Overcome F.E.A.R. (Failed Expectations Affecting Reality) or Be Overcome by It
by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom From MEdom Project…
You are not alone…
- 18.8 Million American adults will suffer from depression this year.
- 2.3 Million American adults will struggle with bipolar disorder this year.
- 9.1 Million American adults have an anxiety disorder.
- 2.4 Million American adults will experience a panic disorder this year.
- 3.3 Million American adults will be treated for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) this year.
- 5.2 Million American adults will experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) this year.
When it comes to our fears and our obsessions with trying everything we can to overcome them, it would make the most sense if we could simply stop being fearful; if we could simply flip the switch and stop the feelings of anxiety, stress, and worry.
If only it were that easy.
President Barack Obama, in 2008, said the following: “I was so obsessed with me and the reasons I might be dissatisfied that I couldn’t focus on other people… Whenever I take wrong steps a lot of the times I protect myself instead of trying to do God’s work.” I’m not sure whether he realized it or not, but this might be the most profound statement outside of Scripture speaking to the human condition that I think I’ve ever heard. It’s loaded with insight. It speaks of our addiction to self, failed or unmet expectations and its effect on us and our relationships, the adverse consequence of resulting behavior, the fear that drives us into self-preservation mode, and finally, the distraction from fellowship with God necessary to know and do His will.
We all want that feeling of self-satisfaction—contentment—even though we have never really experienced such a feeling. What we have experienced, and continue to experience, is the feeling or sense of dissatisfaction leading to discomfort and pain. We experience dissatisfaction within our physical bodies, our thoughts and feelings, our circumstances, our relationships, and in the world. Such dissatisfaction is derived from unmet and failed expectations. The scope of these failed expectations can range from the discomfort of a mosquito bite to extreme physical pain; from not getting that bike as a kid to not getting the promotion you felt you were in line for; from being teased by a sibling or friend to physical, emotional and sexual abuse from a parent; from being stuck in traffic to being a victim of a crime; from catching a cold to falling prey to a debilitating disease; from that boy or girl not going out with you as a young person to the experience of divorce and custody battles. You get the idea.
From our history of life experiences comes pain and sorrow, and guilt and shame. Bottom line on the differences is that guilt represents behavior resulting in mistakes, wrongs, and harm that present the opportunity for learning, repentance, and growth. While shame—the internalizing of harm and wrong to the point that it defines one’s belief system, tends to lead to feelings of failure, sorrow, depression, and fear. Guilt allows a person to move forward while shame can completely paralyze and immobilize its victim. The weapon used to slay every single one of us is F.E.A.R.—Failed Expectations Affecting Reality. The devil will club us over the head and stab us in the gut repeatedly utilizing the fear weaponized in our own brains against us—fear manufactured and manipulated out of shame we have defined ourselves by. I don’t know how, but the devil is able to communicate lies to us, trapping us in shame according to so many unmet expectations we have of ourselves in our desperation to also satisfy the expectations of so many others; an insurmountable task.
“Guilt and Shame, Scabs and Scars” makes a clear distinction between scabs and scars as it relates to one’s ability to be functionally healthy versus being stuck in dysfunction. Scars are healed wounds. You can see the evidence of healing while remembering the event that opened the wound in the first place. Since the wound has healed, the memory of the event no longer has power. The memory that’s been healed no longer has ownership of one’s feelings and attitudes. Scabs and bruises, on the other hand, are wounds in the process of healing, but as soon as friction and conflict come to the wound, the scab is ripped off and the wound breaks wide open bleeding all over the wounded person and affecting all who come in contact with the wounded person.
The reality for people with open wounds and mere scabs is that they continue to hurt from their injuries. The pain and suffering serves as an obstruction, impairment, and antagonist in their ability and willingness toward healthy thought-life, relationships, and overall functioning. People in pain tend to get swallowed up by fear and the need to protect themselves. When efforts to improve their circumstances result in more disappointment, they become less and less willing to absorb the risk to themselves and others they come to believe they are protecting.
The most severe consequence of a history of painful events in a person’s life is when history shapes values and beliefs. The person who was physically or sexually abused might avoid physical contact and affection even from those they love the most, whether it be their spouse or even their children. Then children growing up in a home they perceive is cold and loveless in the absence of affection and expression of love, grow up and then enter into relationships and start families that perpetuate the pattern. Men and women from such a history can be just passionate enough to date, get married and start a family, but then passion gives way to apprehension and fear, and then of course, confusion and conflict. There might be verbal and physical abuse. There might be sexual abuse between married spouses. There might be affairs of the heart with others that eventually lead to sexual encounters outside of the marriage. These couples might spend time in therapy before they divorce and split the family.
Theorist, Albert Ellis, wrote that (A) Activating events throughout our life experience will shape and alter our (B) Beliefs about those events as we interpret how such events define who we are in our own minds. Since our interpretations are so powerful, they represent for us truth about who we are leading to both dependent and codependent thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Once victimized, the belief from such activating events is that one is entitled to abuse and neglect against him or her as a perpetual victim. Another possibility is that the abused compensates for his/her beliefs about being repeatedly being victimized, and becomes trigger happy when it comes to vengence and self-protection as a matter of survival. So when the victim is in the express line at the store behind a customer having an item or two over the express-line limit, he/she is quick to pull the trigger and goes on a verbally abusive rampage to ensure he/she is not falling prey to being victimized again by the customer in front of him/her or by the cashier.
The abused woman (pictured above left) may cringe the first time, and perhaps every time her date initiates even mild affection. Ellis calls this the (C) Consequence of ‘A’ (Activating Event) because of ‘B’ (Belief about ‘A’). The person in line at the store allowed real historical events in her life to so affect how she sees herself and the world, that such beliefs have become irrational. For the abused woman to resist the touch of a good caring compassionate man whom she loves and trusts is irrational. These irrational beliefs carry life-altering consequences. We can get to the point that we cannot distinguish the lies within an irrational belief system from what is true and real. Things happen in even our most loving relationships and we conclude that we are no longer, or were never loved, in those relationships.
It is our nature to buy into a belief system shaped by our experience. These are the experiences that affect our reality, promoting the fear that can render us paralyzed by our shame, slaves to our pain. We do what we have to in order to survive our dissatisfaction. We can love God and struggle mightily with a belief system that is rooted in lies about ourselves, other people and the world in general.
The way our brains work is that experiences trigger biochemical transmissions that trigger thoughts and feelings and there is nothing we can do about it. Oh, we can withdraw from people and situations. We can isolate and alienate. We can project blame for our problems onto other people and in our circumstances. We can displace our anger and resentment and others will indeed pay a price. We can suppress our fear and repress our guilt rather than address it in some healthy manner. We can act out through rage, revenge, and/or unhealthy sexual expression. We can try to buy or eat our way out. We can insulate ourselves to the point that we’re unable to feel any sort of joy in our life. There’s a lot we can do and not do in response to F.E.A.R. to try to escape and find relief. But, in the end, where does it leave us? Where are we? Are we really any better off? Or, are our attempts to relieve our discontent only temporary?
The only authentic measure of actual recovery is found in relationship with the One who can heal our wounds, and rearrange the altered automatic processes of our brains. Scripture tells us that when we offer ourselves sacrificially to God in relationship with Jesus Christ—that is by how we act with our bodies, that He will completely transform our brain, renewing our minds, infusing our desires and intentions with His desires (Romans 12:1-2). It is written that as we come to ADMIT that we cannot fix our unmanagable lives; and as we come to really—I mean, really—come to BELIEVE that God is able and willing to do for us and in us what we cannot do for ourselves; and as we COMMIT to letting go of what we can’t control anyway, get out of our own way, and trust Him enough to confess to Him our lack and our need—talking to Him with our voice, that He will empower us to extraordinary things in our lives—at least in relation to our utter inability to heal ourselves. We are promised God’s transcendent peace that will guard our hearts and minds in the midst of whatever’s going on (Philippians 4:6-7).
What drug addict ever said to himself while ingesting the drug, “I sure hope someday that I’m a drug addict. Wouldn’t it be great to be so dependent on this drug that I will be forever sick without it?” Yet how many of us are so addicted to our past of discontentment, pain and struggle that we will continue our futile efforts through sick behavior and thinking to somehow manage in our disease?
The Bible says that faith is the substance (meaning assurance, confidence) of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Like I’ve said and written before, you can’t see gravity, or oxygen, but you accept both as true and real according to the evidence. The challenge for me and for what I have presented to the people I counsel, I present to you. You are not always going to feel confident or faithful, but you can pray because you are hopeful that God is who He says He is. Then, let’s see what happens. Over time, perhaps what you have come believe to about yourself, and the lies you’ve bought into about your world, gives way to what you experience trusting God, experiencing truth, as He changes you into something new. You are transformed in the way that overcomes F.E.A.R. instead of being overcome by the fear of failed expectations.
When that happens and someone says to you, “What’s new?”, tell them. Let ‘em in. As truth is revealed to you, be revealing about the truth inside of you. Let it out. You never know when you will be a blessing to someone—the light that shines in their darkness.
Please pray that God will reveal to you His truth about what you just read. Pray that He will do a healing work in your heart and mind about your past. Pray that He will escort you into a NEW LIFE EXPERIENCE, according to what He expects for you. Remember that what He expects is for you to leave your past at the cross and embrace what He can and will do for you from His throne of compassionate mercy and grace.
Doubt in the Madness of the Perfect Storm
by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom for MEdom Project
A father brought his tormented son to Jesus and said,
“If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24
A perfect storm is an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstances will aggravate a situation drastically.
Courtesy of FreeDictionary.com
This subject is very personal to me right now. I am in the midst of the perfect storm. My family is facing challenges we would not have imagined before coming into them. There is injury and heartbreak. There is wonder about what God is doing. What is the big picture? No, really God… what is it? Why this? Why take us through this? Why us, God? Why me? We are in crisis. I am in crisis.
when troubles come your way …
What I want to convey to you is that I am desperately needing to believe for me and my family today; but it is really difficult. Let’s look at some famous Scripture involving Jesus and how he dealt with storms in the lives of those he loved.
consider it an opportunity for great joy…
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”
Luke 8:22-25 (NLT)
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41 (NLT)
rejoice in the Lord always…
These are two versions of the same story told by disciples Luke and Mark. In Luke’s account of the story, he writes that “Jesus settled down for a nap.” The first three years and the last three years of the life of Jesus were in so many ways the perfect storm. Throughout much of that time there were people who had set out to kill him. Throughout his three-year ministry, Jesus would endure great battles and struggles that would define his role as ambassador of love and peace. Starting with the chosen twelve disciples, Jesus was understood by believers in his day to be leading his people out from under the thumb of the Roman Empire. It would be another 2000 years before Israel would be the nation that it is today. Jesus lived out the perfect storm as intended by God and it was about time he settled down for some rest and relaxation.
the Lord is near…
Mark lets us know that Jesus was very tired so he found a place toward the back of the boat to settle down, laying his head on a cushion to unwind and get some much needed rest. Jesus, in the midst of his stressful task-driven ministry, took some time off now and then to settle down; perhaps to decompress some as he prepared to fulfill his calling. You might say that Jesus understood throughout his life and ministry that he would wind up suffering miserably as the martyr for mankind. It would be fair to suggest that being acutely aware of the adversity to come was emotionally troubling to Jesus… disturbing even. As much as he depended on the Father for sustenance physically, psychologically, and spiritually; as much as he was motivated by love and driven by a heart of compassion for the sick and impoverished; fully human, there were likely times when he was alone with his thoughts considering his impending torture and suffering on so many levels that I cannot begin to comprehend.
While crossing the Sea of Galilee, a large lake capable of damaging storms and shipwreck, the disciples confronted just that; a raging storm with waves crashing into their fishing boat, winds tossing it about like a toy. Jesus, I presume, was sound asleep, knocked out by stress and fatigue, getting some much needed rest. Both Luke and Mark, who were in the boat, wrote that the waves were coming over and water was filling the boat. How could Jesus sleep through that? Wasn’t he getting wet? Imagine what the disciples thought.
“Master, Master, we’re going to drown… don’t you care?!”
do not be anxious about anything…
I have felt like those guys in recent days captured in the madness of the perfect storm. Where is Jesus? Where is he when I need him? Is he napping? Well, of course he is alive, awake, and alert but he must be spinning so many plates at one time throughout the business of this planet and the universe that some of the plates are bound to fall; and this plate (me) is about to shatter into pieces.
but from a grateful heart…
I have been through periods when I have wrestled with my feelings of intense concern, doubt, and fear. I have had this knot in my gut. It isn’t there all of the time. Since God has strengthened me and comforted me, the knot-in-the-gut feeling has eased but the butterflies often remain. I have drawn on past experiences when I needed for God to calm the storm in my life and he did. But you know… there are storms, and then there are storms as the waves crash into me tossing me about. I feel drenched at times under the waves. I need for Jesus to stand up confidently in the madness of my storm and command the wind, the thunder, and the lightening to cease. That’s what I need. And who knows better than I do what I need?
pray about everything…
The disciples, in the rage of their storm, must have been screaming at Jesus to get his attention. The winds and the waves howled angrily and looked to swallow them into the depths of their crisis. But since that didn’t seem enough to wake him, they shouted at him, “Do you even care that we’re drowning… overcome… about to be swallowed up?!”
Do you feel sometimes like you’re about to be swallowed up by devastation, depression, and despair?
I am glad we have the testimonies of those who followed Jesus the man through thick and thin. I am thankful that we have stories of those who were actually with him and knew him; had seen the healings, the miracles, the deliverances, and most of all, the resurrection (of Lazarus), and still felt doubt while in the relentless winds and waves of the storms in their lives. They may not have known the Spirit of God coursing through their beings, but they had God in their company in the person of Jesus Christ. And yet still, when up against it, even Christ’s closest companions felt doubt and uncertainty.
for you know that when your faith is tested…
Let’s talk about that; the doubt and fear we encounter as people of faith. Jesus said to those closest to him who believed, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith? Where is your faith?” This is interesting to me; the contrast between what the disciples said to Jesus and what Jesus said to them. When the disciples cried out, “Don’t you (even) care?” it’s like asking, “Where are you when I need you?” The reply of Jesus could be paraphrased, “Where are you when you need me?” as if to imply, “What condition are you in while you’re looking for me?” I don’t think he is issuing judgment so much as he is concerned that fear and doubt does so much more to intensify our pain and struggle.
your endurance has a chance to grow…
I suppose you might say that “Doubt in the Madness of the Perfect Storm” is the sequel to my most recent article, The Problem of Pain… A Study of the Father’s Discipline. In that article, I wrote the following about faith and doubt in response to Scripture from James chapter 1:
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:5-8 (NLT)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:5-8 (NIV)
the peace of God…
I believe that James is writing that God does not find fault with my emotionally-driven fear and anxiety when I come seeking from Him everything from wisdom to a miracle. Because should I doubt God’s ability to engage, work, and move in my circumstances due to an intellectual conclusion of disbelief that God is God, and I turn to alternative remedies to manage fear and anxiety, then I am wavering in the gusty winds of divided loyalty. It is then I am double-minded and unstable in pursuit of resolution. It is then that I am lost like sheep without a shepherd. While James writes then that I ought not to expect to receive anything from the Lord it doesn’t mean that I won’t receive from Him. James is speaking about my state of mind. He is saying that I will have lowered my expectations of what God can and will do.
If I have concluded that I probably will not receive much of anything from God, why would I expect to receive much of anything from God? There really won’t be any relief from pain, fear, and worry should I altogether not believe in what God can do. It’s common sense at that point. I’m an emotional mess from the empty conclusions I have drawn intellectually about what God can and will do. Absent is the hopeful anticipation of God’s intervention that would have a calming effect on my nerves.
will guard your heart and mind…
Thank God I believe intellectually and spiritually in what God can do. Too often, though, I question my faith because I doubt on an emotional level. I need to stop the practice of riding my feelings until I feel guilty that I doubt God. I feel guilty doubting God because of what I know and believe intellectually (in relationship with Christ) God can do; I struggle emotionally with what I believe God will do. Is he willing? Is there something wrong with me? I think that’s what it means to have faith in the midst of doubt because of the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). What I feel isn’t necessarily a reflection of what I know. What I doubt emotionally isn’t necessarily a reflection of what I know intellectually and believe spiritually in my soul.
… in Christ Jesus
Things unseen… hmmm… You know what? God loves me so much that to confront my fear and worry, He gave me something I could see. It was a visible practical manifestation that God is at work in the process. While in the midst of a “mini-crisis” that wasn’t really a crisis at all but it felt like one at the time, my 90 plus-year-old mother-in-law told me she was praying that God is faithful. With my real crisis in mind I responded to her sarcastically , “We’ll see” (wondering what God is up to that this crisis is happening at all in the first place). When the “mini-crisis” was averted inexplicably, as I shared it with my wife, she said, “My mom prayed.” Instantly I broke down and wept as the Holy Spirit of God reminded me to trust him to be at work in the process. I shared my mini-crisis experience (in the midst of the actual crisis) with a dear counselor friend who told me, “God gave you something tangible that you can hang your hat on.”
So I know that the Lord does not find fault when I feel doubt and confusion driving my fear. And I did receive from him because He loves me. My real crisis lives on painfully and while I may struggle from time to time emotionally, intellectually I am certain that God is able and willing. I am trusting in the process of his work in my life as I endure through the problem of pain.
so let it grow…
If I could discipline my mind through, prayer, meditation, and worship to trust in the miraculous and restorative power of my gracious compassionate Savior (rescuer, defender, protector, deliverer)… I don’t know… maybe I wouldn’t doubt so much… maybe not at all. The reality for me is that I have not surrendered to the extent that I fully trust in the process of the work of God. With surrender comes full obedience unto the calling and purpose of God in my daily routine. How does one get to a place of surrender? Answer: Through prayer, meditation, and worship.
for when your endurance is fully developed…
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJV)
The “arguments” Apostle Paul is writing about is human reasoning that cannot accept or even conceptualize spiritual authority unless I am surrendering my thoughts and feelings into the care of spiritual God; to be captivated by spiritual truth. Doing so blows up the argument that God cannot or that God will not meet the need in my hour of peril. My human reasoning is a combination of intellect and emotion making up cognitive process. My intellect, which is more easily given to spiritual (Biblical) truth, wants very much to believe and trust God. My emotions react much more to what I fear since they tend to buy into—trust—the quantitative properties that I can see, hear, and touch. So ‘carnal’ and ‘flesh’ refers intellect rooted in quantitative experiences and emotions measuring the quality of my life experiences, calculating risk and reward. Since like most of you I tend to place more value on the impact of pain and loss than I do the impact of reward and gain—what I not want to experience over what I do want to experience—I tend to be motivated by, and I suppose overcome by, my reasonable fear over the wisdom of trusting God. When I am overcome by fear it becomes a stronghold in my flesh.
Fear is emotion driven by cognitive reasoning (the brain’s processing of experiences, thinking, and feelings) that is part of the human make up. Entertaining fear and doubt, rather than letting it go through surrender, is selfish. Being motivated and compelled by fear then is carnal, meaning impure. What and who is God? The Bible says that God is love. It also teaches and serves to reason that God is perfect.
you will be perfect and complete…
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 (NKJV)
Here’s the thing. Even in the madness of what feels like the perfect storm seeking to devour all involved in it, I know intellectually that God is faithful and will work it out altogether for the good for us who love him. I believe that. The key is to trust in what I believe, not in what I am feeling in the depths of the madness. I am at present in the depths of the madness of the perfect storm. At times I am confident (confidence is a feeling) in what I know; and at other times I am feeling doubt. Thank God he does not find fault with what I am feeling. As I seek him through prayer, meditation, worship, and obedient living, he will grant me acceptance, courage, and wisdom without measure. That is my challenge.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Sometimes these kinds of teaching, especially that which you should have read in, “The Problem of Pain… a Study of the Father’s Discipline” are indeed difficult to comprehend. To consider life’s troubles to be opportunity to experience joy sounds at least a little bit crazy; yet when fully experienced, is amazing.
Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.” At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:60-69 (NLT)
What is your challenge, today? What is your perfect storm? Are you drowning beneath its waves?
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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 (what you feel emotionally) and your minds (what you know intellectually) in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
I can do all things…
Without going into the specifics of my crisis, I tried to write with enough vulnerability and candor here that you might be able to relate it to your challenges through that lens; allowing yourself as I have to be open to what God is wanting to work out in your life. Glean from this passage that as you worship and rejoice in your relationship with Christ by how you live, with an active prayer life, surrendering all, you will experience indescribable peace to empower you to live a whole lot less anxious than when you’re trying to manage problems and crises on your own.
through Christ Jesus…
God is working in you and producing through the madness of your perfect storm something perfect in you. As you live in the truth of what you have read here you will enter into the best of what God wants and has for you.
… who strengthens me
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)
So, what is the real challenge for you and for me as we apply these truths?
Trusting in what we know rather than trusting in what we feel.
We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 (NLT)
I attended a sermon this evening by Keith Boucher, Pastor at Calvary Church, Naperville (outside of Chicago), IL. He spoke from John Chapter 20, when Mary doubted the presence of her Lord Jesus as she continued to grieve his death at his burial site. As she lamented the missing body of her friend and Savior, she wept in the presence of angels that may have presented themselves as ordinary men, perhaps perceived by Mary as tending to the tomb. The stone had been removed, so where had they put the body of Jesus? Then this from John Chapter 20:
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
16 “Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
The emphasis of the sermon, “In the Darkness of the Soul”, was the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ inhabiting our darkest times, even when it feels to dark to see Him. I wanted to raise my hand and speak of what it means to doubt in the madness of the perfect storm. The truth is that Mary knew intellectually the truth about Jesus. But she had not experienced His presence having been resurrected from the dead. In her pain, she wanted to experience His presence but did not know even to look for Him. Jesus, of course, did not find fault with Mary in the midst of her doubt and seized her doubt by calling out her name and asking her to seek Him. She did and she found Him.
Seek to find Jesus even in the darkest places. He is there. He will cast light into your darkness. He will be your peace in the madness. Have confidence in His presence as you boldly approach His throne in your time of need.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
It was nailed trough his cross, and I bear it no more,
Bless the Lord, bless the Lord, O my soul!
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Post Script from my response to a reader on 2/15/13:
Sometimes it is hard to know whether the storm has passed or if I am simply in the eye of the storm experiencing temporary calm. I believe that as I cried out to Jesus, “I’m drowning!” He stood up to the perfect storm in my life and declared, “Peace!” First, there was calm to my heart and assurance came to my mind that Christ was being Christ. Since then, the madness of the storm has calmed. There is still heavy rain and a stiff breeze but the worst of it seems to have passed.
Bottom line… God is indeed faithful. He has clued me in to the message He has had for me all along but I needed the volume turned way up to really hear it. I heard. Now I must respond in obedience to the message. God used the storm for my good; that His work will be glorified in the good that I will do for the kingdom having endured and persevered through the trial. What an opportunity for great joy having come through it.