Life does not always allow for such precise plans. Sometimes life takes one by surprise, spinning out of expected patterns and leaving the comfortable realm of predictability. Sometimes life doesn't even reveal whether chaos or stability are likely to prevail. For the moment, life holds steady, but it flashes warning signs that upheaval might be coming; whether that upheaval will materialize or not is quite unknown.
I currently find myself in the last of those possibilities. Life might continue on its familiar path, but a strong possibility of significant upheaval also looms. While that upheaval is not guaranteed, and may be only temporary if it does happen, I nevertheless face the reasonable prospect of an uncomfortable and challenging season of life.
Since the warning alarm a few days ago, my mind has processed some unwelcome vocabulary. Overwhelmed. Faint. Drowning. Floundering. Fearful. Tense. Daunting. Helpless. Crushed. Frail. Discouraged. Impossible. At times my thoughts have spun wildly, resisting control. I have tried to come up with solutions and figure out the possibilities. I've gone through denial, ignoring, wishful thinking, and hopes.
This has created chaos - a noisy and busy mind. In the midst of that, I have been aware that it is not where I want to be. I want peace and victory. I want to rest. I want to trust God. I suppose it is natural - human, for sure - to need time to adjust. If a rock is thrown into a pond or a bucket is kicked, the water does not still immediately. I yearn, however, for that stillness to come quickly.
Many things can help to bring peace and calmness. Prayer, God's promises, His Word, knowing my God, the maturity brought through previous storms. All of these things help. Something else has helped to calm me as well. It is my Ebenezer.
In the days of Samuel, the children of Israel were in a time of spiritual renewal. As they came together to confess sins and worship God, the Philistines chose to attack. The children of Israel were afraid. They asked Samuel to pray and ask God to save them. God answered Samuel's prayer in a mighty way. "The Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel" (I Samuel 7:10). A great victory followed, and Samuel marked the victory with a memorial. "Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the Lord has helped us'" (I Samuel 7:12). This was just one of many times that Israel set up a visible marker to remind them of something God had done for them.
A number of years ago I created an Ebenezer - a visual testament to God's provision. I had been abruptly let go from my job mid-school year, leading to total upheaval. In addition to losing my job, I lost my ministry, my church family, my friends, important spiritual support, my home, and my familiar life. I moved several states away to the challenge of living with my parents, while remaining unemployed or semi-employed for twenty months. My search for a new ministry led me through multiple possibilities that seemed exciting and definite, but each in turn crashed in disappointment.
It seemed that those months would never end. I didn't see how I could make it through. I made a miniature calendar with a box for each day, lasting until when I thought I would have a new teaching position. Each day I colored in a box, changing colors each month. When my unemployment extended an extra year, I made more cards to track the additional months. Finally, I colored one tiny box in a bold contrasting color - the day I got my new job and my life finally moved on.
When I emerged from that experience, I thought to myself, "After what God has done for me, I never have reason to doubt Him again." I have kept those calendar cards on my refrigerator. I notice them from time to time, but I rarely focus on them. This week, however, I was thankful for them. They have been a reminder that has helped to redirect my thoughts.
Those calendar cards have reminded me of many important truths. God knows what He is doing. He will take care of me. He has amazing power to orchestrate people and events. No situation is out of His control. He can and will do exactly as He has planned. He can give me enough grace. He can give me strength. He can help me do what seems impossible. He can carry me through. He can take things that look really bad, and He can use them to accomplish things that are really good.
I don't know what will happen through the rest of this year, but even if the worst scenario that I can imagine should develop, that will not change who God is. It will not diminish His love, limit His power, nullify His wisdom, or trump His control. God will do what is right, and He will help me. That doesn't mean life will be easy, fun, comfortable, or preferred, but it does mean I can trust Him. He has already proven that to me.
"Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies" (Psalm 36:5).