Heading north on the scenic 101, about an hour south of the Oregon border, the unsuspecting driver will suddenly encounter and traverse a coastal sandbar. On the left the restless, roaring Pacific Ocean; on the right, still and lush, Freshwater Lagoon; an astounding contrast of constant motion and thunderous noise versus quiet and peaceful serenity.
It’s a good analogy of the choice set before us as Christians. We can either jump headfirst into the hubbub of life where it takes all of our energy to just stay afloat; or we can choose to enter His rest and be free of doubt and fear, even as we move ahead, accomplishing much for the Kingdom of God.
The incredible voice of Don Potter comes to mind, crooning the words of The End of Some Things:
“There is a promise I can still hear, that one day I might enter his rest…There will be rumors, there’s already war; there will be battles in the heavenlies. Perilous times are coming our way; many will faint from anxiety…This may be the end of some things as we know it, but it’s not the end of me.”
The road ahead of us is clear. Which will we choose?
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it…Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Hebrews 4:1, 6-11
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 4-7
The Interstate 5 corridor through California’s Central Valley can seem interminable, especially if one is driving alone. So, to break up the monotony on this trip, I grabbed several old CDs that I haven’t listened to in years.
Cruising along to Carole King’s “Tapestry” album, the Lord was speaking as loudly as she was singing. “I feel the earth move under my feet; I feel the sky tumbling down, tumbling down; I feel my heart start to trembling whenever you’re around…” and I considered the earth-quaking impact of being in the presence of God.
Then, “Way over yonder is a place that I know, where I can find shelter from a hunger and cold…Talkin’ about a, talkin’ about a, way over yonder is a place I have seen, in a garden of wisdom, from some long ago dream,” and I yearned for heavenly places.
And, self-explanatory, “Where you lead, I will follow, anywhere that you tell me to…I will follow where you lead.”
But then there was, “I’d like to know that your love is love I can be sure of; so tell me now and I won’t ask again, will you still love me tomorrow? Will you still love me tomorrow?” And I realized that this is the cry of many people who are afraid to trust God because they have been bitterly and continually disappointed by others.
God’s Word is true and, yes, he can be trusted!
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you…It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:6, 8
Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” 1 Chronicles 28:20
And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16
…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5b-6
The first week of nursing school and we were a little scared, excited, and hopeful—all at the same time. Several of my new friends and I gathered around some seniors who would soon graduate and enter the workforce as registered nurses; hanging on every word, listening in awe as they spoke of diseases and treatments that were far beyond our comprehension. Yet, even as we sat spellbound, longing for such wisdom, they began talking about how unprepared they felt to leave the safety net of our school and enter the world of nursing on their own. But how could these smart, efficient women doubt themselves? They seemed so knowledgeable and competent to our untrained minds.
Fast forward just a few short years, as my roommate and I were getting ready to go to our own graduation ceremony, sitting on our beds with those brilliant white caps in our hands—caps that for the first time ever were adorned with the black velvet stripe signifying that we were no longer just students but graduates of the LA County School of Nursing. Our conversation mirrored that of those other seniors—we felt so unprepared; we didn’t know enough; we weren’t experienced enough; and what if we made a mistake that harmed someone? Yes, we were excited, but at the same time overwhelmed—the responsibility just seemed too huge to contemplate.
Recently I came across my photo of a giant chair that is displayed in front of a home furnishings store somewhere in New England. It reminded me of those old nursing school doubts, as well as the many challenges since, when life’s issues seemed beyond me; because as big as that chair is, I know that it’s still way too small for God. He is sufficient to handle all that concerns me, as well as all that concerns everyone else in the world, without even lifting a finger. Nothing is too big for Him.
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4:37-41
Yes, who can this be? If He can calm an angry sea with a gentle command, surely He can calm the storms that threaten to wreak havoc in my life. Surely He is big enough. His name is Jesus.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you. Psalm 55:22a
Mountains. How I love the mountains! And I’m not alone—any season of the year will find many heading to there to relax—from mountain climbing or biking to snow skiing or sledding; from swimming in a mountain lake to skating on its ice; from gathering around a campfire on a warm summer night to relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace on a snowy winter night, the mountains are an amazing retreat. Flower-carpeted hillsides in the spring or snow-capped peaks in the winter, they are things of such majestic beauty and grandeur that any description seems inadequate. But mountains also have another side. They are places of terrible danger. Every year we hear of hikers being lost, of people being stranded in the snow with tragic results, of swimming or skiing accidents, of avalanches. Perhaps the difficult, dangerous aspect is why we so often think of the problems or challenges in our lives as mountains that we must climb, ever straining to get to the top. Certainly cancer, or any other disease for that matter, can seem like a mountain. So, as I contemplated my diagnosis and the long and difficult treatment that it would entail, I also contemplated what Jesus had to say about mountains. In his words, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20b, NIV)
How often have I read this verse and visualized a physical mountain on the horizon; questioning or doubting the meaning—assuming that my faith is too weak because I know that the mountain is simply not going to get up and reposition itself no matter what I say or pray. Not that I doubt God’s word; I just don’t expect to see a mountain move.
But what if the mountain is really something in my life that is just too big for me to overcome? What if it’s financial trouble? What if it’s infertility? What if the mountain is cancer—or death? What if it’s a problem that’s so massive that I can’t see any way through or around it? Faith will move those mountains—yes it will—I know it will! In fact, it may appear to everyone else that the mountains are still there—but suddenly, for me, it can be as if they no longer exist. Even death? That’s a biggie. But yes again! Death is impending sooner or later for all of us—but death is only the end of physical life, and none of us is even promised a tomorrow, let alone a week, a month or a year. So if I really believe what God has told us—if I really believe that death is swallowed up in victory and has no sting—then what’s the big deal? The big deal is my own fear—fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of the unknown.
So, what will I do? I can cower in fear in the shadow of the mountain, worried about the very real dangers ahead—worried about the pain of surgery, the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Or, I can worry about what will happen once I get to the top of the mountain—what if I find a mountain range ahead instead of a wide, pleasant valley flowing with abundance? What if I find an uncertain future filled with another illness or metastasis? I have to face those fears head-on and recognize them for what they are—challenges that have been placed in my way by a devious, cruel enemy which can be removed with faith. I get to decide who wins. Fear or faith is my choice. Which will it be? Two reactions that are diametrically opposed; but one leads to anxiety, sorrow and defeat, and the other results in peace, joy and victory. No contest—faith is my only choice.
This is the foundation of my life—God is real—his Word is true—my life is his—he is my refuge, my place of rest, my peace and my hope. Oh, he may deliver me in different ways—sometimes he will take me through a mountain before he removes it. I may come to a mountain and realize there’s a tunnel—a day by day way to keep on keeping on. I can’t see any light at the other end, but I know it’s there and I just have to keep going. Once I’m through, I look back and the mountain has disappeared—vanished into thin air as if it never existed. By faith, the mountain has moved. Or, if it can still be seen, it’s now just a little blip up against a far-away horizon, nothing more than a molehill.
Other times I may have to climb a mountain, encountering one challenge after another along the way—the landslides, storms, wild animals, hunger and pain of life—but I keep on—and finally I arrive at a summit to find a vast panorama of beauty ahead. So I continue on my journey, occasionally glancing back, and once again the mountain has disappeared—it’s shrunk down to the size of the distant hills.
I’ve lost count of the mountains my Lord has moved for me. He’s proven himself over and over, even when my faith was so weak there was hardly any at all—so weak that it wasn’t any bigger than a mustard seed. And so, as I consider the fact that the cancer is something for which I must be treated; as I recognize that it’s not an easy battle; I also realize it’s really a non-issue because my God is the mover of my mountains.