They came on suddenly. Sometimes, they were accompanied by a bang. Always, it felt like somebody picked up my life and shook it like a snow globe. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the recent outbreak of earthquakes near my hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma. Over one hundred earthquakes have rumbled through central Oklahoma this fall, the largest hitting 3.9 on the Richter scale. The shaking and the bangs are unsettling, but they’re nothing compared to the tremors in my personal life.
I wish I could tell you about it, but the details don’t really matter. I’m sure you’re thinking of the rattling and shaking you’ve endured in your own lives, those shocking phone calls in the middle of the night, unexpected illnesses, sudden deaths. They come whether we’re prepared for them or not.
Sort of like earthquakes. Californians’ homes and buildings are built to withstand the sudden shifting of the earth’s crust. Even if geologists can’t predict an earthquake as well as an intuitive canine, their structures can stand up to much of the trembling. Makes me wonder—how is such a foundation built in the life of a believer?
We all know the stock answers. Read your bible. Pray. Go to church. And many of us do these things regularly, and yet our lives still feel more like a house of cards than an earthquake-resistant building. So what is that magic bullet that will prepare us for life’s earthquakes?
I wish I had a definitive answer. Living through these recent trials, I can only point to one thing that’s kept me going. Of course I read my bible daily, I have prayer time every morning, and I attend church every week. But those things alone will not keep the walls standing on the structure that is my life. I know—I’ve crumbled before.
After one such season of life-crumbing earthquakes, I participated in a bible study on faith. I don’t think it was the study so much as the way God spoke to me through it. I realized that the biggest problem in my Christian walk—and therefore, in my life—was my lack of faith. Oh sure, I had trusted God for my salvation years earlier. And I prayed for my kids, my husband, my marriage, and everything else I knew I was supposed to pray for. But I still felt like I was in control.
There’s nothing like an earthquake to remind us we’re not in control.
During that study, I decided to take God at his word. To trust his promises, to even remind him of his promises, and to believe he would do what he’d said he would do. Seems simple enough, right?
But after three-and-a-half years, I’ve developed a few habits. I’d like to share the most important one.
When the world trembles, and my heartbeat quickens in response, sometimes my stomach clenches in fear about some possible danger, I immediately lift it up in prayer. I don’t resolve to pray about it tomorrow morning or ask my friends to pray about it when I get the chance. I pray right then. Knowing that the One who formed me knows exactly what I’m thinking, I don’t explain my worries. Instead, I whisper a quick prayer, sometimes just the name, “Jesus.” If I hear about a fatal car accident, I pray, “Jesus, protect my loved ones from that.” When I learn someone has cancer, I say, “Lord, protect us from diseases.” If I hear of a friend’s child going astray, I whisper a quiet, “Keep my kids close, Lord. Make them love you.”
I do this ten, fifty, even a hundred times a day. Does God protect us from everything? Of course not—it’s through trials we learn to trust in him. But knowing I’ve laid it at his feet gives me peace. When the bad things happen, I know they have been sifted through his hands.
This habit has become so ingrained in my life, I found myself doing it during the 2013 World Series. “Lord, let Papi hit one out of the park.” I smiled when I realized what I was doing, and I smiled more broadly when David Ortiz hit a homerun.
So if you see me whispering under my breath in the oddest moments, don’t call the men with the straitjackets just yet. Instead, realize a little earthquake has just rumbled through my life, bringing so many possible aftershocks with it. And I’m simply whispering the name of the one who holds the earth—and my life—in his hands. Jesus.
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