All around me I see men and women going about their lives without a care in the world. The afterlife does not trouble them neither does their before-life or even their present life. None of it really occupies their minds in such a way as to live better. If there is any goal, then it might be fulfilling a dream, or securing exhilaration moment by moment. Truth be told, there are some who succumb to despair and then suicide. The late Robin Williams comes to mind, which refutes the opening sentence to this paragraph. What this means is that one cannot judge a book by its cover. It is superficial and harmful as it ruptures any sense of connection or community with others.
Five years ago, I struggled mightily with my purpose or direction in life. The path lacked clear definition and solidity. It seemed like the fog refused to go away no matter how bright the sun shone down upon me. I longed for clarity, for a greater sense of knowing where I was going. What I ached for was the very thing that eluded me. It was similar to catching a fish with my bare hands. The prize kept slipping out of my hands. Anger turned into frustration, which morphed into exasperation. Whenever I saw a hamster running on a wheel I understood its predicament. Here is a bible verse that comes to mind:
“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a, ESV, NIV, & NKJV).
This text was both infuriating and soothing. It convicted me in the midst of circumstances that defied my ability to understand or to perceive them with certainty. The plain meaning of this passage put me in my place. Because I am strong-willed, this was not what I wanted to experience. It came off like an insult to my intelligence as if I needed turn a blind eye to reality. Anger surfaced with ease as did my invective toward the Lord. My counselor at the time kicked me in the butt about suppressing my anger. He reminded me that Job vented his anger and aching heart toward God. When I listened to my counselor say this to me, I heard it as a challenge; however, the Lord changed my heart to see it as an invitation to come into his presence with the good, the bad, and most importantly, the ugly.
I sat on Psalm 46:10 for a bit. It kept popping up into my mind and heart everywhere I went. One day I opened up the above verse in the NIV and NASB translations. I noticed that the latter rendered the first half of the verse as “cease striving” rather than be still. This caused me to scratch my head, so I grabbed my Strong’s Concordance in order to find out the Hebrew word or wording for “cease striving” and “be still.” What I discovered brought comfort to my heart and soul. The Hebrew verb translated as cease striving in the NASB or be still in most English translations means to leave off your own attempts. Basically, stop being like a hamster in a wheel, i.e. running around and getting nowhere in the process.
If I truly desired to see real change and growth in my life, I needed to stop living life my way and begin living it God’s way. The only way that I could do this with any degree of success meant opening up myself to the Lord with honesty. Rather than bury my feelings deep down, the path before me required that I express them to the Lord. I began realizing day by day that he wanted to hear me give voice to my heart’s longings, fears, joys, and concerns. It was an invitation into a fuller and more intimate relationship with the Lord. Through my church community, my counselor, my mentor, and my time with God and his word, the Holy Spirit began leading and empowering me along this path to cease my striving and know that he is God.
Each day was its own battle. In fact, each hour or minute or second was its own battle. Years of thinking and doing one way no longer worked anymore; however, that did not stop me from slipping back into what was second nature to me. This entire season had been a test of my faith and trust in God. I needed my Lord’s daily bread for sustenance and energy as I kept taking each step (Proverbs 30:8, NIV). Some days I felt up, or down, or in, or out. I experienced the whole gamut of emotions, yet I noticed an increasing assurance that God was with me. I wanted to put some of this down in writing, so that I would not forget God’s grace and mercy toward me.
Something I had read two weeks ago spurred me into action. During my daily bible reading, I stumbled over the following passage: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book” (Psalm 56:8, ESV)? This verse comforted me as it illustrates that my Lord and Father knows and sees everything that I experience. For whatever the reason, I recalled this season of my life that became the subject of this post. I did not have to collect my thoughts in order to preserve them. According to this verse, God already tucked away this whole entire season of my life into his book. He had beaten me to the punch, and I did not even know it. When I realized this fact, I sat there motionless. I’m still sitting motionless.