Friday, April 17, 2009

grace enough just for today

I wrote this at the start of the school holidays. It's for you, if you ever struggle with anxiety and fear about the future. I've included a cluster of quotes about how God gives us grace enough - just for today.

I tell you, do not worry about your life ... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Jesus - Matt 6:25, 27, 33-34
It's school holidays here in Victoria. First term wasn't easy, and I'm tired out. I settled Thomas into his first school year. I led a weekly Bible study. I combined all the usual duties - helping my husband, raising 4 children, caring for our home - with all the usual ministries - blogging, reading, thinking, writing. I felt overwhelmed, even though it was the easiest term of my year. So I've been worrying about next term.

Such strange creatures are we that we probably smart more under blows which never fall upon us than we do under those which do actually come. Charles Spurgeon

Next term, I'm writing a book review for a Christian magazine. I'm writing and leading a woman's seminar. I'm writing and teaching a 10-week Sunday School program. I'm helping out at Thomas' school every Wednesday. It all runs round and round my mind, and I wonder how I'll cope. Which is just the state of mind Satan wants me in:

We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy [God]. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them. (CS Lewis The Screwtape Letters)

You've probably noticed this is a common pattern for me (and perhaps for you!). I felt the same at the start of last term. However hard I battle worry, I have to battle it again. Always there are things to be feared. Always there are anxieties which threaten to overwhelm me. Always there are 1000 possible futures which loom large in my mind.

[T]he problem with fears that exist only in our imagination is that, since they aren’t real, we must face them alone. God’s grace isn’t available to help us overcome imaginary problems that reside only in our mind. He will help us to put these imagined fears to death, but it’s only in the real world that His power is effective to uphold us in trouble. It’s only when He calls us to actually go through difficult times that His power is present to protect, comfort, and strengthen us. (Elyse Fitzpatrick Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety 46)

Today I listened to a talk on anxiety by Ed Welch, which spoke to my heart and calmed my fears. He was speaking about the verse, "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matt 6:34). He compared this to the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. ... Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. (Exod 16:4, 21)

When God cared for the Israelites, he didn't provide enough manna for more than one day, except on the day before the Sabbath. Those who disobeyed and collected more found that it went bad before morning. Every morning, these hungry desert-wandering nomads woke up with empty hands. Every morning, they opened the tent flaps to see God's miraculous provision - just enough for that day! - lying like snow on the ground.

I wake up in the morning and say, "I can't do it. There's no way I'm going to get through this day." And at the end of the day, ... God gave grace for me to get through the day, and I could never have imagined what that grace would have looked like. ... Fear and anxiety, they live in the future tense. I'm asking you to do the impossible. I'm asking you to move toward the present by faith in Christ. ... So let's ask this question. What is now? What does now look like? What does obedience look like now? What is the grace that you have been given today? (Ed Welch Issues in Biblical Counselling talk 16)

I'd like to be fully prepared for every day of the coming term. I'd like to collect enough trust, enough energy, enough resources, to make it through each day. But that's not what God promises. He promises me grace for every day as it comes. He promises me grace for the present moment, not for 1000 possible moments. He knows what lies ahead, and he'll give me the grace I need exactly when I need it.

"When I was a little girl," I said, "I went to my father and said, "Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ." "Tell me," said Father, "When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?" "No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train." "That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength. Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need – just in time…" (Corrie ten Boon letter)

There will be days this term when I'll go to bed empty, at the end of my tether, with nothing left in reserve for tomorrow. But when I wake up, I know that God's manna will be lying like snow on the ground. As I read his word, he will give me encouragement. As I walk in obedience, he will give me strength. As I struggle - and yes! at times, fail - he will give me grace. That's God's way: he drives us to the end of ourselves so we will find our hope in him.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:19

first image is from Cecilia Levy on flickr; others are from stock.xchng


Lara said...

This is an awesome post, Jean: encouraging and challenging at the same time. Thanks for all these amazing quotes. I think I need to put some of these up on the wall above my desk! I keep stressing about how I'm going to finish my PhD, and the answer is: with God's grace, one day at a time!

Jean said...

Thanks, Lara, so glad God encouraged you through those quotes - they are encouraging, aren't they?

Kathy said...

Jean, I found your blog (and so glad I did) because I was looking for instructions on putting together a Diorama for my daughter's Homeschooling Science Fair Project. I saw the lovely one you and your daughter constructed, and smiled as I recounted the memories from our own day together as we've worked on Bethany's project. By the way, it's still Thursday in Phoenix, but I am overjoyed that being sisters in the Lord stretches across time zones and continents! I love your article. I love best that it points me to the Word. The creativity of our great God shows up in your efforts toward this timely post. Thank you, and Blessings, Christ's blessings, from a sunny spot in the USA.

Jean said...

Welcome to the blog, Kathy! Lovely to hear from you from sunny (today at least!) Melbourne.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Jean. I know just how you feel, and have been struggling with feeling overwhelmed. Great to be pointed back to God's grace. Jo

Anonymous said...

I have really been enjoying and being challenged by your posts - especially over the last few days. I think, like you, I see the end of the holidays fast approaching and with it the return to routine and busyness. It is so easy to worry about so many things and take our eyes away from the one who grants the grace and peace we need for each day. Thanks!

charissa said...

Thanks Jean. This post was just what I needed to hear today. We just got back from holidays and there are lots of things waiting my attention. It is great to be encouraged to take things one day at a time with God's grace.

mattnbec said...

This reminds me of how my lecturer would respond when we were getting too far ahead of ourselves in the fog and difficulties of learning Greek - "Each day has enough trouble of its own". It was his way of telling us to slow down and just try learn the lessons for that day. But it was also a good reminder that we do get anxious about things which we aren't even facing yet and not entrusting them to God.

Thanks for reminding me of his (and, of course, Jesus'!) wise way of pointing us back to God's grace.


Jean said...

Thank you Jo, Jenny, Charissa and Bec. It's always so encouring to hear of others being encouraged!

Charissa - do you know Kellie? She wondered if you were the friend she used to live with!

Jenny - are you Ben's sister-in-law? He said she reads the blog!

People come up to me and say "my friend ... reads your blog", and I say, "Hmmm, someone with that first name reads, I wonder if it's the same one!". Lovely to have you reading, whoever you may be! :)