Feeling Stuck in Life? 5 Signs You’ve Settled for Ordinary

Feeling stuck in life
When life gets hard and unexpected challenges take their toll, it’s easy to start making compromises.
Listen to this devotional

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. 33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. 34 He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. 35 You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.

Psalm 18:32-35

Our lives should reflect the greatness of God regardless of our talents, abilities, experiences, or achievements.

Unfortunately, some of us are living lives that can only be defined as ordinary.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Ordinary as 1: of a kind to be expected in the normal order of events; ROUTINE, USUAL. 2: of common quality, rank, or ability

Ordinary is not a word we use to pay someone a compliment. It is certainly not the word we usually want to describe our life.

I don’t think anyone sets out to live an ordinary life. Still, when life is hard and the unexpected challenges and limitations on our time and energy take their toll, we can begin to make compromises to get through the “moment.” Over time, our dreams of greatness can begin to seem unrealistic and the process of settling begins.

If you are like me right now, you are taking an inventory of your life in an attempt to make a convincing argument that this article is meant for someone other than you.

But since you’re already here, let’s look at 5 signs that you’ve settled for an ordinary life, and the decisions that can transform your life into an inspired one. If you’re feeling stuck in life, these steps are a great place to start the process of getting unstuck.

Study At a glance

You’re satisfied with good intentions

Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. [2] Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. [3] Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] 4 [5] One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

[6] When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

John 5:1-7 NIV

The question, “Do you want to get well?” seems odd given we can imagine only one answer. However, the inquiry dictates another possibility for this man after 38 years of never making it to the healing water.

Intentions don’t always translate into action. There are many areas in my life (character gaps, personal sins, and mindset limitations) that I intend to change and overcome to be great – the best version of myself.

I recently read a journal entry I wrote nearly five years ago. What was startling was that the specific areas I wanted to change and overcome five years ago are the same areas I want to change and overcome today! “How can someone make so little progress over such a long period of time?” I asked myself. The question, “Do you want to get well?” seems appropriate from this perspective.

What about you? How much have you grown in the last few years?

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Jeremiah 17:10 NIV

Clearly, God knows the heart and understands our intentions, yet he rewards us according to our actions. Looking back, I realize that I have simply been satisfied with having good intentions and rarely measured my progress by my actions.

As long as I had a goal to become disciplined, I felt good about myself. When my lack of discipline negatively impacted myself or someone else, I consoled myself by recommitting to my goal to become disciplined but never considered a plan of action. I failed to realize that actions rather than good intentions lead to change.

Being satisfied with good intentions is a sign we’ve settled for an ordinary life.

Reflection questions

  • Am I aware of the areas in which I want and need to change or grow?  
  • What specific actions have I taken this week to help me progress in these areas?  
  • What can I learn from my answer about my efforts? Do my actions reflect faith?  Will my actions make real progress? 

Decisions for transformation

  • Write down and share with someone the areas I have identified to change or grow in and ask them to help me be successful. Ask this friend to pray for me to change. 
  • Identify 3 action items I can take this week that are related to my goals. 
  • Identify the level of faith/belief I have about changing. How will this influence my willingness to follow through with the action items I have identified? 
  • Commit to pray through my action items and any doubt I have toward these items. 
  • Memorize 1 Peter 1:13 NLT.

You have an unremarkable view of God

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. [26] Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. [27] Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?

[28] Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. [29] He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

[30] Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; [31] but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:25-31 NIV

The Bible can inspire us to be in awe of God. Unfortunately, some of us never question whether our view of God is based on the Bible. The God that placed the stars in the sky and named each one of them is the same God that gives us strength and power.

When our view of God is biblical, we will rely on the biblical strength and power of God to produce an extraordinary life. When our view of God is limited to our circumstances, human experience, or our human wisdom (how we think or what makes sense to us), we’re going to have an unremarkable view of God.

An unremarkable view of God produces unremarkable strength and power – making the ordinary life our only option.

Reflection questions

  • What would I change if I believed anything was possible?  
  • What plans or goals would I commit to if I believed anything was possible?
  • Do I believe God is both willing and able to make these happen?
  • What does my answer reveal to me about my view of God? 

Decisions for transformation

  • Read through Genesis and note how God uses ordinary lives to do extraordinary things.
  • Memorize Psalm 147:5 Voice.
  • Develop a list of scriptures that help me transform my view of God.

You choose emotions over Scripture

All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy. [8] They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.

Psalm 111:7-8 NLT

This scripture teaches us that all God’s commandments are meant to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.

If you are reading this article, there is a high probability you believe in the Bible and read the Bible with some regularity. But ask yourself this: “What scriptures am I actually obeying or putting into practice?”

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Matthew 7:24 NIV

The foundation of a great life is built by putting scriptures into practice. If we are not doing this, then what are we building our life on? For many of us it’s our emotions.

Emotions make our lives richer and more fulfilling, but they were not designed to lead us. Scripture, on the other hand, was in fact designed by God to lead us.

Have you ever taken an inventory of your top emotions? Fear is one of my top negative feelings. I cannot submit both to fear and to the Bible. Neither can I strive to be great when fear influences the conversations I’m willing to have or actions I’m willing to take.

When I choose to let fear win, I can’t be great. A life built on emotions isn’t strong enough to resist the ordinary life.

Reflection questions

  • What are the top 3 emotions I feel on a daily basis? 
  • How do my emotions influence my efforts to grow?
  • How honest am I with myself and others about the influence my emotions have on my efforts to grow?

Decisions for Transformation

  • Make a list of scriptures for each of my top emotions.
  • Commit to praying through these scriptures to help me fight through these emotions   
  • Ask a friend what their top 3 emotions are and how they influence their efforts to grow. 
  • Read through Psalm 119.

You have a weak and distracted prayer life

I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. [10] For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Luke 11:8-10 NIV

Jesus’ prayer life was powerful.  The disciples recognized this, and in Luke 11 they asked Jesus to teach them to pray.  He taught them how to pray and shared a story to illustrate the kind of prayers we should be praying.

In his story, a man in need went to a friend at an incredibly inconvenient time and boldly asked for help.  The man was given everything he needed, not because of his friendship, but because of his shameless audacity.

God is making it clear that he rewards boldness; he loves when we disregard our normal or typical restraints in prayer. He wants us to ask for the inconvenient and the impossible, to dare greatly and go beyond our comfort zone. Prayers confined to our comfort zone and personal experiences will be weakened.

Are your prayers powerful or weak? Do your prayers express shameless audacity?

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Colossians 4:2 NLT

Prayer is a powerful endeavor. Prayer changes lives, outcomes, hearts and minds. It’s understandable why God wants us to be devoted to prayer; he knows how powerful our lives can be through prayer. He also wants us to approach prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

How would you describe your prayer life? When you pray are you alert or are you distracted? Do you find yourself wandering off in thought, staring out the window, thinking about your to-do list, or looking at your phone?

For those of us who are easily distracted, Gloria Mark, professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, found that 44% of interruptions are self-inflicted. Prayer is an incredible opportunity to tap into the power of God, the grace of God, and the peace of God.  Weak and distracted prayers will only provide enough power for an ordinary life.  

Reflection questions

  • What word would best describe my current prayer life? 
  • What have been my most inspiring answered prayers?  It doesn’t matter how far back; remember them and write them down. What does this say about God?
  • What was my attitude toward prayer when those prayers were answered? 
  • What big bold prayers am I praying now?
  • What creates the most distractions today when I’m praying?  My phone, intrusive faithless thoughts, guilt, my to-do list…?

Decisions for Transformation

  • Read Luke 11 and Luke 18
  • Write down three prayers I think are beyond my comfort zone or my current level of faith.  
  • Include in my daily prayer time an honest conversation with God about my willingness to pray these prayers.  
  • Find a time and place that provide the least distractions to help me pray.  Do I need to get up earlier, leave my phone behind, bring a prayer list with me?

You live an anxious life

The seed that falls into the weeds represents the hearts of those who hear the word of God but their growth is quickly choked off by their own anxious cares, the riches of this world, and the fleeting pleasures of this life. This is why they never become mature and fruitful.

Luke 8:14 TPT

This scripture teaches us that there are roadblocks we need to avoid if we are going to fulfill our God-given destiny and live a mature and fruitful life. One of them is anxious cares.

Different from anxiety disorders treated by health care professionals, anxious cares are our common non-spiritual responses to the typical challenges or stresses that life brings. Anxious cares are more similar to worry or uneasiness.

We are all forced to allocate limited resources like time, energy, finances, and emotional bandwidth to competing interests, needs, and expectations without knowing the outcome of our decisions. We are required to make these kinds of decisions multiple times a day. This is stressful.

Some of us, myself included, try to manage our stress by settling for lower expectations, ignoring and downplaying our needs, or denying our interests. What starts as a way to manage our anxiety becomes the pathway to an ordinary life. We are surviving, but we are not fulfilled or inspired by our life.

God wants us to experience life to the full (John 10:10 NIV) by tapping into his power and relying on his strength. Anxious living will make us long for just an ordinary life.

Reflection questions

  • Do I recognize whether anxious living is a challenge to my spiritual growth? 
  • What is my most common response to anxious living?  Bitterness and resentment, isolation, anger, and/or pulling back? Or, rather, determination? Prayer? 
  • Have I lowered my goals and expectations to manage my anxious living?

Decisions for transformation

  • Make a plan this week to take action and start setting goals, regardless of how small, in one “anxious area” of my life that would move me forward. 
  • Ask a friend to find a time to pray together. Pray about the areas in both our lives that create anxious cares and ask God’s help.  Be shameless and audacious.
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