I know. I should not feel that way. Yet it is very easy as a human being to feel as if it is up to me for life to work. This is a struggle I’ve had for years. "But you shouldn’t feel that way." Yes, I know. However, the reality of my life is that I have often felt this way. When I have felt this way, life has felt heavy and burdensome.
I recall waking up in the middle of the night, completely overwhelmed with what was lacking. What I saw in these nighttime moments were all of those glaring deficiencies of our church. I thought about what was lacking, what was inadequate, what was falling short. I looked at my own work, in these middle of the night moments, and thought about the various aspects of my work that didn’t seem to be going well. Then came the rehearsing of those disapproving voices at church. I would hear all over again in my mind what others said and take it far too personal.
As you can imagine, this kind of life led to anxiety instead of joy. I thought that somehow if I could just work harder, pray more often, preach better, and really stay on top of things then finally everything would work, people would be happy, and all would be well.
In short, I felt as if it was all up to me.
The truth is that I had forgotten that life is about trusting in God. I had forgotten that my ministry was not about my performance but about God, his work and his performance. I had forgotten that ultimately God was the one to be pleased and not all of these human beings who make up these churches. I had forgotten joy, contentment, and the peace of Christ. Instead, my life was about fear, anxiety, worry, and self-dependence.
Yesterday, I came across this line by John Newton:
….How happy are they who can resign all to him, see his hand in every dispensation, and believe that he chooses better for them than they possibly could for themselves! (John Newton, Letters of John Newton, p. 137)
Life is not up to me. God is at work. He really is at work. At times it is obvious. At times it is not. Yet, I am called to trust God. In saying this, I have no intention of casually dismissing difficult or even horrific circumstances in which you or I may find ourselves. Yet, it is true. God is at work and he genuinely cares about what we are dealing with.
Yesterday I was reading a new book by Jerry Bridges entitled Respectable Sins. In the book, he refers to 1 Peter 5:7 and quotes from the J. B. Phillips translation:
You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.
You are his personal concern.