Only the immutable God can change life’s equations from less-than to greater-than.



M y eighth birthday was May 18, 1980—the same day Mt. St. Helens blew her top. I went into church that spring morning in Oregon, the fragrance of rhododendrons perfuming the air. I came out a few hours later to an ash covered world that smelled of death. It was (I fervently hope) the closest I’ll ever get to the feel of the apocalypse.

In a few breathtaking moments the very landscape changed, never to be the same again.

Thinking back to that day I am reminded of a passage in Isaiah:

Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

(Isaiah 40: 4-5)

This is the power of our God.

I too readily forget these words that tell me of God’s incredible power and might, his absolute glory, until a day like my birthday comes along.

Or a simple math lesson reminds me.

Yep, math.

A few weeks ago I was teaching my son math inequalities.

4 < 6
24 > 16
15 = 15

And somehow the math lesson and Isaiah 40 profoundly intersected for me.

Inequalities seem unchangeable. Four is always less than six. Twenty-four will always be greater than 16. And 15 will always equal 15.

Unless you add something to the equation.

4 + 4 > 6
24 < 16 +10
15 < 15 + 2

I can never make four greater than six on its own. But I can add something else to four and then the equation does change.

This was on my mind as I was reading the last verses in Isaiah 40:

He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.

(Isaiah 40:29-31)

So many times I feel unequal to the task at hand or the circumstances I find myself in. I’d write the equations of my life in this way:

Tina = faint
Tina = no might
Tina = weak
Tina < this race, this journey
Tina < the needs of this day

But when I read these words in Isaiah I am reminded that Jesus promises to meet me in the equations of my life. And just as he can level mountains and raise valleys, he can drastically change those equations.

Tina + Jesus = power
Tina + Jesus = increasing strength
Tina + Jesus = renewed strength
Tina + Jesus = the ability to run without weariness, to journey without fainting
Tina + Jesus =/> the needs of this day

On my own, I often feel less than equal to the tasks of the day, the week. I find myself adding things to the equation in hopes of, at the least, making things equal out. Sometimes I add in good things like asking someone else for help or advice. Or I take time to study and learn so that I have more knowledge or skill to apply to the task at hand.

Sometimes I procrastinate or simply choose not to engage. It’s so much easier to move on to something I’m good at or turn on the TV or escape into a book. But at the end of the day, the undone task is still there, looming over me and feeling even bigger than before. Or I realize I missed an important moment to engage with my kids’ hearts. Or I have to deal with knowing that I’ve let someone down. Instead of adding good things I’ve actually subtracted from the equation and I feel it in my heart—that lingering disappointment that comes when I know I’ve chosen poorly and let things slide.

Even when I add in good things, they often last only so long before the weariness returns or a new task is set before me that I feel unequal to.

It’s only when I invite Jesus in that the equation truly changes.

Come, Lord Jesus, come into all the less-than moments of my day...

...The moment when I find myself staring at a blank computer screen with a blog deadline looming and have no idea how to start. As I search for words I am reminded that these thoughts aren’t just my own, that these words ultimately come from Jesus. So I stop and ask him to show them to me. And he graciously brings to mind that day so many years ago when he literally leveled a mountain in my world.

...The moment when a friend unexpectedly knocks on my door in the middle of the morning and I invite her in. I tell the kids to keep doing their schoolwork while we go to another room and she humbly shares her heart and asks for advice. And I think, “I don’t know...aak!” As I listen, I ask the Spirit to meet me in this moment—to grant me the wisdom to listen well and to ask the right questions. And he graciously gives me the words I need to share love and encouragement with my friend.

...The moment when I start the day crazy-tired from being woken up multiple times in the night. As we get ready to start school, one kid knocks over a potted plant, scattering dirt everywhere. Then I knock over another plant while trying to clean the first one up. My anxiety level picks up as I feel the day going south at an incredibly rapid pace. While I put the vacuum cleaner away I breathe a heartfelt prayer for help. And God grants me the humbleness of heart to walk back into the room and apologize to the kid I yelled at for the plant incident. I gather both my kids close and we laugh together over the terrible start to the day. God takes that oh-so-less-than moment and changes it into a greater-than moment of laughter and connection and forgiveness and helps me to begin anew.

God, you alone can turn a less-than moment into a greater-than. Help me to trust, to rest in knowing that the God who levels the mountains can also grant me, and each of us, what we need as we invite him into the less-than moments of our day.