Keep Knocking: He will be with us in trouble

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Matthew 7:7-11



I have really struggled with this verse. I think any believer who’s experienced chronic illness probably has. I have asked a lot of times for things I have not received.

In fact, from the first moment Benaiah’s brain scans popped up on the screen in the hospital, my thoughts were not “Oh, well I’ll just ask the Lord to heal that, He can do anything!” To my shame, my heart sank. How many thousands of parents have pleaded with God for their sick child, only to watch them keep suffering? I thought. Why would He answer me?

Instead of recalling all the times the Lord has moved into my circumstances and heard my cries for help, I let myself dwell on suspicion: How could you let this happen to my child? We’re just trying to serve you with our lives and our family is getting hit with one thing after another! You could have stopped this, and you didn’t, so how can I expect your help?

I asked absolutely everyone to pray for our son. And I kept asking. Shooting flares into the darkness. But I braced myself for no help to come.

There in the waiting, a friend wrote this to me:

“I know that that’s the place you’re sitting. Terrified of all that could be to come. I feel so deeply in that for you and even if hope is too painful to hold right now yourself, that’s ok. I’ll hold it for you. I’m praying with hope and confidence for his healing. Many people held that for me with [my daughter] because I honestly just couldn’t. So I’m here. Holding hope and holding light if ever you need it.”


I felt so known. When it was for myself, I could hold onto hope. But when it was my brand new baby? How could I face all that was ahead if I let myself hope and that hope was disappointed? My faith felt fractured. I was reeling, and kicking myself for not standing firm, especially if what my baby needed was for me to pray in faith and confidence and I couldn’t muster it. 

But I think the Lord led this mom to gently write to me: “I’ll hold it for you.”

Person by person, a community of people messaged, called, showed up at my door. They were holding hope for me. They kept asking when my voice broke. They kept knocking when my hand fell limp. 

You hold that baby. We’ll hold your hope. We’re praying for him. We’re believing for him. God can change this. Don’t lose sight of what He is able to do.

A speaker at our church retold the story of the man with a demon-possessed son who asked Jesus to heal him, if He could.

“If I can?” Jesus had asked, “Anything is possible if you believe.”

“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” the man cried. 

Tears stung in my eyes. This had been my cry, too. The speaker lowered her voice, and gently said, “It was in this father’s crisis of faith that Jesus healed his son, not in his moment of strength.”

I sobbed. 

A few days later, I read this verse: “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to take away our sins…We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.

1 John 4:10, 16

I was despairing, breaking, fearful, suspicious. But patiently, through His word and His people, God was there with me, reminding me that it is a safe thing to wait on Him. That even when I fear what is waiting for me on the other side of the door, I must keep knocking. I must keep asking. Because God may not help me in the specific way I ask, but his help will surely meet me when I ask Him. His peace is found on the other side of that conversation. And there is no shortcut to it, because He is the answer, not any of the things I’m praying for. I know He will always give me good things when I ask, because He always gives me himself.

“The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them.”

Psalm 91:14-15

“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you…Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.”

Psalm 37:5, 7

Four months later, here I am, marveling at how well my little son is doing. Rubbing my eyes and looking again, and slowly realizing that God is doing what I was afraid to hope for, in spite of how poorly I trusted Him. I wanted to stand firm with unwavering faith. But what happened is this: I went down, and God sent help. 

I am part of a body, and “all the members care for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:25) Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking? It’s not just an instruction to the individual. It’s a call to a team. Pursue the Lord. Walk with Him. Plead with Him. Not just for yourselves, but for each other. Keep going after Him. And keep reminding each other how much He loves us, how faithful He is, that He’s a good Father who is worthy of our trust.

We are loved by a God who can do anything. He is with us in trouble. He is steady when we falter. It’s the message of the Gospel all over again. Not that we buckled down and made our way to Him, but that He stepped down into our helplessness and offered Himself. And it will probably not be my amazing example of faith that will win the world to Jesus, but my humbled heart, again and again, moved to awe by his amazing faithfulness.

So when He says to keep knocking, I will keep pounding at the door. Both for myself and for the ones who are going under. Because He’s not only testing our faith; He’s building it. 

“…We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.”

2 Corinthians 1:8-11


Sufficient: grace that holds up in our hardship

“…We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.”

2 Corinthians 4:8

It’s been weeks of processing, crying, need-meeting, trying to adjust my expectations, feeling how up-in-the-air our lives are, and wondering when we will ever feel settled again. I feel absolutely spent. I have been thrust into a plot line I would never, ever choose. 

Our church had a parent commissioning for families with new babies a few weeks ago, and I sat in a room full of beaming couples with their healthy, beautiful babies – safe and sound and whole…and my broken one. My precious, tiny son with his brain cysts and spina bifida and swollen ventricles and cerebellum gaps and a shaky future full of scary possibilities. I was heartbroken for him.

For weeks, I have been crying out to the Lord for joy that overflows and peace that passes understanding and strength that overcomes this awful situation. I’ve been searching his word for guidance for how to walk through this. I’ve been reaching for a hope that touches my grief. I know there’s nowhere else to turn. I know that the Bible is precious and life-giving. But this is painful at a level that its promises don’t seem to touch. I look at them and I repeat them and I remember that God is working things for good and that, in eternity, everything will be healed and whole, but my baby hadn’t even made it 20 days from his first breath and he was back in the hospital. We’d had just 5 weeks of newborn snuggles when we started discussions on which brain surgery would be best for him. We had held on with all our might through this pregnancy. Little did we know how we would struggle on the other side of it. 

I climb into bed each night so relieved that I’ll be unconscious soon and I lay in bed each morning, trying to rally for another day in a story I don’t want to be living. I have no control here. Not over this. This is not something I can study for or work hard enough to fix. In a moment, it didn’t matter what I had wanted my life to look like. It rearranged itself around a new priority, and I watched, helpless as the pieces fell into place for a role where my training didn’t apply and my desires didn’t matter.

This is do-what-needs-to-be-done territory. This is a hold-our-whole-lives-before-the-Lord season, because we are helpless here, and all we can do is look to Him. We are discouraged, and fighting to cling to our hope. We are weary, and we are learning what hard work it is to do the good God has set before us and not lose heart – to be content with the good He has set before us in place of the good we had in mind. To trust in our disappointment that He is our helper and that He has not abandoned us. We are fighting a battle with our own hearts to entrust our baby and our story to Him.

Here is what I’m working to remember:

I have no control, but the One who has all the control is very good, and He loves Benaiah very much. He is for us. He has planned good things for us since long ago. Our lives are his masterpiece, not the jumbled, broken wreck it feels like at the moment. We are confused, but He is faithfully ordering our steps. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Benaiah has some things that didn’t form well, but who he is was formed with great care. God not only created the temporary body, He crafted the precious, eternal soul living in it. Benaiah is more than just his body and his brokenness. With all that needs treatment, yet he is wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

Peace that guards my heart and mind comes in proportion to my choice to fix my thoughts on the Lord, cast my cares on Him, and refuse to worry. His peace doesn’t fall short, but I do fall short of stepping into it. I am begging Him to help me here. To help me to fight the temptation to back away from Him in my disappointment, confusion, frustration and fear. He is ready to hold me, guard me, comfort me, and walk me through this if I will throw myself and my troubles onto Him, whole-heartedly trusting his faithfulness and his care for me. (Isaiah 26:3-4

Oh Lord, 

We are looking at this unexpected season before us and asking you for help. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. 

I believe this next year can be full of your grace. Your grace for all the appointments. Your grace in the surgeons and doctors you provide to care for Benaiah. Your grace over his surgery and procedures. Your grace for parenting and marriage, even out of our brokenness. Your grace in orchestrating a way for us to serve that is a good fit, here and now. Your grace at work in our hearts to teach us to trust you, to endure, and to be satisfied in you through the waiting. Your grace to keep hoping you will make a way for Cody to fly again. Your grace in our relationships. Your grace for all we’ve lost and left behind.

Your grace will be sufficient for us. And this year, I believe we’ll see it again and again and again. Lord, give us the eyes to recognize your grace in the hardship. Help our hearts to find your peace as we gaze at who you are. Teach us to trust you when we feel perplexed, that our hearts may face each next moment with courage. When we cling to you, we will not be driven to despair. You’re worthy of our trust. Lord, help our unbelief.

Anchor Rope: untangling our hope from our plans for tomorrow

“Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year….How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?…What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.”

James 4:13-16
 

I’ve been under a lot of pressure this week, and the symptoms of that pressure have been messy. I yelled across the house and threw a pillow on the floor. I thought angry thoughts and spoke in harsh tones.


We’ve had a super busy schedule, some changing plans, and a lot of moving pieces we’re trying to keep track of, but I think what threw me the most was an email mentioning that there might be a problem with our paperwork.

We’ve applied for our work permits so we can serve long-term in Papua New Guinea. As far as anyone knew, we had prepared perfectly, but the requirements are changing and getting stricter. We’re working on it, and we’re hopeful that they’ll still let us come, but it’s a wait-and-see situation. It’s an at-the-mercy-of-someone-else’s-decision situation.

I have found that I have a lot of emotions toward this development. In short, it makes me want to pull my hair out. I’m already aching under the pressure every day, because I know we can’t possibly make it all work. We can chase every detail we know of down and something unexpected can still come up. Even if we knew what all the factors were, we couldn’t control them all. We can’t even change ourselves to handle it better.

My stress reveals that I have let myself start thinking my plans are a certain thing. Again.

Oh, how I love to decide that I know what will happen next. It’s pretentious and evil. And it is so, so easy for me to slip into. I love to plan all the specifics as if I’m the one in control. But I’m not. And when I’ve been nurturing my love affair with the planner, I hesitate to depend on the One I need so badly. Just because he might be allowing one of my precious plans to be threatened, I allow that hesitation and fear to make me miserable. And I throw pillows at the floor because I’m so frustrated.

And then there’s Cody, out mowing the lawn like everything will be okay. Just doing the next thing and waiting. Because everything will be okay. Our hope was never in those details.

Oh girl. You’ve got to go get your hope back. Pull it back and pick it up and detach it, strand by strand, from all those pretentious specifics you’ve let it wrap around. Lay the tangled thing at the feet of your Savior and let him braid it into something sturdy: an anchor rope. So every single thread leads to him and his faithfulness.

Then you will not be thrown when things do not go like you expect or when a certain course of action is threatened.

Yes. That plan might not work. But everything will be okay. You’ll be okay. Your family will be okay. Our God knows exactly what you’ll need for the journey you didn’t know to plan for. He knows just how to navigate every turn in the road and he is faithful to use our lives to do the work he is planning, even and especially when it doesn’t line up with what we’re planning.

He’s a good leader. He won’t drag us at such a breakneck speed that we have no option but to drown or let go. He prepares the path and walks it first and lends the strength so that we are surely able to follow the whole way.

Oh Lord,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry for trying to take this back and make it mine. I can’t make these plans turn out. I don’t know everything we’ll need for what’s ahead, or if we’ll even get cleared to take the next step. Can you help my heart release the process to you?

Will you help me trust you to get us there?

I want to do a really good job at this and I want to look good doing it. And that leads me to a place where I obsess and get so upset over the lists and the timing and the unknowns. I’m yearning to be perfect, impressive, on-the-ball, ahead of schedule, all-knowing, prepared for everything. But these goals are only throwing me off balance and adding unnecessary pressure.

Help me unhook my hope from prideful ambitions and pretentious specifics. That kind of obsession does not honor you or the people I’m serving. A humble heart holds all its plans up to you as ideas that could be improved upon and takes on the changes that come with great hope for what you are about to do.

“When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!”

Isaiah 64:3-4

Let’s take it back to this simple, steadying truth:

There is no God like you.

I am not impressive. But you are. And its not up to me to make your plan work. I am not under all this pressure to see to every detail. I can simply look at, listen to, follow, obey, and be rescued by a God unlike any other.

Again and again, my whole life long, as often as I need you, you will be there. You will exceed my highest expectations, you will handle the things I didn’t see coming, and you will do incredible work as I wait on you.

Nothing surprises you. Nothing threatens your plans. So I will bring this problem before you and ask you to work on our behalf.

Lord, I believe you’ve led us here, to this point, and you are asking us to keep believing you, to keep watching, and to see how you will make a way for us. We trust you, so we can just go mow the lawn while we wait. Because our hope is tied to a sturdy, unchanging anchor, not to our idea of what tomorrow should look like.

“No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord. The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

Proverbs 21:30-31

Unsearchable: an Easter prayer

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives…”

-Jeremiah 17:9-10

Lord,

As unsearchable and dark as our hearts are, you examine them and know them fully. As thoroughly as you know my fallen character and selfish leanings, still you gave everything for me.

And on this day you took the first steps of a resurrected life – the same life you offer to me, the same pattern you call me to follow.

You see through my fronts to my unsearchable heart, with all the mess and weakness and disheveled state of things, and you do not find it hopeless.

You take my hand and gently lead me to walk forward in new life.

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living in you.”

Romans 8:11