A Meaningful Reality Check!

It felt good to return to work after traveling half-way around the world and back.  I love to travel because it reminds me of just how big this world is–a healthy reality check! However flying twelve hours in a plane to begin and conclude the adventure was hard!   What helped on our return flight, was watching a map of our progress as we flew out of Beijing to Toronto over oceans and seas, land areas and towns I had never heard of.  As we made our slow progress traveling the nearly 7,000 miles across the globe (“slow” being a very relative application here!) I thought about what a speck in God’s amazing cosmos we actually are!  It is amazing to me how we humans live as if the reverse were true; viewing ourselves as big and God as small and distant.

Travel is not the only way to receive that much-needed reality check.  The Scriptures also serve as an excellent means of keeping us straight as to who God is and who we are not!  That is why in the Counseling Room, frequent trips to the Bible are the key means of keeping our bearings.  There are a myriad of places to go for help, depending upon the need.  Often, when the problem(s) seem particularly daunting, I have found the broad spectrum comfort and assurance of Psalm 121 a helpful beginning.  (I invite you to stop and read the following passages aloud, just as my clients do.  Allow God’s Spirit to minister to whatever need you have as only He can do.)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains-
     where does my help come from?  
My help comes from the Lord,
     the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
     He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel
     will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
     the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
     nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
     He will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going–
     both now and forevermore.

God knows and cares about what is happening in your life and mine!  Even as we sleep, He is at work watching over us.

Another one of my favorites we frequent for a spiritual reality check (especially when the problems are nasty and overwhelming) is chapter six in the Apostle Paul’s letter to his friends in Ephesis.  The passage reminds us that the battles we face are far larger than we can see; that God will provide the courage and power we lack to stand as we lean fully on Him.  (Again, be blessed as you read this slowly aloud.  Pay special attention to the scope of the battle and be encouraged by the Source of our strength as we are called to stand)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  (Ephesians 6: 10-18)

No matter where you are in your life, be you problem-free or facing challenges like never before, referring to the Scriptures on a regular basis is a good and needful part of walking well with Christ.  However, honoring the highlighted portion of the Ephesians is what makes for a truly meaningful reality check in each of our lives.  When we “pray in the Spirit on all occasions”we entrust ourselves to God’s enormity as our Creator and Provider.  There is no more meaningful reality check than that!

HOPE!

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121: 1-2

I totally love the way God is able to tend to the human heart, switching seemingly dark times into the light of HOPE.  That happened to me last night.  Earlier last week, some personal burdens that I have been carrying became heavier as fear entered my mind and heart.  To be honest I felt alone and wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go.  As I sought to get a handle on my fears I realized that the words from Psalm 121 were rolling through my mind as if on a scroll.   I started to smile as I recognized it was our family “Medical Procedure Psalm” that we used whenever one of our children was facing stitches or some other medical procedure.   I would begin with, “I lift up my eyes unto the hills–where does my help come from?”     They would respond (often in tears):  “My help comes from the Lowd (sniff, sniff),  the Makeh of heaven and earff . . . ”   I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered those small voices reminding us both that God is good, that we are never alone and that we need not be afraid.   I stopped running even though some fear remained.

This got me to thinking about how to best face our fears.  Looking online I found an interesting article on a site called Thinking Aloud.  Written by “personal and business coach” Gail Sussman Miller, the article presents six “Strategies to Face and Move Through Fear”  that she says can be applied in any order.    Some of her ideas useful but one I found quite troubling:

  • Find out what the fear behind the fear is!   (Pay attention to your thoughts; write them down.  A good start!)
  •  Ask “what is REALLY true?” ( Also helpful but our sources of discerning truth differ.  Where I advise clients to write their fears down and then to answer those fears with the truth of Scripture; Miller recommends a sort of personal pep talk.  In fairness, a personal pep talk can be somewhat helpful, but I don’t think it really helps to get to the root of the problem the way Scripture does.)
  •  Make sure you are spiritually and emotionally grounded.  (She really had my interest here until I read further.   “I find when fear has me rattled; I am scattered and need grounding.”  (True, it is why I wanted to run!)   “I use deep breathing and positive present-tense affirmations to get myself centered and calm.”  (Helpful initially, but lasting?  No.  It was the last part, speaking to the “spiritual”(?)  that really saddened me.)  “I return to my confident state of mind by reviewing my successes and my belief in myself no matter WHAT happens.” 

I was honestly sickened as I reflected on what I believe has led to tragedy.   We have a generation that, in the name of self-esteem, has been built up with a “confident state of mind” and “belief in myself no matter WHAT happens” while at the same time, God has become dangerous and offensive.   In the past two weeks, one of our local high schools was hit by the tragedy of three individual suicides committed by students.  I  can’t help but wonder what led to such senseless selfishness?  Where was God in their thinking?  I ache for their families.

Feeling heavy-hearted, I turned on the news last night, bracing for the onslaught of bad news . . . why do I even turn it on?  Do you know what they were reporting?  (Silly question . . . let’s just say I’m building drama . . . . )  They were reporting that we may see “measurable SNOW”in our area tomorrow night!  Suddenly that “switch” from the darkness of uncertainty and tragedy turned my heart to the HOPE of God’s provision and blessing . . . light that stamps out darkness!   I fell asleep with a smile on my face as I remembered Psalm King David wrote to the Shepherd of his heart:  even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You!”*

Sleep tight friends!

*Psalm 139:12