The Bug Man and God

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I stood facing him, bent on concealing my inner annoyance. With what I hoped resembled a smile, I half-heartedly listened as the exterminator divulged a slew of suggestions for alleviating our fruit fly issue.

This ongoing dilemma had us all perplexed and desperate for a solution. So when the bug man left and we were no better off than when he’d arrived, discontent quickly built its home in my heart.

With liquid frustration leaking through my heart seams, I began to ponder. Why am I so bothered by this? Why am I aggravated by his suggestions?

Though his suggestions were not bad, they all required action on my part and to be honest, I was not at all inclined to deal with them. Isn’t that why I pay for pest control? Shouldn’t they be able to spray a little something here, leave a sticky trap there, and completely do away with all these pesky critters?

That’s when it occurred to me. This scenario, though unusual in some respects, didn’t feel completely unfamiliar. Was this my go-to response to other situations in life as well?

When facing difficult circumstances, what am I most apt to do? Embarrassingly, I often try to fix things myself. Then, when I realize I’m in over my head, I call in the expert.

When the matter at hand is an important one, I know to call on God for He is the only One capable of handling such things.

I call on Him, expecting that He’ll immediately step in and eliminate whatever’s bothering me. Maybe not instantaneously, but at least fairly quickly – making my life easier and better.

Because I trust He can do this, I prefer that He go ahead and resolve all the uncomfortable parts while I sit back and enjoy the view. After all, He is the expert.

But like the bug man and my fruit flies, not all situations are best remedied in an instant – even when the expert is perfectly capable of doing so.

Sometimes it’s best to prolong the process – more effort, more time, more lessons learned. And sometimes the troubling situation seems to never fully go away, requiring us to adapt to living with difficulty.

My response to life’s most troubling matters often moves from denial to fear or frustration, and finally, to surrender. It’s amazing how my own stubbornness can cause a situation like the fruit flies to drag on and on when my willingness to follow expert advice can resolve – or at least improve – a trying situation.

Though I still wish the bug man had solved my fruit fly problem, I am reminded when God leaves things as they are, there’s always a purpose behind it. Many times, a walk through difficulty is exactly what’s needed to help us reach greater intimacy with our Creator.

Whatever the case may be, I hope the next time a problem arises, we’ll pause and consider the lessons growing within it. And the next time God places suggestions before us we’d rather not carry out, may we each be willing to step up and do what’s needed to get it done.

 

Exchanging Our Worries for God’s Peace

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I pulled the bedspread back, fluffed my pillow and collapsed into bed with a body as tired as my heart was heavy.  My family had recently experienced a couple of close calls, the latest one still fresh on my mind.

Though I felt thankful things had turned out well, my mind parked itself in a continual feed of what-if’s. I closed my eyes, hoping to relinquish these disturbing notions. Instead, I awakened at 2:00 a.m. and found them with me still.

Forsaking the warmth of my bed, I shuffled through the darkness and into the kitchen. If sleep were going to elude me, I may as well brew myself a cup of coffee.

With coffee in one hand and Bible in the other, I situated myself – and my cluttered mind – on the couch nearest the end table. Truth be told, I had no desire to read – not even my Bible; I had no desire to talk – not even to God.

Numbness settled heavy upon me. I sat alone entertaining my worrisome suppositions. I lacked sufficient strength to ward off all that bothered me. Vegging out on the sofa, sipping my coffee and permitting thoughts to meander freely in and out of my mind was all I cared to do. But the longer I remained motionless, the more anxious I became.

Desperate for help, I purposed to open my Bible to the book of Psalms. I began reading silently at first, and then – when the silent words failed to hold my attention – I began to read aloud. With great effort, I fought to regain focus. Some passages I read again and again, struggling to take them in.

Oh, how the enemy loves waging this war against me! Hurling distractions my way until I finally take the bait. Claiming victory over me when I become so consumed by my hard places that honing in to God’s word – and formulating my own words back to Him – become a great challenge.

Sadly, many times I’ve simply closed my Bible and allowed my fear to run amuck. But this time? This time the enemy must not win.

Determined to hear from my Savior (through His word) and to pour out my heart to Him (through prayer), I kept at it. And I’m so happy I did.

As I read through the Psalms, I was reminded that I am never alone. Not in my fear. Not in my hopelessness. Not in my worry. David encountered these struggles as well. Reading of his plight and God’s redemption encouraged me to do as David did. To be still before the Lord. To call on Him. To release to Him every fear, concern and worry – laying them all at His feet.

Though my worries don’t always immediately dissipate when I go to God, they do suddenly pale in comparison to the overwhelming sense of His presence and His peace poured over me.

Smack dab in the midst of my hard places, God walks with me. Changing me from within. Stirring my heart. Strengthening my faith. Expanding my love for others and, in doing so, adding more meaning to my life.

Friends, may we allow our restless nights, burdened hearts and fearful uncertainties to spur us on to the Savior. One desperate prayer at a time. One difficult step after another. Into all the dark, scary places of life. Over each unwelcome obstacle. Through every tough challenge.  Remembering we are always surrounded by a Savior who longs to make His presence – and His peace – known to us all.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and rescued me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him from all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and rescues them. Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:4-8 (CSB)

Making Room for What Truly Matters

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“I need a mason jar, three bouncy balls and a bag of rice.” My husband’s words should have puzzled me, but they didn’t. He was preparing a visual for his youth group- something he has done often the past several years.

My cabinets were full of mason jars; a bag of white rice lay buried in the pantry beneath my newly purchased quinoa; and our eight year old son had a growing collection of bouncy balls. So, I felt certain my husband’s request could be easily met. What I didn’t know was exactly where he was going with this illustration.

As it turned out, the mason jar represented the Christian life. The bouncy balls stood for the most important aspects of that life. First, our relationship with God – continually growing through Bible study (bouncy ball #1) and prayer (bouncy ball #2); and secondly, the relationships we forge with others (bouncy ball #3). The rice was indicative of everything else scrambling for our attention (work, school, household chores, hobbies, activities, church, exercise, and so on).

Initially, my husband used the jar to display a busy life – one in which time with God (and others) does not come to mind until all the small stuff has wiggled its way in. He did this by filling the jar with rice and then trying, unsuccessfully, to add the bouncy balls. It simply would not work. There was no room in the jar for the three balls.

He emptied the jar of its contents and began again.

This time, he depicted a life just as busy as the first, but one in which God was given first priority, followed by our relationships with others. All three bouncy balls fit easily into the jar. The same amount of rice added the first time around was poured, once again, into the jar. Can you guess what happened? The jar held every bit of it. All three balls. Every single piece of rice.

Two separate illustrations using the exact same items. Once, the jar held everything. Once, the jar did not. How is this so? I believe it goes back to what we’re told in Matthew 6:33 (NLT), “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

I don’t know about you, friend, but I’m always grappling to get things done. It seems I never have enough time to do everything that needs doing. But so often, I go at it backwards. Especially on those days when my routine is thrown off. When schedules and appointments and other commitments (rice, rice and more rice) cause me to feel rushed – to believe there’s no room for pausing, opening His word and spending a few unhurried moments in prayer with Him.

But how can I relax, expecting Him to give me all I need, when I continually withhold my heart from Him? When I speed through the day without once inviting Him into it? No wonder I feel stressed and overwhelmed when I’m choosing to carry the full weight of the day on my own two shoulders. It’s much too heavy a load for me to bear.

What about you friend, who’s carrying the pressures of your day? Are you also trying to go at it alone? If so, let’s halt this train we’re riding. Let’s stop it in its tracks. Let’s turn to our Savior and set this weight down at His feet. The feet of Jesus. There’s no better place to leave our burdens than with Him, for He’s the only One capable of carrying what we cannot – should not – carry alone.