Way Beyond Me

"Fathomless," © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

“Fathomless,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2016 Lynn Abbott

Every new mother feels it.  Of that, I’m sure.  When my son came bawling into the world, I thought my heart would explode.

I reveled in inexplicable joy and love as I gazed upon his tear-stained cheeks.

I breathed deep. My shoulders relaxed.

Yes, he had survived birth.  Our little boy had lived to see the light of day…unlike our firstborn.

All those months of watching, waiting, and  guarding my pregnancy had paid off.

Quite honestly, I had thought of little else except to ensure that he lived.

And suddenly, as I looked at the beautiful little person in my arms,  it hit me.

My husband and I were responsible for this little bundle’s growth and education.

Uh, oh.

Panic immediately replaced joy.

I imagined the years before me…a long, stressful tunnel with no sign of any immediate relief. I leaned into my fear, tried to perceive what the future might hold.

Unfortunately for terrified me,  the future appeared vast; from that hospital bed, the horizon looked endless; the destination way beyond me.

Fathomless, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios, watermarkedI was out of my depth.

That’s right.  Everything had changed.  Standing on a  parental precipice, I realized I had made no plans for crossing to the other side.

I wondered, “How will I ever get where I’m supposed to go?  How will I ever survive parenting?  How will we guide this child? Whatever was I thinking when we decided to embark on this journey?”

Of course, my inadequacies surfaced almost immediately.   The assigned nurse scolded me when my son would not feed properly.

“Here, I’ll show you how to do it,” she bossed.

Twenty minutes later, she threw her hands in the air and said, “Well, I can’t get him to feed.  You do it.”  She stomped out of the room.

Obviously, my kiddo had a mind of his own. I buried my head under the hospital pillow.

How would I survive if I couldn’t even manage to feed him?

My newborn’s needs surged tsunami-like and rearranged the shoreline of my previously, well-ordered world.

And more questions surfaced in the storm’s wake… How in the world had my mother ever coped? 

I feared I would never live up to her example.

Yeah. You know it’s true: sometimes the seemingly ordinary overwhelms.

And on occasion, the work to which God has called us seems unattainable:

the ocean too wide;

the mountain too steep;

the river too rough;

the task too great.

Perhaps, like me, you have found yourself overwhelmed by God’s calling.

That call might even be as common to humanity as parenting.

Or maybe, it is a ministry of some kind.

You may feel apprehensive about a move, or a career change.

It could be that you face conflict and God’s call to love and forgive seems impossible.

Whatever your given task, discouragement  will likely make an appearance at some point.

An outsider might doubt your capabilities.

Or you may  feel unable to live up to your own expectations.

You might compare yourself to those who have gone before you…

You feel ill-equipped to take that first step.

And like me, you may cry, “God has called the wrong person.  What was I Fathomless, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios, watermarkedthinking when I agreed to this?  I cannot cross this enormous sea.”

Of course, that day in the hospital, I ran to Abba and spilled all my insecurities.

No use pretending I had it all together.  My heavenly Father already knew I’d panicked.

So out it gushed… every fear, insecurity, doubt and well, although I hate to admit it, even a few, new-mother tears fell.

But the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that  I’m not the only one who has ever felt unequal to a task.  I am not the first to hesitate when asked to follow in someone’s extraordinary footsteps.

At the end of the book of Deuteronomy, Joshua found himself in just such a spot.  You see, Joshua was Moses’ chosen successor.

Talk about a tough act to follow.

You betcha.  Scripture says about Moses,”Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,” (Deuteronomy 34:10).

And yet, Joshua held the baton.  He had to pick up where Moses left off.  I imagine Joshua panicked, just a little.

At the very least, he certainly would have felt apprehensive.

God obviously knew that Joshua needed a gentle word of encouragement because in  Joshua 1:5-7, He said, “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.  Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you… Only be strong and very courageous…”

Fathomless, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios, watermarkedGod had called and promised to guide Joshua.

Of course, God’s blessing didn’t mean that Joshua’s task would be easy.  But with God’s presence, Joshua stepped out in faith.

Things began well.  Joshua and the people crossed the wide Jordan on dry land just as the people had followed Moses through the parted Red Sea.

After this first success, I suspect Joshua’s spirits soared.  The victory at Jericho probably served to firmly establish his leadership.

Yet, his mettle would be soon tested.  Just as Moses had dealt with the people’s disobedience to God, Joshua had to confront their rebellion as well.  It began with one man named Achan.

God had commanded that no gold, silver or iron from Jericho be taken by the people for personal use.    These precious metals belonged to God, a gift of gratitude for the victory God had granted Israel.

Sounds simple and reasonable enough.

Temptation, however, proved too great for Achan.  He slipped a few of the banned items into his tent.

Thus, when Joshua and his men faced the city of Ai in battle, God did not bless the Israelis’ fight.   Quite frankly, Josh’s men ran from their enemies.

And thus, Ai routed Israel that day (Joshua 7:5).

I can only begin to imagine Joshua’s disappointment and discouragement.  He surely reviewed every step to see where things had gone wrong.

He may have even asked himself, “Why did God abandon me?  I thought He promised that ‘No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.  Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you.'”

Joshua faced a great test of faith.  Yet, rather than walk away, Joshua took his questions to Yahweh.  Josh let all his questions, doubts and discouragement show.

“Alas, O Lord GOD, why didst Thou ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?  If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan!” he cried.

In other words…

We crossed the Jordan.  We embarked on this journey.  But what in the world were we Fathomless, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios, watermarkedthinking?

Joshua then asked God what God would do for His people.   Josh even whinged a little.

He stood before God with all his faults, doubts and fears.  He prayed with a spirit of authenticity.

But Josh concluded his prayer with a question which demonstrated both faith and humble dependence upon God.  While the task of leading God’s children certainly overwhelm him, he also recalled…

God had chosen him.

God had promised to walk with him.

God would fight for Israel.

Thus, although noting Ai’s victory, Joshua prayed, “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what wilt Thou do for Thy great name?” (Joshua 7:9).

In light of Josh’s humble request, God revealed the source of the problem. Sin in the camp had robbed the people of their courage, boldness and of God’s blessing.

Joshua understood his next step.

Obviously confronting Achan was not easy.  Discipline never is.  But it was necessary for the safety and well-being of God’s people. Josh made the tough call.

With God’s guidance, the new leader took the necessary next step. Tough love for the sake of God’s people.

And he tackled the impossible “crossing” one step at a time.

Of course, Josh wasn’t perfect. Like Moses before him, Josh had his ups and downs.

For instance, not long after Israel’s second and victorious stand against Ai,  he faced  another test.

The ocean is undeniably wide; God’s calling is a marathon, not a sprint.Fathomless, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios, watermarked

And although Josh turned to God for guidance with the “big” stuff,  he likely thought the small everyday, decisions manageable.

Thus, when emissaries from an apparently distant land arrived to beg for a treaty, Josh cautiously questioned them, but did not seek God’s direction, (Joshua 9:14).

Big mistake.

The envoys had come under false pretenses; they lied, simpered and flattered.  They actually had not traveled far. But in order to save their own skins, they conned Joshua.

What appeared a relatively insignificant decision morphed into an enormous problem.  Although Josh and the leaders had been deceived, the treaty nevertheless bound their honor.

For this reason, when the Gibeonites were attacked by the Amorites, Joshua honored his alliance.  But this time, he talked to God about his decision.  Josh learned from his previous mistake.

Following God’s call, however, isn’t for the faint of heart.  Joshua had to fulfill his obligation regardless of the circumstances under which they were formed. Israel’s testimony for God was at stake.

In order to keep the attack a surprise, the Israelites marched all night.  With no sleep  and in the scorching, desert heat, Israel would face five armies.

Fathomless, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios, watermarkedImpossible?  Not so.  After all, our God is the God of the impossible.

And God fought for His people that day.  As the Amorites fled, He caused an enormous hail storm. Scripture records that many more Amorites died from the hail than by the hand of Israeli soldiers, (Joshua 10:11).

But the battle didn’t end there.  Joshua still had to complete the work and victory would require more hours than there were in the day.

Yup.  Been there, too.  Frequently, standing for God means stepping out way beyond our abilities or comfort zone. And there never seem to be enough hours in my day.

Once more, Josh prayed boldly; he asked that the sun and moon stand still.

Quite literally, he asked for more hours in the day.

And Abba miraculously provided.

Scripture records, “And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day,” (Joshua 10:13).

Yes, God’s calling may appear impossible.  The ocean looms large.  The journey appears overwhelming.  But God goes with us.

While it isn’t likely that God will stop the sun for you or me, nevertheless, our Heavenly Father longs to strengthen and guide us.

And despite our missteps along the way,  God grants greater grace. Joshua’s life demonstrates that.

Josh made an ill-advised treaty; yet,   Grace guided him.

Obviously, our Sovereign-Shepherd is in this for the long-haul.  He calls you and me to step out in faith way beyond anything we can imagine.

For you, that calling might be to parent, to minister to those less fortunate,  to serve people through acts of compassion, to teach, to love, to work for His glory, or to simply share God’s grace through word and deed.

Whatever your calling may be, God goes with you.  Nothing can separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39).

Fathomless, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios, watermarked We venture not alone.  God fights for us.

Although the sea appears impassable,  we recall His words, “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD you God is with you wherever you go.”

Does an uncertain horizon cause you apprehension?  Yeah, I’m right there with you.

For this reason,  you and I will humbly cling to the One for whom all things are possible.

And He has promised, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20).

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us,” ~Romans 8:37