Until I was 18 I assumed that my bed time prayers, church attendance on Sundays, and the ‘Religion Award’ in 8th grade meant that I had a great faith life. I was viewing my faith life like a recipe. Add one cup of prayer followed by two heaping handfuls of good deeds, mix, bake in the oven for 85 years. End result is every-lasting reward.
Right? Oh, I could not have been more wrong.
At 18, in college many states away from home I went through a series of events that shook me to the very core of my beliefs. Things that occurred severely altered my faith in humankind and God for that matter, and I didn’t think that I could continue living with the pain that I was in. Daily, I contemplated death. If I couldn’t face the person that I had become, why would God want to face me?
As much as I didn’t want to face God, He chose to pursue me. One afternoon, after contemplating another way to end my life, I tripped on a stack of books on the floor. One happened to be my Bible. Here’s the thing, for growing up in the church and being reminded to say my prayers, I couldn’t tell you much about the Bible except for Genesis was at the beginning, Revelation was at the end, King David was a little boy who wrote the Psalms, and Luke has the prettiest description of the Nativity. (I think my knowledge about the Nativity has something to do with watching Charlie Brown Christmas for years, rather than paying attention in church).
I happened to open up to the Book of Jeremiah 1:5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Those few words changed my life. I did not understand why He had allowed me to live, when there were times that I could have died, that He chose to sustain me. I wept for I realized that God had known about me before I came into being, that He had a plan for my life. I knew that even amid the pain I was in, uncertain of what the future would hold for me, God was holding onto me, that He would reveal His plan for me in His time. Whenever I grow frighten of what the future may hold, of the tasks that lie before me, I reflect on Jeremiah’s words and I find my peace again.
When I am troubled, my first instinct is to bottle up the fears inside of me. I believe that no one is interested in my problems and that it is better that I deal with things by myself. But when I discovered King David’s opening verse in Psalm 130 “Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice! Let thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!” I realized that as King David could recognize his neediness and feared that the Lord may not be listening to his pleas, I too could follow his lead. As King David was open about his anxieties, I should confide in the Lord when troubles assault me.
Another verse that I turn to when worries pile up is in the Gospel of Luke 11: 9-13 “And I tell you, Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him scorpion? If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” This verse inspires me to recall that fear is useless. There is an abundance of love that the Lord has for me. Just as I work hard to provide the best for my child because I love him, the Father who is all good will provide the best for me.
With unemployment rising, the stock market plummeting and the national deficit mounting it is easy to get caught up in the hysteria that we will be reliving the Great Depression of the 1920’s. When I am tempted join the despair, I reflect on Matthew 6: 25-33“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. . . . Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. . . .your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” The Lord is aware of our daily needs and knows that many of the economic problems that are afflicting our lives is largely out of our hands. We need to pray that He will take care of us and have faith that He will care for us, as He cares for even the flowers that grow on the earth.
When I become aware of my own shortcoming and sinfulness, I reflect on Luke 15: 32“It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found,” the parable of the Prodigal Son. God’s love for us is so great that when we return to Him after being parted though evil deeds, He welcomes us back with open arms. God isn’t waiting in anger to rebuke us for our sins but rather rejoices that His child has returned.
Now that I am farther removed from the child I was at 18, I know that my spiritual journey is still so young. I know that my faith will increase each day that I ask the Lord for His help. He has sustained me though many trials thus far and as I grow older and my needs and desires change, I know that I will always find guidance in the Scriptures.