Please Don't Shoot Your Boat

I hate to admit this, but I have a tendency to shoot holes in my boat. I look around and see so many boats that are leaking or full-blown sinking, so I just go ahead and shoot a hole in mine because somehow it feels wrong if I'm not sinking, too.
Photo by Jassim Vailoces on Unsplash
Of course, I'm not talking about literal boats. I'm not really out on a lake shooting a hole in my son's kayak or my hubby's little aluminum fishing boat. (That would be crazy.) I'm talking about my heart. I can be very tempted to sink my emotional boat when I see others sinking. Logical or not, it's hard for me to feel okay when others aren't okay. (Spoiler alert! This is a problem because there's always someone in the world who is not okay.)

I've gone through a lot of emotions and adjustments in the last weeks. (See my previous post about COVID-19 Culture Shock.) But at this point, even though my city/state is still COVID-19-CLOSED, I am doing okay. Our personal financial world hasn't collapsed and my people aren't sick and we aren't in danger of bankruptcy or foreclosure. We have jobs and our kids aren't behind academically because they were okay to start with. Sure we're stressed, and my husband's job is harder than ever, but we also have a house with a yard and enough rooms we can spread out and we are enjoying at being at home together, even though we wish we could get out.

And it can make me feel terribly guilty because I know so many others are sinking.

So many are facing job loss.
So many are facing the possibility of losing the small business they've poured their lives into.
So many are facing the loss of loved ones - to COVID-19 or something else - and they can't grieve and mourn together.
So many are facing overwhelming anxiety and stress.
So many are daily at risk of getting sick because they don't enjoy the luxury of remote working.
So many are facing new waves of racism in the wake of the pandemic.

So many people struggling in so many ways.

Who am I to be okay right now when so many others are hurting?

These thoughts in my head might be louder than normal right now, but they aren't new. After all, there has never been a time when the world wasn't groaning. Refugees, orphans, victims of human trafficking, homelessness, war, mental illness...  the human race has been in pain since Genesis and I've never known quite what to do about it and I easily get stuck feeling guilty for my good life. I know I'm supposed to be grateful (and I am!) but I've never been able to shake the guilty feelings that came when I tried to pay attention to the life I was trying to be grateful for.

Can you relate? I know not everyone has this problem. But I also know I'm not alone. And I am so profoundly grateful God has been showing me a better way. If you can relate, please don't shoot your boat just because others around you are sinking.
Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash
Instead of sabotaging my heart with guilty feelings, I'm learning to grieve, be grateful, grow, give, and glorify God. It's making a tremendous difference in my outlook. Here's what I'm practicing:

1. GRIEVE. I'm realizing that when people are suffering it is much more appropriate to GRIEVE than to just feel guilty. Grieving acknowledges the loss and pain. Pouring out my concern and heartbreak to God as grief and lament is healthy and appropriate. Grieving WITH others is even better. When appropriate and needed, I can also REPENT of wrong when God shows me my part in causing pain to others. But even then, grieving the loss and suffering is right.

2. Be GRATEFUL. I'm practicing being thankful again. I'm seeing the gifts of grace God has given me (whether in tangible or intangible ways) and I'm saying thank you. I'm refusing to feel guilty for my home and good relationships because I know now there is a better way and that gratitude prepares me to share with others in ways guilty feelings never can. Instead of rejecting gifts of grace from God and others, I'm accepting them and saying thank you.

3. GROW. This is the place where I am planted and I can let God's love and the knowledge of Christ keep growing in me. I'm refusing guilt and asking God to help me GROW in his grace, one day and one moment of surrender at a time. It's not about deserving or earning. It's about accepting mercy and grace and letting love grow in my heart. I want to serve motivated by LOVE and not guilt. So I have to let love grow.

4. GIVE. More and more I'm discovering how feeling guilty can actually be selfish. When I allow myself to wallow in guilt, my focus stays inward and I can be tricked into feeling better simply because I feel worse. THAT HELPS NO ONE. Instead, I'm finally asking God to lead me more into what I can give. I may feel like a little boy with merely a few loaves of bread and fish in the face of thousands of hungry people. Or a widow with a few tiny coins. But if I'm letting God grow love and good things in me and I offer those gifts back to him and to others, God can make something good from it.

5. GLORIFY GOD. As I grieve the pain and suffering in my city and world, I experience God's heart that breaks with the hurting. As I am grateful for the ways God has cared for me, I learn to humbly accept the tools he is giving me to do something good in the world. As I grow in strength and joy and Christ-likeness, I will actually be able to give back to God and share with others according to the gifts he has given me. And in all these ways I will glorify God so much more than if I stayed stuck feeling guilty for the good things in my life.

Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash
Does this solve all of the problems and answer all of the questions in the world? Not at all. And if your boat is rocking and floundering right now, I'm so sorry. I pray God will sustain you and help you in exactly the way you need right now.

But if your boat is okay, may God keep you afloat. And as long as God allows our boats to keep floating, may he open our eyes to see how he might use us and our little boats for some greater good in his kingdom - no matter how small that good may seem.