I think I have bitten off more than I can chew. Actually, I have definitely bitten off more than I can chew. It’s January. It’s a new beginning. I have had a wonderful holiday season. I have enjoyed some personal reflection on the last year and now I look forward to the year to come. I look forward with great anticipation, joy, and excitement. Yet a somewhat obvious question emerges, “What the heck were you thinking, Julia?”
Alastair and I are planting a church. It is tremendously hard work. Harder than I imagined. We opened my counselling practice. Again, hard work. It’s very rewarding and I love my time with my clients, but it is hard work. And well, I am 4 months pregnant. So all you parents out there know what is coming! So, yes, I pretty much have bitten off more than I can chew for the next year, or two, or eight. Luckily it feels lighthearted and humorous most days, but then there are brief fleeting moments when I truly feel like I might be in over my head.
Strangely though, I feel an extreme peace about this year. I feel peace knowing God has bestowed this work upon us. I feel comfort and joy knowing he is at work in our work. I feel a good but foreign sense of surrender, as if the Holy Spirit is whispering to me in each moment, “You cannot do all of this, but I can, and I am, and I will.”
Looking ahead is my natural proclivity. I have always been a planner and organizer and a type-A-future-oriented-check-list-maker. This works well for accomplishing tasks, but it is hard on my heart. The list making and planning can really bind me in a sense of hyper-responsibility and pressure to control outcomes. And it’s hard on my heart because being future oriented creates a sense of anxiety, I do not know the future! I do not know how to run a business well yet. I do not know exactly how to plant a church yet. I do not know how to be a mother yet. So even if I wanted to make lists, I am not entirely sure what the lists would say!
In contemplating my lists I realized this year might really crush me. I was a bit worried about how I might handle all the unknowns, the stress, the work and the changes. But so far, there is only peace and trust. I feel only grateful and hopeful for what this year holds. It is the most relieving and bizarre feeling. It is unnatural. In fact, I believe it is supernatural. Paul writes while in jail and uncertain of his future, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
In my own strength I have bitten off more than I can chew, juggle, master, or control. In my own strength this year would crush me. In my own strength, I may have ended up in state of frenzy or panic or living life as a controlling witch. Thank God that in Christ, we do not live in our own strength. Thank God that in Christ, he is always making us more than we are on our own. Thank God that in Jesus Christ, we are capable of receiving his good gifts and managing them as wise stewards.
Strength comes from clinging to what you know while you wait for what you don’t.
So I ask myself: What do I know of God? He is good, faithful, powerful, sovereign, makes good plans for us, gives us only good gifts, is gracious, patient, and all his purposes will be fulfilled. What do I know of myself? Well in addition to what I have explained above, I know I am weak and sometimes wander and can be tempted by sin and that I pretty much don’t have any true power or control in this world. And lastly what do I know of what God does to us weak and sinful little critters? He saves us. He redeems us. He protects us. He shows us the way. He never leaves us. He never lets us be given more than we can handle. He works in us and through us. He transforms us. He gives us good works. He invites us to his banqueting table. And we all glory together in Him.
The strength comes in knowing God and his promises and ruthlessly attaching yourself to these truths, to him. It comes by the Spirit reminding us of the things we know and believe. It comes resting in what you know and trust of our Savior.
I was joking with a friend last night that if we make it through this year it will only be by God’s grace and for his glory. Then it hit me. This is true for all of us. If we make it through this year, this week, this day, it is only by God’s grace and all for his glory.
Cling to what you know while you wait for what you don’t.