Musings

Faith from the edge of my seat.

Julie / October 13, 2017

In recent years, it has become exceedingly clear that God is teaching me to trust Him.  Within the space of a few months, two of our boys had acute medical issues that could have been catastrophic—in the long run, it turned out that neither issue was that serious, but the symptoms were terrifying.  In both cases, it took a few days to pin down the severity, and Philippians 4:6-7 was chiseled onto my heart in such a fearsome way that it has transformed my understanding of “worry” forever after.

I love it when I can look back and see how days of suffering are indeed transformed into endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5).  It is a great testimony of the sureness of God to be able to see how horrible moments are indeed for our joy, and, in retrospect, to appreciate the experiences that were so unendurable at the time.

So, when new trials arise, I can whisper God’s truths to myself, and know experientially that they are true.  I can whisper, God works all things for good, and I can remember the times it was true.  I can whisper, rejoice in suffering, because I have seen how suffering has been worthwhile.  I can whisper, be anxious for nothing, because I can still feel the restfulness of bringing my worries to His throne.

However.  God never stops teaching me, for which I am very thankful… and also appalled at my own ability to continue to fall short and need more instruction!

The past week has been jam-packed full of stress.

Nothing has actually gone utterly wrong, but there were many moments—maybe as many as ten—when we were waiting on test results, waiting to hear back from some doctor, waiting to see what was going to be done, waiting to see if labor was going to happen (I had a baby a couple of days ago, an event I totally failed to anticipate even as recently as this time last week).  So much waiting.  So much uncertainty.

I am really, really bad at uncertainty.  I often feel like I’d rather know the bad news than wait to hear the good!

I told Seth after the last of it (at least as far as I know, ha!) came to a conclusion yesterday that it feels like God is deliberately keeping me on the edge of my seat.  More particularly, like He is teaching me how to live and trust Him not just to hold us through the worst of times, but in the minute-by-minute uncertainty of daily life.  Do I trust Him to be good?  Do I trust His planning?  Can I hold myself and my “needs” for everything to be perfectly sketched out and just—wait?

I didn’t respond perfectly.  There were too many nights in the past week when I couldn’t sleep, and many hours of desperate internet research and trying as best as I could to control all the situations that unfolded.  But God kept bringing Himself to my mind and reminding me (often via my much calmer husband!) that I needed to trust Him, that I needed to quiet my spirit and rest in His goodness and sovereignty.  In short, I failed.  But even here just a couple of days out, and, oh, what I have learned through this experience!  How good God is to continue to lead us through these situations and teach us to stand up under them!  I have been learning much more vividly the meaning of 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.

This is a dear truth.  So many times in the past week I felt the desperate war within myself between resting in God and giving into the strong pull of despair, frustration, anxiety, and even anger.  So often it was almost a conscious choice: am I going to give in to my wretched desire to be really upset about this situation, or to be really fearful, or… am I just going to let it go and be still (Psalm 46:10)?  Anyone who was within earshot of me this week knows how often I chose to be a wretch!  But even in the middle of my frustration and desperation, I could still feel the battle raging and know all the promises of Scripture—that He would be faithful. I knew that my fear and frustration were founded in the mire of my sinful heart, not in reality.

God promises us in Hebrews 12:10-11 that He disciplines us “for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Then this little bit, that is so helpful:

Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead. (v 12-13)

I love this.  There is something lame in me.  Well, there are many things lame in me, but what I’ve particularly learned this week was lame is that I do a pretty terrible job of trusting God when my plans are going all awry.  And this past week has served as a marathon to show me my lameness and give me ample opportunity to repent of it and change my ways—to be healed rather than dislocated by the circumstances God brought my way.

We serve such a good God, that He is not content merely to redeem us and rescue us from the consequences of our sin, but that He also sanctifies us and purifies us and even, sometimes, lets us see how He is using circumstances for our betterment.  Rejoice in suffering.

Study Notes

Sleeping Through the Storm

Julie / February 27, 2015

One thing I have wrestled with a lot over the past few years is how does a Christian consider anxiety?

On one hand, our experience tells us that it is utterly impossible not be anxious, and so for many of us, our instinctive interpretation of “be anxious for nothing” is something along the lines of “that can’t possibly actually mean that.”  Or “anxiety isn’t a sin, it’s what you do with it that’s a sin.”  And so on.  And we have to categorize the idea of anxiety disorders and panic attacks, as well, which just don’t seem to fit into the biblical prohibition of anxiety as a sin.

I too find myself swayed by these arguments, and by the passionate testimony of my many friends with anxiety issues.

And yet.  Scripture actually doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room.

Consider:

  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
  • Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on… therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow… (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
  • There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
  • Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
  • Let not your hears be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
  • The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)
  • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
  • The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

Does any of this, any of this at all, leave room for “it depends on what you do with your anxiety” or “don’t sin in your anxiousness”?

Does God ask the impossible?

Last week, there was a terrible windstorm at our house—our house which has more trees within falling distance than I can count!   Trees which sway horrifyingly in the nighttime gloom and it is so easy to lie in bed listening to the wind howl and the sides of the house quake from the force of the wind, and imagine a tree falling on the house.  It’s easy to imagine our lovely children coming to harm in their beds from such a tree, and I was duly lying there imagining it!

But I had been thinking about this question of anxiety that night, and especially thinking about Jesus in Matthew 8:23-26:

As He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.  Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping.  So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.

Imagine: such a violent storm—an unexpected and sudden storm!—that the boat was actually being swamped.  This isn’t just a scary situation, it’s a lethal one.

We might think holiness would be to pray fervently for mercy and try to discipline our hearts to accept God’s will.

But Jesus, the very picture of holiness, was… asleep.

I love the way Michael Card tells the story in his lullaby for children:

Were You simply fearless, a sleeper so sound,
that You could find rest with the storm all around?
Was it simple trust in Your Father that made
the dangers seem like a charade?

Sweet Jesus, You slept through the storm in the bow;
through lightening, through thunder, You slumbered, but how?
You totally trusted your Father, that’s how
You slept through the storm in the bow.

[Michael Card, from “Come to the Cradle”]

Jesus also teaches us that there’s a time to pray fervently, of course; Gethsemane comes to mind.  But still there’s something to be said for the fact that He was asleep in the middle of a tremendously terrifying event.  In Gethsemane, I think, He was not anxious; rather, He knew something dreadful was surely coming, something to endure.  One can dread something without being fearful of it.

So I considered the trees, and the wind, and my fear.  Is God a good God?  Does not He care even more for my children that I ever could?  Does a tree fall without His willing it?  Was there, in short, any justification at all for my even being distracted by the howling wind?  My heavenly Father is the One who holds each tree upright even in the calm!

Why should I even be anxious?  Our God is sovereign, and He is good!  What could we possibly be afraid of, in light of that?  In Christ I may sleep peacefully even through the loudest, most dangerous storms!  And I can also recognize all my little excuses for anxiety—that it’s “realistic” or “impossible” or “natural”—for what they are.  I am not called to be anxious about worldly things, rather to fear nothing but God.  I am not called to worry, when He knows every hair on my head and every sparrow that falls and every flower that needs adornment.

We are so blessed to be able to rest in His marvelous and perfect provision, and there is never a reason to doubt it.

~

Because I do have dear friends who struggle with (medicated) anxiety, I want to clarify that “anxiety,” as the Bible uses the term, is worrying about things instead of trusting God.  It doesn’t mean shortness of breath or mental cloudiness or any of the other things which are beyond our consciousness and (hopefully) helped by medication.  It is unhelpful that our language conflates the theological concept with the physiological functions of our fallen bodies.  Stephen Altrogge writes helpfully about this.  I’m not talking about “anxiety disorders” here, but the sin of anxiety.