Thursday, September 27

God and How He Works

Morning has started early today, though I'm not really sure why. I woke up about 6:00 and just feel rather unsettled. Probably "anxious" or "worried" is more accurate. I'd decided to search through Bible Gateway to see if I could find some reassuring passage about worrying, and how not to do it.

Instead, I found Matthew, chapter 6. It's a pretty familiar passage, all about how God gives the birds of the air and the flowers of the field everything they need, so why should we worry that He won't give us everything we need?

I switched back and forth through a couple of versions, just to see some similarities and differences in the language. A particular phrase caught my attention in The Message paraphrase by Eugene Peterson, "People who don't know God and the way He works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how He works" (v. 32).

That got me thinking ... do I really? I mean, if I really knew God and how He works, wouldn't I be able to say, as Paul does in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." And yet, my life seems to exemplify the opposite pole of living. I have learned to worry and be anxious, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have completely missed the secret of being content in any and every situation.

I have mentioned previously that Adam is out of work. It's been 3½ months now. When he was let go from his last job, we had no money saved up in the bank. Unemployment pays just over half of what he was making, and I felt like our budget was tight then. Yet, we're paying our bills, and we've even had a few extra dollars here and there to go out to eat on a Sunday or pick up a book I've been wanting to read. Doesn't that exemplify how well God's taking care of us? Why is it then, I can't get past this feeling that it's my job to figure out where the money is going to come from?

Before we were married, Adam and I had a very interesting discussion about birth control. We talked about the different views, from trusting God, believing that He does not allow any "accidental" children, and making no attempts to prevent conception to taking full responsibility, carefully planning for the season or month of each child's birth and using some method of contraception to ensure that children are not conceived outside the plan.

In the midst of that discussion, I didn't really know where to draw the line. And not just in this one arena, either. It seems like there is a line in between trusting God fully for His provision and taking responsibility for your own life. Take grocery shopping, as an example. If I trust God to provide food, does that mean I shouldn't go to the grocery store, but should subsist on twigs and berries and whatever people drop on my doorstep? That seems a little silly, doesn't it? I think most people would agree that we have some responsibility to take care of ourselves. But the question remains, just how much does God expect from us? How much is He willing to do if we don't take responsibility?

Deuteronomy 31:6 states that "God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." How far is He willing to go, though? How much of my life is His concern, and how much is mine? If I'm looking for a job, I shouldn't expect one to simply fall into my lap, but how much searching is reasonable? Do I look at one job a day? Ten? Twenty? Should I be spending 40 hours a week polishing up my résumé and sending it to every company within a 10 mile radius? What about taking this opportunity to spend more time with my family? Going to the zoo during school hours when it's not so busy, window shopping at the mall, checking out the new playground down the street. How much of my time should I devote to that while still making a reasonable effort to find gainful employment?

I'm stuck, you see. Stuck in the unwritten rules and regulations of a legalistic background that I'm not sure how to untangle. Relationships are messy. They aren't based on rules and precedents and performance incentives. They're not about trying with all your might to fulfill one another's expectations. God sure doesn't see any need to try to meet mine. He just continues being God. That's who He is. But, here I am, like a gerbil on a wheel, trying desperately to be enough: good enough, smart enough, busy enough, responsible enough. If I relax, I'm afraid I'm not doing my part. Even if I keep busy, though, I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up. Stuck.

Adam tells me I'm a verbal processor: I don't know what I'm thinking until I hear it come out of my mouth. The birth control discussion I mentioned--that was more than three years ago, now. Since then, I've been noticing all the areas where this line of responsibility is an issue for me. For the first time, as I was writing the last paragraph, I have begun to recognize that it's really symptomatic of a deeper issue. I don't have the answer to that problem. I'm still caught in the legalistic muck. Yet, somehow, I'm really encouraged. I'm not stuck forever.


  1. Amy--

    I think you've described really well one of those tensions of the Christian life. We trust, but we keep on doing what we can on our end! I love (this concept.) We're good at our side of the equation; not so good at the first part. So I think some situations in life are designed to help us become more balanced.

    Praying that your faith muscles are getting stronger daily--and that this exercise in faith won't last too long!!



  2. Hugs. I've had a big struggle not to worry or borrow trouble lately.


  3. Hi Amy,

    I tried posting a comment the other day and it didn't work. So I'm trying again.

    Just wanted to say this was a great post. It's so hard to stop worrying - every time I think I've learned the lesson, something happens to show me I haven't. Unemployment is a huge test, too. It's a reminder that we're not in charge, even though as Americans we usually have ourselves convinced that we are.

  4. Thanks, everybody. I appreciate the wise, kind words. It's always good to know when I'm feeling all alone in something, I'm not really.


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