Have you ever felt a situation was so desperate that it was crushing you? That you had your back to the wall? That everything was closing in on you?
There is a narrow pass in the mountains of present-day Turkey near Paul’s home town of Tarsus. It is so narrow that, travelling by foot, there are places you can barely squeeze through. This is thought by Bible scholars to be the source of Paul’s statement to the Corinthians, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.” The last word refers to being caught in a place so narrow you can barely get through. It’s a place Paul would have had to traverse many times as he made his way in and out of Tarsus.
There are massive crevasses in the rock of the Niagara Escarpment not far from our house. I don’t look down them when I jump over them, because I am somewhat claustrophobic (and I don’t like heights either). But with many of them, if you did fall down, you’d just get stuck.
Have you ever been in such a place?
Last week there was a social media opportunity in Canada for people to publicize their issues with mental illness or stress. I noticed a number of comments from pastors’ wives concerning the struggles their husbands have as pastors.
Whether it’s because I’m a Christian leader or not, I can certainly and openly testify to many battles I have fought with fear, stress and feelings of giving up. In fact, a recent survey noted that at any given time, 75% of pastors in the United States are considering doing just that.
Part of the reason for this is that pastors are dealing all the time with people in their churches from every walk of life who are themselves in the same boat, and at some point it all gets too much.
Someone once said to me, “When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” It’s funny, but also very descriptive of where we occasionally find ourselves.
Can I suggest there’s no shame in that?
I am quitting a perfectly good job and losing my lifeline to financial security to step out in faith (again). As of yet, we have nowhere definite to relocate to, and by no means are our finances in place. Many mornings I wake up with anxiety. My cure is to do 100 push-ups and follow that up with chin-ups and sit-ups and generally exert myself to the point my anxiety gets knocked out of my head. Until the next morning when it comes back…
Yes, I am stupid. Yes, Jesus keeps yelling in my ears, as he did this morning: “Your father knows what you need before you ask him.” That’s Matthew 6:8, by the way, not some prophetic pronouncement. And there’s lots more in that chapter about money, fear and God’s provision. You should read it regularly.
I was sitting in my car by the bay a while ago watching the seagulls, when I felt the Lord spoke to me to read out loud to myself the last half of Matthew 6. It’s all about the birds and the grass and the stupidity of being anxious, and how our mandate is actually very simple. It’s to seek his kingdom and let him do the rest.
It’s a good word for those days when I feel my back is against the wall.
When I was 19 and had no money to go to university, I asked God to help me. He gave me an all-expenses paid scholarship to one of the finest universities in the world.
When I started my first church, I had no money and no backers. I asked God to help me and he did.
When we went to Canada as newly-weds with no money, no job and nothing but a word from God, I asked God to help me. And he did.
When I started my second church, I had no money and no backers. I asked God to help me and he did.
Twice, when it looked like our church would fall apart and we would be left with nothing, I asked him to help me and he did.
When your back is against the wall, ask God to help you.
And he will.