Recycled: We Shall Not Be Shaken

While endeavoring to write more, I came across a website that provides 365 writing prompts. I have chosen a handful of them to use here in time. For the first one, I chose the following prompt: “Recycle: Take something you’ve written in the past and rewrite it into a completely different piece.”

I picked a piece that I wrote in 2007 titled “We Shall Not Be Shaken.” This was always one of my favorites and I hadn’t read it in years. I decided to take it and make it into something new using the events of the last few weeks. Here it is:

As most of you know, my dad had a very unexpected heart attack two(ish) weeks ago. I had arrived home from school earlier than usual and my dad soon after finished his treadmill run. It is not unusual for my dad to feel a little off after a run; after that energy expenditure and the heat and humidity, it is reasonable for the body to be working more for homeostasis. By all appearances it was a regular Wednesday evening. But rather than a fit body reaching its equilibrium quickly, as it always has, my dad just wasn’t starting to feel better. He then asked for an ambulance.

My mom called 911 and within 15 minutes five EMTs were traipsing through the house in their damp uniforms and boots. I remember watching each of them wipe his shoes on the mats before entering the house. I remember moving the table in the entryway so the gurney would fit. I remember the EMTs helping dad onto the gurney before wheeling him out in the rain. I remember the smell of the cheesebombs I was making. I remember feeling totally calm as I started to make phone calls—the siblings needed to know. I remember Steph’s apprehensive “okay” when I told her to put down whatever she was holding because I needed to tell her something. I remember walking barefoot in the rain to the ambulance to see what was taking them so long to leave. I remember calling Steph back and saying, “Dad is having a heart attack.” I remember her gasping and bursting into tears.

I remember mostly everything from that night. I was overcome with peace, God’s peace. In the midst of a crisis; he kept me from flinching. That night I truly understood how David could say in Psalm 16:8, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” I knew that the Lord was going before me that night. The words of Psalm 46 reverberated through my heart: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

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In the five days that followed that night, though, I was shaken. I flinched. I had taken two days off from my internship and that made an anticipated long Labor-Day-weekend even longer. Over those few days all I wanted to do was walk away from my internship. It was too hard. Too stressful. Too much work. Too much time. Too trivial when compared to my dad’s life that could have ended.

When I told my mom this, she advised that I sleep on it for 48 hours to give me time for my emotions to settle. With much dread I showed up for school on Tuesday. I didn’t want to be there but I had decided to press on, to finish what I started. After all, I thought, God is sovereign and would help me.

While going to and from school those first few days back, I thought long and hard about what I was doing. I considered God’s sovereignty. God is sovereign and knew Dad would have a heart attack at this particular point in my internship. But, my thinking went, God is sovereign and has led me this far already; ergo, he will lead me to the end successfully despite the pressure I feel or the unexpected events that surface.

At some point during my commute musings, I realized how awfully wrong my understanding of God’s sovereignty in this matter was. I was making all sorts of assumptions, as though God’s faithfulness and love depended on my willingness to finish my internship, as though finishing my internship was a favor I was doing for God, as though he needed it.

Everything shifted. God’s sovereignty doesn’t just mean that he know all things. No, he orders it all. He plans it all. He orchestrates it all. And he gets all the glory. It is not that I am a pawn to do God’s bidding, but everything I do is because he has given it to me. It is a gift from God with outcomes determined before the world was made. The outcomes don’t matter. My obedience does. I am so thankful for God’s grace in bringing me to this renewed understanding of who he is and preserving my dad’s life while doing so. If God had determined, this outcome could have been very different.

Trials are sent along our way so that our faith may increase. We have hardships to learn to depend on the Lord in all things. However, it is not by trials alone that our faith increases. When we seek the Lord in the small daily things, our faith begins to grow slowly and surely. It is difficult to set the Lord before us always. It’s hard to wait on him, because we want things to be done in our time and in our way, but the Lord’s way is always best. Let us live lives that exemplify this truth. We stand unshaken because the Lord is at our right hands.

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