A little background to this post: I see what is going on in the world, all around the world, and even here right at home, and honestly, I’m scared. Most of us are. We might be fearful of COVID, or wary of the vaccine, angry at people in power, irritated with our neighbors, friends, or family. Wherever you are, whoever you are, things are happening crazy fast and a lot of us are wondering what to do, or if we can do anything.
That’s where I am. We have the freedom to do pretty much whatever we want (though those freedoms seem to be eroding) and because of that freedom, there is fear. What if we make a decision and it’s the wrong one? What do we do if we see the wisdom in Proverbs 22:3 “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it.” and we want to be wise, but don’t know what wisdom looks like in this specific instance? That’s where I was struggling this morning.
But, even though I didn’t really want to, I opened my Bible and started reading. And as part of today’s Bible reading program I was in Psalm 73. It spoke so exactly to what I was struggling with! The Psalmist was struggling within himself because he was tempted to envy wicked people and was close to giving up on God. But, he talked himself through the mess and God graciously left us a record of how he did it and what he learned from the experience. How did this apply to me today? After praying, crying, repenting, and talking with my friends who hold me accountable, I learned:
When scared (at the worst) or unsure (at the best) keep doing what you need to be doing
- Develop an ordinary practice of seeking the Lord. Any Bible reading plan eventually feels like a struggle. Day by day obedience to reading sometimes feels like drudgery. Psalm 73 was such a refreshment to me today. I didn’t have to go seek out verses or chapters that spoke to what I wrongly thought my struggle was, God met me right where I was.
- Keep doing your ordinary practice. Once you develop the habit, keep with it, even when it seems like it definitely won’t help this time. There’s an excellent example of this in Acts 3 where Peter and John were doing what they ordinarily did and God showed up in an awesome way. God worked through their ordinary, everyday faithfulness.
- Keep taking your thoughts captive. This directly applies to point 2. It doesn’t matter if I feel like it will help or not. Take those depressed and overwhelmed thoughts captive and keep pressing on in the ordinary.
Stop doing whatever it is that feeds your envy, discontent, or fear
Easy to say, hard to do. But I know that being online with a world that is SO LOUD all the time is not helping build my confidence in God or help me in ordinary everyday faithfulness.
1. I need to stop waking up in the morning and clicking online to see what horrible thing happened in the world overnight. Or what terrible news I missed. I seem to have an propensity to want to be afraid, to want to guess at what’s coming next, and to fret about it. Instead, I need to continue to grow in meeting with the Maker of the world and all that is in it. He alone shapes my heart, the world warps and misshapes it (Psalm 33:15).
2. I need to stop meditating on the wrong things. I have found I’m actually really, really good at meditation. I can take a news headline, or something someone said, and turn it over in my mind, scrutinizing every tiny detail and aspect. I do it naturally and very well. Instead, I need to pray before my feet even hit the ground, that He will help me to have the strength (it does require strength to say no to my fear, discontent, envy, strife) to meet with Him before I meet with the mess of the world and then I need to meditate on Scripture, truth, rather than anything else.
Repent and return
I need to repent and return to Him over and over and over, day by day, moment by moment. In the Sermon on the Mount study (that is about to be released!) I learned that to be pure in heart, is to have one single desire. In our study group, we talked about how sand at the beach is like sin. If you’ve ever been to the beach and cuffed up your pants, you know how much sand those folds can hold. To “unfold the folds” is to unroll those cuffs and let the sin fall out before God. Unfolding those folds is confessing my fear, my struggle, my sin. It’s agreeing with Him about how I can do no better without Him. It’s realizing that it’s not about trying harder to be better (bigger folds! that are sealed!), but dying to myself and my sinful desires (comfort, ease, envy, fear, jealousy, discontent). None of this is possible without His love and grace. I want to keep trudging along in the sand storm as my folds fill more and more. He wants me to unfold and keep unfolded, to live with one desire: to love Him.
We are created for community. None of us can live this Christian life alone. (Though I often wonder if I would be an amazing Christian if I lived alone and isolated in a cabin in the woods… but even then, I’d have to live with myself!) I need to be reminded of what I know, regularly, by other Christians. Especially other sisters in Christ. That means I have to spend real time with them. Not “hi, bye!” passing by each other in and out of church. To have that kind of relationship, I need to make the time. Then, I need to be vulnerable and open. And I need to be teachable, not easily offended, and willing to take correction. All that is beautiful, but all that is also really hard. There’s a lot of death involved in living. But as our pastor once said, “at the center of love is death.”
Back to Psalm 73. As I wrestled through it with my friends this morning, as I wrote it out longhand (that always helps me slow down and take it word by word), as they reminded me of what I know and believe, one of my friends shared the truth beautifully:
This is the peace we have: not knowing the future or the perfect path to take, but resting in the One who made peace for us with His own blood.