“Our standing before God in Christ and our faith is not based on how we feel; much like how just because you “feel” fat doesn’t mean you’re fat. Fat is not a feeling.” – Tom Duke (my dad)
Do you ever wake up feeling especially low and unholy? I wish I could wake up every morning feeling invigorated and spiritually on fire. This morning, while waiting for my tire to be changed at Discount Tire (thank goodness they were brewing decent coffee), I was reading from my Bible reading plan “15 days in the Word with John Piper.” As I opened up the YouVersion app on my iPhone (because I’m high tech like that), the title leapt out at me; it made me do a quick double take, glance around the room and look back to once again read the title: “WHAT TO DO IF YOU WAKE UP FEELING FRAGILE” (yes, it really was in CAPS originally). My jaw hit the floor and my heart leapt with joy. I automatically asked, “Lord, how did you know? For me, Lord? Thank you!” Yes, I laughed at myself right after – duh, Rachel, He knows you needed to read this. I rejoice at precious moments like this! I was boggled, once again, by His awesomeness. Piper’s prayer and how he felt echoed my own earlier that morning, while I was still in bed. In moments when I see the nightmare of the filth of my soul and nothingness of my righteousness, I utterly despair and my insides weep with their aching. But, I am learning (too slowly) that they also should cause utter joy. “…I am the Lord, who makes you holy” (Exodus 31:13). He rejoices in our efforts stemming from a heart of love for Him. And THAT should humble us gigantically, since our righteousness is like filthy rags.
C.S. Lewis appropriately refers to the process of sanctification as “the weight of glory.” These moments cause panic, like a child who wanders off from their parent and cries when they can’t find them again. These moments press on me this since of urgency and longing to know more of Christ, to taste more of His greatness, to delve further into His Word.
There are mornings when I wake up feeling fragile. Vulnerable. It’s often vague. No single threat. No one weakness. Just an amorphous sense that something is going to go wrong and I will be responsible. It’s usually after a lot of criticism. Lots of expectations that have deadlines and that seem too big and too many.
As I look back over about 50 years of such periodic mornings, I am amazed how the Lord Jesus has preserved my life. And my ministry. The temptation to run away from the stress has never won out — not yet anyway. This is amazing. I worship him for it.
How has he done this? By desperate prayer and particular promises. I agree with Spurgeon: I love the “I wills” and the “I shalls” of God.
Instead of letting me sink into a paralysis of fear, or run to a mirage of greener grass, he has awakened a cry for help and then answered with a concrete promise.
Here’s an example. This is recent. I woke up feeling emotionally fragile. Weak. Vulnerable. I prayed: “Lord help me. I’m not even sure how to pray.”
An hour later I was reading in Zechariah, seeking the help I had cried out for. It came. The prophet heard great news from an angel about Jerusalem:
Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst. (Zechariah 2:4–5)
There will be such prosperity and growth for the people of God that Jerusalem will not be able to be walled in any more. “The multitude of people and livestock” will be so many that Jerusalem will be like many villages spreading out across the land without walls.
But walls are necessary! They are the security against lawless hordes and enemy armies. Villages are fragile, weak, vulnerable. Prosperity is nice, but what about protection?
To which God says in Zechariah 2:5, “I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord.” Yes. That’s it. That is the promise. The “I will” of God. That is what I need. And if it is true for the vulnerable villages of Jerusalem, it is true for me a child of God. God will be a “wall of fire all around me.” Yes. He will. He has been. And he will be.
And it gets better. Inside that fiery wall of protection he says, “And I will be the glory in her midst.” God is never content to give us the protection of his fire; he will give us pleasure of his presence.
This was sweet to me. This carried me for days. I took this with me to the pulpit. I took it with me to family gatherings. I took it to staff meetings. I took it to phone calls and emails.
This has been my deliverance every time since I was first marking my King James Bible at age 15. God has rescued me with cries for help and concrete promises. This time he said: “I will be to her a wall of fire all around, and I will be the glory in her midst.”
Cry out to him. Then ransack the Bible for his appointed promise. We are fragile. But he is not.