Zondervan published Kyle Idleman’s latest book, When Your Way Isn’t Working: Finding Purpose through Deep Connection with Jesus, in 2023. Currently, Kyle serves as senior pastor of Southwest Christian Church in Louisville, KY. First, Pastor Idleman stresses, when you struggle with the fact that you’re struggling, that makes your struggle more of a struggle. Hence, the author asks, are you talking to Jesus about the things you unload on others? Therefore, Kyle exhorts, when your way isn’t working, check your connection to the Vine. Above all, personal practices that lead to connection require intentionality and work — connection doesn’t just happen. Otherwise, discouragement, fatigue, frustration, and anxiety begin to surface. Thus, there’s only one right response when your way isn’t working: because you (Jesus) said so.
Furthermore, saying “because you said so” requires your commitment to humble submission. Because discouragement often compounds the problem. Also, DIY efforts mean disobeying God’s way. And that only leads to greater discouragement. In turn, prolonged discouragement leads to denial. Instead, Pastor Idleman encourages, allow your discouragement to drive you to connection with God. Your level of frustration with the people around you serves as the gauge of your connection with God. A connection that necessitates margin and time. However, Kyle cautions, busyness = the enemy of connection. We often find ourselves too busy to notice the effect of fatigue on our connection with God and with others. In addition, anxiety alerts us that we’re facing a vulnerable and powerless situation in our life. Therefore, we need to seek connection with God and depend on His power.
Anxiety causes us to focus on ourselves. But rather than affirm our way, God assures us of His presence. You need only be still and let God fight for you when your way isn’t working. The Gardener with a graceful heart and gentle hands cleans you off when you’re covered with dirt and picks you up. Consequently, as a branch, don’t resist God’s pruning. For in the pruning process, you experience the beautiful and fruitful like God envisions for you. However, if you view pruning as punishment, you will fight it at all costs. And if you wrongly think that God’s rejected and discarded you, you disconnect from the Vine. Recognize Satan as the source of your deception. The Enemy wants to convince you that God’s ghosted you and desires to cut you off.
In conclusion, Kyle underscores, pruning should be a continual, consistent process of protection. Jesus not only wants us to get through the waves, but He also wants us to grow. Certainly, Pastor Idleman counsels, don’t just expect the trouble. Rather, be expectant in the trouble. Jesus, the true Vine, makes a way for fallen sticks that seem to have no purpose and no hope to become branches once again. His death on the cross is the only thing that makes connection possible. Kyle ends with these words of hope:
“No matter what happens, even when things never seem to work out your way, be the branch and stay connected with the vine.”