God's Word: Live It!

It’s a matter of trust

Yesterday we observed a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus wanted to believe in something concrete, Jesus kept pointing him toward trust in God rather than belief that God was present. It may seem like a small difference, this trust instead of belief, but it has large implications for the way we pray, what we expect of God and how we decide to serve. Nicodemus can’t get past the literal. He needs something he can hold in his hands, something written in stone. Instead, Jesus offers up metaphors about rebirth and wind and spirit. At this point in the story, Nicodemus fades away.

We often hunger, wheedle or outright demand concrete signs from God. We struggle with wind and Spirit and being born from above. We want more than a baptismal promise of everlasting life and a Savior who will die for us. It is our nature. It is not easy to live “with the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)  More unsettling, Paul says we “boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love is poured into our hearts …” (Rom. 5:3-4)  This takes enormous trust in God.

This is where trust overrides belief. In what way? When we know we believe in God but do not understand God we have to decide if God knows what God is up to. It is not as simple as saying “there’s a reason for everything” implying there is a divine reason for everything. It is more complicated. It involves saying I don’t have the slightest idea why this is happening and still trusting that God does, that it matters to God and that God stand by us. We often don’t and sometimes never achieve an understanding of particular sufferings, senselessness or dark forces. But we do have the choice to trust that God will guide, love, support, forgive, understand and in the end, resurrect. This is hard to believe, sometimes impossible to believe. These are the times to develop trust. I believe in God, but I struggle to trust God. But when I do, I am relieved of the burden of trying to BE God, a fool’s errand if there ever was one.

In the Wilderness

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Yesterday, we watched Jesus go eyeball to eyeball with Satan. Satan, no slouch at taking advantage of people, shows up when Jesus is alone, weakened by hunger, and contemplating his journey to the cross as the Son of God.  They go three rounds and Jesus wins each of them by staying close to God and choosing a life of sacrifice over power. We often find ourselves in the wilderness. Marital conflict, illness, fractured relationships, trouble with employment, payments, addiction or perhaps ongoing care giving are all wilderness experiences. They can weaken our resolve and our faith. They can leave us hungering to be fed by God’s intervention, God’s answer to our prayers that never seem to come. This is when we are vulnerable and may find ourselves wandering the barren landscape of our lives. This is when the doubt and anger can whisper its way into our spirit and leave us lost and alone.

Our comfort comes knowing that Jesus has been out there before us and knows exactly how it feels. He knows the perils, the hunger and longing of the lonely places in our lives. He also cares deeply when we are lost and alone, scared and tired. He also knows the way out. If we cry out to him he will hear our voice just as a shepherd knows his sheep. We have some weapons against the Evil One and we are marked by the cross. When we find ourselves in these places there are a few things we can do to ease our fears. They may not immediately change, or for that matter, ever change the situation, but it will give us resolve and allay our raw fear.

  • Use scripture. Many of us are not adept at this but we can look up a couple Psalms and read them slowly savoring every promise. For starters may I suggest Psalms 23, 32 and 34? Also Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17:13-26. There are many more but I have found these very comforting in my own wilderness times.
  • Share your burden through prayer, boldly ask God to relieve you of your fears, anger, despair. Pray constantly until you have established a stronger relationship with God.
  • Ask a trusted person in your life to share the weight you carry, to pray with you or for you.
  • Face your burden head on, stare it down and diminish it with the power of Jesus’ name.
  • Invest yourself in the problems of another thereby reminding yourself you do not suffer alone and in many cases to not suffer as deeply as others.

We  matter to Jesus. We are blessed in our brokenness, loved and forgiven, upheld and protected. Our foe is faithlessness, not Satan. Together and in partnership with Jesus we can find our way home.

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