“This is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard. Our flight today will reach a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet. The weather looks good and we should arrive at our destination in approximately one hour and 20 minutes. Until then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.”
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight? I had not flown since January 1999, more than 16 years ago. In 16 years, there were many negative airline incident reports. My trust had been destroyed, replaced by fear.
For the next 80 minutes, my life would be guided by the hands of a captain I did not know, nor knew me. Dependent on his skill and wisdom, there was nothing I could do in my own strength. I felt helpless. Fear gripped my soul. Seat-belted in, feeling trapped at 33,000 feet in the air, I breathed a prayer.
“Heavenly Father, help me.”
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV).
Have you ever felt there was nothing you could do in your own strength, helpless? Gripped by fear, or trapped?
“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3).
Prayer has no limit. We can pray morning, noon, or night, silently from the heart, whispered, spoken aloud, or from any location. It has the ability to defeat fearful thoughts, and transform them into moments of strength, wisdom, peace, and hope.
David, fearful and running from Saul, took refuge and fled to Cave Adullam. According to Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible, “there was a strange, secluded wildness about the place.”
“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by” (Psalm 57:1).
Jonah prayed with seaweed wrapped around his head (Jonah 2:5) out of the belly of a whale:
“I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me” (Jonah 2:2).
Peter prayed on a housetop:
“Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour” (Acts 10:9).
Hannah prayed for a child and our Heavenly Father gave her a son:
“O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life… ” (1 Samuel 1:11).
King Hezekiah prayed to be healed:
“I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you” (2 Kings 20:5).
Jesus whipped, beaten, pierced, and nailed to the cross prayed for His persecutors:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Today, if you are you feeling helpless, gripped by fear, or trapped, you and I have a Captain who wants to guide our life. A Captain who knows us, and One we can trust. One who invites us to pray, with the promise that our prayer will be heard.
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been cleared to land.” We were arriving at our destination 10 minutes earlier than scheduled. Fear before prayer had almost denied me the joy of a relaxing flight.
Prior to deplaning, I had the opportunity to speak with and compliment the captain. He had over 35 years flying experience. My life had been in capable hands.
We too are in capable hands. Our Captain has been guiding lives eternally.
“Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:2).
Heavenly Father, every day, in every situation, or circumstance of our lives, may we always remember Your invitation to pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
When You’re Not Supposed To Feel Anxiety … But You Still Do
NOVEMBER 7, 2022
“If the LORD had not been my help, I would soon have dwelt in [the land of] silence. If I say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ Your compassion and lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your comforts delight me.” Psalm 94:17-19 (AMP)
For most of my life, I’ve been a master at being OK.
My answer to everyone about everything used to be “I’m fine,” which was the most socially acceptable and fastest route to get somewhere that felt safer … Most often, “safety” meant hiding inside myself.
I channeled enormous amounts of energy into either hiding my struggle with anxiety or letting it hide me. But both options eventually led me to a place where all my unspoken not-OK-ness resulted in an aching sense of loneliness. From the spinning thoughts, shallow breaths and fragmented nerves that often characterize anxiety, some of my deepest shame emerged.
Don’t be anxious! Trust in God! Faith over fear!
If you grew up in the church like me, these are some of the answers you might have heard frequenting the lips of many well-intending people.
Is there scriptural Truth in each of these phrases? Absolutely. But when given as the one-size-fits-all solution to anxiety, these answers often just sound like, “You aren’t supposed to feel that way.”
But I do feel this way.
As a little girl, the narrative I gradually learned to embody was that being a good Christian meant staying happy, always smiling and rarely talking about how I really felt. At 18, when I found myself in an anxiety-induced fetal position behind a locked bathroom door, I felt lost inside a story of who I should be.
What do you do when you’re not supposed to feel anxiety, but no matter how much you pray and trust, it still doesn’t go away?
My shame and confusion wrapped around that question caused me to silently wonder what God thinks about the overstuffed and unexpressed anxiety that sat behind my smile. When anxious thoughts multiplied within me, I lived out an ending to Psalm 94:19 that sounded more like “Your commands discipline me” rather than “Your comforts delight me.”
But when I read this psalm, I see God didn’t turn His face from the psalmist’s anxiety. God moved toward him.
It’s when the psalmist’s honesty met compassion that healing began to happen. When he vulnerably cried out to God, the psalmist experienced God’s gentle arms holding him up, not pushing him away.
Anxiety requires the counterintuitive act of reaching for connection rather than further sinking into isolation. In fact, I’m learning that anxiety isn’t as much about looking for a solution as it’s about looking for space. Space to be sensed, felt and named in the presence of another.
We cannot heal what we refuse to feel.
Over and over again, the pages of Scripture testify that the places touched by pain, struggle and death are the places Christ chooses to go. The dark valley is precisely the place where God promises to be with us. Our anxious moments are not where we are abandoned but where we can expect to encounter Him again.
We will never be able to move through anxiety by mentally whipping ourselves into not feeling this way. But we can move through it when we experience the witness and with-ness of God and others in the very places where our anxiety resides.
Today, rather than racing for the quickest emotional exit, I wonder what it would be like to show up to the journals of our hearts honestly, bringing our full selves to these pages. While we often immediately try to silence the voice of anxiety, God doesn’t. As the Shepherd of our souls, He leans in to hear what our anxiety has to say, and He whispers the truth of Psalm 94:19: My compassion and lovingkindness will hold you up.
Dear God, I don’t want anxiety to consume my life. Would You help me attune to what my anxiety might be trying to tell me today? Would You show me what it looks like to be with You in my anxiety and to receive the comfort You offer me? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
A Wedding Supper
SCRIPTURE READING — JOHN 2:1-11
The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He . . . said, “. . . You have saved the best [wine] till now.”
Things seemed to be going fine at the wedding party until someone noticed there was no more wine. When Jesus’ mother found out, she urged him to help. Had she perhaps seen him do some extraordinary things before? Or did she somehow know that Jesus was about to reveal who he was?
We can imagine Jesus looking around and seeing some large jars that were used for ceremonial washing. Each of those jars held about 20-30 gallons (75-113 liters). So he had the jars filled with water, and quietly, by his power, Jesus transformed that water into wine.
Why did Jesus do this? It likely had something to do with keeping the celebration going. But there is more. In the writings of the Old Testament prophets, a sign of the coming of God’s kingdom (when God would make things right in the world) was an abundance of fine wine. (For example, see Isaiah 25:6-8.)
And when Jesus ate his final supper with his disciples, he suggested that whenever they had bread and wine in memory of him, that would be a foretaste of the great banquet at the end of time (see Matthew 26:28-29; Luke 22:30). That banquet will also be a kind of marriage feast in which heaven and earth are joined, as are Christ and his church (Revelation 19:9). And they will never be parted.
Lord, we look forward to the day when you will bring heaven and earth together and make all things right. Amen.
The Gifts of the Spirit
Are you using your gifts to serve others? To be effective, the church needs the participation of every believer.
God has prepared work for us to do, and He’s equipped us with spiritual gifts to do it. Spiritual gifts are special abilities the Lord gives us to serve others in the body of Christ.
These gifts are given to us, but they’re for the benefit of others. Though they come in several varieties, can be used in various ministries, and have a wide range of effects in the church, they all originate from the Holy Spirit. He’s the One who chooses which gift each believer will receive. When all church members serve the body using their particular gifts, everyone benefits spiritually.
The Lord has a specific purpose in mind for each of us, and He’s gifted us accordingly (Ephesians 2:10). Without our individual contribution, the local church will lack something. Part of living in the power of the Holy Spirit involves employing our divine endowments as God directs. By operating in our area of giftedness, we’ll have the motivation, ability, and confidence needed for effective service. If you don’t know what gift you have, start by volunteering at something of interest, and eventually you’ll discover it.
Bible in One Year: John 17-19