It isn’t easy to share our vulnerable moments. We all want to look good and present our best to others. Yet I believe it is important to be honest with ourselves, with God, and with others. What you are about to read places me in a vulnerable place, because it is so deeply personal, but I write it because I think there may be others who may identify with my failures and may appreciate the truths I re-discovered this week.
Those of you who know me will know that as I write this my family is in the middle of what could be called a, “Storm of life”. I have developed some fairly significant medical issues. The issues keep getting more complicated and it seems like every trip to see a doctor makes things more confusing. There are conflicting opinions about what is happening, and everyone only has a theory without knowing exactly what is happening.
Thankfully I am still able to serve as the pastor of NLCF, which has been a joy and privilege through all of this.
There have been so many people that have sent me notes, texts, emails, or who have called me to let me know that they care and that they are praying for me. Our beloved church family has even been bringing us delicious meals. This we appreciate greatly, and I believe that it is these prayers that have helped me have such profound peace through all of this.
But I must confess something. This week there were a few days where the peace of God seemed to elude me. There was a medical test that was supposed to give us some answers. Yet even in that test, multiple doctors said exact opposite things, and when we came home I cried. Not for just a moment, but for a long time. I guess young folks these days would say that I, “ugly cried”—or something like that.
Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” In Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells his disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” God promises to be with us. Yet in those days this week, I did not feel peace, nor did I feel like God was near. Please don’t get me wrong. I know that God was there with me. And in those moments I knew it; it was just that I didn’t feel it. All I could do was to do my best to cling to the truth of those verses, believing them to be true even when I couldn’t see them at work. I advise people to do this all the time, and while I have had to cling to truth in the midst of hardship before, I don’t know if it gets any easier over time. I think we always have to make the hard choice to trust God when it feels like we are sinking.
Earlier this morning I was listening to music; my phone was on shuffle mode. Then one song came on that stopped me in my tracks. It was as if it was both addressing my failures and also putting words to what my heart needed to express, all at the same time.
The song began with the words, “I’m so forgetful, but You always remind me. You’re the only one who brings me peace.”
In that moment I realized that this week, I had been counting on a medical test to bring me peace. I had been placing my hope for peace in the hands of doctors and medicine not only to cure my body, but to give my heart peace. So when that failed me, I was devastated. Unlike the other times when medical professionals have been confusing, this time I was looking to them for peace in my heart instead of looking to the Lord.
Later in the song the lyrics say, “So I come, Lord, I come…To tell You I’m sorry for running in circles, for placing my focus on the waves, not on Your face. You’re the only one who brings me peace.”
This described me so well this week, and as I realized that, I could do nothing other than confess, along with the song, that I forgot that God truly is the only one who brings me peace. I am so forgetful. But the Lord does remind me of this when I need it.
In these holy moments of confession and repentance, I was reminded of a story of one of the disciples of Jesus. They were in a boat, it was storming, and someone came to them walking on the water. Of course, they were terrified. But then they thought it might be Jesus.
Matthew 14:28-32 (NLT)
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
“Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
Just like Peter, I lost track of the face of my Saviour for awhile and focused instead on the waves. I had moments of faithlessness and doubt, and I felt like I was sinking. Yet I am thankful to Jesus, who reached out his hand to pick me up, saving me from myself and at the same time reminding me that there is a better way than doubt and misplaced trust.
I am not saying that it is a sin for our feelings to tell us something different from the truth. I am not saying that going through a storm of life is a result of unfaithfulness. What I am saying is that this week, I lost track of the face of my Saviour. What I am saying is that for a time I placed my trust in something other than my Jesus. What I am saying is that I, like Peter, looked at the waves around me and doubted. And what I am saying is that even while rebuking me, God reached out His hand and helped me climb back into the boat.
Unlike the story in Matthew, the waves of my problems are still crashing around me. But the waves in my heart have once again found a still and peaceful moment by remembering that God is the only one who brings me peace. I am sure that I will have more tears to shed in the future; grief and difficulty is a part of life and it is important to bring that to God. I just hope that I won’t be forgetful once again of the fact that God is the only one who can bring me peace. And He can bring you peace, too, even in the storms of life.
Here is the song by United Pursuit, Running in Circles