If you are anything like me, you like the idea of being in control. When your day goes according to plan, it is a good day. When an event meets your expectations, it has been a success! According to Google, the noun ‘control’ means the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events.
The birth of my first child soon taught me that this idea that I am in control is an illusion. I would give birth to a healthy, thriving child, of course; why would I not? But instead of April 8th 2015 being filled with joy and excitement when we welcomed our son John into the world, it was consumed with fear, sadness and hopelessness. John was born with complex medical challenges. Instead of attending moms & tots and play parks, we were in and out of hospitals, operating theatres and endless therapy sessions. Our lives were filled with litres of vomit, little sleep and lots of feeding tubes and syringes.
A weak and fragile people in an unpredictable world
Needless to say, my life was not going according to how I had planned it! The reality is that there is very little in this world that we actually have control over. We can make endless plans, and have numerous safety nets in place. These are not unwise things to do, but when the storms of life rise up, any illusion of control will be shattered as the waves crash over you. We are a weak and fragile people living in what can be a dangerous, unpredictable and scary world.
Psalm 46 speaks in to every person’s experience of facing difficult circumstances that are outside of our control. “…though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Ps 46:2b-3). I may not have been caught up in a literal storm, but life with John felt like I was trapped in a tiny sail boat being battered about by mighty waves in a stormy sea. The questions around John mounted like massive waves and their answers, or lack thereof, crashed down – sending me further into the depths of my despair. Will I ever hear my son say ‘Mommy’; how long will he have, will John only ever know a life of pain and suffering? Watching your child suffer is gruelling. My courage was swept away, giving in to fear.
What is your storm? What is the wave that has crashed over the “normal” in your life, possibly shattering any ideas of control you thought you had? It most likely looks very different to mine. Perhaps you lost your job, or are finding it hard to make the budget stretch each month. Perhaps it is illness, a broken relationship, a prodigal child, a failed degree.
Our only hope
There is a reason that scattered across the pages of God’s word comes the command from the Lord, “Do not fear.” God knows we are frail and He knows our hearts; that we are quick to fear. Anxiety and fear are natural responses to the troubles and uncertainties we face in this world, yet God calls us not to fear. How though God, can we not fear? These were certainly the words that came tumbling out of my mouth. The first verse of Psalm 46 helps us to understand why. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” God is our only hope of certainty in a world full of uncertainties! The Psalm reminds us that God ‘IS’ (present tense) with us in our times of fear and hardship, and this truth can bring comfort and peace. We do not serve a God who is absent, He is near, He is with us and He is the only one who has control over our very lives and this very world. He cares about you and your life; we can draw near to Him and trust Him.
It is so tempting to dwell on the wind and the waves that are crashing around you, allowing the ‘what ifs’ of your situation to play on repeat like a stuck record. God calls us to look to Him, to find our hope and our refuge in Him and to dwell on Him. Anxiety and fear are very real and we cannot just stop being anxious. Rather, we need to bring our anxious thoughts to the Lord and speak to our hearts what is true of the God who calls us to come and find rest in Him.
Rock of Ages
In verse 10 of Psalm 46 we are told to “Be still, and know that I am God.” This is a verse that you may have heard bandied about quite flippantly, but as I reflected on it, I realised that fear is the opposite of being still. God can bring calm in our hearts, even when the storm rages on around us, as we dwell on who He is, as we know Him and what is true of who He is. In order for our fear and fretting to turn to stillness we need to know God and trust that He is the all sovereign, all powerful, loving and gracious God that His word says He is. Trusting the Lord is a journey, it certainly has been for me. Through the storms I have become even more convinced of Romans 8:28 and 29: “For those who love God all things work together for good” and this good is, as verse 29 says, being conformed to the image of Jesus. As the waves hit, the Lord is using them to chisel you and me, making us more like Him. What a beautiful and glorious image that is. As you bring your worries and fears to the Lord, remind your heart of the Lord you are coming to for refuge. I pray then that when the storms do come, that we may all be able to say along with Spurgeon “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages” as the waves cause us to turn to Christ and make us more and more like Him.