There are a lot of things I could write about this morning. I haven’t written for several months, and I probably owe everybody at least a little bit of an explanation beyond the fact that the internet was only available at school and it wasn’t very convenient. I just got back from a mission trip that had the most interesting impact on my life. I am currently enduring the most excruciating cold I have ever heard of. I had no idea that something as simple as a runny nose could cause these kinds of physical reactions. But the thing that is burning in my awareness is the sovereignty and power of a living God.
It’s amazing how easy it is to lose sight of how important he is. I mean, you’d think—creator of the universe, only one capable of getting anything done in this world… There’s a war going on, for crying out loud! You’d think I’d remember to pray. But the truth is I’ve spent more time praying about my parents’ finances than about the war, and even then it was more out of fear than anything. (God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love, a spirit of power, and a sound mind.)
I guess I could make up a list of excuses explaining why my relationship with God wasn’t functioning according to the proper standards that I know, stuff about the environment that I’m in, the situations that I’m facing. But I just got back from a mission trip, and even if everything else hadn’t been as spiritualized as I would have liked, I spent nearly half the nights there staying up late with a group, singing worship songs Something should have clicked. But it didn’t. I came back from the trip and jumped directly into my old secular, worrying habits.
Worry is a form of pride. It says, “If I just gnaw on this thing long enough, I’ll be able to figure out a solution on my own.” It’s what we do instead of praying, instead of reminding God of his promises to intervene for us. Worry usually falls under the general heading of “Sin.”
What brought this situation to a head though, was not my own situation. I’m usually prideful enough to think I can muddle my way through my own problems. It was trying to help my friend that finally got to me.
Every month or two, Valerie gets completely stressed out. It has to do with the way she approaches her schoolwork. School for me is a kind of game, only vaguely connected to the goals of my life. There’s no direct correlation between an English Degree and owning a Christian book store and having a large happy family. If the work begins to bog me down, I remind myself that it’s mostly irrelevant and go do something else for a while. However, there is a great deal of correlation between a Biology degree with a pre-med concentration and becoming a family practitioner. And Valerie has been preparing to be the best doctor ever born since she was five.
Every year, she strains as hard as she can to get the best grades possible, so she can get into the best medical schools possible, so she can become the best doctor possible. Fifteen years down; only six more to go. It’s a very focused lifestyle. When she gets frustrated, she doesn’t have the vent of reminding herself that it really isn’t that important. It is important. Medical schools do care if you had straight A’s from kindergarten.
She’s been particularly frustrated lately by taking a required course best described as “global citizenship,” which requires you to pretend you are representing various governments for the UN. In a predominantly liberal liberal-arts college, it becomes apparent rather quickly that the most acceptable way of getting an A is to be a good liberal. It’s almost more than a registered Republican can stand. Especially during a war as controversial as this one.
So last night Valerie hit a wall. How does one write a 7-10 page paper on the future effect of Austria on the world? Normally what happens next is that I make everything better. We cry. We hold. We talk about the unfairness of it all We talk about how its almost over. And then we go back to work. After a while though, it becomes apparent that my ministrations aren’t taking effect. Doesn’t “almost over” really mean only six more years of this? If you cannot keep up with the footmen, what will you do when the cavalry comes? I can comfort; I can encourage, but I can’t get to the root of the problem: this woman’s tired. Tired in her bones. I am not gifted with the power to massage away weariness from the soul.
It must have been two hours before it occurred to me that there is only One with that ability. And as Valerie was driving me home it finally occurred to me to pray. The first thing that occurred to me after that was that I didn’t have the right to pray, because I hadn’t spent the proper time previously developing a good relationship with God. I hadn’t been getting up every morning for a powerful prayer time, so now when the crisis comes, I don’t have the right to pray. Fortunately, I have enough education to know where that line comes from, and how to stand against it. He’s right. I haven’t prayed. I haven’t been living the victorious Christian life, and I’ve probably been merrily sinning the whole way. Nevertheless, it isn’t by our righteousness, but by His grace that we can come before him. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us. So I started my prayer, silently, by confessing that I’d missed it, and asking for forgiveness. Then aloud, I began to pray for Valerie.
I won’t give you all the details of a private personal prayer, but I will say that the Lord reminded us that there is an enemy of souls and that discouragement comes more from him than any particular discouraging circumstances. Valerie has been encouraged to view the weariness more as a personal attack than as a failing in herself and I went to bed with the conviction that I finally did the right thing.
I woke up this morning with a stuffed up nose, a tickle in the back of my throat, and a general shakiness of limb and leg. When I got up, it was a full two minutes before the pressure drained from my sinuses to the point where I could actually see. But I had a song running in my head:
God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are Holy, Holy!
The universe declares your majesty
You are Holy, Holy!
Lord of heaven and earth…
I haven’t heard from Valerie to know if she feels any better than last night, but I am so aware of the power of a gracious God that I can’t help but be confident that things are heading up. I’m almost excited this morning: He is so good, and he is everywhere.