“Ouch! There’s a Thorn in My Flesh!”

by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio

WINNING WITH THE WORD

“Winning with the Word” is a weekly blog that will help you to be a winner in life by applying God’s principles for living the abundant life as found in the Bible, God’s manual for life.

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Is there someone in your life who rubs you the wrong way? Well, if so, you’re not alone.

We’ve all had people in our lives who have rubbed us the wrong way. Of course, we rarely, if ever. think that WE rub someone the wrong way? That would be too humble of us, wouldn’t it?

Several years ago, I worked with a person who made life difficult for me. This person was harsh and unkind, and confusion often reigned in our communication. The more I tried to clarify, the worse the communication became.

I had hired and signed a contract with this person to achieve a professional goal. But the person seemed to be standing in the way of my achieving that goal by sowing confusion in our communication. In short, this person had become a thorn in my flesh!

Or, so I thought.

(By the way, if you haven’t experienced a thorn in the flesh yet, you will. So file away for future reference what I’m about to share with you.)

Now, in all fairness to the person, I must say that the opposition was not intentional. But it was there, nonetheless. Yet, given the contract I had signed, I had no other recourse but to put up with the situation and to make the best of it.

Day by day, as I engaged with this person, I found myself getting more and more stressed. I complained to the Lord that this person was an obstacle to my achieving my goal.

To my great surprise, the Lord answered me with these words: “This person is not an obstacle, but a vehicle.”

A vehicle?

Surely I had misunderstood and misheard the Lord.

But I had not misheard Him. He had simply shown me once again that His ways are higher than my ways.

Okay, Lord, I replied. “As always, you’re right. But how is this person a vehicle and not an obstacle in my life?”

The Lord said, “This person is a vehicle to my making you like Jesus. That’s been your prayer, hasn’t it? That I would make you like Jesus. Well, I’ve placed this person in your life to polish your rough edges. And you have many of them, you know.”

Gulp! Have you ever wanted to run into a cave and hide? Then you know how I felt.

With great sincerity of heart, I asked the Lord to forgive me of my selfish, arrogant attitude and to help me view this person as a vehicle to God’s shaping me into the image of Christ. Now, years later, I can see how that person’s presence in my life revealed the huge flaws in me that I needed to deal with in order to become more and more like Jesus.

Perhaps you, too, have a person or a situation in your life that is your thorn in the flesh. A person or situation that seems to be holding you back from what you want, that seems to be standing in the way of a goal you want to achieve. If so, stop and reconsider. Perhaps the very person or situation you think is an obstacle is actually a vehicle to something far better for your life. Something good you would miss if you didn’t have that thorn in the flesh.

So, why does God give each of us a thorn in the flesh?

Here are three key reasons:

1. A thorn in the flesh polishes us. Thorns scratch at us, removing bits of harmful debris. Thorns polish us, removing our rough edges. Thorns prick us, instigating us to righteous living.

2. A thorn in the flesh keeps us dependent on God. When things aren’t going swimmingly—as our British friends say—we tend to go to God for help. Thorns in the flesh continually push us toward God. And that’s exactly what God wants: our total dependence on Him.

3. A thorn in the flesh keeps us from slipping into spiritual complacency. It’s so easy to think we can do life in our own strength. A thorn in the flesh reminds us that we can’t. A thorn in the flesh works in tandem with God’s goal for us. And here’s some breaking news: God’s goal for us is not our happiness, but our holiness.

So, if there’s a thorn in your flesh, rejoice and be glad. God is making you like Jesus. And there is no one we should want to resemble more!

That difficult person is no longer in my life, but, oh, I learned so much in that situation. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned is that my life is not about me and my will. It’s about Jesus the Lord and His will for me. And His will for me is always the best for me.

Christ’s will for you is always the best for you, too. If you have not yet made Him the Lord of your life, do so now. Just pray this simple prayer with me:

Lord Jesus, I’ve spent my life doing my own thing and wanting my own will. Yet, You have graciously put people in my life to rub me the wrong way in order to show me that I need You. Well, I’ve finally figured that out, Lord. So I come to You now in all of my neediness, asking You to come into my life and to save me from myself. Be the Lord of my life. Make me like Jesus, no matter what it takes. I pray this in Your Name. Amen.

If you prayed this simple prayer, please write to me at drmaryann@maryanndiorio.com. I would like to send you a little booklet that will help you get started in your relationship with Jesus Christ. I also encourage you to get yourself a Bible and read it every day, starting in the Gospel of John, which is in the second half of the Bible. Finally, ask the Lord to lead you to the church of His choice for you where you can learn about and find fellowship and encouragement with other Christ-Followers.

For additional resources, articles, books, and podcasts to help you grow in your walk with Christ, I invite you to visit my website at maryanndiorio.com. This podcast is found on Apple Podcasts, Spreaker, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Soundcloud, Castbox, and Deezer, so I encourage you to subscribe.

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Thank you so much for listening. This is Dr. MaryAnn Diorio, your virtual life coach, reminding you that God loves you just as you are and just where you are, and that He will help you to keep on winning with the Word.

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Now, it’s YOUR turn:  How have you dealt with a thorn in the flesh in your life? Please leave your response in the Comment Box below. Thank you!

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How To Handle Pressure

WINNING WITH THE WORD

by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio


“Winning with the Word” is a weekly blog that will help you to be a winner in life by applying God’s principles for living the abundant life as found in the Bible, God’s manual for life.

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One Brave Roman soldier in field. Photo.Have you noticed that pressure is increasing in your life? Are you finding it more and more difficult to handle the pressure as it bombards you from all sides? If so, take heart. There are certain things you can do to subdue the pressure, put it under your feet, and keep it there.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines pressure as “the weight or force that is produced when something presses or pushes against something else.” While pressure is most often used to indicate a physical force, it can be used as well to indicate a spiritual force. In this discussion, we will use pressure to mean those demonic forces from hell that daily threaten to discourage, depress, and destroy the members of the Body of Christ.

We read in the Book of Ephesians that we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  Some translations use the word “wrestle” to indicate the type of spiritual battle in which we are engaged.

Wrestling involves hand-to-hand combat; indeed, body-to-body contact. In other words, it involves the whole person against the enemy.  The battle can often be vicious, and the fight sustained for long periods of time.

So, how do we handle this unrelenting pressure from the enemy? Our Lord has given us the weapons for not only engaging the enemy but also for conquering him. These weapons comprise the whole armor of God. Let’s take a look at each one.

1-The Belt of Truth. A Roman soldier’s belt held together the rest of his armorIn like manner, truth will hold together the rest of our spiritual armor as we fight the enemy. We must put on truth and walk in it in all of our dealings with God and man. Deception is rampant in our world today. Lying has become second-nature to many people. But the Follower of Christ must dealy truly and truthfully in every situation.

2-The Breastplate of Righteousness. The breastplate protected the Roman soldier from attacks against his vital organs, including his heart. Righteousness means right-standing with God. As born-again believers, we are protected from the enemy by the righteousness of Christ which we received when we accepted Him as Savior.

3-The Shoes of Peace. A Roman soldier wore special shoes that protected his feet from dangerous terrain, enabling him to step freely wherever he needed to step and to stand firm while engaging in battle. The shoes of the gospel of peace enable us to tread safely and to stand firm in the worst of situations.

4-The Shield of Faith.
The Roman soldier used his shield to ward off the fiery darts of the enemy. So do we use our Shield of Faith to ward off Satan’s fiery darts of doubt, unbelief, fear, strife, and every other fiery dart.

5-The Helmet of Salvation.
Just as a helmet protected the Roman soldier from injury to his head, so does the Helmet of Salvation protect us from injury to our thinking. Our salvation enables us to abide in Christ, and abiding in Christ will eventually transform our way of thinking into God’s way of thinking.

6-The Sword of the Spirit.  While all of the other pieces of our armor are defensive, the Sword of the Spirit is used in taking the offense. As the enemy attacks us with his lies, we retaliate by piercing him with the truth of God’s Word.

So, there you have it!  Six pieces of armor that will enable you not only to resist the pressure that comes against you but also to subdue it. Now, take up your armor and win!

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Copyright 20111-2019 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be published or printed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. You may contact her at info@maryanndiorio.com to request permission.

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How to Stop Being Too Busy to Live

by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines
the course of your life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23
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“Busy” has become today’s buzzword.

Have you noticed that when you ask people how they are, the first words that usually come out of their mouths are, “I’m so busy.”  Not only is “busy” a buzzword, it’s also become a badge of honor. The busier one is, the more important one is.

Closeup portrait young, happy, smiling, man showing a time out gesture with hands, isolated white background. Positive emotion facial expression feelings, body language

But the busyness lie has a way of finding us out. Sooner or later, our busyness will catch up with us and expose the truth that we are too busy mostly about nothing.

This happened to me when my children were small. I was complaining to the Lord one day that I did not have enough time to do everything I had to do. Expecting a little sympathy from the Lord, I was taken back when He said to me, lovingly but firmly, “MaryAnn, you always have enough time to do what I have called you to do.”

Whoa!

“O-O-O-kay,  Lord,” I replied. “Either I’m totally disorganized, or I’m doing some things You have not called me to do.”  In my case, it was the latter, as I am an organized person by nature.

As I asked the Lord what I was doing that He had not called me to do, I was surprised when He pointed out several church ministries in which I was involved at the time. Good things.

But not good for me.

Besides, other church members were called to those ministries, and I was robbing them of their ministries.

A bad thing!

So, I gave up those ministries and began earnestly to seek God as to what He had called me to do. As I let go of what I wanted, God gave me what I needed. A writing ministry to glorify Him, to get to know Him more intimately, and to teach me His ways in the process.

One of the biggest bonuses I received from stopping the aimless busyness was that I finally started to live. No longer was I barely keeping my head above water and merely surviving. I startd to enjoy my life. I started to smell the roses and to seize the precious moments of life as they presented themselves in quiet, subtle ways. 

In short, I began experiencing the abundant life Jesus died to give me (John 10: 10).

How? By making my time with Jesus the most important priority in my life. By sitting continually at His feet. By refusing to take a step without first seeking Holy Spirit’s direction.

In Luke 10: 41-42, Jesus is having a conversation with Martha. Martha, you may recall, was the sister in the Mary-Martha duo who was constantly busy. Her busyness kept her in a continual state of anxiety, worry, and stress. Sound familiar?

In talking to Martha one day while she was busy, busy, busy, Jesus said this: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10: 41-42

The good part Marthat’s sister Mary chose was to make spending time with Jesus more important than anything else. More important than preparing the meal. (Jesus fed five thousand without cooking, remember?)  More important than cleaning the house. (When Jesus is present, the dust can wait.)

More important than anything else we think we must do.

How so? Because when we spend time with Jesus first, He loves on us and we love on Him. Out of that love (BEING) flows His guidance (DOING). When we’ve spent time first with Jesus, we don’t waste time doing things He doesn’t want us to do. He shows us what is most important in His plan for our lives on that particular day–and every day. He spares us from needless worry trying to figure things out on our own, trying to figure out what needs to get done first and how to get it done.

Most of all, when we seek Jesus first, we remain in His Presence all day long, basking in His love as we listen for His voice and obey His instructions. Talk about living in peace and joy!

If you, like me, have struggled with busyness, yield your struggle to Him now. Then live moment by moment in His sweet Presence. Soon, when someone asks you the reason for your peace and joy in the midst of a busy-crazed world, you can say, like me, “I’m joyful and at peace because I live in a different dimension of time–Eternal Time!”

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN: Do you struggle with busyness? How do you deal with it?

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5 Tips for Eliminating Stress

by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines
the course of your life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23
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STRESS!  It’s the bad word of our age. It’s all around us. Worst of all, it’s in us.

But only if we allow it.

Are you stressed? Are you stressed about your family? Your finances? Your health? Your job? The world?

Whatever the cause of your stress, you can get rid of it once and for all. Here are five tips for eliminating stress from your life:

1-Acknowledge that stress is a sin. Now, that’s not what you may have wanted to hear, but it’s the truth. And on this blog, we always speak the truth. 🙂

Jesus commanded us not to stress. Listen to what He said in Philippians 4: 6-7:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus would never give us a command we were unable to obey. He also tells us how to obey it–which brings us to stress-eliminating tip number two:

2-Pray about what’s stressing you. God already knows what you’re stressed about, but He wants you to tell Him for your sake, not His. Verbalizing your stress is one way of getting it off of your shoulders and putting it on Christ’s shoulders. After all, His shoulders are far bigger than yours. Listen to what He says in 1 Peter 5: 7:

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 

3-Thank God in the midst of the stress. I can hear you now: “What?? Are you crazy?”

No, I’m not crazy. I have a sound mind. 🙂

So, why should we thank God in the midst of a stressful situation? Because doing so shows God that we truly trust Him to help us. Trust is an expression of faith, and faith brings God’s blessings into our lives.

Jesus says this in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18:

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

We don’t give thanks FOR our circumstances; we give thanks IN SPITE OF our circumstances because we trust God to see us through.

4-Monitor your thoughts. The majority of stress results from our thinking wrong thoughts. Jesus says this in 2 Corinthians 10: 5:

We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ.”

As we monitor our thoughts, we have to capture every negative thought and bring it under Christ’s authority. Submitting the negative thought to Christ’s authority strips the negative thought of its power to stress us out.

5-Think only good, positive thoughts about your situation. Changing your mental focus from negative to positive will help you to overcome stress.

The Bible says this in Philippians 4: 8:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

So, there you have it: Five Tips for Eliminating Stress. Apply them to your life and watch your stress level drop to zilch.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN: What stresses you the most? What have you done to get rid of the stress? Have you tried God’s way for eliminating stress? Please share your thoughts. We value them!

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Stress-Busters for the Stressed-Out

Tips for Staying Calm in the Midst of the Storm

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines
the course of your life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23
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You just got home from a rough day at work. Just as you walk in the door, your spouse screams at you for being late, your youngest child is crying because her cat ran away, and your cell phone starts ringing. The only one who seems happy to see you is your dog.

lightstock_99422_medium_maryann_Photo by Shaun Menary. Lightstock.com Photo ID: 99422

By this time, you want to turn around and leave for some remote, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific, taking only your dog with you. Only there, you conclude, can you be free from the stress that has you on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

Perhaps at no other time in history have human beings been so bombarded with such potentially stress-producing situations. Stress causes our brains to go on overload, our bodies to suffer, and our hearts to wither. But is there any way out of what seems like an endless treadmill of turmoil?

Yes, there is! As always, the way out is found in the Bible, God’s manual for man. God never intended for us to live in stress. In fact, God’s will is that we live in continual peace. But how, you ask, can I live in peace when, whichever way I turn, I’m bombarded with problems, conflicts, and tension?

Good question! You see, peace has nothing to do with our external circumstances. Peace, on the other hand, has everything to do with our internal circumstances. What do I mean by that? I mean the state or condition of the inner core of our being, also called our heart.

“Peace has nothing to do with our external circumstances. Peace has everything to do with our internal circumstances.”

Just think of the eye of a hurricane. While horrendous winds are raging all around it, the eye of a hurricane is quiet and peaceful. The same can be true of our hearts. In the midst of the worst kinds of crises, our hearts can be at perfect peace.

So how do we achieve this perfect peace on the inside? The Bible gives us the answer in Isaiah 26:3: “You (God) will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You.” Perfect peace comes from keeping our minds focused on God. When we do, we draw wisdom and strength from Him to deal with whatever problem we are facing.

Using the word “stress” as an acronym, let’s take a look at some practical steps we can take to develop inner peace:

1. Stay (fix) your mind on God. Keep Him continually in the center of your thoughts. You do this by talking with Him frequently during the day, by reading the Bible, and by praying.

2. Trust God. He is absolutely trustworthy and will never let you down.

3. Refuse to worry. Worry will always rob you of your peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

4. Establish your heart on God. This means build your life on God. Go to Him at the first sign of stress. Vent your frustrations on Him. He can handle it.

5. Sort out your priorities. We often get stressed out because we’re doing too much. Once when I was feeling particularly frazzled, I cried out to God in frustration. “Lord,” I said, “I just don’t have enough time to do everything I have to do!” Lovingly He replied, “You always have enough time to do what I have called you to do.” I realized then that I was doing some things that He had not called me to do, even though they were good things.

6. See life from God’s perspective. God’s perspective is eternal. He sees the big picture. We should do the same. When we do, those little irritations of daily life fade into insignificance.

So no matter what you’re facing today, remember that it’s temporary. As you focus on God, He’ll get you through every situation, no matter how serious. And as you focus on Him, you’ll have peace in the midst of every storm.

Guaranteed! 🙂

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In my newest work of fiction, SURRENDER TO LOVE, young widow and life coach, Dr. Teresa LopezPicMonkeyFINAL061815416pm Gonzalez, has no peace until she learns to keep her eyes focused on Jesus.

Available in Kindle and print versions.

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Copyright 2015 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be published or printed in any form whatsoever without the written permission of Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. You may contact her at maryann@maryanndiorio.com to request permission.

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Dr. Diorio is a Certified Life Coach, a Certified Biblical Counselor, and a Certified Behavioral Consultant. She is also an award-winning, widely published author of fiction for children and adults. You may reach her at maryann@maryanndiorio.com  or via one of her social media venues below: