When you think about your future do you feel secure? Or do you spend a lot of time playing the wheel of fortune in your mind, watching it spin round and round, contemplating exactly where the arrow of destiny will stop? And when the arrow in your mind lands on a certain circumstance- do you hypothesize how that will affect you… your loved ones… your world? And do you then make a plan…or do you get fearful and start to dread the future?
Ezekiel was God’s prophet in some very stressful, dark days of Judah’s history. Ezekiel prophesied to the people about events that would take place in Jerusalem’s future. He spoke about judgement, but also spoke about the hope of restoration and life. As he looked forward in time, he told the people something very important about their future- God is there.
This blog took a life of its own after I started the opening paragraphs. A heaviness of fear had been over me along with a dread of the future; but God had been speaking life to me from His word and the message on my heart was from a few days prior when I went to get a mole checked at the dermatologist. I was a little anxious. Anxiety is par for the course when I go to the doctor. However, the mole I had didn’t look like anything to be worried about; even my general doctor said to just have it checked. During my quiet time on the day of my appointment God reminded me of one of His Names- Jehovah Shammah, which means “The Lord is There.” As I pondered this name, I had great comfort knowing that indeed, The Lord was already “there” at the doctor, or wherever I go. The appointment went fine and the doctor looked at my mole and said it looked benign, but they would go ahead and take it off “just in case.”
Back to the morning I was writing this blog, I realized that in my quiet time Scripture reading, I was noticing more and more this message- that He’s there- wherever we go:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You. Psalm 139:7-12
In awe of how God speaks directly to our fears, I started to study the scripture from Ezekiel 48:35, which mentions that particular name of the Lord. In the broader text, Ezekiel, who was a prophet to the people of Judah, was giving hope for the future of Jerusalem and Israel- and letting them know that The Lord is There. He assured them that although their home had been desolated, God would not leave it in ruins, but bring about a future restoration. This truth showed me the reality and application for us today- the Lord is “There,” through Christ who dwells in us, and will be wherever He leads us, because He’s already prepared the way to bring blessing and restoration. His heart is for us to trust Him on the journey.
This same day that God was speaking to me about His name, Jehovah Shammah, I was thinking about a “random” video I had seen on youtube the night before. It was a video about a lady who was a new age spiritualist and worked with different spirits. The thing that caught my attention was the point in her story when she realized she needed to give her life totally to Jesus, and she renounced the spirits. She said, “I will only be working with Jesus from now on.” Her declaration arrested me and I pondered how many Christians (especially women) are trying to work with Jesus and the spirit of fear. The Bible says “fear” is a spirit, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). I immediately recalled many situations that I let my decisions be driven by fear. As I was thinking through all of this, my daughter walked in and I told her about the video. We decided to watch it together and she agreed that this was a common problem as she also dealt with fear. We then made the decision to pray and declare that we would no longer work with fear- we would only work with Jesus.
About two hours went by and as we were getting ready to go to the store, my phone rang. It was that dreaded unexpected phone call and I heard my doctor’s voice saying “this is rare… but the mole was melanoma.” She said she was surprised and informed me that I would need to have surgery on my arm. My world changed in an instant- and I felt very fearful. After I got off the phone I told my daughter what the doctor said and we both looked at each other and said- Wait! We just declared we would not work with fear! What in the world is going on?!?!
The next two days were a whirlwind. I had contacted my friends that I pray with on a regular basis and asked them to pray that I would not fear through this testing time, and that I would be healed if it was God’s will. Upon learning that I had an invasive melanoma, I also realized I was going to get a pretty big chunk of my arm taken out along with a lymph node. But all the while, I was surrounded by God’s compassion and amazing peace. The funny thing is I usually get anxious, as previously mentioned, when I go to the doctor and my blood pressure is sometimes higher than normal (white coat syndrome). But oddly enough, it was picture perfect after they told me the full report, which looked concerning! There was no doubt again, that God was already there. Assurance was mine. There was nothing to plan or fix. He had already prepared the way.
When something like this happens there is a very real sense of loss of control. The Scripture that kept coming to me was, “I am but dust,” from Genesis 18:27. Reality of the brevity of life hits in these dreaded moments and it confirms that our life is fleeting. Another thought that ran through my head during this time was the comfort that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). I made the mistake of googling a little too much about statistical data and my possible future outlook. While that can be helpful for some, we all know that never turns out good for a fearful person because at the end of that bunny trail is a big sign that says, “You’re going to die!” Fortunately, God reminded me that His future for me was not to bring harm to me and He has the power to do what He wants for the end result that will bring good to me and glory to Himself. Also, I remembered that His statistical data is actually quite astounding. Immediately, He caused me to remember that He kept cutting back Gideon’s army until he was standing ready to fight with a small army of 300 soldiers- going up against a large army of 100,000 plus! Gideon followed the Lord’s directions and God caused the enemy to be confused and turn their swords on each other (Judges 7). This was not the only time the Lord used the method of confusion. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, had armies coming to fight him and his people. He sought the Lord’s counsel and reminded God of His promises. God made a way for their deliverance and the method He used to confuse the enemy in this battle was the battle cry, “Give thanks to Adonai, for His grace continues forever.” Through thanksgiving and praise, God caused their enemies to turn on each other and they were completely destroyed (2 Chronicles 20:1-29). Thanksgiving and praise are still our most powerful weapons and this battle cry became dear to my heart in this trial. Another statistical nightmare for betting people would have been the David and Goliath fight. One smooth stone brought down a rugged mountain (1 Samuel 17). Only God can cause our giants to fall like that.
Interestingly but not surprisingly, I slept like a baby the night before my surgery. The morning of surgery I had an awesomeness of God’s presence, even though I had the feeling of being tremendously pressed. Through testing and surgery I saw one grace upon another. Bible verses and promises were flooding my mind- appropriate to every situation as I needed them. I could see in all kinds of details how He had prepared the way. Over and over I kept saying, “Please don’t let me forget this!” He niched in many smiling and familiar faces, comforting words, and even a precious nurse who prayed with our family before I went into surgery. I realized as I was being led, that God was writing my story for Him. These were dark times as He was taking me through this valley, but there was an awesomeness about it as He was truly there!
One thing that came to mind during this trial was my identity. We would all probably agree that we don’t want to be known by the trial we are going through. “She’s the lady who has melanoma…” rang in my head. But God reminded me that His truth in any trial is- “She’s the lady who has Jesus.” Another reminder of the identity of a woman of God came to mind from Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” This picture of the fearless woman is an eternity away from my natural self. Only with Jesus can we begin to comprehend the thought of laughing without fear of the future. He promises to rescue us from fear so we can worship Him in freedom (Luke 1:74). What I have experienced in living fearless is that my gaze has to constantly be upon Jesus. Just like when Peter walked on the water: the minute he took his eyes of Jesus he started to sink (Matthew 14:22-33). The hand of Jesus is always reaching out so grace can set us back in position to see that He is in control.
Waiting… isn’t that the hardest thing to do? Especially when what you’re waiting on will direct the course of your future. Before the surgery, I was told that I would be able to find out my test results pretty quick. But because of a holiday, things got hectic, and I was told I would have to wait. I then suspected the Lord had ordained a time of waiting for me. After my pitiful breakdown, I started remembering all the verses that promise good things in the wait, in particularly, Lamentations 3:25, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.” I finally came to a point where I wanted the goodness of the Lord more than I wanted the results from the test. What I knew in particular is that I had to agree with Him in whatever He decided was best for me. That was something I intensely wrestled with. I needed time to do that, so I decided I would wait a little more and find out the results at my scheduled doctor’s appointment. It was then that I embraced the wait. I was reminded over and over through His promises that He is indeed good and He withholds no good thing from us. He is the Father of heavenly lights and every perfect gift comes from above. Of course, these trials we experience don’t feel like perfect gifts, but if we are living in Christ- the truth is- they are. In fact, even more so, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). What is profound is Paul, who wrote this, suffered many “light” trials, none of which come remotely close to any trial I have ever experienced:
Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)
In the waiting, I continued to review why I was waiting. Reminded that I declared to work with Jesus only and not fear, it was confirmed to me that He was doing a work that only He could do in the wait. Waiting helps to build and prove our faith- and when we use that faith to pray, we receive. So waiting helps us to pray in God’s will. I also feel waiting purifies us because we practice saying no to self. Waiting also helps to line us up with God so we are not driven by fear and we are patient in our trials.
As I was in prayer on the morning before my doctor’s appointment my phone rang and it was my doctor’s office. They were calling to ask me if I’d like to go ahead and come in a couple of hours before my appointment. I wanted to laugh and say- listen I’m really trying to be obedient and wait- why are you tempting me? But part of me wanted to rush in and get it over with. If I did go in, I thought, it would be hectic because I wasn’t ready, and I would cut my prayer time short, so I declined. Then– God spoke to me as I read the most beautiful passage. Here are the first couple of verses from Psalm 144:
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle;
My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My stronghold and my deliverer,
My shield and He in whom I take refuge”
Through His word He confirmed that He is indeed my rock, and He is training me for battle. Also, later in this psalm it confirmed: our days are fleeting. He lowers the heavens to come down and rescue us. He saves us out of deep water and we will sing a new song to Him. Happy are the people who have Him as their Lord. I realized that He is my good report- no matter what my report said.
By the way, I went to the doctor and my report was good news! For that I am thankful. More check ups are sure to follow and fear will want to say “what if…” but God’s goodness will always say, “whatever!” I will continue by God’s grace to embrace the trials of this life and live fearlessly knowing He is already there. We have all had and will continue to have various trials. Maybe like me, if you are a Christian, you want to be reminded that God is good and our trials are for our good:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
One thing we can be certain of as we look to our future without fear- The Lord is there. He is making the way for hope, restoration, and life. His Name is Jehovah Shammah.