I have been a dad since January, 1995. So far, three of those entrusted to my care have left the nest, and two are still in training. I have also worked with the youth of our church in some capacity since 2008. During this time, the idea of a “teachable moment” has been at the forefront of my mind. To me, a teachable moment is when something happens— usually without forethought—through which an idea can be understood with greater clarity
For example, have you ever noticed how—when a small child will get a cut or scrape—they are okay until they see their own blood? Then, they lose it. They cry or scream and can be nearly inconsolable for a while. For my children, trying to explain that they would be okay fell short. They were not assured of anything.
So, some time when my oldest children were still little, I began an odd tradition. Anytime I hurt myself, resulting in a cut or any amount of blood, I would make my children watch me clean myself up. As I bandaged my wound, I would tell them that I was okay, even though I was bleeding. I was not yelling or screaming; I was not fearful. Bleeding is a natural reaction to being cut or scraped. After this, I found that my children handled cuts and scrapes better. Making my pain a teachable moment helped my children handle their own better.
The real effect of the teachable moment is that it removes the need to theorize or explain certain things. It creates a situation where what is real and true can be seen and understood in a way that surpasses simply trying to communicate the idea verbally.
In order for the teachable moment to be effective, it must be seized. If I had not shown my children the wound until after the bandage was applied, they would have only had my word that I had bled at all. I would have missed the greatest impact of the moment.
With that said, I find myself in such a moment. It is my sincere prayer that you will receive what I lay out as a testimony to the goodness of God. He is worthy of all praise and thanksgiving. I am just a person who has a story to tell about His goodness.
Philippians 4:4–7 states:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Underline mine)
Matthew 6:25-34 is a similar passage where Jesus lays out the idea that we are not to worry about our basic needs; God knows our needs and will provide. Jesus uses the grass of the field and birds of the air as examples of God’s provision.
These have never been difficult verses for me. I have always understood that my life and the lives of my family are in God’s hands. Ultimately, our needs are met by Him.
I have recently had the opportunity to test the weight of these words. I am writing this post on April 18. Back on April 15, I was caught in a layoff affecting 20% of my company. The hardest part of the day was the time between seeing a company-wide email from our CEO stating that some staff would be laid off, and receiving an email from my supervisor telling me I was one of them. This was hard because, in the time between those two events, I found that I could not login to a certain tool that was crucial to daily work. I was caught between the assumption that I was affected and the confirmation of it.
It was not a long struggle. Word came within an hour or so. During that time my initial response was a sinking in my stomach. A general fear of the unknown. And having to accept that it was not in my power to change it.
So, I did the one thing I could do. I set my heart on the Lord. I prayed and poured out my concerns and fears. I prayed for the faith to live according to His words in Philippians 4:4-7 and Matthew 6:25-34. I thanked God for His blessing and provision all of my life. I recounted all the times that He had provided, seemingly out of the blue.
And peace came.
Before any talk of severance packages or any idea of what will happen next, God sent His peace. I was able to tell Amy the news from a place of peaceful rejoicing. If I’m honest, the peace has been replaced at times with a joyful expectancy of what God will do next.
It is clear in God’s word that God never delivered His people from…nothing. There had to be a crisis in order to see His deliverance. For all the joy to be found on the mountain top, we see God’s hand most at work when we are in the valley. Here, He is the only one we can turn to. It is my sincere belief that the valleys in life are God’s gift for the proving of our faith. Not to prove our faith to Him, but to us. We need the trials to confirm that our hope is in Him. Otherwise, phrases like “My hope is in Him” are just words.
Sometimes there are holes in the barrier of peace: The moments when the thought comes to mind, “What will you do now?” or, “What’s going to happen?” These thoughts are usually followed by a wave of nausea. And, you know what? I’m thankful for these moments as well.
The way I view the world is usually to boil things down to their base elements. I find it simplifies most everything. When I have these moments of doubt and tension, I really have two choices:
- Wallow in fearful realization that my strength is not enough.
- Give the doubt and fear over to the Lord and recognize that each hardship is an opportunity to experience Him move on my behalf.
Taking the second option uses what could have unraveled me and transforms it into a moment of praise and thanksgiving.
In some very small ways, I feel like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when the king threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace if they did not worship his statue. They replied in Daniel 3:17-18:
17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Their praise was not dependent on God’s deliverance. In the same way, I understand that the days ahead may be hard. I don’t know if God’s deliverance will require selling our home, or losing possessions, or other hardship. His deliverance could also leave us in a better financial position than we have ever been in. I just don’t know. But, if I did know, then it would not be faith.
In the words of Job 2:10, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Faith requires trust without assurance. God is good and worthy of praise. His blessings have been greater than I could ever deserve, no matter what the future holds. Giving Him praise and thanks is a choice. In some ways, it is the only real choice we have.
Please understand, my only contribution to the peace God brings is whether or not I choose to trust Him and accept whatever outcome He wills. That’s it. I have no special connection to God that allows me to respond this way. What I do have is a history of mistakes, failures, and hardships that have driven me to Him repeatedly over the course of my life. But, from my perspective God turned each of those into teachable moments. Opportunities for me to see Him work out the impossible for my good.
If you find yourself in hardship, His words are not empty. There is peace to be found in Him. There is, as the old KJV says in 1 Peter 1:8, “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” In its simplest terms, our choice is do we trust Him, or not? Trust requires testing otherwise you never know if “trust” is just an empty word.
I pray God’s blessings and goodness on you as we all work through this eventful time.