Encouragement

When He Becomes All Our Hope & Stay

Panic attacks, nightmares, and anxieties surrounding conflict or change have long been large parts of my life. I remember when I was little, I would dream that my Dad would be mortally wounded by an escaped evil warrior with an undetectable poison disguised as a Reese’s cup while traveling. (I’d like to take this moment and thank my vivid and rather eccentric imagination for that.) I would wake up sweating and seek to find comfort in the normalcy of life. My little brother would be sleeping beside me, his steady breath and toddler hands clutching his blue blankie brought me comfort.

Everything is okay. Dad is okay, because life is still the same. Evil warriors with Reese’s poison aren’t real.

I’d roll over and go back to sleep, comforted by steadiness that was found externally when internally I was overcome with a dreadful sense of chaos and confusion.

When my Mom suffered from an autoimmune disease when I was nine years old, I would lay awake in bed considering all the possibilities and complications should something all of the sudden be worse when I woke up in the morning. What if this is a disease unknown to man and it eventually causes limbs to just fall off? What if Mom doesn’t have legs in the morning? Where do you even buy wheelchairs? Who will drive us to the Sonic playground? How young can a person get a drivers license? Would the DMV make exceptions if one’s mother had sporadically lost her limbs due to an unknown gut issue?

But then I would hear my parents start to wake up. The familiar sound of the coffee grinder would kick on, I’d slink downstairs and see my Dad getting ready for work and my Mom taking her prescriptions. They were normal. Mom had all her limbs. She didn’t seem to think losing them spontaneously was a serious concern. Life was normal. Fears subsided. Because the world outside of me was steady, even when my thoughts and feelings were not.

Everything was okay.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I can battle my anxiety (whether it is reasonable or not) with familiarity. Things as simple as going to Walmart and seeing the same cashiers as last time would calm my racing heart. Novels I read as a child brought comfort to me as an adult with a sweet sense of coming home. Using the same coffee mug each and every morning brought me peace in knowing that life will go on today just as it did yesterday. My favorite TV show airing every Sunday night in February reminded me that even the outside world of celebrities and rich people continue on. Nothing can thwart this world. It just keeps going, and that is where I found all my hope and stay.

But these last few weeks, I have found it was not real peace that those things brought, it was merely a false sense of control and a reliance on this world for security. Things I never imagined happening, are now happening. The whole world seems to pause with it’s breath held over a germ none of us can understand or control. All of the sudden, I can’t go to Walmart and see that cashier. My coffee mug is still here, but using it doesn’t seem to bring the same routine comfort I am so used to. The stars from my favorite films are quarantined and movie premieres I was counting down to are postponed.

Hold on, world. This can’t be happening. You aren’t supposed to change like this.

The feelings inside me of chaos and calamity seem to be uniting with the external events of disorder and fear. What is happening? How do I still my racing heart now? Where do I look for a place of familiarity? How do I stand in all of this shifting and unknown?

The words begin to ring in my mind with echoes of the piano notes I’ve heard so many times before.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

Built on nothing less?

If you had asked me just a month ago where I put my hope, I would’ve answered wholeheartedly, “In Jesus!” I really thought that I did, and I do believe there were times when I was placing my trust and security in the Savior. But my heart, so prone to wander, more often found security in this world rather than in the Savior who overcame it.

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.

John 16:33 ESV

In 1 John chapter 2, we are warned not to love this world, for it, and all inside, are passing away. We are told in other passages of Scripture that here in this world, during this lifetime, we will be acquainted with sorrow, loss, and tribulation. Suffering and uncertainty are the heart throb of a broken world, and that, dear friends, is the world in which we live.

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:17 ESV

We don’t like to admit it though. We like to sit back in our easy chairs, sip our fancy lattes, post a picture of our happy life, and say “amen.” We fear suffering and uncertainty, and so we fight to no end to ensure that our lives are as familiar, normal, and painless as possible. The idea of everything around us shifting brings a shudder, and so we look to things of this world, like sports or annual gatherings or school, to calm our nerves and bring us back to “reality.”

But what if this “reality” which we continuously seek in the order of the world, is really the very opposite? What if the uncomfortable thought of everything around us being like the sinking sand on beaches is more realistic than the guarantee of the school bus pulling up just like normal tomorrow mornings and the basketball game coming on after we get home from work? What if all these comforts and familiarities we find security in are destined to give way?

If they are the only source of ground on which we stand, falling is the only option when they are removed. But fortunately, we have a ground much more sure and steady than the everyday functions of society around us on which we, as children of the living God, can confidently stand.

All my hope and stay

One of my favorite lines in hymnody is the one most likely running through your head about now.

When all around my soul gives way,

He then is all my hope and stay.

Thy hymn doesn’t say “if” but “when all around my soul gives way.” I think the writer of this beloved hymn, Edward Mote, knew full well that it was not a mere possibility that our worldly comforts would shift, but a guarantee that at some point in our earthly pilgrimages, it would indeed happen. This being the case, we ought to be cautious when relying on things other than Christ to bring us cures for our anxieties and fears. For all but Him will shift and fade. He then must be all our hope and stay.

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2 ESV

I think this pandemic and all it’s strange and unsettling ramifications, have shown me, and probably many others, that we may have never truly known the surety of Christ. Our American lives are so normal, so consistent, so familiar, that we find little need to seek out a firmer standing ground than they. School days come and go, tournaments continue forward with great applause, our cashiers smile as they place our coffee in a plastic bag and wish us a “good afternoon.” With all these sweet hopes and stays, we do not look to Christ with the earnestness that we should.

Perhaps times like this, when the school bus stops coming, the sports networks are silent, and we cannot go to stores where the cashier will smile at us nonchalantly, are meant to show us the blessed safety and security we can find only in the Savior who died in our place and reversed even death itself.

His grace is unchanging.

His love is unwavering.

He supports in whelming floods.

He is a solid rock.

He can be all our hope and stay.

Unlike the chaos of current events crashing down around us, Jesus will never change. Not in this life, not in our dying, and not in the life to come. When you cannot look anymore to your earthly comforts and everyday normalcies for the steady ground you so desperately need, look to Jesus.

Open your Bible, and read those promises. Sing that hymn out loud to silence the fears. Pray to Him, audibly, and tell Him that you need Him. He loves His children, He is their refuge and strength, and will not cast out those who belong to Him.

Maybe even, thank Him for this pandemic and for the interruption of so many things we rely on for stability. Thank Him for teaching us that He remains when all else does not. Thank Him for the surety He offers us. Or in the words of Charles Spurgeon, “kiss the wave that slams you into the Rock of Ages.”

I think that before these strange and confusing days, I never knew so deeply the surety of Christ. Anxious souls find a peace surpassing understanding in Him. The righteous run into Him and are safe. The weak and weary are given rest. Those in storms of change, find the sweet stillness of immutability. I have come to know it firsthand.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

Dear friends, let us go on. Let us love our neighbors, comfort our families, pray for our leaders, extend grace to our enemies, and put one foot in front of the other in this strange time in the history of our world, all the while singing together for all to hear:

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

And may the whole world hear and place their feet on the same blessed Rock.

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