It is evening and I am doing what you might refer to as preparing for bed. I call it filling things: filling humidifiers and water bottles with pure, clean H2O; filling Communion cups in the knowledge that, quite often, private Communion can be joyous even when there is no one available to partake with you; filling hands with soft, delicately-scented lotion; filling and emptying jars and cups and bottles of medication… Soon, I will fill my heart with worship music, my mind with Scripture, and my soul with prayer; I will fill the voice-recorder I use for journaling with an entry extolling God’s goodness; and I myself will be filled with joy and peace. But for now, I’m in the early stages of filling things. And so, as I go through this rather mundane task, I sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, knowing it’s true but feeling too heartsick to take in the beauty of those words. And I talk to God–David-like or even Job-like, but feeling that I lack either of their faith:
“O Lord, I’m weary. Please help me… I am so very tired of disagreements and arguments, of a lack of peace among fellow brothers and sisters, of stumbling into this grievous emotional territory. I’m tired of the guilt that exhausts all of my resources–tired of sinning against You, longing for the grace to live according to Your will. And so very tired of feeling ashamed, especially when I haven’t done wrong. I’m fatigued and utterly drained by guilt and fear, and so weary of every angry word or sorrowful thought I’ve had this week. I’m tired of the medical appointments, tired of multiple sclerosis in the family, tired of fearing for my own health, tired of doctors and medications and stress… tired of fear itself. And I’m weary of feeling so often like a bad servant, an ineffectual Christian. And…
“And I simply don’t know how long I can stand and fight this series of battles. I know Your Word, O Lord, and I know You have said that we ought always to pray without losing heart–but I have no more words. I’m too weary, too fragile and weak, and I no longer feel equipped to fight either this physical battle or the spiritual battles that go with it…”
He speaks to my heart: “you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” And after this, there comes a gentle reminder of the armor of God: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet shod in the preparation of the gospel of peace, helmet of salvation, shield of faith, sword of the Spirit… And there I stand, marvelously equipped. How beautiful it is to have the last two pieces that I thought I had lost–trust and the knowledge of Scripture–restored to me.
The Scripture is from I John 2:14: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” A young man I am not, but I now know that the Word of God will enable me to overcome the evil one–and that “He Who is in [me] is greater than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).
The promise is so sudden, so glorious, so powerful that it dries me to my knees and plunges me into a place of surrendered trust. Gone are the shame, the guilt, and most of the fear. In their place is an overwhelming peace that envelops me until tears cascade down the once-wounded sides of my heart, mind, and soul. In moments, a new strength begins to fill me–not enough to parade up and down the streets proclaiming that every obstacle has been surmounted, but enough to take up my shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit and march forward once again, renewed in the power of God.
Eleven words of Biblical promise and strength, to my hundreds of words of complaint…
Yes! Yes and amen… “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”