Trust Isn’t Just About Me

Nothing is accomplished when I worry about my life. It never added a cubit to my stature and, as Corrie Ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Whenever I begin imagining the worst, I remind myself – grace isn’t going anywhere. The Lord’s character won’t change in time for tomorrow’s storm. He’s steadfast and sufficient for whatever path or valley.

I know worrying about myself is a fruitless pastime. Here’s the problem. Sometimes it feels more helpful to worry on the behalf of others. Perhaps because I feel even more powerless when it comes to my family and friends. Maybe because at times I feel concern for someone younger in the faith, or more vulnerable physically, or a child in my line of responsibility.

Trust isn’t always just about me and the Lord. Souls of others are often involved. But isn’t it inconsistent to trust God for my own future, but stress about someone else’s?

I’m writing this down because the irony of these words makes me thank God for His tremendous landscape of care for each person I care about.

Think of it this way. Someone I love is near the overseas war-zone, but I forget he is tucked in God’s solid sovereign plan? A friend is saved by lavish grace, but I’m anxious about her weighty decisions she must make? My brother-in-Christ is a co-heir with the Prince of Peace, and I wonder if God will provide for his next season? My family member is loved enough that the Lamb died for her, but will the great I Am see her through a new medical diagnosis?

The glorious reality is this: God is completing a good work in each of us and will be faithful to complete it. Will I “believe all things, hope all things, endure all things” as I wait and watch for God’s work in their lives?

There are many ways we can encourage, admonish, teach, and minister to our fellow believers in their sanctification journey, but anxiety isn’t an effective practice. God’s dear children have rich promises to claim whether they fully realize them or not! This old hymn re-sung by Selah draws this out:

“Some through the water, some through the flood

Some through the fire, but all through the blood

And some through great sorrow, but God gives the song

In the night season and all the day long

Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright

Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night

Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose

Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes

God leads His dear children along.”

Even if He designs a harder season for someone we love, it’s such a comfort to entrust them to the Chief Shepherd. We can count on His faithfulness to His Bride, to each member of His church He is building.

As you pray for and encourage your parent/sibling/friend to listen to the Holy Spirit, you can trust that He will direct them as He is acknowledged (Prov. 3:6).

“You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word.” 

Psalm 119:65

We need not worry or stress for the future of God’s servants. When the opportunity to trust on others’ behalf arises, remember He deals well with His servants (maybe not always according to us, but always according to His Word!). His grace is sufficient for each, and what a wonderful opportunity to anchor our trust deeper in a worthy God.

When Praying feels like Watering Dead Roses

Only a hopeless optimist — who is also an amateur gardener — would water a rose bush for as long as I have. I believe it was dead even before I pulled it from its terracotta pot and planted it, much too late. Still, I persist in watering the wilted blooms alongside the snapdragons, in a flailing aspiration that the muted green will revive into pink blossoms again.

I don’t recommend this kind of false gardening hope, but as I stared at the faded remains of roses, I thought of the unfaded faith I desire to apply to my prayers. Sometimes my pleas to God feel too cliché to reach beyond our ceiling. They feel like tired words, as I request a glorious outcome from the same old verbiage. They feel like I’m watering a rose that can never come back to life.

But God. He is mercy. He hears our weakly worded prayers, and His spirit utters groanings too deep for words on our behalf.

When my prayers feel about as useful as watering dead roses, He is listening, inviting mustard-seed faith. Speak to Him in confidence and trust, for nothing is harder for God than something else. NOTHING. There are no levels of impossibility for Him. He can make dry bones come alive.

A few pages ago in my prayer notebook, Roe V. Wade stood at the top of my list for prayers for our country. Completely surprised at God answering like He did, now I wish I would have pushed into deeper prayer for the fight for life in the womb. Why didn’t I ask with greater expectancy, knowing God could indeed choose to work in this way against the odds? My praise and excitement would be more personal now if I had labored more in prayer with hope and trust. The prayers never felt like frontline work, but prayer is always battling where it matters most.

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18

When all around appears wilted, and you have only the strength to utter a few overfamiliar sentences to God, remember WHO you’re sending them to. He moves mountains for His children. His graciousness is always on display. His Sovereignty holding all things as we:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Romans 12:12

Seeds are to Plant

I am not much of a gardener, but I hope to become one, a good one, eventually. First, I must cut through the fog of intimidation at trying something new.

Talk of soil, zones, timing, and types of plants can cause overwhelm for the ones who haven’t pursued a green thumb. Questions prick like thorns.

Have I missed the window for planting my favorite flower? How much money should I invest in annuals and where should I place the perennials? Will the mint take over? What if I change my mind about landscaping? Is it worth all the weeding?

Overhearing garden talk everywhere, I’ve begun to realize nothing can go too terribly wrong if I just plant a seed. Seeds are to plant. I can’t design their sprout, but I can put a little earth on top and pour water on it.

We poked little holes in our soil boxes, and I wasn’t sure how many to put in each hole, or if the sun would be too harsh, or if I’d be faithful to follow up. But I had to try. Humbled at my lack of knowledge, I appreciated the fact I had no control as to whether this tinsey seed would germinate where I attempted to place it. It all seemed like a shot in the dark, but a profound one. Then it occurred to me how biblical the planting process is.

God requires a similar faith in obedience of missional seed planting. I Corinthians 3:5-9–

“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

As I sprinkle water on the tiny creations I’m caring for, I hope I’ll remember the real seed-planting partnership I’m called to. The Lord graciously gives opportunities to obey and speak the gospel in season and out of season, planting and watering seeds like Paul and Apollos. But God alone will determine the future of each one’s growth. We each will receive our own reward, and it won’t depend on the outcome of the seed’s growth, but on our obedient response in faith.

We may not ever see the results. In Barbara Cooney’s picture book Miss Rumphius, she tells the story of the “Lupine Lady” who cast seeds throughout her town in order to make it a more beautiful place. From her seeds, lupines delighted generations after she was gone. She simply scattered seeds along her pathway.

This summer let’s pray for chances to drop seeds in the gaping holes of emptiness we come across on our own pathways. To have His Word ready on our tongues, to labor in the heat of the desert, to plant where it seems barren. Work with our fellow forgiven workers, understanding the significant insignificance of our actions in the light of God’s sovereignty.

Everywhere we look is the field. At the park, at the thrift store, at the neighborhood bbq, at our front door. As the Lord’s servants, let us not freeze up in overwhelm that it may be too early or too late for planting. Let us not fear if we don’t know the right amount of seeds or the science of the soil. Let us not doubt the seed may be too microscopic to even produce a blossom.

Because God owns the field. We are fellow gardeners with Him, and what a privilege. The time is now to share about His goodness and the need to be saved from sin. There is a peace (and a reward!) in obedience, knowing we plant and water, but God controls the weather, the soil, and the fruit.

Waiting for Tulips (the March gifts)

driving home for the first time

daffodils saying hello

Indian butter chicken

friends who love us enough to clean the showers and every other inch of our moving mess

. . . and haul all our earthly belongings

quilt spread in the backyard grass

first sunburn at a luncheon

waiting for tulips…wondering their color

my sister’s carrot cake with citrus notes

“is anything too small for a child to talk to his father about?” —Anneliese

small prayers answered, as well as big ones

first package on the doorstep, containing a treasure (The Sugar Mouse Cake by Gene Zion)

dressing our new sturdy bookshelf with picture books

cold-brew and premarital counseling

the first grilled chicken of the year

finding an empty cupboard in the kitchen, days into unpacking

meeting the neighbors while bearing spring monster cookies

singing “Safe Am I” to my little one

brave sunshine and a little stroller

shire songs

These Happy Golden Years

baby’s first steps

marco polo conversations with friends from childhood

thrifting finds

1,000 piece puzzle owning our kitchen table

“Home is everything you can walk to.” –Jerry Spinelli

exploring our new home by walking

more thoughts, On Walking from Bethany’s blog

petitioning the God of the impossible, our Defender

–Who never tires of our requests

“How great is Your goodness which You have stored up for those who fear You.” Psalm 31:19

P.S. Thank you for the president

My little green prayer notebook wears a sticky syrup spot and bent cover to prove its usefulness over the last couple months. It’s not just my notebook, but my optimism for our beautiful country feels a bit worn also.

Like many of us, I’m unable to find any peace in the news or in the top leadership. A scan of cultural forecasts doesn’t bring a stillness of heart either. I’ve personally taken a break from intentionally following current events, and it’s refreshing. But there are other ways bad news slithers in. All of us have layers of personal burdens. We never lack reminders that our world groans, and we’re not home yet.

God has been showing me two areas where I’ve needed to cultivate my prayers to incorporate a new heart attitude.

Thanks for The Personal

First, it hit me when I was reciting Philippians 4 on repeat because I was trying to rid myself of anxiety about a family member’s unknown diagnosis.

“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.”

I lay awake one night, praying hard, making my requests known to God. Then I’d try to think about something pure and lovely to trap my mind into drifting to sleep. Finally dozing, the baby would wake me up, and the whole battle began at step one! The throbbing worry would edge away the peace. What was I missing in my determination to jump to the peace that surpasses and guards part of the promise (which would surely grant me the rest I needed)?

I kept neglecting to add thanksgiving to my supplication as Paul included in his instruction.

You can see this in his letter to Timothy, too — this attitude of gratefulness without complaining or fear.

 “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.”

2 Timothy 1:3

Even Paul stood the late hours praying (and thanking!) the Lord.

Can it be said of me that I enter the courts with thanksgiving, even when it’s past my bedtime, and I’d rather be dreaming? Is my habit to recognize God’s riches at Christ’s expense — even in difficult waiting times? Anxiety does not have the same hold when I’m focusing on all the personal grace God has given me, including the peace He makes accessible.

My friend Lisa recently wrote something similar in her article as she was pondering this same topic of peace:

“To acknowledge His goodness in even unknowns, call for the promise of God’s peace which surpasses all comprehension. It’s what guarded my heart and mind. Praise God for the means to praise and thank Him even in troubling times…When I came to understand God to be the God of compassion and comfort, when I realized I approached him without a willingness to be consoled, and when I saw my error of withholding gratitude as I presented my concerns—that’s when I began to see my anxiety melt away.”

Lisa Dean

There are always, always traces of God’s lovingkindness even in our worst nightmares. Can we find the grace in the present moments and the past? Even if you have to squint to see, God’s mercies truly are new and clear.

Thanks for The President

Now, secondly, I found myself fretting about my country and the world at large, unprepared to apply this prayerful thankfulness to a havoc of headlines marching closer and closer to home. But there it was, catching me off-guard in I Timothy 2:2-4.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Thanksgiving on behalf of all men, all administrations? This counter-intuitive practice of giving thanks even for leaders who call evil good and good evil compels me to acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty. It’s the only way giving thanks in this context makes sense. He’s never surprised, and His care for His people weaves through all of ongoing history, including current events.

This counter-intuitive practice of giving thanks even for leaders who call evil good and good evil compels me to acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty.

Without a thankful heart, we can’t live a quiet, tranquil, godly life. We’d be too busy fretting about evildoers to commit our way to Him.

I’m working on praying without fretting, without wrath, and dissension (I Tim 2:8). Committing all things to the Lord in awareness of His power and provision. Trying to not just add thanksgiving as a flourished postscript, an afterthought, to my prayers, but to build a heart of humility and thanksgiving as I talk to my Hope.

It’s awkward at first. “Frustrate the plans of the wicked, Lord. Oh yeah, and Lord, thank you for our leaders.” But I can see how slowly a mind shift unfolds, one that results in deeper trust in the One who does all things well. Just by the simple act of saying “thank you,” I’m growing more grateful that He intentionally gives us our leaders and desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. It’s good and acceptable to both petition and thank God for all who are in authority, fully remembering He placed them there with purpose.

Let us devote ourselves to making supplications with thanksgiving (Col. 4:2). Prayer is better than worrying. Worn knees and worn prayer notebooks are better than self sufficiency. Peace is better than optimism and good circumstances. Learning to trust God in the dark hours is better than blissful sleep. Steadfastness of mind is better than quickly forgetting. Knowing who He is will allow us to obey and give thanks, and He promises to guard us with perfect peace.

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.”

Isaiah 26:3

Photo by Andres Herrera