Don’t ever give up! When I recently thought of these words, a picture I have seen over the years popped into mind. It’s the inspirational poster with a crane trying to eat a frog and all you can see of the frog, hanging from the crane’s mouth, is the feet and legs. While being swallowed, the one foot is grabbing the throat of the crane hanging on for life. This was the picture I saw, as I was thinking about how life comes at us sometimes. When we are facing uncertainty and discouragement and fearing what tomorrow brings, it is easy to think about just giving up and throwing in the towel. Maybe it’s our vision and dreams we cannot see coming to pass, maybe it’s the discouragement of an event in our lives that seemingly takes away what we believed to be God’s promise to us and there is a lack of peace. What I heard as I stood thinking about this is, “Don’t ever give up!” The misunderstanding about peace is that it’s the absence of conflict; this is untrue. If peace was only obtained through the absence of conflict, then Jesus himself would have never lived and walked in peace; His life was filled with conflict.
Peace (Shalom) means: completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. This word is still used by Jewish culture (and others) today as a greeting and a farewell upon leaving a conversation or someone’s home. Shalom: peace in trusting the God who created the world still cares about what happens in it and to it, peace in knowing He has greater plans for our lives, than we could ever imagine or come up with ourselves. Shalom signifies harmony, health, well-being, fullness and rest no matter what may be going on. If you have a broken relationship and you find it hard to bless them: SHALOM; if you have been hurt and you just can’t forgive: SHALOM; if you wonder where the next meal will come and how the bills will be paid: SHALOM. God speaks the Peace of Shalom into our hearts. The problems don’t always disappear, but when we accept His peace (SHALOM), they certainly take a different perspective in our lives.
Are we living in harmony with God in our everyday lives or do you (like I have seen in myself) find yourself restless or unsettled because you can’t see past the end of your nose, not to mention what is coming tomorrow? This is where Jesus says, “Don’t worry about tomorrow; for today has enough problems of its own”. Today is enough for all of us to walk in. Yet, I often struggle with what is to come; Jesus, knowing the nature of man, speaks to us in advance saying, “The kingdom of God is more than food, drink or clothes, just trust in your father because He knows you have need of these things as well”.
We have seen major things taking place in our world this past year (economy problems, job losses, bankruptcies), yet as believers and followers of a God who cares, we do not live under this world’s economy, though we operate daily within it. God’s economy is different, as seen when Jesus declares, “The meek will inherit the earth, the weak will be strong, those who show mercy will find mercy shown towards them and when you give your life away, you will then be able to find it”. These are not just words, but teachings from the heart of Christ on how I am to live each day – trusting that though the day brings hard times, and sometimes I don’t feel I even know where to start, I have a father who knows, cares, understands, guides and gives hope when there is none to be found anywhere else I turn. This is my GOD!
Isaiah 52:12 says many things in just a few short words, but for time sake, look at the fact that though God goes before us, He still guards us from the rear. Seems amazing, but what I see is that God surrounds us; He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death and guards us from the backside so that when the attack comes, our vulnerable side is taken care of as well. We have no protective shield of armor on the back, but God and others we are in true relationship with have our backs. He is the God of our yesterdays and He allows the memory of those blunders, sins, and times of disobedience or hurts we’ve received to shape our future as we walk with Him.
He is also the God of our now, and He desires for us to trust Him in the now, not just looking at the past or gearing up for the future. He said to Moses in Exodus, “Come up to the mountain top and stay here”. Moses, I am about to give you something from myself for the entire world for now, the present and the future; so, when you get to the top don’t start planning your trip back down, stay with me. As I look back over this year in my life, I am keenly aware of the many times I have not sat with Him there either on the mountain or in the valley to discover His heart for me. Unfortunately, I have been looking for the next steps or exit route to get back or on with it, yet God has been patiently saying, “STAY HERE”; just sit at my feet and I will take care of you. When the rain comes and the storm clouds grow dark, I will take care of you and by the way, “I love you buddy” and I have plans for you that you can’t yet see but hang on “it’s coming”. This year has been mixed with sadness, pain, excitement, doubt, wondering, happiness, hurt, confusion, joy, and obedience; through it all “His goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life and I will rest in His house forever”. These are not merely the words of a Psalmist (Psalm 23), but a promise for me and everyone else that chooses to receive it. His goodness and mercy will follow, and I would like to add, they will also be our guide and leader.