I’ve always believed my mind could solve any problem. If I puzzled it out long enough, I could conquer anything. Academics? Piece of cake. Job requirements? Done. Marriage? Easy . . . um wait . . . . Kids? What the!?? Sin? Dear God, what have I done?!
Life has brought me to my knees, and to my senses.
I’ve lived as if I could manage and control everything. As if I had to control everything—as if God expected me to figure it all out and get it all right. But the problems kept coming like a flooding river rushing over a cliff. I felt like I was standing under the Niagara Falls, trying to catch and manage 150,000 gallons of water per second. Really it’s no wonder I despaired. And still do. Even now it feels like I’m being pounded by a relentless rush.
I’ve lived as if I could manage and control everything. As if I had to control everything—as if God expected me to figure it all out and get it all right.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Fear, failure, abuse, death, disease. I can go on, but you get the idea. It’s a not so subtle reminder of that “most ancient of human truths; namely that life is an arduous and tragic struggle; that what we call ‘sanity’. . . has a great deal to do with competence, earned by struggling for excellence; with compassion, hard won by confronting conflict; and with modesty and patience, acquired through silence and suffering . . . . simply being able to endure life with decency and dignity . . . .”1
“That’s all fine,” you say, “a reminder to ‘bear up’ or to ‘knuckle down,’ but how exactly do you propose I do that? Am I to be Beowulf, who stoically faced death, with only the hope of fame and renown to motivate him? Fat chance! If I’m any character in the canon of great literature, I’m one of Odysseus’ sailors, one of those guys who got eaten by the cyclops. Does anyone remember that guy’s name? Nope.”
And trust me, I hear you. If “sanity” is the virtue of only the heroic stoics, or beautiful nihilists, then it is beyond my feeble reach. Forget knuckling down, I am more apt to “buckle under” and let the water rush down my throat to fill my lungs.
Except that this image is all wrong. We do not stand beneath the waterfall at all. God never asked us to manage it all, and he certainly never expected us to. Just the opposite. What he actually said was:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For there is more to life than food, and more to the body than clothing. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than the birds! … Consider how the flowers grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, how much more will he clothe you, you people of little faith! So do not be overly concerned about what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not worry about such things. For all the nations of the world pursue these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, pursue his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out – a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:22-34).
We are within a waterfall of grace. Every drop of life, every molecule of its rushing force, is guided by infinite divine goodness.
No, we are not standing under a waterfall which we must manage. We are within a waterfall of grace. Every drop of life, every molecule of its rushing force, is guided by infinite divine goodness. How much easier it is when we stop trying to swim up the Niagara Falls and instead simply fall, straight into the hands of the good shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Oh, for sure there is much “bearing up” that remains to be done. We must still face and suffer evil. Life is relentless. But through it all, God’s grace flows extravagantly. We just can’t see it when we are fighting so hard to manage the onslaught. A little perspective makes a big difference. Drop the fight. Look up. Lie back. And as you fall, sing with all the saints of the Lord, “My help comes from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth!” (Psalm 121:2). “Look, God is my deliverer! I will trust in him and not fear. For the Lord gives me strength and protects me; he has become my deliverer” (Isaiah 11:2). He is certain to catch you.
(1) Szasz, Thomas. Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry.