Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Help in Difficult Times

I was hit this morning with news that brings a significant financial impact to my family. My initial reaction was deep anxiety and fear. What are we going to do? How are we going to make this work? I thought to myself, amidst other racing thoughts. I tied up my running shoes and took off for a run to clear my head and work some of these thoughts out.

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When I first hit the pavement, I remembered how tired and achy I was from yesterday's run. I didn't really want to run today, but I knew the time would be good for me. I immediately started problem-solving, thinking of all the different ways to adjust financially. I don't think I got more than two blocks before I realized that I was running faster than I could keep up with and that my anxious thoughts were causing more stress and fear than I could manage. I knew I needed to pray and get God's perspective on this before jumping to any conclusions. Here's how that process looked like for me:
  1. Focus on God. I first thanked God for who He is, for His beauty and wisdom, and for His incredible love. I thought about His character and just worked on setting my mind on Him, rather than on me. The feeling of stepping outside of myself was relief enough, but then entering His throne room was even more comforting.
  2. Remember His faithfulness. I thought about Psalm 136, which repeats the phrase "His steadfast love endures forever," and how that's been evidenced throughout history. Then I remembered His faithfulness in my own life - how He's always provided for me in one way or another, usually better than I could ever have expected or imagined. I knew that I wanted Him to be in control of my life and this situation because He's proven Himself faithful time and time again.
  3. Humble myself. After considering God for a while, I realized that I was trying to solve my problems apart from God and getting nowhere fast. I knew that I didn't have the power, wisdom, or foresight to truly live my life, let alone work out this financial debacle, so I gave it to Him. A funny thing happened next...
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When I was just a few blocks from home near the end of my run, I realized that I had been running quite hard for some time but without much effort. I recognized that internal peace and energy as God's Spirit alive in me, giving me excitement and contentment for His will. But the moment I took my mind off Him I remembered how much I didn't want to run today, I felt the aches and exhaustion in my body, and the stress of my problem came flooding back. I knew I had to go back to God... again! and already!

I want to make a few reflections about all this. First, my problem didn't go away simply because I turned my heart toward God to trust Him. It's still there. I still have to figure it out. But I have an internal peace that reminds me constantly that God is the source of life to the whole world and that there is nothing outside of His power. I know He's capable of anything, and that He has good plans for my life.

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Second, whatever solutions may arise for this situation I know that they will be from God and that they will be better than anything I could ever think of on my own. When I trust Him fully (over and over again, because that worry creeps up often), He speaks to me. And when I listen and follow, I allow His will to be done rather than my own. Jumping to action without listening to God provides generous space for my own (usually clumsy) work but limits room for Him to act.

Finally, I am thankful. This is an opportunity that God is using to remind me of His great love for me, His provision, and my deep and utter dependence on Him. This is what I was created for. Living in dependence upon God is a joy greater than life itself. God knew my true need and He allowed this stress to bring me back into His faithful hands, to bring my wife and I closer together both relationally and spiritually, and to show me once again how much He loves. David knew what He was talking about in Psalm 71:14-24...
But I will hope continually
   and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
   of your deeds of salvation all the day,
   for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
   I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
   and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs,
   O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
   your power to all those to come.
Your righteousness, O God,
   reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
   O God, who is like you?
You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
   will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
   you will bring me up again.
You will increase my greatness
   and comfort me again.
I will also praise you with the harp
   for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
   O Holy One of Israel.
My lips will shout for joy,
   when I sing praises to you;
   my soul also, which you have redeemed.
And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long,
for they have been put to shame and disappointed
who sought to do me hurt.


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