Ever feel like you are in over your head? Like you’re fighting a losing battle, and the situation is too hard, too much, and you are certainly not enough? Of course you have. We’ve all been there at one time or another and to one degree or another. Some of us feel this in our daily lives, that overload and stress from expectations we place on ourselves or allow others to place on us. Sometimes it hits much harder. A painful relationship, a serious illness, a toxic work environment, the death of a loved one. Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances that seem insurmountable or unbearable.
I recall one such time in my life. The situation was difficult, it certainly was not what I had expected/planned, I felt like I was flailing and failing. I was worried about how it would play out for my family. I was hurting. As I stood in church, singing the closing song, my mind suddenly went to Mary. I thought about how she had been asked to do something very difficult.
Let’s take a minute to read the details…
“…the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’
But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?‘
The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’
So a young girl, probably a teenager, gets the news that she has been chosen to carry Jesus. This is a great honor, but not without cost. She surely understood, at least to some extent, that this was going to change her previous life plan and cause some suffering. I love what she said as all this was dawning on her, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” She was willing.
I thought about Mary that Sunday morning in church, and I realized that I had also been chosen. In a way that was very different and yet somehow similar, God had chosen me to be in the difficult place in which I was finding myself. I was also being given the opportunity to “carry Jesus.” It was not the way I had envisioned it would be, and there was brokenness involved, but this was where God had placed me. My heart responded, “Let it be with me, according to Your word.” And then I sang with the congregation,
And I will fall at your feet
I will fall at your feet
And I will worship you here.
I will worship You, right in this hard place. It was a powerful moment in my life, a change of heart. I was right where I was supposed to be, and my role was to worship.
This reminds me of Bear Grylls. Ever heard of him? He is the survival guy that is forever putting himself (voluntarily, which is crazy!) into survival situations, and then demonstrating how to get out alive and in one piece. I once saw him in quicksand. He let himself get sucked in until he was good and stuck. The muck was up above his waist. From his quicksand pulpit, he emphasized the key to escape. Do not struggle and fight. All that does is drag you down and get you more hopelessly stuck. Apparently what is deadly about quicksand is not so much getting swallowed up but being immobilized and exposed to the sun.
I love the analogy here! When we find ourselves in something sticky and challenging, immobilized and overwhelmed, we should not struggle and fight. We need to calm down and be still. David had learned this even before Bear Grylls. He wrote what he had heard, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 One translation reads, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”
The default reaction if you are in quicksand is to panic and try to get out. The default reaction in challenging situations is similarly to worry and fret and try to make a plan to get out. We need to remember that the better way is to surrender, to “let go and let God.”
Many times when I am talking with people about difficult times they are dealing with, they mention the Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me
The serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference
Maybe we can expand on that:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. God, help me to accept that You have a plan and that You are able. I don’t have to struggle to change my circumstances. Teach me to rest in You.
The courage to change the things I can. Give me the courage to say “Yes,” to what You are doing and to let myself be changed by it. Help me to change my mindset from stuck to still and to learn to worship.
And the wisdom to know the difference. Show me when my effort is moving me toward You versus when my activity is just adding to my frustration and immobility.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” Psalm 40:1-3