“Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.”
Mark 16:2–4 (NIV)
Just before sunrise a small group of women is getting ready to depart on a sorrowful mission. Perhaps they are distributing among themselves the spices that each of them is to carry to the tomb where Jesus’s dead body was laid. On their way, many speculations are no doubt being offered. What’s the meaning of this strange season? After three years of nonstop excitement and hopeful imagination, what’s to happen now?
While these three sisters are walking and talking, and no doubt mourning and lamenting, the question arises among them, “Who will remove the huge stone that covers the mouth of the tomb? We can’t possibly do it.” Over the last several days, the disciples and supporters of Jesus have scattered. They are hiding in fear for their own safety. So the question is valid: who will be able to roll that stone away for us?
Remarkably, they make the collective decision to keep on walking. Faith in Jesus—commitment to a mission that is for His glory and in obedience to His word—is powerful. When the answer to the obstacle had not yet been provided, these women continued to walk.
Perhaps you know the feeling: despite what appears to be insurmountable, you still feel like the best response is to simply keep going, to move forward in faith. And they did. Upon arriving to the tomb, these women discovered the value in deciding to keep going no matter what. The stone had been rolled away.
The Gospel of Mark says, “As they entered in…” There’s no record that there was any hesitation about the stone being out of place. There was no thought to the danger and controversy that had so recently surrounded Jesus’s life. Not one of them is reported to have said, “You know, maybe we ought not go in that tomb.”
They are so Christ-loyal, so duty-fueled, so spiritually focused that without hesitation, they just enter in, despite the evidence that something is not right—things are not as they should be. They were expecting to see one thing: Jesus’s dead corpse wrapped in linen cloths. But once they entered in, their expectations were met by a surprise. They were invited to discover that a resurrection had taken place.”
Their faith had been rewarded.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
If your faith is the housing for your capacity, then the strength of it lies in your ability to let God’s activity in your life build your confidence.
Martin Luther was right when he said, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times. This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and with all creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Ghost in faith. Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, out of love and praise to God who has shown him this grace.”
God wants you to live with this kind of confidence—not arrogantly in your own ability, but confidently in His ability. You can have the confidence that you won’t encounter anything you don’t feel strong enough to run through. You can know for certain that there’s nothing threatening you that you can’t leap over. With God you can go through it, or He can help you to get over it.
Your past experiences with God give you the confidence to trust Him again and again. You can know you’re going to make it through your situation because it’s not the first time you’ve seen trouble. It’s not the first time you’ve had to survive calamity. It’s not the first time you’ve needed God to take you through and deliver you home. It is as the old spiritual song says, “He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me that I am His own.”
If people want to know what your reflections are of God, they ought to see the picture painted perfectly by the confidence you exude in your daily walk.
You have every right to borrow the confidence of the apostle Paul, until you can look danger, heartache, and confusion right eye and say, “I’m so confident that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
“With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall.”
Psalm 18:29 (NIV)
In Psalm 18, David is expressing his praise to the God who has delivered him from all of his enemies and brought an end to his battles. God has helped him in such a way that he is able to say, “The Lord is my rock. The Lord is my fortress. The Lord is my deliverer.” Psalm 18 is a song from the heart of a man who is expressing thanksgiving for how active God has been in his life. He literally sings about God being his shield and horn. He talks about God hearing his cries and defeating his enemies. He talks about how God thundered from heaven in defense of his servant.
What catches my attention in this Psalm is that for 28 verses, David spends most of the time talking about the strength and might and power of God, but interestingly, in verse 29, he makes a bold statement about his perception of his own strength from having observed the activity and the strength of his God. David reveals how all he has experienced with God makes him feel about himself. He says he feels like he can run against a troop and leap over a wall. He is feeling empowered, energized, and grateful.
David’s view of God informed his view of himself.
After a lifetime of struggling battles, a lifetime of emotional landmines, a lifetime of mixed experiences and encounters, David reflects back on all of it, and feels an immense confidence.
And I found myself praying after musing over this verse: “God, whatever You did in David's life to make the Psalmist confess that this is how he feels … whatever You did that made him feel so strong and so unstoppable, so confident and forward-thinking, I need You to do that in me. Speak to me, work in me, minister around me, reveal Yourself to me, so that when I emerge from this or any encounter, I too can believe that I can smash through an army and scale a wall.”
What this Psalm reminds us of, brothers and sisters, is the fact that how you see God shapes how you see yourself.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)
I was telling some buddies of mine that my breakfast routine in usually the same: two eggs and two waffles on which I spread peanut butter.
One of my buddies apparently thought that God called him to make me understand that peanut butter was not made to be spread on waffles,and that I should eliminate the waffles from my breakfast and replace them with wheat or white toast.
And for more than thirty minutes (I can't explain why), this became the topic of group text conversation that went around for collective opinions. When everyone had chimed in with their thoughts, I was asked what I was going to do in response to what had been suggested.
My answer was simple and immediate: I'm going to make two waffles and spread peanut butter on them—because it's my breakfast.
My point is that each of us is different, and there is no one way to do certain things—especially when it comes to surviving hard times. There’s no one way to spread your emotions on a certain type of suffering in life. You don't get through your experiences being anything other than true to who you are in Jesus Christ.
Your reaction to being in the pit will be different from the reactions of others who have survived it. You might want to walk around that muddy place rebuking Satan,loudly pleading the blood of Jesus, singing praise songs or utteringprayers. On the other hand, you might want to be still and know that God is God as you own your time in the muck and mire of adversity.
One thing we know is that God doesn't intend to lose you in that sunken place. He’s going to get you through it. You will survive. But you may as well go through it with the integrity of your own genuineness. Be honest with God about what's peculiar about you. Just because others got through a dark valley in a certain way, that doesn’t mean you have to walk through it with the same demeanor or by the same path.
God has formed you to be unique and He’s set you apart. That means your pain, your emotions, your reaction to suffering will be unique as well. Don’t give into the pressure to act or feel or respond like other people. Be honest with God and yourself, because there is no one way to do the pit.
The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
Genesis 12:1 (NIV)
Why does change always have to cost so much? Why must it always be so invasive? Why does it seem like God wants to just push in—uninvited, unexpected, unannounced— and force me to let go of things that I hold so comfortable? Why is change so fast, so final, so complete? Does God understand the pain He is causing by the changes He is demanding?
Change is challenging—and it's even more challenging when it imposes on my life suddenly, without warning or approval. In many instances, change doesn't even let me resist. I can't form a rebuttal. I dare not retreat because I know that I don't want to live with any regrets, but the thought of moving forward is difficult.
Abraham's change involved leaving familiar country to go occupy a foreign land. He was called to go live in a different culture that speaks a different language and practices different traditions. God essentially told Abraham, “Leave all your relatives, walk away from all of your friends, vacate your home, and oh, in case I didn't mention it before, it's going to be forever.”
God tells him to leave a place of security and familiarity and embrace the unknown. He in essence says to Abraham, “I want you to know that it's all because I want to do something in and through you. It's not about your wants or wishes, but about My will. The only justification you have for responding immediately and obediently is that I am God. You must trust My sovereignty and believe that I always have a purpose. I want you to obediently and radically follow Me because you know that My plans are always best for you.”
Change is hard, but when God's providence is the filter through which you process it, you can accept it. As uncomfortable as you know it will be, and as unfamiliar as the terrain in front of you may appear, you know the One who guides you, and He will walk every step of the way with you.
Are the promises of a future that God has for you enough for you to let go of what you know and step forward into something new, uncertain, and uncomfortable?