The Saturday night before Waypoint launched, I found one of my boys in tears on the front steps. When I asked him what was wrong he replied, “What if nobody likes your sermon?” In that moment, this five year-old expressed my deepest fear of the day. And God forced me to sit down on the step with him and comfort my child. In a strange way, it was extremely cathartic for me as my fears were spoken, examined, explored, and then prayed over with him.
From that moment, I created a game I called the “What If” parade. When I find myself anxious, I sit down and let the What If parade pass before me. I jot down what is the worst thing that could happen, and then the next, and the next, as I follow it down a trail of worst-case scenarios. Usually at the end, however, I pray and have come to the same conclusion motivational speaker Spencer Johnson came to in his inspiring meme.
This makes a great meme most of the time…until that moment it is not.
Because inevitably there will be THAT moment that was far worse than you can ever dare to imagine.
Your wife walks in and says, “I am leaving you.” The doctor calls you and says, “It’s stage IV.” Your child calls you from a jail cell. When you have to purchase a gravestone for your child. Quite honestly, I cannot list examples because it is far worse than I could ever dare to imagine.
There will be a moment when you are crushed beyond what you could ever prepare for. Because, what if God gives you more than you can handle? What would happen to you?
Unfortunately, another popular meme is that “God will never give you more than you can handle.” This is not a biblical promise. The biblical promise is that no matter what, He will never leave you nor forsake you. It may appear as darkness has enveloped you, but in that darkness God resides.
When Mother Teresa died her personal journal was published. People were astonished to discover she battled with decades of a “dark night of the soul” where she felt terrible a pain of loss. For decades she the darkness remained, but her longing of faith lasted. In fact, as the darkness consumed her, her longing for Jesus seemed to grow stronger. In her journal, Mother Teresa wrote, “I talk of you [Jesus] for hours–of my longing for You.” And as she sat in this darkness for years, she eventually wrote, “For the first time in 11 years–I have come to love the darkness.” It is due to this longing within the darkness that Mother Teresa was able to daily identify with the those she was called to serve.
In 2 Chronicles we are told about a man who faced the darkness of the unknown. When Jehoshaphat faced the inevitable attack of three vast armies, he prays, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
Though your world will come crashing in, though all you have worked towards will topple, though the wars will rage within you–none of which you can handle–the Lord is with you. You may not know what to do, but turn your gaze upon the Lord who promises to be with you in the tempest.
God is our refuge and strength,Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11
an ever-present help in times of trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth is transformed
and the mountains are toppled
into the depths of the seas,
though their waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake in the surge…
“Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted over the earth.”
The LORD of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.