Recently I had a disastrous week. First, I innocently deposited a bogus check in my account. The check bounced, and then all the checks I had written afterwards bounced all over town. At work, my recording equipment refused to operate. I pinched a cut several fingers trying to repair the stubborn machines. Everyone at home seemed plagued by an uncommon number of tensions, miscommunications, and spilled food at the dinner table.
My wife was having the same kind of week. As we talked, she showed me a passage in Scripture from Isaiah 26. It shed light on our approach to the whole situation. It goes, "You (Lord) keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock" (Isa. 26:3ff). The word "stayed" in the passage is important. To stay something means to attach it to something solid--something trustworthy. You stay a smokestack or the mast of a ship to keep it steady even in storms and high winds. The passage from Isaiah meant that we will have perfect peace when our mind is secured or firmly fixed, when it is "stayed" on the Lord, who is described in the passage as a rock.
We are reluctant to stay ourselves on someone, even the Lord, if we are not sure he is trustworthy. In other words, we need faith. If we come to know somebody and trust him, we say that we put faith in him. We might say, "I have perfect faith in my colleague because I know him and I've seen what kind of work he does. I know I can trust him" Faith in the Lord works the same way. The Spirit has been given to us to teach us about God. In Corinthians, Paul says, "Who has searched the depths of God?" Who knows God the best? The Spirit of God. The Spirit allows faith to grow in us because he brings us personal knowledge of God; he tells us who God is. As we grow in knowing God we can say, "I have faith in the Lord because I know that kind of person he is; he's trustworthy; he's solid."
So it would seem obvious that when we begin to experience difficulties, we can put our whole trust in the Lord for each situation and expect him to see us through it. That, of course, is just what we should do. Why, then, do we usually have so much trouble doing it? As I reflected on my tough week, I identified several attitudes--toward God and toward ourselves--which prevent us from seeing God as the rock he is.
Attitude 1: Why Is He Letting This Happen?
As everything seemed to be collapsing that week, I began to resent the Lord for allowing my suffering. I felt he was unjust because he had the power to end all my troubles. I felt like saying, "Now God, you've got all the power in heaven and earth and you could have made this stuff work out right and you didn't. Who do you think you are?" I was giving him the cold shoulder.
Of course, this attitude completely misrepresents man's condition. We as creatures have no right to say to God, "You be my servant." We must relate to him as our Lord. We are completely dependent on him. It is not right to say to him, "Who do you think you are?" When I discovered what was going on in me, I had to ask the Lord's forgiveness and set this attitude aside. Then I was more able to go to him and freely ask for the help I needed.
Attitude 2: I Can't Bother Him With This
Sometimes we hesitate to go to the Lord because we don't want to take up his time with our seemingly small problems. A short while ago I was praying about the difficulties I have in trying to serve others and to obey the Lord. I had a sense that the Lord was right next to me with his arm around me; he was loving me and supporting me. As I said, "It's hard for me to serve people because something inside me doesn't want to." I sensed the Lord saying, "I understand that." I said, "Fears inside make it hard for me to go out to people sometimes." The Lord replied, "I understand that." I was happy that the Lord was there and understood so well what I was going through. My courage and resolution began to return.
But then I thought to myself, "You're thinking about yourself too much." It was as if I reached up, took the Lord's hand off my shoulder, and said, "Lord, you've got bigger troubles to take care of than my little self-centered problems. Go on and understand someone who really needs it."
Now it is true that there is no room for self-centeredness in a Christian's life, but we should never refuse support and understanding from the Lord at any time, even for our small problems. The Lord wants us to be relaxed in his love and receive it at all times. We shouldn't say, "Lord, these small problems of mine don't compare with poverty and famine and disease, so you can take your arm off my shoulder." Instead we should say, "Lord, I need your arm on my shoulder, that's how weak I am; I need your arm on my shoulder to love the brothers and sisters I live with and work with. I can't do anything without you."
Attitude 3: This Problem Is Hopeless
Sometimes we feel that this situation is more than the Lord can handle. In this particular situation, we say, anxiety or irritation or fury is absolutely justified and seems to be the only way to handle it. A such times, we think that the Lord's ways of handling problems--ways like rejoicing amid difficulty and working things out in love--are inadequate to this particular case. But the word of Scripture is clear, "Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." We must remember that the Lord is a rock for every situation. We don't have to be anxious. He is always adequate.
Attitude 4: I'm Wretched
The same confusion can happen when we discover our own sin, too. We can stay our minds around our own failings. Pretty soon we're feeling condemned and discouraged; we're saying things like, "I can't change this; I've tried and I can't." We dwell in past history, on all the times we've tried to change and didn't feel able to. Sometimes we say, "I've prayed for things before and they've never happened." The answer to all these feelings of failure is found in Isaiah 26: stay your minds on the Lord. We know the Lord wants us to expect him to answer prayer. He has answered our prayers often. He will continue to do so. However, our faith does not depend on answered prayer. Our faith depends on God, who is a person. At all times, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to tell us when our mind is getting tied around other things besides the Lord. We need to be ready to fling our rope around the Rock.
When our mind is tied around the Lord, we can still be at peace no matter what happens. Jesus said, "peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27). Peace from the world comes when things are going all right, and nobody's disturbing our life. That's not the kind of peace the Lord gives; he gives an amazing kind of peace. We can have perfect peace in all situations because we know the Lord is with us and we know that he calls each of us to be with him forever. Since we know this, we can handle day-to- day anxieties and difficulties from a new perspective. We are God's children now. We are giving our lives to a loving Father in service and praise day-by-day until we go home to him. We can even walk through tragedies in the peace of the Lord because we have a high priest who understands. We have a Father who cares for us. We have someone who has been through that kind of tragedy or difficulty and knows what it is like. He has given us the power to completely overcome it.
So, the next time you face a day or a week when hassle after hassle
threatens to get you down, remember this word from Scripture and take heart;
"You (Lord) keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because
he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is
an everlasting Rock."