[something I originally wrote for my friend Mike Leake‘s site]
Zack Eswine’s Sensing Jesus has been a blessing to me in a strange way. Although geared toward pastors (which I am not), Eswine’s story and pastoral kindness are exactly the words I’ve needed to hear lately.
My family and I live overseas and we’re here to share the love of Jesus with people. Recently, we visited America to celebrate the wedding of my wife’s sister. While there many difficult things happened—including a stressful traffic accident, a man committing suicide and crashing his truck into our house, and then the worst being the death of our unborn baby in miscarriage. We came back to Spain, where we live, feeling torn and empty. We’ve been imperfectly, but earnestly, turning to God our Father for help, healing, and comfort. Personally, in addition to grief, I’ve been fighting some troubling anxiety and racing thoughts in the last several weeks.
So, I recently cracked open Sensing Jesus, a Christmas present, which I expected to coach me into more apt ministry leadership and spiritual depth. Maybe it will do that; I still have the second half of the book to finish. But so far it’s simply healing my soul.
The greatest comfort for me has been in Eswine’s chapter entitled, Fix-It-All. Here he confronts our tendency to try to fix everything. Eswine offers a section on psalm-making. Here he uses David’s example to show how we can use the Psalms to turn to God in prayer, rather than our fleshly efforts “when the going gets tough and unfixable” (p. 111).
Here are the Psalms which Eswine shares, followed by a little bit of personal commentary from me.
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
Protect me from those who rise up against me. . . .
Each evening they come back,
Howling like dogs
And prowling about the city. . . .
But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress,
And a refuge in the day of my distress. (Ps. 59:1, 6, 14, 16)
As anxiety and uncontrolled nightmares taunted me, I felt under attack and powerless. Some nights, I could only fall asleep by whispering, “Jesus, me near me,” over and over and over. And he was. Hope has been new each morning. Even when the things I could count on or control crumbled and proved unfixable, God stayed with me.
Have mercy on me, O God,
According to your steadfast love;
According to your abundant mercy
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin! (Ps. 51:1-2)
I know, as a Christian, that Jesus has taken all my punishment forever. There is none left for me. My wife and I didn’t lose this baby because God wanted to slap our wrists for a sin. But as the weeks went by and the wounds weren’t as raw, I began to ask God to show me where I wasn’t trusting him, where I was trying to be my own savior and god – and he shone the light on my anxiety and worry. Some of this is a natural physiological response to the unbelievable shock and stress from our trip, but some of it (I can now admit) was me, trusting in my own power, bucking against my inability to control and fix my broken life.
O Lord, all my longing is before you;
My sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
And the light of my eyes—it has also gone from me. . . .
But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,
Like a mute man who does not open his mouth. . . .
But for you, O Lord, do I wait;
It is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. (Ps. 38:9-10, 13, 15)
This pain doesn’t have to end in my lifetime. We won’t ‘get over’ all the things that happened during those three weeks in America, as if that were a healthy goal anyway. But, the fear and the loneliness can go; God can take the numbness and the heightened stress with him.
We are children whose loving father knows all their fears and wounds, and he stays with us. He doesn’t just fix the mess as quickly or the way we might ask him to. Instead, he stays with us and slowly– morning by morning– he shares with us his peace and rest.