Tag Archives: Trusting God

Thoughts on Psalm 131

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Psalm 131 contains just three verses but gives a good pattern for prayer.

PRAY HUMBLY.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes not raised too high… (v. 1a)

The Psalmist begins with the inner man. A prideful heart ruins even the most eloquent prayer and haughty eyes spoil even the most lofty supplication. This is not to say that words aren’t important, but that a humble heart matters more.

Lord, help me to pray humbly and acutely aware of what a great grace it is that you hear me. Stamp out any hint of self-exalting pride and make me like the tax collector in Luke 18: “God be merciful to me a sinner!”

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. (v. 1b)

There is sweet freedom in trusting God for the many great perplexities of life. “God is good,” and “God is sovereign” must be enough. It is foolish to speculate about matters He intentionally shrouds in mystery and better to rest upon the revealed counsel of God. Additionally, there is wisdom in diligently serving Him wherever He has placed us doing whatever He has given us to do. There are no unimportant servants in God’s economy and neither do we serve Him in vain.

Heavenly Father, humble my arrogant heart that insists on placing myself on equal terms with You. Conform my will to Yours and let my actions be pleasing in Your sight. Let me seek what you have revealed in Scripture as valuable treasure, for knowing You only deepens my love and devotion to You. You are my Creator. It is enough that You know. It is enough that You see. It is enough that you hear. I am content; for You Yourself have said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

PRAY WITH CHILD-LIKE FAITH AND IN THE SIMPLICITY OF JOYFUL SUBMISSION.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. (v. 2)

A child who is weaned from her mother’s milk has ceased to depend upon it for nourishment and is content to sit quietly in her mother’s arms. We often come to God with troubled hearts, agitated and impatient, struggling to grab hold of a perceived need when what we really need first is God Himself.

O God, wean me from this world. Wean me from worldly desires, temporal pleasures, and self-seeking patterns of thought. Let me come to you as a contented child, completely trusting in Your provision and wholly resting in whatever Your will is for me. Let my heart be still and simply trust in You.

O  Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. (v. 3)

PRAY WITH UNWAVERING HOPE.

Here the Psalmist exhorts us to fix our hope forever on God and God alone. He is a God who keeps His promises. There is no firmer foundation upon which to rest our Hope than God Himself. He is perfectly trustworthy and cannot lie. His promises are sure, His Word imperishable, and His Covenant is everlasting.

Lord, thank you that my hope in You can never be disappointed. Thank you for the extravagance of my Gospel inheritance that makes it possible to draw near to Your throne of Grace with confidence and receive unending mercy, unmerited Grace, and help for my needy soul.

(Luke 18:9-14; 1 Cor 15:58; Prov 2:1-5; Ps 139; Gen 16:13; Isa 59:1; Heb 13:5;  Ps 46:10; Num 23:19; Heb 4:16)

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

 


We Must Know This

“If there is a God, how can I bear not to be that God?”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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I think Nietzsche got it right here. Even as a believer, I struggle against this natural bent. How can I bear to completely surrender to someone other than myself? Surely, I know what is best for my loved ones and me. My reality often reflects this mindset. If something I’ve prayed for goes my way, Hallelujah! God has answered my prayer. If God says, “Wait” or, “No”, then hasn’t God failed to hear me and my prayer gone unanswered?

The Gospel itself reflects this tension. We need a Savior. But, God chose to effect our salvation by sending His perfectly innocent Son to die an excruciating, agonizing death on a cross in our stead. How many of us would think to have prayed for that? The apostle Peter failed in this regard and shows us his humanness.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Jesus’ response to Peter is shockingly direct.

But He turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

So much hinges on setting my mind on the things of God rather than on the things of man. To trust Him, I must know that God is utterly sovereign and completely good. But it is even more than that. I must also be willing to set aside my own plan for God’s plan. Submission to God’s will is paramount in trusting Him.

Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego discovered this as they placed their faith in God rather than in mere deliverance from Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace declaring, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…but if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods nor worship the golden image that you have set up.” A courageous Queen Esther demonstrated this when she asserted, “If I perish, I perish.” And, Job exemplified this when he said,“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

This same good and sovereign God sometimes withholds temporal deliverance or works in ways we never would have sought out or imagined. In the most ultimate way possible, Stephen discovered this as he was ushered into martyrdom. Battle-worn saints throughout the ages have come to know that even without understanding the why of it, suffering is evidence of God’s will and not a deficit in His character or a failure of their faith in Him.

We must know this, too. There is a God and He must be God.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Matthew 16:21-23; Daniel 3:16-18; Esther 4:16; Job 13:15; Acts 7:54-56; Hebrews 11


Learning My Lessons

I am a life-long learner.

But, sometimes I look around and think that everyone else is more accomplished than me. Everyone else has it all together, right? Although that’s how it may seem, the reality is far different. You are a life-long learner, too.

English: School room.

English: School room. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With that in mind, and in the spirit of encouraging one another, here is a short list of things I am learning and in some cases, re-learning!

1. Don’t worry. Trust God.
Worrying about things that I have no control over is just crazy. But this is what I do. If only I could finally and fully learn that I can trust God. This is one lesson I fear will need to be repeated again and again until my life on earth is done. What a relief it will be someday to finally rest from worry. I am beginning to seriously question my personal sovereignty, but I guess that could be a good thing.

Those who know your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You. (Psalm 9:10)

2. Life may not be perfect, but there is still much to be thankful for.
I yearn for my life to be in order. I like all my ducks in a row and everything on my list to be checked off. For me, busy-ness begets the blues. I love to be around people, but I also need time alone to think and to process. And, I detest conflict.

But, my life is not in order. My ducks are not only out of line but chaotically quacking like crazy. It takes a Herculean effort to check even one thing off my list, and “Busy” is my middle name. Moments alone are few and far between. Conflict is a given.

Yet, in all of this the Lord is faithful to remind my harried heart that there is still much to be thankful for. My life is filled with blessings, and even the difficulties I face are being used by Him for my good and His glory. Always.

Even if all else should give way around me, let me be found “joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” (Col. 1:12)

3. God is sovereignly working.
There is no graph, no algorithm, no equation that indicates exactly when or how our Heavenly Father accomplishes His will. But, He is working and always in a million different ways.

Life is not a math problem, but a grand story with eternal scope and perspective. God writes life stories that are rife with plot twists, filled with quirky characters, and include conflict (both resolved and unresolved with real-time cliff-hangers). We turn each page not quite knowing what the next chapter may bring, but we do know the ending and it’s a happy one.

He is working in me. And, although I don’t always see it, I can trust He is working in my loved ones, too.

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (Isaiah 46:10)

What about you? What life lessons are you learning?

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


The Unchangeable One

For I the LORD do not change… (Malachi 3:6a)

Consider the world around us. Instability is unavoidable. The global economy stalls and staggers, the stock market fluctuates and we hold our breath, foreign governments collapse and reform, world leaders come and go, and whole cities declare bankruptcy.

Everything changes so quickly. Technology advances at an unimaginable rate, we travel from here to there as our world becomes smaller, and we communicate instantaneously with the push of a button or the stroke of a keyboard.

Our personal lives are susceptible to change, too. Marriages fail, finances grow thin, and friendships fade. We can lose our jobs, get sick, or suffer disappointment. And, even if our situation changes for the good, we live knowing that things can turn in an instant, the phone call in the night.

In the middle of all this uncertainty, there is One who does not change. He is the great I AM.

God’s character is sure. I do not have to worry that He is or ever will be anything less than good, just, merciful and kind. He has given me His Word that for the sake of His Son and by virtue of His Grace, my sins are forgiven and my name remains written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I can trust Him for now and for eternity. He extends His hand to me, and He will never let me go.

I find much comfort in the Immutability of God. I can rest. I can know. I can trust in His character, His attributes, and His promises.

He is the one Constant in my life, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Leaning In

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If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  1 Corinthians 15:19

I love looking at pictures of my mother before she got sick. In those photographs she is how I remember her, happy and surrounded by family. If I had known how much I would miss that part of her life, perhaps I would have paid more attention, taken less for granted. Somehow, these images on paper console me. Bittersweet, yes, but a comfort nonetheless, and some days I need the comfort.

My siblings and I were privileged to be with Mom the last few hours of her life. In waiting, we experienced the most unlikely pairing of impatience and dread. It was hard to watch her suffer, hence the impatience. It was tough knowing she would soon leave this world, hence the dread. This would be the moment we most feared and the moment we’d been waiting for, the moment we would always remember and the moment we would long to forget. A perplexing contradiction of emotions where reality bit hard and we bled pure helplessness.

In a romanticized version of death, the dying patient appears at rest. In her final moments she is able to utter her last words and squeeze her loved one’s hand. In that account, people weep softly and say that dying is just a natural part of life, that one must accept it as such. But I found death to be painful and heart-rending and devastatingly unnatural. Death has claws and fangs and knows no finesse. The scars will not soon heal. Watching your mother die hurts.

I have questions. Mom could not articulate, but she was able to cry out. What was she trying to say? Was she thirsty? In pain? Did she know we were there? (I do think she did know, by the way.) Some questions, I don’t dare ask others because I know they don’t have the answers either. Why burden them with that? Some mysteries are best left for God to unravel, or not, as He sees fit.

There are also certain memories of those last hours that will remain unspoken. It’s as if to do so would somehow cheapen the recollection, devalue the treasure. I will keep them to myself, take them out now and then and examine the facets, scrutinize the details, and relive the most distressing and beautiful hours of my life.

To an outsider, there was nothing about Mom that would have been attractive that night. But we were not outsiders. We had years of history with her. We were her babies. She had labored with us and loved us and kept us safe. She was our mother, our teacher, our confidant and friend. She had agonized with us in our struggles and celebrated with us in our joys. Our being there was inextricably tethered to a specific context and saturated through and through with what our time on this earth together had allowed, a lifetime of memories bound up in the unbreakable bands of maternal love. No, we were not repulsed.

We leaned in.

We drew close to her because we loved her. We tried the best we could to give comfort. (Oh, how she had so often comforted us!) But, One leaned in closer than all the rest. One leaned in because He loved her more and better than all the rest. Jesus was with us that night, as real and as sure as the room we were standing in. Jesus leaned in with a blood-secured love for one of His own and first-hand experience in what it meant for Mom to suffer. His wounds spoke to her wounds, and He leaned in with the power and urgency of a Savior able to save. In dying, Mom let loose of my hand and was plucked away from death to life by sacred Hands that will never let her go.

Death is ugly and raw, but faith implores me to plant my feet and stand. I know that my Redeemer lives. Someday, all sickness and death will be banished forever. The misery and suffering we face on this side of Heaven are temporary, momentary and light compared to what awaits us in Glory. Part of that lightening is that Mom will be there waiting for us.

“And I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan…
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with a shout,
And come running through the shallow waters reaching for your hand!” *

I miss you terribly, Mom. But, someday I will lean in to where you are and join you in singing praises to our King.

…He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.  Revelation 21:4

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

* Far Side Banks of Jordan, by Terry Smith


Things to Do While Waiting

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

Wait patiently. People often say, “Don’t ask the Lord for patience. You just may be put in a position that requires it.” But, as long as waiting is a fact of life, and I think we can all agree that it is, patience is necessary.

It’s difficult for me to be patient even when I am waiting for something good. I was the child who sneaked into her parents’ closet before Christmas morning to peek at her presents. For me, the thrill of surprise failed to outweigh the agony of waiting.

Patience also implies an unknown future. We must wait for the outcome. For most of us, that’s not an easy thing to do. I want my ducks in a row and my arrangements made, don’t you? The secret to waiting patiently is trusting God. Do you love Him? Are you called? Then trust that no matter what the outcome, “all things work together for good” for you. (Romans 8:28 )

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Pray. Pray with thanksgiving and with assurance that your Heavenly Father hears you. Pray faithfully. Pray without ceasing. (Philippians 4:6; Romans 12:12; I Thessalonians 5:17)

HopeThis hope is born of intimate knowledge and experience, the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. This hope does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5)

Wait contentedly. Christ promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Even if the whole world should crumble around us, what else could we possibly ask for? (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5)

Wait trusting. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” God stands true to His Word. Has there ever been a time when God has failed you? Are not all the promises of God yes and amen in Christ Jesus? Salvation, peace, hope, joy, wisdom, fellowship, redemption, mercy and grace are all ours in Christ. God has been trustworthy in the past. God is faithful today. While you are waiting, remember that He is the Great I AM. The God who IS. Therefore, rest assured, the future belongs to Him, too. Trust Him for it. (2 Corinthians 1:20, Exodus 3:14)

Serve. Serve others and by so doing, serve God. Serve wholeheartedly and sincerely. Even the most menial task is made sacred if it is done as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 6:7, Colossians 3:23)

Count your blessings. A grateful heart is a humble heart. Cultivate the discipline of thanksgiving. God is good and your list of blessings, endless. When you delight in God’s generosity towards you, you bring honor to His Name. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

I think that waiting is one of the most difficult things to do. There are several situations in my life right now that require my patience and restraint. Sometimes, no matter how much I want it to be otherwise, there is nothing else to do but wait. And so, I am learning these things to do while waiting.

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel


Fool That I Am

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The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”  Psalm 14:1a

Am I that fool?

At first thought, I would say no. I believe in God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I believe in the Great I Am, the Sovereign Lord and King of the universe. My Heavenly Father who gave His Son that I might live.

I do trust God for my salvation, but how often do I play the fool by failing to trust Him for my here and now? How often do I say the words, “I believe”, but live my life as if God did not exist? How is it that I believe God for a thing as huge and sweeping as life after death, but often fail miserably when it comes to believing Him for today? I fret. I worry. I doubt. Practically speaking, I am a fool.

I’m not quite sure how to get around this. It’s something that I have struggled with all my Christian life. And yet, looking back over my years on this earth, I can see how faithful God has been to me. First, how he plucked me out of darkness and translated me into the kingdom of His glorious light. Then, how He set a fire in my soul and revolutionized my thinking. He has given me hope, forgiveness, and eternal life. My blessings are innumerable. And yet, one of the things I continually fail to do consistently is trust Him.

My pastor is quick to remind us that God takes the trials in our lives and forces them to do good to us. Perhaps this weakness of mine, this penchant for fretfulness, is the part of me that drives me to Him. For where else can a fool obtain wisdom? And, what is there to do with worry but turn it into prayer? Jesus Himself invites us to cast our cares upon Him, proof that He is the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep. The psalmist reminds us that God knows our frame and that He is mindful that we are but dust. How tender are your mercies, oh Lord!

When my fears overwhelm me
May I submit to God’s will.
Let Truth my sweet refuge be
This, that my God is Good, still!

Again, am I that fool? Perhaps not. Not because of who I am, but because of who He is. His strength perfected in weakness.  Like Peter, let me make the heartfelt confession, “Lord, to whom shall [I] go? You have words of eternal life.”

By His Grace and for the Gospel,
Terrie van Baarsel

Note from Terrie: This will be the last post on Gospel Apprentice until the second week in July. Lord willing, I will return from this short hiatus refreshed and ready to write. God bless you all!


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