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‘There’s no cow on the ice’

Towering high above a small village in the French Alps stands a legendary mountain known as Mont Blanc. French for “white mountain” this famous mountain has proven to be a permanent challenge to mountain climbers with a peak reaching 15,777 ft. Nearby is an even more difficult and dangerous crag, known as the “Fool’s Needle.” Standing 11,487 ft. high–only the more experienced mountaineers even attempt to scale its slopes.

Sometime back a young student was trapped for three days on the north face of Fool’s Needle. He was dangling from a narrow ledge when rescue workers found him. His hands were frozen, and later, from a hospital bed, he talked about the harrowing ordeal. “I repeated over and over to myself, I must hold on, I must hold on at any price.” There are times in our life when many of us will whisper those desperate words, “I must hold on. I must hold on.”

Despite the horrific tragedies that befell Job, he, too, knew what it’s like to whisper those desolate words “I must hold on.” Job, we are told in the Old Testament, was a blameless and upright man, who feared God and shunned evil, but even he had his moments of despair.

The series of tragedies Job experiences strike in a time when it was assumed prosperity and good fortune came as the result of a righteous lifestyle. But that’s a rather shallow approach to faith. I don’t know of many of Jesus’ followers who occupied beautiful and ornate mansions–except after their death. And yet here we see a man who was chosen to experience unbelievable pain and suffering because he was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil.

Why was he chosen? He was chosen because he loved God for who He is, not for the great prosperity he had been blessed to receive. Satan, a fallen angel, didn’t like that and in a conversation with God he was given permission to strip away from Job everything he holds dear–his family and friends, his health, and his wealth. Nothing was spared except his life. His body was covered with awful sores. His friends accused him of some unknown sin, since it was an important piece of Old Testament theology that suffering was a by-product of sin. But Job knew he hadn’t committed any sin. Even God knew that. And yet, there he was. Desperately holding on.

None of us has suffered quite like Job, but a few of us may have come close. It may be a problem with our health or a problem with someone we love, or a problem in our workplace. Whatever that problem may be, there’s a battle going on, and we’re not sure we can make it.

How do we hold on–when we’re down to our last shred of hope, when there’s no longer enough rope to make a knot to hold on to? Where do we find help at such times?

First, we learn to live one day at a time. Jesus gave us one of the great lessons of life when he said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

What’s wrong with worrying about tomorrow? Consider a man who went out to the country and watched a farmer sawing a log with long, even, measured strokes. “Here, let me saw the log,” he said. So, with slow, measured strokes he starts, but before long he accelerates the tempo. After a few moments of frantic sawing, the stroke goes crooked, and the saw catches.

“I guess I didn’t do so well, after all,” he said.

“It’s because you allowed your mind to get ahead of the saw,” the farmer replied.

Sometimes you and I may tend to do that, too–to let our mind get ahead of the saw. We live not in the now but in the terrible, “What if?” Do you know about the “what ifs”? What if the lump is cancerous? What if the business fails? What if she gets involved with the wrong kind of boy? We add to today’s burdens the burdens of an imagined tomorrow–a tomorrow that may never come, not in the form we imagine it.

There is an old Swedish saying that is literally translated, “There’s no cow on the ice.” It means, “There is nothing to worry about.” A similar Swedish saying is “There’s no danger on the roof,” which means the same thing. Don’t worry about something that may never happen. Of course, if there is both ice and a cow on your roof, maybe you should start to worry.

Most of us view our lives as if we are standing in the middle of a circle, and problems, challenges, fears, burdens are surrounding us and pushing in on us, suggests Pastor James Gilkey.

A more accurate way to picture our life would be as an hourglass. There’s a large bowl at the top and a large bowl at the bottom. They’re connected by a thin tube that only allows one grain of sand to flow through at a time.

No matter how busy, or burdened, or hectic our lives seem, why not focus on the challenge that’s present in that moment, rather than the past or the future. One challenge, one task, one job at a time. If we focus on mastering this present moment, we’ll find ourselves better equipped to face the stresses of the day.

It’s so easy to ignore Jesus’ instructions against worrying. It’s so easy to defend our obsession with anxiety. Is it wrong? Let’s say we eliminated worry from our lives–what would replace it?

I like what Francois Fenelon, a 17th century French Bishop once said. “Don’t worry about the future–worry quenches the work of grace within you. The future belongs to God. He is in charge of all things. Never second-guess Him.”

Think about how this is true in our own lives. “. . . worry quenches the work of grace within us.” How often have we looked back at some difficult time in our lives and seen overwhelming evidence God was in control? Why didn’t we see God’s mercy and power at work in that moment of suffering? Because we let worry quench the work of grace within us.

How can we replace worry with the work of God’s grace in our life? By living life one day at a time. On one level, Job’s problems were much more severe than any you or I are likely to face. On the other hand, we complicate our lives by adding dread about tomorrow to today’s concerns. So, we may not actually cope as well as Job did. We can let go of tomorrow and enjoy living in the moment, one day at a time.

Remember you and I are loved. The feeling of being loved is critical to our well-being. When we don’t feel loved, we don’t develop the emotional and psychological resources to cope with life’s stresses.

In October 2019 Staff Sgt. Philip Gray was deployed to Afghanistan. Staff Sgt. Gray knew he’d be gone from home for close to a year, and he was concerned for his 7-year-old daughter, Rosie. His absence would be hard on her.

So, before he left, Gray sat down and wrote 270 notes for his daughter, with instructions for his wife to place the notes in Rosie’s lunchbox each day. The notes were simple words of encouragement–telling her she was Supergirl, she was smart, she should run fast in P.E. class. But to little Rosie, every single note added up to one big message: no matter how far away her father seemed to be, his heart was there with her. He wanted to be sure she knew he loved her.

Staff Sgt. Philip Gray returned home in August 2020–just three days before Rosie’s eighth birthday, so he could tell her he loved her in person.

The greatest need we have is to love and to be loved. In the absence of that love, we become stunted emotionally and psychologically. Many of us have an innate sense of dread about life. We don’t have what the psychologist Erickson called “a basic sense of trust.” So, we grow helpless in the face of adversity, or we panic and do dumb things. There is One, however, who loves us so much He gave His own Son in our behalf. You and I can live one day at a time and know we are loved.

The hard part is letting go. It’s a paradox. The best way to hold on is to let go. As someone put it so beautifully: “Let go and let God.” How amazing it would be to release our worries, fears, guilt, anger, and resentment, to simply let go.

Through the Bible and through the pages of human history, we discover God works through strengths and weaknesses, wins and losses, victories and heartbreaks. If we could control the future, we’d eliminate all frustrations and heartbreaks. But then we’d also miss out on opportunities for growth, faith, compassion, and overcoming. We’d miss out on the grace of God. It’s in holding on, enduring, not giving up on God, we see God’s power and God’s love most clearly. And we learn we can trust God through every circumstance, even when we cannot see Him.

Job didn’t have the advantage you and I have. He didn’t have the life or the teachings of Jesus to look to. He knew and trusted God, but he didn’t know how committed God was to his well-being. Only Christ can give us that assurance. You and I can live one day at a time. There is Someone who loves us and upon whom we can cast our burden. We can release our troubles, if we let go, and let God.

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