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

More Than Enough: on how to face another month of COVID-19

The Walmart lady took my eggs.

This moment looks different for everyone. The moment that the pandemic goes from a situation I hear about on the news to an intruder that tears its way abruptly into my day. The moment COVID-19 gets personal.

The duck, duck, goose moment. Ducked this hit, ducked that hit, coping, coping, GOOSE!

Not coping.

For stronger souls, its might be something bigger that finally gets to them, but for me, it was the eggs.  

I’ve been rationing eggs. I was prepared for it if there were no eggs. I got to the store and found a shelf full of eggs!

Round-trip to Walmart is an hour of driving for me. Today I had made the trip for flour, only to find that all the stores were out of flour. The milk and pizza aisles had signs legislating the max quantity per customer. But at least there were eggs again! I put two cartons in my basket and happily went on my way, relieved that I wouldn’t run out by Sunday and have to drive to town again.

I had already started the self check-out process at the register when a Walmart employee walked up to my cart and said matter-of-factly, “You have too many eggs. Each customer can only have one carton.” My heart sank as she reached into my cart and took away my 5 extra days of no grocery shopping.

The lady checking out across from me piped up, “Oooh! Could I have those?”

I should have just been happy that someone who needed eggs was able to get the carton I wasn’t allowed to have. But, on the inside, I was just seething that I wasn’t allowed to have it.

I hadn’t seen a sign. The shelves looked fine. I wasn’t taking a ridiculous amount. But I was shamed by the Robin Hood Walmart lady who took my eggs, and I was furious for the rest of the day.

A Gap in my Understanding

So I went to the other grocery store in town and bought a second carton of eggs in defiance (ugly moment, I know). I drove home stewing.  I complained to Cody. I complained to everyone. Then I complained to the Lord and he brought to mind two things:

  1. It is fine for situations to be less than smooth, especially right now.

It is okay for me to come up against these situations not perfectly prepared. It’s all right to be distressed by an employee taking my groceries from me (even if I should be happy they went to someone that needed them). I’m allowed to struggle as the opportunities to be around other people disappear and to wrestle with how to be thankful when I feel trapped.

It’s new. It’s hard. It’s an adjustment. And it’s the unsurprising evidence that I’m human and I need the Lord just as desperately as ever.

2. There’s a gap in my understanding.

Colossians 2:9-10 says,  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ…”

I’m familiar with the verse. I have it memorized. But I don’t know how to use it. I need being ‘complete in Christ’ to make a difference at the real-life level of feeling sad and lonely because I can’t see my friends, feeling robbed and accused when the Walmart lady takes my eggs, feeling dread when I look ahead to a month with just my family and see how much I prefer the option of socializing over the calling to love the people I live with day in and day out.

Why isn’t this working?

Because I am complete in Christ, I am not supposed to treat the company of other people hungrily. I’m supposed to be able to face a month-long world pandemic quarantine and not be insecure and needy.

I’m supposed to be calm, collected and confident that the Savior in whom I am complete will faithfully meet my needs, even my needs for eggs and interaction. So why isn’t it working?

I think that feeling angry or anxious or lonely or just tired of it all doesn’t mean it’s not working.

Being complete in Christ means I am able to experience all of that and still allow His peace to rule. Being complete in Christ means I can take the disillusionment and frustration and angst and make it yield to the truth:

How do I face the next month of this?

“Christ is all that matters. And He lives in all of us…you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults…Above all, clothe yourselves with love…”

Colossians 3:12-14

This is what Christ’s life looks like, and in the midst of broken systems and plans that are coming apart at the seams, it still works. It’s not falling apart. It’s not out of stock. It’s not cancelled.

It walks us through the how of each next moment.

And Christ’s answer to how do I face the next month of this? is this:

In love. In my strength. Ruled by my peace.

Just wrap yourself up tight in this beautiful truth: You are complete in me. I complete every single area where you fall short. I am more than enough for you.

And that means you can face this.

Just come to me in every moment

of frustration,

of loneliness,

of irritation,

of shell-shock,

of overwhelm.

And I will supply all that you lack to walk through the next moment in love.

“But He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ…

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (Amplified)


Related Reading

On Dread & Distance: Biblical Guidelines for how to Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic
5 Steps to a Light Heart in a Season Heavy with Coronavirus Concerns

Buy A Field: on normal in the midst of crisis

Worry, Hurry, Scurry: on living in a quiet place of rest

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.

You said, “No, we will get our help from Egypt…So the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you his love and compassion…Then you will destroy all your silver idols and precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, “Good Riddance!”

Isaiah 30:15-16, 18, 22

This week I have felt like this hamster. I worry and hurry and scurry in seven different directions. I stop in the middle of one thing to go work on something else. I am weary and frazzled and I am not alone.

Just today, I left the office to put Abishai down for his nap to the sad goodbyes of the adults we left behind asking if they could take one, too.

It’s good work, but it does not hold a good place in my heart if I have allowed it to rush me along until I am irritable. nervous, and fidgety. 

Something is off when my tasks feel so pressing that I cannot take a quiet moment to remember that my God is handling things quite capably, he is ready to help me when I ask, and I can go about my work from a place of patience and quiet confidence instead of rushing around like a mad woman and being so thrown off by the things that interrupt or derail my idea of how this day should go.

How draining or how life-giving the same task can be often depends on the state of my heart as I approach it.

All along, I could be resting, instead of craving those moments when the work finally stops so I can, too. All along I could be settled in God’s sure strength and his good plan. But how quickly I become impatient and rush off to craft my own solutions. How easily the words, “No, I will get my help from…” escape my lips.

When will I see that all the other things I turn to only steal my worship and waste my time? May I learn to see them as the useless detours that they are, leading me on an uphill treadmill to nowhere until I collapse, out of breath and defeated.May I gain the wisdom to say to them “Good Riddance! My only hope is the Lord!”


Lord, teach me to return to you and find my rest. You are the one who is patiently waiting to meet my needs. You are right there with me, ready to guide my every step, ready to set me in a place of quiet strength, unhurried, unworried, because my eyes are set on you. 

I am often scurrying off to my own version of Egypt in a panic to guard my walls and build alliances. 

But this is what you say:

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.”

Psalm 127:1-2

Lord, lead me to a place of calm and teach me to live there, where I can say “The Lord is doing his good work and he is using me, but he does not require me to worry or scurry in this situation in order to do what He has planned with it. So I will rest because I trust in Him.”

In Isaiah and in Psalms there are echoes of a gift held out to an anxious people desperate for relief. A gift that is still constantly offered and often turned down because we are too busy and too worried trying to control our world, force outcomes, plan perfectly, and do God’s job.

But He does not weigh us down with heavy burdens and task us to keep up with an impossible pace.He asks us to let him take our burdens, trust him to carry our cares, and slow down enough to remember who it is we serve and what He is capable of.  

Our God holds out the gift of rest and patiently waits for us to take him up on it. 

See that sleeping baby? He’s on the same hike we are. He could be working just as hard, too, but it wouldn’t get him any further.

What a great reminder God gave us in little kids, who constantly outdo us in their willingness to relax and trust someone else to carry them.