Lessons from Cherith
Do not be afraid. Stand still and watch the Lord rescue you. Exodus 14:13 NLT
Are you a panicker? I can raise my hand and say I still haven’t fully removed panicking from my life. In my “baby Christian” and pre-Christian days panicking in my world looked a bit like this: bad news comes, I immediately pull back (finances, emotion, socializing, etc), and Mrs. Fixit comes to live in my brain. How was I going to fix this overwhelming problem? If “fixing” the problem was truly out of my hands that really threw me for a loop. And, if it was a personal failure, I’d add a hefty dose of self-disdain as in, “why in the world would you do that you stupid, idiot?” Or this always helped: “Of course this happened because you are a failure and no one even likes you.” Surefire ways to solve any problem, right?
I opened up my Strong’s Concordance to see how many times the word “fear” appears in the Bible. It’s two pages and four tiny columns long of references to the word “fear.” That doesn’t include “feared,” “fearest,” “feareth,” “fearfully,” and many more! According to on-line sources the words “fear not” show up about 140 times in the Bible (not 360 which is frequently proposed). It seems God really wants to get a point across about how to handle our fears. And yet we still panic.
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Matthew 14:28-30
From beginning to end of the Bible we see people who literally have the hand of God reaching out to them panicking. Isn’t that what Adam did when God asked, “Where are you?” They freaked out and hid. The Israelites, after having God lead them night and day with clouds and fire, provide food from heaven, freaked out and cried, “We want to go home!” And poor Peter. Even with Jesus admonishing him just seconds prior to, “Take courage! It is I,” he takes his eyes off the Lord and on to his own feet and the world.
So, take heart my dear friends we are not alone. But God still wants us to grow each day, each disaster toward Him.
I’ve been rewarded by the world for what my own style of panicking looks like. I go into research and development mode. My computer keys alit with fire as I search for reasons and solutions. I start problem-solving how to save more money while imagining a giant victory garden to sustain us. I organize, make charts, create checklists, watch YouTube videos. And I forget to pray. And be still. The world doesn’t reward with peace.
Elijah himself was a study in two sides of this panicking problem. On one hand he did as directed by God and told the king how his evil behavior would result in a drought. Then he seemed to calmly go to Cherith Ravine under God’s direction. See how God provides when we obey and are calm? But after all this plus the amazing display of God’s power and might on Mount Carmel he suddenly panics. He runs away and hides in fear for his life. And God asks him, “What are you doing here?”
8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Matthew 16:8-9
It’s been a hard fought lesson between Jesus and me about not panicking. About staying calm in the face of scarcity, whether that be finances, food, love and even yes, toilet paper. But time and again God asks us, “What are you doing here? Don’t you remember what I’ve done for you before?”
And so, while in my own Cherith when another person suddenly showed up for lunch or dinner I forced my thoughts back on Him. I kept calm and prayed. “You will show up, Lord.” When I didn’t know how the 100 mini-birdhouses we had to hand out at Bev’s funeral would get painted (side note: she had planned to give them out at her wedding anniversary party and asked, “is it ok to give out party favors at funerals?) I prayed for help and a small army of women volunteered. When the angel volunteer, who was planning the funeral reception, called and said all the sunflowers she had ordered were lost somewhere between California and Colorado I prayed that it would all turn out fine. And on the day of Bev’s funeral the church and reception looked so beautiful thanks to many hands.
God started on me many years ago with the verse from Psalms 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” It showed up everywhere, even on vacation while attending a church for Mother’s Day. The gift they handed out? Pens with that very verse. And when I can’t sleep at night from worry I repeat that verse over and over. Be still. Don’t panic. God’s got this. It wasn’t until my time in my Cherith that I finally really got it — In times of great strife panicking is never the solution because peace and calmness are waiting for us
Friends, the Lord has so many better solutions for problems that we can’t even imagine. So why not just give every one of them, no matter how small or large to Him right now? We need to stop fearing the world and give glory to the only one we should fear with reverence and majesty, the Almighty God.
What’s your “panic mode?”
What are you worried about right now that you need to give to God?