Focus – The Wrestling Soul
By Major Anne Pickup –
Like many officers this time of year, all my belongings are packed in transition from here to there. This includes every book I own. Suddenly, I’m aware of a Focus deadline. My resources are not available, so a proper exegesis isn’t possible. What should I do?
I will share the meditations of my heart. I will reveal the Jacob-like wrestling my soul has experienced with God as I packed. I have been wrestling with the beautiful promise spoken to Israel: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Jeremiah spoke these words as the nation of Israel went into bondage under King Nebuchadnezar in Babylon. It was a frightening turn of events. It was an unwelcome change. They were confused by God’s sovereign will. They wondered about God’s presence and power on their behalf. In the midst of this turmoil came a promise which included a plan, hope, and a future.
The surprising turn of events in my life has me relating to Israel. My faith has been challenged. My theological muscles have been getting a serious workout. And like Jacob, my hip doesn’t feel the same! I have been trying to understand the plan, have hope, and believe in the future.
“The plan” is the key to what follows…so I spend more time wrestling with this issue. The plan presumes an architectual type drawing that God holds. He’s got a picture of the finished product from which he builds, maneuvers and manages our lives to get to that end. When things are going well, we like the plan and we feel good about the direction our life is taking. When things get difficult, we’d like to rip up God’s blueprints and hand him one designed by ourselves, assuring ourselves we know better.
I’ve heard the analogies, the most overused one being “God’s plan is like a tapestry.” As the master weaver he knows the end design and is creating it one thread at a time. We see only the back side and don’t know what the end product will be. When I verbalize my confusion (dare I say anger?) at God’s plan for me, people often respond, “you don’t know what the future holds!” And one wise person said, “but Anne, you don’t know what the plan is.”
And that’s the rub! I thought I had a basic understanding of the plan: my life would be lived as a Christian woman, serving side by side with my husband in the ministry of officership, enjoying our children…and growing old together. Death came like King Nebuchadnezzar and dramatically changed most of that, confusing the plan.
It is a faith in the plan that gives hope. And hope brings the assurance of a future filled with positive things. So when one’s faith in the plan wavers, hope is thrown off balance and the future feels frighteningly uncertain. Suddenly, God is in the boxing ring, and the desperate Christian emerges from a corner, swinging and flailing, demanding some kind of response.
Not much response comes! God is aggravatingly quiet about specifics. With God it always comes down to the same thing–trust me. He has no intention of sharing the master design. He told Israel through the prophet Isaiah that it was a sin to demand an explanation concerning the plan. Trust is the key. God declares, “I Am.” He asks us to believe and accept that. If we will trust God’s love and goodness and guidance…plan!…then hope and a future naturally follow.
Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing,
God never changeth!
Patient endurance attaineth to all things;
Whom God possesseth in nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth!–St. Teresa of Avila