I’m sure there are times when “grit your teeth” is an appropriate idiom for motivation or encouragement. Most of the times that come to mind are situations where small children refuse to eat broccoli or swim underwater or share a toy. Problem is, at that age, idioms don’t really make sense anyway.
What I do know is that “gritting my teeth” right now to muscle through my life-transplanting-across-the-country anxiety is not appropriate or motivational or encouraging.
My life is folded up in suitcases and boxes again and I feel like someone dumped all my emotional luggage out on the front lawn. It came on like waves today – doubts about my current job, doubts about my future job, doubts about doubts. This isn’t the normal level of anxiety I believe my way through. This anxiety hasn’t gone away for good when I believe against it, it just hides until I can be caught by surprise again.
Today, it hit me between the eyes and I couldn’t really put a good sentence together to explain it. I pushed against the temptation to say, “It’s just a phase, it’ll pass” because I know that it won’t. Worry and doubt and anxiety are not phases because believing is not meant to be a phase, either.
The hard work of believing happens while doubts and worries and anxieties hit us between the eyes with questions about worth and future and all the ways we are desperate to be acceptable before God.
God will do the fighting, I’ll do the believing.
I’ve never been more convinced of the power of present tense belief. The Gospel is ongoing salvation and I need to preach it to my soul in an ongoing sermon. When I get hit between my blues with questions about packing lists and budget lines and apartment hunts, my response must be to believe God for the salvation He has promised.
When He covenanted with Abram (Genesis 15), God was the only one who walked through the halved animals – symbolizing that He would keep His promise even if Abraham failed. He would keep His promise unto death… and He did. I received that same promise from the Lord – that He would be faithful to keep me even if it (and did) cost Him his life.
My salvation is sealed and so is my redemption from all the ugly anxiety I met today.
I believe the salvation He promised is the breath He’s breathing into me and the future unfolding before me. I believe the salvation He promised is my security as the millions of moments happen these next few weeks. And I believe the salvation He promised is my hope when all my life’s luggage gets dumped and scattered.
There’s no “grit my teeth” about it. I can’t muscle through it.
And I don’t have to – that’s what believing is all about. Any of my own attempts at survival is evidence of unbelief. I believe God has already promised to keep me, carry me, sustain me, fulfill me. I believe.
I love this encouraging word from John Piper in Future Grace where we read about Jesus Keeping His Sheep.