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Trusting God in Real Life

By Miffy Brown

So… let’s talk about cats!  (Just kidding! I’m saving that article for when Pastor Mike gets back from his sabbatical.)

Writing for The Current came as a bit of a surprise to me, having never done anything like this in all my years on staff.  (Note to self:  Never again check email on your cell phone while ignoring the conversation in staff meeting when the pastors are divvying up who is going to write the next article for The Current!) I actually love to write, but my style is more about the whimsical adventures of life.  Like the time last month when the AC repairman and I searched for his missing phone which had mysteriously vanished during the service call.  We had no luck finding it, even though, as we searched everywhere, I called the missing phone repeatedly.  Eventually he got back in his van, I got back in my car…

only to find my purse is ringing… 

and I’m holding my cell phone in my hand. Uh oh. 

Hmmm, now as I write this, maybe that’s not so much “whimsical” as it is grand larceny, but stay with me! 

I heard a pastor once say that God isn’t trying to teach us a thousand different things. He is trying to teach us one thing a thousand different ways, and that is to trust Him.  Today, I would love to share with you of our good and gracious God, and how, through His infinite mercy and faithfulness, and in a thousand different ways, He has taught me about trusting Him. 

It’s 1984, I’m 28 years old and the senior pastor who hired me was leaving under difficult circumstances. I had only been on Creekside’s staff for six years, but I loved what I did. I certainly did not want to do anything else. Things were tense at work, things were tense on Sundays, things were tense between myself and friends at church who thought differently than I did about what was going on. At the same time there was turmoil in my family. My brother was heavily involved with alcohol and drugs, mostly cocaine and had suddenly become unreachable and unfindable. My parents, and my sister Hollie and I, had no idea where he was, or even if he was still alive.

As time went on my anxiety and despair grew and grew until I found myself in a pit so deep and so dark that I could not see any way out. Every single thing that I placed my hope and security in was crumbling around me – my church, my friendships, my family, potentially my job …. and not only was it being knocked out from underneath me, but there was pain everywhere I looked. It got to the point one night as I was lying in bed that I thought – “if dying was as easy as walking across my bedroom floor and flipping off the light switch, I would do it in a heartbeat.” I was not suicidal. I had no desire to actively take my life.  I just wanted the pain to stop. I wanted to be with God. I wanted to be  safe.

And the Lord gave me Psalm 18:1-2: “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” And God said to me, “You have placed your trust and your hope everywhere but in me. Trust in me alone. I alone am the sure foundation that you can stand upon. Though everything around you should give way, I will never leave you or forsake you.” 

And He was right of course. I had placed my hope in everything around me. And in my desperation, and at my lowest point, God came to me and reminded me that though I felt everything crumbling away, He was the sure and solid foundation that I could stand upon.

Things did not magically get better overnight. I started seeing a Christian counselor to get help with depression, the church would struggle for another year before a new senior pastor was called, and my brother remained missing for 2 years, but I came away from it knowing that at the very bottom of everything … at the very bottom of me … there was God. And He alone was my strong foundation.

Flash forward about 25 years.  Creekside was once again going through a difficult pastoral leaving. By now I’d been on staff thirty-one years and my friendships and relationships ran deep. I loved my work and the church family so much, and to see us divided was agony to my heart and soul. I deeply respected and loved leadership on both sides of the issues. This time my foundation stayed secure, and my world did not crumble as it did the first time. I knew God was there. I knew that He was the strong foundation I could stand upon. But that did not stop me from fretting, and worrying, and being awake in the middle of the night.

One of those nights as I was fretting at 3:00 a.m. God said to me, “Remember Philippians 4:6-7? Be anxious for nothing, but in everything through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”

“Yup,” I said. “I know that verse. It’s a good one, God.”

(Meanwhile thinking, “You know, if things really do fall apart and I lose my job, I think I could be one of those greeters at Walmart.”

And God said… <facepalm>

Okay not really, that’s my interpretation.

What He said to me was, “Do you trust me?” And my reaction was, “Of course I trust you. You are my strong foundation that I stand upon.”

(I wonder how much those Walmart greeters make an hour…)

And God said, “Do you trust me with Creekside? She is my Bride, and she stands by my sovereign will. Do. You. Trust Me?”

And I had to confess that I didn’t, not fully. My heart and my mind certainly were not being guarded in Christ Jesus. I asked God to forgive me and to help me fully trust Him. That night every time I woke up as anxious thoughts tried to creep in, I would say Philippians 4:6-7 out loud and ask God to guard my heart and my mind.

The next morning as I drove into work, on the local Christian radio station they announced the verse of the day: Philippians 4:6-7. (Oooookay. Yup. I’m remembering Lord. Do not be anxious about anything!) 

I’m at work for only a short time when one of the Precept Bible study leaders stops by my desk, hands me a copy of a document she had just printed, and says, “I thought you might like this.” The title of the article was, “Do Not Be Anxious – Philippians 4:6-7.” And I said to the Lord, “I get it! I get it!”

As before, things did not instantly get better overnight. The church walked through some very deep waters, but God brought us through. And God revealed to me how shallow my trust had been, and how very much I daily need to have my heart and my mind guarded through Christ Jesus.

Then came July of 2012. Late on a Friday night as I sat watching TV in my comfy recliner, I casually crossed by arms over my chest and felt a lump in my breast. I knew breast cancer ran in my family on my mom’s side. Women in every generation had died from it. My sister, Hollie had been through breast cancer twice by the time she was in her 40’s. But I was in my mid 50’s, had never had any issues, and I was sure the possibility had passed me by.

I saw my doctor the following Monday morning and what followed was a myriad of tests, more tests, biopsies, and on July 27th my doctor called and told me that I had breast cancer.  I hung up the phone, sat in silence for a minute or two, and then matter-of-factly said out loud, “Okay.”  God’s supernatural peace immediately enveloped me like nothing I had ever experienced before. Fear could not even make a dent in my heart or my mind. I knew with every fiber of my being that God was in control, that He was the strong and unshakeable foundation that I would stand upon and that He would walk with me every step of the way. 

I had a mastectomy in August and the news wasn’t good. The cancer was very aggressive and had already spread to 16 of 23 of my lymph nodes. I started chemo in October. There were good days and bad days, days where I was frustrated because food tasted like oil or soap, days where I felt horrible, days when I hurt. But through it all I knew God was with me. 

Then came the day that I asked my doctor to tell me what stage of cancer I had. I could tell that she was reluctant to say, but I insisted, and she told me that my cancer stage was 3C.   I went home to read up on it – worst idea ever -- and learned that (at the time) people with my type of cancer and stage statistically had a maximum 40% chance of living another 5 years. And worry and fear and anxiety surrounded me and filled my every thought as I plummeted into darkness.

It so happened that the church staff was going on a day retreat two days later. I most certainly did not want to go; my head and heart were not in a good place.  At the retreat Pastor Steve said that he wanted us to focus our individual devotional time in Deuteronomy. I slipped off by myself and dutifully (and sulkily)  flipped through Deuteronomy, page by page, glancing at the words, thinking, Deuteronomy? Seriously?

And then there it was. My eyes suddenly laser focused on Deuteronomy 30:20: 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days...” 

And immediately the darkness that I had been in vanished. And God said to me, “You took your eyes off me. You are not a statistic. You are my child. All you need to do… all you need to do Miffy, is love me, obey me, and hold fast. *I* am your life and your length of days – no matter what that is. Will you trust me with your life?”

And peace returned. I knew fully then that cancer held no power over me. That my life and the number of days it would hold were ordained by my Sovereign God and Abba Father, and they would be not one more or one less than He willed. And I rested in that.

I know very well that not everyone’s journey with cancer is the same as mine, and that cancer has brought great pain and hard costs to so many others, but for me not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for allowing me to go through that journey. There were areas in my life that needed course correcting, sin which had so easily entangled me. God drove me deeper in relationship to Him than I had ever been before. And now every morning when I look at my mastectomy scar I smile. I call it my own personal rainbow because it speaks to the promises of God that He is indeed my sure foundation, the One who will guard my heart and mind, and the One who is my life and my length of days, no matter what they turn out to be.

And I do need reminding of that. I have walked with the Lord now for over 55 years, and I still have so much more that I need to learn and areas where I need to grow. I am just like Israel, and I forget all too easily. So I’m grateful for my scar that reminds me every day of the God who loves me and in whom I can fully put my trust.

And then on June 23, 2020, Hollie unexpectedly died.  

This was the one area of my life that I had declared off limits to God.  Sure Foundation? Check.  Guarding my heart and mind? Check.  The One who is my life and my length of days?  Check.  But you can’t take Hollie from me, Father. She’s my big sister, she’s my best friend, she’s all I have left of my immediate family.  No Father, just no. 

The pain and the anguish were palpable.  My mind reeled at comprehending the enormity of the loss. But in the midst of everything, in this thundering storm that surrounded me, God was quietly there.  He was Abba, and hope, and even joy that could not be extinguished.

He was Abba as I crawled up in His lap and wept.  He held me and comforted me and quieted my heart as He showed me all the ways He had been at work.

During Hollie’s hospital stay I was allowed to be with her at night while my brother-in-law took days. For five nights, with little trouble at all, praise be to God, I stayed awake all night. I’d never done this in any other hospital stay she had, never felt the need, but this time I felt the prompting of the Spirit to do this. In between times of watching her sleep we had amazing times of sister conversation, talking of deep spiritual things, of sweet memories in being sisters, laughing at silly things, tears falling over shared concerns.  This was the most time I had spent with her in months because of Covid.  But God knew what was coming and He gave me the gift of time with her. 

The morning of June 23rd I was preparing to leave her room for the last time as she was to be discharged from the hospital later that day.  Instead of my usual leaving which consisted of a quick “love you” and “see you tonight,” this time I lingered at her bedside.  I asked if I could pray over her.  Holding her hand, I asked God to be with her whatever occurred and committed her into the His keeping.  Then I kissed the top of her head, told her that I loved her, she replied, “love you bunches” and I left the room.  Unbeknownst to me, that would be the last time I would speak with her as she died later that evening at home.  But God knew, and He gave me the gift of final words being ones of praying over Hollie and telling her how very much I loved her. 

Undeniable hope was also present because Hollie believed and trusted in Christ alone for forgiveness of her sins. I knew that she was alive and healed and in heaven.  Though I miss her presence from my life in a thousand different ways, and there are days where my heart fiercely aches because of that absence, yet I have a sure hope because I know I will see her again one day.  

We also had joy because amid great sorrow and loss God brought new life, fearfully and wonderfully made, to Hollie’s daughter, Laura, who became pregnant with her first child after many struggles.  Joy because in God’s perfect timing Hollie learned a week before she died that her prayers for the child she had longed for and prayed for for her daughter had been answered.  Joy because on Christmas Day 2020 for the first time I got to feel the baby kick, and the wonder and awe of that moment filled my heart and soul with incandescent joy and gratitude to my God and Abba Father for His faithfulness and mercy and grace and love.  And joy because in February this year God brought Luke Christian safely into the world, all 9 pounds of him!

Will this be the last trial or challenge to my faith?  That’s a resounding no.  For the last year and a half, I’ve watched Creekside once again walk through deep waters.  But beloved, I am here to testify that God IS our strong foundation, He IS the one who guards our hearts and our minds from the anxieties that this broken world keeps throwing at us.  He IS the one who is our life and our length of days, no matter how many that may be.  And He is Abba, our good and gracious Father who is depicted in Scripture as the one who hides us in the shadow of His wings, and under those wings we not only find refuge, but we can SING.  (Psalm 63:7; Psalm 91:4; Psalm 36:7)

In June of 1998 Cornelius Plantinga wrote an article for Christianity Today entitled, “Can God Be Trusted?” An excerpt from this article reads, “We are like fledglings who scuttle under the wings of their parent. The forces of evil beat on those wings with everything they have. …But we are all right because those wings have never folded. They are spread out to be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. This is the one who protects us from final evil, now and in the life to come-the life in which, at last, it is safe for God to fold his wings.”

God is worthy of our trust, beloved. He alone is our sure foundation. He alone is peace when all about is giving way.  He alone is our life and our length of days.  He alone can bring hope and joy even during the most difficult of circumstances.   He is with us, Creekside.  Always.  May we all find rest in that.