The youth group did a fall retreat at Bair Lake Bible Camp, from November 18-20. It was a great weekend. We had a lot of fun, and we studied the Bible together. One thing people who do not teach may not know is that when you prepare to teach from the Bible, you learn a lot, and sometimes what you are getting ready to teach may be more for you than the people you are going to be teaching. I have experienced this multiple times, and it happened again on Saturday. On Saturday morning, I taught from 1 Peter 5:6-9, which says:
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
I learned all of these verses separately as a kid, but I learned them separately (read: out of context). I have discovered in my adult life that many of the one-off verses I learned growing up do not actually mean (or fully mean) what I was told they meant, which is revealed by the full context in which they were said. This was another example. I learned verse 6 talks about humbling yourself, verse 7 talks about casting your cares and concerns on God, and verses 8-9 talk about being watchful for the enemy who can and will take you down given the chance. I learned three separate thoughts, not interconnected at all. But they are interconnected, because two of the thoughts hinge upon the first. It’s impossible to live out verses 7-9 without living out verse 6. They are connected. It’s why they were written by Peter together.
It is difficult to cast your cares on God the way Peter is speaking. It is for me, anyway. Instead, I tend to hold onto worry, and I plot how I can fix the situation. How can I make this right again? In humility, the Christian is called to turn that worry over to God and trust that He cares for you. There are things that only He can change, so we must humbly turn them over to Him, and then trust His plan. There’s also humility in being watchful, knowing that you are susceptible to sin. But that’s not the verse I got to put into practice. I just wanted to point it out, because context is key in studying the Bible. Without it, you’re just reading.
Fast forward to Saturday evening. It was 11:20 PM, and I was talking to Sarah on the phone before heading back to the cabin. In that conversation, I found out my dog had run away that evening. There hadn’t been any sign of her for hours. It was cold, it had been snowing and/or raining much of the day, it was windy, and our little Florida dog was lost somewhere. And I wasn’t there to do anything about it. What did I do? I immediately began to worry. I talked to my youth leaders and let them know I had to go home for a bit, but I would be back before morning. And I got in a van and left, believing that if anyone could bring our dog home, it would be me. After all, I’m her favorite person, and even though she hadn’t responded to Sarah, Jakob, and Jaxon’s calls, surely she would respond to me.
As I drove up 131, I began to pray. As I prayed, my own words about 1 Peter 5:6-9 came back to me. Was I going to try to handle this on my own, because I’m the fixer, or was I going to turn this over to God and acknowledge His supremacy in this situation? I told God that I realized I wasn’t going to find her on my own, if at all. I knew I needed Him. If Jay was coming home, God was going to have to bring her home to us. And like any good Christian, I reminded God of His ability. “You brought all those animals to Noah. You can bring my dog home!” I’m sure He was impressed with my grasp of the Old Testament and His power. Even though I had come to the conclusion that only God was going to be able to bring our dog home and had acknowledged His control of the situation, I continued home. I wanted to comfort Sarah and the boys, who were upset. I went to the door a few times and called for the dog, I drove around the block slowly with my windows down, calling for her, and I prayed that God would bring her to me. I ended up sleeping on the couch for two hours and headed back to camp. I was resolved that if Jay was coming home, God was bringing her, and if she wasn’t, that was God’s plan, and I was going to accept it.
I was distracted that next morning, and I was running on only a few hours of sleep. I was worried about Jay, in the sense that I love her and didn’t want any harm to come to her, but I wasn’t worried about how I was going to find her. That was in God’s hands. But God comforted me through the words of one of my friends and youth leaders, which helped me get through the morning. On the way home from camp, a lady called Sarah. She got her number off of our dog’s tags. She had her. She was okay. That alone was a miracle. Our dog was abused before we got her, so she’s terrified of strangers. She’s also small and fast. Catching her is not an easy task. This lady’s teenage daughter caught her, though (go, teenagers!). But no one was home, she was mildly afraid of my 7-pound dog, and she didn’t want to keep her too long. So I swung by home with a van full of teenagers to get her. That’s us in the picture above.
I’m glad I taught on 1 Peter 5:6-9 that morning. I’m glad that God reminded me of His words and my own statements on those words. I’m glad God comforted me. But most of all, I’m glad that God cares about me, and so He cares about what is important to me, and I can trust Him with whatever worries me.