On Sunday morning, I read an email with a link to a song attached.
Here's the link...
And here are the lyrics...
In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all-in-all
Here in the love of Christ I stand
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand
Do you know what stood out to me in those lyrics...? That line in the first verse that says, "when strivings cease." There was something about that word "strivings" that I heard louder than all the other words. That one little word has led to quite the investigation this week, as well as a lot of spiritual/personal evaluation.
Here's what the scriptures say:
Psalm 46:10 "Cease striving and know that I am God" (NASB)
Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God" (KJV)
cease striving = be still?
And from a Focus on the Family blog post...
"In the original Hebrew language, the phrase 'cease striving' indicates giving up by letting our hands down. Interesting huh? This means that you can't hold the steering wheel and let God drive at the same time if you want to experience the peace that comes from trust. Nope, you've got to 'let your hands down.' Let go of the wheel, friend."
I managed to sneak that little word "strivings" into a few prayers this week looking for some enlightenment. And, as is always the case with me, whenever there is a question, there is an opportunity for practical application.
I am totally a "striver." When challenges arise in my life, great or small, the "striving" instinct kicks in and I immediately start thinking, stewing, worrying, contriving, and calculating until I can see a viable solution.
My in-laws flew in from SLC last night and will be spending the week with us. As Tuesday approached, I felt more and more uneasy about...well, everything...the house, my hair, the kids, dinner plans, hidden dust bunnies that might be lurking, the unusually frantic pace that we will be keeping this week, Savannah's orange hair, Megan's recently acquired distaste for shoes, Emma's un-sunny demeanor in the mornings, and the state of McKay's bedroom where the Grs will be sleeping for the next 6 nights. The lists were long. And the "strivings" began sometime around the middle of last week. I tried to anticipate every opportunity for criticism that my in-laws might find and intercept them all. Because that's what perfectionism is, you know? Eliminating all the flaws and therefore eliminating all the judgment. It is a tiresome and hopelessly futile practice.
By Tuesday morning, I was mentally and physically exhausted, and so was everyone around me. I looked at the remaining items on my list and realized that there was no humanly possible way to accomplish all of those things, so I started praying...and then I started eliminating. Things weren't done. Craig was about to leave for the airport. I had no choice but to let God take over. I knew that we had invited Craig's parents out here with good intentions. I knew that I had done my best to make their surroundings comfortable. And I knew that what I most wanted was for them to be happy while they were here. So, I told all those things to Heavenly Father, and hoped he would send heavenly housekeepers to scrub my baseboards and get all the stains out of the carpet. But he didn't. Instead, he took away all the worry and dread and replaced it with contentment. And then as I sat on the couch in a little, resigned heap, my dear, sweet, patient, understanding husband said, "Do you know when people love you the most? When you are relaxed and happy and confident and funny. They don't find fault when you're all of those things, because you're too warm and inviting to find fault with. So stop trying to be perfect, and just be yourself."
There are things in the very near and the very distant future that I know are coming. I also know I that have no control over when they get here or what state of preparedness I will be in when they arrive. But according to that sweet song, and according to the scriptures, I need to "cease striving" and "be still."
The Savior came and His Atonement happened so that ALL of our "fears are stilled" and our "strivings cease." All of that worry, doubt, contriving and calculating does nothing to help us with our challenges. It only brings more worry and doubt, and often, less time to see any joy at all. The Savior of the World sacrificed His life so that He would have ALL the answers to ALL of our problems. He didn't just experience some of what we struggle with in life. He experienced all of it.
Alma 7:12 "And He will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."
We need not worry that our challenges are too insignificant for Him to be bothered with, or too horrendous and shocking to dare ask for help with. No matter the challenge, no matter whether you found it or it found you, the Savior wants them all. He wants us to "let go of them," and allow His atonement to turn them into strengths. If we could just work really hard and "strive" constantly to be better all by ourselves, then what need was there for an atonement in the first place? Only He has suffered everything, and only He can give us the uniquely personal comfort and help that we desperately need. He is equipped to handle every trial, every decision, every mistake, every sorrow, and every injustice that is heaped upon us. So why waste time Googling and polling an audience of less experienced friends and relatives? Why run around frantically trying to find answers? Why waste the time and energy on endless lists to achieve an impossible goal of perfection?
When I "let go" this week and gave up "striving," I found so much more joy in the remainder of the day and in the people around me. We had a plain old ordinary dinner, but I wasn't scurrying around the kitchen trying to look impressive, and therefore heard an inspiring story from my mother-in-law that I would have been sad to have missed. After dinner, the dishwasher was full, and the overflow lingered in the sink instead of being hand washed and put away, but that allowed us to linger in the living room and catch up on each other's lives. People are more important than things. Connecting is more important than looking perfect. And "when strivings cease" is when life becomes joyous and fulfilling, the way Heavenly Father intended it to be.
I'm embarrassed and overwhelmed that one little word, in one obscure song, tucked away in a casual email, had such a huge impact on my life, but it did. I'm grateful for the seemingly insignificant things that cross our paths that can become meaningful lessons. And I'm grateful for the knowledge and comfort of a very real Heavenly Father who provided a way for fears to be stilled and strivings to cease.