Has 2017 already been a busy year for you? I’ve had a few hectic days since the beginning of the year. The house needs cleaning, laundry needs folding, cars need fueling, kids have homework, and there’s work to be done at the office. Oh, by the way, what’s for dinner? Did you go grocery shopping? Did you pay the bills? Did the plumber come to fix the toilet? I feel breathless.
The answer? Stop and take a breath! Life sometimes feels as if we are only enduring it and not living it. We major on the troubles and allow the beauty of life to pass us by. Our challenge is to put things in the right perspective so we can maintain balance and focus and live this adventure called life instead of simply enduring it.
“Life is not a problem to be solved; but an adventure to be lived.” John Eldredge
When we first moved to Africa in 1987, a team of volunteers came to work at the mission we were serving with for a couple of weeks. As usual, when guests came through, we held great seminars, had to prepare meals, and keep up with regular duties – all at the same time. Life, in general, takes quite a bit of work in Africa; food is often not easy to find, does not come pre-prepared in bags nor is it clean enough even to cook. The finding of and pre-preparation of food in and of itself can and does take a full day.
It was in this setting of ultra-busy-ness as we were sitting down with our guests and enjoying a meal together (that had taken me all day to prepare), that the topic of conversation moved to getting things done. I lamented that “there aren’t enough hours in the day” to get everything done. One of our visitors, a pastor’s wife of many years, turned to me and said, “God made the day with 24 hours. He knew when He made the world how much time we would need every day to get things done. Don’t ever say there’s not enough time.” I sheepishly sunk into the chair I was sitting in and pondered those wise words. I felt as if I was spending more time laboring to find time than I was enjoying the time I had. I didn’t know what to do with what Jesus told us to do:
Matthew 11:28-30 ESV “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.”
It seems we have reversed the roles of things we should and shouldn’t labor over; in our text from Matthew, we find that the yoke (what oxen use when pulling a plow) Jesus gives us is “easy” and He makes our burden “light.” There is an easier way out: His way of living, His values, His leading.
Since what the Father has prepared for us is “light,” why do we toil over what is “heavy?” It seems we reject what is light (God-life) for what is heavy (natural life). Why is that? I want a stress free life but as I’m looking for it, I seem to be living in an utterly impossible mess of circumstances. This is not easy!
Naturally speaking our tendencies are to look for the logical, the explained, the “figure-it-out-able.” We assume something is easy and deserving of our attention when we think we understand. When we cannot understand what is before us, or when we can’t solve it alone, we resist it. “Why trust God with my life, future? The Bible is, after all, irrelevant and out of date.”
So we continue living as we wish, making decisions without prayer, and giving God the occasional nod of the head as we make an obligatory visit to church. Suddenly, it seems out of nowhere, the rug gets pulled our from under us; the situation is extreme and there’s no way to understand what’s happening. This kind of living certainly isn’t the easy way out.
Luke 8 calls those things that pull the rug out from under us the “cares of life” and it is these “cares” that choke God’s life from us when we try to carry them alone. There’s a reason why 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to “cast your cares on Him for He cares for you.”
This brings us to taking up His yoke that from Matthew 11:28-30 – because it is “easy” and His burden is “light.” Wouldn’t it be good to pick up something that is light for a change? It’s time for an escape: learn to cast your cares on Him, have faith in Him, and let Him be your burden bearer.
Many Christians like to say we “live by faith” but the truth of the matter is, we mostly live by reason. This is what trips us up along this walk of faith for faith and reason don’t work together – it’s like oil and water. We shake it up and then it separates. Faith and natural thinking just don’t work together. Faith is accepting that we cannot understand the unexplained or unseen and then trusting God who rules over the unexplained and unseen.
What faith does is that it causes us to “put all the cards on the table.” Truth be told, we do not like risk. We prefer to be in control. We try to gauge heavenly issues with earthly logic. This thinking is flawed; there’s no way earthly logic matches up to heaven’s plan.
Genesis 16 gives us the account of Sara and Hagar. Our Father of faith, Abraham, is usually at the center of this account. God had promised him a son through his wife Sarah. But they were past the age of having children. As strong as his faith was, even he had moments in his life where he stumbled. Like here when he listened to Sarah’s advice and took Hagar as a means to get God’s promise fulfilled.
Consider the story in Genesis 16. Hagar had simply followed directions and it happened to her as Sarah had hoped, she got pregnant, and then Sarah despised her. She was in a difficult place because she did as she was told and instead of rejoicing in the desired outcome, things turned sour. Once Sara found out Hagar was pregnant, as she had wanted her to be, Sarah “dealt with her harshly.” (vs. 5)
Hagar runs away and finds herself in the wilderness. We, too, are guilty of running into the wilderness when we don’t understand. Chapter 16 gives the account of Hagar’s plight that mirrors our own:
Hagar had been obeying and just living as she had been told and when things went as they should have, opposition arose and she ran and when she ran, she found a spring where she could draw water (vs. 7)
When we live in obedience and the promise begins to unfold, opposition will come and at that moment – we aren’t to run! But, in the event we do, we have a faithful Father Who meets us in that place we’ve run to and even provides springs of water to sustain us in our flight as He works on our attitudes.
As with Hagar, faith also calls us to be in places of pressure, to submit, when it doesn’t make sense (vs. 9) and face the music. And faith also gives us a picture of what lies ahead if we can believe:
Gen. 16:10 ESV “…I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”
Faith helps us understand that He sees us – even when our faith hasn’t been perfect. Hagar had been far from perfect here, but obviously God saw something special in her because He met with her and she understood this for she said, “truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” (vs. 13) This is the great love of the Father for us – in our flight He looks for us, finds us, sustains us, and guides us back to Himself.
God is not after us being perfect in our faith; He is after perfecting us daily in our faith. He is our Father and we are like toddlers learning how to walk. He is looking after us and doing what is best for us throughout. You see it is all about you and your well being when it comes to the Father. It’s never about what can God get out of you, it’s what can He get to you.
How does faith help us juggle everything that comes our way? How does living by faith affect my daily struggle to fold laundry and make dinner? Faith makes no sense to us. Faith is inconvenient. Faith depends not on our reasoning but on God and His faithfulness.
When we are interrupted to believe God in the middle of the daily repetition in life, we are shaken from our understanding. If we obey Him at that moment, He will be our protection when we are treated harshly, He will be our support when it feels like everything has fallen apart, and probably the most amazing part of all is this:
He stoops down to our level and makes us great – He births nations, makes miracles, plants churches, dreams come true, He gives us visions, and fulfills desires. It is through us living in faith that the Father reaches into the lives of others. As He reaches through us, He heals us, protects us, provides for us, and makes us great in Him. If we don’t live by faith in Him, He has no way of getting those things to us that we need.
Habakkuk 2:4 NKJ “But the just shall live by his faith.”
Without stretching out into the realm of trusting God, we spin aimlessly in circles. Do you want to enjoy life? Take the plunge and live by faith! It’s the only adventure where you can be sure that there is a rescue! We win! It’s actually the easy way out of the stress we find ourselves in.