The scariest part of life is what we don’t control—and that’s most of it.
Still, one of the effects of the daily grind is that we get lulled into thinking that we do control many aspects of our lives, and it usually takes something out of the ordinary, something unexpected, something uncomfortable to shake us up and make us feel differently.
What I resent most about unexpected challenges is their very unexpectedness. We’ve all experienced the petulant inner narrative: I didn’t ask for this! I am not prepared for this. How am I supposed to know how to handle this?
It’s extremely uncomfortable to be forced into a set of circumstances where we have to live a new normal, deal with unwanted changes, and try to figure out how to survive without the comforts we’ve been used to. This can manifest as a small annoyance or a huge devastation, but any challenge that disrupts our norm is easy to resent for its rudeness, for the way it’s thrust upon us without warning.
The most important thing to remember in these times, in all of life really, is one of the easiest things to forget. The truth we must hold onto as believers when we are blindsided by circumstances is this:
God was not surprised. God has not changed. God has not ceased to be sufficient. He is not working out a plan B. His purposes still stand.
And the most staggering part? He is still sufficient…FOR YOU, specifically.
It’s common for us to give place to reactionary faith in our lives, coasting in bliss until something bad happens, after which we cry out to God in a panic, questioning everything we ever believed. But this response is neither sustainable nor rooted in truth.
God’s abounding grace is designed to make us sufficient for any circumstance (2 Corinthians 9:8). Anywhere you find yourself in life, God has gone there ahead of you and prepared the way. As you’ve been living out your daily life of faith, submitting to and abiding in Him, He has been building strength and fashioning a warrior who will be able to withstand what only He saw coming. There are new levels of ability and endurance and maturity and victory that are waiting for us on the edge of these upheavals. We just need to learn to operate in these new levels, to lean into God’s Grace in new ways, testing new muscles we didn’t know were there before.
I’m convinced that this is how people live under intense persecution and pressure. They simply believe. They take God at His Word and rise every day believing that He is still sufficient and still working. Putting His Word into practice and seeking Him is their only option.
Similarly, the heroes of the faith in Scripture didn’t spend their lives planning to be heroes. But God built it into them over time as they submitted themselves to Him in everything and kept pressing in deeper when things felt scattered. Their commitment to God set them apart from those who were looking too hard at circumstances and relying on their own estimation to figure it all out.
For one example of this contrast, we can look at Saul, the first king of Israel, and his son Jonathan. In 1 Samuel 13 and 14, the Israelites were facing pressure of epic proportions. Their enemies, the Philistines, were advancing daily, occupying border towns, monopolizing the production of iron weapons, and forcing people to leave their homes to hide in caves across the Jordan. At this point, only Saul and Jonathan had swords.
Leading a trembling army, with many threatening to desert, Saul panicked and presumed to offer an unlawful sacrifice, in spite of being told to wait seven days for the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 13:8-9). This is where things began to unravel for Saul.
Saul had 600 men with him, more than Gideon had when he’d faced the Midianites at God’s Command (Judges 7). He even had a priest wearing the holy ephod (which represented their connection with God’s will) (1 Samuel 14:3). It seemed like he had all the resources he needed to succeed. However, by reacting hastily in the flesh instead of taking God at His Word, Saul ended up paralyzed with indecision. The king and his men resorted to hiding in a pomegranate cave with no game plan in sight.
When we feel out of our element and the pressures of the world are crowding close, it’s so easy to think that God has forgotten us and all we can do is rush to put together a “plan B”. However, this is a totally false and dangerous assumption to make. Unbelief and lack of endurance can delay or even derail destinies. Don’t assume that you should give up, or that God isn’t paying attention just because you’re not seeing Him swoop in with a grand rescue. Keep your eyes and ears fixed on Him, and keep doing what He told you to do until He tells you something different.
More would be accomplished in the Kingdom, with fewer “casualties,” if we just waited for the direction of the Spirit instead of rushing to save face in front of our “armies”. Remember, you answer to God. It’s His Battle and He always equips those He calls. He has not forgotten His Promises and He will not forget you (Matthew 28:20)!
Even in the midst of what looked like inevitable defeat for Israel, God was still moving—waiting to see if anyone in the cave was willing to move with Him. Sure enough, there was one who was awake in the early dawn, ready to get something done. That someone was Jonathan.
The prince of Israel wasn’t waiting for a perfect solution that didn’t involve any risk. He understood that he had been given his position in order to serve God’s greater purpose, which still existed even though the army had lost sight of it momentarily.
Jonathan was facing a valley, physically and spiritually. On one side, he could sense the purposes of the Lord, the commissioning they had received to defeat the Philistines. On the other side, he faced the disturbing tangle of their circumstances. However, it’s these very places that invite us to new revelations of God’s nature and plans. New heights of victory and maturity in the Lord are often concealed between a rock and a hard place.
But our victory is not meant to stay concealed; it’s not a hypothetical dream. God’s Spirit does not want to keep us complacent, hiding in caves and pits of unbelief. He stirs within us, goading us out into the open air of His Presence in search of the breakthrough He has for us! Authority comes with commissioning but power emerges from encounter with God. And this experiential understanding of who He is must be faithfully sought and lived out over time.
In Jeremiah 1:17, God exhorts His prophet, “Dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you.”
This is what Jonathan did. He didn’t just launch into battle because he couldn’t take it anymore. He stepped out in faith and presented himself to God. For Jonathan, this meant strapping on his sword, shouldering his bow, and climbing up to the mountain fortress to lay some ideas before God and see what his heavenly General would command him. This will look different for each of us, but if we’re willing, the Holy Spirit will reveal what that one step is—that step of faith that lets the Lord know that you are ready to hear His Voice and obey, to move in response to His plan, and trust His assessment of the situation.
Jonathan saw that it didn’t matter what they were up against. It mattered Who was with them. God’s presence made all the difference—not the size of their army. Even though the Holy Spirit hadn’t been released to dwell within mankind at that time in history, Jonathan was in a place of such closeness before God that his focus remained steadily fixed on the Lord. Thus, he made his decisions from that place, and power was the result.
So, in this time (and any other time), when we are feeling assaulted by unprecedented problems and restrictions that seem out of our control, let’s remember this:
God’s character and plan has not changed! We have everything we need in Him and He is still working on behalf of those who trust in Him.
Ask Him what step of faith you can take. It may not be something that will radically change your circumstances. More likely, it will be a simple yet profound choice to engage with the Lord, trusting that He has been building something in you and will use this situation to equip you further as you lean into His transforming strength.
Just like for Jonathan and Israel, the big, earth-shaking rescue is God’s business (1 Samuel 14:23), and it’s coming, in Jesus’ Name! Our business is to show up in faith and take God at His Word, allowing Him to build something deep and beautiful within us, so that we can emerge stronger than before.