Oh peace, why do I often forfeit you? Why do I so quickly let outward things interrupt you? Why do we chase after peace and attempt to grab it as if it is something tangible – something that can be held or created by human will power? I’m a fan of discipline, and setting our minds on things above and renewing them all day long because it is needed and life giving, but do I think I can create and manage it on my own?
The peace of God isn’t interrupted. The peace of man is. It doesn’t mean we are superficially happy all the time and forget to “be” where we are, lamenting and grieving when it is called for…It means that if you’re in Christ the peace you have to pull up from the roots of your being, is unshakeable. The peace of God surpasses all understanding and leaves bystanders wondering, “how?” in a moment of hardship, a long day, or when you “should” be easily frustrated. But peace isn’t totally a mystery. Isaiah reminds us, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you.” (Isaiah 26:3). Romans 8:6 exhorts us, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (these verses in their fuller context take on more depth and meaning, check them out! Also, an always applicable Philippians 4!)
How often does my peace get interrupted by endless questions from the 3 year old, a sick child, unexpected news, a rough day, and mundane tasks that never seem to get accomplished?
I don’t want to miss the opportunity, the invitation even, to worship Him in what He has for me today. When do I miss Him in the midst of laundry, hard conversations, and temper tantrums, or fear of the future? When do I miss Him in the midst of excitement, giggles, good stories, a beautiful sunset, and yummy food? With my mind stayed on Him, trusting what He gives – however monotonous or overwhelming – I can worship Him in what He has for me. I long to worship God in what He has for me each day – what He gives me each day, because nothing – nothing – is out of His control.
Here’s what Elizabeth Elliot says is the secret: Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances. I am the same me in any set of circumstances. As the old sayings goes, “wherever I am, there I am”. Do I let my peace get interrupted because I fail to see even interruptions as from the Lord? What if the interruptions are actually the plan? The plan to humble me, love me, transform me, and others around me. Can I see them as gifts, even? Whew. That’s hard, huh? Easy to write as I sit uninterrupted drinking flavored coffee. Almost impossible to remember in the midst of the chaos of the every day crazy, or the monotony that can feel purposeless. Can I quote Elliot again? (Well, I am, because I never grow tired of her wisdom!) She says, “Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. (Keep A Quiet Heart)
He is my portion and He is enough. He is YOUR portion and He is enough…May we set our minds on that truth and let the peace of God overtake us.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you….The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance…I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall never be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure…You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at you right hand are pleasure forever more.
If you know me, you know I am not a runner, by any stretch of the imagination. Hand me the weights instead, please. Don’t ask me to run. However, its funny how when you can actually no longer do something, there’s some sort of yearning for it. I guess I’ll be a little more blunt about how MS affects me physically today. I look completely healthy, I can do A LOT of things, and I feel pretty normal most of the time…..unless I attempt to walk consistently at a moderate pace for more than a couple minutes, much less run, do jumping jacks, or walk the neighborhood with the kids – my favorite. My doctor told me I could try a medicine that may potentially help with all that, making my central nervous system send the right signals – but it made me a lot worse, so we quit that. There was this little glimmer of hope for easily going hiking and rock climbing in Zion for our anniversary trip, but I know better to place hope in medicine by now. I hope you don’t hear me complaining, but longing – and seeing that sometimes my longing for physical healing is stronger than my longing for Jesus. Maybe you can relate?
But He’s too good for that.
I hope that Isaiah 40:31 will be physically true for me, “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” And yet, as I read before that I see more context: “To whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host my number, calling them by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing…Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. HE does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Isaiah 40:25-28). There’s the power. There’s the Hope. HE doesn’t faint or grow weary. It’s okay for me to physically feel pins and needles in my feet that might go numb making me fall, or have legs that feel full of lead, because HE doesn’t. I hope your story picks up somewhere in my words here and that this isn’t just for me (thanks Sarah over at An Inner Disposition for the phrase!). Somewhere in this, you get it too. I get the joy – the joy – of longing for heaven more – and maybe truly for the first time ever – because my flesh is fading away.
Russ Ramsey says: “Unmet desires in this life are intended to arouse a hunger for the next. Physical limitations are felt as an ache for a perfected body. Coming face to face with my mortality has awakened my appetite for eternity.” (Struck)
Tim Keller talks about our joy being enhanced by our suffering – suffering being the servant of our joy and calls us to think about heaven until it pulverizes our discouragement (found in Be Still, My Soul).
I don’t claim to have the market on trials, by any stretch of the imagination. This is your story too. I have been overwhelmed with the seemingly inordinate amount of people for a small church plant that are walking through really hard things right now. Things, that because these are my friends, or I’m the pastor’s wife, I am privy to – I get the honor of the work of “burden bearing”. Mostly, this is praying. I’m coming to think of it like the paralytic’s friends who literally tear a hole in the top of the house and lower their friend to Jesus. Many (of you!) have done that for me, and I’ve learned that there is something sacred about that work. The sacred work of begging God to heal, to give peace, to provide, and yet knowing we don’t have to beg – He hears our cry and answers us because He delights in us (Psalm 18)! I have the sacred privilege of reminding my friends, and myself, that even lament is worship. I’d venture to say it is especially worship. Lamenting while trusting, imperfectly even, does a powerful work in us.
May He be sufficient for you today. Just as He is sufficient for me – even as I struggle to write that phrase, because if I’m being honest I need to tell you I daily wrestle to believe that He is sufficient.
Here’s a powerful thought from Elizabeth Elliot: “He is not all we would as for (if we were honest), but it is precisely when we do not have what we would ask for, and only then, that we can clearly perceive His all-sufficiency.” (Keep A Quiet Heart)
I’ll leave you, and me, with these questions: How is Jesus meeting you in your longing?
Where is He pursuing your heart in your longing for other things?
Where is He inviting you to trust Him more?
Last week was a week where I needed LOTS of reminders to abide in Jesus. I felt the earth quake around me, specifically regarding parenting, and my roots felt like they might not hold the tree through the mighty quake. Thankfully, God’s hold on me is far stronger than my hold on Him, because if it had depended on me – my effort or my righteousness – I would have toppled over with a thunderous crash. Between the boy that needed stitches on his head, Ryan being out of town, a child needing to be picked up early from camp due to tremendous misbehavior on my way to which, I was pulled over by a police officer informing me that the windows of my MINI-VAN are tinted too dark, down to the regular mishaps and day to day challenges of lots of socks being throw into the toilet by the little ones, being yelled at by my children, yelling in return, and on and on it goes…not to mention the lack of a quiet heart…So, by Tuesday afternoon, things were looking rough. God, as He faithfully does, in the midst reminded me of my utter dependence upon and need for Him. As Ryan commonly says, “We were never meant to wean ourselves off of our need for Jesus. The longer we walk with Jesus, the more we realize we need to lean into Him.”
I think one of the hardest and most important things we can do as parents is to ABIDE in Christ. Abiding involves trusting God is working when we don’t see it; abiding is confessing my sin and seeking forgiveness when I’d rather not; abiding is admitting my need and weakness and lack of control; abiding is knowing and resting in the ONE who holds me and holds my kids in the palm of His almighty hand.
Abiding is work. I dare say it is the work. We can’t produce the fruit of the spirit in ourselves or in our kids. But, we can remain in HIM, the One who can. It is work to abide in quietness of heart when the well-thought-out plans get messed up. It is work to abide and ask the Lord to show me my own sin even when my child’s seems more glaring and in need of correction. Abiding is a good work . Cupping those small faces with my hands and responding in peace and love and joy knowing my response is pointing them to or from a loving Savior who can handle their every need. And, THEY are watching my abiding. My kids, my husband, my friends, my neighbors. Not only the people I can see, but the angels and the demons. What beauty – to glorify God in my abiding in Him – even when I think no one else sees it. The angels and demons look on in wonder when we choose to glorify God in our response of abiding. Angels cheering us on and demons maddened as we plunder the gates of hell with our abiding in Christ in our lives and parenting. And not that we could ever, hear me, ever do it on our own. That ‘being kept’ is by the Lord.
In the midst of the storm of last week, I was held. God gave me the gifts abiding in: my dependence on Him, the need for community and friends, mourning over and repenting of my own sin even when it seemed like my children’s sin was more glaring, and the knowledge and comfort that He was working in my waiting.
I love this thought from Elizabeth Elliot, “Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. Nothing touches me without my Father’s permission…Whatever He allows to happen becomes, for me, His will at the moment.” (Keep a Quiet Heart) She bases this reflection on John 14:27 where Jesus reminds us, “Peace I leave with you; I do not give as the world gives.”
The things I tend to see as interruptions are actually God’s will for me at that moment. When I do the hard work of preaching to myself instead of listening to myself, I abide in the truth and am set free to walk in peace. Abiding opens my eyes to the gifts He has for me as He does the painful and beautiful work of making all things new – in me and in the little people around me!