trusting in the Lord when faced with difficulty

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
    In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

The Lord prayed the psalms, as is evident when he was on the cross. Perhaps this was one passage he prayed during the course of his life on earth. It is certainly apt for us, although our circumstances will likely be different than were that of the psalmist. But the crux of the matter, facing opposition, or something which threatens are well being can be the same.

Being afraid is a part of life. Our bodies when healthy feel pain through the nerve endings in place. That is protective. It’s not like all fear is bad. One evangelical evangelist said that to be afraid and trust in the Lord is good, but to trust in the Lord and not be afraid is better. Maybe so, but I don’t see the two that way myself. I do think we can go through them as stages, the first being the initial fear we naturally have over something overcome by trusting the Lord. The second simply being our disposition and choice, based on faith in God and God’s word, his promises to us.

How we face perceived danger might be the question. Faith insists that it will be alright in the end (see Psalm 23), no matter what we have to walk through. God is with us in Jesus, and will protect us.

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

It may not be fun to walk through, but the Lord will be with us no matter what. The rod and staff in the Psalm was an instrument of the shepherd to gently guide the sheep, and to protect them from danger. We can gather from that thought that God will guide us and protect us from danger, from falling off the cliff, or going off by ourselves as if we can take care of it, or maybe simply out of fear. The Good Shepherd (John 10) will be present to keep us on track and comfort us.

Trusting in God must be our present and default position. I mean that whether things are okay, or not, we need to trust in the Lord. And at times we will need to renew that commitment, at other times simply grasp and hold on to it for dear life. But no matter what we face or ultimately have to walk through, we can know that God will be present with us to help us in and through Jesus to the very end.

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finding home

Like a bird that flees its nest
    is anyone who flees from home.

Proverbs 27:8

From an old song comes the well worn saying: “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” We feel at home at home, for sure. It’s an escape, and more than that, it’s our abode. It’s where we’re acclimated into hopefully a place where we can rest. Of course to both build and maintain a home requires work. But home ought to be above all a place we can leisurely enjoy.

God made us for home. In a sense, humans were made to be at home in fellowship with God, in Jesus taken into the communion of the Triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But God made humans also to be earthly dwellers in communion with each other. And even to have a relationship with animals, I’m thinking of pets. This is why the biblical promise of heaven coming down to earth and becoming one with it when Jesus returns is so appropriate. God will come to earth to dwell with his people. In the meantime, God lives with us in Jesus as Emmanuel (God-with-us).

So our true home is right where we live on earth, renewed in Jesus, and in God in and through Jesus. Both.

So we are at a loss, and lost when we stray from either. Especially basic for us is to find our home in God, but we are earthlings, made from the dust of the earth, so that this wonderful world in the end renewed in the new creation at the resurrection in and through Jesus is also our home. We can’t get too much of either, as we now live in the world to be renewed when God makes all things new through Jesus.

“This world is not my home,” refers to the world system, which like Babel of old (Genesis 11) is estranged from, and in opposition to God. So that this life is not our final home. We are strangers here, pilgrims on a journey, looking for a better, heavenly country (Hebrews 11).

We pray for those who have strayed from their true home, that they would find it in God. And we long to be more and more at rest in that, as well. While we fulfill our calling to work and be stewards of this good earth God has entrusted to us. Knowing that our work someday won’t end, though the toilsome labor due to the curse imposed on it will. At Jesus’s return.

Home.

 

managing life in the old world (there’s a new world coming)

When I think of how life is on the planet, and all the harmful things we humans do to ourselves, oftentimes out of ignorance, I often can only shake my head. It’s all relative for sure, and none of us are going to live forever in this life, nor at a certain point will we want to. A lot of innovations can end up being harmful, I especially think of dietary, but that includes chemical compositions used in materials for other things such as building and grounds. There really is no end to the list of either toxic, or somehow detrimental to one’s health substances which we regularly take into our bodies. Usually for most of us small amounts of all that stuff ends up being offset by other factors, or is not harmful enough. But too much of this or that, or a combination of such might push us over the edge, past the threshold so that our health begins to deteriorate.

We should try to become more aware of possible problems. I google and find what some might say, how broad the range is of those who say it, and then I look up the Wikipedia article to see if any such concerns are raised in it. I want to hear what others are saying, but hope to verify that with good scientifically sound clinical studies.

All of that to say something like this: We live in a world and during a time when not all is well which we take in, some of that being unavoidable. And death is inevitable. We want to do as well as we can on our part to remain as healthy as possible as long as possible. But in Jesus there is something better: the promise of a new world coming in the new creation in him.

He built his sanctuary like the heights,
    like the earth that he established forever.

Psalm 78:69

When we who value science read a passage like that, we might just shake our heads. Except for the promise that the One who made all things in the first place will remake them in the new creation in and through Jesus. There indeed is a new world coming. This old world wasn’t meant to last, except for all the good in it, that will. All things will be made new, which surely means only that which is created and therefore good. The new creation will be something like what the real world we know ought to be.

Yes, we humans try to do better apart from our greed and carelessness. But we still fail, even with our best efforts. In that world there will be no more accidents, no more failures. We can’t always avoid catastrophe in this life, even with all of our best efforts. But we rest in the promise of God that a new world is indeed coming. And we want to rest in God himself: the Triune God, that God’s love is with us in a life not meant to last, and through Jesus to take us into the even more real and abundant eternal life which will last forever. That no matter what we face or experience in this life, that God is with us in Jesus to help us through even the worst here, and to bring us with others into the new world to come in him.

being present

A key posture and practice in our lives is simply to be present, period, end of point. Simply being present is underrated. Instead it’s about us giving our spiel, or doing something else which we either see as more important or more productive. Of course there are many things we do in the course of a day, the least of which can surely be something we ourselves enjoy.

God is present with us in Jesus by the Spirit always. And our caling in large part is to be present before others, and with the tasks God has given us. Completely present. That can be challenging since there are distractions left, right and often center nowadays on people’s cell phones. Not to say people can’t use their phones and still really be present with each other. But that can be a challenge. For me, I like to be in the word bit by bit in the course of a day. I simply pick up where I left off. In the course of that, I find that I can be present with others. And at the same time I’m trying to be present with God through the word.

Presence in God’s love is what life is all about as to where we live. And our goal should be to live in that same love in our lives with each other, with all the give and take, forgiving and being forgiven, not giving up on someone or some relationship. But not by having all the answers, or any answer at all. But simply being present with the Lord and that person. As God is present with us in and through Jesus.

Where is Jesus?

Sometimes we simply need to get away from it all, to be free of the pressing duties and even the concerns of life. To simply relax and enjoy, to be at peace. In that to seek the Lord indeed. But to have some amusement and fun, now there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that.

During Jesus’s busy time of ministry, he had times when he would want to simply get away with his disciples and rest, although he couldn’t escape the people. He was known to get up early at least some mornings and get away to have communion in prayer with his Father. Yes, we need times like that. We need a certain kind of stillness and solitude.

But more often than not, we’ll find Jesus, and God in him in the pressing duties of everyday life, and in the difficult things which come our way. We can grow weary and tired over that, and we do need some breaks now and then. But more often than not, that’s where we’ll find Jesus, and God in him at work.

And so while we need to take care of ourselves, we also need to look for Jesus. Where is Jesus? What would God be doing in and through Jesus today, even through us who are in Jesus, in whatever humble way we can serve, even if only by being present?

Jesus, the friend of the ordinary

C. S. Lewis is right that strictly speaking there is no one who is ordinary. People are made in God’s image, and everyone regardless is extraordinary. And yet in the course of human life all relative as we see it, there are ordinary people, looked at as run of the mill, nothing much. Another way of looking at it, no matter how gifted one might be, in a sense they are ordinary. As the saying goes, everyone has to put on one leg of their trousers at a time.

Jesus is the friend of the ordinary. Of those who really are nothing special at all in the eyes of the world. Perhaps considered dull and dim. Of little or no consequence. Perhaps they work on an assembly line or clean toilets or do this or that which may require a little skill along with mostly practice. Not that what we do along with how we do it isn’t important, but it’s sad how the world measures people: It’s about what you do, where you work. One’s true worth is measured in large part by that. Maybe they’ve failed morally or have been incarcerated so that they’re completely written off by others.

Along comes Jesus who is the friend of the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful (Matthew 5)—and people are unimpressed. It is the ones who have achieved and who know how to sell themselves or sell what they’re doing who are the people of note. But not to Jesus. To him it is the down and outs, the people of no account, of no reputation. That is where Jesus lived all his life, as one accused of being born illegitimately–apart from wedlock, just a plain carpenter (or builder), who was evidently extraordinary to the rabbis in the temple when he was twelve, but settled down and never made a name for himself. Just plain Jesus, son of the carpenter Joseph, who himself became the carpenter. A good trade, surely good in it. But when Jesus embarked on the calling his Father gave him, the folks who knew him took great offense. No, this wasn’t the Jesus they knew. They could only shake their heads, not believing that what was happening was really the case or legitimate. In fact because of what Jesus seemed to be claiming, some pretense toward Messiahship?, they were offended and tried to do away with him. Even his own brothers who he grew up with didn’t believe in him. Those closest to us often don’t see anything beyond the ordinary. Although extraordinary in his person and calling, Jesus was as ordinary in his humanity as the rest of us, at the same time without sin.

This is where God dwells, with the humble and broken, those who are contrite in heart, the lowly, those who know that all is a gift from God and of their own great need. That is where Jesus makes himself at home, not with the great ones, but with the humble poor, those who can hardly look up, whose only joy will have to come from God, since they often know plenty of suffering in a mundane day in and day out existence, who know they are sinners in daily need of mercy.

I’m encouraged that the Lord dwells with the likes of me, with the likes of us. That is where I want to remain.