What Will Tomorrow Bring?

I’ve been making my way through the book of James, reading in a slow, meditative way. I’m up to Chapter four and what stand out is this:

“… you do not know what tomorrow will bring.” James 4:14

If you’re anything like me, you spend quite a bit of time worrying about the future. Big things like — Will I stay healthy? Do I have enough savings put aside? Small things like — What will I make for dinner? Do I have time to fit my exercise minutes into this busy day? Planning is good, but I can get carried away, becoming tense and anxious about things that I can’t control or things that really aren’t that significant in the long run. It distracts me from the present, and from the thing or things God wants me to notice right now.

Instead, James goes on to say, we our plans must leave things in the hands of God. We should say:

If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:15

Many things happened during the past year that we couldn’t have predicted– a world wide pandemic? Church services on Zoom or Youtube? Virtual classrooms? Not to mention sickness and death suddenly becoming a real possibility. Who would have guessed? How could we have been prepared? It’s been stressful, and many are still anxious and depressed.

The only way for me (and you) to have peace is to put our trust in the One who made heaven and earth and holds our lives in His hands. Whatever the future holds, He’s with us.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

For more about trusting God see these posts:

When Things are Unclear–Trust God

Trusting Your Leader

Grow Through Surrender and Trust

Who Will Roll Away the Stone?

I finally made it to the last chapter of the book of Mark. I’ve been reading through it in a prayerful, meditative way known as lectio divina. The day after the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Salome head out to the tomb to annoint His body. On the way there, they begin saying to one another,

“Who will roll away the stone for us at the entrance of the tomb.?” Mark 16:3

This stood out for me for a couple of reasons. Years ago, our pastor preached an Easter sermon around this text. I don’t remember much about that sermon, but the title stuck with me ,probably because it reminds me of myself and my own anxious over- planning — trying to figure out what might happen and how I can deal with it. If I had been one of that group of women, I definitely would be worrying and wondering. That stone was huge and heavy! How on earth would we be able to move it and get on with our task?

Of course, we know the end of the story, and they didn’t have to worry at all. The stone was already removed. They were focusing on a problem that didn’t exist any longer.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t plan ahead. What I am saying is that sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and fret about things that haven’t yet happened. Often when we are called to do something for Jesus, we just need to step out in faith and trust Him to roll away the stones we envision standing in our way. I need to remember this — so do you!

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

For more study of the book of Mark see:

A Beautiful Thing

The Lord Has Need of It

And He Said This Plainly

Thy Will Be Done

I came across this quote in my daily devotional. It would have been appropriate for last month’s theme, which has remained on my mind — growing through challenging times. .

“Just as soon as we turn toward Him with loving confidence, and say, ‘Thy will be done,’ whatever chills or cripples or enslaves our spirits, clogs their powers, or hinders their development, melts away in the sunshine of His sympathy. He does not free us from the pain, but from the power to dull the sensibilities; not from the poverty and care, but from their tendency to narrow and harden; not from calumny, but from the maddening poison in its sting; not from disappointment, but from the hopelessness and bitterness of thought which it so often engenders. We attain unto this perfect liberty when we rise superior to untoward circumstances, triumph over the pain and weakness of disease, over unjust criticism, the wreck of earthly hopes, over promptings to envy, every sordid and selfish desire, every unhallowed longing, every doubt of God’s wisdom and love and kindly care, when we rise into an atmosphere of undaunted moral courage, of restful content, of child-like trust, of holy, all-conquering calm.”

William W. Kinsley

For more on this topic see:

The Prayer that Never Fails

A Book about Surrender

Fanning the Flame #6–Seeking God’s Will

Perplexing Times

The study series we’re doing in our Sunday School class right now is about the challenges of life and how they can cause us to grow and mature in our faith. One type of challenge is dealing with life events we just don’t understand. Why do some lives contain so much tragedy? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do seemingly evil people prosper? These are questions most of us struggle with, and through that struggle we learn to trust God. The Bible tells us:

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

There is an old Southern Gospel song that addresses this issue. It says there are many thing we just won’t know until “Farther Along.” It has been recorded by many well known artists including Johnny Cash, Glenn Campbell, Elvis Presley. The version I like was done by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton. I hope it strengthens your faith, and you enjoy it as I do. Follow the link below:

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris (Trio) – Farther Along – YouTube

For another Dolly Parton song see:

God’s Coloring Book

Why Are You So Afraid?

The second phrase that stood out for me in chapter 4 of Mark was:

“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40

This is what Jesus says to the disciples after he calms the storm that almost swamped their boat. They had seen Him heal, they had heard Him teach, and yet they still didn’t trust Him completely.  When things spun out of control, they forgot everything they knew about Jesus and gave into fear.

I often behave in the same way.  In fact, it might be more realistic to say I almost always behave in the same way.  On the same day I was reading this chaper in Mark, another book I was reading (Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen–Book Review ) had suggested an exercise dealing with fear.  That was a moment close to Christ for me, a time when I realize He is speaking to me.  The idea was to list your fears.  Some of mine had to do with:

  • My health — I’m not afraid to die, but I am afraid to suffer before I die, to become incapacitated or be a burden to others
  • My finances — do I have enough savings to last through my life?
  • My husband–will he die before I do, and if so, will I become lonely and depressed?
  • My church — attendance and giving have been down since COVID restrictions were put in place.
  • My country — it seems we are going more and more in debt, and I don’t see how that can continue without our economy crashing.  Not to mention the animosity between groups with differing opinions.

Then the exercise asks you to remember times when you felt safe and unafraid;   instances when God has shown love and care for you.  The time of reflection ends with meditating on several verses.  The one that spoke to me was:

“In you, O Lord, I trust.  I let go of my fears.”  Psalm 31:14

I’m a fearful person, but I don’t have to give in to my fears.  God is near.  I can trust Him.

For more about fear see these posts:

Who Do You Fear?

Afraid of all the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal–Book Review

Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren–Book Review

 

Which Will Prosper?

Continuing my lectio divina study of Ecclesiastes, these verses stood out for me in Chapter 11:

“In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not withhold yor hand, for you do not know what will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”  Ecclesiastes 11:6

In other words, we don’t know how some situation or decision will turn out.  This reminds me an ancient parable:

“A farmer’s horse, his most valuable possesion runs away.  The neighbors, hearing about this, visit his house, saying ‘What bad luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’

 

A few days later, the horse returns, bringing a herd of wild horses with him.  The neighbors again visit, saying ‘What good luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’

 

The farmer’s son breaks his leg while attempting to tame the wild horses.  He becomes quite ill with an infection.  The neighbors say ‘What bad luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.’

 

At the same time, a war is going on.  The local warlord comes to the farmer’s house to conscript his son.  When he finds him feverish, delerious and useless, he leaves him there.  The neighbors once again say, ‘What good luck.’  The farmer replies, ‘Maybe.'”

What looks bad today may work out for the best — what looks wonderful can have unexpected and unfortunate consequences.  We’ve all experienced this.  We lose a job, and end up in a new position we like so much more.  We move to a new house in a beautiful subdivision, only to realize how much we miss our old neighborhood and friends.  Our favorite candidate wins the election, then reneges on all those promises he made.  We get a deadly disease — which causes us to grow closer to God.  You get the idea.

The solution?  Make the best decision you can and then surrender it to God. Detach yourself from expectations. Trust that He’s working it all out for good.  The writer of Ecclesiastes goes on to say:

“… you do not know the work of God who makes everything.”  Ecclesiastes 11:5b

So surrender, and leave the results to God.  It’s the way to peace.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

Another Blast from the Past

The Good Old Days?

Ecclesiastes Chapter 3–What Stands Out

 

 

 

What Do I Do With Worry by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub

Willow is a child who worries.  She’s just moved to a new neighborhood and has a ton of “what ifs.”  What if nobody likes me?  What if my new bedroom is scary?  What if the store doesn’t have my favorite cookies.  She even worries about telling her parents she’s worried because “what if they get mad at me?”

If you have a youngster who is a worrier, you’ll want this book.  Willow’s grandma gives her some simple and effective advice for handling those squirmy worries.

  1. Name your worry
  2. Talk about your worry to someone you love
  3. Draw a picture of what you would do if God held your worry for you
  4. Talk to God and thank Him for holding your worries

Will this solve everything or make worries go away?  Probably not.  However, it opens the discussion and encourages children to trust God and others by being open about the things that cause them anxiety.  It also has some helpful first steps for dealing with worry.

This is a sturdy board book suitable for children from preschool through grade 3.

For another book by the same authors see:

What Am I Feeling? by Dr. Josh and Christi Straub–Book Review

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  I think it could be a helpful way to approach this important subject with young children.

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest reviews.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 55.

Trust the Process

We’re nearing the end of 2020 and what a rollercoaster ride it’s been! The virus with a restrictions and a whole new normal, rioting in our cities, turmoil over the election and more.  On a personal front, we welcomed a new grandson, found that our granddaughter, Hailey, is at risk for autism, and now my husband has announced he is retiring in April.  I turned 70 and have more aches and pains and trouble sleeping than ever.  I could really relate to this quote from my devotional:

“Though everything without fall into confusion, and though thy body be in pain and suffering, and thy soul in desolation and distress, yet let thy spirit be unmoved by it all, placid and serene, delighted in and with its God inwardly, and with His good pleasure outwardly.”

Gerhard Tersteegen

Most of the circumstances I listed are disturbing because the outcome is unknown.  How many people will die of the virus?  When will we find a vaccine?  Will our granddaughter learn to speak?  Will the church be able to find a new pastor and move forward?  Where will we go to church?  How much will the income reduction affect our lifestyle?  What unforeseen medical problems are lurking in our future?  You get the idea:   I could worry all day about these and other questions if I allowed myself to go there.  I know what a pastor friend of mine would tell me– trust the process.  All of these things are in God’s hands, and He has a plan that is good.  It may not be apparent to me now (in fact, it may not be apparent to me ever, in this life), but it is there.  I know this from my own experience, and I know it from this scriptural promise.

“… we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Maybe 2020 has been a year of clarity for you;  maybe it’s been a year of confusion.  Wherever you find yourself, listen to this word from the prophet Isaiah:

” Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…”  Isaiah 6:4

Trust in God.  Trust the process.

 

God Will Take Care of You

We sang this recently in worship, and I realized how well it went with our monthly theme.  In uncertain times, it’s important and helpful to remember that God will take care of us.  The words to this hymn were written by Civilia D. Martin in 1904 (she also wrote His Eye is on the Sparrow).  Her husband was scheduled to give a sermon, and she was ill.  He considered canceling his engagement until his son told him, “Father, don’t you think if God wants you to preach today, He will take care of Mother while you are away?”  By the time he returned home, Civilia was feeling much better and had composed this song, based on their son’s comment.  He promptly sat down and wrote music to go with the text.  Listen and let your spirits be lifted!

For another hymn by Civilia Martin go to this post:

Singing Saints

 

 

When Things are Unclear–Trust God

My devotional reading this morning included this verse from Psalm 56:

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;  I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  Psalm 56:4

The superscription tells us that it was written by David when the Philistines seized him in Gath– most assuredly a scary and uncomfortable situation!  Although Samuel had anointed him as king, his future looked uncertain at best.

Most of us will never be captured by enemy soldiers but we still go through tough and confusing times.  Friends disappoint us;  our dream job becomes stressful;  the kids act up;  our financial situation deteriorates;  our health fails.  It’s hard to remember that God is at work in those difficult things, as well as the good ones.  Like David, we may not understand, but we can trust.  We can refuse to fear, because God is with us.

 

Anthony W. Thorold, an Anglican bishop during the Victorian period sums it up well in this quote:

“Do not fear circumstances.  They cannot hurt us if we hold fast to God and use them as the voices and ministries of His will.  Trust Him about everyone and everything, for all times and all needs, earth and heaven, friends and children, the conquest of sin, the growth of holiness, the cross that chafes, the grace that stirs.”

The bottom line — when things aren’t clear, trust the One who knows and controls all things.  You are in His hands. If things look like they’re falling apart, He’s still holding them together.  Your future is clear to Him.

For more on trusting God, see these posts:

Trusting Your Leader

“Even unto death”

I Will Give You Rest