God’s time and plan is rarely what we would have chosen for ourselves. Recently the doctor sat down with me to explain that I needed further testing. He said the words, “this is how Cancer is found.” He said the C word and then sent me home to wonder and wait for weeks about what the biopsy would show. I am not a patient person, and it is challenging to wait for test results, wondering what the next chapter of life is going to hold.
My brain wants information, and facts will reveal themselves only with time. In the waiting, my thoughts run down so many different scenarios trying to understand the various outcomes that might lie ahead of me. My mind is busy rushing down all the possible paths, wondering how I might deal with an uncertain future. While I believe and hope for the best, my wandering thoughts have me googling all the possibilities in the night instead of finding rest. An anxious heart that is not what God desires for us.
As I wrestle with my anxious questions of what potentially comes next, I am reminded that I am not in control, I actually have never have been in any real control, and I never will be. The sense of control I have felt over my life has always been an illusion at best. I don’t control the path before me; that all belongs to God. My restless wondering can’t change upcoming biopsy results, they can only rob me of peace today.
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26).
My anxious thoughts are not going to alter anything. The results will be what God allows them to be. Worry will change nothing and is incredibly unproductive. Doom-scrolling is a horrible use of my time.
When we shift our gaze from what went wrong in the past or what could go wrong in the future to the present moment, we are able to gain a measure of peace in God’s presence with us right now. God’s desire for us is peace. Jesus told his disciples,
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Troubles will happen, but we can have peace that transcends all understanding knowing that Jesus has overcome this world for us. Choosing to acknowledge that God has a purpose beyond my understanding brings peace. I don’t have to fret the details. I can have peace knowing God has this, no matter whatever this turns out to be.
While waiting for pathology to arrive, I refreshed my email an absurd number of times. It struck me that my eyes needed to be watching for the Lord like a watchman waiting for the morning (Psalm 130:5-6) rather than focused on the healthcare app on my phone. Watchmen longing for the night to end and are confident that, like every night, the morning will break out again. My heart needed to step away from electronics and dwell with God in the moment. God’s grace gives us all that we need. God is not absent from our struggles, but carrying us through all of it. It is in our belonging to God that we find our place of peace and belonging. The Heidelberg Catechism states in its first foundational question and answer:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong— body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Our belonging to God shapes us today as we all make choices about how to live our unique and precious lives. It is important for us to seize today and live well into the opportunities that God has placed before us. Knowing that we are God’s children and designed to give him glory, should shape us to live out God’s purpose for our lives. We get to choose what we sow into this day. It can be anxiety or it can be compassion. We get to choose.
We are blessed with community through our families, friendships, and God’s gift of the church. In these connections, we find people who can guide us back to God and his promises. They can fulfill the law of Christ by offering prayer and support to help us bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). In community the weight of our burdens is lifted and we experience a little bit of heaven here on earth.
Waiting is hard. There are many stories in scripture of those who waited. Some waited a long time for God to fulfill a promise, and some “did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance”(Hebrews 11:13). It is difficult to wait and wonder about where God is and whether he still cares about you. Sarah waited into her old age for the heir God promised. The Israelites wandered for decades in the desert waiting to see the Promised Land. I am in good company learning to wait patiently for God.
The Psalms are filled with lament about waiting on God pleading and asking, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”(Psalm 13:1). So as we wait, we know that we are in good company. But God is still faithful even when our minds fail to grasp God’s plan or God’s timing. There are lots of different directions our lives may take, but God is faithful on every path. While I don’t know the plans God has in store for me, I do trust that even in the hard stuff, he won’t leave me. God has promised to be with us and of this I can be certain.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema