A few years ago, a dear friend gave me an exercise DVD, along with a pretty gift bag overflowing with tissue paper. The bag was heavy and rectangular, and I honestly thought she was giving me a six-pack of Dr. Pepper, to sort of sweeten the gift of the exercise movie.
It wasn’t Dr. Pepper.
It was dumbbells.
It’s a good thing she’s a dear friend.
Lately, it seems everyone I encounter—including the girl in the mirror—is lifting weights, and I don’t mean dumbbells (or Dr. Pepper). We lift the weights of hardship and struggle. We carry around huge, crushing burdens, like addiction, and cancer, and foreclosure, and adultery, and shame. Some of us can barely stand up beneath it all. Some are completely flattened.
In Psalm 55, David faced attacks from his enemies, and even from his friends. He was overwhelmed and terrified. But under all the pressure, David told himself, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).
It wasn’t weight lifting, David said.
It was weight throwing.
David didn’t try to carry the weight; he cast it—threw it, flung it!—onto the Lord. And when David threw his burden onto God, God held him up, and kept him from falling.
What weights do we need to throw on God today? (Please tell me in the comments—anonymously, if you like—because I’d love to pray for you.) Weight throwing—casting our cares on the Lord—makes a shaky life solid. So enough weight lifting! Let’s throw the dumbbells.
God is seldom early, as the saying goes, but I’ll never forget the day He showed up nearly seven weeks ahead of schedule. Due in the middle of September, Nathan was born on the first day of August. A placental abruption, seizure, ventilator, and three-week stay in NICU were my scary introduction to motherhood.
Not exactly how I’d pictured things. We hadn’t even attended our labor and delivery classes yet. No blue bubblegum cigars, no happy pictures. Instead of proudly handing Nathan from friend to admiring friend, Andy held my hand as we prayed over a tiny NICU bed.
Three weeks later, it was finally time to leave the hospital. The doctor signed a paper, the nurse turned off the machines, and for the first time, Nathan was unplugged. Cordless, Andy said. Just like that, our little family was free to go home. Ready or not, here we come!
I wasn’t ready. Not ready at all.
Andy pulled the car away from the hospital, and I rode in the back seat, next to Nathan. I worried over every bump and bend in the road while he slept soundly. Then, afraid that he was sleeping too soundly, I reached for his tiny wrist. I felt Nathan’s pulse the entire way home.
How could I trust that he was okay? Without the hospital monitors, how could I know if Nathan’s heart rate was regular, or if he was still breathing, or that he wouldn’t have another seizure? So many things could go wrong, and I was unprepared. This was all happening too soon. Really, Lord, I’m not ready!
And yet. In all my fear, the Lord spoke comfort. Through the prophet Isaiah, He promised His presence. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) My God was present in every anxious moment, and His presence brought peace.
And to all my inadequacies, Christ spoke power. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” “That is why, for Christ’s sake,” wrote Paul, “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) I wasn’t ready, but the Ancient of Days was. I wasn’t enough, but His grace was sufficient. His power was perfected in my weakness.
A dozen years and two more babies later, I still feel inadequate in parenting. On my own, I’m never prepared enough, never competent enough for all that motherhood requires. But, He brings comfort in the chaos. Strength in my weakness. He is all-sufficient in my insufficiency. Ready or not…the Lord is enough.
Any guesses on how my week had gone?
My old friends, Fear and Doubt, had come back for a visit. Actually, they seemed rather determined to take up residence. And so, I printed off my list, read it over and over, and kindly asked my unwelcome guests to leave.
When fears press in, I often remember the story of Thomas, Jesus’ friend and disciple who is most famous for his doubts. Not convinced of Christ’s resurrection, Thomas said in essence, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
So, the Lord, who was, in fact, very much alive, graciously showed himself to his friend.
“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Stop doubting and believe.
Stop. Doubting. And. Believe.
Stop doubting, Amy. See my hands, faithfully at work? I provide for you every single day. Reach out your hand and experience my goodness. Your children, your loving husband, your faithful friends are all examples of my good gifts to you.
Stop doubting and believe.
Believe I am enough. Believe I am good. Believe I work for your good. Believe that I love you.
Stop doubting and believe.
I love Thomas’ reaction to the resurrected Lord—to the Christ, who, by conquering death, made it possible for him to stop doubting and believe. Thomas the Doubter became Thomas the Worshiper as he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”
God, help me to trust You. You haven’t given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) How, then, am I insecure?! Why, in light of the cross, do I possibly doubt? Indeed, in light of Your resurrection, let me stop doubting and believe. Let me live in boldness and freedom and awe, my Lord and my God! Amen.
If you can relate, download a copy of my verses list, or add your own Security Scripture in the comments! Security Scriptures
When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted. (Psalm 138:3)
I’m not a phone talker. Text me, email me, instant message me or take me to lunch—just don’t call, because I won’t answer. I take Andy’s calls, usually, but even Andy better keep his chit-chat to a minimum over the phone. For most other people, I just don’t answer.
I’m also not courageous. In the last few months, I faced two challenges on my own, without Andy there to handle things for me. I completed both tasks with much fear and trembling (and a little kicking and screaming). Risk and adventure? No, thanks. This chicken is happy in the coop.
In Psalm 138, David praises the Lord for just the opposite: “When I called, you answered me….” “God always hears,” says David. “He takes my calls, every single time.”
And, God emboldens David. “…you made me bold and stouthearted.” David says, “A nine-foot tall Philistine? I can take him. The battle is the Lord’s.” (1 Samuel 17) “Decimated on the battlefield and crying so much that I have no strength left to weep? I’ll find strength in God.” (1 Samuel 30:1-6)
God answered, and God strengthened. David just called. He didn’t plan or orchestrate or contrive. He didn’t worry or stew or kick and scream in fear. David simply called out to the Lord, and God gave him the courage to take the victory.
What’s your battle? Finances? A health scare? A certain person? Take a page from David’s song book: call the Lord. He always answers. He’ll make you bold and stouthearted.
I don’t know…
…who my kids will become someday.
…when God will answer my prayer, or why He delays.
…how all my bills will be paid.
…what tomorrow holds.
So many things I don’t know.
On days like these, it’s good to hang on to what I do know.
I KNOW whom I have believed, and am convinced that HE IS ABLE to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
On an extra hot day last summer, the glass in our patio door shattered. First, it popped loudly, as though hit by a rock. Then, it crackled quietly as thousands of thin lines spread across the whole door.
Andy called a repairman, who said that shattering is common in glass that gets direct sunlight. He also said that he was on vacation and couldn’t fix it for two weeks. For five of us, two weeks with a broken door was just an annoyance. But for one of us–the one who walks on four legs and drools terribly–the non-working door was a puzzle. Belle could not understand.
“Ruff,” she’d say, sitting at the broken door, asking to be let out.
“Come, Belle,” we’d call from across the room, to take her through the front door instead.
“Ruff?” she’d repeat, confused.
Basset hounds, the dog books say, enjoy routine. That’s one of the reasons we chose her breed, actually, because I’m not fond of change, either. But the broken door ruined Belle’s normalcy. For two whole weeks, she was forced to do something–gasp!–new.
Aversion to change is harmless enough in basset hounds. I suppose it’s even understandable in my personality type. But a problem arises when my dislike of “new” becomes a lack of faith, or worse, a willful disobedience of what God tells me to do.
Andy and I have been in a season of change. One area of ministry ended and another began, and I must say, at times I’ve obeyed God only after pitching a royal fit about it. My kids are changing, too. Last night as I folded Nathan’s laundry, I sighed and wondered aloud, “When did we get big kids?” How dare they grow so quickly. Our church, too, is fast-approaching a new building, with new opportunities for ministry and growth. It’s exciting! And, terrifying.
But God is in the “new” business:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5)
Lord, You’re leading me through a new door, and I want to follow. Thank You that what is unknown to me is nothing new for the Ancient of Days. Help me to trust, and to obey with boldness and joy. In all the changes, I rely on Your unfailing love and Your unending faithfulness. I love You, Lord. Amen.
Previous Lessons from a Basset Hound:
A masterful storyteller with a lyrical style, Max Lucado explores 13 common fears and answers them with 13 statements of Christ. “Woe Be Gone–Fear of Running Out” and “God’s Ticked Off At Me–Fear of Disappointing God” were the most challenging to me, because these are my greatest fears.
When Lucado wrote that fear itself isn’t a sin, but it can lead to sin, I nodded in agreement. (I’ve proven it many times.) When I read that fear turns us into control freaks–”Fear, at its center, is a perceived loss of control”–I was fairly certain that Mr. Lucado had been reading my journal. And when he asked, “What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?”, I teared up with longing.
(Reviewed for Thomas Nelson Publishing’s Book Review Bloggers)
be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
“I did it again,” I told Andy the other day, and held out both hands to show that I’d bitten off all ten of my fingernails.
Andy looked sad for me. “You’re feeling out of control, aren’t you?”
Nail-biting shows up when I’m busy, or sad, or anxious, or all three. Lately I’ve had more chaos than calm. Things I planned to get done remain undone, and I’m behind. Sad things that I prayed wouldn’t happen still happened anyway, and my heart aches. Ugly, sinful things in me that I thought were gone reappeared with a vengeance, and I’m unhappy with myself.
So I took it out on my fingernails.
Nail-biting, it just so happens, doesn’t solve much. But list-making soothes my heart. Let me list God’s truths to calm the chaos within.
- Rushed and behind schedule: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven….He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11
- Sad: “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:5
- Angry and unforgiving: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
- Jealous and self-seeking: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:16
- Anxious: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Lord, thank You for Your truth, and the comfort and confrontation it brings. Let me not be a nail-biter. Let me be a list-maker, a Truth-teller who rests in You. Amen.
When Nathan slept over at his friend’s house last summer, “a bunch of scary noises” woke him up in the middle of the night. Nathan’s irrational fear mixed with his overactive imagination—he is my son, after all—and the poor kid huddled in his sleeping bag, hid his face in his pillow, and cried quietly while his friend slept.
“I wanted to tell his dad,” Nathan confided later. “But I didn’t because….he’s not my dad.”
Funny—We have a bunch of scary noises around our house at night, too, and Nathan doesn’t hesitate to run to the safety of my room, and Andy’s arms. But at someone else’s house, with someone else’s dad, the fear overwhelmed him.
It reminds me of Paul’s words to Christ’s followers in Rome: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
Oh, how much of my life has been wasted in slavery to fear! I can work up anxiety over everything from money to health to traffic. I’ve spent many nights just like Nathan did—crying quietly and completely terrified. At times, my fear has been so strong that it literally took my breath away.
But this is not what God intends, or the abundant life that Jesus gives. God wants me to bring my fears to Him and leave them there, instead of staying in slavery. In Christ, I “received the Spirit of sonship”. Because of Jesus, I—like Nathan—can run to the safety of my Father.
God, I hear a bunch of scary noises around me. You know what they are. Will You quiet them? And even if You don’t, thank You that I am Your child. Thank You that You are bigger than my fear—more powerful than my anxiety—and that You set me free from its slavery. Thank You that I can cry out to You, my Father, and find safety in Your unfailing love. Amen.