I’ve lived nowhere for almost one year.
At least, that’s what it felt like during the worst moments. We went from a beautiful country home to living in a camper and wintering in a friend’s home, then back to camper living April-today. Yet, truly, I was content even in the worst moments. It was a struggle at times, but through it all, I had peace.
Today, I went out to eat with my mom for the first time in over a year. There are still so many hurdles we have to overcome, with our housing and our health, but the same peace I’ve had through most of this crazy year rests in my heart, and I want to share some of what God has taught me. This post might be a bit scrambled, since we just moved. But as my friend Sara from sgwilloughby.com says, sometimes the encouraging posts are the ones that are messy.
God Abides With Us
When my father had to leave our family in Arizona for a month, we felt stranded. I remember we had to leave him to walk through the checkpoint at the tiny airport. There was a moment he was at the head of our group, leading and directing in his quiet way. Then he had to stand in line for the checkpoint. He was only a few feet away, but everything changed as the reality of the situation hit us. We would be alone, without our protector and father. It’s not that we couldn’t take care of ourselves; it’s that our family unit wasn’t whole anymore. We felt so alone.
The very air smelled alien. But God’s presence went with us there.
God abides with us wherever we go. It’s easy to sing songs about this in church. It’s much harder to believe when you’re faced with stark solitude.
We can’t just expect to feel His presence all the time, however. Most days we felt so far away from everything we knew. But He was there, going before us, going with our father back to Minnesota, staying with us in every moment. When you realize this, it changes your perspective. If God is with us, we can trust Him with every moment. We can rest in Him, knowing no matter where He takes us, He will be there.
I was greatly encouraged by reading Psalm 139 in Arizona. Verses 7-8 speak of God’s presence.
“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”
Trust Is A Choice
I found that I could either choose to trust God, or I could doubt Him. One choice led to peace, the other to anxious worries. As future’s uncertainty grew, I found that if I chose to trust Him, I could release the future. As Jesus said, “Tomorrow will be anxious for itself.”
When you lie in bed at night, deliberately choose to lay your life in the Lord’s hands. Do past mistakes and sins torment you? They are not beyond the Lord’s sovereignty. Surrender them to our capable God. Do you look at your future, another year of loneliness, another encounter with your unloving mother, or another month of poor health and little energy taunting you? Give it up to God.
Why do we worry? At its core, it is because we do not trust God. John Piper says, “The root of anxiety is lack of faith in our heavenly Father.”
Choose to surrender. Choose to trust. This is the only sure route to peace and contentment.
Even In Trials, Be A Giver, Not A Taker
We are by nature selfish beings. Everyone acts in his own self interest. But the Cross takes selfish sinners and turns them into God-glorifying, others-serving people.
During a trial, however, we often feel we have the “right” to focus on ourselves. It’s important to differentiate between taking the time to grieve and sort out your heart, and giving in to to introspection. One is sensible, the other selfish.
My sister Gabriella understands this well problem well. The other day, she wrote to a man in prison who is a member of our church to encourage him during a difficult lockdown. He wrote back, saying this, “I … want to thank Gabriella. I was feeling really down until I received her card. In it, you said when you become discouraged it’s hard not to think of anyone but you. The remedy you suggested was praying for others to keep my mind off myself. That was something I really needed to hear and I’m grateful you shared those words with me.”
In your trial, you can feel your whole world’s collapsing. It’s so easy to become inward focused. Instead of being a taker, expecting others to solve your problems, be a giver. Find some way you can give, even if it’s just using depressing or anxious thoughts to springboard you into prayer for someone. In this storm, don’t squelch the little sunlight there is. It is possible to both mourn and have God’s supernatural joy, but only when our hearts are surrender and when we focus on serving others.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Personal Prayer
Do you pray?
I don’t mean lightly saying you’re praying for someone. I mean actual solitude devoted to prayer.
When we take time to go to the Lord with our heart, whether it’s praise, confession, thanksgiving, or lament, it is reminds our souls what is most important. Devoting our precious time to prayer even in busy lives states: “I am entirely dependent on You. I know that nothing I do on my own strength can save or sanctify me. I need You, Lord. You are more important than the other things I could be doing right now.”
We put things into perspective when we pray. We surrender to God. We realize when our hearts are out of order. God works through prayer. He commands it. Instead of saying, “I’m too busy to pray,” find a time or make time, because when we arrange our schedule around God, we prioritize Him. He must be first in our lives.
I still can’t pray mentally for any more than a few sentences. My mind is either too tired or too busy. I could just say I’ll wait until I’m better, but I know my soul will starve without the Lord. I found if I wrote out my prayers in a journal, it kept my mind on track. I also had a record of what I said. I use a fifty cent notebook from the dollar store for a spiritual journal, which I use for prayers, Bible study, thoughts about my soul and life, and sometimes I write out verses or quotes prettily.
Take the time to be alone with the Lord, especially during those hectic times. It doesn’t have to be an hour. It could be ten minutes or even five minutes. He will show Himself and work in your heart.
Jesus Is Always Better
To close today, I want to remind you to surrender your life to the Lord. Jesus is better than worldly living. Jesus is better than complaining about difficult times. Jesus is better than worrying. Jesus is better than popularity-loneliness with Jesus is far more precious than hundreds of friends without Him. Jesus is better than self-centeredness. Jesus is better than an extra ten minutes of YouTube or TV. Jesus is better-He is worth any sacrifice and any trial.
Just to know Him, to love Him and to realize the depth of His love for us-that, my friends, is a gift none of us are worthy of us.
What are you choosing to trust Him with today, my friend? Let me know in the comments below and we can pray for each other.