Don’t Be Scared: He Holds Your Hand

Uncle Kev, God holds his hand
Uncle Kevin, 8/26/60-2/19/12

Note: A version of this post appeared in February 2012, the month Uncle Kevin went home. That post—I Hold Your Hand—was the first post written for JoyfullyPressingOn.

Firm Hold

No, Mom —no! It’s very scary. I don’t want to go. Pleeeeease—nooooo!

Waterpark guests stared. Lifeguards raised their brows. I tightened my grip on the four year-old’s hand.

Gabe’s four-year old cousin and his six year-old brother couldn’t get up the stairs fast enough. So yes, by golly, Gabe would try it once.

Onward, then—his screaming and squirming matched by my firm hold.

Very Scary

You’ll love it Bud. It’s not very scary. It’s very fun.

But the boy didn’t buy it.

No, Mom. I’m too scared. The green slide is too dark and too steep and it goes outside. Pleeeease. No!”

For a split second, wavered. But then I envisaged Gabe’s goggled grinning face bursting from the chute and toward the stairway I strode, struggling boy in tow.

By the first landing, his body had stopped protesting, a couple landings ahead of his mouth. So I lowered him, but to prevent retreat, I did not relax my hold. Hand in hand, we climbed, whine-singing, “Why Mom? It’s too scary. (x2) Please don’t make me go down.”

You can sing it to the tune of “Skip to my Lou.”

Please No

One hundred-twelve steps up we hit the summit, a relentless, omniscient mom and her reluctant, scared-to-death son.

At the sight of the gaping green mouth, Gabe made one loud, last stand.

No, Mom. Please, no.

It passed and I plopped us square on the blue tube, and wrapped him tight.

You’ll be back ten more times, assured the sage teen who pushed us off.

Let’s Go

There we were. Together on our tube, sliding along through the seafoam tunnel, awash in mid-morning sun. No longer did Gabe project fear. He broadcasted joy.

And as the tube splashed into the pool, he burst with those words I hoped to hear,

That was so fun! Let’s go again.

In the course of the next hour, with help from Grandpa (2 runs), Grandma (2 runs), Aunt Charissa (1 run), Aunt Danielle (1 run) and mom (the remaining 4 runs), Gabe enjoyed not one, not two, but ten runs down the feared and dreaded, once very scary green waterslide.

Not Strong Enough

What’s your very scary?

Is it fear of that your pain or the heartache will never away? That the grief and loneliness will always stay? That your prodigal won’t come home, that you love is in vain, or even that your faith will fail?

Rest assured: Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you. (J.I. Packer, Knowing God). He will hold you fast.

From the first run down the green chute to the last breath on this green earth, the Lord takes his children by the hand and walks us through every very scary.

His Unseen Hand

This post was written in memory of my generous, joking, winking, eye-twinkling, and fearless Uncle Kevin. On Sunday, February 19th, 2012, God took hold of Uncle Kev’s hand and walked him home.

In the nearly ten years since, the truth of God’s unseen hand gripping mine means immeasurably more now than it did then. Then, I felt it as a parent clinging to a scared child and as an observer of a dear soul fading into glory.

Now, I feel it more as a fragile parent-child whose hand is gripped by the Everlasting Father. I feel it more as a servant looking to the hand of her master, waiting for mercy (Psalm 123:2). Now I know what that I only cling to him because his hand upholds me.

Speaking of holding, had he been here Uncle Kev would have held his first grandchild, little dark-haired, rosy-cheeked Ellie last month. I know there are no tears in heaven. I hope there is a beaming Grandpa Kevin amazed by the wonder of Ellie.

For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; it is I who say to you. ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’

I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD, your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 

Isaiah 41:13-14

Trust Issues?

Child holding adult hand, trust

 

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. 

Psalm 62:8

Do you have trust issues?

I do. But my trust issues aren’t so much with trusting others so much as with others trusting me

Trust Me

I don’t mean trusting me to decorate a cake or back a semi-trailer into a loading dock or entertain a two-year old. I don’t even trust me to do those things well.

No, my trust issues come when people don’t trust me to do what I said I’d do. I mean, trust me to keep my word and come through without micromanaging or second guessing me. That kind of carte blanche trust means the world.

Trust, I know, is built on trustworthiness, tested-ness, character. We trust others because we know something about their character. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. 

And I am thrilled to the depths of my firstborn, take-charge, competence seeking soul when people trust me with a task. I still glow to think about the affirmation a leader gave me when I proposed a project a few years ago. “Abigail’s got this,” he said to the team. “Best thing we can do is let her run with it.”

But it’s also why it’s such a blow when I get demoted. When people don’t trust us to do a job that’s in our wheelhouse or to keep our word, that can cut us to the core.

I mean, mistrust hurts.

Don’t Grieve God’s Heart

This got me thinking about trusting God (more than the GPS Girl) and how our lack of trust- our little faith- must displease him. Could it be that our fear and anxiety and grieve God for at least some of the same reasons that others’ mistrust grieves us?

At the heart of this hurt, I think, is the fact that others’ lack of trust in me betrays the truth that people don’t really know me as well as I thought they did. Mistrust can betray a lack of intimate knowledge. 

I know it borders on audacious to compare my sin-twinged reactions to distrust with our Holy God’s. But I dare.

Because if it hurts my puny fail-and-drop-the-ball-self how much more it must grieve the faithful God’s heart when His people don’t trust Him. Like the disciples in the boat, with the waves splashing in on them (Matthew 8:23-27). Can you hear Jesus saying, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” 

In “The Theology of Rest” Oswald Chambers imagines how that felt. 

“O ye of little faith!” What a pang must have shot through the disciples — “Missed it again!” And what a pang will go through us when we suddenly realize that we might have produced down right joy in the heart of Jesus by remaining absolutely confident in Him, no matter what was ahead. 

At rock bottom, our anxiety and distrust reveal that we don’t trust God. Which means we really don’t know him as well as he wants us to know him. 

Trust Him Wholly

So trust God. I know- easier said than done. So I’ll let you in on a little secret. It will be way easier to trust God more if you know him better. So get to know God. Seek him where he is to be found. Read his self-revelation. There are 66 books of the Bible all about him. He wrote them because he wants you to know him. 

And He wants you to trust him. Because He is faithful to all his promises. God always keeps his word. Because, as the old hymn reminds us, those who trust him wholly, find him wholly true.

God is the only one worthy of our complete trust. Even the best of friends will sometimes disappoint us. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 145:13. The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. Faithful and loving. Could there be a better pair of traits to gain our trust?

Like James Forsyth said

If he gave you breakfast this morning, and he’s given you life everlasting, can you not trust him with what comes in between? If he has demonstrated his love and his concern by even dying on a cross to give you life everlasting can you not trust him with your concerns?

Still it’s hard. Trusting an unseen God with our hopes and our hurts and our very lives is hard. I feel the tension to trust him or to go my own way every day.

But I can assure you of this. Often sooner and for sure later, it’s way more sweet to trust in Jesus. And it makes God glad.

The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who trust in his unfailing love. 

Psalm 147:11

For our heart is glad in him, for we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.

Psalm 33:21-22

 

My, It’s Cold! (& The Elephant in the Room)

My, it’s cold.

Wind chills hit -51 this morning. The high temperature, without windchill was -14 yesterday (1/30/19). It’s been fun telling how Midwestern temps were lower than those in Antarctica, Sibera and Alaska these past two days.

The last time a polar vortex whirled its way this far south was five years ago. I wrote about it then, but back then it the high was only twelve below. The wind chills in 2014 barely cracked the -35 National Weather Service advisory line. We kicked that ball way off the frozen tundra this week.

My, it’s cold.

When the Cold Came this Way

The mercury began dropping Tuesday evening en route to the dangerously low temperatures we’ve had the past two days. And right in the middle of its pretty little plummet, I had to stop and capture some gorgeous polar vortex images, because- well, you know- I stalk the sun.

But in the span it took to take 10 seconds of video and a few quick glistening sunset pics, my fingers nearly got frostbit and my van did get drifted in.

My it’s cold.

In that split second, the knockout sunset took a backseat to the seriously frigid wind and drifting snow. Because here I was, alone at dusk on the eve of the coldest day in two decades, stuck on the side of County Road A.

So I prayed. Then I gunned it forward and back and still couldn’t go. And I prayed and thought again,

My, it’s cold.

Don’t Play Around With This Cold

Schools, businesses and governments announced closures. Not even the mail went through. The US Postal Service put a pause on mail delivery yesterday and today because of extreme weather. When I took the garbage out this morning it was -24, with a -51 windchill. But garbage pick-up was suspended too. At last count, 1,009 was the number of closures listed on the upper right of my screen.

At the very least, this kind of cold crimps our style. I don’t just mean hat heads and puffy coats. I mean, all this sunshine and snow and days off in the middle of the week and there’s not a single kid on a sled to be seen. This kind of cold does way more than sting the toes and bit the nose.

We don’t play around with this kind of cold.  

To miss the message of this kind of cold is to miss the elephant in the room.

By the Breath of God

If I know anything about God, I think I know this: God’s got the weather. Just take a minute to read Job 37 if you have any doubt about that.

5 God thunders wondrously with his voice;
    he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
    likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
He seals up the hand of every man,
    that all men whom he made may know it.
Then the beasts go into their lairs,
    and remain in their dens.
From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
    and cold from the scattering winds.
10 By the breath of God ice is given,
    and the broad waters are frozen fast.

11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
    the clouds scatter his lightning.
12 They turn around and around by his guidance,
    to accomplish all that he commands them
    on the face of the habitable world.
13 Whether for correction or for his land
    or for love, he causes it to happen.

God’s got his reasons, and we might never know them, but He is behind this and every other winter snow and frigid, arctic blast.

Stop and Consider

And He wants us to know that. Because the next verse, verse 14, the punchline, if you will for Job then and for us now:

 Hear this, O Job;
    stop and consider the wondrous works of God.

Stop and consider the wondrous works of God. God’s behind this and God’s got this. And if God’s got this, what makes you think he can’t handle the less extreme stuff in your life? But if we never take time to stop and consider we might not trust Him much, and he wants our fear and our trust.

God wants our attention.

Don’t Toy With Me

John Piper writes,

It is one more way God says, “Whether hot or cold, high or deep, sharp or blunt, loud or quiet, bright or dark . . . don’t toy with me. I am God. I made all these things. They speak of me, just like the warm summer breezes do, and the gentle rains, and the soft moonlit nights, and the lapping of the lakeside, and lilies of the field and the birds of the air.”

John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-kind-of-cold-that-kills

God made these cold polar winds. They speak of Him.

That is the elephant lurking in a lot of comfy, cozy, fire-in-the-hearth homes these past two days. Maybe we’re afraid to mention it because it’s out of our control and a little scary. I got a taste of that on County Road A before God sent a strong, kind man in a big Balestrieri Builders truck. I already know control and comfort are overrated.

But I needed to hear again God’s word for us in this extreme, unsettling cold. May God give us all eyes to see, ears to hear and wisdom to stop and consider the wondrous works of the Lord.

Because, you’ve felt it too.

It’s been cold.

He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
and scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold? 

Psalm 147:15-17

Cold Temps on Phone

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Foiled again? Expectations unmet? Don’t fret.

Fret not when your plans fall apart

When the closest ones break your heart

Don’t fret, God knows.

Fret not when you’re misunderstood

When folks don’t come through like they should.

Don’t fret, God knows.

Fret not when you’re mistreated, used

Left, alone, frustrated, confused

Don’t fret, God knows.

The Judge of the Earth will do right

The Lover of your Soul- He knows

Don’t fret, Jesus sees all of those.

Come to me, cast on me,

Wait for me, rest in me

Fret not: I see. I know. I care. 

Do you fret?

I fret. Not a lot, but sometimes I calculate without God. I focus on my plans pinched apart, my deadlines overdue, my expectations unmet.  I fret.

The circumstances-my foiled-again, stymied ways- don’t matter. What matters is what my God says. And over and over again this week I heard the Living Word say. Don’t fret. Your ways are not my ways.  This JoyPrO post is me preaching to myself after a fretful week. But maybe you fret too. 

It Tends Only To Evil

Fretting- call it overthinking or worrying, brooding or stewing, or tag it as angsty or just plain stressed, regardless- tends only to evil. Only to evil. Only to evil. To evil. Only.

David wrote that in Psalm 37, my go-to chapter when I catch myself in a fret. Rather than being an indication of how wise or caring I am, fretting is more likely an indication of how wicked I am- how far my favored ways are from God’s perfect ways.

Does the word wicked make you wince? Substitute a suitable synonym, say sinful or wrong. It is wrong for the child of God to fret. Because fretting springs from a determination to get our own waySince our way doesn’t always overlap 100% with God’s way and God’s way is always a perfect way, we’d best not insist on our way or fret when things don’t go our way.

Even and including when we think our way was such a good, God-glorifying way. Or when it seems like evildoers are succeeding in their wicked ways.

Even then. Don’t fret.

Calculate With God

Because cheaters finishing first and bad guys succeeding in their ways is exactly the context of the Psalm 37 injunction: Do not fret. Because God’s got your back. And your front. And your coming and going. So, Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land. This is what it means to calculate with God.

But it’s one thing so say, “Fret not,” but a very different thing to actually be able to not fret.

Oswald Chambers explains,

It sounds so easy to talk about resting in the Lord and waiting patiently for Him, until the nest is upset — until we live, as so many are doing, in tumult and anguish, is it possible then to rest in the Lord? If this “don’t” does not work there, it will work nowhere. This “don’t” must work in days of perplexity as well as in days of peace, or it never will work. And if it will not work in your particular case, it will not work in anyone else’s case. Resting in the Lord does not depend on external circumstances at all, but on your relationship to God Himself.

Fussing always ends in sin. We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are an indication of how really wise we are; it is much more an indication of how really wicked we are. Fretting springs from a determination to get our own way. Our Lord never worried and He was never anxious, because He was not “out” to realise His own ideas; He was “out” to realise God’s ideas. Fretting is wicked if you are a child of God.

Have you been bolstering up that stupid soul of yours with the idea that your circumstances are too much for God? Put all “supposing” on one side and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.

Hitch your hopes to a winning horse. Aim to realize God’s goals. His plans will come to pass. Delight yourself in what delights Him and he will give you your heart’s desire. Calculate with God.

Haul Yourself Up 101 Times A Day

How do you calculate with God?  How do you fret not and let not your heart be troubled? 

Always, we must replace-Trust in God for troubled hearts. Let not your heart be troubled, the Prince of Peace said.  Then: Trust in God, trust also in me. Preach that to yourself. I go often to those words in John 14 and to some in Psalm 37 and 42 and 43.

Why so downcast, O my soul, and why so disturbed within me? Like Chambers said, Deliberately tell God that you will not fret about that thing. So the Psalmist finishes, replaces strong, Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Name your fretting. Then hope in God.

These three C’s have been my fret-busters this week. Daily, hourly, and often I call them to mind and haul myself up when I’m being sifted.

  1. Calculate with God: All of His perfect plans will come to pass (Job 42:2).
  2. Commit your way to God: He will act in perfect time (Psalm 37:5).
  3. Cast your cares on God: He really cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Then repeat 1-3, as needed. Oswald Chambers again, Haul yourself up a hundred and one times a day in order to do it, until you get into the habit of putting God first and calculating with Him in view. Don’t fret, For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. Preach that to yourself when you start to fret and haul yourself up again.

And when you stumble and your way is stymied still don’t fret. The Lord upholds you with his hand. 

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; 
Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

Psalm 37:5, 8, 23-24