By 7:45 the temperature is nearing 80 and the Florida sun beats down from a clear sapphire sky on my morning walk. Nevertheless I find it energizes me to walk alongside the lake and breathe in the summer morning. Especially today when peace is scarce and thoughts agitated.
At the end of the road I see the cranes – they’re almost always there to greet me. Florida Sandhills are endangered and smaller than the Great Lakes Sandhills that migrate here in the winter. These two are happily picking through a neighbor’s grass, looking for mole crickets, grubs and earthworms. Noisy birds, the female makes two calls for every one from the male. Typical, I think with a smile.
Breaking the rhythm of my walk, I stop a minute to enjoy their vigilant search for food, bald scarlet heads bobbing up and down and awkward gait carrying them alongside the road.
From my right I see a movement and realize there’s a third crane whose ocher color blends so well with her surroundings I didn’t see her at first. Her rattling call is haunting and beautiful but I notice she is lame. She holds her right leg up and isn’t eating much.
And just like that, I see Dori, struggling to go on in face of cancer, bravely trying to muster up some energy for life.
What happens to your peace when life becomes a series of troubling, agitating questions that no one can answer? And worse, it seems like God’s on vacation in Tahiti right when you need Him most.
Pat Answers and Old Clichés
Oh, I know the Bible verses that say we can cast our cares on Him because He cares, or the admonition to not let our hearts be troubled. But what do those words mean when it comes to these moments? How do I go on living when part of me is dissolving away?
If God is really there – present in our greatest moment of need – there has to be something tangible we can do. This has been haunting me like the cry of that bird.
When I get back from my walk I turn to those familiar words in John 14. I want to see if I can read them again, slowly and with intention. Maybe I’ve missed something.
“Do not let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you…I am the way…” John 14:1-6 NASB
What if there’s a secondary meaning to these words? What if it’s not about dying, going to heaven, and having an elaborate mansion bequeathed to us by Jesus?
I stare at the words and then go to my Strong’s Concordance app and started looking up the words individually. Here’s what I discover:
- Do not let is a directive. It means it’s up to you and me to do this.
- troubled means “disturbed or agitated”
- mansions is better translated “dwelling places” as it is here in the NASB. This one thing alone opens a world of difference in interpretation
- I go to prepare a place for you – this is Jesus’ part. It’s His promise. We can count on it.
- How do we find our way to that place? I am the way.
Here’s my takeaway from that search.
- Peace is a choice. I can choose not to let bad news, lack of money, health issues or family problems trouble me to the point of agitation and loss of peace. It’s my job to maintain my own level of peace.
- There is a God who loves me and has prepared a special place for me to run when I am troubled, scared, or even sick. “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High? will abide in the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps. 91:1). Could this be the dwelling place He’s talking about in John 14? Is my dwelling place the Presence of God?
- If He says He is the way there, don’t I have a choice to believe Him or not? I mean, He’s either the way, the truth and the life, or He is a liar. There can be no middle ground.
- In the end, it’s not really up to God to do anything. He’s provided the means for continual peace no matter what happens next and I have the choice to dwell there or be troubled and agitated.
It’s such a snare to torture ourselves over what we cannot help and did not foresee. But if the Presence of Christ is a safe dwelling place and He carries with Him always that lovely Balm of Gilead (Jer 8:22), we can be assured of a healing – if not here, then in eternity.
Like the Sandhill Crane this morning, we are grieving as a family because one of us is injured. But my heart tells me that if we can allow our present grief to be simply an open wound before Him, Christ will come, pour in that sweet ointment and touch it, and in due time, it will be healed.
He is all we have. There is no other way. But I promise you, it is enough.