Friendship in the Fear

first-leaves

It’s late September in northern Illinois and we are slowly dipping toes into Autumn. A few trees are adding yellow caps and red tassels to their branches, while others are waiting for a real cold snap to signal their surrender.

I recently heard a brief online message by worship leader and songwriter Melissa Helser about the trees and how they lose their leaves and surrender to barrenness for a long, dark season. She talked about how she sat staring at the bare hardwood trees in the dead of winter and God asked her if she ever expected the trees to be nervous about losing their leaves, afraid that they would never bloom again in the spring. Of course she hadn’t. Because the trees instinctively “know” in their roots that spring always comes and they will bloom again in that season.

How much more should we trust the One who created times and seasons and who has made us in His Own Image? This was the point of Melissa’s message…since we have the ability to know God, unlike the trees, shouldn’t we be able to trust Him, wait on Him?

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to remind myself to wait on the Lord. Not just as a spiritual activity but a way of life.

Psalm 25 is one of my favorites and the other day when I was reading, the words stood out to me with fresh truth. “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust. Let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you will be put to shame….make me to know your paths, O Lord. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation. For you I wait all the day long.”

The first thing that I noticed was that we have to lift up our souls to the Lord. We have to make an effort to place our trust in the Lord, and call to our minds how He has “dealt bountifully with us” in the past (Psalm 116). This is where we’re different from the rest of nature. Nature trusts God by instinct, without even “realizing” it. We can trust God by choice.

I also noticed that no one who puts their trust in Him will be put to shame. So it is only when we are placing our trust in things other than or outside of God that we find ourselves “put to shame”, disappointed, let down.

But the revelation that specifically blessed my heart, the words that spoke to me personally, came from Psalm 25: 12-14.

“Who is the man (or woman) who fears the Lord? He will instruct them in the way they should choose. Their souls shall abide in well-being, and their offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His Covenant.”

I realized that these verses specifically address each of my top fears. That is what is so special about being told to trust God. He isn’t speaking generally. We can trust Him with the tiniest details of our lives because He knows us inside and out. The fear of the Lord is where we find our safety, our identity, our security. The fear of the Lord is when we have such a clear, solid picture of our Lord that we no longer wonder who we are. We start to think of life in terms of God’s thoughts about us, rather than our thoughts about Him, or ourselves.

So back to the specific fears these verses address. And I’m sure these are not entirely unique to me.

  1. I am afraid of being lost. I don’t like not having a plan/purpose and I’m often afraid of losing my way, coming to a crossroads and not knowing which way to go. In response, God says that the one who fears the Lord will be “instructed in the way he/she should choose.”
  2. I’m afraid of being soul-sick. I’m afraid of living depressed or sad, afraid of living with a smile on the outside while carrying around a weight inside. I’m afraid that circumstances will change how I feel and I won’t be able to get the good feeling back. But God’s Word tells me that for the one who fears the Lord, “his soul shall abide in well-being.” That is the meaning of the song “It is Well With My Soul”. It’s referring to a peace that goes beyond circumstances, assuring me that I can be well, no matter what–and not just when I feel well. I can be well, and live there.
  3. My last fear is more of a recent one, growing as I get older and draw closer to the season for having children of my own. I worry about what kind of world I’ll be bringing them into, how to prepare them for what they will encounter. But God says that for those who fear the Lord, “their offspring will inherit the land.” In other words, there is a future for the children of one who finds their security, identity, and safety in the Lord.

I am always amazed at how Scripture speaks directly to our experiences, letting us know that God knows what we face, He understands our fears and is acquainted with the temptations we deal with–and He has provided the way out. “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him and He makes known to them His Covenant.” God desires relationship with us, for His Truth to make a clear difference in our everyday lives.

The lesson of the leaves and the trees is so much bigger for us…we can be involved in the process of trust and receive His Words as coming from a God who wants friendship with us. When we do this, the Glory and Power He puts inside us is unmatched by anything in this world.

 

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Surrender

surrender

I read a quote the other day about how true surrender to Jesus is a choice to live in courage.

What a beautiful picture of what surrender is. When we hear the word surrender, a lot of times we think it’s passive, devoid of action and personality. It means we’re laying down everything and not doing anything. We think of surrender in terms of loss.

But this quote helped me see surrender to Jesus in terms of gain. When the disciples left everything to follow Jesus, they gained much more than they lost. Surrender is truly a choice we make to enter a life of courage. It is basically saying, “God, I want you more than anything else. I want you to guide my life and show me treasures in places I wouldn’t have thought to look. For your sake, I am willing to walk away from anything, press through anything, even walk on the water if it means knowing you in a deeper way.” Surrender finds us doing things we never thought we’d do. Surrender is that voice that says, “Jesus, tell me to come to you on the water and I’ll come.”

Even if it’s something I’ve never done before, even if it sounds like something I shouldn’t be able to do, humanly speaking, I will do it because I want to get to You, Lord. I want to live in Your Way, because Your Way is best.

It’s that verse in Jeremiah where God says, “Come to me, and I will show you great and marvelous things which you do not know” (33:3).

That sounds exciting. But it’s also scary. It’s literally things we don’t know. Unknowns. A lot of times we get disillusioned when we come to God because we assumed the Christian life would be God coming into our reality and just tidying it up a bit, making it more godly. But surrender is God inviting us into His Reality. It’s scary, because it’s beyond this fleshly world and requires God’s resources.

That’s why we need courage from the Spirit. Because this relationship with Jesus is a call to action, a call to live in a way that is different, and yet much more full of beauty and power and intimacy with the living God than we ever dreamed possible. That’s what gave Paul the ability to say that he counted everything as loss for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and being found in Him. It wasn’t a fatalistic hatred of life. It was surrender…a surrender that filled him with courage. He saw everything he could gain by being found in Jesus and it amounted to much more than anything he would lose.

That’s true surrender. That’s what opens up the doors to intimacy with God and blessings that go beyond what we could ever ask or think.