Both

If rainy days are blah, rainy days in *quarantine* are double blah. It’s not like you were planning on going anywhere, but you were at least hoping to get the kids outside so you don’t all spontaneously combust by 4pm!

Thankfully, one of our rainy days here in North Carolina was anything but blah because it ended with this:

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Rainbows have always fascinated me because every time you see one, you can’t help but feel lucky that you happened to be in the right place at the right time! Somehow the sun has to peek through the clouds and shine while water droplets are still falling from the sky. In order for a rainbow to form, sun and rain – which seem like two very opposite things – have to be happening at the same time.

A month ago, wrecked by anxiety and fear in the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote this post about the sovereignty of God. Like many of us, my bubble of false security had been popped, leaving me feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed with worry. In the midst of panic, I was gently reminded by God, through His words in James 4:14 that my life – and the lives of my loved ones – are but a mist, and none of us are guaranteed a second past the gift of this moment. Our “safety” is, and has always been, in the hands of our all-powerful God.

Hitting the “Publish” button on that post felt like a sigh of relief – until I realized what I had learned was merely step one. Over the next few days, my brain reeled with the question: “What now? If I understand that God is Sovereign and that He’s gonna do what He’s gonna do, is my role to just sit down, shut up, and wait?”

If you ever want to shake up your comfortable faith (other than experiencing a pandemic) I suggest reading through the Old Testament! This year I’ve been doing one of those read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans* and one of the things I’ve been shaken by is the boldness of the prayers spoken by the people of Israel. Rarely do we see leaders like Abraham, Moses, Joshua, or David say something like, “Okay, Lord, do as You see fit!” Instead, we see them crying out and interceding on behalf of themselves or their people.

In Exodus 32, as Moses came down from meeting with God on the mountain and found the people worshiping a golden calf, God said, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (verse 10). But Moses “implored the LORD his God” by appealing to His character (verse 11) and His reputation (verse 12) and as a result, “the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people” (verse 14). 

Over and over again, I see the servants of God, who supposedly submitted to His sovereignty, doing a seemingly opposite thing as they cried out and pleaded their case before Him. Did these bold arguments and requests mean they didn’t really trust Him or can these two things exist at the same time? Can I, in the same breath, declare my trust in God’s perfect ways and yet boldly ask for what my heart desires? 

It turns out it’s all about the angle.

One of the reasons a rainbow is such a rare occurrence is that you really do have to be in the right place at the right time. In order for the light to bounce off the water droplets and create that spread of color, the sun must be low in the sky and you, as the observer, must be in between the sun and the rain. If those angles aren’t correct, you won’t experience the beauty!

David (and the other writers’) words in the Psalms are some of the most prominent examples of this “both” kind of prayer. Song after song reveals a crying out to God and pleading for safety and yet in the same prayer a declaration of trust in His righteous ways. For example, Psalm 13 starts out with a desperate plea and request:

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?…
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death” (Psalm 13:1, 3)

A short two verses later, the Psalm concludes with a declaration:

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love;” (v. 5)

The important thing to note in these “both” kind of prayers, though, is the angle or the reasons the writers give for making these requests in the first place. 

“according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!” (Psalm 25:7) Because You say You’re good and I take You at Your word on that.

“…that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:13) Because I want to keep serving You and living this life You’ve given me!

“…that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion, I may rejoice in your salvation. ” (Psalm 9:14) Because then I can praise You and those around me will know how amazing You are!

“…that I may tell of all your works” and “…that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” (Psalm 73:28 & 67:2) Because I want to keep spreading the message of who You are so that others will know You!

“Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.” (Psalm 106:8) Because then You can show the world Your power!

To speak from this angle, we have to stay in that very same place of humility we find ourselves in when we more fully accept the sovereignty of God. “Both” prayers happen when we trust Him enough to let Him show us the big-picture truth of what really matters from His perspective, but also when we trust Him enough to be honest about our heart’s desire.

Here’s how it works for me: Our oldest daughter has asthma, which puts her on the list of those “more vulnerable” to the severe effects of COVID-19. After repenting of my entitlement in seeing my child as a possession whose safety and well-being I am entirely in control of, I can then, in humility, see her as a gift from a Sovereign God who is, and has always been in control of her life. From that angle, I can pray bold prayers that she will live a long life of serving God on this earth. I can, without hesitation, beg Him to allow her to live out the purpose He has for her in spreading the gospel and helping others to know Him.

I can also, in the same breath, be honest about my heart as a mom. I can take Him at His word and appeal to His goodness to her and to our family. I can appeal to His reputation as a mighty God who has the power to save.

On my phone lock screen over the past month, I’ve had these two verses to remind me to pray these “both” prayers:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18)

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)

When I’m looking for peace in these fearful days, I don’t have to be in the right place at the right time, but I do have to be looking from the right angle. God is both sovereign and good and I can appeal to both of those attributes at any moment!

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I can’t take much credit for these thoughts as they came about through several conversations with my friend Emma and my mentor Tracey. I’m so grateful for them and everyone else I’ve talked with during these weeks. Thank you for listening and for hashing this hard stuff out with me, even when my fears seem completely irrational!

*bibleproject.com

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2 thoughts on “Both

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