As I sit in the coffee shop writing this, I think it's mildly appropriate that I knocked the table and spilled my coffee everywhere (the floor, the seat, the table, on my laptop)…twice in a row mind you! My precious MacBook is fine…and the cute girl next to me handed me a napkin in pity, so not all is lost. However, it did remind me of how stressful things can get in a short period of time. If you add on several of these events on top of each other (a tough day at work/home, friends/family going through tough times, the dog exquisitely decorating the carpet with excrement, and the 2 year-old attempting to eat glass with Trump in the background on the news saying he's definitely going to build a wall), emotions can easily slide into the category of feeling exasperated and overwhelmed.
Thankfully, many times the feeling of being overwhelmed occurs less than often, and the cure can be found with relative ease with several minutes of intentional deep breathing, focusing on the big picture of life, being grateful for the little things, and experiencing the miracle of OxiClean on carpets. Still, what do we do with the times that are worse? What do we do with the times that are really bad…the times that wrap us in a heavy, damp blanket of fear and blue-black sadness as we struggle to fall asleep at night? Those times…those vile times that waft into the recesses of our consciousness and root of faith, and grow beside it a root of doubt that threatens to swallow our hopes and minds whole.
These times are caused by things that can't be as easily cured. Oftentimes, they are caused by cancerous self-doubt that has grown and set in over time (much like Moses where his speech impediment and fear of man overcame his fear of God), or enemies/people that hate you (much like David when he was being hunted by Saul), or being smothered by the weight of terrible circumstances either in your life or the lives of others (much like Job who cursed the day he was born because of all the lamentable things that befell him), or dwelling on the deplorable state of this fallen world. How do you find solace when your heart feels as ripped and torn as your relationship? How do you discover peace or happiness when death/severe pain is knocking on you or your loved one's door (or has already had its way inside)?
The answer David Von proposed in his sermon is simple…and yet it is profound: trust in God. You might look at this suggestion and assume that it's flippant and petty (of course the pastor is going to tell me something like that…but I need real world answers…not pie-in-the-sky ones). And yet, upon further exploration, one would find that, not only is it not flippant, but it is truly the only real answer that exists. Circumstances that overwhelm you, that are outside of your control or ability to handle, are things that can ultimately only be helped by something that is outside the circumstances themselves. Sure…when you or a loved one is falling apart due to addiction or leukemia, kind words and caring touches can provide strength and comfort amidst the struggle. But people aren't around when you're alone in the shower and the water flowing from the shower is indistinguishable from the water flowing from your eyes and muffles your desperate, uncontrolled sobs. The strength to make it through the struggle in the long (and sometimes short) term can only come from a regular and habituated practice of coming to know the one who transcends it all.
When we encounter God's words in Isaiah 40, his words aren't only for showcasing his glory for that end alone. The only way that we can have the sort of confidence that our strength will not just simply return, but that we will be supplied with a strength that is so powerful we will feel like we can fly, is exactly because we know the strength and ability of the one from whom it came. If God is so big that he sits above the circle of the earth and can hold all of the oceans in his hand, then surely this glorious God is more than able to help you through things like loss, tattered hopes, and your own inability.
When I look to my own mountainous habitual sins, I feel like I'll never move them or see them gone…and I'm right. But if I see myself empowered by a God who crafted thousands of mountains with a thought, and knows the names of thousands blazing blinding stars thousands of times larger than the earth because he made them… I'm suddenly infused with hope: a hope that endures and doesn't fail in the night.
And not only is God gloriously able, but God is also gloriously willing. The Psalmist in Psalm 13 turned to God in this dark time not just because he knew he was able, but mostly he turned to him because he knew of God's "steadfast love." God's ability isn't very useful to us if we have no hope that he'd be willing to help us—and why should he help us? It's not like we bring very much to the table when we encounter a god who needs nothing and can do anything— Yet we're faced with the impossible fact that he wants to help us (This is my favorite characteristic about God. It boggles my mind and causes me to cherish him with all of my soul and dreams). The stark crazy reality is that this amazing God we know loves us with a love that is beyond what we could hope for, and never ever stops. David asked God to deliver him because he recognized (as if he was preaching to himself) that God's care for him is integral to God's character, and that it is worthy of his trust:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Ps 13:5-6, ESV)
May God help us to do likewise…and not just here and there, but all the time, in our times of desperation. May we stretch our vision outside of our situations. May God empower us to live the patterned life that seeks him daily, so that in the times of being overwhelmed by circumstance and situation, we may have a hope to direct our gaze to him to be overwhelmed by his character…and to trust in God.