A Treasure Worth Searching For

Kids love scavenger hunts.

Or rather, the thought of them

It’s a curious thing really, the excitement they seem to have when the search is announced. The eyes that twinkle just thinking of the treasure that is waiting to be found. I chuckle to myself remembering the times I’ve put together these “hunts” and the time I took planning them. How I carefully wrote out each clue that cleverly rhymed on a homemade piece of antique looking paper. Or the money I spent putting together a prize for the end. Little did I know that such hunts require a certain level of maturity.

 Imagine my surprise when after all that work, the joy was so short-lived! Five minutes later, the tears would come because the clues weren’t easy enough. Each hint required time and thought to find the next one. This was supposed to be a part of the fun, but I found out rather quickly that my kids hadn’t been expecting to put any effort into it. They were so eager for the prize that they wanted me to just show them the next place to look! 

They had been expecting an instant treat and this was taking too long.

People value the things they work for.

This is why the child who has been handed everything for free, often takes it for granted. 

My husband paid his own way through college and could often tell who was paying for their own education simply by how hard they worked in class. He witnessed many young adults squandering their chance at a degree, simply because they didn’t have to pay for it. Many would be wasting valuable class time playing games on their laptop as the professor spoke! On the flip side, he noted that the students who really wanted to be there and had paid for it themselves realized the worth of it and tried their very best. 

A few years back, I observed this very principle in my children. My oldest son found it fun to smash into things with his bike. He also loved to drift his bike by slamming on the brakes while he was speeding down the driveway. This wore down the brakes and the tires. Despite our many reminders, he often left his bike out on the driveway or in the rain and rarely remembered to lock it up when he rode it to school.

One day, after almost hitting his bike while backing out of the garage, I told him that if this bike would break before he out grew it, he would be buying his own. 

The very next day, he left it on the driveway and my husband drove over it. Oh, the tears that came! We heard all his complaints: “It was just not fair. It was all Dad’s fault! He would never make enough money in his life to buy another one!” 

I remember questioning myself, wondering if I was perhaps being a bit too hard on the boy. After all, he was only ten! 

It was difficult lesson for sure, but what happened next was worth the struggle. My son started saving up for his new bike. He asked for jobs around the house. He asked to mow the lawn. He worked hard in the garden, ever so slowly saving his money, and by the end of summer he had enough! He proudly bought his very own bike.

The best part? Never once did I have to remind him to lock it up, or put it back in its place in the shed. He had learnt to care for his bike because he now realised the value of it.

A treasure worth searching for?

 “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding – indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”                   Proverbs 2:1-5

As I think back to the many scavenger hunts and the lessons I’ve learned about hard work bringing value to the things I receive in life, I wonder if this is partly the key to some of our struggles with dry devotions. We so often try to fit God into a five-minute timeslot through reading a devotional written by someone else who took the time and effort to look for us! We want the quick, no-work-needed benefit of a “verse of the day” or a “one-minute devo” but we never take the time to actually seek out God and his wisdom for ourselves.

 We want to be handed an instantaneous word on a platter – and then we are disappointed when it doesn’t touch us in the way we thought it would! But Jesus never promised us a path of minimal effort, instead he spoke plainly:

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”                                                   Matthew 7:7-8

As I think about this, I smile, for in his wisdom, God didn’t just hand us these treasures. He knew that the only way we would learn to truly value his wisdom was if we had to search for it. And indeed, the most precious moments I’ve had in God’s word are when I’ve spent time calling out to him and searching desperatelyfor his wisdom. Those moments where I needed to hear from God and no ‘second-hand’ word would do! 

I needed the source

Oh, the JOY that’s mine when it happens! God speaks and reveals his word to my heart, a word that is meant just for me in that moment. 

Nothing can replace that joy.

 No quick verse or devotional can compare with a personal word, given straight from the source. My friends, this is a treasure worth searching for! 

Are we willing to put in the effort? 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”                                                                                Matthew 13:44-46


In the Waiting

“Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

These words have been like a beacon of light in a very dark valley for me. For years I’ve been asking God hard questions…questions of when I will be united with like-minded believers, questions of how long I will feel alone, questions of why I feel so much like an outcast, a misfit, a foreigner.

And I hear Him over and over again speaking:

Wait for the Lord. Yes, Lord, I’m waiting.

Be strong and take heart. I’m trying Lord, really, I am!

Be strong and take heart. I’m tired of being strong God.

Take heart and wait for the Lord. I’m tired of waiting God.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Do you believe this promise? Do you believe my words? God, you know I do.

Then wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.


Finding Peace in Anxiety

Something I share very little about is how severely I’ve dealt with anxiety in these last few years. I really don’t like talking about it, partly because I’m embarrassed about it…it makes me feel weak, and taunts me that if I was a better person, a better Christian, I wouldn’t struggle with such things. But another reason I resist talking about it is because I don’t want to become one who sits about moping and complaining about my problems, which, compared to the rest of the worlds, are very small.

I have food to eat. I have a house to live in. My physical needs are more than met. I have a supportive and loving husband. My family is healthy. I live in a safe and free country. I have loving parents and family members who live near to me. I have an incredible church. I am cared for, listened to, I am loved.

And then I shake my head because why in the world do I still struggle with panic attacks?!?

Why do I wake up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe, my stomach twisted into a knot? Why? Why do I have no control over it? Why can I not get a grip? And the answer is very simple:

Anxiety is a lot like drowning in your own mind, which is very similar to physical drowning. Yelling “stop it” to a drowning person will not save them, for they can not “stop it”. In the same way saying to a person with anxiety “just think about good things” doesn’t help, because maybe they aren’t thinking about anything! And even if they are, you can not just “think good thoughts” to get rid of anxiety.

It cannot be controlled in the mind just because it begins in the mind, for something is happening inside that seems to affect the whole body. I’m not writing about lingering on bad thoughts or sulking. Anxiety isn’t just having fear or worry. Those things can very much be controlled, because as soon as you can put a finger on the issues that are being worried about, you can deal with them at the root.

No, anxiety is a deep, sinking feeling that something is very, very wrong and the more you try to figure out what that something is, the more you begin to feel that it is everything. Everything is wrong. And I cannot fix everything. And so begins an attack.

Now sometimes what helps with anxiety is staying busy, which works great during the daytime, because when our minds our preoccupied with other things, they tend to not overthink the feelings inside. But most of my anxiety happens at night.

Many reputable resources tell you to lie down and breathe deeply to calm an anxiety attack…ummm duh, I was sleeping, that’s exactly WHAT I was doing.

Then next suggestion is medication and to be honest, I just don’t want to go there. This is not to say it is wrong! Not AT ALL! I do not in any way look down on those who turn to anxiety medicine, in fact, I very much understand them and rejoice with them as they find healing and are able to once again handle life. However, I am not yet at the place where I am ready to go down that road because I  am not totally convinced that my anxiety is to do with imbalances in my body. I want to be sure that it is before I begin taking such prescriptions.

Sometimes I believe that my anxiety is actually a spiritual attack, which brings me to sharing about my anxiety attack a couple nights ago:

I was lying in bed, it was 2am, and I woke up with that familiar heavy knot in my stomach. Then, a sudden thought came across my mind about something that had happened during the day and I began to feel that this issue was all out of my control and that it quite literally would put an end to my family, it would ruin my marriage, it would destroy my children. And if that were true, yes, PRESS THE PANIC BUTTON!!!

But the word feel is key!

This couldn’t be won with reason, because I knew that my thoughts were ridiculous, I KNEW it, but in my emotions they felt real and I could not get a grasp on what was going on inside of me. Half an hour of torment went by when suddenly I realized how helpless I was to fight this battle on my own. It was then that I cried out to God, pleading with him to help me, to calm me, to give me peace. Suddenly the thought came to me: “Get up, go downstairs, and start journaling to God about how you feel.” (I don’t actually believe that it was my own thought, rather it was God speaking to my heart.)

So that is what I did. For the next fifteen minutes, I wrote down all my worries, my fears, my thoughts and it wasn’t helping me AT ALL. In fact, it was causing me to think of more and more things so that eventually I filled three full pages of my journal with worries. And suddenly, there was that quiet voice again, “Now ask me to speak into these problems.”

So I wrote: “Father please! Hear me now! I need a word from you! I need you to tell me that I can let go of control, that you’ve got this!  Please Jesus, speak! For I am desperate and listening!

And here is what I heard:

God: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart! You have been born for this very time, this very place! You are right where I want you. Don’t be troubled, little sheep, for I am with you – you will not be overcome.  I will rescue you Heather. Just watch me!”

I am aware that not everybody believes that God still speaks today. And that some believe God just speaks through his word.  And then there’s some people that believe he can speak, but fail to believe when he speaks, thinking that it was maybe their own thoughts. They doubt it was really God!

But I can tell you without a doubt, God speaks today and God speaks personally.

My words, my thoughts do NOT bring me peace. They are powerless against my anxiety, in fact they sometimes make things worse. But in hearing God speak these words over me, I felt peace.

And then I asked God how he saw me right then, in that moment.

God: I see you as tired and worried about many things. But only one thing is needed.  Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  When you were afraid, trust in me. You can trust me Heather, I will take care of you. I will not desert you. I am here.

Warmth and peace filled my heart. And then I walked back up the stairs to my room, scared my daughter half to death (she was using the bathroom and just saw a shadow coming slowly up the stairs LOL), lay down, and peacefully drifted off to sleep.

Unbelievable. God had brought me from panic to peace.

Friends, this I know to be true: One word from God can do more healing, bring more comfort and restore far more than a thousand words from those around us. But are we listening? Are we asking? When we hear, are we believing?

Listening for God’s voice used to confuse me and worry me, but it doesn’t anymore because I’ve learned not to doubt when I hear him. It’s really quite simple; I just ask him to speak, and wait. Often a word, a thought or a picture will come to my head. If it doesn’t conflict with the Bible, I believe it is from God (for God’s word is the foundation for God speaking to us.) I also hold it with open hands because I am human and make mistakes, so we need to be SO humble in all of this. Many have been hurt when pride is combined with “listening” to God. We MUST stay humble and know God’s word if we want to hear God’s voice.

Right now, the church is suffering. Many saints are tired and weary. Pastors are burning out. Families in the church are fighting. Churches are splitting. People are hurting others and holding onto hurts.  God LONGS to speak to us, he longs to renew us.

Are we willing to be still and listen?

Or will we keep trying to do it on our own?

God, help us to listen to your voice in humility. Help us to learn from you, for you long to give us rest! Thank you for speaking to your people. Thank you for bringing me peace.