Moses was 120 years old and his time leading the Israelites had come to an end. God told him that Joshua should succeed him, leading his people into the land he had promised them. Moses said to Joshua,
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.”
And God goes before us too. Thinking about the world today with all its brokenness-all of its pain-corona virus and whatever lays ahead-He knew it was coming and he already knows how it will end. He knows what is to come when we are here sitting in our homes, facing down the long, dark tunnel of uncertainty, wondering what’s next.
“He himself goes before you” tells us that he was handling this mess before it ever got here. He wasn’t caught off guard by this world-wide pandemic. He isn’t surprised by the newest daily headlines. He’s not confused by the conflicting information and he is in control, still. Whatever you’re struggling with right now-he knows that too.
I can actually see now how God was preparing me for what was to come and maybe looking back, you can too. My story goes like this….
January 2nd of this year, I had a jolting experience that made me realize I had not properly dealt with some pretty serious issues related to old trauma and that night sent me back to therapy for the first time in many years. I knew I had two choices. Live in constant fear and anxiousness or learn to live a life set free. I chose the latter and I was all in.
Soon after starting to work with my new therapist, I was listening to the “Don’t Mom Alone Podcast with Heather MacFadyen” and she was interviewing Christian author and speaker Jennie Allen. I still remember standing at the kitchen counter, prepping dinner as I listened to Jennie speak on anxiety and toxic thoughts. Every word she said, referring to her own struggle, felt like my own. Just to hear another woman describing what I had thought was my own personal hell and yet, she had not only been there but found a way out, well that had me hooked from the start. So there I was, cutting up some carrots, nodding my head and “yes girl-ing” to every single thing she said. That book she was promoting? Oh, I downloaded that on Audible immediately and I’m so glad I did. I’m grateful for that timely book and I truly believe God had a plan for Jennie-as he looked ahead-not only part of his plan for me, but for the millions of people around the world who have experienced anxiety and worry this year. Only he could have known what lay ahead. This book changed me in a way I had needed for years. It’s been a big part of my healing journey and given me healthy tools to cope with the chaos that I couldn’t have imagined was coming. (“Get Out Of Your Head” is the title. Check it out!) Fast forward to the end of the podcast and the listener is invited to pray along with Jennie and Heather. And this is where I’m convinced God directed me to this podcast when He did, in the middle of the battle I was desperate to fight through. Heather invited us at home to ask God to forgive whatever lie we had been believing and then ask him to tell/show us what he wanted us to believe instead, especially when that lie crept back in to tempt us. I figured, hey, it’s worth a shot. This wasn’t a prayer I’d ever prayed before and it sure couldn’t hurt.
“Dear God, Please forgive me for believing the lie of FEAR & WORRY. Please show me what you want me to believe instead so that I can be prepared the next time the enemy tempts me in this way. Please protect me from these things. In your name I pray. Amen”
A few days later, I was sitting in bed reading Hebrews 11 when I felt God speak to me.
He said, “TRUST ME NO MATTER WHAT”.
I told him, “I do trust you”. Again he said, “TRUST ME”, (then a pause) “NO MATTER WHAT”. Emphasis on the “No matter what” part. What he was asking felt at best, impossible to promise. I said to him, but I don’t want to trust no matter what. That means I have to lay aside my biggest fears in life and say to you, even if this happens, I’m okay with it. But then he reminded me of the blind faith he commanded of Noah, who trusted God when nobody else did. Or Abraham, who trusted God when he was told he’d have a son late into his old age, or when asked to do the unthinkable to prove his faith. A test that Abraham passed with flying colors. Would I pass the test, I thought? If God asked me to trust him in the scariest of moments, with so much to risk, could I? I felt him remind me that he, the God speaking to me in that moment, is the same God who spoke to Abraham. The same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. I felt his persistence with me and I finally said, “Okay, I trust you no matter what.”
And over the weeks to come, he would test me in this and bring more clarity and meaning to this simple little phrase that had been engrained on my heart and mind. He’d give me opportunities to put my trust completely in him, even when the situation was scary and in those moments, I would whisper the words that were on my heart, I trust you no matter what. He helped me grow in my trust for him and feel a peace I hadn’t known before. Every time I trusted, I gave up more control and the weight of fear and worry lifted, bit by bit. I don’t want you to think that I never struggle now. I do. In fact, just as I was beginning to feel strong in this practice of putting my complete trust in him, no matter what, BAM. The world changed. A pandemic brought fear, worry and confusion in a way I’d never known before. And yet, I have never felt more loved by God, realizing that he had gone before me. Realizing that he had been training and preparing a way for my heart and mind all along.
See, he loves his children and is looking out for us. He pursues us. Do you not go ahead of your children, from the time they’re infants, making sure every situation they will go into is safe? Do you not have their best interest in mind? Do you not see them through the hard things? Do you not gently ease their fears throughout the years and then at some point when you know they’re strong enough and once you’ve built up their courage enough, tell them they can and will face it? You send them out into the world. You tell them to speak up for themselves. You tell them to do the right thing, even if. You look them in the eyes and tell them to go after the impossible. There’s always risk involved. There’s always a chance the outcome will result in pain. Except, you know, because you have more wisdom then they do, that the greatest outcomes tend to be born out of that uncomfortable feeling of stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Being stretched beyond what one’s used to. And when the outside world is too messy, you remind them they will always have the comfort of your love and a safe place to rely on. You tell them how the hard things that they’ve experienced will be a part of their story but not the ending. And just as a parent loves and guides their child, think about how a child trusts their parent.
I watched a recorded sermon by Max Lucado not too long ago, where he told a story about when he was a small boy, struggling to fall asleep. He was sure there was a monster in his dark room. He mustered up all of his courage to jump out of bed and run to his parents’ bedroom. As he walked up beside his sleeping father, he whispered, just loud enough for him to wake, “Dad, I can’t sleep. There’s a monster in my room.” So, his dad sat up and agreed to help. What Max remembers was how his dad had so bravely led Max through the dark hallways back to his room, not at all phased as he marched toward the monster in the bedroom. He thought to himself, “who is this brave and courageous man, so unafraid of the monster?” Remember how it felt to blindly trust our parents when we were small? In our eyes, nothing scared them. They were untouchable. They were so brave when we were so scared. What if we blindly trusted God, like we blindly trusted them?
I can’t think of a better message or a better time for my Heavenly Father to teach his child who was trapped in fear and worry, to TRUST HIM NO MATTER WHAT. But I’m not surprised. He goes ahead of us. He knew what was coming and he knew it would be hard. Because he knows me, better than I know myself, he knew I wouldn’t be able to face it well, if I was still imprisoned by fear & worry. So what did he do? He prepared me with the one tool I needed-complete trust in him.
What would change in your life if you were to trust God, NO MATTER WHAT? If you were to remove your own abilities, decisions and will from the situation you might be struggling through right now, and just completely handed it over to God, what would you feel? Could you do it? I challenge you to think about it this week while remembering that when we serve a bold God, he’s going to ask us to trust him in bold ways. And if we’re going to trust God, no matter what, we need to trust him completely, especially when we can’t see a way forward. The sooner we realize that we aren’t in control and God is sovereign over all, the sooner we live a life set free. No longer chained to our fears & worries. We’re told to not be afraid because he is with us and goes before us. While we’re sitting scared in the middle of the story, he’s already written the ending. It’s also important to remember that pain doesn’t end when trust beings. Sure, we will still have trouble but there is so much comfort and hope in holding on to these words from Jesus;
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I now have this vision of myself, stepping out of the dark forest I had wandered around in for years. But when I stepped out from beneath the canopy and into open sky, feeling the warm sunlight beaming down on my face, I found myself on a mountain top, feet placed firmly on solid rock. As the sun warmed me, I felt fully known, fully loved and fully taken care of. I hear God’s voice come down from the clouds and he says, “that was a hard journey, but we made it”. I can finally see that He was with me every single day in the wilderness. I was never alone. I knew the journey down would have it’s struggles too, but with God walking ahead of me and beside me, I had nothing to fear.