Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.
-Psalm 100: 2
For me, there’s nothing that connects me to God the way music and singing does – worshipping God through song. My spirit is renewed through praising God – closing my eyes, focusing on the awesomeness of God, and singing about it. What does that for you?
Here’s a song to help bring you into God’s presence in a special way – the only place I find peace and joy – as we reach the middle of the week. Bethel’s version of ‘I Love Your Presence’:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
I’m convinced that a lot of the things that make us anxious and stress us out are not our responsibility – they’re not for us to worry about. Speaking as someone who sometimes cares too much, who’s concerned about how things affect others, more than how they affect myself, I can easily drive myself crazy over things that I don’t need to be worrying about. We often want to control things that are either not ours to control or that we plain can’t control – a lot of us have control issues of one sort or another. We’re more often than not called to focus on the little things, but we want to change the big things. We underestimate the affect being faithful in little things has; the impact that changing our own attitudes has on our surroundings.
Yet, it is a balance. Concern over circumstances can be a sign of caring deeply. Believe me, I’m all in favor of mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice, and experiencing righteous indignation over injustice; but that’s not what I’m talking about. Over and above caring for others, we’re called to worry and care for ourselves (not in an arrogant or narcissistic way!), for that is the only way we can be effective in anything we do, including being of any good to others. We’re also called to submit to one another and to be respectful of the positions God has placed each of us in, without overstepping into others’ roles.
Over the years I’ve become more and more fond of the Serenity Prayer. It speaks a profound truth about surrendering things to God – something I personally sometimes have difficulty with. I think many of us do. Make this prayer a part of your life as well, as we navigate this life where achieving balance is very difficult, and keeping things in tension is often important.
Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9
My Mom has recited this verse of Scripture to me during stressful situations over the years, but like a normal daughter, I haven’t paid all that much attention to the wisdom of Mom. I have experienced my fair measure of fear throughout the years – more than is normal or healthy. During some of my teenage years a lot of my thoughts were consumed by fear and worry, as I suffered from anxiety. Although I have, thanks be to God, overcome a lot of that, I would be dishonest if I said that I did not fear, even today. Fear is something that humans hold in common. We fear being alone, being judged, not being good enough, and we fear failure, losing loved ones, and all sorts of other general and more specific fears.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about fear: it’s not whether you have it or not, but whether you let it paralyze you or not. For example, the death-fear of failure will result in nothing new or worthwhile. Recently I heard Pastor Bill Hybels, of the well-known Willow Creek Community Church, speak on how during every new and big endeavor presented to him he is literally brought to his knees in fear – fear of repercussions, of what people would say, of what would happen if it failed, etc. – and that he recites Joshua 1:9 as a prayer. Perhaps it’s because misery loves company, but I loved hearing him say that. One of today’s most most successful leaders’ knees shake too! This means that courage really is doing something that frightens you, it’s not about doing scary things that don’t frighten you.
So, what’s my point? Just like God commanded Joshua to be courageous, we too are called to be courageous. Our faith calls us to be courageous. In the midst of fear and doubts, of challenging, desperate-looking situations, God calls us to be strong and courageous. We’re actually not called to be comfortable, we’re called to be uncomfortable, mostly because courage is never comfortable. Thankfully, there’s the second part of the verse: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. God does not call us to confront scary life alone, but promises to be present in the midst of it; and as with Joshua, and as seen throughout the rest of scripture, God also provides other tangible people to be present with us during parts of our most frightening times. This is one of the things I love most about God – God is present (whether we realize it or not) with us, especially in our most difficult moments. Go figure – Mom was right!
I don’t know what this call to be courageous looks like for you right now. For me, it’s looking like a lot of things – it’s looking like leading in a brand new setting, and allowing myself to dream dreams and cast visions; it looks like being patient, listening, and being vulnerable, to name a few. It looks like me being on my knees praying for courage, trusting that God will come through on his promise. What does it look like for you? I’ll leave you with a song…
Oh, my God, He will not delay My refuge and strength always I will not fear, His promise is true My God will come through always, always