Early this morning, I was reminded that there are two four o’clocks in a day. I’m not sure what woke me up - a creak of the house, a shift of the Schnauzer. Typically, when I have those early morning wake-ups, I’m able to shut back down. But this morning wasn’t typical.
|The first of the two four o'clocks|
As soon as I woke up, I started stressing. I had gone to bed with a fairly big issue on my mind. After some prayer, God finally helped my brain to shut down and I got some sleep. A few hours later, though, I was wide-awake and picking up right where I had left off. This time, however, I had the added benefits of pumping adrenaline and a heavy dose of early morning lack of rationality (it has been scientifically proven that there are absolutely no good decisions made before 6:00am).
I processed, I analyzed, I schemed, I repented, I tried to distract myself with a book, I tried to distract myself with FoxNews (that backfired when the use of the word “transracial” almost made my head explode). It wasn’t until the light started peeking through the blinds around 5:30am that my mind finally started to settle.
The frustrating thing is that I had prayed about this. I had given it over to God. I had complete faith that God would walk us through this wilderness. There was no doubt.
Well, not until 4:00am.
Faith is a funny thing. Rather than a perpetual constant, faith seems to be more of a lather-rinse-repeat. Later in the morning, as I was driving up to church and feeling the peace that is much more readily available in the daytime hours, I asked God what that stress explosion was all about. The words that came to my mind were something along the lines of “Remember, it’s blog day. You needed a topic. Start writing.”
I believe there are 4 P’s when it comes to the process of faith - to finally trusting God in the midst of our problems and crises.
The first is Panic. When the diagnosis is given or the job is lost or the spouse leaves - it’s like a punch in the gut, it’s like the air is sucked out of the room, it’s like Wile E. Coyote that moment he realizes that he’s run himself off a cliff and there’s nowhere to go but down. This panic might be immediate, or it might initially be numbed by the shock. But it will come - in the quiet moments, in the alone moments - when there is nothing standing between you and the future. It’s those moments when inevitability and impossibility meet head on. You’re watching the steamroller slowly coming toward you, and your cement shoes are ensuring that future flatness is a forgone conclusion.
It’s in those steamroller moments that the second P comes into play - Prayer. David says, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From His temple he heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears” (Psalm 18:6). We pray - God hears. A simple formula, yet one that changes everything.
Suddenly, we are not alone in our problem. We have an ally, and not just any ally. We’ve got the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving Creator God of the Universe standing with
us. We cry out, “Stop the steamroller!” to the only One who
has the ability to truly stop the steamroller every time, and the Great
Steamroller-Stopper actually hears our cry - and cares!
|"I'm a steamroller, baby, I'm bound to roll all over you"|
But here is the toughest part about faith - believing, deep down, that the Great Steamroller-Stopper actually does care enough to stop the steamroller. And, quite frankly, there’s a reason for our doubt, because there are times when the Great Steamroller-Stopper doesn’t stop the steamroller and we get pancaked down into the asphalt.
That’s why the third P is so desperately needed - Perspective. This is the ability to see our lives through God’s eyes. Paul puts his suffering and struggles this way - Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Paul throws all of our crises - the foreclosed house, the cancer diagnosis, the wayward child, the bipolar struggle - into one big basket and slaps a label on that says “Light and Momentary Troubles”.
|"That's a bull shark - scraped me when I was taking samples."|
Now, before you get angry with him or start formulating any Yeah-buts, remember who’s writing. It’s Paul - and if there is anyone you don’t want to get into a Jaws-esque scar comparison battle with, it’s him. Yet, despite his tendency to get beaten, imprisoned, dragged out of cities and stoned, shipwrecked, and thorn-sided, he’s still able to say, “You know, guys, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter all that much.” The reason he’s able to say that is because his perspective of the grand scheme of things is really, really grand - it’s God-sized grand.
We see pain, God sees progress. We see struggle, God sees growth. We see hopelessness, God sees opportunity. We feel despair, God feels sorrow. We feel alone, God feels love. We scream “Stop!”, God says, “Not yet”. We ask “When?”, God says, “When it’s time.” We plead “Why?”, God remains silent. We beg “Please…”, God says, “Trust Me. I’ve got something amazing planned for you. In the meantime, my power is made perfect in your weakness.”
If we can lift our eyes to see our pain through God’s eternal perspective, then that will grant to us our fourth P - Peace. Jesus promised us an amazing heaven-sent peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This is the peace that eases the adrenaline, that changes the focus, that rekindles hope, that allows us to take our eyes off of ourselves so that we can put them back on God and on others. This is the peace that assures us that we are smack-dab in the middle of God's perfect plan for our lives. This is the peace that reminds us that this life is just a blink of an eye compared with the eternity that is awaiting us with our Lord. This peace is a myopia-killer. This peace is a purpose-restorer.
As I sit here typing, that 4:00am issue is still making noise in my head. But the sound is much fainter. Rather than it blaring in my ears and taking my whole focus, it’s just rattling its tin cup against the cell bars down in the dungeon where I have it locked away. That doesn’t mean that it won’t get some power tools smuggled to it so that it can break out and attack me again bright and early tomorrow morning. That’s just part of the obnoxious cycle of faith we experience living as eternal souls in temporal meat suits. But as long as we push past the panic and pray seeking God’s perspective, His perfect peace which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Him.