By Joni Shankles
I am a planner by nature.
My personality type loves examining possibilities, imagining all potential outcomes for a given situation. When I’m at my best, this trait helps me find creative solutions, choose the best fit plan out of many, and move forward. But when I’m under stress, or the stakes are high, fear can drive me to a stand-still and planning can turn into obsessing, as I make plan after plan but can’t take another step.
You can imagine what happened when I became a mom.
The stakes were high. Stress increased. Potential outcomes multiplied again and again with each passing day. What if questions consumed my thoughts. I made plans, then contingency plans, then contingency plans for my contingency plans.
I was overwhelmed.
I couldn’t plan my way out of the fear I felt.
God met me right where I was in those dark days, with these truths from Isaiah 50.
Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness and has no light
trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches!
Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled!
This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.
– Isaiah 50:10-11 ESV
Through these words recorded by Isaiah, God invited me to trust Him instead of my plans. He invited me to imagine the possibility that my trust and awe, or fear, of Him could be greater than my fear of the unknown. He invited me to rehearse and rely on His trustworthy name – “The LORD—the LORD is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth” (Exodus 34:6 CSB) – even on the darkest days.
These verses showed me then and show me still that when the stakes are high, when I can’t figure out a way through the darkness of uncertainty, I can trust that God is near. I can choose to listen to His voice instead of my own fears. I can choose to lay down my torches and plans and rely on my Father to show me the way out. I know too well the torment of trying to light the way on my own.
I can choose to listen to His voice instead of my own fears.
I love Larry Crabb’s commentary on these verses in his book Connecting:
God’s words through Isaiah tell us one way we can know if we are living in the flesh or in the Spirit. When we bump into something we can’t explain, when we find ourselves in a dark tunnel and aren’t sure how to get out, is our stronger impulse to trust God or figure out what to do? Do we quickly reach for a flashlight to help us see the road ahead? Or do we firmly grasp the hand of the only one who can see in the dark?
Where is our confidence — in God or in our ability to come up with a good plan? If we walk confidently in the light of our own torches, Isaiah informs us that we are not relying on God. The demand to walk a path with a predictable outcome is an urge of the flesh. It needs to die. (pg. 112-113)
This takes practice, friends.
I’m still a planner by nature.
I still get overwhelmed at times as a mom.
What if questions still enter my thoughts.
I still face the choice of trust or torment when things are uncertain.
But after years of rehearsing God’s truth and choosing over and over again to lay down my torches and surrender my demands, my impulse to trust God is stronger today than my impulse to figure things out on my own.
I know by experience that God is near. My confidence in Him continues to grow as I trust His name more and more. He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth. And He is already present in the future I cannot see.
Now, when all is dark and I can’t see a way out, I stand still, not in fearful indecision, but in trust, holding my Father’s hand.
Won’t you join me?
We give thanks to you, God; we give thanks to you, for your name is near.
– Psalm 75:1 CSB
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