What Lies Within
Karen Sue Hale
July 22, 2002
People spend a great deal of their lives fretting over events they cannot change. We cannot undo mistakes already made, nor can we completely insure a positive future. Yet we dwell on what has been and what will be instead of living in the present. I understand this phenomenon because I have wasted considerable time regretting my past and worrying about my future.
Perhaps I should have worked harder in high school and tried to be valedictorian, or maybe I should have had more fun instead of working as hard as I did. I carried around a load of bitterness from my divorce for years after the fact. I felt I had missed out on the possibility of studying at
Cambridge or having some other overseas adventure by
staying here to marry when my parents moved to England. As years of singleness rolled by, I wondered
if I’d missed my chance to have children (I hadn’t, but that’s another story of
God’s grace). I can’t count the number
of times I’ve questioned getting my bachelor’s degree in music education.
I’m equally good at stressing over things that haven’t happened and may never happen. I suffer from the “what if” syndrome. What if I never remarry? What if I don’t have enough money in my retirement fund? What if my car conks out before I have money saved up for a down payment? What if I have cancer and don’t know it? What if I tell everyone I believe God has led me to write and nothing ever gets published?
God clearly tells us that dwelling on the past or being overly concerned about the future are counterproductive to living a life of peace, power, and joy. Paul writes, “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14) He is leaving his past behind and moving toward a secure future. In what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus admonishes us not to worry about our food or clothes or tomorrow. He tells us to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness and ends by saying, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)
I’ve always struggled with how to do these things, but recently I came across a quote that God used to open my eyes. It was not a scripture verse or something said by a famous theologian. It wasn’t even in a book by a popular Christian author. As I was reading my notes in a traveler’s journal used to record the events of a mission tour in
Europe, this printed page topper jumped out of the book:
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
God immediately began to reveal what lies within me. God in the person of the Holy Spirit is within me, and He is more powerful than any problem in the world (I John 4:4b). Jesus teaches us that we are to be in Him like the branches are in a vine. When we are staying close to Him in this way, then He pours into us His life and the ability to do what He has given us to do each day (John 15:5). Jesus prayed for us, His future followers, that we would have unity as He is in us and God is in Him (John 17:20-23). In reality, I no longer live my own life, but Christ is living in me (Galatians 2:20). “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me – I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me, [that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]” (Philippians 4:13, Amplified Version).
Even though I was certain that Christ indwells me, I still found myself asking how to tap into the power He has promised. The answer again was “what lies within us.” I have been instructed to treasure God’s word in my heart in order to avoid sinning against Him (Psalm 119:11). If I have hidden in my heart the fact that I am to “be anxious for nothing,” but instead make my needs known to God, He will use that knowledge to remind me to replace worry with prayer. If I have memorized Romans 8:1, I know that since I have trusted Jesus, God does not condemn me; nor should I condemn myself. The psalmist says, “I rejoice at Thy word, as one who finds great spoil” and “Those who love Thy law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble” (Psalm 119:162 & 165).
How can I plug into the Lord’s supply of grace for my past and my future? When I am tempted to fret, I will take my needs to God. My worry log will become my prayer list. When I catch myself dwelling on the past, I will focus my attention on memorizing scripture about forgiveness, assurance of salvation, and God’s control. I will spend more time abiding in Him and letting “the word of Christ richly dwell” within me (Colossians 3:16). God will enable me to trust Him with what lies behind me and what lies ahead of me as I become more sure of Who lies within me right now and forever.