Just a regular frustrating day. “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world, you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration. Be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I am overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] John 16:33, AMPC
The “tribulations and trials and distress and frustrations” of being human had filled the first hours of this day. As I ate my oatmeal, I felt guilty for sleeping late although health issues required extra rest right now. Irritated that negative thoughts, which had led to depression in years past, now swirled in my mind, I asked myself “Are these health problems going to drag me back toward the pit? I am doing the best I can, Lord, but it is really hard.”
“Lord, surely in this world we do have troubles, trials, distress and frustration. Help me be of good cheer, like You said, and to remember that You have overcome the world for me.” I paused. “Even though it surely does not feel like it today!”
Next, after 45 minutes at the computer, I hit save, bagged up the garbage to toss in the dumpster and headed out the door for my daily short, and slow, walk.
“I’m frustrated about the writing, too, Lord. You always give so many thoughts and I want to include so much of the Bible, but I read that people do not want to read long blog posts. And there are so many projects I want to write but my back cannot take long hours at the computer like before.”
“Oh, Lord! Forgive me for complaining! It is such a gift and a privilege to serve You and live for You. I know You will guide, Lord, and show just what to do each day. Help me focus on Your truths and not my fears and frustrations!”
God speaks through nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2, NIV)
I started walking slowly down the short street bordering my building, striving to put my heel down first, as the physical therapist had coached me to do, noticing again how the trees along the sidewalk formed a straight line all the way to the first intersection, which abutted the neighborhood elementary school. When I walked earlier in the morning, several men in work clothes stood together, waiting for a ride to their work, but by late morning, like today, it was just me and the Lord and an occasional cat, napping under a broken toy wagon next to the sagging and soggy yellow couch and the splintered bookcase.
My walk usually ended at the intersection but the wind blowing through the trees along the small, gravel track at the elementary school enticed me. I sidled through the open gate and walked to the green wrought iron bench. Still feeling tired and discouraged, I texted a friend whose husband was facing yet another surgery and another friend whose teenager was being, well, a real teenager.
As I looked, the wind kept moving the overgrown grass in rippling waves, fluttering the leaves of the trees, murmuring in my ears, bringing back the pure pleasures of childhood, like the feel of Florida’s sugary soft beach sand curling around bare toes, the cool touch of the conch shell pressing into my ear, and the sound of the ocean’s power echoing within its twisting chamber. Finally, I really looked. Finally, I started listening to God.
Who can know the path of the wind? Who can know the way of God? Part of Psalm 103 bubbled up from within: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (NIV)
“Lord, surely, I am indeed a blade of grass. Teach me, oh Lord, to “number my days aright” so I can live wisely. (Psalm 90:12) Help me remember that I am here on earth, and You are there in heaven, ruling and reigning over all things. Help me remember I cannot understand Your ways any more than I can tell which way the wind will blow next, like that verse in Ecclesiastes I memorized so long ago, that as I “do not know how the body is formed in the womb, so I cannot understand the way of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5). Help me stop trying to figure everything out, which I know makes me feel in control. Help me trust You when things seem to be going all wrong.”
I looked intently at the grass. The green of the bottom two-thirds blended into yellow and pale brown, with dark brown spikes at the top of each stem, like mature heads of wheat, pulling the entire strand of grass over in the moments the wind was still. The up, then down, left, then right, then swirling patterns made the path of the wind visible.
“How many strands of grass?” I wondered, “cover this little track, the in-field, the surrounding areas up to the fence and then toward the playground. Thousands? Millions? Yet they all move as one when the wind touches them. Each blade is so fragile, but together they make a grand symphony of motion.”
The way of the word in the heart. “Oh, Father! Please help Your silly child. Help me get in the right rhythm with You again, to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galations 5:25). Help me return to depending on You and not my own strength to keep myself together. That is what I was doing the last few days, right? Help me yield to Your ways and Your leading, just as these blades of grass yield to the wind and in so doing are beautiful. Help me yield, Lord! Help me trust! I trust You, Lord! Help me trust You more! “
“I know every single person also has loads of troubles, trials, distress and frustrations, just as I do. They are just different for each person. Help me honor You, Lord, in my individual life, this day, this hour. Help me be cheerful, and take courage and be confident, certain, and undaunted, as You told your disciples just before Your arrest and trial and crucifixion. Help me remember that You have overcome the world and that it cannot harm me because You have deprived it of that power. Help me fix my mind on heavenly things and KEEP it set, because that is where my real life is, with You, not here on earth.” (And set your minds and keep them set on what is above—the higher things—not on the things that are on the earth.” Colossians 3:2, AMPC)
When I got back home, I looked up the verse about the wind. “As You do now know the path of the wind or how the body is formed in the womb, so you cannot understand the way of God, the maker of all things. (NIV) Then I read verse 6.
“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”
“Wow, Lord! Those two verses together mean to me that we are to work steadily each day, all day, because we do not know whether which one or all of our tasks will succeed any more than we can predict where the wind will blow next. Oh, help me, Lord, to do “whatever my hand finds to do” with all my heart, knowing I am working for You (Colossians 3:23 and Ecclesiastes 9:10). Yes, Father, even if that is a morning of frustrating phone calls and an afternoon of doctor visits and errands. Let the deep meaning of Romans 8:28 resonate inside my heart. Assure me that You are a partner in my labor and that everything is fitting into a plan because I love You.”
“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor], all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” (AMPC)
“Remind me that You are a partner in my work. Help me live each hour with that awareness.”
“Help me remember that “the Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps he has made firm” and that “though he stumble, he will not fall for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” (Psalms 37:23-24, NIV). And as the Amplified says You busy Yourself with his every step. That, truly, is remarkable!”
“Believe in the Lord your God and you will be able to stand firm. (2 Chronicles 20:20a) (NLT) As I tidied up before heading out the door, I saw my battered copy of the NLT open on the kitchen counter. From my daily Bible reading that morning, it was to open to the story of King Jehoshaphat’s victory over the combined armies of Moab, Ammon and Mount Seir. Although Jehoshaphat was initially terrified to learn that the armies were surrounding him, he “begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting.” (2 Chronicles 20:3, NLT) He stood before the people and prayed a powerful prayer in verses 6-12, praising God for His power, reminding Him of His promise to hear their cry, admitting their powerlessness and looking to Him for help.
Then “The spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there” and Jahaziel told the people not to be afraid or discouraged because “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15) He said they only had to take their positions and stand still and “watch the Lord’s victory.” Verse 18 and 19 records that King Jehoshaphat bowed low to the ground, as did all the people, and then they all worshipped God.
‘Give thanks to the LORD; his faithful love endures forever.’ (Psalm 136:1, NLT) Early that morning, before troubles, trials, distress and frustration invaded my mind, I had drawn a box around verse 20, where Jehoshaphat had encouraged his people saying:.
“Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem. Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets, and you will succeed.” (NLT)
After that, Jehoshaphat had placed “. . . singers ahead of the army, singing to the LORD and praising Him for His holy splendor. This is what they sang: ‘Give thanks to the LORD; his faithful love endures forever.’ (Psalm 136:1)
I stood at my clean kitchen counter and continued re-reading the story. “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise (emphasis added), the LORD caused the armies of Amon, Moab and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. (v. 22)” The story continued, telling that when the “army of Judah arrived at the looking point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.” (v 24).
“Yes, I see that, Lord, and thank You! At the very moment they started to sing, You fought for them.”
I smiled, copied verse 20b on a folded piece of printer paper—”Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in His prophets, and you will succeed. I could memorize that much while I waited at the doctor’s office. I walked out the door, saying, from the heart.
“Oh, Lord! How I do thank You! Your faithful love surely endures forever. What wonderful things You do for Your children! Thank You for Your Word, that gives such clear guidance and encouragement. Thank You for being with us each moment of every day, thank You, Lord, thank You, for . . . ”