I curiously watch as a mother and her furry ducklings glide across the pond outside my office building. Smooth. Synchronized. Effortless. It seems as though they are hardly trying when, of course, I know that the image of their webbed feet pumping in the water would tell me a different story. I remember a neighbor of mine who would emerge from her home on one special weekend every October, wearing her straw hat and gloves, ready to begin her ritual of planting tulip bulbs for spring. I witnessed her meticulously prepare the area, carefully place each bulb, firmly press the surrounding soil and thoroughly water the beds. So time consuming. Such a laborious effort. I often thought, “is this even worth it?” Many months would go by. The seasons would change. Her planting had become a distant memory to me. Then…all of a sudden, spring would arrive and up from the ground would appear the most beautiful array of yellow, red and purple tulips. And my neighbor’s magical, vibrant yard would stand out above the rest. And yes, I wished I had made the effort to create something so stunning because it was totally worth it. For two seasons those beds were bare. For half a year there was no evidence that anything was going on in that dirt, when actually such exquisite beauty was being formed and about to be revealed right under the surface.
Are you going through something right now that seems like it may never change? Are you feeling alone and frustrated because it seems as though God is not listening? Maybe you feel stuck in a job that you hate. Or have a chronic illness that burdens you. Have you found yourself divorced and terrified about starting over? Maybe a co-worker or family member is so difficult that you think the relationship will never be anything but disappointing and hopeless. No matter how hard you try or how much you hope for things to change, nothing seems to be any different. And you find yourself asking, “God, are you there? Do you even hear me?”
My friend, Michele, certainly understands this feeling. At the age of nine, Michele’s son, Caleb, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism. She had suspected that something was not right when he had trouble interacting with other children, was often bullied and came home defeated or in fits of anger. This diagnosis brought with it fear and uncertainty for Caleb’s future. After consulting with the doctors and doing her own research, she soon realized that this was going to be a tough road ahead. Michele was met with discouragement from Caleb’s teachers who told her that he had limitations she could not overcome. She was told repeatedly that Caleb would never go to college. Although each day was a struggle, as Caleb tried to find his way in a world he often did not understand, Michele believed that God had a different plan for him. She set out to become her son’s greatest advocate and embarked on a long journey of fighting for Caleb. She prayed over her son and clung to the Word of God. Her favorite verse was,
“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).
She did her own research about Asperger’s, met with specialists, and pursued her own evaluations. When the school would not listen, she called her own IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings and even started social groups within the school so Caleb could interact with his peers in a safe environment. She met with all of Caleb’s teachers each year to educate them about her son’s needs and worked with him tirelessly at home. Although she believed in her son’s potential, she frequently wondered if any of her effort was making a difference. She often felt very alone, aching for her son to have the opportunities she felt he deserved. The statistics were not encouraging. The teachers were not hopeful. Even her husband thought she was crazy when she quit her job for four years to guide Caleb through his middle school years. To the outside world, it may have seemed like Caleb was just another child with special needs, destined for the future that the teachers predicted. But right under the surface, God was working. Caleb was learning the skills to adapt to situations and how to interact appropriately with others. He was catching on to how to communicate non-verbally. He began to stand out in his classes as a brilliant writer. He joined a youth group and started to make friends. Well, Caleb is now 23 years old and about to graduate from college with a degree in History and a minor in English. Not only that, but he has many close friends, has gained the respect of his professors and spends most of his free time serving others through mission work. This same boy who had such a struggle interacting with others, now speaks publicly about his faith in Christ.
Even though things may seem like they are more than you can handle and that nothing will change, God just might be working right under the surface on your behalf. But what does He ask from us? He wants to see our faith. When times are challenging, we must choose to have faith in our God. Do you believe, really believe, that God has the power to help you in your life? If you do not, your problems may never change. The first step is to believe that the same God who created the world and put the stars in the sky also has a deep, specific interest in YOU. He made YOU. He loves YOU. He created YOU with a very special purpose. He wants an intimate relationship with YOU, which is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for YOUR sins. With all of this power and with all of this love for you, His child, is it logical to think that He would not help you in your difficult situation? Does it make sense that He would turn His back and forget about you?
Don’t walk around discouraged, uptight, and overcome with worry. Expect God to work. Your attitude will reflect your level of faith. If you are overwhelmed, disheartened, and stressed out about the circumstances of your life, you are showing God that you do not believe in His power. On the other hand, if you live with confidence, joy and a peace that He is in control, you are showing Him you believe that great things are right under the surface. In fact, go ahead and thank Him for what He will do in your life. If you believe that He is your Blessed Controller and that His ways are flawless, whatever happens will be what is best for you. Nothing is too big for God. Scripture promises,
“Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld…” (2 Chronicles 20:20).
What if Michele had not believed in the power of her God? What if she had listened to the naysayers who doubted Caleb’s potential? Would he be where he is today? For fourteen years, she pressed on, recommitted herself daily to her son and her God. Today, Caleb is a confident young man, only weeks away from being a college graduate who takes every opportunity to spread the message of the Lord to those around him. This is what faith can do.
Now there is another Caleb you may remember. He was one of the twelve spies that Moses sent to check out the Promised Land, or Canaan, before they were to conquer it. The spies found the Promised Land to be full of delicious fruit and reported that it was flowing with “milk and honey.” There were also powerful people, even giants, living there which made the Israelites very afraid. Caleb stood out as one who believed in the power of His God. When others were grumbling and discouraged about trying to take the land, Caleb encouraged them with,
“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30).
Caleb knew that God was with them and would protect them. His faith was solid. Unfortunately, the faith of the others was not, so they retreated instead of conquering Canaan. For their lack of faith, they were condemned to wander in the desert for forty years. Had they only had Caleb’s faith, and the belief that God was working, they would’ve settled in the Promised Land very soon, but instead they spent the next four decades with no home. God made a vow to Caleb,
“…because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to and his descendants will inherit it” (Numbers 14:24).
Are you willing to follow God wholeheartedly? When things look impossible, will you believe anyway? Oswald Chambers wrote that “faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” How can we encourage this deliberate confidence in God’s character? It helps to saturate our hearts and minds with the Word of God. Romans 10:17 says that
“faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”
The beauty of your God is that He always meets His children where they are. He is a God of grace and mercy. He is a God of acceptance. Just as you adore spending time with a treasured loved one, He adores spending time with you. And guess what? He is waiting for you every day. Just like Michele, maybe God is working in your life. He may be waiting to reveal Himself to you in ways you never imagined. What if your beautiful tulip is about to bloom? You never know- something incredible for you just might be there… right under the surface.