July 9, 2014
“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” – Psalm 16:5-6
What will sustain your peace when you are going through a time of uncertainty?
Right now, my family is going through a big life transition. From an earthly perspective, our future is full of suspense. It is as though our path has taken us into a thick fog and the only way out is to keep walking even though we can’t even see where the next step will land and each step carries the combined weight of our five children with it. Backtracking is impossible because the path that we were just walking isn’t open anymore. Besides, the fog has closed in behind us so a step backwards would be just as tenuous as forwards.
To briefly explain in general terms, God has recently taken us through the process of stepping down from two ministries that we love deeply and that received our full devotion for three years. He did this with no indication of what is next. Shortly after, through trustworthy counsel and a unified work in our spirits, God led us to place our house on the market so that we could be fully prepared as soon as possible for his call whenever it comes. We took this step in confidence, but we also took it knowing that it was the last step we could see. We didn’t know how long it would be before God allowed our house to sell, but we were trusting that God would give us enough light for the next step when that time came.
Then our house sold in five days, and as I write, we have exactly one month before close.
Now I find myself identifying with Abram like never before. When God told him to “pack up and go to the place that I will show you” (Gen 12:1), it must have felt like traveling a foggy trail.
I have briefly explained my family’s circumstance because I want to share something that one of my daughters said yesterday, and I want reflection on it to help, not just me but anyone else in an uncertain part of their journey.
It has been very sweet to see our children respond to all of this family movement without the slightest hint of anxiety. Our oldest is only nine so none of our children have learned about adult fear yet. They simply trust their parents when we tell them that God is directing us and will show us where to go. It is no wonder that Jesus commended childlike faith: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3-4).
So last week at bed time when we shared with them that our house had sold, they simply accepted it. They admitted that they would miss the house but not in a mistrusting way. We all prayed together to thank God for his provision, and they went quickly to sleep.
Then yesterday at the breakfast table, our four year old, Mary Cooper, revealed the extent of her trust when she sweetly requested: “Daddy, when we leave our house, there are two toys that I would like to keep . . .”
I realized, in that moment, that she assumed that “selling our house” meant selling everything contained in the house: “Wait, Sugar. I’m so sorry that you didn’t understand this, but we are only selling the house, not all our things in the house. We get to keep our stuff.”
You should have seen her eyes light up as her curvy grin slowly widened.
I continued, “You get to keep all your toys.”
“Yeah,” she softly giggled.
What followed was a thorough explanation as to what things are considered part of the house and what things are not. After each clarification, she gigglingly agreed, “Yeah.”
As that conversation unfolded, I realized that though she was learning from me about the factual realities of a house sale, I was learning from her in a profoundly deeper way. She was learning about life; I was learning about faith.
What was she teaching? Or rather, what was God teaching through her?
The first lesson is that childlike faith rests on something different than a perfect understanding of circumstances. She was in a mode of complete trust even though she didn’t fully understand. I believe that she was at peace because she is resting on something entirely different than circumstantial comprehension. She is resting on family relationship. She knows that she is a part of our family no matter what else happens and that her future is bound together with her parents and siblings. She simply wants to know that we are together. Further, she trusts in the provision of her father, whatever that may be.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that she thinks through these thoughts like I am attempting to do, but I am saying that resting on family relationship is the disposition of her heart and that this disposition is the main thing that enables her to be at peace even when she doesn’t fully understand.
Second, childlike faith will accept whatever a father says must be, even if it seems extreme. Indeed, it must have seemed very extreme to a small child’s understanding that we should have to give up everything we own simply because God is moving our family to someplace new. In her preschool way of thinking, she must have dealt with the tension between the impending reality as she perceived it and what seemed fair. This tension must have existed because it was this very reality behind her polite breakfast table request. She was essentially saying, “Given that we are selling everything, it only seems reasonable for me to ask for two of my favorite toys.” But my point is this: Even though the situation seemed extreme, she relegated herself to trusting her parents. She did not lean on her own understanding.
Third, childlike faith is confident to make polite, humble requests, and such requests are not offensive to a father. There was nothing mistrusting about her specific request. It was made from an honest expression of her heart. In fact, the request originated from her disposition of trust. If she did not believe that her father cares about her specific concerns, she would not have been confident to express them in such a polite way.
And such a request is compelling to a loving father. Though her request served to reveal her precious misunderstanding that we could joyfully correct, had our situation actually been as she thought, it certainly would have moved my heart to respond. If we were actually selling everything, I can assure that there would be a two toy exception clause in the final contract.
Fourth, childlike faith is naive to the full measure of blessing and goodness that the father is able to maintain. Even the most perceptive child cannot comprehend all the blessings that her father is working to sustain. It is impossible for a child to know what the father knows. Even as she trusted, she did not realize all that her father was going to provide. She did not realize that her own limited expectations were going to be drastically over matched by her father’s interest in her well being. She was hopeful for two toys, but she is actually getting far more than she could have asked or imagined.
As I conclude, I want to make sure that you, the reader, understand that these are spiritual lessons. The lessons are not that God will always make our earthly circumstances pan out with abundant physical blessings. Rather, the lessons are that we can rest in our relationship with the Father; we can trust him even when circumstances seem extreme; we are free to express our requests to him in polite humility, and we can recognize that he has immeasurably more in store for us than we can comprehend.
If these things are in our heart, we are living in childlike faith and will be able to rest in uncertain times. After all, the uncertainty is only from our vantage point. The Father is fully aware of where our next step will land because he is a step ahead of our journey’s progress. Of course, he is also one thousand steps ahead, but when you are in suspense, the next one is all that matters.
Are you a Christian? Are you in the family? Then live in childlike faith. Make your humble requests. And anticipate his surpassing goodness.
Peace does not come through a fully grasped circumstance. Peace comes through a firmly grasped relationship.
If we hold back our trust until we fully understand, we never will trust him because we will never fully understand. One answered question just leads to another unanswered question . . . which is why later that day, Mary Cooper, looked at my wife and sweetly asked, “Mom, how are we going to get all our boxes in our minivan?”