Believe in the God Who Will Do It
Abbey Slater | July 16, 2018
“There were so many ifs in life, never any certainty of anything, never any sense of security, always the dread of losing everything and being cold and hungry again.” (Margaret Mitchell)
This is from Gone with the Wind. I’ve been reading it since Christmas break and am struck not only by the wonder of the words but also the complexity of the characters. Our heroine Scarlett is terrified of losing control – she has known abundance and she has known loss. After her harrowing time during the Civil War, she is determined to wield power over everything until her last breath. Over men, finances, circumstances, her lumber mill. She is a practical prisoner, absolutely enslaved to this need for power. She cannot let it go because if she does, her meaning slips away, slowly but surely, and she becomes just one more pretty face in a sea of want and disregard.
I relate to Scarlett. I place my meaning, quite solidly in my competence. In what I can do, what I can make, what I can accomplish, people’s need of me and appreciation of me. I need to be able and needed and wanted.
Surely, I can do it, whatever it is. I need money to pay for that big trip? Time to get a job. I need an A on the exam to maintain my GPA? Guess I’m going to go study. Not quite strong enough to finish that climb? Time to hit the gym. A friend reaches out in a crisis? No problem, I’m in the car, I’ll be there in 15.
I’m quite accustomed to action items. In fact, I love them. My type A personality loves checking things off a list, in getting it done. However, as I’ve embarked on this season of fundraising, I’m finding a unique challenge. Because guess what? Now more than ever, I’m realizing, maybe I can’t do this.
Need to raise 46 grand?
Friend, this is very hard for me. “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” Proverbs 14:10
My heart feels this bitterness, this ache. It does often seem that no one can quite understand my worry. It’s hard to ask for help because only I intricately understand the relationships I’m navigating and the countless things I’m juggling. My anxiety kicks into high gear so I start moving towards what I can control - I start running numbers and making to-do lists and schedules. Every morning, I feel a weight in my chest, deep within me, and I remember every email I’m behind on, every thank you card I haven’t written, the quickly approaching move-in date, Karani, one-time gifts, flights, training, applications, signing a lease, navigating a new city, new friends, old friends, reading to do, people to meet with, letters letter letters, phone calls phone calls phone calls, worry worry worry.
“Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.” Psalm 42:7
It’s just like being at the ocean the day after a storm. You’re knocked about terribly, you think you’ll never breathe free again. Just when you’ve finally pulled yourself to your feet, desperately looking for shore, lungs screaming, gulping the fresh air, without warning the next wave crashes over you again and you are powerless against the foam, breathless, shaken by the mighty roar. The breakers of Almighty God are crashing over me and I am overwhelmed in my helplessness. I can’t get to my feet. Can I take any more? Will I survive this?
And I know, anxiety is not of the Lord. And I know, he is not calling me to a life enslaved to control. But I can’t help myself.
Yes, Lord I know, “be anxious for nothing” but you just don’t understand. You don’t realize what I’m facing. Have you seen these numbers? Renting in NYC? This is crazy! Will I be homeless? Will I live in a cardboard box in Times Square? There are student loans to be paid. There are people to please. There is pride. There is fear. There is my family. What if I’m weak? What if I fall apart? What if I fail?
Father, can’t you see I need this anxiety because it’s all I’m holding onto. I’ve conditioned myself into this destructive pattern of thinking: If I don’t worry my way to a solution, who will provide for me?
Ok, so it’s out there. This is where I am. I am chained to my anxiety. I feel I need it because it’s the only thing that gives me a semblance of control. I fear if I stop worrying, things will stop getting done. Peace will never lead to productivity.
As Packer says, “We feel that the risks of out-and-out discipleship are too great for us to take. In other words, we are not persuaded of the adequacy of God to provide for all the needs of those who launch out wholeheartedly on the deep sea of unconventional living in obedience to the call of Christ” (Packer 270).
Unconventional living. You got that right.
Do I really think God can do it? Or am I addicted to my anxiety to accomplish my ends? Whose kingdom am I building? Do I see the wounded and risen Savior, there, pleading for me, interceding for me? And when I feel this deep loneliness and fear, have I really considered who Jesus is? Who he came to be? When these “breakers and waves” crash over me do I really believe that God only intends good for me?
What’s more, am I pondering that Jesus actually felt this first? That he knows what it feels like to be uncertain and anxious. He submitted himself to my humanity and chose to serve within the confines of this weak flesh. “Omniscience was a luxury always within reach, but incompatible with his rules of engagement. He had to serve within the limits of his finitude” (Donald MacLeod). If he had cheated, skipped out, looked ahead, tapped into his divinity, it would have been all for naught. He had to be like me. In every way.
As I arrogantly presume that I have a unique and isolated experience I am separating myself from the only One that has really known me and can really sympathize with me. Again, Packer: “And who are you to suppose that you will be the first exception, the first person to find God wavering and failing to keep his word? Do you not see how you dishonor God by such fears?” (270).
He has walked where I have walked, on these same steps, this same path. He knew dependence, he knew want, he was afraid.
And he knows me. This is the true joy of living. Knowing God, indeed yes, that is supreme joy. But even more, there is an unmitigated, exposed joy in BEING known by God. “There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him…” (Packer 42). This is the joy that relieves and restores: God is not surprised. He sees not only my need but also my unbelief. He knows my tendency to doubt. He knows the shocking pace of my anxious fears. He knows my love of checklists. He knows my pain. This is raw and invasive. Because this God actually beholds me. And he doesn’t look away.
So, what do I really think of this God? Am I convinced that he will give up on me? That he loves to withhold from me? That he wants me to live dissatisfied? That he will reject me in my failure and leave me lonely? Do I live like Scarlett? Do I doubt his goodness again (and again and again) every time my circumstances change?
His word is clear: “Go eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” Ecclesiastes 9:7
“Your promise still stands. Great is your faithfulness. I’m still in your hands. This is my confidence. You’ve never failed me yet.”
Oh, my soul. Nothing has changed. God has not moved. As you scurry and wring your hands and weep in fear, he gathers you in his arms, as he always has. Abandon your altar to control and knowing the way. Stop bowing to the idol of accomplishment. Behold your King. He is your security, your life, your all. Stop looking within, the strength isn’t there. “Trade introspection for awe” and believe in the God who will do it.