Archives For Trust

The Long View

February 27, 2015 — Leave a comment

There are many joys of being a parent, but there are also many hard lessons. Some of the lessons come from learning what not to do the next time around. Some of the lessons come from seeing your own sin tendencies in living color as you watch your child succumb to the same temptations as you.

Recently, I was reminded of this as one of my children protested rather dramatically after having taken a bath. The child was cold and uncomfortable and from her limited perspective, the discomfort was not going to end anytime soon. I knew that the situation was momentary; soon she would be warm and cozy and ready to conquer the day. Telling her all that though fell on deaf ears. She knew that she didn’t like the current situation and she wanted me to change it…stat.

While I certainly understood my daughter’s desire to get warm (and quickly), I couldn’t help but smile a bit at how limited her viewpoint was. I had the larger perspective and I knew that if she trusted me, all would soon be made right. She didn’t need to worry or fret (it wasn’t going to change the situation anyway.)  My past faithfulness in this regard should have been enough to calm her fears. My legacy of love and provision should have squelched the anxiety she felt. She had every reason to believe that I would take care of her, and no reason to believe differently. Yet, in the moment her loss of control overwhelmed her confidence in me.

Despite my smiles at the absurdity of the situation, I couldn’t help but also experience the twinge of conviction. How often does my behavior mirror that of my child’s when God places me somewhere that I am experiencing uncomfortableness or pain? How quickly does my confidence erode when I don’t see any benefit to my current despair? When I recognize that my control is limited and my future unclear, do I carefully recall His past perfect provision or instead do I anxiously protest and complain?  God’s remedy may be moments away, but am I so busy seeking my own solution that I neglect to take solace in Him?

Too often an examination of my life would find that my response and my daughter’s is pretty much the same. Instead of trusting the One who can see not only my present circumstance but also my future condition, I let the fear of the unknown overrule my thoughts, my heart and my response. I plead and complain – desperately wanting things to change – without acknowledging the goodness of His yet-to-be revealed plan. My perspective on the current situation is unclear; why wouldn’t I rely on the One who not only knows today, but Who also holds the future in His hand? He has the long view in mind, and from that perspective He can see just what I need, both now and in the moments ahead.

do-not-be-anxious-about

It’s that time of year where many people are focused on their recently made resolutions to improve themselves or their lives. As has been well-documented however, these new-found commitments can be difficult to maintain. Adding another to-do to an already crowded list is a struggle for many people and the motivation that led them to make the goal can often wane as the difficulty of keeping it becomes apparent. Sometimes these resolutions are superfluous and our lack of success in keeping them is inconsequential. Other times, we may be convinced that we are pursuing a path or direction that God has ordained and yet we still wrestle with seeing it through to completion. As we struggle we may begin to question whether we can really do what God has called us to, and our trust in His good plan may weaken.

However, God does not call us to certain ministries or tasks in a vacuum. As the One who names the stars (Ps. 147:4) and who clothes the lilies of the field (Mt. 6:28), He is well aware of the responsibilities and challenges that we face. Therefore, when we struggle with all that is on our plate it seems to me that it is likely that one of two things is occurring – Either we are doing things that we have not been called to do and we are taking on tasks and commitments that God does not intend for us to bear. Or, we are not managing the time and resources that God has given us effectively and we need to seek His wisdom in how we manage our days. Our Heavenly Father is well aware of what we need (Mt. 6:8) and of the constraints that we face, including the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. While He may call us to something that will stretch us, if He calls us to it, He will work through it to bring about His good purpose (Ro. 8:28).

Practically, this means that for many of us we probably need to be more mindful and prayerful about what we commit to do. We may eagerly say “yes” because we like the feeling of being needed or because we hate to disappoint other people. While there are many good things that we could be investing our time in, we need to humbly ask God to direct us to those that He has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). At the same time we shouldn’t think that because we don’t know what God has called us to that this is an excuse to either not do anything or to simply pursue things of temporal pleasure. As a child of God, He desires to use you for His Kingdom’s purpose (I Pet. 4:10; Rom. 12:6). As He does so we need to trust that He will provide everything we need to accomplish the things that He has set before us to do. When we struggle, we need not try to manage it ourselves, but to seek His perspective on our time and our to dos.

Withholding Permission

January 7, 2014 — 4 Comments

As a mom I find that I spend a lot of my time giving instructions. As a mom of a toddler, I find that often these instructions consist in telling my kid what I don’t want her to do. The word “no” is frequently on my lips as I try to teach her what is safe to touch and what isn’t, what should go in her mouth and what shouldn’t, and a hundred other lessons that will hopefully serve her well as she grows and matures. It can be a tiresome endeavor but I know that my consistency now will pay dividends in the years to come.
In helping my daughter learn how she should behave, I often find that my instructions precedes her behavior. In other words, as I watch her roam and wander I can anticipate the steps that might lead to trouble. So before her little hands reach out for the dangerous object, I am telling her that she shouldn’t touch it. As we are walking, I tell her where she shouldn’t go before she gets there. This isn’t because I am controlling; it is because prevention is often better than allowing her to do something which she shouldn’t. I tell her that she doesn’t have permission to do something before she attempts the action because I know that if I were to allow her to do it, the consequences could be far worse.

It is likely that this approach should be adopted more often in my own life as well, specifically when it comes to the temptation to worry. Too frequently I find that I allow myself to grow anxious and then try to tell myself all the reasons that I shouldn’t. However, Jesus said in John 14:1 – “Let not your heart be troubled.” In other words – we shouldn’t give ourselves permission to worry and then instruct ourselves as to why it is unnecessary – we shouldn’t allow our hearts to get to that point in the first place. Our hearts should be so focused on Jesus that there is no competition for its attention. If we are consumed by Christ than we can’t be consumed with anxiety. If we refuse to give ourselves permission to worry than we never have to talk ourselves out of it later on.

This is no easy task. We live in a day and age where worry is not only accepted, it is expected. The media, our friends, and our culture will attempt to fuel a concern with matters over which we have no control. However, we do not have to give into this temptation. Instead, just as I tell my daughter “no” when I can see that she is advancing towards dangerous ground, we can fill our hearts with the promises of Scripture when we feel the temptation to focus on the temporary. We can withhold permission to advance any further and trust that He who has overcome the world (Jn. 16:33b) can overcome whatever we are facing as well.

 

Trusted Provision

August 7, 2013 — 2 Comments

I have never once forgotten to feed my child.

Seriously. 

In the time that she has been in this world I have faithfully, and sometimes at the expense of sleep, given her the nourishment she needs.

I consider her feeding routine when planning my day and I prepare for her consumption needs before I leave the house. My husband and I talk about her schedule when we are making plans. Ensuring she doesn’t go hungry is a priority.

Yet despite all this care and attention. there are times that if you listened to my child when I place her in the high chair, you’d be convinced that something quite different was going on.

You may be tempted to think that food is only provided at special occasions and therefore she has to hurriedly scoop it up with rapid inefficiency.

You may be inclined to believe that she only eats when she loudly cajoles me to give her what she desires.

You may even think that I purposefully test her patience – waiting until she is miserable and upset until providing her relief.

None of these are the case.

Yet, as a friend recently reminded me, sometimes my child’s response at the dining table is similar to our response to Christ.

When my daughter gets antsy my faithfulness of the past seems to be obliterated from memory, much like when I worry about the future, forgetting about God’s steadfast provision.

I grow impatient when God’s plan doesn’t align with mine and can throw a temper tantrum that, while unseen, would put a hungry kid’s to shame.

I complain about what I lack, consuming the gifts God has given me with selfishness, entitlement and little appreciation, believing I have to protect what is “mine” lest anyone take it away.

I convince myself I am figuratively starved, when all the evidence suggest I’m well-fed.

My response and that of my kid are eerily the same.

Yet just as I desire to do good to my child, my Heavenly Father delights to do good to me (Mt. 7:11). 

And much like I shake my head at my kid’s antics, God must similarly look at us and marvel at our lack of faith.

After all, He’s always provided in the past. He promises He always will (Mt. 6:25-34).

And while I wish my child would have confidence in the moments between when I place her in the chair and the first bites enter her mouth, I’m grateful for the revealing, if painful, lesson it affords. In my own times of uncertainty, I can look back at all God has done before, and trust that wherever He has placed me now, He will continue to do the same.

Do As I Say

August 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

We’ve all probably heard the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do.” Those words have drawn contention from many a teenager’s heart. After all, if someone is telling you to do something it seems that the very least they could do is be adherents to their own advice. It’s understandable to question the wisdom that they are espousing when they aren’t even willing to follow it.

Although it is easy to make sense of the ire that the phrase engenders, it is also easy to comprehend what causes someone to say it. When we are giving advice to another, we tend to offer dispassionate, sensible insight. When we are looking at our own circumstance, we tend to make things harder. We may know what the proper course of action is, but we take in a variety of emotional and personal factors that aren’t part of our consideration when issuing instructions to another. Often times, these additional considerations cause us to do ourselves a disservice. We don’t do what we know we should because we are more inclined to do what we want.

I’ve found that this tendency can be routinely observed in my own life when I am exhorting someone else to trust in God. When speaking into another’s life it is easy to focus on God’s sovereignty and goodness (Rom. 8:28)  and to point out the need to trust God in all circumstances (Prov. 3:5-6), relying on the fact that He will orchestrate the situation for His glory and our good. However, too often I fail to instruct myself to do the same. Instead, I fall into the temptation of thinking that my worry will somehow alleviate the stress of the unknown. I act as if I have the ability to dictate the outcome and that I can craft a plan that will ensure the best result. The fallacy of this is easy to observe when I’m looking at another; I’m less inclined to point it out in myself.

However, just because it is not easy to point out my own lack of trust and the sin of my own worry, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do it. Instead, when I find myself focused on the situation instead of my Savior, I need to tell myself what I would tell a friend “Get your eyes back on God.”  I need to recognize that this is good advice – for both of us, and I would be wise to follow it. I should do as I would say and trust that just like God will work for good in their lives, that He will accomplish the same in mine.

Anticipated Future

July 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

Like many people, I have a penchant for planning. I work hard to consider what needs to be done, who I need to catch up with, and allocate the time needed to do those things. If I had to choose between a spur-of-the-moment activity, and a planned event, I would most likely choose the latter. Spontaneity and I are on friendly terms, but we are not close. I would much rather have an appointment on my calendar than try to “squeeze something in.”

While there are many benefits to this proclivity, one of the downsides is that I tend to think that if I work hard enough, I will be able to plan for everything. The foolishness of this, however, is obvious as soon as the sentence is stated. As you and I both know, you can’t plan for everything. Life is full of surprises – some of them good and some of them not. Regardless of what category they fall into, we have all experienced some things that simply could not have been anticipated. At least not by us.

There is Someone, however, who does know what will happen in our lives. Our great God and King is not caught off guard by what crosses our path. While we may not be able to predict what will happen next, He is well aware of it. And just like He is knows what will come, He knows what we will need in order to glorify Him through it. If we don’t have it now, He will provide it. Or He may choose to change the circumstance so that what we currently have can be used to put His majesty on display. Either way, He does not let us encounter the future without a plan and provision for using it for His glory.  We may not know what we need for our unknown future, but He does, and He can prepare us for what we will encounter next.

Worrying about the future, then, is senseless, not only because as Scripture tells us, our worry doesn’t produce any fruitful results (Mt. 6:27), but because worry presumes that our confidence is in what we can do, and not in what God is doing for us. Instead of trying to scheme on how we might conquer what we think may happen, we would be better served by trusting in the God Who knows what will occur. Our future may be unanticipated by us, but He has already planned and prepared for it.

©iStockphoto.com/funkd

©iStockphoto.com/funkd

As any parent can tell you, there are a lot of unanticipated challenges when it comes to raising kids. Just as soon as you think you have a routine down and you are beginning to understand your child, they throw you for a loop. This doesn’t even take into account the host of difficulties that are introduced when your child begins interacting with other people. As they start establishing relationships it means that they will deal with their own expectations and their own disappointments, and as their parent you have to try to help them navigate the difficult road.

Raising children isn’t the only arena of life that comes with its surprises though. We might think things are going along fine when we are blindsided by a challenge we never even dreamed of. With all the time we spend fretting about what might happen, it’s the things we never consider that often knock us to our knees. We do a poor job of forecasting what the future may hold. When faced with a problem, we are often at a lost of what to do.

However, as I tend to remind myself, even if I am surprised by what I’ve encountered, God is not. He knows the good and the bad that will come into my life, and just like I should turn to Him in thanksgiving when I am blessed, I should turn to Him in trust when I am challenged. He is not unaware of the difficulties that I face. Even more so, before I was even aware that a problem existed, He has already provided what I need to glorify Him through it (See 2 Peter 1:3). He has a plan to meet my needs before I knew that I had them. The Great Shepherd leads His sheep by still waters and in the valleys of shadows and death (Ps. 23); He prepares the path that they will tread. Although I may be walking it for the first time, He has already gone ahead, ensuring I am equipped to do His will in the midst of the pain.

Knowing this should change my perspective when I am challenged by what life holds. When difficulties unbound and the way forward seems uncertain, I can trust that He knows where the path leads. I may not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future, and He has graciously promised that He will give His children what they need. I can trust that He will provide even if I don’t yet know how. As I do so, my focus ceases to be on the problem that is in front of me and is instead on the One Who has already solved it.

Finding Our Strength

May 14, 2013 — 2 Comments
And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. – I Samuel 30:6

 

We’ve all had days where we are tired and weary.

Our endurance is gone. Our heart is drained.

The physical exhaustion doesn’t compare to the spiritual taxation. If we were simply worn out, we could sleep and be restored. But there’s a heaviness that’s greater than mere fatigue. We are burned out – in every sense of the word.

Yet on days like this, God is still on His throne, just like He was on the days where it felt like we were on the proverbial mountaintop ready to soar above the clouds. His eyes have not lost sight of us; His children are still firmly in His grasp. Even while we may think we are too tired to take another step, He is busy working out all things for the good of those who love Him according to His good purpose and plan (Rom. 8:28). While we falter, He is still faultless. We change with the seasons, the days and the months; He remains the same (Jam. 1:17) – faithful and true to the end.

It is because of this steadfastness that even we are weak, we can find our strength. Like David, who had to contend with far worse circumstances than we are likely dealing with (people wanted to stone him), our endurance is not found in our own abilities or talents. We can’t continue on simply by willing ourselves to do so – at least not in perpetuity. No – instead we must find our strength where David found his – in the Lord. And we shouldn’t just simply turn to Him and acknowledge His fortitude and power (although that’s a good start). We must strengthen ourselves in His might. Because He is strong, we shall not stumble. Because He is faithful, we shall not fear. Our hear is encouraged not only because He is strong, but because He is, so we may be too.

It is one thing to rely on someone else’s strength. We have all done this from time to time – whether it’s because we needed a jar open or because a heavy box needed to be carried. It is another thing to be strengthened in God – to find our perseverance in His power. When we are weak, we shouldn’t just acknowledge that God is strong and able to do all that He desires and give us all that we need. But we, like David, should be strengthened in Him, knowing that because all these things are true, we can endure.

Anytime

April 8, 2013 — 2 Comments

I will cast all my cares upon You.

I will lay all of my burdens down at Your feet. 

And anytime I don’t know what to do – 

I will cast all my cares upon You. 

The above words are lyrics to a song that I learned when I was a child. Although the song used to be part of a regular rotation in my church experience, I haven’t sung it with a congregation in years. Regardless of that fact, it has been on repeat in my head over the past week. Late at night, early in the morning, and at all times in between, the words reverberate inside my head.

As I sing these familiar lyrics again, I have been concentrating on the third line. When your a child it seems so easy to sing that anytime I don’t know what to do, I will turn to Jesus. Yet as we grow up, we are quick to think we have things under control. “Anytime” becomes “whenever I think I need Your help.” Instead of turning to Him the moment I don’t know what to do, I’m quick to try to figure it out on my own. I consider the possibilities, I weigh the options, and I try to discern what I think the best thing to do is. Of course, somewhere in there, usually when I’m stuck and can’t figure out the right alternative, then I turn to Jesus. My commitment to turn to Him when I’m unsure of what to do is pushed aside by my pride and self-determination. He becomes my last resort, instead of my first recourse.

Yet this is not what Christ desires. He is eager to hear our prayers and is in fact advocating on our behalf to the Heavenly Father (see I John 2:1). As the incarnate God He not only knows what it is like to deal with the struggles of this life, He has the perspective of Heaven to guide and direct us in our way. Despite this, I often choose to duke it out on my own instead of turning to Him at the first hint of uncertainty. I imagine He shakes His head in disappointment with my tendencies. He is eager to help, yet I vainly try to do it by myself.

As God has brought these words to my mind time and time again in recent days, I’m been concentrating on fighting my prideful inclinations. When I start to be concerned with some piece of my uncertain future, I am trying to train myself to go to Him first – to tell Him of my concerns instead of dissecting them in my head. I remind myself that while I don’t know what to do, He does, and I trust that whatever He provides will be far better than what I would have conjured up on my own. I give Him the situation – and ask Him to work in it  – to reveal the solution He desires rather than asking Him what He thinks of my plans. As I do so – as I turn to Him first and early – I find the weight of whatever burden I’m bearing is quickly lifted. I have given it to the One who can carry it further and better than I. And because I have placed it in His hands, I can have confidence that He will work within the circumstance to bring Himself glory.

Anytime. It is such a simple yet profound word. And as I trust God with each moments of the day – both the present ones and the ones that are to come – I find that He is there to handle them, at any time.

Even the Small Things

March 19, 2013 — 2 Comments
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©iStockphoto.com/orix3

A medical diagnosis we didn’t expect.

Our desire for a spouse or children.

The job we can’t seem to get.

We are driven to our knees for these things because it doesn’t take long for us to realize that they are outside of our control. Even the most “how-to” guides can’t ensure that we will obtain these things. They are in the hands of a sovereign God and our dependence on Him is evident when, despite our desire to the contrary, we are unable to accomplish them on our own.

However, it’s not just the big things in life that are in God’s hands. Even the small things reside within His palms. Which means when the small things in life go awry we can trust that they didn’t do so without Him being unaware. And just like He can give us what we need to persevere in the big things, He can equip us with everything we need to continue to glorify Him in the small ones.

Like when the kids won’t sleep which mean neither will you.

Or when everyone else on the road is seemingly in need of a driving lesson.

Or the to-do list is too long and time is too short.

These things may be small, but our God is big. He not only cares about these details, He is fully able to meet our needs in them. And when we fully place our trust in Him for the small things we are more apt to glorify Him – in both big, and small, ways.

 

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. – Mt. 6:28-29