More than I could handle.

I had a friend tell me one time that every experience we have is a new opportunity to learn to trust God. I have hung on to this for a few years now – tried to remember in all the hard and good experiences of my life. It helps me to reframe them in this way. Similarly, I read a tweet from Adam Ramsey recently that said,

 “The more I realize that my trials are nothing more than servants of my sanctification, the more I enter into a wonderful freedom: honesty about my weakness, marked by hope rather than morbidity.”  

What a beautiful thought — a wonderful promise to hang on to. I’ve written before that pregnancy after miscarriage carries a specific weight with it – a certain degree of anxiety with a new level of trust required. But I feel the freedom now to tell you this story. The story about learning a new opportunity to trust the Lord. I want to tell you the story of a photograph. It’s a picture of my son’s hand at 19 weeks old, safely tucked away inside my body. It is so precious to me and Aaron. Let me tell you why.

I was seeing a midwife when we were in Hawaii. We both really loved her. She was the sweetest woman and made everything about this pregnancy experience comforting and exciting, which was exactly what we needed after our first loss. At our 18 week appointment she mentioned the option to do what is called a quad-serum screen. From what I understand, it tests the mother’s blood for different hormones and levels that may indicate there is something wrong with the baby. In this case, it checks for Down Syndrome, neural tube defects (like Spina Bifida) and Trisomy 18. Aaron and I decided to do the testing solely for the purpose of being more prepared and having the right resources in place should our baby be born with special needs.  

The blood test took a single minute and my midwife said she would call me and let me know the results before we went in the following week for the baby’s anatomy scan. Well, the day for our scan came and I never got a call. I tried to take this as a “no news is good news” kind of situation. We let the excitement of finally knowing the gender of our baby outweigh any possibility of there being a problem.

At the hospital, I laid down on the bed and the sonographer quickly pulled up a beautiful picture of our baby on the screen. She began taking measurements and photos but hardly said anything during the entire process. She mentioned that she was trying to get pictures of his brain, his heart, the in/out flow of blood through his umbilical cord, his hands and feet. All of this is normal – it’s exactly what they’re looking for – but it seemed to take a really long time, as if she were looking for something specific. As she moved the wand around on my belly, I asked a couple of times if the baby looked good and she only answered vaguely. Finally she finished and as she walked out to get the doctor, she left my chart on the chair. I tried to glance over at it because I saw in big, highlighted yellow letters ‘FYI’. FYI what?

Before I could see anything else on the chart, the perinatologist came in and introduced himself. I didn’t even know what a perinatologist was or why we were meeting with him but it quickly became clear. He sat down with my chart in hand and said,

“So last week you took the quad-serum screen, and this test checks for several different things...”

It was in that moment that I thought, “Something’s wrong.” I squeezed Aaron’s hand.

He went on, “The serum screen is not diagnostic, it simply identifies possible risk factors. Your risk factor for Down Syndrome and Spina Bifida came back low risk. However, the results did come back high risk for Trisomy 18.”  

I think I blacked out after that. I mean, I didn’t, but I could hardly focus as I felt overwhelmed at this blindsiding news. Our doctor continued to talk about exactly what Trisomy 18 was, which is also called Edwards Syndrome, and the mortality rate of infants born with this condition. These precious babies have severe physical abnormalities and are usually miscarried or stillborn.

Often you’ll hear the idea that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. You especially hear it when you’re going through something difficult. I don’t know who really believes that because let me tell you something – this felt like entirely more than I could handle. Our miscarriage last year was more than I could handle. Spotting at 13 weeks with this baby and going in for an emergency ultrasound was more than I could handle (have I ever mentioned that this happened the same week our car was broken into and my purse was stolen? Yeah, more than I could handle). And now at 19 weeks, we were being told that our baby may have an abnormality. I simply could not handle it. As I explained it to my mom on the phone later, I cried and said, “It’s just too much!” 

I think everyone will find at some point in their life that the trials feel like too much. Too much weight to carry – a burden too heavy. For one reason or another we’ll feel our knees buckling under the load we’ve been asked to carry. I think that’s by design. We’re not meant to do it ourselves. God may give us more than we can handle so that we’ll give it to him and let him handle it. It’s never more than He can handle. The weight is never too much for him. And whatever trial you are facing can be used, if you allow it, to make you more like Him. So, will you surrender the burden to Him? Let it draw you back to Him in new ways? Recognize that this trial is simply sanctifying you and bringing you closer to His heart?  

Dr. Goh, our perinatalogist, went on to say he looked at the photos the sonographer took of our baby but that he was going to do the scan again. He wanted to look for specifics that she was unable to capture.  

I laid back down, practically holding my breath as he pulled a new picture of our baby up on the screen. He went through each physical marker and explained the way it would look if our baby had Trisomy 18 and the way it looked to him as he scanned over our little one. The baby’s head would measure small and be abnormally shaped, but our baby’s was normal. The heart wouldn’t be developed correctly, but ours was normal. Aaron and I started to breathe a little easier as he looked for all the physical markers that suggested our baby was sick, but none of them were showing up. Finally, one of the indicators that an unborn baby has Trisomy 18 is that these babies can’t open their hands – they’re always in a closed fist and have overlapping fingers. As he explained this, I remembered that when the sonographer was in the room, she was trying to get a good picture of his hands and count his fingers, but she never got one.

Then, as Dr. Goh was explaining that baby wouldn’t be able to open his hand, our baby, by the sweetest grace of the Lord, showed us this on the screen at just the right moment.

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Five perfect little fingers. Open hand. The most precious sight I simply cannot get over. None of the physical markers of Trisomy 18 were present in our little boy. Dr. Goh later said that Edwards babies always measure small but ours wasn’t. “You have a big kid,” he said with a smile.

Because the quad-serum screen is not diagnostic and even ultrasound photos aren’t a guarantee of baby’s health, our doctor suggested an additional blood test called the Harmony test. This test would draw my blood and look for pieces of baby’s DNA floating around in my bloodstream. Generally they can find enough of baby’s DNA to make a more certain diagnosis. I said okay because it was non-invasive, unlike other tests offered, such as amniocentesis.

So, after my blood draw, Aaron and I left the hospital a little shell-shocked. What was supposed to be a fun day of finding out the gender of our baby turned into a three hour hospital visit with a doctor who specialized in high-risk pregnancy. That’s not really how we envisioned the day going.

For the next week, I held on to the pictures of our baby. We announced to everyone that we were expecting a boy, amidst lingering fears that he might be sick. I journaled. I prayed. I cried out to God, really. Several days later I wrote in my journal, “We will find out the result of his blood test this week but I feel very calm about it - just giving it over to Jesus, who already knows. So I can rest.”

And later that morning, I received an email.

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I sent a screenshot to Aaron and then sat on the floor and cried big, thankful tears. We didn’t realize how tightly we had been holding our breath for the entire week until this very moment when we could finally exhale.

So, as far as all testing can tell, our precious boy is just fine - growing and kicking me at all hours, and last week we watched on ultrasound as he practiced his breathing. Oh, it was so cute! But, I know this isn’t the story for everyone. I know the story turns out differently – you get the news you most certainly didn’t want. Your baby is sick. You endure the pain and bewilderment of miscarriage. The test results aren’t positive. You get let go from your job. Your relationships aren’t fixed. Your depression lingers. There are trials in life that don’t turn around into good news immediately. You can’t see the point and your “why?” goes unanswered. I’m not forgetting you in this moment - I have been you before.

But I am saying that in all circumstances the only thing I know how to do is lean on the Lord to get me through. I don’t know what other option we have. Where do you turn if not to the One who can carry it all? Is it your pride that says, “I can carry this. I am strong enough to handle this”? Because I would imagine the moment will come when you can no longer handle it. You’ll turn somewhere — to someone or something else to get you through. The thing is, the only One who can handle it is the very One who created you. Would you give it to Him today? Let Him carry you on all the good and bad days - the ones you didn’t see coming and certainly didn’t plan for?

For the week we waited for the results, I prayed that our baby would be okay and even if he wasn’t, that we would have God’s hand of mercy to walk us through whatever was next. I have to say that my heart and mind were covered in a supernatural peace – unexplainable given the circumstances. I was given new measures of compassion, an extra dose of strength, and put myself at the feet of Jesus again and again. This is what he wants anyway, in all our days. In the ordinary days that we would call boring. In the scary and unknown. On the days we want to shout from the rooftops because the joy is too immense and on the days we just cannot get out of bed for the weight of grief. Let each new day be a new opportunity to learn to trust God and remember that our trials are simply to be used in our sanctification to help us look more like Him.  

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121: 1-2

 

 

Religion.

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King opens with a section he calls his C.V. It is filled with short anecdotes about his life and how he grew up and what led him to be a writer. At one point he mentions that he believes in God but has "no use for organized religion.” I highlighted this line in the book because I kind of wonder what he means by it – what anyone means when they say that. The internet will tell you that organized religion by definition is, "religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established." But if you believe in God on some level, well then I would imagine you might want to talk about that sometime. And if you talk about that and have any really good thing to say about it, other people might want to join in. And when you have a group of more than about 20 people coming together to talk about anything, well then you have to kind of, well, organize it. What’s this going to look like? Is it a meeting? Who gets to talk at the meeting? There has to be a beginning, a middle, and an end to this gathering so what will each contain? Are there rules for the meeting? Any organization has rules. So there have to be rules for membership. Well then all of a sudden it looks like you’re organized - you've got rituals arranged and established. So you're gathering to talk about God and there are rules for doing so.

So if that’s what they mean, if that’s what people have no use for, then maybe what they really dislike are the rules. Maybe you just don’t like the rules and rituals put in place by these groups of people that gather to talk about God. But one thing you might want to consider is that, if you find yourself fleeing from all “organized religion” perhaps you're fleeing because you don’t want anyone telling you what you can and can’t do. Maybe you want to be God and you believe, instead, in yourself. You can tell yourself what to do – you don’t have to go to an organized meeting where they might press on you - on your ideas about what's right - or tell you that you’re wrong about this or that. In speaking about a critic of Christianity, G.K. Chesterton said, “The restraints of Christians saddened him simply because he was more hedonist than a healthy man should be.” Perhaps you are that man and the restraints sadden you - they press on you just a little too much. E. Paul Hovey said, "Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, but because it contradicts them."

Christianity will always press on you and me because we are not God and we will be constantly sanctified - shaped, molded, growing - in some way until Heaven. I wrongly believed that becoming a Christian meant you were done - like it was this one time moment and from then on you were ready for Heaven and everything was easy and there was no sin and no struggle, only perfection. Like maybe we just went to church because we wanted to glory in our perfection in Jesus. But the truth is I wasn’t perfect – I was a mess (and still am! Ask my husband!) And I didn’t know how to wrestle with my sin. I didn’t know about sanctification at all. I didn’t know that the whole of the Christian life is more of a two steps forward, one step back kind of deal. Belief in the gospel is an everyday need, not a one time prayer. I missed that in Sunday School. I think they left that part out. 

So, if I grew up in church and didn't understand it, then I wonder about people who didn't grow up in church. When people say they don't like organized religion I wonder what gospel they've heard in their life that has made them flee. Because if the gospel is good news (and it is!), then it shouldn’t make you flee, it should make you cling to it, white knuckle death grip on those crutches carrying you through til glory. And if it’s not, then why not? What have you missed?

A lot of people have too many doubts to trust a god other than themselves. They'll tell you, "I just feel a lot of doubt about _____." Well, welcome to the club. We all feel doubts sometimes. I listened to a sermon on the plane ride home last month and he said it’s okay to have doubts, but instead of sitting in them, you must doubt your doubts and ask Jesus for clarity. It’s okay to have doubts. It’s okay to not get it. Jesus’s disciples walked with him in the flesh for three whole years every single day and still didn’t get it. It's what you do with your doubts that matters. Criticize them. Turn them over in your hand and ask why they're there. Dig down to the roots of your doubts and find out what it is you really believe. Don't just trust your doubts because then you end up believing in them over believing in Jesus.

Growing up in Christian circles and working in a church for several years and also just being a Christian myself, I find that a lot of times we have doubts because we think we can control God with our behavior and then one day it just doesn't work anymore. We follow Jesus and think it’s all great because everything is going just how we planned, and then one day it’s not and we’re left blindsided because we thought we were in control of this bargain. We start to doubt because the god we trusted didn't trust our plan. Whoa, whoa, whoa, Jesus. Who do you think you are? Didn’t you see how I tithed my whole life? Didn’t you see how I helped that homeless guy back there? Didn’t you see me when I went to church every week? Didn't you see how I always obeyed my parents? Hello? Didn’t you see my perfect family? Things were going great for us according to my plan, so what gives?

I believed for years that I could control God with my behavior. In 2011 I wrote, 

“For YEARS and years I have been pleading with God. Begging and pleading with him for peace and comfort and all the freedom he offers. All the things he says he’s going to offer and give to those who love him. I do love him. I have loved him and tried to follow him, sought after him, tried to point kids toward him, given my money and time to him, prayed my guts out to him, read about him, tried to know him and understand him, listened for him, tried to listen to him, had discussions about him, cried out to him. AND YET, I feel I’ve been drowning in sadness and unmet desires and broken dreams.”

I believed that if I did all this then God would owe me - that somehow I could put God in my debt. Why the unmet dreams if I've done all this work for you, God? If that’s not bargaining with the Lord, I don’t know what is. But the thing is, God doesn’t do bargains. He doesn’t take negotiations. There’s nothing you have that he doesn’t already own. What could you possibly give him? He made it. Out of nothing. The breath in your lungs. The ability to read these words. These are things of God. 

So I realized it’s not about actions and behaviors and bargaining chips. It’s about Jesus. It's about every person, circumstance, trial, or victory leading you to more of Jesus. I just wrote about this in one of my last posts. It’s not about your story or what you want or what you think or feel. It's not about the rules you follow or don't follow. It’s about Jesus and your choice is if you’re going to join in on the epic adventure he has written for you or pull back against it.

I was journaling on that same plane ride and I wrote,

I hope you know at the end of the day it’s really just you and Jesus. He’ll bring people into your life and you’ll invite people in along the way. Some won’t always stay. Some for a season, others a lifetime. But at the end of it all it’s just about you and Jesus. 

What you believe about him, what you say about him, what you think about him, these are the things that are going to matter at the end of it all. It will shape your decisions, your thoughts, your actions, the leanings of your heart. What you think about Jesus will be the only thing that matters when you die. So you can pass on "organized religion" and that’s fine. But what are you going to do with Jesus?

Stephen King's book about the craft of writing was really pretty good. I think he wanted me to get more out of it about writing than about his one sentence worth of thoughts on religion, but for some reason that's where my heart was stuck. So he doesn’t believe in religious rules but neither does Jesus, so that’s pretty good news for all of us – for him, for the doubters among us, for me, for you. Oh, there’s value in the gathering of believers, yes. But forget the rules. Jesus just wants you, not your good behavior. He's after your heart.

Bold.

Aaron and I watched the movie Blood Diamond not too long ago. It’s fairly old now – like ten years old – so I’m late to the party on caring about this, or knowing about this, but I’m usually about five years behind the curve on most things - like puberty and marriage and knowing the proper pronunciation of pho. Anyway, this movie is about diamonds being mined in Sierra Leone and smuggled into Liberia to be sold. It takes place in 1999, when rebels were trying to take over the country. They were ravaging villages and kidnapping children and forcibly using them as soldiers and diamond miners. I can’t recap the entire story for you here, but bring tissues if you plan to watch. As the story progressed, I looked at the diamond ring on my finger and suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had no idea this was even an issue. I mean, I vaguely remember advertising a while ago where people were really quick to say their diamonds were “conflict-free” but I never really knew what that meant. I didn’t even know to ask about that when Aaron and I went ring shopping.

The first thing I did the next morning was call the place where we bought my engagement and wedding ring. I told Aaron after the movie was over that I was going to call and he said, “What if they can’t assure you that it is?” and I said, “Well, then we’ll sell it.” I wasn’t going to wear a child’s blood-soaked work on my finger. I understand that this was just a movie and not necessarily portraying facts with 100% accuracy, but even still, the whole thing was heartbreaking. The movie finished and I laid on the couch thinking, “The world is a terrible place.”

Every day there’s something new to warrant our sadness and outrage. But what are we supposed to do in all of these crises? How do we help in this midst of all the terror and tragedy in the world? Donate twenty dollars and hope to feel better? Write about it on social media? Share an article? Create a hashtag and pat ourselves on the back? Offer thoughts and prayers and move on two seconds later to our own problems? And, we do have our own problems. We're addicted to drugs and I'm not just talking about our smartphones. We're lost in a connected world, lonely and competing and not measuring up. We're drowning out the noise with all manner of prescriptions and vices. Our students are taking guns and killing their classmates for attention because they figure they can't get our attention any other way. 

I watched a documentary recently about Cyntoia Brown. At 16, she was convicted of first degree murder for killing a man she thought was going to rape or kill her and there’s much more the story, including the fact that this man picked her up as a prostitute and her “boyfriend” is the one who sent her out to go make him some money. Gross. But in one of the interviews she said these boys she was with – these guys who she let take advantage of her and harm her –  she said they were all just seeking affirmation. They all wanted someone to tell them they were worth something. They all had wounded pride and they were building themselves back up through money, girls, sex, and power. They wanted approval. And dang it, isn’t that what we’re all seeking though possibly through different means? We're all just crying for attention. Validation. Affirmation. Tell me I'm important!

So dear Jesus, what do we do? What do we do that would be helpful in this chaos? What do we do that would matter? And the only answer that comes to me immediately is, “Share the gospel.” Share the gospel. Okay, yeah, but what else? Nothing else. I’m not even doing that. I could be doing that much, but I’m not. So that’s the only thing to do. That’s the most important thing we can be doing right now in the midst of all the fighting and pain. Share the gospel. Be the gospel. To our neighbors and friends. To our siblings. In our own homes - to our spouses and children. Especially to our children, who will go out in their schools and either spread darkness or light. Since there’s power in the name of Jesus, then just say it, speak it, bring it to the most ordinary places you go every single day. I don’t want to get so caught up in my life that I forget that I'm here to bring the gospel. "Your kingdom come, your will be done," if that's our prayer then we have to be the ones to bring the kingdom near. 

For those who know the gospel, for those who understand that there is a Savior we all desperately need, the only reason we wouldn’t share it is because we don’t think it’s true – we don’t think it’s what people really need or want. Or we do, but we’re too scared that they’ll think we’re dumb and we don’t want to be dumb – we want to be cool! We want to be liked. We want followers and retweets and shares. I know I’m guilty. I’m guilty of thinking, “How do I say this in a way that Christians will understand and non-Christians won’t hate it?’ which is just another way to say, “How do I make Jesus cool enough for everyone?” But I can’t. I can’t do it. He doesn’t need help being cool. He just needs you to speak his name. His word is living and active and he can do what you can’t. Only he can change hearts. Only he can change minds. Only he can calm war-torn nations and ravaged cities and shredded hearts. He’s the only one who can make a real difference in any of it. He can take that twenty dollars you donated and change lives. He can take that hashtag and make it impact the entire country. He can take your start-up and let it influence the world’s most powerful leaders if he wanted to. He just wants to use you to do it, start it, write it, say it, bring his name into the conversation. 

I read an 1873 sermon on the Beatitudes by Charles Spurgeon and he said, “The sight of a vast concourse of people ought always to move us to pity, for it represents a mass of ignorance, sorrow, sin, and necessity, far too great for us to estimate.” Essentially that any crowded room should bring us great sorrow and urgency because within that room are souls, hungry and lost – souls searching and waiting for an answer to their hurt. They don’t look like it on the outside, and they certainly wouldn’t say it, but the gnawing in their hearts is real if they’d only admit as much.

In a sermon a couple of years ago, Matt Chandler said that people who have been Christians for a long time can start to walk around with this attitude of, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus." And it helped me realize that I lived a lot of my twenties where I said, through my thoughts and actions, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jesus," and waved him off like he was just a side item at the cafeteria of my life – something I could throw in the backseat and let him ride along as long as he was quiet. He could stay because I was going to need him at the gates of Heaven someday, but other than that he was an afterthought. He was second to anything I was doing. I mean, not always, but especially when it came to dating. I adamantly would not allow him in that corner of my life because I felt like he already failed me there. Because of the lies I believed in that arena, I’ve been shamefully timid, but not anymore. I yanked Jesus out of the back and put him behind the wheel. Now I want to embolden people to share the gospel and speak the name of Jesus. I want people to come out of the darkness and live with hope and faith and I’m a little afraid to suddenly step up and say all of this because I know I pretended it wasn’t the answer - that maybe it was just the answer for me and not necessarily other people. But it’s the only answer to everything going on in the world right now. It’s the only answer.

I called the store where we bought my engagement ring. The woman I talked to assured me that because of the Kimberley Process, implemented in 2002, they were confident that the diamonds they sold were conflict-free. I breathed out a little, knowing this bit of information, although at the end of the movie, they note that even with the Kimberley Process, conflict diamonds still enter the diamond trade. But a lot of bad stuff happens, regardless of the rules and regulations in place to stop it, so we just have to do our best to make sure we’re not participating. There will always be sin. There will always be terrible things happening in the world. And that’s why the gospel is so important. Only it can step into the darkest places. It can change the darkest heart. It can stop sin and sadness and hatred and violence in its tracks.  Only it can give the validation and affirmation we're all so desperately seeking. And maybe people will say, "That's nice for you, but Jesus isn't for me. Keep that to yourself." Well, I'll be bold here and just tell you, you're wrong. Jesus is for everyone, and if you don't think so, then you haven't understood him correctly. If you think, "Well, I just don't believe that," that doesn't make it any less true. Pray for the faith to believe.

I just finished a Beth Moore study, but I read a lot of her tweets and follow her on Instagram, so I don’t know where I read this, but somewhere, plain and simple, she wrote, “May Jesus be obvious.” The cry of her life is, “May Jesus be obvious.” Amen. Can that be the banner over our lives? Since that’s what the world needs more than anything, can we just stand up and boldly live it? Stop living halfway. Stop rationalizing sin and start getting honest. Can we share the gospel? Can we contribute our little piece to this larger story by just living and being the very picture of love in the midst of seemingly insurmountable hurt? Look for lonely people. Show love. Share the gospel. And make Jesus obvious.

For the record, I don’t think the world is a terrible place. It’s a terribly broken place, but there’s a lot of Light too. And we need more people bold enough to speak up about it. 

“Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech…”
2 Corinthians 3:12

Saved.

I spent six summers as a lifeguard in high school and college. Looking back now, it is still one of the best jobs I've ever had. There was such a camaraderie among the lifeguards each summer and I don’t know that I often complained about going to work. Sunshine, friends and snack breaks – what more could you want? The pool I worked at was considered a water park, although it only had two short waterslides, but what defined it as a water park was that it had a zero entry pool. This means that you walk right into the water and it gradually gets deeper and deeper. It’s great for the moms who want to sit on the side in about an inch of water and watch their kids swim, but it’s bad for kids who walk in and splash around and are suddenly too deep to touch the bottom. We saw it all the time – enthusiastic swimmers would walk out just far enough that they couldn’t touch so they'd start flailing their arms and swallowing the deep end and we’d blow three whistles to let the head guard know we were jumping in to save them. 

I have a good friend that never learned how to swim. I think he could keep himself from not drowning long enough for someone to get to him, but I don’t know that for sure. Because of all my lifeguard experience, I always tell him, “If you’re ever in a situation where you think you’re going to drown, don’t panic. I will save you.” I feel really confident of this even though he's both heavier and taller than me. While it's not Aaron that can't swim, he and I have practiced this in both a pool and the ocean - him letting all his weight sink and me pulling him up and swimming to the side. Of course the only way this is possible is if he stays calm. You’ve probably seen it before where the person drowning starts to panic so they grab on to the rescuer and try to use them for leverage to get above the water and in an effort to stay up they push the other person under. So I said to my friend, “I’ll save you, but if you start to panic, I’ll have to punch you in the face so you don’t drown us both.” I laugh at my own self when I think about the sight of that. I mean I can’t imagine punching anyone in the face, let alone enough to knock the calm into them.

I recently read, Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen and a section that really hit me was on the idea of rest and how God provides rest for our weary souls if only we'll let him. Does anyone feel weary right now? Can I get an Amen? I think we're all a little weary sometimes. In the same chapter Allen asked, “In what way are you fighting against God right now?” I read that line and it's when this visual of drowning came to mind. Is your weariness a result of fighting? How often is God trying to rescue us but we’re flailing our arms in a panic? God’s trying to gently say, “Relax. I will save you,” and yet we’re flipping out while spouting off a million “what about’s”. You know, like, what about these bills? What about my relationship with my mom/dad/family? What about my kid? What about my debt? What about my dreams? What about my boyfriend/girlfriend? What about meeting this need? What about this illness? Flail. Gasp. Panic.

For over ten years I was flailing in the arms of God while he was waiting there to rescue me. My what about's were, “What about giving me a husband? What about a new job? What about my dreams and my timeline?" I had zero confidence in God’s ability or even desire to give me a husband. I was willing to give God everything else in my life, but specifically sectioned off this area and wouldn’t let him touch it because I did not believe he would provide. Too many times I had been let down. Too many times I thought I was trusting him and doing what he wanted and still I was heartbroken. Too many times I felt abandoned by God in the relationship arena while I was used up. So I was flailing hard against him, refusing to rest and if I were him, I would have certainly punched me in the face. 

Fortunately, he doesn't work that way and there came a point in my life where I had to admit to God that I was a wreck - that I was trying to shove him under the water and save myself, that I didn’t believe. I said to him, “I don’t trust you, God. I don’t trust you to provide. I don’t trust you in this area. I want to, but I don’t.” And it was in that moment that I finally stopped flapping my arms around like a lunatic and started to rest. I prayed the words of Mark 9 where the father says to Jesus, “I do believe. Help my unbelief!”

I do believe, God. At least I want to! Help my raging unbelief in you. Help me to take that unbelief and turn it into unwavering faith. I do believe. I repeated this in my prayers. I wrote it out in my journal. I do believe. Help my unbelief, God! It’s kind of like one of my previous posts about how negativity begets negativity. If you keep telling yourself you don’t trust him and you don’t believe him, well then you won’t. Believe me on that. So instead remind yourself – remind your heart – that you do believe that he will save you. He will provide the answer to all of your what about's! He will. But faith isn't a permission slip for passivity. Rather it will give you the strength to keep doing the next right thing. 

It's also not to say he will answer those "what about's" how you would like and on your timeline. I thought I would be married ten years ago and have three kids by now, but at this point I’m 32 and only three months into marriage. After we got married, we moved across the country to a new place even though I told God and Aaron multiple times, "I'm never moving to Hawaii." I'm sure you can still hear me laughing myself all the way across the ocean because God loves to take our never and turn it into yes. So in my marriage and moving, God answered my unending, “What about?” question and now I’m thinking, “Wait… this wasn't my plan! I mean I’m a Nebraska girl. I can't live in Hawaii. Oh no, oh no.” And let me tell you what, it has been hard. It's been good, of course, but it has also been very hard in a lot of ways.

And in the midst of it being hard, I'm back in a position where I have a choice to start flailing my arms. I feel faced with that choice every day – the one where I can panic and take back this area of my life, put a rope around it and not let God in because oftentimes it's more comfortable when we feel in control. But instead I’m reminded each day in a fresh way that I don’t have to flail. I don’t have to save myself. He's here. Whether it’s something on the radio, or something I’m reading, or the comforts of friends and family, I know in my heart that this is the right next step and that being here now has always been the plan for my life.

In her book, Allen writes,

“Why risk our comfort? Because on the other side of God-oriented, Scripture-informed risk is everything we are looking for: nearness to Jesus, greater faith in His power; deeper, richer experiences and relationships; satisfaction and enjoyment of the short life we have been given.”

Take the risk. Step out in faith to do the next right thing that God is calling you to do. Even if all you can say as you take that step is, “I do believe. Help my unbelief!" In the midst of fear. In the midst of letting go of comfort. In whatever way you're fighting against him, right in the thick of it all, resist the temptation to flail and just rest in faith.

Where are you struggling to believe him today and why? I'm guessing it's because, like me, you feel let down or left out or left behind in some way and now you're rehearsing all the reasons why He can't be trusted and exhausting yourself while you drink in the deep end of the pool. But, we have a God who wants you to stop flailing your arms when he’s asking you to rest. He will save you. Rest. Breathe. Believe.