There’s nothing quite like the awareness of our own mortality to give us a change in perspective. I remember being hospitalized for nearly a month before my daughter was born three months early. Life had become complicated by a rare, life-threatening pregnancy. Each day the hospital chaplain would visit, and she would say, “Just for today.” We took things one day at a time. We couldn’t project the outcome for my daughter or for me. We could pray and hope while we waited to see. If we looked too far into the future, it might overwhelm us. So the chaplain would remind me each day, “You made it another day. Just for today.”
I love it that “the Lord is near” and we have nothing to fear. Instead, we can rejoice, give thanks, and pray.
Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I’m finally remembering to do my summer wrap up post on how the Lord revealed Himself so mercifully to me during challenging times.
From the moment my husband planned our Europe trip, I dreaded it. I didn’t want to leave the children, I was anxious to travel overseas, and I am quite simply a homebody. I am a creature of habit and routine, and travel has always caused upheaval for me to leave my comfort zone. There are only a few exceptions, such as Florida, the Smokies, going to the lake, family camp, or other trips with my family. Nonetheless, I felt like it was the right decision to go, and I was encouraged to do so by many friends and family members.
Several times a week in the weeks prior to the trip, I would wake up in the night with an anxious heart, confess it to the Lord, acknowledge that this fear was not from Him, pray, quote Scripture, and return to sleep. Oftentimes, I would even wake up and scream out from crazy confusion in my sleep!
As the trip grew closer, my feelings of nervousness grew, the stress even manifesting itself in physical ways, but my decision to go was also certain. I would not back out. I was waiting to be surprised by how magnificent a trip it would be and to surely discover that my fears were unwarranted; somehow I expected to find out that maybe I would be a world traveler and be excited to plan future trips! I was also sort of waiting to be blessed for my “obedience” to go, if I’m honest!
No matter how much I had prayed about it during those weeks, there didn’t seem to be any kind of confirming word from the Lord speaking directly to my concerns. I just held on to what I knew was truth as found in the Bible, and I kept on in prayer, waiting for Him to help me. He did. There were nights I was comforted, nights I was blessed by reciting Scripture, and His presence was real. But I really wanted specific insight into how to handle this trip, and I didn’t have that.
Until the day before I left. June 13th. I love that about God. There is purpose in the waiting of learning to trust and obey Him, to believe Him even when we can’t see or know the outcome. And at the right time, He just provides exactly what is needed.
I was down in Memphis dropping off my children, planning to fly back to Chicago that afternoon to then fly the following day to Europe. It was a Sunday, and we did not make it to church. My mom’s friend called and said she wanted to bring by the CD of the sermon that she had just heard. It was by Reggie Sessions, pastor at Independent Presbyterian in Memphis. I’d never heard him before, but this was an excellent message from I Samuel 18, I believe. He talked about the slavery of living in our kingdom, the freedom of getting out of the way, and what we find at the end of the line.
In looking at the life of Saul, he described that it is when we live to protect our kingdom that we are bitter, jealous, resentful, angry — “it takes away our humanity,” he said, and we become a shell of a human being. We’re trying to be God and the center of our universes, and we’re bad at it. We want to be free, but we’re addicted to our kingdom.
He then talked about how we need to get out of the way. He looked at the life of Jonathan, Saul’s son, who surrendered to David’s kingship. He got off the throne and didn’t demand his rights. He laid his life into David’s hand, and gave David his sword, belt and bow.
Reggie described how we are at war with God, but we must surrender. We are fighting against Jesus the King and don’t want to surrender control of our lives. To stand down and be broken is the only way to liberation and peace of mind.
At the end of the line, there is nothing left to hide and no more attempts to control the world. This is where there is peace and joy. He described THE Person (Jesus) who got off His throne for us, who came to give us abundant life. When we surrender and go to the end of the line, “we get our true humanity back.” At the end of the line, it’s not loss, but gain.
What I found so convicting in the message was the description of one trying to control her life. Reggie said, “Some of you are too afraid to leave Memphis and all the things you love to go on a vacation.” It was funny how there were perfect quotes throughout the sermon that were completely accurate to my situation.
Later in the day, I was sitting in the Memphis airport delayed on my flight to Chicago. I began to pray and got out my journal to write my thoughts. They centered on the faithfulness of God: “Lord, You have been faithful!” I wrote a couple of paragraphs on His faithfulness and accompanying verses, then wrote, “You are asking me to do something so outside of my comfort zone, but I thank you for speaking to me, and I pray You will show me Yourself and reveal Yourself to me all along the way, just like You did with the sermon this morning.”
As I sat there, praying and listening, I wrote down what was on my heart: “Just take the next step. One step at a time. Wait on Me. Trust Me.”
When I finally boarded the plane to Chicago a short time later, I opened up a book my mom had given me. It was The Saving Life of Christ by Ian Thomas. I’d never opened it before; it was a completely new book to me.
I opened the first page, and it said, “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.” (I Thess. 5:24) He then writes, “If you will but trust Christ, not only for the death He died in order to redeem you, but also for the life that He lives and waits to live through you, the very next step you take will be a step taken in the very energy and power of God Himself…. You will be restored to your true humanity.”
Not only did the book begin by talking about the very contents of my prayer moments before — God’s faithfulness and my call to trust Him and take the next step — but it also re-affirmed the words in the sermon from Reggie — in so doing, you will be restored to your true humanity!
As I read this book, it absolutely amazed me that it spoke so directly to my current situation. As Ian Thomas developed life in the wilderness versus walking in abundance with Christ each day, he even wrote: “Do you still consider that you have the right to choose where you will spend your vacation? You do not have that right! Except in the wilderness!”
Over and over, the book spoke to my specific situation, and while I had waited for the Lord to speak to me, He so mercifully met me in such a powerful way.
The following day, June 14th, in traveling to Europe, I just did what He had shown me: take the next step. All I need to think about is the next step… not be worried about what is beyond it. So I would stand in the line to check my bags. All I need to do is check the bags. Then I would figure out boarding, and take that step. And the trip became just a series of steps wherein I could trust Him with each one.
When I was threatened to be overcome with fear, I could just remember He was with me, He is faithful, He would take me through this step, I could trust Him.
I hope I will hang on to these lessons as I go forward in my life. There were so many other things over the remainder of the summer, but these things really stick out to me. He is all we need, and He is more than enough. It is right to let Him be on the throne, to let Him guide us in each successive step, to believe Him for those moments and trust His sovereignty. He is faithful; He is good. I praise You, Lord!
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:23 (ESV)