“Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” (Mark 5:36b)
It’s easier said than done much of the time.
I walked by a sign the other day that said, “Let your faith be bigger than your fear.” It’s not that fear doesn’t exist. We can’t just wish it away. We have to have something bigger than it, something that keeps it in check, in context, something that absorbs and handles it well.
Belief in and of itself doesn’t get rid of our fears. Some beliefs exacerbate fears. If we believe in the wrong things, undependable things, the fears are only masked, and when things are masked, they can grow in the dark where we hide them. Fears can grow and become something that they’re not.
Fears aren’t just the things we tremble about. They are also the quiet ways we think we’re missing out on something, the insecurities, the desires spurred by “what if.” Without true belief, our “what ifs” become unmanageable. We can’t control them like we thought we could, and they begin to control us. We begin to make decisions based on fleeting assumptions and feelings. We might feel certain at the time, but when we’re on shaky ground, it doesn’t take long for insecurities, regrets, and doubt to move in.
Belief isn’t easy. It’s an unrelenting effort. But it’s worth the effort in the long run.
As I read through Job, I paused at Job 7 and wrote in my margin, “And the whining drones on…” It irritated me a bit.
Isn’t mankind consigned to forced labor on earth?
Are not his days like those of a hired hand?
Like a slave he longs for shade; like a hired man he waits for his pay.
So I have been made to inherit months of futility, and troubled nights have been assigned to me.
When I lie down I think: When will I get up?
But the evening drags on endlessly, and I toss and turn until dawn.
My flesh is clothed with maggots and encrusted with dirt. My skin forms scab and then oozes.
My days pass more swiftly than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is but a breath. My eye will never again see anything good.
The eye of anyone who looks on me will no longer see me.
Your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.
As a cloud fades away and vanishes, so the one who goes down to Sheol will never rise again.
He will never return to his house; his hometown will no longer remember him.
Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I the sea or a sea monster, that You keep me under guard?
When I say: My bed will comfort me, and my couch will ease my complaint,
then You frighten me with dreams, and terrify me with visions,
so that I prefer strangling—death rather than life in this body.
I give up! I will not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that You think so highly of him
and pay so much attention to him?
You inspect him every morning, and put him to the test every moment.
Will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow?
If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of mankind?
Why have You made me Your target, so that I have become a burden to You?
Why not forgive my sin and pardon my transgression?
For soon I will lie down in the grave. You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.
God is reduced to “watcher of mankind,” as if He is not interested or invested in us? Ugh.
Or so I thought.
As I read it again, it gave me a bit of comfort. Not that I want to justify my whining. In fact, it was so ingrained in me as I grew up that whining wasn’t acceptable or worth any time spent on it, whining doesn’t even stay in my mind for long, let alone escape from my mouth very often. But I’ve done my fair share of whining with God. I might not identify it as whining, but when I honestly take a look at myself and my conversations with Him, I can see it through the years. Hopefully, less and less, but still there.
And I’m not sorry, either for my own or for the inclusion of Job 7. I certainly don’t want to drone on and on with no forward movement of faith. I suppose there are two kinds of whining: productive and unproductive. Unproductive whining doesn’t get you anywhere but stuck. It’s “poor me” with little or no acknowledgement that anything, including ourselves, will change. It’s the kind of whining I don’t want to tolerate in myself or others for long, because it digs a pit for us to camp in and feel sorry for ourselves. Productive whining is different. Sometimes we need to talk through our “woe is me” as a reality check of the way things really are…with hope, a new sunrise, and a dependable God.
Maybe calling God “watcher of mankind” isn’t as bad as I thought. (In another translation, He is called “preserver of man.”) It is still acknowledging Him with some sort of authority. Maybe we all go through times when we can’t quite grasp who He is, not because He has changed but because of our circumstances. Maybe we need to work through where we are and where He is and how the two fit together, because we’re uncertain. Maybe there’s a bit of whiny involved, because we don’t like the uncertainty.
Maybe whining is the clue we need that we’re uncertain, need to wrestle a bit, and trust God enough to show us a glimpse of who He is for our tomorrows, not just our today.
“How long will you go on saying these things? Your words are a blast of wind.” (Job 8:1)
Four men with a skin disease were at the entrance to the gate. They said to each other, “Why just sit here until we die? If we say, ‘Let’s go into the city,’ we will die there because the famine is in the city, but if we sit here, we will also die. So now, come on. Let’s go to the Arameans’ camp. If they let us live, we will live; if they kill us, we will die.” (2 Kings 7:3-4)
It can paralyze us.
It reminds me of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof: “On the other hand…on the other hand…but there is no other hand.” We can’t possibly consider all the possibilities. Even the ones we’re fairly certain about will likely shift about in reality. We can’t let the unknown paralyze us, because to be honest, there is a lot that is unknown. We’ve persevered through much unknown, and we’ve survived.
It’s not that we set all if/thens aside, refusing to consider consequences. Evaluation and discernment is essential to forward motion in life, but that’s the point: next steps instead of digging holes that keep us where we are.
If/then assumes a “then,” a “next.” If/then looks into, considers, and can move us into the future. Next steps always involve some sort of faith. Make it sound faith.
God doesn’t always tell us what to do or what He will do, but He always tells us who He is, always reveals Himself to us, and always wants to be known.
I woke up early in Israel and started the day with Bible study. As is often the case with Bible study questions, I was prompted to consider how something in Scripture impacts me. What is the purpose? What is my response? As I encounter God through the truth of His Word, it’s important to consider such questions. God speaks to me personally. However, I’m surrounded by people who God speaks to just as personally. God’s Word isn’t about me. It’s about God. As I thought about the day ahead, journeying through Israel with a small group of women, each on her own journey, how could I respectfully and compassionately pour into each one in a way that confirms, supports, encourages her to listen and respond well to God’s Word? How could I encourage each one to seek and know God…not just about God but God Himself.
Facing and living God’s will doesn’t mean I need to know God’s will every step of the way. I need to know Him. He is enough. He doesn’t have to give me an explanation. He doesn’t have to tell me what’s coming down the road. He doesn’t need to help me understand how everything is going to work out and fit together. He wants me to know Him, and He wants me to encourage others to do the same.
Knowing God gives me the strength I need to move forward into uncertainties.
He helps you do the same. Get to know Him better today, right now. Don’t miss out on His presence.