"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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In Fear and Trembling


posted by Susan Dominikovich on ,

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"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Cor 12:9)

Paul and I were having one of those late-night conversations recently.  We were talking about the passage in Phillippians 2:12-13 where we are told to "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."

Now I realise there is an awful lot to unpack in these two verses and that one should start with the context in which they were written.  I also realise the words "work out your salvation" lead themselves to controversy and disagreement.  That wasn't our purpose and is not my purpose here either.  We weren't trying to unpack original intent or meaning.  We were simply talking about the reality of these words in our own lives.  What they mean for us right now because of where we are at and what we have experienced.  

I told Paul that I remembered a time long ago, when we were trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant.  I used to go down alone to our little orchard by the stream, perch myself on the edge of an old tyre and pray.  I prayed fervently out of a desperate need for Jesus to come through for me.  And in those times of need, I felt Jesus' presence more clearly than ever before in my life.  I would shut my eyes and feel him sitting beside me on that old tyre with his arm around me.  His presence was comforting, strengthening and reassuring.  And even though there were still days my heart ached, I knew He had it covered.  I knew He was there and that He knew how much I needed Him.

Sam was born almost 12 years ago.  A blessing and an answer.  God had promised that He was "doing a new thing" in me (Isaiah 43:19) and there was my boy.  But still, more heartbreak ahead with infertility and a miscarriage.  More needing Jesus.  More finding my sufficiency in Him.   And our Madeline Grace arrived out of that need.

And then we found out we were pregnant with twins and while we laughed at the irony of it (what infertility?), we also set about to knuckle down into some hard slog.  And hard slog it was.  We had four children under the age of five and it was manic, and it was hard and it was crazy and there may have been some fun in there but really I do not remember much of anything at all.  Challenge after challenge which we met head on and still, even now we hear people say to us, "didn't you do well?"

Yes, we certainly did do well.  

I could boast about that time.  We didn't buckle under pressure and our beautiful family is thriving as a result.  But it was a slow fade.  A slow fade into self-sufficiency, complacency and compromise.  I became so focussed on surviving, so focussed on meeting the challenges that I took everything firmly by the hand and controlled it.  There may have been days when I prayed "Dear Jesus help me through this" but not many.  I am sure I just got on and did what needed to be done as mums tend to do.  But that is the point:  I got through it.  I didn't need Jesus.  

Where is the boast in that?

But I do remember that I thought about those times of needing Jesus and feeling His presence so clearly in my life and missing them.  Missing Him.  There was definitely a longing but because we were so blessed, I thought we were doing ok.  We were on the right track.  I just didn't know how to stop and let go of the reigns.  However, I look back now and know that Jesus had His hand in everything even though I didn't take the time to recognise it.

Fast forward to early this year and I learned what it was to need Jesus again.  I am thankful that it didn't take much in the grand scheme of things to re-discover that need and to re-focus my gaze and my attention away from myself, my self-suffiency and onto "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28).  I am thankful that once again I know Jesus is beside me with His arm around me, and not just when I seclude myself for a time of heart-felt prayer.  He's always there.  He is always holding the reigns.  He's got His arm around me and He's always talking to me.  Reassuring me, comforting me, encouraging me, strengthening me, checking me.  I lean on Him, I check with Him, I hear from Him and I sing to Him.  I could not imagine it being any other way.

So for me at the moment, to "work out my salvation with fear and trembling" means that I must work to make sure my gaze is still on Jesus.  I must fear and tremble because as long as we are in the world, we are up against it (John 17).  Jesus never promised an easy road for His followers; in fact, He promised the opposite (John 15:20).  I must not become complacent in my own sense of self-sufficiency and lose sight of God's purpose in me.  His purpose which is attained only through Christ in me, to bring glory to God the father.  

The prospect of doing it on my own is actually rather frightening.  And if that is the fear and trembling that keeps me focussed on Jesus, then I am grateful for it.


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