Recently, I sat with a dear friend in the middle of a tremendously difficult trial. Facing deep hurt and loss, she said something that literally sent chills from the top of my head to the tip of my toes.
“I was born in the desert, I have lived in the desert, I might die in the desert. But I will still praise Your name.”
It was one of those moments where I could feel God’s presence. I saw Jesus in this precious friend in a very real way. Under the circumstances, there was no way that she could humanly say these words. Her response to this incredibly dark time in her life was one of peace, hope, and worship. She is living beyond her circumstances.
When facing a trial, when dealing with the hardships of living in a fallen, broken world, one of the most difficult things as a believer can be to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not the wind and the waves. So, how do we stand firm when all around us seems to be crumbling?
Anchor for the Soul
“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast . . .” (Hebrews 6:17-19)
Thousands and thousands of years ago, God made a covenant with Abraham. A promise that He would make him a great nation, that He would bless him, and make his name great (Genesis 12:1-3). This covenant was one that could not be broken and provided an assurance for Abraham that God would do that which He promised. And this promise provided an anchor for Abraham’s soul. An anchor that would carry him through years of great trial, disappointment, not understanding, and being instructed to do the impossible.
In the same way, God has provided for us an anchor for our souls. A promise. One that can never be taken away. One that can never fade. A cornerstone that is sure and steadfast.
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were formerly far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ … So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.” (Ephesians 2:13, 20)
Our souls are secure in Christ Jesus. He is our firm foundation, our solid rock, our cornerstone. If we attempt to make anything else our anchor, when the storms of life come (and they will!) we will be tossed to and fro.
Ask yourself this question: where am I throwing my anchor? What am I looking to in an attempt to feel safe and secure?
my talents and giftings
the hope of a better future
When the circumstances of life are overwhelming, our only hope for security is found in Christ alone. He alone is unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8), His feelings for us never change (Psalm 100:5), He has saved our souls and has brought us near to Him where we can find mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
As Tim Keller says, there is a difference between believing IN God and BELIEVING GOD. Abraham believed God. At His core, He knew that what God said was true. He knew that God would fulfill His promises and that He was trustworthy. It was this belief that enabled Him to be obedient when God told him to go with no destination in sight. It is what empowered him to be trust that God would give him a son, even when both he and Sarah were well past child-bearing years. It is what strengthened him to take his only, beloved son up a hill placing him on an alter, and being willing to sacrifice him because God said so. Y’all this is crazy faith. Abraham believed that what God said, He would do. This is the kind of faith I want to have — so deeply rooted in who God is and what He has done that I operate from belief that what God has promised He will do.
Promises of God:
- Eternal life for all who believe (John 3:16)
- He will supply all of our needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)
- Peace that surpasses anything we can understand (Philippians 4:6)
- He goes before us and never fails us (Deuteronomy 31:8)
- Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39)
- His love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3)
- When we are tempted, He will provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13)
- He will be our hiding place (Psalm 32:7)
- He will lead and guide us in Truth (John 16:13)
- He will complete the work that He has started (Philippians 1:6).
- He is near to all who call to Him (Psalm 145:18).
- He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit (Psalm 34:18).
- He makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Notice that none of these promises include a happily ever after, financial wealth, or freedom from pain and suffering. But I find one of the greatest promises of all to be this – He promises us His presence, and in His presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
In the moments when we are struggling to believe, let us be like the man from Mark who said, “I believe. Lord help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Walk in Faith
So much of being a believer is about faith. Faith to believe. Faith to persist and produce perseverance. Faith to run well this race set before us. Faith to endure times of trial. Interestingly, the word “faith” is used at least 250 times in the Bible (depending on the translation). While on this earth, Jesus both instructed people to have more faith and questioned their lack of faith.
“Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). And without faith, it is impossible to live above the circumstances in life.
And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
God brings me back to this Scripture over and over again. I am Peter. Confidently, I step out of the boat, my eyes fixed on Jesus, and then life happens. Circumstances are screaming at me, and I lose sight. Suddenly the wind and the waves are all that I can see.
As I picture this exchange between Jesus and Peter, I imagine that Peter frantically calls out to Jesus, “help me!” And Jesus’ response. I just love it. He IMMEDIATELY reaches out and takes hold of Peter and says, “why did you have such little faith?” I don’t think this was a harsh, condescending remark. I think it’s possible that it was a gentle tone that would have conveyed this message: “Peter, why didn’t you believe me and keep your eyes on me? Don’t you know how much I love you? Don’t you know that I can hold you up even when the winds and the waves threaten to swallow you?”
It’s that voice of Love that calls to each one of us.
Know God’s Love
Knowing and believing God’s love for us is absolutely an essential part of living beyond our circumstances. When the storm hits, the diagnosis comes, the painful conversation happens, the person we love leaves, the dream is dashed, Satan, who is the Father of lies, will try to convince us that if God really loved us, if He really cared, then our circumstances would be different. As that lie percolates in our minds, often all we can see are the things in our lives that aren’t good. The pain becomes overwhelming. We feel hopeless, alone, and angry. The question “Why me?” taunts us every moment throughout the day. That we are in the midst of circumstances we are can’t control and don’t understand, we feel unloved and alone.
In these moments, and frankly always, we must go back to what we know is true.
“Keep yourselves in the love of God, expected the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:21)
“We must invite our souls to plunge into His love like a dolphin romping in the sea. Actively engaging in His unending, extravagant, no-strings-attached affection for you is not narcissism. It’s a necessity. It can mean our survival when we’re faced with loving the loveless.” ~Beth Moore
In order to know and believe that God is for us and not against us, to love those who have hurt us, to show up in relationship when we want to run away, to respond and not react, we must be firmly planted in God’s love for us. Sometimes that requires rehearsing the truth of His love for us in our minds daily. Perhaps minute by minute. Second by second.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)
“Father God, if nothing can win Thy love, nothing in the universe can prevent Thee from loving us. Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou are Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved. Help us to believe in the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace.” ~A.W. Tozer
I have found it helpful to begin each day by focusing on and thanking God for His perfect, never-ending, sacrificial love for me. As I ask Him to show me the places of my life where I have seen His love, it is amazing how I, by His Spirit, know deeply to my core just how much I am loved by Him. Reminding myself of this Truth enables me to keep my eyes fixed on Him and not the wind and the waves. Like Beth Moore said, in order to live in a peace that passes all understanding, deeply knowing God’s love for us is a complete necessity.
As I think about my friend whose faith inspires me, I can say that each of these things is true about her. The anchor for her soul is Jesus. She believes God and His promises. She is walking in faith, even though she can’t see and doesn’t understand. And she knows deeply that God loves her. As a result, she is finding deep peace in the middle of extremely difficult circumstances.
My prayer is that I, and each of you reading this, will be so rooted and grounded in who God is, what He has done, what He has said, and how He provides, that we, too, will live our lives beyond our circumstances.
Anchored in Christ,