71 Days: Wrestling with Trust

The realization that our own strength may be inadequate should never cause us to sink back into inertia. Never refrain from a good endeavor because the difficulties involved seem insurmountable. Keep in mind that we have a mighty Helper in the Almighty in all our good endeavors. Let us do our share; the Almighty will do the rest.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Today’s Daily Lift #612”
Aish.com

May these words that I have prayed before God be close to God day and night, that He may do justice for His servant and for His people Israel, the needs of each day on that day.

-Siddur

When people lift heavy loads, they are likely to develop severe back pain. When they realize that they are overtaxing their bodies, they discontinue this practice and from then on will lift only as much as their bodies can safely bear.

While we can easily determine our body’s stress capacity, our psychological and emotional stress tolerance is not so readily measurable. Yet, if we exceed that stress level, symptoms of discomfort and dysfunction are just as apt to occur as when the body’s level is exceeded. How is one to determine one’s safe emotional and psychological stress level?

What could be simpler than following the instruction book provided by the Manufacturer?

During the Israelites’ sojourn in the desert, the manna was provided in portions just sufficient for one day, and any excess rotted away.

As for what they would eat the next day, the Israelites had been assured that there would be fresh manna the following day. Our appropriate stress tolerance is to be concerned for just one day – twenty-four hours. If we take on more than that, we may be overburdening the system. In our economy, lacking the miraculous manna and having the ability to save for the future, there may be justification for putting something aside for a rainy day. However, we often take on worries far in advance, about things that we are powerless to alter or to prepare for today. Such futile worry is harmful to a person.

Today I shall…

try to concentrate on my present needs and avoid worrying about things that are not within my capacity to change.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Cheshvan 4”
Aish.com

Just in case you ever wonder why I favor Jewish religious and spiritual sources over traditional Christian books and articles, what you’ve just read from Rabbis Pliskin and Twersky should be exceptionally familiar to anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus, and certainly to even the most casual reader of the Gospels.

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Luke 12:22-34 (ESV)

But knowing is easier than doing, in my case because I was recently reminded how scary some churches and some Pastors can be.

I can just “feel” Jesus admonishing me every time I write one of these “meditations,” particularly in the “Days” series. “Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch,” he might say if he chose to use the yiddish term. “All you do is kvetch. When are you going to do?”

Good question.

But according to my previous “day” (73 Days, to be exact), I may already be “doing” something. Of course that could also be an excuse, “blaming” being intermarried for the fact that I don’t have a congregational affiliation. Even my wife, who only goes to shul once in a blue moon anymore, has an “affiliation” with both the Chabad and the Reform-Conservative synagogues in town. My only affiliation with them, as it were, is in paying for the annual memberships (yes, my name is on them along with my wife’s).

While a life of faith may contain many mysteries, it is primarily supposed to be a relationship of joy and wonder, not puzzlement and conundrum.

Bereishit is a cheerful sedra, even though its ending is not all that pleasant. Noach has the Flood, but the week ends on a happy note with the birth of our father Avraham. The really joyous week is that of parshat Lech L’cha. We live every day of the week with Avraham, the first to dedicate his very life to spreading G-dliness in the world. And Avraham bequeathed his self-sacrifice as an inheritance to all Jews. (See Tanya Ch. 18; Elul 21.)

“Today’s Day”
Monday, Cheshvan 3, 5704
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

See what I mean?

On the other hand, putting the whole “church thing” to one side for the moment, there’s also this:

Torah-study every day is crucial to life itself. This applies not only to the soul of the one studying but also to the souls of his family. For then (through Torah-study), the atmosphere of the home becomes an atmosphere of Torah and piety.

“Today’s Day”
Tuesday, Cheshvan 4, 5704
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

On Thursday afternoon, volume 6 of the Torah Club (which you’ll recall, I discussed quite recently) arrived at my home:

“Chronicles of the Apostles” takes students on a year-long study of the book of Acts with Messianic commentary and Jewish insights into the Epistles.

Follow the lives and adventures of the apostles beyond the book of Acts and into the lost chapter of church history. Study Jewish sources, Church fathers, and Christian history to reveal the untold story of the disciples into the second century.

This all new Torah Club Volume Six (2011–12) goes beyond the book Acts and opens the lost chapter of Messianic Jewish and Christian history.

In a Bible study that reads like an epic novel, Chronicles of the Apostles harmonizes Josephus, rabbinic lore, and apostolic legends to tell the story of the martyrdom of Peter, the work of Thomas, the flight to Pella, the fall of Jerusalem, John’s exile on Patmos, the Roman persecutions, the second generation of disciples, the transitions from Sabbath to Sunday and from apostolic Judaism to Christianity. Rewind your religion and discover the truth about our Jewish roots.

Since both Genesis and Noah have already been read, I’ll need to do a bit of catch up work in my “Torah Club” reading and audio “assignments,” but I’m anticipating a fresh influx of information and (hopefully) insights to share in my “morning meditations.” Perhaps (and this is also my hope), I’ll also experience fresh insights and spirituality within me as well.

But, as the quotes from the beginning of this little write-up suggest, no amount or type of study material will give you, me, or anyone else what we truly need: the ability to respond to God with faith and trust, and to follow His lead up into His heights, even when we find heights scary.

6 thoughts on “71 Days: Wrestling with Trust”

  1. James,

    As one who has encouraged you to consider not continuing to forsake assembling yourself with other believers –face to face, that is — I’d like to weigh in again on this topic.

    The past few days I’ve noticed a few assumptions in your meditations that I don’t make. Let me explain:
    1. The act of pew warming saves no one, unless that’s where they hear the Word, are confronted by God and decide to follow him and live out their life for and with him. But subsequently that decision will have little to do with the pew.

    2. Many say they go to church to get “fed”, or they quit going because they arent being “fed” anymore.

    That’s however, an unfair burden, afterall, it’s for assembling like minded peeps to Worship God and lift up and encourage one another. Going there to be “fed” is like the entire US going on welfare and expecting the Government to feed us. What a drain on the system. Our government, despite recent attempts, wasn’t made to function that way.

    A better case can be made for people feeding themselves during the week, and coming together for reasons OTHER than being fed, like feeding others who habitually come hungry!?

    But all this is presupposing that “going to church” is what has to happen. Actually, I was talking about getting into a “home group” of some sort. Most churches have these small-groups now and follow some sort of study cycle using a particular book or DVD and book series. (I know you already did a men’s group that disbanded.) As you go through the material, you’ll be in a position to relate to the material and give a different pov and that’s where I said it’d be a “white-knuckler” for a bit. In my case, I’ve been pleasantly surprised and after several months things look quite different and these folks are HUNGRY. Several have come together to form another separate TC study!

    Anyway, no one can actually “go” to church, one can only “be” the church.

    Have a blessed day!

  2. Hi, Lrw. Actually, I don’t make either assumption. I’m not sure I even think in terms of “being fed” and in fact, agree that we are each responsible for making sure we can feed ourselves. Too many people expect “the church” to do everything for them as far as faith and a Christian life goes. That’s like sending your kid to school and then not paying attention to his homework assignments, parent-teacher conferences, or even bothering to read to him. The buck stops at home with the individual. I think that’s why Jews consider the home the center of their spiritual lives, not the synagogue.

    There’s no “magic” in going to church. Like any other experience, you get out of it what you put into it. But I still feel like a person anticipating a journey into a foreign country where I don’t speak the language or understand the local customs.

    As for “going to church,” so far, all I’ve done is make an appointment (it’s not confirmed but it will be soon) to speak with the head Pastor and talk about all this stuff. Maybe I’ll indeed join a home study of some sort. I actually have a friend to holds a study at a local coffee shop, but it’s on Sunday nights and that’s when the kids all come over for dinner, so I don’t want to miss “family night”.

    As far as “being the church” goes, I couldn’t agree more. In some sense, that’s what I see as my greatest responsibility. If I’m at all critical about some of the practices or culture in the “Christian church” (as if it were one large, uniform entity), then I’m haunted by my only valid response being to “be” the change I want to see in Christianity. I can’t do that alone.

    I’ve already written tomorrow’s “morning meditation,” (Day 70) which continues this journey. It’s a step by step process, so I can only experience it a day at a time.

  3. James:
    “If I’m at all critical about some of the practices or culture in the “Christian church” (as if it were one large, uniform entity), then I’m haunted by my only valid response being to “be” the change I want to see in Christianity. I can’t do that alone.”

    Yes, you are critical, and so am I, and yes, the point IS to be the change you want to see. James, ONE of the things I tell my Christian friends, when they are confused about the Jews and my remarks that point out that they aren’t forsaken, replaces, finished, kaput etc. as the Church has pounded away at, is that Paul points out that they have had a partial hardening, or blindness come over them. Then I point out that that partial blindness/hardness has come, according to Paul, for the Gentiles. OMG this is so humbling. So, if they HAD received and accepted and acknowledged, then there wouldn’t be a Gentile “fullness” to be brought in! Paul says we gentiles should respond not with arrogance but humility and LOVE!

    But as much as I love this topic, that’s not really the point of what I’m saying and I don’t want to go too far down this path– I say that only to point out that I then ask my Christian peeps how we can be angry at someone for not knowing the color shirt we’re wearing if they are blind? Of, if someone was hard of hearing, how could we be ugly to them because they didn’t respond to us when we asked them a question?

    Well, I say all that to point out it’s the same in reverse. These Christians don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t know how harmful and flat wrong RT is and how anti- all things Jewish Christianity made itself to be after a fashion. They mostly haven’t thought deeply about such theologies or the ramifications thereof.

    What you have in common is your love and devotion to God through Messiah Yeshua. And, from being in a Church and around Christians my whole life I know first hand that they are good and loving people who are doing what they think is right. Christianity has gotten much right.

    As far as not being able to “do it alone”? That’s right, you will need His Holy Comforter and Counselor and a healthy dose of TRUST and LOVE.

  4. As far as not being able to “do it alone”? That’s right, you will need His Holy Comforter and Counselor and a healthy dose of TRUST and LOVE.

    Well that is certainly true and I agree with all of your points, but actually, I meant that I can’t be the change I want to see in the church alone, outside of the Christian community. Believe me, I have taken a “leap of faith and trust.” Now we see what happens and whether I will fall or fly.

  5. I guess my point was that when you interact and allow them to be around you, you will impact them and will have the ability to create community, or culture, that you engage in by refusing, in love, to go down the paths that destroy Gods word and his people. You’ll be odd man out, but when it is time to speak, you’ll be providing a POV they haven’t encountered before.

    It takes commitment and love and patience and wisdom, but eventually it happens. Just like speaking a kind word will change the atmosphere, showing another way to look at things will eventually be a blessing for them.

    I’m so impressed James, and I’m excited for you because I believe you’ll (eventually) be very blessed.

  6. Why thank you, Lrw. If anything good comes of this, be impressed by God, not me. I’m just a person like many others, who is walking a path of faith one day and one step at a time. At any rate, a week from Friday (I couldn’t get an appointment any sooner for various scheduling reasons) I have an appointment with the Pastor of a church to talk about all of this. I gave him a link to this blog so he’d have some idea of who I am and what my perspectives are about Jesus, God, going back to ‘church’ and so forth. I’m sure it’s going to be interesting.

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