementary, so we dismiss it to our peril.
When we smile, its impacts us physically and emotionally. It causes us to pause in a moment of gratitude, counteracting our selfishness. It changes our perception of ourselves and impacts the perceptions others have us. As the old song says, “Smile and the world smiles with you.”
Proverbs reminds us that a cheerful look brings joy to the heart (Proverbs 15:30), that a joyful heart is good medicine, but depression “dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22) and that a glad heart makes a happy face while a broken heart “crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:13). James tells us to count our trials as joy (James 1:2-4) and Paul tells us to rejoice when we face problems (Romans 5:3-4, 12:12).


It’s hard to remember, especially in those moments when we’re not getting what we want, that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Shocking, but true. Other people have lives that actually have nothing to do with us. They have sick children, lousy jobs, poor educations, bills they can’t pay, emotional baggage we can’t see … They have all sorts of reasons for not being perfect in the way they relate to us. When I remember this, it’s easier for me to offer grace and understanding. I can patiently work toward getting what I desire and more easily live with it if I don’t.
Paul tells us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving “as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32), and to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” when he saw Mary and her friends weeping over the death of her brother (John 11:33-35). And He commands us to “love one another” (John 15:12 and 13:33-35).


Whatever we desire in life rests in the strong but gentle hands of the Lord of the universe. If we need something, He will provide it. When my faith is weak, I try to force my will, my opinion, and my desires on those around me. When my faith is strong, I let go of the results and trust God to do what’s best for me.
The writer of Proverbs promises that if we trust in the Lord with all our heart and not on our own understanding and if we submit to God, He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). And Jesus tells us plainly and clearly not to worry about life – what we will eat or drink; about our bodies or what we will wear; or about what will happen tomorrow (Matthew 6:25, 34). Instead, we’re to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus put those words into action when He died for us, saying “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42) and “into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).


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Gratitude Drives Attitude

Gratitude drives attitude.

You’ve probably heard that expression, or some variation of it. Is it true? I believe it is.

In our quest to grow like Jesus, our attitude goes a long way in determining our openness to whatever God wants to teach us. And an attitude driven by gratitude puts us in the right mind frame and heart frame.

When I start my day with prayerful gratitude and end my day with prayerful gratitude, I’m much more likely to have a grateful attitude during the inevitable challenges that come my way.

This morning, for instance, I had a frustrating customer service call with American Airlines. It was the second frustrating call with that airline in a week and one of several I’ve had with them over the last year or two. Ultimately, it was more customer disservice than service.

I’m not sure how my attitude came across to the person on the other end of the phone; frustrated, I suspect. But I am certain that my attitude was tempered by earlier prayers of gratitude. I was thankful that my wife and I were about to embark on what promised to be a wonderful trip. I was thankful for our marriage. For our health. For the chance to spend time with my mother, my brother, and my sister-in-law. For … lots of things.

As an exercise in gratitude, I challenged myself several weeks ago to think of different areas in my life in which I need to regularly thank God for the blessings He’s poured out on me. I challenged myself to think of five things in each category. As you might expect, I had no shortage of things for which I should be grateful.

How are you expressing your gratitude? I’d challenge you to start by expressing it in prayer and then by expressing it to the people around you. See what a difference it makes in your attitude and in your life.

If you need some categories, here are some of the ones I came up with …

Attributes of God, things I love about my wife, places we’ve been, times God has seen me through something painful, friends who love me for who I am not what I do, relatives, teachers, foods, smells, songs, events, personality traits, accomplishments, challenges that stretched me, clients, possessions, gifts I’ve given, gifts I’ve received, …

Need some verses about gratitude? Click here.



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The Mystery of Faith in Action

I wasn’t searching for the most mysterious concept in the universe, but I think I somehow found it: Faith.

The more I think about it, pray about it, read about it, hear about it, or believe I know about it, the more mysterious it seems to be.

It’s easy to talk about faith as if it’s a tangible object we can hold like a phone or our favorite coffee mug. But it’s more like air … we can’t see it or grab hold of it. Yet, we can’t live without it. And we’re supposed to stretch it and share it.

Faith seems like something we either have or we don’t have, but it’s not stagnant – it shrivels up when it’s not used and it grows when it’s exercised. So it’s not enough to just have faith, we have to live with faith so we can grow our faith.

And therein lies the challenge: Acting in faith. Living in faith. Jump-out-of-the-airplane faith.parachute-713654_1920

Oh, it’s easy when the object of our faith is easily seen – when our experiences tell us that something is true and believable. But when we’re called to believe in something that’s less tangible – something like the power of God – well, that’s a bit more difficult. As long as we’re looking right at Him, we can walk on water; but as soon as we  focus on the storm and the waves, we sink like a rock.

Intellectually, we might find it easy. But the challenge is moving from words to actions – to quit a job that feels secure because God is calling us to something new … to give money or time that we don’t seem to have because God is challenging us to let go of what is His … to trust God to bring conviction on someone when everything within us tells us it’s our job not God’s to set that person straight.

In Hebrews 11:6 we learn the critical importance of active faith: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Without faith it is impossible to please God. Not challenging or difficult. Impossible.

When I was working on Grow Like Jesus, I took a deeper look at what it meant to grow in “favor with God” and I came to the conclusion that a key way we do that is simply by trusting in Him. Regardless of the situation and regardless of our actions, nothing we do will please God if it’s not rooted in faith.

But if we have that faith and earnestly seek God, He will reward that belief – including by giving us more faith when we need it.

Mark’s gospel tells about a man who took his troubled son to the disciples in hopes that they could relieve the boy of an evil spirit. When they failed, the father asked Jesus to help, saying, “if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Mark 9:22)

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes” (v.23)

To which the boy’s father immediately shouted in desperation, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v.24)

This is oh-so-familiar refrain in my life, and, I suspect, in yours. But here’s the great news: When the man asked, Jesus answered. He helped him overcome his unbelief. So whenever I’m struggling to live out this concept called faith, I know right where to start: By surrendering it to Jesus. How does that work? That’s the mystery of faith.


Read Hebrews 11

Read Mark 9


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