Walking By Faith
When we first got our guide dogs, we were told to leave them on tie down when we went to meals. One evening after I returned from dinner, I noticed that Hedy was looking at me over the edge of the bed. I went over to greet her. She was sitting up, perfectly still. Then I saw that she was completely tangled in her tie down cable. It took me awhile to untangle her, but she sat quietly, not a bit of anxiety in her demeanor. I was impressed. I knew Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds their dogs to be calm and reliable, so I figured her steadiness was part of her heritage. Labs tend to quickly assess situations and surroundings, keeping their emotional equilibrium better than many other breeds. I concluded she had come that way. The trainers said they chose her specifically for me because she was assertive and confident. …With my lifestyle of travel and different environments, I would need a dog that would not be incapacitated by circumstances.
So some of Hedy’s behavior was because God made her that way and the trainers selected her to match my needs. However, after I started interviewing puppy raisers, I realized Hedy’s steadiness was not just a personality trait; it was built into the foundation of her being by careful, methodical exposures to new environments, sounds, smells, visual stimulation. Hedy’s raiser, Heather, was such a precise by-the-book person that she made sure she followed every protocol in the thick handbook of instructions provided by GDB. Sometimes she was frustrated because Hedy had obviously not read the book and had her own ideas of how she wanted to live her life. That’s when Heather’s sister Amber stepped in to help out. Their diligence in following the handbook from headquarters resulted in making Hedy practically unflappable. I believe she was so totally secure, so confident that help would come that she could wait in total peace without a wisp of worry.
For nearly two years, the girls carefully introduced Hedy to many sounds, movements and places so the puppy had a wide range of experiences. She tended to want to bite the vacuum cleaner when Heather’s mom was cleaning, but she wasn’t afraid of the household noises.
My prayer place is right across from the laundry room. Hedy liked to lie nearby in the narrow hall between the washer and the room where I sit talking to the Lord. Sometimes I would put in a load of wash and sometimes I didn’t get it balanced. When the spin cycle came, the washer would begin to shake. The sound of thumping would get louder and louder, the cabinets would rattle, the floor would shake, and it felt as if the whole house would come apart, but Hedy, lying right in front of the thumping and shuddering, kept right on snoozing. The shaking never bothered her at all.
When COVID-19 spread across the world and confusion and fear broke out everywhere, I asked the Lord, “Did You do this?” He said “No, but I allowed it.” It was part of the shaking He was doing so that only what could not be shaken would remain. He told me He allowed it “to dismantle self-sufficiency.” He said it was the first birth pang, a phrase some translations render as “the beginning of sorrows.”
As I write this, we are now in the second year of the pandemic and the stories and the experts keep changing their assessment of what is going on and how to best solve the problems. Chaos has not settled down. In fact, it seems to be getting more confusing, one thing compounding another. It makes me think of the disciples in the boat, the storm raging and Jesus asleep on the leather cushion (Mark 4:37-41). You know what happened. Jesus got up, rebuked the wind, it dropped down, the sea was still, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said, “Why are you so fearful? How is it you have no faith?”
If I had been there, I’d know why I was so fearful. The storm was monumental. Bible teachers have said it was so furious that it was probably demonic. The disciples had done everything they knew to do and, seeing that the boat was filling with water, assessed their situation and probably concluded they were going to die. Were they?
We have the benefit of the whole story. And other stories like it. Every time, Jesus said things such as, “Don’t be afraid.” “Why did you doubt?” “Don’t you remember?” Yeah, I’ve been through things and You’ve been awesome, but this is different, Jesus. I’m looking at a demonic storm that threatens to swamp us in this crazy chaotic sea. I’m looking at things that are totally out of my control and Jesus reminds me He’s in the boat. He shows me Hedy wound up in her tie down cable, waiting patiently without thrashing, so confident that help will come that she can wait in peace, so aware of what the shaking washing machine means that the noise and quaking doesn’t bother her at all.
Help will come. Jesus is there. He’s coming to the wind-ravaged boat, walking on the water. That doesn’t always bring confidence and peace, though. Scripture says, “they all saw Him and were agitated (troubled and filled with fear and dread). But immediately He talked with them and said, Take heart! I Am! Stop being alarmed and afraid.” (Mark 6:50 AMPC) They didn’t expect Him (and they didn’t know He could do that) so they didn’t recognize Him. They thought He was a ghost. Hence the terror. I think it’s wonderful that He immediately talked to them. What did He say? “Take heart! I Am! Stop being alarmed and afraid (don’t be afraid any longer). I AM. I AM Who I say I AM.” If I expect Him, I will recognize Him and hear His voice even in the whipping winds. I will remember what He told me. Oh, it’s just the shaking He said was going to happen as things begin to be cleaned up.
Over and over in the Bible God tells us not to be afraid. Before they begin the battles in the Promised Land, Yahweh tells Joshua, “Have I not commanded you be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) In the End Times briefings to His disciples, Jesus tells them over and over, “Don’t be afraid. These things must happen.” He told them birth pangs will come. You will hear of wars, rumors of wars, people groups will rise against people groups there will be pestilence, famines, earthquakes to shake up the world. There will be tribulation. Jesus told us. “In the world, you will have tribulation.” And then He said, “But be of good cheer (don’t be afraid). I have overcome the world.”
“Don’t be afraid. Don’t you remember? When I fed the five thousand how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up? When I fed the four thousand how many baskets?” The disciples might have flipped through their memory cards and recalled the nine thousand fed with bread and fish, the lepers cleansed, the lame walking, the blind no longer having to beg, dead people restored to their loved ones. “Oh, yeah. Now we remember.”
That’s what the Lord showed me this morning. What was missing in the boat when the waves were raging? Faith. They forgot to remember what they’d witnessed first hand. God told me when I forget to remember what He has done for me, what I have seen over the years first hand, then I fear. Then I worry. Then I doubt. Then I forget to trust. But He wants to reveal Himself to me, He wants me to hear His voice. He wants me to talk to Him. He is every bit the fullness of who He says He is. Without faith it’s impossible to please God. Faith continues to come by hearing. Hearing what? His Word. His voice. His heart in the God-breathed text of His Divinely Authored Book. He who comes to Him must believe that He is. Period.
Hedy did not worry. She could wait patiently, knowing she was loved and help would come. She didn’t fear when things began to shake and kept on shaking. She knew what it was. Nothing to fear.
Jesus told His disciples to cross over to the other side. Frankly, I don’t know what they could have done that would have demonstrated faith. Maybe awakened Him sooner? Maybe not asked if He didn’t care they were perishing? Maybe not tried to solve the problems themselves, trusting in their experience and expertise? I don’t know. All I know is, when I talked about it with the Lord this morning, He reminded me of Hedy and a great calm came over me. She trusted she would have the help she needed. I need to trust the same.
…How do we keep from being afraid? How do we keep walking in faith? Keep our eyes on Jesus. Follow Him. Walk not after the flesh, trusting our human reason, our experience, our expertise, but after the Spirit. Where is He going? That’s where we need to be. When He says, “Let’s cross over the sea to the other side,” He intends for us to get there. It may look impossible, but He says “Do not be afraid.”