Planted, Not Buried

It’s been nearly ten years since several doctors turned their backs on us. Ten years since I was told to take my two-and-half-year-old son home and wait for him to die. (Those were the words of Mark’s first pediatric neurologist. Needless to say, I quickly sought out a new one.) I was told to “count myself lucky” that Mark could walk and make any sounds at all. There were no insights shared and no help offered. We were very much left on our own.

But then again, we weren’t. No matter how we may feel or how we suffer, none of us are ever truly alone (Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:10, Zephaniah 3:17).

Perspective isn’t just important. It’s everything. It makes all the difference. Take a seed, for example, placed deep down in the dark soil. Is it buried or planted?

Both descriptions are technically correct, but notice the difference implied with each word. Buried suggests finality, an end, no hope. Planted, on the other hand, communicates positive anticipation, transformation, growth, change and hope.

While suffering usually offers us little choice, we always retain choice in regard to our perspective. After all those doctors closed their doors on us—and even now, when new doctors admit they can’t help—the choice of perspective remains: I can be buried under the heavy burden of caring for a child who is in constant pain, gets lost inside his own head and has a future of increasing medical complexities ahead of him. Or, I can choose to rest in knowing that God has planted me right where I need to be, no matter how ill-equipped—and at many times heartbroken—I may feel. Focusing on that rock-solid truth keeps me safely grounded when it feels like I’m standing on little more than shifting sand.

None of us are where we are by accident (Proverbs 16:9, Isaiah 14:24, Job 42:2). None of us are experiencing anything—including suffering—without God’s knowledge and consent (Job 12:10, Isaiah 45:7). No matter what happens and no matter how we may struggle, we can have the confidence to go for broke. We can go all in because what we know doesn’t rest on how we feel or what we fear. When we know God, we can also know rest because we know our place:

We are under His protection (Psalm 121:3).
We are in His care (Isaiah 41:10)
We are guided by His instruction (Psalm 32:8).
We are bound to His timing (Psalm 27:14, Ecclesiastes 8:6).
We are covered by His grace (Romans 6:14).

Our inner dialogue, the self-talk that no one else hears, is vitally important because it shapes, molds and reinforces our perspective.

Experiencing uncertainty isn’t the danger. Letting it take root is. Let’s follow God’s instructions and trust in Him, not ourselves (Proverbs 3:5). Let’s accept His gracious gift of knowing without any doubt that we are firmly planted exactly where He wants us to be—even if that’s in the middle of suffering.

Let’s be intentional in our gardening, too, choosing our thoughts, words and self-dialogue carefully in order to sow beautiful gardens of flowers—not weeds—just as Scripture instructs us to do (Philippians 4:8).

Here are just a few ways to do this:

Practice self-control, not self control.
No matter how we feel or what we face, we always have a choice: rest in Jesus or continue to wear ourselves out. To suffer well means making a commitment to actively rest in Jesus by practice self-control over our thoughts and choices rather than giving in to fear by striving to control things ourselves.

Rest like you know Him.
Jesus is the source of our rest (Matthew 11:28-30), and it’s our great privilege to rest in Him. Do this! Purpose to make personal quiet time with Jesus spent in prayer and Bible study a priority but remember to make room for Him throughout the day, too. We all schedule sleep at night and breaks throughout the day to rest our bodies. Even more importantly, we should do this for our hearts, too.

Paint your perspective using His Word.
Emotions and feelings are fickle. Refuse to fall for them. Whenever one threatens to steer you the wrong way, stop it in its tracks by immediately replacing it with God’s truth: His Word.

Like this post? It’s taken from Going for Broke: How to Suffer Well. (Click here to find it on Amazon.)

Tuning Out the Noise

We can learn a lot from the story of Noah—including how to quiet the noise around and inside of us.

Take a moment to imagine the sights, smells, sounds and stress that Noah must have experienced during all that time spent on the ark. With all the rain, the sky must have been very dark. With so many animals on board, there must have been quite a heavy stench in the air. And surely all those animals weren’t silent, not to mention the sounds that were likely made as huge drops of rain pelted against the wooden ship. The only thing that got Noah through it all was his strong walk with God—a walk that ironically enough meant a whole lot of sitting around and waiting.

Yep, I’ll bet you have even more in common with Noah than you thought!

You’re likely inundated with similarly strong distractions, too. Maybe you juggle a job and taking care of your family. Maybe you struggle with worry. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with trying to make ends meet. Maybe it’s all of the above. No matter what the noise is, we can choose to give it our attention or develop ways to tune it out.

Here are a few ideas for just how to do that:

Squash molehills before they become mountains.
Worry is adept at snowballing. So, as soon as you feel it creeping in, stop it.
Jesus told us not worry. And while this may be easier said than done—like anything else—we can get better with practice.
So, intentionally choose to accept His gracious gift of peace (John 14:27). And make room for His peace by giving Him your worries (Psalm 55:22).

Don’t ignore the noise.
Keep it contained—with the right perspective.
Sure, stress may be screaming for your attention. In fact, it may be absolutely demanding it. But keep it in its place by framing it in the proper perspective. God created us as human beings, not human doings. Our first and foremost job is to focus on, worship and bring glory to God (Isaiah 43:7, 43:21, Ecclesiastes 12:13, 1 Samuel 12:24). Everything else is secondary. Can’t seem to catch your breath? Close your eyes. Then, don’t just count to 10. Count on Him.

Get it out by writing it down.
Sometimes we truly can’t let things go or quiet our inner rumblings until we get it out somehow. This can meaning sharing with a trusted friend or spouse. But sometimes, things may be so private, fear-filled or shame-inducing, that even the idea of sharing with another person creates even more stress. So, write it down. Share it only with God. No shame or fear need be felt because He already knows (1 John 3:20) and still loves and wants to hear from us (Psalm 50:15). The act of putting our troubles (or anything, for that matter) down on paper actually helps us better process them, too. Instead of just noise, suddenly problems—and possible insights and solutions—can become much more clear. Worried about someone finding your private confessions and thoughts? Make a commitment to yourself to shred it afterward. It’s the process that’s important to quieting the noise, not necessarily the notes that remain afterward.