Lean in. Those words in my spirit gave me pause one morning as I was pouring out my frustrations to the Lord about the confusing days in which we live.
As I pondered the phrase, a picture formed in my mind of a child leaning in to her father. Instead of fretting or striving, God wants us to lean into Him. From that position we can hear His heart about all that is going on in the world. We can feel His strength; and find peace knowing we are His. We can trust Him with it all.
Lean In For Answers
John the Beloved knew this truth. As the disciples gathered around the Passover meal with Jesus, little did they know it would be their last. The conversation took a strange turn when Jesus said, “…one of you is going to betray me” (John 13:21). That statement caused the disciples confusion and distress, much like events in our day make us feel. As the other disciples stared at one another, at a loss, John leaned in and asked, “Lord, who is it” (John 13: 22-25). As John leaned into the Lord, he heard the answer.
When we are dumbfounded or worried by what is going on in the world, we can go to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for answers. David sought answers from the Lord on many occasions. Before he became king, he spent years on the run from Saul. During this time, he heard the Philistines were attacking the Israelite city of Keilah and robbing them of food. It was a confusing time for David. He was anointed and felt the responsibility of protecting Israel, but he was not yet their king. He inquired of the Lord, asking God what to do.
“The Lord said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’” (I Sam. 23: 2b)
David’s men were afraid, though, so David asked the Lord again. “And the Lord answered him and said, ‘Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand’” (I Sam. 23. 4b). So, they went and God gave them a great victory.
Personal Questions Are Welcome
Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, had concerns too. When she was pregnant, she felt a lot of activity in her womb. Long before sonograms or even maternity check-ups, she was on her own. She went to God and asked, “Why is this happening to me?” (Genesis 25:22). Her query was not dismissed as trivial; instead, God answered her question with some detail!
“The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other and the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).
Sure enough, Rebekah gave birth to twins.
God is not put off by our questions. He created us to have relationship with Him. When we lean in with our concerns and inquiries, He answers!
Lean In for Perspective
During Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, He shared many things. Reading through the Book of John,
we sense that John continued to lean in to hear all Jesus had to say. As Jesus comforted His friends,
promising to send the Holy Spirit, John took note. John also heard Jesus communicate the depth of His love and which we, His disciples, must also have.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will
remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s command and remain in his love. …My command is this: love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:9-14)
John must have held onto those words as the evening wore on. When Jesus and the disciples went to the garden to pray, John continued to lean in, to be near His Lord. While the others fell asleep, John heard the prayer of Jesus that night and wrote it down for future generations (John 17). When Jesus was arrested and events were spinning out of control, John stayed close. He followed Jesus to the High Priest’s house, on to Pilate’s court, and even to the Cross (John 18-19).
In the midst of the treachery, violence, false witnesses, and seeming collapse of everything they had come to believe, John leaned into Jesus and watched Him suffer and willingly lay down His life out of love for us all.
Because John stayed close, he was able to get a grasp of God’s perspective on the times.
Of the four Gospels, John’s alone told of Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus. John was the only one to share the stunning revelation of Jesus’ purpose.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
All the disciples walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, and listened to Jesus. But when Jesus was arrested and their world was falling apart, they ran (Matthew 26:56). But John then followed, leaning in to see what was happening. And he began to understand it from God’s perspective.
When things in our lives and world seem to be swirling out of control, we must lean in and ask God for His perspective. When I do this, God often reminds me:
“…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-39)
When we see things from God’s perspective, we can have peace in the midst of chaos, trusting Him to bring His work to completion for our good!
Lean In for Direction
At the foot of the Cross, we again find John. From an earthly perspective all looked lost. Everyone was grieving the loss of their Teacher and Friend. Maybe they were holding out hope that Jesus would come down from the Cross and smite His enemies. But, instead, He called to John and gave Him specific direction for the days ahead. He entrusted John with the care of Mary, His mother (John 19:25-27).
I doubt John was looking for an assignment at that point. But he probably was thinking, “What am I supposed to do now?” As he leaned in to Jesus, even in his grief, God gave him direction. It wasn’t the complete strategy for the rest of John’s life – but it was a step toward the future. As John obeyed in this small but significant way, more direction came. In fact, years later, God had John write five books of the Bible!
If you are wondering what you are supposed to do now, lean in to the Lord. He will tell you.
A Battle Strategy
King Jehoshaphat also found this to be true. When a vast army came up against Judah, the people and the king were terrified. He ordered everyone to fast, which is a way of leaning in to the Lord. He then went to the Temple and laid the situation out before the Lord. At the end of his prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:12b, he says, “We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”
God answered immediately! 2 Chronicle 20:15-17 (NLT) recounts what He said:
“Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
The next day, Jehoshaphat and the army of Judah went out with singing and praise. They took the position the Lord had directed and watched their enemies destroy one another.
Big or Small
God does not just want to give you direction in the big things; He is interested in every aspect of your life. I recall times when I was growing up that my father would be fixing one of our cars and get stuck. He would ask the Lord what to do, and invariably God would give him a solution – sometimes in his dreams at night!
As you lean in to the Lord—whether through fasting, prayer, worship, or reading His Word—expect to hear His voice. It may be a still small voice in your spirit, or He may speak through someone else. He may speak to you through a dream or vision. But He will speak.
Lean In for Peace
The Song of Songs describes the intimacy and peace achieved by leaning in to the Lord. This love story portrays the progression of intimacy as the betrothed moves ever closer to her beloved.
In the early chapters of the book, we see a budding love full of longing and excitement. But along the way the bride is distracted, consumed with her own wants. When her betrothed calls to her, she does not respond readily (see Song 2:17 and 5:3). When she finally goes out searching for him, she cannot find him. She becomes frantic and is even harmed without his protection (Song 5: 6b-7). Through this, she realizes how much she loves and longs for him.
We must learn this lesson also. Focusing too much on all that is going on in the world can overwhelm us. Thinking only of our own desires will distract us. If we fail to hear Him calling, we too can find ourselves frantic or in harm’s way. When I pay too much attention to the news, social media, or even what other Christians are posting about current events, I become agitated and even a bit anxious. I must intentionally refocus my thoughts and attention on the Lord.
Thankfully, God promises that “you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a NKJV). I have tested this, it is true!
Attention to the Bridegroom
Near the end of the Song, the bride and bridegroom are reunited. This time she stays close. She realizes nothing compares to the pleasure of being with her beloved. In Song 8:5 those watching cry out, “who is the one coming up from the desert leaning on her lover?” In this verse we see she has abandoned her other desires and will now go anywhere with her beloved, even the desert. She leans in, not wanting to be separated from him again.
In Intimacy with Jesus, Hudson Taylor explains that the onlookers “are attracted by the bride’s relationship to her beloved…The bridegroom gains attention through the bride. Their oneness and intimate fellowship are now open and unmistakable. The desert is mentioned for the last time, but sweetly comforted by the presence of the bridegroom, it is no desert to the bride” (pg. 78).
As the bride leans in, she is finally at peace regardless of where they are. Her attention to the bridegroom points others to Him as well. When she is running about the city looking for him, everyone’s attention is on her. But that shifts when she is by His side.
As we lean in to Jesus, we too find peace no matter our circumstances. Jesus tells us, “My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27b). The peace He provides is deep and abiding. It gives us great confidence that He is in control, no matter what is happening in the natural realm.
When we lean on Jesus, we cannot be shaken. Others will take notice. And our peace will point them to Jesus.
It’s Time to Lean In
Over the past several years, we have been inundated with bad news, divisive news, and discouraging news. The shock caused by some of what we have seen, heard, and experienced has left many disoriented, disheartened, in disbelief, and/or disengaged. Some have turned to complaining, lashing out, or even walking away from the Lord.
But now is the time to lean in to Jesus. If we stick close to Him, like John did, He will answer our questions. He will give us understanding of His perspective. He will give us specific direction for the days ahead. He may even use us to leave a lasting legacy for future generations to follow as well!
So lean in. Hear His love for you. Abide in His peace. And be a witness for Jesus to those desperate for Good News!
by Jodie Chiricosta, SCA/I Vice President