September 17, 2015

Trust When All Else Fails

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

Today, I am praying for my colleagues who are sitting the first part of their PhD exams. These exams are a grueling part of the PhD program, and they represent nearly 3-4 years of advanced learning. For most of my colleagues, these exams function as the reality that reminds them just how far they have come and just how close the "end" really is (usually within a year of completion). My colleagues have prepared for 3-6 months just to take these exams. The exams consist of 8 questions asked over a two-day testing period. Each question represents one course taken during their doctoral program. Typically, these questions are unique and written toward each student's experience and expertise in the field as well aligned with some aspect of their research interest. The questions are pulled from Theology, Theory, Method, History, and electives such as Family, Leadership, Crisis, or Organizational communication. Each question lasts two hours and is completed closed-book/closed notes. Once the student completes all 8 questions, they then are given a 3 week break before they must "defend" their answers. This is done orally and consists of either an in-person panel or a Skype panel. The student must be able to defend or elaborate on their answers to the satisfaction of the academic review panel. It is nerve-wracking, grueling, and difficult -- but it is the culmination of three years of very hard research work. Most students do pass, but some will not simply because they didn't prepare well enough or long enough. Most of my colleagues who are taking the exam today are well-prepared, and I have confidence that they will pass this portion of the exam. Of course, it is a great UNKNOWN, and therefore, the only way to know for sure is to wait to hear back on how they feel they did.

I titled this blog post "Trust When All Else Fails" because I think the first thing that seems to falter during times of challenge and difficultly is our trust. We simply stop believing that we can do something or that something will happen or come to pass. We choose to stop trusting in whatever we normally trust in, and as a result, we falter, we flounder, and we fail at whatever we attempt. It is a life-lesson, one that should remind us how important it is to know, really know, in whom do we place our trust. The Bible speaks of trust in this way, and often it was the Psalmist who would ask this question of the people of Israel. David writes in Psalm 146,

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

I know that when I get frustrated, fearful, or feel as though I am overwhelmed by my circumstances, I will often stop believing in myself, in my abilities, and in the One who is able to physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally uphold me. I take my eyes off of Jesus (1), and I start to look at my own clay feet (2). I forget my history and experience (3), and I accept the lies of the enemy when he falsely accuses me of being lazy or ill-prepared (4). Lastly, I begin to believe that I am not worthy, well, or wise (5), and in doing so, I begin to lose hope that there is any chance of a good outcome (6). In this way, often I end up seeing my own failure as predictive of future attempts, and over time, I simply accept the fact that I am not able to do whatever the task or job required. In short, I am doomed before I start simply because I fail to place my trust in the right things and in the RIGHT PERSON.

Today, I am praying for my colleagues. I am asking for the Lord's will to be done, and I am trusting in the One who has led them to this place in their life. He is able to do more than anything we ask or want because with God nothing is impossible. We know that this is true, thus we can rest and be assured that with God all things are possible (Luke 1:47).

As I consider my place, where I am this day, and how far I have come, this is certain for me: the Lord has sustained me throughout the course of my life. He has saved me, saved me, and saved me -- time and time again -- from my own hand, from the snares of the devil, and from my sinful and fallen nature. He has saved me eternally, and day by day, His grace is demonstrated through His faithful attention toward me. He has promised me that He will not leave me or let me go, therefore, I can trust in His CHARACTER, His HISTORY, His EXPERIENCE, His WORD, His JUDGMENT, and His Hand upon my life as He orchestrates the details and brings the plan He has for me to completion. I can trust in Him, and in Him alone, for He is worthy, so very worthy to be praised.

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