For the full effect of this post, pleased download and read the case study this is based upon. The case studies themselves that I have encountered at CCEF are incredible by themselves, but this case study is the foundation of the following post. The final exam for the course was pretty much here is a person in trouble; walk her through all you’ve learned. That was it. I hope this is helpful. Please let me know your thoughts. You can download the case study here.
I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about you and your situation the first last few days. All this feel so big and weighty just to pray about, I can only imagine what it’s like to live under all this fear and anxiety. But you know what? God is here. He has not abandoned you. I have absolute confidence in Him and His Word that through it he longs to speak to you. As I’ve been seeking Him to try and find where He wants reveal Himself to you, I think it’s in Psalm 23. I know; I know. It seems cliché, almost. But really, this little Psalm—if taken seriously—has the insight and to show you God in this moment.
I feel like everyone in the Church sort of its into a certain position in this “family” of “the body”. If I had to peg you, I’d say you were currently in “fearful child mode”. Because of that, I think God really desires to speak to you as a tender father. I don’t think He’s punishing you in this. That’s not the way He is with His children. Do you believe that? That you are one of His? God acts for His children—sons and daughters—in such marvelous ways. I look at you and I see someone that doesn’t feel like God has the track record to back up His promises. I don’t think that you think that God can’t provide what you know He has promised; I just think you think he won’t for you. Does that resonate at all with you? You have this really interesting and painful situation where you almost feel like God can’t be trusted to provide for your deepest needs and satisfactions, but at the same time, you don’t trust yourself (and you definitely don’t trust others). So, you’re left in this weird state of knowing the rest, peace, joy, meaning, fulfillment, and acceptance you need—but no knowledge of how to get it and keep it. You feel this pressure to produce the security in these things you don’t have, but you don’t have the confidence that you can.
Can I let you in on a secret? Most people that talk to me are in a different spot. They don’t trust God to give what He promises, but they act like they can produce these things. The first step for them is to show them that they can’t and the longer they try, the more things will hurt and fall apart. That means you’re already a huge step towards that wholeness and rest! Now the Bible is clear, that humans, apart from God are so sinful, that they could never get to this place that you’re at apart from His grace. That grace that removes our confidence in ourselves, that shows us our finitude, that brings us to help—which is exactly where you’re at. Not only that, it takes the very grace of God upon you to compel you even think about asking for grace in the first place. I say all that so you can see Him—your God, your Father, your—if you’ll excuse the phrasing—your Daddy. He’s already been at work. He’s already been here. He has not forsaken you. He’s moving and working in your heart and in this situation. Now let’s open up to Psalm 23 . . .
Okay, look at all that God says He is to you in this moment:
Shepherd. I think this is a great image for you. He’s more than just a loving friend, but he’s not some overbearing taskmaster. He loves you and intends to cultivate both you and the land in which you live. He acts for your good.
Leader. Look at that. He doesn’t just follow the sheep trying to make sure they’re going in the right direction. He takes the initiative to carve out the way for them. He takes the lead so they don’t have to. He stands taller and can see further what lies ahead than the sheep can. So with foresight and care he walks ahead of you not just showing you the way, but clearing the way of the things that would kill you and not be for your good were he not your shepherd. He desires still waters for you. Part of what he establishes on your behalf as this leader is the very righteousness that you are clothed in before him. Did you catch that? He so wants you to be perfectly acceptable to him, he provides that which he demands of you, and he does it through Christ by punishing him for with what you deserve.
Restorer. You have a lot of broken things in your life, don’t you? Well the Bible is clear that the most broken thing apart form God is the human soul. It is the most difficult thing to restore. According to Ephesians, it takes the same power that created the world to restore the soul, but that is what this Psalm says he does. If he can and does do that, think of what else he can restore and bring life to. Your marriage, small group, spiritual life?
With you. You will walk through much darkness and pain. Kids at work will die. You and your husband will fight. You will probably have a few more panic attacks and sleepless nights. You will. But our hope is not based on a lack of these things. We are no more or less secure and loved and accepted based on our external circumstances. Our hope is in God being with us through the darkness, not in spite of it. That is where rest is found.
Preparer. I know what your girlfriends at church said about praying and the will of God. That’s partly true. God does have a rod and staff. He does at times discipline us when we need to be, but he does it all as a Comforter—all for our good and to keep us close to the one that still is and does everything else in this Psalm.
Anointer. The Bible uses this image of oil often for the Holy Spirit. He gives you Himself. He does and will not leave you on your own. Just you being here shows me that.
He has an eternal house. He wants rest and joy for you—He does. He died to prove that. He does all so that goodness and mercy might follow you for all your days, but that goodness and mercy may come through situations like this. Let me ask you this? If you come out of this time in your life closer to God, feeling more whole, secure, and confident, would all of these panic attacks have been worth it? I think they would be. Let that be an example of how God often does this. He will often brings us to crises but it leads to our joy, ultimately. And let me assure you of this: you will not have more suffering and pain than would not allow you to stand in heaven years from now and say that it was not all worth it.
Anne, if you believe these things, I have little doubt that the other promises in the Psalm can be yours: provision, rest, restoration, righteousness, fearlessness, comfort, anointing, goodness, mercy, and communion with God. This would bring about security, confidence, freedom, obedience, service to others, trust of others, healthy vulnerability, and joy. Think of it. These are all things that God wants for you and has died to achieve on your behalf that you may have them in Him.
Ultimately, what could be the consequence of all of this? Imagine this: a better enjoyment (and perhaps performance) at your job, because you trust that God has already prepared the path that you will walk in that. A greater trust and invitation towards your husband for relationship because you see that God has secured you in Himself and no one else hurting you can change that. More real relationships in your small group because of your confidence that God has brought you into the house of this body purposefully for your good and so you can serve others. Oh, the freedom and joy in store for you, Anne! I’m so excited for you, but it will be a journey. It would help to bring your husband in with you next time so he can help you walk through this as well. That would not let you feel so isolated. Can you do that? I really think it would help. From what you’ve told me I don’t think he would be so shocked or disgusted at what your going through. I think he’ll want to help. Like I said, this will be a long journey and you probably still have some trips along the way, but it’s okay. God is determined to make you lie down in beautiful, green pastures, and he’ll do whatever it takes to bring you to your Daddy and good Shepherd to rest.