Plead Until the Peace Comes

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
Psalm 94:19

Some days, the uncertainty of life is daunting. And sometimes, the certainty of life is just as bad – inevitable break-ups, illnesses, conflict and stress. We may see what’s coming and the anticipation is more than we can bear.

Anxiety is a tough emotion to crack. Once those stomach butterflies take flight, it’s difficult to settle them down. No hand towel sufficiently dries our palms. Our lungs simply can’t get enough air in. Do you know the feeling? I do. And I think Jesus did as well.

In Mark 14, we find Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, a place He often retreated to for prayer. This time, He brought Peter, James, and John with Him. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He says to them. (v. 34) The original Greek word used to describe the state of His soul is perilupos, which means greatly grieved, being sorrowful “all-around,” i.e. engulfed in sorrow.

Think of the numerous words we use to define sorrow – sad, unhappy, brokenhearted, mournful, grief-stricken, remorse, poignance, bereavement, anguish. Jesus Himself, being fully God and fully man, experienced an overwhelming sense of these emotions. I imagine Him resisting the urge to vomit, His stomach turning in knots, head spinning, palms sweaty. Negative emotions take a physical toll on our bodies and it did the same for Jesus. He needed reprieve.

So He went to His Father. Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. “Abba, Father,” He said, “everything is possible for You. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.” (v. 35-36)

Jesus pleaded with God for a different plan. We do the same thing, don’t we? When anxiety is deep within us, we want it to go away. We want God to change the circumstances causing our heartache. Yet, as David mentions in Psalm 94, it’s not the work God does that brings joy, but rather the consolation He extends. God didn’t take the cup from Jesus because the very thing Jesus wanted to avoid was what fulfilled God’s plan – salvation for all. Perhaps the very thing we want God to change is what He will use to fulfill His plan in us as well.

But it’s ok to plead with God until the peace comes, because it will. He will comfort us in our time of need. (2 Corinthians 1:3) He will hear us when we cry out to Him. (Psalm 18:6, 116:1) He will give us the strength to courageously face our greatest fears. After Jesus met with God, He was at peace with the plan. God had provided the comfort He needed to boldly walk to His death, with humility and compassion.

So the next time you’re anxious or overwhelmed by sorrow, plead with God through, praise and prayer, until the peace comes.

Prayer: Our Powerful Parenting Tool

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4

Sometimes, all we can do is wear out the carpet with our knees. 

God used my son to teach me this valuable lesson during his first couple years of elementary school. I knew he was an energetic kid, but when his behavior started to fall behind his Kindergarten peers, a small seed of worry began to grow. Could he have special needs? A learning disability or ADHD?

Countless attempts at discipline, setting consequences, and rewards without improvement left me feeling defeated. Reassuring the school principal we were handling the situation became harder the following year as the reports kept coming home: Has difficulty focusing. Is a distraction to his classmates. Cannot complete assignments. I dreaded answering the phone when the school called. What if they ask him to withdraw?

Before I knew it, that seed of worry had grown into full blown momma anxiety. I felt ill-equipped to handle the mental strain and emotional stress of a child with academic and emotional delay. 

I needed a plan to fight the fret. Tummy butterflies, shaking hands, and trouble breathing became physical manifestations of a spiritual lack of trust and I simply couldn’t live like that. One night, I went into my son’s room after he fell asleep and knelt beside his bed. I laid my hands on him and began to pray for guidance. 

Psalm 91 has always been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, but in the shadows of my son’s dimly lit room, I experienced the comfort of being covered by the Lord’s wings. Verse 4 says, He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. I found refuge in remembrance of the Lord’s faithfulness. I knew He was in control and would guide me through the ups and downs of this journey.

As I reread Psalm 91 in its entirety, my anxiety fizzled out as the words became relevant to my circumstances: 

  • God will protect my son. (v. 4) 
  • I have no reason to fear what will happen. (v.5) 
  • This process will not bring harm or disaster to our family. (v. 10) 
  • When I call on Him, He will answer me. He will be with me every step of the way. (v. 15)

Perhaps you understand how the weight of parenting can lay heavy on a momma’s heart. But that’s why prayer is the most powerful tool we have. Consistently going to God lessens anxiety; as our knees wear out the carpet, God lifts our burdens. He protects our children more effectively than we ever could. Let’s put our trust in Him.

How to Walk By Faith

For we live by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

In the dim light of early morning I reached into the cabinet for a coffee mug. My morning routine – coffee with Jesus. Only today I was out of coffee, so hot chocolate would have to do. 

The word Faith was written on the side of this particular mug, bringing to mind some difficult family circumstances which were threatening my faith. I thought I was trusting God, but disappointment and discouragement had crept into my heart and were making themselves at home. My faith could use some help, I thought.

As I sat down to read my devotion, hot chocolate in hand, my planner, which had Walk by Faith on the front, caught my eye. Ok, I thought, I’m getting the message.

But how does one truly walk by faith? Life can be overwhelmingly negative at times and distractions divert our gaze from God without warning. A pleasant morning in prayer can quickly turn into a chaotic mess by lunch time. Peace is rapidly replaced by fear and anxiety.

Perhaps you know the feeling, too. Some days are tougher than others, but I’d like to share a few ideas God has been working with me on:

1.Expect God to answer our prayers.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3
When we expect something, we regard it as likely to happen. In verse 5, the psalmist lays their requests before God and believes he will receive an answer. He is confident the Lord has heard him. He isn’t wishing and hoping to hear back – he expects it. We too, should expect to hear from God when we spend time in prayer. Faith is demonstrated in a posture of confident hope.

2. Anticipate God’s promises to be fulfilled.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2
When we go through tough times, we can be certain of a few things – they will not last forever, the Lord will be with us, and He will keep us safe. Walking by faith means choosing to focus on the brevity of our circumstances in light of eternity rather than the fear of infinite suffering. We choose to acknowledge God’s presence, believing He sees our pain and holds our hand through it. We know that whatever happens is under His control and will not harm us outside of His divine allowance. 

3. Watch for the lives of those around you to be positively influenced.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Act 4:13
When walk by faith, others notice. They can sense peace that passes all understanding. They can feel compassion overcome rejection. They can see heads held high in confidence amidst uncertainty.

We may not always understand why we go through tough times. Sometimes we can’t see what God is doing. But like 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, we, as children of God, live by faith, not by sight.

To me, walking by faith means taking one step at a time with the Lord. It prompts necessary pauses to address my anxiety and worry. It entails confessing my fears to God and allowing His truth to calm me. It includes sharing my experiences with a trusted friend.

What does walking by faith look like to you?

A Word to the Anxious Heart

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 
Isaiah 35:4

“What is the world coming to?” I overheard a conversation between two ladies as they watched the news playing on a tv perched above the bar at the airport.

Who hasn’t muttered a phrase of similar persuasion in the past few years? It seems as if violence is becoming a regular occurrence, fear an all-too-common emotion. Many of my friends are also moms who voice concerns about the environment their young children will be growing up in. We worry if they will be adequately equipped to handle the struggles they may face. We question our ability to instill Godly conviction in them. We wonder, will they turn out ok?

I imagine our concerns may be similar to those of the remaining faithful Jews living in Israel while the vast majority had walked away from religious traditions. In the book of Isaiah, we find a message of judgement in response to the Israelite’s rejection of God. Impending doom for God’s chosen people must have evoked fear and worry in the hearts of those who desired to obey. Perhaps they questioned if their commitment would be enough. Would the Lord remember His promises to Abraham and King David if their descendants forgot about Him? They may have felt desperate for change yet powerless to do anything.

Have you every felt that way? I wish I had a crystal ball telling me how things turn out in the end. My hope is that my sons grow up to be kind, independent, and courageous Christ-followers. I want them to find God’s path for them, but worry that the noise of this world will cause great distractions.

That’s why I find Isaiah 35:4 particularly comforting. In this chapter, we see a shift from the message of death and destruction to one of encouragement and hope for restoration.

And I think it speaks to a specific group of people – those of us who have a tendency to worry. We believe in God and trust His authority, but relinquishing our need for control is extremely difficult. The verse says, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong and do not fear; your God will come, He will come with a vengeance; with divine retribution, He will come to save you.'”

Say to those with fearful hearts; the Hebrew word used here is leb, which refers to a fearful mindset. The heart, mind, or will of a man is in a state of concern or alarm. It’s a tendency to anticipate a bad outcome. It’s an ever-present unsettled feeling, rather than being scared about a specific situation. A fearful mind finds it extremely difficult to trust God. We want to manage our circumstances with substantiated evidence of tangible control; believing an invisible God will give us what we need is uncomfortable and nerve-racking.

But God has a tender spot for those who long to be brave. He cares deeply for those who are fighting fear and worry day in and day out. He wants to whisper in our ear, “I’ve got this. I see what you’re facing and I’m in control. There’s nothing too big for me.”

If your heart has a tendency to worry rather than trust, be encouraged today that God has a special message just for you. He calls us to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9) for our benefit. God doesn’t want us trying to play god – He’s the best one for that position. He longs for us to experience His peace (John 14:17) but tranquility and turmoil cannot co-exist. It is impossible to live a joyful life when our minds are consumed with the possible outcome of circumstances beyond our control. When we know The One who has the authority to command the wind and seas to obey (Matthew 8:27), we can rest assured that He will take care of us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Hey God, Can I Ask You Something?

I’ve been working on a study of the book of Habakkuk recently and thought I’d share an excerpt here. Let me know what you think!

 

How long?

After I had my twins, I realized how important sleep-training was. After six months of nightly feedings, I vividly remember thinking, will they ever sleep through the night?!? I was exhausted and inexperienced. I’d wake to their every sound and do my best to keep one from waking the other. Even though other moms told me this wouldn’t last forever, I couldn’t picture a time when it would end.

When we experience difficult life events or challenging circumstances, it’s easy to allow our emotions to lead us to believe we’ll feel negatively – sad, anxious, worried, depressed – for an infinite amount of time. If we cannot see the end, it can be impossible to conceive a full recovery. We have a “ground-level” view of life as of one walking through a forest, feeling overwhelmed by a surrounding of trees. God has a bird’s eye view, taking the trees in perspective of the forest. Through his conversation with God, Habakkuk learns that the Lord’s trustworthiness is not contingent on his ability to understand.

First, let’s identify a question you have for God. Take a few moments to consider what you might ask God if you could ask Him anything. Perhaps something that needs closure, understanding, or is a frequent, persistent issue of struggle. One I hear commonly is, If God is good, why does He allow bad things to happen? Write your question below:

Some of us may find it difficult to question God on a deep level as it is contrary to a message we have learned since childhood – trust and obey. Questioning entertains the uncertainty of the truth or factuality of something – and questioning God could be thought of as challenging the accuracy of His Word. Questioning casts doubt and we are taught to never doubt God (James 1:6-8). But Habakkuk’s account refutes these notions and, I think, encourages us to ask God the difficult questions.

“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (1:2)

In the depths of honesty, most of us can relate to his question, how long? I know I’ve asked God, When is this going to end? Habakkuk is referring to the conflict around him, but we too face the injustice and chaos of a soul at war. Many fight a battle to stay on a path of the Lord’s leading as temptation lurks around every corner. Inner struggle provokes shame as we repeatedly fall to sin we vowed to correct.

We may be longing for change in the physical condition of our bodies – God how long must I suffer?  – or change in the circumstances of our life – How long must I bear the burden of a wayward child? An unfaithful spouse? A dead-end job?

For nearly 10 years, I have been praying for God to perform a specific miracle. There are days when ask, how much longer, God? Why haven’t you done something? Are you listening to me?

Recall and record a time of questioning in your life:

We don’t know exactly how long Habakkuk has been calling for help, but we know that there has been drama for a while. He has witnessed the rise of the Babylonians, the fall of Ninevah, and the rejection of God. He voices concerns that God is allowing chaos but longs to see Him to intervene. He honestly proclaims, you do not listen. If God has not answered then He must not be listening, right? But is that really true? Does hearing require response? Could God’s silence be interpreted as dismissal? Ignorance? Rejection? We certainly may be convinced to think that way.

If you are questioning the Lord’s attentiveness, why might that be? What is keeping you from believing He hears your prayers?

Consider how the following verses challenge that notion by filling in the blanks:

2 Chronicles 7:14 ~ if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, __________________, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Jeremiah 29:12 ~ Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and ________.

Job 22:27 ~ You will pray to him, and ____________,

Psalm 116:1 ~ I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; ______________.

Reflect how the above verses influence your perspective of God.

Lord, Your Word says you hear our prayers. Help me to trust that You are listening, even when I cannot hear a response.

Peace Takes Effort

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3

Have you ever considered how much mental effort goes into maintaining a sense of peace in our lives? I have struggled with anxiety and fear in the past and would exhaust myself thinking of all the potentially negative outcomes, conversations, and conflicts I might have. I spent so much time entertaining negative self-talk that I had little time to consider the goodness of God; that things might actually turn out well.

Once I surrendered my fears and anxieties, I experienced an overwhelming peace like never before. It was dramatically different from the fog of worry I had grown accustomed to. My thinking was clear, I was less overwhelmed by uncertainty and I began trusting God to be in control of whatever comes my way.

Peace is an amazing state to be in. I wish it was my natural state. But the sad truth is, my nature is to be afraid. To doubt God has a good plan. To worry how my failures will affect others. It wasn’t until I experienced God’s peace that I knew what I was missing out on. Once I had it, I wanted it all the time. It was as if I was becoming addicted to the Lord’s presence in my life.

What’s the problem with that?, you might ask. It’s not that desiring peace is wrong, but expecting it to naturally occur in my life without working for it is.

I recently went through a season of questioning and found myself entertaining old negative thoughts. I felt discouraged by my lack of sustained serenity, frustrated how I got off track so quickly. Then it dawned on me – having peace takes effort.

Isaiah 26:3 reminds me how the Lord “will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”Those whose minds are steadfast – marked by firm determination or resolution; not shakable.

I don’t know anyone who never doubts, never feels insecure, never worries. So if perfect peace is desired, we must pursue a steadfast mind. Satan’s mission is to keep us from perfect peace and if his firm determination is stronger than ours, we lose.

So how can we maintain this perfect peace available to us when we have an enemy relentlessly inhibiting it? Colossians 3:2 tells us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

We won’t find peace by praying on a whim when we’re in a tight spot. We won’t find peace by going to church weekly. We won’t find peace simply reading our bible occasionally. Maintaining perfect peace takes firm, consistent determination to set our minds on God, to refuse to entertain negative thinking, and to bathe our minds in the truth of God’s word.

If you find yourself struggling to maintain peacefulness in your life, be encouraged today as you meditate on these truths –

  • Grace and peace are yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2)
  • And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
    will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)

Perfect peace is absolutely possible. It just takes effort.

Lord, thank You for Your perfect peace which is available to us through Your Holy Spirit. Teach us to surrender any thoughts that may be preventing a steadfast mind set on things above. My we learn how to experience peace by trusting You in the difficult times.
Amen