By: Cheri Fuller
This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”
Isaiah 30:15 NIV
Marilyn was exhausted the morning she and her husband, Dave, came home from his month at the rehab center. Every day she’d handled the load not only of caring for their three children but fielding calls from angry bill collectors, as well as operating car pool, working a part-time job, and trying to run the household by herself. Dave emerged in better shape than he’d been in months; he was happier than he had been in a long time. Marilyn, however, was a wreck.
In her room that morning she cried out to God, “I’ve prayed for ten years about our finances, and look what’s happened.” Her tirade continued as she looked over her journal entries and scriptures she’d prayed and clung to in the past year. Seeing the stack of bills she couldn’t pay, she sobbed in discouragement, “I just don’t believe You anymore!” Marilyn was angry at God for all the unanswered prayers, angry at friends who hadn’t confronted Dave with his alcoholism sooner, before it wrecked their life, mad at Dave for his addiction, and angry at herself for putting up with the awful situation for so long. But most of all, she was terrified about what they were going to do now that her mate was sober but out of a job.
Worried thoughts constantly plagued her so that she couldn’t even sleep at the end of a long day. As Dave passed their bedroom and saw Marilyn on the floor crying, he asked, “What’s the matter with you?”
“What’s wrong with me? Everything! But right now I don’t understand these finances and why we can’t ever pay our bills. I’ve trusted God, and He’s let me down,” Marilyn answered, tears flowing down her cheeks.
“Remember, acceptance is the answer to all your problems,” he said, and breezed by on his way to the garage, glibly reiterating a principle he’d learned at the rehab center.
You mean I’m supposed to accept that we don’t have any money, that my husband’s an alcoholic, that our life has crashed? she thought, continuing to sob. Then as she got quiet and began to think about it, Marilyn realized for the first time her focus was always so fixed on Dave’s flaws and financial problems that she’d never accepted anything. She’d wanted God to fix everything. But when it didn’t happen, she was crushed by disappointment, her mind tangled by worry about what they were going to do.
She was trying to “pray in” those things she wanted and kept looking to the future when her prayers would be answered her way. But it never happened! Marilyn’s life was like what C. S. Lewis described in the movie Shadowlands: “We live in the Shadowlands. The sun is always shining somewhere else, around the bend in the road, over the brow of a hill.” And today, once again, her eyes were fixed right over that hill.
So that day Marilyn pulled out her journal and began to write, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” She wrote down all the problems she faced, all the anxieties she had about them. “Lord, I’ve prayed, tithed, worked, and nothing has opened up to us. So I know that if You wanted to, You could change things in a moment or a day. But You haven’t. So I accept the way things are today, all the things I can’t change. I want You to show me what You’re doing. I want to see You and trust You, in the here and now right in the midst of our mess.”
As Marilyn waited in the quiet, peace slowly began to replace the worry. In the process of writing, she remembered what God had done even in the last few months. The “wilderness blessings” they’d received were many. They were living in a rented house, but it was a large, lovely one, and the owners had allowed them to live there rent-free while Dave was at the rehab center and until they recovered financially. She recalled the friends who’d supported and helped them; the ones who brought meals, the friend who gave her clothes when she had no money to buy any. She also began to see God was doing an inside job, teaching them a deeper level of responsibility and changing them both.
Until now she’d been just like the Israelites complaining about the manna God had provided in the wilderness. While she was looking down the road from the Shadowlands, she’d missed the things God was doing today. Her worry and anger dissipated as acceptance and gratefulness grew.
As author Hannah Hurnard says, the only way to live victoriously in the midst of life’s difficulties is “by learning to accept, day by day, the actual conditions and tests permitted by God, by a continually repeated laying down of our own will and acceptance of His as it is presented to us in the form of the people with whom we have to live and work, and in the things which happen to us. Every acceptance of His will becomes an altar of sacrifice, and every such surrender and abandonment of ourselves to His will is a means of furthering us on the way to the High Places to which He desires to bring every child of His while they are still living on earth.”
© 2015 by Back to the Bible.
“From Replacing Worry for Wonder, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.”