Merciful Truths

God’s Word doesn’t mince words. Sometimes the truth hurts. But it also mercifully, joyfully, frees.

Lately, the Lord has been using several merciful truths from this familiar passage to give me some joyful freedom.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (I Peter 5:6-7, NAS)

Ok, quick grammar lesson. If you’re like me, you tend to put a period after verse six. In fact, many Bible translations do. In the original Greek, however, these two verses form one sentence. I believe they are meant to be connected, and for a surprising reason.

Truth #1:  Exalting myself is at the heart of my anxiety.

Ouch. This one hit me hard, because I knew it was true. It’s called Pride, and it’s Ugly. When we’re anxious, isn’t it because deep down we want to be in control of a situation? We fret and worry in vain attempts to secure the outcome that seems best to US.

Time for another grammar lesson. The command in this sentence is “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” Why? Because HE is GOD and I am NOT. Pride exalts myself, deceiving me into thinking that I know best. Humility surrenders self and yields to God’s sovereign control.

Truth #2:  Casting my cares on Him is an act of humility.

Some Bible versions translate verse seven into the imperative: “Cast your cares upon the Lord…” But in the Greek text this verb isn’t in the form of a direct command.* Casting our cares upon Him is how we demonstrate the command to humble ourselves. The NET renders it like this:

…humble yourselves under his mighty hand BY casting all your cares on him… (Emphasis mine)

Bible teacher Beth Moore sums it up this way:

The act of humility is in the casting. The pride is in the keeping.”**

One final grammar lesson. The verb for “casting” was “used of casting garments on a beast of burden.”* Luke 19:35 contains this same Greek verb, and gives us a helpful word picture:

So they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their garments over it for him to ride on. (NLT)

The disciples threw (cast) their garments on the colt, and Jesus rode on them in triumphal procession. When I cast my cares upon Jesus, I’m getting off of my high horse and allowing Him to take His rightful seat as King. I give Him my worries and admit my inability to control my situation. I say, “Jesus, be Lord over this. Jesus, please ride in triumph over this.”

Truth #3:  Believing God cares for me is a place of rest.

As I cast my cares upon Him, I am comforted, because He cares for me. He. Cares. For. Me.  Say it. Believe it!

Everything He does is motivated out of His love for us and for those we love. Instead of fretting about the outcome, we can actually, amazingly, rest. Because He genuinely cares and truly knows best.

This is changing how I pray. I no longer feel compelled to convince God that He should do what I think needs to be done in a particular situation. Instead, I pray something like this:

Lord, You know I’m worrying about _________. I confess my pride, my desire to play God here. I humble myself by casting my concerns upon You, because You are God. You alone are capable of handling this. I am not built to shoulder this burden, but You are. You are Almighty God, Creator, King. So I give it to You. You know what is best. I know You love me, and You also love _________. Instead of worrying about this, I will rest in the reality of Your love and care.

What welcome relief this brings!

Now whenever I feel anxiety rising, I try to remember to stop and acknowledge my pride. I’m learning to humble myself by casting my cares upon the Lord, letting go of my need to be in control, affirming that He is Able and I am Not. I’m resting in His loving care for me and for those I care about.

Yes, the truth can hurt. Pride and anxiety hurt too. But these merciful truths are beginning to set me free.

Seeds of Growth

 

*From a study of 1 Peter 5:6-7 called “Counsel Concerning Our Cares” by J. Hampton Keathley, at www.bible.org.

**From her excellent series, “The Basket Case,” which was the main inspiration for this blog post. If you’d like to watch it, go to www.tbn.org. Look for “Living Proof with Beth Moore” in the “Video Archives.”

An Important Note:  I wanted to share these biblical truths because they were helpful to me in my own struggles with worry and anxiety. I am aware that some of my brave friends battle more severe, chronic anxiety. I commend them for seeking professional help and encourage anyone who may be dealing with this to do the same.

 

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Marked

Beau marked his “Half Birthday” last week.  And, as if a switch had been flipped in his little doggy brain, he immediately began “marking” his territory.

INSIDE the house.

I was reminded of all the reasons we wanted a female dog.

We in turn celebrated the milestone with a trip to the vet for a few “alterations.”  (Sorry, Beau.)  We’re hoping this will “fix” his little leg-lifting problem.

But I have to share Laurel’s response when we discovered her dog’s newfound compulsion to mark his territory.

“Beau!” she scolded him, “It’s already yours!”

Then she turned to me.  “This could be an illustration.”

“Of what?” I questioned.

She went on to describe how as Christians we often work so hard, trying to gain something that has already been given to us.

She’s right, you know.

When we were adopted into the family of God, what was His became ours.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. (Ephesians 1:3, NLT)

There is no longer any reason to feel insecure.  He has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ.  We have a place in His heart forever, and a full inheritance as sons.  We are marked with His seal of approval.

So, RELAX.

Stop strutting your stuff.  Cease striving to prove your worth.  Quit worrying about “making a mark” for God.  (That last one was for me.)

Just live in the joy and freedom of your Father’s house.

It’s already yours.

Beau at six months

(Now let’s pray Beau also figures this out.  And soon.)

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Place of Rest

My cell phone vibrated on the table next to me, and the screen lit up with the name of a dear friend and fellow believer.  I opened the phone (yes, I am still stuck in the Technological Dark Ages) to quickly scan her text:

I have a favor to ask.  Would you state the 1st thoughts that come to mind for each of the following?  *Definition of rest.  *List some reasons why resting may be difficult.

She was working on a Bible study and was w-rest-ling with the topic of “Rest.”  So she decided to employ one of her “lifelines” and phone a friend. Unfortunately I was in the middle of something when the text came through.  I made a mental note to get back to her as soon as I had a free moment, then snapped my phone shut.  (Good thing a million dollars wasn’t at stake or I might be minus one friend.)

Several days (this may be a conservative estimate) later, I remembered The Text.  The one I had neglected to answer.  The one I had also inadvertently deleted.  (I may be minus one friend after all.)

Perhaps I could still respond.  If I could only recall the question.  It was something about “rest.”  Oh yes.  How would I define rest and why is it difficult to rest?

Here is the first thought that came to mind:

Rest is knowing you are loved.

One way I have learned to distinguish the voice of God from my own thoughts is that His voice usually startles me with its clarity and conciseness.  It’s typically something that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own.  Like that definition of “rest,” for example.  I also know that He will never contradict what He has already communicated in Scripture, so I went there next.

“May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” (Ruth 1:9)

This was Naomi’s prayer for her two recently widowed daughters-in-law.  She equated rest with the safety and security found in the marriage relationship.  Because life without a husband in that culture and time would have been anything BUT restful.

One of the sweetest things Chris said to me early in our dating relationship was that he just wanted me to feel “secure.”  I loved the way I could relax in his presence.  I didn’t have to perform to impress him.  I felt completely accepted and unconditionally loved.  In his love, and in the marriage commitment that followed, I could (insert big sigh of relief here) REST.

The good news is that regardless of whether we are currently married, never married, or newly single, we have a God who desires to be that loving husband to us.  He spells out His intentions clearly in Isaiah 54:5:

“For your Maker is your husband–the LORD Almighty is his name–the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.”

I just want you to feel secure.

Like a groom on his wedding day, He vows His love and commitment to His bride a few verses later:

” ‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

I love you with an unfailing, unshakable love.

When we know we are perfectly and unconditionally loved we can “cease striving, and know that (He) is God.”  (Psalm 46:10)  We don’t have to perform to earn His love and favor.  We can relax in His presence.  It’s like sinking into the comfort of a warm bubble bath.  Ahhhhhh.

Rest is knowing you are loved.

I feel compelled to ask in closing:  Have you found this place of rest?  Have you entered into a covenant relationship with the One who pursues you with an unstoppable love?  Jesus proved that love by offering His life in exchange for yours.  All you have to do is respond with a heartfelt “I do.”  (And would you please let me know if “you did”?)

No one will ever love you like He does.  You can rest in that fact.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a text message to send.

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