When He Answers…

Life is—challenging.

Is that even a fair word? It wears a euphemistic suit and tie. I’m subbing a gentler word for the gritty truth. I know it.

T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34b NIV

Isn’t that the truth? And when I get caught up in the stuff of life contained in a day, I can get overwhelmed.

Teaching resources don’t create themselves, do they? Sure, I can restate the directions again. And again. And again. The catalog I needed 15 minutes ago is here—somewhere—in a pile of books or papers, but which one? The dishwasher we bought one year and seven months ago—doesn’t really need repair now, does it? The car we hoped to buy—was sold how many minutes ago? I said the wrong thing—again? I’ve got a splitting headache.

Some days are jam-packed with trouble, aren’t they? Sometimes it’s minor, and sometimes it’s the devastating kind. And, choices will be made. The list of knee-jerk reactions is emotional. I can quickly default to frustration, discontent, envy, anger, or something on the negative side of the spectrum. (I’m actually hesitant to list anger as a negative simply because there is necessary and right expression of anger. Not only should we expect anger to surface when evil is on the loose, but the strength of that emotion may be “just the right size” for the situation.) All kinds of disappointment will happen in life. We will be moved by it.

There’s another path stretching out from the exact same points in time. In my experience, a pause, a breath, is required before I respond. (Notice I wrote respond, rather than react.) When I take a moment to breathe, I’m able to take my eyes off of the “thing” and look to the ultimate reality: I’m in pretty deep, but there is One who will help.

In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. Psalm 86:7 HSC

David wrote this psalm, and I think this line is my favorite. I want this perspective! It’s bursting with three things: heaviness, action, and expectation.

The Weight of the World

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Lewis points out the obvious: trouble is. Charmed lives are tainted with it. Average lives are riddled with it. Jesus said we would have it (John 16:33b). When we live a day without it, we might forget to be thankful. Live a few hours or days with it, and we beg for mercy!

Trouble can be defined in too many ways. I know this: my trouble and yours may look nothing alike. It’s tailored to our exact shoe size, as far as I can tell. We share common themes, but my unmet expectations or pain threshold is unique to me. Yours is directly related to who you are and how you’re wired.  A broken dishwasher and a friend’s chronic pain are disproportionate, if I’m honest, and it would be wrong to equate them. Both are legitimate troubles. Neither is trivial to God, and we shouldn’t dismiss either one. The reality is: my inconvenience is hard, and my friend’s pain is also hard (to a much greater degree). The situations call for different kinds of responses, and I humbly and wholeheartedly acknowledge those differences!

Life will be hard at certain points, and it will be weightier than we can bear in some way.

“For Every Action…”

In Psalm 86, David acts. He responds to the trouble in a specific way: he decides he will “call out” to God. In my mind, that’s a quick, solid, determined choice to size up the problem and ask for help. I notice that he experiences something troubling, and he has a clear response in mind.

Our enemy has another agenda in mind.

The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel. ~ C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

It’s dangerous to respond in an emotional, reflexive way to a situation. There is precious little chance for clear thinking. I think the enemy of our souls counts on that stimulus-response connection to be short and undisciplined. Lewis points out an obvious character flaw: the “feeling without acting” cycle will continue, and it will yield weak, lethargic action or no action at all. The strong defense against this result has to be a good offense.

I know the pitfall is waiting; I can choose a better path. The best way to handle my responses to the difficulties in life is to know they are difficult in the first place. So, I’ve begun to plan several good responsive options for when the pressure intensifies. My first, most critical, action is to call out to the One who can make a difference in whatever challenge I face. (Notice I didn’t say squelch the emotions? I know better. A friend told me that attempting to squelch emotion only magnifies it. While that was news to me, it was completely consistent with my experience.) I have the intention of pausing the emotions, but if that’s not possible, they’ll fuel the conversation with God.

The important thing is to get my eyes off of the trouble and onto my God! Every other response after that can be worked out in some kind of plan or in humble spontaneity. The main thing is to come to the One who can really make a difference in the events or how I perceive them.

I Know One Thing for Sure…

…for you will answer me.

This is the hinge on which the action hangs. The word “for” right there begs me to insert a little question: what for? Why does David cry out to God? He cries out to God because he knows he will receive an answer. It’s a given.

The truth is, no one knows exactly what the answer will be. God knows far more than we can even try to comprehend. He factors the minute details of the want or need, the answer, and the direct results of each. He is supremely wise and knows what we want and what we genuinely need. And he can navigate both with perfection. “Yes” feels like a wonderful response to us. “No” may be a bit hard to take. “Not yet” leaves a shadow of expectant hope.  All of his answers are perfectly wise and flow with the deepest love for each of us. He promises he will answer, and he does.

Always.

I have had prayers answered —most strangely so sometimes—but I think our Heavenly Father’s loving-kindness has been even more evident in what He has refused me. ― Lewis Carroll

These are just some of the thoughts rolling around my head after spending a couple of days trying to solve some problems for our family. Rather than flopping down at the end of the day in exhaustion, I’m learning to be content and wait for a prompting from God. I will ask, but I want my Abba’s presence more than some pile of presents, if you know what I mean.

Thanks for reading along…

~Jennifer


Questions to Think About

How have you found trouble to be both a reality and a profound tool in your life?

How have you responded to the trouble? Have you seen growth in that area over time? Think of a victory in this area and celebrate it.

What kind of sensitive, encouraging advice would you give to a friend facing trouble?

Do you keep a close friend or two so you can share the difficult days or seasons? What does it feel like when someone enters into your difficulties with you? What does it feel like when you are willing to go into someone else’s tough stuff?