I couldn’t sleep yet again—my mind and body writhing with anxiety and loneliness. I am no stranger to either. I was never fully conscious of how often it was present. But now that I am aware, I wield the same weapon as when I battle through depression—the Word of God. It is my mantra. Yes, my incantation. Here the spirit reminds me all that He has ever told me about Jesus and I am renewed. It’s almost as if my head is being pulled out of the sand and I gasp for air and the tightness in my chest loosens up. You know the feeling you get after you have been underwater holding your breath too long and you are striving to reach the surface? Well for me, the Word is that first inhalation I take when reaching the "top". Nothing will ever compare to it.
This particular evening, the spiritual hypoxia was causing my chest to cave in. So I swam to the surface as quickly as could be, searching my mind for a verse that was familiar. I needed that tightness to lift. I needed to remember Him; to yet again remembering Him as faithful, near, able, and so many other things. To exalt Him again above my present dark thoughts. To be quite frank, I so desperately needed to know that I mattered to Him, that He sees me. Because if I matter to Him there is nothing He won’t do for me.
"It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some
time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught." (Luke 1:3-4)
Somewhere inside of me I said, “Ooh, it’s about to get good!” I chuckled to myself and continued reading with a newly recovered childlike anticipation. I couldn’t believe that just the introduction was enough to make me feel giddy and happy. But as I continued to read, ithappened. If you have never experienced the it all I know to say is that it is peaceful sensation of purpose, love, joy where life makes sense and is more than just okay. It happened where and when I least expected. I am always met with Jesus in the Word by His sweetness, His nearness, and His voice —But only if I stay in the Word and prayer long enough. Meeting Him is not what surprises me. What does surprises me is when I meet Him through verses I have read so frequently. And so it went in the following verses.
I was instantly sparked with a curiosity which leads to questions. And the adventure had begun. How can this be?! How can Mary from Nazareth be favored when nothing good ever came from Nazareth (John 1:46)? If nothing good ever came from there, then obviously whatever was good either never entered or when it did, was made corrupt. So how could anything thisgood ever visit Nazareth? How could a sacred greeting reserved for the prophet Daniel, now be used to address a girl from the wrong side of town? How was she, who was most common, to be regarded as favored and even more, attended by God!
I can hear her thoughts because they are mine: “You are with me?” “Favored? How can that be?” “How can you say I am favored?” I know Mary must have had these thoughts. “I live in the armpit of Galilee! Why would this angelic being say God is with me? Have you seen where I live? There is nothing good here. I have sought God’s face all my life, but He has never taken my family and me out of this predicament called Nazareth. ”You might be saying the same thing. My family, marriage, children, finances, my health, my mind, this world, this country, my future! How do I reconcile “favor” with my current state?
I fell asleep mid thought, but somehow got myself out of my yellow chair and crawled into bed. I awoke two hours later startled with anxiety again and my first thought was food. My relationship with food seriously needs to change. But that is not the point right now. The point made clear to me is the verse that struck me this time: “the Lord is with you.” I kept repeating the verse to myself with different emphasis, all the while slathering peanut butter on crackers and chomping down. I was trying to find a word to get my mind back on track as the train was derailing at a rapid rate.
“The LORD is with you”,
“The Lord IS with you”,
“The Lord is WITH you.”
What does with mean? What does with look like? The word with brought a strange sense of comfort as it took my mind to what it meant to have a midwife present at the labor of my youngest. The word midwife means with woman. She could not do the labor for me. But she could make sure that I was not alone. She was there for my comfort. By her presence, she brought me courage and with her insight and I gained strength. To be quite honest, it was her present silence that spoke loudest saying, “Everything is okay, stay the course.”
Then I became aware, not sensing but believing Him to be near me with me. Living up to His own name: Emmanuel, God with us. And as He had been with Mary all her life, God with-around her and for those 9 months, God with-IN her. He has no ability to change, and so even now He is with us, you and me. Better yet for those who have made Him the master of their lives, He has made His home with us, inside our very bodies. And we are now seated with Him in the heavens. He might be unseen, unheard, unnoticed, seemingly uninvolved, but He is with.
The Holy Spirit, our spiritual midwife, is with us as we labor through our battles and circumstances. For me, it is the anxiety birthed out of deep-seated unbelief and distrust. Not because He is not trustworthy, but because the old man of my sin nature rages against the new man who is alive in Christ. Maybe it is something else for you. Something else is keeping you from believing He is with you.
Jesus in whom my life is hidden walks alongside me as I rage through the maze of my mind to make it back to the surface. He who is full of insight labors with me through yet another battle, so that I might give birth to another victory. He would not do the labor for me. He would be with me, near me, in me, to grace me, favor me, that I can labor through the battle through the obstacle, my enemy. His presence is my courage. His insight, my strength. And His silence is speaking louder saying “everything is okay, stay the course.” I am favored. We are favored. He promised He’d never leave us: ”I am your ever-present help in the time of trouble.” The Spirit is our helper. The Spirit, with us as the invisible hand. The humble non-presuming person of God. To be quite honest I wish so much that He would presume just a little.
I can bet that Mary in her early life had never felt favored. A woman from the inner city of Galilee could rarely perhaps never ”feel” favored. It was “not in the stars”, as the saying goes.
We are never alone. As lonely as we might feel we are never alone. If anything you are constantly being stalked by God. Just imagine the artist Sting, singing over you “Every breath you take”. This is the heart of the Father towards us today—the Lord is with you! It might not change the situation instantly, but it is good news that brought me peace of mind which is what I set out to look for, to begin with. It’s true, He does keep us in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him. You have to stick your mind there. You have to keep it on Him. In a couple of hours, I might need another dose. But at least I know where to turn and if that verse doesn’t do it, there are sixty-six books dedicated to His faithfulness—I’ll just start reading or put on an audio Bible. Sometimes it is a battle like this one—2:00 a.m., crippled with all the angst in the world. But the Word, and Christ in me, prevailed and so this battle is won. I have faith that this is the last of it. But if not, I won’t worry about the next wave until, or if it comes.