‘Tis the season to be panicked….”
OK, not really, but that’s how it feels for many people. Meeting all the expectations for a meaningful holiday season, navigating the toxic people in your family, or marking the passing of another year without the changes you had hoped to see in your life, can draw our minds into some pretty dark space.
I get that email often. “I am overwhelmed by all life is hurling at me. My prayers don’t work and I’m wondering if God even cares about me. I don’t know how to fix it. Help!” You can hear it even through their email—the breathlessness of their exhaustion and the fear that they will not make it much longer. Spiritual panic is being overwhelmed by challenging circumstances and not being certain that God is there to help you.
Finding peace during turmoil is not about praying the right prayers or trying to figure it all out in your head. The harder you try, the more panicked you’ll become. At times like that, I find it helpful to remind myself to do what Jesus asked of Nicodemus in John 3. He told him he needed to be born again, and he wasn’t talking about walking down the Roman Road and punching his get-out-of-hell-free card. He meant Nicodemus needed to discard all the religious conclusions he’d made about God and himself and let the Spirit take the opportunity to carry him into a new way of living.
We can’t do this on our own. We’re like that little child in the picture above. When his hand slides under ours all we need to do is take hold. That’s what we offer—a willing heart for the Spirit’s work to unfold in us. The simple prayer is, “Will you lead me into the Father’s life?” And that’s not a once-in-a-lifetime prayer to secure our salvation but a daily prayer that helps us be open to his work instead of trying to fix things on our own.
Then, let him teach you how to rest in his care for you. He will accomplish this in his time and his way. You can’t fix what’s wrong with your life; you can only relax into the reality that he can. I know that’s hard to do in human terms, but he will help you learn to settle into his love. You don’t have to “have faith” in the specific outcomes you want. All you have to do is remember that you are not alone, the God of the universe deeply loves you, and that he wants to hold you in his love and guide you through the situations that confront you. He is your way through the challenges you face.
So, when life seems to get away from you, slow down. Take a deep breath. Stop looking way down the road with your worries and fears. Ask yourself if you have enough for today. Jesus told us that grace is given in daily doses, which is why worrying about our imagined futures is so debilitating. Today, he is with us. When we put ourselves into the future we’re afraid of, we are alone there. The human mind can’t imagine what form grace might take in our worst fears.
When you feel lost and shattered, remember you are not lost to him. He knows where you are and is already inviting you into a freer space. Stay inside this day and follow whatever nudge he seems to place on your heart. You don’t have to figure it all out. You don’t have to contrive a strategy. Just follow as you see the way and, where you don’t, simply occupy a space of love and goodness toward others until his direction appears.
In his incredibly insightful booklet, David Morsey in On Being Led by the Spirit, wrote this:
Trust the Lord to work out His purposes with our life, in spite of your fluctuating feelings and human inadequacy, to make the right decisions. Put your whole life in his hands and ask Him to work out His will in spite of you. That is your ultimate safeguard.
I know how scary that prospect can be because everyone else encourages us to put our trust in them and their resources. Most of them will invite us to trust in some principle or program. Even if it’s a spiritual program, that doesn’t mean it will connect you with his Spirit.
God wants you to be secure in his love and at rest in his work. Learn the joy of that, and no circumstance or set of circumstances will ever threaten you again. And, if you need help, you might ask God if there’s someone around you who can encourage you in these things, even if you haven’t met them yet. Look for someone who is at peace themselves and not building anything they want to hook you into.
Please don’t focus on the uncertainty of what you don’t know; focus instead on the certainty of who he is. Let him bring the light to you as you’re learning to follow. The reason that can seem so difficult is that it’s far simpler than we dare to believe. Learning his ways is not a road map to memorize but an inner reality to follow. It is far better explored than explained, so we can take it one day at a time. He has all the resources you need to find the simplicity of living as his beloved child.
Because that’s exactly who you are.
One final note… Kyle and Wayne process their time last weekend with a group of twenty- and thirty-year-olds in the mountains of Colorado on today’s edition of The God Journey. In the process, they talk about what they all learned about holding space inside the Father’s work, a wonderful lesson for all of us.