Monday, November 16, 2015
I AM SO TROUBLED
I just am.
It's been a tough week.
Do you have weeks like that?
Where *stuff* just bubbles up and you cannot find rest for your body or your mind or your soul?
It's been that kind of week for me.
The details are not necessary, for trouble brews for all of us, rearing its ugly head in a myriad of disguises.
Sometimes it sneaks up on us, and sometimes it jumps out of nowhere.
But, in all cases, it arrives and plants itself right in the middle of our lives.
I frankly wasn't sure what to write about this week, because I've been so distracted with the things that have happened. And frankly, I'm still not quite sure where God is going to lead this post.
But here's where I'm beginning – with two verses that admonish us to NOT be troubled.
JOHN 14:27, ESV:
"Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
So, the first thing I notice is that Jesus tells us two separate things – don't be troubled, NEITHER be afraid.
Is there a difference?
Here's the dictionary definition of both:
troubled – to disturb the mental calm and contentment of; worry; distress; agitate.
afraid – a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being fearful; concern or anxiety; anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur; fear of punishment.
So, as I'm thinking about this, I see two things.
Circumstances cause me to be afraid. And this fear seems to be rooted in anticipation of a negative, or dangerous, or painful future outcome.
And second, this fear causes great agitation, as I worry and fret and find myself churning in a troubled state of anxiety.
Now, the next thing I notice is that Jesus tells us to "let not your hearts…"
To me that implies that I am part of this process.
I cannot be passive when I am troubled or afraid. I cannot sit back and play the victim.
Yes, trouble will come.
But I must not ALLOW my heart to be overtaken or overcome by it.
But honestly, when I'm beset by troubling circumstances, and when I am afraid of future outcomes, it's pretty hard to *snap out of it.*
Here's the secret though – the first part of that verse:
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you."
You see, the secret to overcoming trouble and fear is the peace that Jesus bought for us, and gave to us as His gift.
The world offers peace through financial security, or faultless health, or personal power. It takes into consideration the things of this world and this lifetime.
This sort of peace is fragile at best.
But Jesus' gift of peace speaks to the ultimate peace He bought by His sacrificial death on the cross, reconciling us forever with God.
This peace is eternal, unchanging, immutable.
Therefore, we "let not our hearts" be troubled or afraid because ultimately, the things of this world have been overcome.
Eternal peace with God triumphs over temporary anxieties or troubling situations.
Perspective, my friends.
ISAIAH 41:10, ESV:
"…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God…"
OK, so here the word *dismayed* is used. I wonder, is that different from being troubled?
Here's the dictionary definition:
dismay – sudden or complete loss of courage; utter disheartenment; sudden disillusionment; agitation of mind; perturbation; alarm.
I think I get that.
You know, it's that moment when adrenaline suddenly rushes through our bloodstream, when our knees feel weak, when we get a little lightheaded, when we feel like turning and running away.
Here's a word picture that helps me understand –
I used to go bodysurfing.
I think it's like a rite of passage if you live by the ocean. My dad taught me the fineries of proper technique.
I was pretty good at it.
But every now and then, the ocean asserted its power over me.
*Dismayed* is like that sudden and unexpected wave that comes out of nowhere and wipes you out.
*Troubled* is the ensuing tossing-and-turning agitation as you tumble around in the surf.
Maybe there's a cycle here – circumstances lead to sudden dismay, which leads to ongoing troubled emotions and thoughts, which leads to fear of the future.
OK, I think I've got a handle on what the words mean – back to the verse.
As I ponder further, I ask myself, "Is it meant to be a comfort or a command?"
Is God saying that I don't need to be afraid or dismayed, or is He telling me DO NOT be afraid or dismayed?
I'm thinking it's both!
OK, I'm saying to myself. But I'm also muttering under my breath, "Easier said than done."
"I heard that."
Uh oh, that's right – God hears everything.
"Read the rest of what I said. WHY have I said these things to you?"
As I read more closely, I see that God tells us five very important, very crucial things – five reasons that we do not need, must not be, troubled or dismayed or afraid – five incredible promises:
1. "I am with you."
There are multiple times in the Old Testament when God tells His people, or a certain person, to be strong and courageous, to not be afraid or discouraged.
And the reason He offers is that He will never leave nor forsake those He calls His own.
I was talking about this with "The Hub" recently, and he asked me this:
"Aren't *leave* and *forsake* the same thing?"
"I don't think so," I replied. "But let me ponder on that."
Finally, I came up with this example to illustrate what I think is the difference:
Once a month, I leave home to go *off the mountain* to help with my mom and visit with my family.
In that sense, I *leave* my husband. My physical presence is removed, albeit with the sure promise that I will return. (Leave implies out of sight, not in physical contact)
Now, if I was to *forsake* my husband, I would leave and never return. I would turn my back on my wedding vows, and forsake my marriage. (Forsake implies abandon, desert, strand, renege on a promise, nullify a covenant agreement)
In this sense, we are promised that God will NEVER leave us – remove His physical presence from us – NOR forsake us – abandon or desert us, renege on His promises, nullify His everlasting covenant.
This is tremendous Truth!!
2. "I am your God."
Do you catch the personalization of this statement?!
God is not just asserting the fact that He is God.
He is stating the wonder-full assurance that He is OUR God.
Personal, intimate, close, individual.
He is the Almighty, yes indeed.
But He is also the Almighty God of MY life.
He is the God of individual relationships – the eternal Friend that we long for.
3. "I will strengthen you."
God recognizes that we can't combat trouble alone. We just aren't strong enough in our own power. And, if you think about it, He didn't leave us to fight alone.
Part of the *peace* that Jesus left with us is the Holy Spirit.
And, in our feeble weaknesses, His strength is made perfect.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
(2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)
From Matthew Henry's Commentary: "When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we feel that we are weak in ourselves, then we go to Christ, receive strength from him, and enjoy most the supplies of Divine strength and grace."
4. "I will help you."
What joy there is in THAT statement!
I will help you, because I HEAR YOUR CRIES!
I will help you, because I CAN!
I will help you, because I WANT TO!
I will help you, because it is MY WILL to work all things together for good!
Notice He doesn't say – I might help you, I'll think about helping you, I'll consider helping you, perhaps I will, perhaps I won't – and He doesn't say, "Oh I'm sorry, were you talking?" – nope!
I. WILL. HELP. YOU.
Yes, in His perfect timing, and in His perfect way – but always, always faithful to respond.
From Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible: "…the Lord always hears and answers his people sooner or later, in one form or another, though not always in the way and manner they desire; but yet in such a way as is most for his glory and their good…"
Oh yes, indeed.
5. "I will uphold you."
Literally – I will hold you up.
The definition of uphold: to give support to; to support against an opponent; to keep elevated; to lift up – sustain, maintain, defend, endorse, advocate, encourage, nourish.
Remember the story about Moses in Exodus 17:
"So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed…[But] Moses' hands were heavy. Then…Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set."
In the same way – only better (!), because He never grows tired or weary – God holds us up.
Those everlasting arms, and that strong hand of righteousness, undergird our feeble frames – so that we will neither stumble nor fall, so that we will not be shaken, so that our feet will not be moved, so that we will stand firm.
"…in a way of special grace, to guard and protect his people, support and supply them, comfort and strengthen their hearts; wherefore they need not fear any of their enemies, nor whatsoever they may be called to suffer for his name's sake, even though they pass through fire and water, and the valley of the shadow of death…" (Gill's)
Have you stuck with me so far, friends?!
As I told you at the beginning, I wasn't quite sure where God was going to lead this post.
But now I can see His hand in it, for He led me to His Word.
And truly, is there any better place to go in times of trouble?
For it is there that I once again encounter the Prince of Peace, the Author of My Salvation, the Everlasting Father, and the Almighty God of Heaven's Armies.
The One who is with me.
The One who is my God.
The One who strengthens me.
The One who will help me.
The One who upholds me.
And so, I am just going to end with my personalization of one of my favorite verses:
"In this world, I will have many trials and sorrows. I will have many difficulties and tribulations. I will be afflicted with trouble. But I will take heart! I will be of good cheer, and I will be courageous. For Jesus, my Savior, has overcome the world!"
Therefore, I will live my life, I will face each moment, with Him.
Neither troubled nor dismayed nor afraid.
Standing…in victory…as a conqueror.
"The peace Christ gives is true, solid, and substantial; the peace the world, the men, and things of it give, is a false one; and whilst they cry, 'peace, peace, sudden destruction is at hand': the peace of the world is at best but an external one, but the peace Christ is the giver of, is internal; the peace the world affords is a very transient, unstable, and short lived one, but the peace of Christ is lasting and durable; the peace of the world will not support under the troubles of it, but the peace which Christ gives, cheerfully carries his people through all the difficulties and exercises of this life…"
(Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)
"So the peace Christ leaves is power to hold the wildest fear in pause, to still a clamor or hush a cry – it is the coming of mercy to a sense of sin, of life to the fear of death…'Not as the world giveth, give I to you, both as to manner and matter and power. The matter, substance, and value of the prosperity and peace I give stretches out into eternity; and I give it, I do not merely talk of it or wish it.'" (Matthew Henry's Commentary)
"…the most striking and unique note of the true faith is that…sorrow is blended with an inward rapture which transforms it into peace…" (Pulpit Commentary)
"I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore."
(Psalm 121, ESV)
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling…The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." (Psalm 46:1-3, 11, ESV)
"Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him.' But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me…I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side." (Psalm 3:1-6, NIV)
"The LORD will save him in the day of trouble." (Psalm 41:1, AMP)
"Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the LORD." (Psalm 23:6, AMP)
Are you in the midst of trouble? Are you dismayed or afraid?
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