If you saw the movie “The Sound of Music,” you might remember the sweet, romantic song Maria sang in the gazebo after the captain declared his love. She couldn’t believe something so wonderful could happen in her life, which is probably why she sang that at some point, she must have done something good to deserve it. If this is true of how God works in the world, the reverse must also be true: when bad things happen, it’s because we’ve done something equally bad.
Sadly, this is how many people perceive life and they think God metes out blessings and curses based on our behavior. Some even believe Jesus was crucified because God wanted to punish someone for the sins of humanity and Jesus was “it.” But God didn’t send Jesus to the cross to be punished and he doesn’t bless or curse us because of what we do or don’t do. If he did, we’d all be in bad shape.
In Matthew 5, Jesus told people to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them because when they did this, they’d be true children of their Father in heaven. Then he told them in verse 46: “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” He also blesses obedience but he’s certainly not capricious or arbitrary. When bad things happen, it’s either chance or bad choices. When we’re blessed, let’s just be grateful.
Trust is something we all learn about as we grow up. Playing cards provides a lesson that for many, is hard learned. I remember hearing the advice to trust everyone but cut the cards, meaning you can’t really trust anyone. When my dad worked as a carpenter for several years, he taught me the adage “measure twice, cut once.” I’ve never built anything, but I learned to sew and that’s when I learned I can’t even trust myself. Measuring twice didn’t ensure I could get it right.
Many people have trust issues with God too. We pray and he doesn’t deliver, so we decide he can’t be trusted. Bad things happen so we decide we can’t trust him to always be on our side. Not knowing God very well leads to mistrust; the more we know God, the more we trust him.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I talk about Dallas Willard from time to time, citing his books and quoting his material. I’d like to share a resource with you that is based on his book, Life Without Lack. It’s a five day, online retreat called Trusting God, presented by Jan Johnson and Matt Rhodes – and it’s free. You don’t have to attend the live sessions; you can access them anytime. It starts next week and you can register here: https://trustinggodretreat.com/signup
Learning to trust God – and learning that we can trust God – is much more important than measuring twice and cutting once. It will make all the difference in how we live as Christians.
On my walk in the woods behind my house, I had to stop several times to admire the wildflowers on the path. I took a few photos too. I saw several varieties, some so small I had to bend down to even see them. I remembered what Dallas Willard said about flowers being tiny reminders of grace. His grace was scattered all over the woods!
The trees, ferns and flowers were also in abundance. I couldn’t help but thank and praise God for his generosity. After all, he didn’t have to create flowers, although they are part of the ecosystem. The beauty, colors and variety just seem like a big bonus.
Isn’t that like him? He’s a God of abundance and generosity. Let’s keep this in mind as we struggle with shortages, financial setbacks and inconveniences, whether minor or major. Paul reminds us in Philippians that he had learned to be content in all situations: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13, NIV).
I’m making an effort to notice every instance of God’s abundance every day, noting them in my journal and expressing my gratitude to our God of lavish generosity.
Like it or not, we’ve all been forced to slow down during the COVID crisis. Those who have been used to a fast pace of life might be having trouble with staying home instead of keeping a frantic, overloaded schedule. For me, since my chicks left the nest and my husband retired, a slower pace of life is the norm. I enjoy being home and living a quiet life.
One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 30:15 in the NLT: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.” Resting and quietness come more easily to us introverts, but perhaps this time of forced rest will be an opportunity for everyone else to practice the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude as well.
Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, is an excellent book explaining not just the disciplines, but the why of them. Jan Johnson, a student and mentee who actively carries on his work and ideas, has published Spiritual Disciplines Companion, Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul. I only recently acquired the book and naturally chose the section on Silence and Solitude as my starting point.
Our lives will probably go back to at least a semblance of what used to be normal, but for now, let’s take advantage of this time to return to God, rest in him, be quiet and trust, for that is indeed where we find our salvation.