They Do Not Fear Bad News

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.”
Psalm 112:7

I love this verse. I just love it. It invites us to trust God on such a practical, down to earth, everyday level. It also invites us to dig deeper, because the following questions beg to be asked:

Who does not fear bad news?

Who confidently trusts that the Lord will care for them?

Because I want to be that person. I want my relationship with God to be that solid. I want to have that kind of confidence.

So how do I get there?

My study bible opens this psalm up by saying that, “God guards the minds and actions of those who follow his commands.”

So this is our first step: follow his commands.

I know this may cause you to bristle. But let’s think about this for a second. Because the more I get to know God, the more I come to know that his commands are always and only for our good. Just as a parent stops their kids from touching a hot stove to save them from getting burned, or from eating too much candy to prevent an upset stomach, or to warn them about getting into dangerous situations to keep their futures secure and their bodies safe, so the Lord does the same for us through his commands.

When news of bad things come, I want my first response to be wonder at what God is up to behind the scenes. I want to stand firm in confidence that as I follow God with all my heart, soul and mind he will guard me, guide me and protect me in ways I could never imagine.

And when the news is particularly hard, hitting so very close to home, I want my first instinct to be to turn to him with my tears of sorrow, pain, or confusion because I know he loves and cares for me. I know that in turning to him I may not find understanding, but I know I will most certainly find peace.

How joyful are those who fear the Lord
    and delight in obeying his commands.

Psalm 112:1

They do not fear bad news;
    they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.

Psalm 112:7

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.
John 14:21

Be Strong and Very Courageous!

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

Before we really dig into verse 9, I want us to take a look at the verses leading up to it. I’ve found that in the past I have often quick-claimed inspiring verses like this one, but failed to acknowledge the context proceeding it. The context helps us understand who said the verse, why it was said and to whom. It adds a depth and a power that would otherwise be lost to us.

In these verses, the Lord is talking directly to Joshua. Here’s what he said…

“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
Joshua 1:5-9

Joshua was among the twelve Israelites that went into the land of Canaan to explore and bring back a report before the entire population Israel was to enter1. Of those twelve, only he and Caleb returned full of faith that God would be with them and fulfill his promises. The other ten were so terrified by the obstacles and opposition they saw that they caused the entire nation to rebel against God.

Though God punished them and set them to wonder in the wilderness for forty years, Joshua’s faith remained firm and did not go unnoticed. At the end of their wilderness punishment, Joshua was appointed to take over and lead the people into the Promised Land.

As we consider God’s powerful promise in verse 9, we need to make note of its caveat in verse 7. It says, “Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.

After reading these passages, I find myself thinking of two different belief systems.

The first is that God created all, including us. And including the rules. That the only way to succeed is by following his instructions. That he is the way, the truth and the life. Our hearts are always yearning for more of God and are being refined by him.

The second is that we’re smarter than God, who is out of date, old fashioned, and behind the times. We have full understanding of the world and can, and will, be just fine, if not better, on our own. God will ultimately only slow us down and hold us back from all that life has to offer. Our hearts are growing ever more hard and stubborn.

The world I live in loves this second system and is doing everything it can to eliminate consequences to bad, sinful decisions. It wants good things, prosperous things, but it doesn’t want rules on how to get it. It prefers an anything goes mentality. Satan cleared the way for this, and he paved it to make it easy. He lit it up, made it public, and made it socially acceptable. The stops along the way are irresistible, even predictable, so that we do not have to wonder, second guess or fear.

But Satan doesn’t love, he hates. And he’s cunning and will keep those who follow this path moving further and further from God and closer to eternal separation from Him.

In direct contrast the first is, at its core, submission. It’s admitting that we’re human and not deity. That we see only in part. That we can’t create our own peace or joy. That we don’t know it all. That, when we truly look at our own actions and thoughts and motivations, we’re not better than anyone else – we’re actually far worse that we thought. That we don’t actually know what’s going to happen.

It’s admitting that we’re mere sheep and we desperately need a good shepherd to provide for us, protect us, guide us, heal our broken bones, find us when we’re lost, and redirect us when we’re wandering off.

When we follow the first, when we are careful to obey God and not deviate from him, turning either to the right or to the left, this is where his promise comes into play. This is where he says “…be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This is when we can go boldly, knowing that the Lord is on our side and is mighty to save, strong in battle!

God knows what’s best for us, and his way is our base case scenario. Whatever you’re facing today, submit it to God. Then go forward with courage. Be strong. Be very courageous! For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

1 Numbers 13-14

Pain Doesn’t Mark the End of Something Good

Whenever I’ve heard about epic wipe out stories, I’ve always assumed that adrenaline took over and no pain was felt until a few minutes after the fact. I always assumed people just sort of blacked out until it was all over. 

But that wasn’t my experience. I felt pain the moment I lost control.

It was a beautiful day. Absolutely perfect. The skies were blue with not a cloud in sight. The temperature was just a hair on the cool side. The trails were dry. Everything pointed to an epic ride.

The trees towered over us as we entered the trailhead. Dad and Mom led the charge in their Wildcat, I followed on my Honda Sportrax, and Luke closed up the rear on his Yamaha Big Bear. Dragonflies and butterflies were literally everywhere. 

Right out the gate, this was the most beautiful trail I had been on. Granted, this was exactly the 4th trail I had ever been on, but it was the most beautiful nonetheless.

I was feeling good and ready to settle into a nice long day of riding, when I noticed my parents easily glide over a lopsided drop in the trail ahead of me. Their car-like vehicle had no problems, and I doubt they even noticed it as they passed. But I immediately knew I was in trouble. I was moving too fast. I didn’t have time to slow down. 

I rose to a standing position in hopes of absorbing the movements with my legs, but it wasn’t enough. I hit the drop at an angle and lost control. As my four wheeler tore up a steep incline to the right, I tipped sideways, released my grip, and fell to the rocky trail – hitting my head and twisting my hips as the wheeler ran over my left leg.

I can remember each moment of that wipe-out in hazy/clear detail – if that makes any sense. It was both a blur and yet completely vivid.

I laid there on my left side for a few moments dazed. I had just experienced my first ATV accident.

I rolled onto my back to find Luke next to me. My head was pounding, and my whole body hurt. I pulled my knees up, alleviating the short-lived fear that maybe I was paralyzed. I did a quick mental check, and was certain nothing was broken. I was just in shock.

Having noticed that Luke and I were no longer following them, Dad shut off their UTV and came running back. As Luke helped me up, I assured them both that I was ok, I just needed a few minutes to get my bearings.

Some test-walks around the area proved that I was overall fine, but it did hurt to put weight on my right leg. Sitting on my ATV hurt as well, but was far more bearable than walking. My immediate thought was to turn around, pack up, and begin the two hour drive back home. But Luke was so sweet…he told me that we could absolutely head home, but if I was well enough to ride, he believed I should keep going. He told me that now is the best time to get back on the horse and get past the fear. We can take it as slow as I needed.

As we discussed our next steps, my eyes wondered to my Dad. I grew up on the stories he told me about off-roading with his Jeep Wrangler and all kinds of other outdoor adventures. He’s not a stranger to wipe outs. But he’s still out here doing what he loves. That inspired me.

I was shaken, but Luke’s wisdom and my dad’s adventurous spirit spurred me on. I knew in my heart that if I were to turn around and go home, this would be my last time out on the trails. And I knew that I didn’t want that to be the case.

The next hour of riding was simply scary. I was tense. Every bump and pothole had me clenching my teeth. I had to intentionally keep myself from crying. Before this, riding was care-free and exciting. Now it was a slow go with the subtle threat of disaster. In the matter of about thirty seconds, everything had changed.

We stopped for lunch and took about an hour break. Mom and I went for a little walk to keep my body from getting stiff, and Luke and Dad got to grilling hot dogs. It was getting harder to walk, but being off the wheeler helped my head to feel better and my nerves begin to calm. By the time we finished our meal, I was in a new place mentally.

As we fired up the machines and got going again, I approached each turn, climb, and descent with a new sense of care and caution. Sure, I was going slower than I usually would…but I was beginning to appreciate how slight shifts in my body weight affected how my ATV maneuvered. Before my spill, I was all about getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. I loved the rush, the feels, the adrenaline. But now, I surprisingly started to enjoy a more technical, nuanced ride.

The beauty of ATV riding is that you can ride as a group, and yet have plenty of time alone with your thoughts. During that second half of our ride, with the only sound being the muffled engine through my helmet, I silently thanked Luke for encouraging me to push through the pain and fear. And I prayed – a lot. I prayed that God would keep me safe for the remainder of the ride. And he in turn started up a dialog with me, gently telling me that a setback isn’t the end. Pain doesn’t mark the end of something good. Fear shouldn’t hold me back from moving forward.

My MO has long been to give up when things get hard. I’ve given up on plenty of things. I’ve given up on plenty of relationships. I’ve given up on plenty of opportunities. All because they got hard. What if I would have given up and gone home that day? I would have sold Lil’ Red, and my career as a hobby ATVist would have been over. And a piece of me would have died. My sense of adventure. My love of a physical challenge. A wall would have been built up that would have held me back for the rest of my life. Not only in the one area of ATVing, but in other areas as well. It would have been another mark of failure.

Instead, as the sun was setting and we made our way back to the trailhead, God invited me to surrender the pain and be ok with its existence. In order to do the things he’s calling me to do, there is going to be pain. There are going to be setbacks. But instead of calling it quits, I need to trust him and push through to the other side.

Despite my bruised body, it remains my favorite ride to date. The entire day somehow felt sacred. God was with me the whole time, and he didn’t let a single moan or moment of fear go to waste. He taught me some valuable lessons. 

And if the lessons weren’t enough, we had some of the sweetest times with my parents whenever we would stop for a break. And, believe it or not, my heart was filled with joy. There was so much laughter.

The pain that day taught me to

  1. Take things a little slower. Speed isn’t everything. I tend to speed past a lot of things when I should be paying close, careful attention. Both to the beautiful details and potential dangers.
  2. Setbacks don’t mean it’s over. They’re discouraging and painful, but they’re also a part of life. The best is before us if we continue to move forward.

Somehow, I feel liberated after that day. I feel a fresh new courage bubbling up inside me.

 Pain doesn’t mean failure. Pain doesn’t mean God is distant. Pain is a very real and effective tool to bring about a new perspective, hope, courage, and joy.