For most of my life (and still some today), “security” has been synonymous with “according to plan.” For me, there is a perceived safety in a predictable, well-organized and calm life. And, because I also enjoy learning and researching, I get satisfaction from gathering information and insight to plan for my security as much as possible. My life at its best would follow this pattern: 1) research the plan, 2) make the plan, 3) execute the plan, and 4) celebrate the success of the plan. Simple, clear and seemingly doable. If only!
With that in mind, you can imagine my feelings when I didn’t see my parents’ divorce coming during my childhood. Or during my teen years, when my first serious boyfriend turned out to be volatile and un-evenly tempered, not to mention unfaithful. Or in adulthood, when I went through my own divorce; struggled with infertility and miscarriage; relocated to Dallas, far from any friend I knew or loved; and grieved the loss of my father multiple times and in multiple ways.
So much for “according to plan”. So much for predictability. So much for my security in the unknown and unplanned.
It’s exactly why it’s necessary to temper feelings and emotions with Truth. Feelings are real but not reliable. While there may have been times or seasons where it felt like my future wasn’t secure, it always has been and always will be. Situations and circumstances change, but we can count on our Savior to remain consistent. And in Him, we can be assured.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV)
So, even today while I attempt to readjust and find a “new normal” in the midst of a worldwide pandemic while parenting two teens who are stir-crazy, bored and feeling trapped (just as we all are), I have to trust that God is both present and working on our behalf.
I was in the grocery store the other day with one of my teens. Perhaps I should just start there, because it’s not our norm that he would want to go shopping with mom. “Stir crazy” has some benefits, though, that can make a simple trip for milk, bread and eggs and look more appealing. So, for almost an hour, we talked and bonded over discussions of face masks, nutrition and lifestyle choices, as well as submitting to authority. It was valuable time with learning and mutual understanding in both directions. What a gift that we might not have otherwise had time for if we could have been (our “normal”) busy.
After we loaded up the groceries and started the drive home, an old Francesca Battistelli song came on the radio. “This is the Stuff” was a melodic reminder that the things in life that frustrate and drive us crazy are often things that God can use to draw us closer and refine us to become more like Him. They are opportunities we can benefit from, if we have the right perspective.
James 1:2-4 encourages us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Of course, nobody in their right mind is going to invite conflict, stress or hardship into their lives, and these things certainly aren’t cause for a celebration, but James isn’t talking about momentary happiness here. Instead, he’s referring to an extended state of well-being. That sounds much more intriguing, doesn’t it? This steadfastness (or “endurance” in some versions) that’s produced as we’re working through trials is a confident determination in the face of adversity. It’s a determination rooted in the promises of God; a confidence that Jesus will share His full glory and inheritance with us. James then goes on to say that this steadfastness has an effect on us. It changes us; perfects us. We become complete, lacking nothing because of how we’re transformed.
Can you imagine persevering through a difficult time or circumstance with joy, confidence and hope, not wanting for anything more?
This is what God does as we mature in faith. We become more like Him. We see His face in the midst of adversity. We call upon His name for wisdom and strength. We understand that we can endure and do all things through Him (Philippians 4:13). We are empowered in a way that far exceeds what we can ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). More of Him. Less of us. Confident and lacking nothing.
Wow. I still have a ways to go, but these reminders sure make me want to run in His direction with hope, even in the midst of the unknown. My security is in Him, not in my circumstances. Not in a plan.
I wish hindsight could work in the present moment. I realize it wouldn’t be called hindsight then…but if we could only see today how God is working for our benefit later, it would help in the moment. I suppose that’s not actually called hindsight, though. That’s faith. And, it’s activated by understanding the character and love of God.
As I reflect and play back my history, I see the evidence. I see His presence, His working, His faithfulness. I see how He has and continues to use everything I’ve experienced. I may not have known the plan, but He did. And, He’s still working. Still unfolding what He has for me. And you.
The more we seek Him, the more He gives us vision to see it. This is exactly what James was saying. We can have confidence. Joy, even. Because God is here and doing something. It might not be what we expect, but it’s assuredly good. He is our security.
His power is greater than our expectations. His vision greater than our viewpoint. His love is greater than our plans.
Lord, help us to know the depths of your love. Give us Your confidence and steady our footing on the path you have for us. Father, we ask you to secure our faith as you secure our future. You are greater than any plan we can conceive. Help us to release our lives to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.