I recently read this journal entry from 8/12/2019. I wrote it as a letter to myself. Even though I didn’t do everything I told myself to do 😅, I still found it encouraging and hope it’s encouraging for you in the new year too!

Chris you feel lost. You don’t know why you are doing what you are doing. That’s okay. It happens.

Here’s what I want to remind you of.

Your labor is not in vain. Insofar as you have labored for Jesus Christ your Savior and Lord, not one drop of sweat, not one furrowed brow and not one sleepless night has been in vain. You will not understand it now. 

Remember Job. 

Not only did he not get positive reinforcement for his blameless life, he lost the positive reinforcement of God’s blessing and got negative reinforcement through the unjust suffering the Devil put him through instead. But in the end, God’s heart’s desire to bless Job was fulfilled.

You must master living without positive reinforcement and living by faith in Jesus Christ instead. 

Plans change, and you will always have to update your beliefs according to perceptual information from reality and the lens of interpretation.

What doesn’t change? God. God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. God’s covenant promises. Why do you have to live without positive reinforcement when it’s the natural course of life?

A person who pursues wealth gets it through industrious labor and shrewd business dealings. A person who trains to fight or sport gains strength. A person who is widely read and listens well gains wisdom. A person skilled in relationships gets friends and a spouse.

Aren’t these the natural ends that correspond to the natural means? All subsumed within the gracious design of God in creation?

The reason why living without positive reinforcement is necessary is that long term thinking means that you must go a long time without the short term positive reinforcement you desire. And that is an act of faith. So actualizing the benefits of the means of grace requires even a long road of practice. And faith often must go without even positive reinforcement from God—just believing the presence and power of God are with you and believing the Scriptures bear witness to God’s truth even when you don’t have other corroborations.

The flesh uses these circumstances in conjunction with the Devil to attack your faith and to inject deceitful thoughts and desires.

Think about it.

When you suddenly have the feeling of FOMO or a strong desire for a particular person, despite your former contentment, everything is disturbed and you suddenly feel the compulsion to act to get what you must have. Your vision becomes narrow and you forget your purpose. Your identity is lost in the desire and your fixation overthrows your former self-control. 

You suddenly desire instant gratification through one overwhelming feedback loop.

This can happen at any time and part of it may be due to your low-dopamine constitution that makes you susceptible to this weakness.

Don’t let that hinder you.

Everyone has their cross to bear. If you think of it like a handicap, you can find ways like every other courageous person to work around it and overcome it, and you will overcome it.

You don’t need to life hack your body or manipulate it through strange means. Think. Use the gifts God has given you. You can use those strengths to understand and create and design and iterate until you find a worthy solution to your problems.

Do you know that writing every day will help you live a life rooted in wisdom instead of tossed about by every doctrine and every desire? Perhaps creating such a discipline will be worth it for the long haul.

Do you know that interacting with customers and listening regularly will give you the insight you need on what to do next? Then perhaps creating the discipline of interacting with customers will be worth it for the long haul.

Do you know that to make progress on a project you have to put in the time regularly every day? Then add it to your schedule and carry it out.

These are the small disciplines that add up to results in the long haul. You have the God-given ability already. You have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you to empower you. You have the wisdom of God given to you in Jesus Christ. So what is holding you back? Just the flesh, just the natural unspiritual laziness and the instinctual desire for other things that are not aligned with God’s call on your life.

Instead of leaning away from the community God has provided to you, lean into it. Let the community be a strength and support to propel you towards God’s upward call for your life.

Instead of feeling anxious and insecure and isolated, keep inviting, keep offering your strength, keep listening, keep loving and keep serving. You can be judicious in the use of your time, but you cannot be judicious in who you love. God’s commandment was for you to love your neighbor as yourself. So with this in mind, direct your thinking and emotions and disciplines towards this end.

The hardest part is when your heart turns selfish once again. The moment you feel the loss and sacrifices you’ve made that have gone unrewarded. The moment you just want your needs satisfied and feel unable to give any more. The moment you are frustrated because you’ve given all you have and its still not enough and you have not been refreshed in the least and have no hope for your own gain, survival or benefit.

These are the moments when faith is tested. Faith is untested when everything is going well and you are in control. When you must surrender by your choice and power to God’s will and accept and rejoice and believe in it, then your faith is tested and then it is proven and of great worth.

This helps you to rejoice. Rejoice because God is with you in your suffering. Your pain is not in vain—it glorifies God. Your losses are your gains in Jesus Christ because as you know, nothing done for Christ is in vain. And everything that is positive reinforcement becomes proverbial “gravy”. You get to rejoice and delight in all the good God is doing to you and in you and in your life and through you–not as a reward because you did the “right thing”–but as a gift of grace that you don’t deserve but get to enjoy with all your heart because the Lord who gave it to you loves you. And you get to ride that wave, to love God to even greater heights and to treasure God and to praise God and to give God glory for the overflowing abundance of grace poured out in your life.

Rejoice always.
Pray continually.
Give thanks in all circumstances.
This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

This is your new feedback loop. This is how you live by faith without positive reinforcement. Make it your practice and in time you will see the results.