Feb 22, 2017
By Erin Inabnit
What are “Times Like These”? We’ve all heard the sayings — the same sentiments worded slightly differently along the two general themes: self-reliance and depending on God. “In times like these, we need to band together!” “In times like these, you have to rely on God’s strength!” “It’s times like these that make us stronger!” “Its times like these that better teach us how to trust Jesus!” But what are “Times Like These”?
I had a hard time sitting down to write this. I wrestled with the topic, thinking, “What could I possibly have to share that people haven’t heard yet — especially when I can’t even define exactly what those times are when we most need God?” I admit that I have led a blessed life. I’m married to a man who both understands me and loves Jesus. I have happy and healthy kids. My parents are retired and enjoying their lives. My job as a teacher (while difficult and exhausting at times) is rewarding and fun. We live in a politically divided climate, which I certainly have my own opinions about. Bills keep coming that can sometimes be difficult to pay. But still my life plodded on, seemingly untouched by all those disturbances about us. “Times Like These” seem to be something I can’t quite identify with, let alone write about.
And then, in the midst of my struggles with this question, a very dear friend died suddenly…unexpectedly…and I was immediately thrown into the middle of a “Time Like This.” The rug was torn out from under me. All of a sudden, I was dealing with a level of grief that I hadn’t known for decades.
A person who had, for 30 years, been a constant in the ever-changing fabric of my life, had been a steady anchor in the middle of my whirlwind, a sounding board when I needed one, and who I had seen grow into an amazing woman of God, was abruptly torn away. My world had been rocked, my sure foundation was suddenly shaky…but I still had to get up the next morning and assure my husband and kids that I was doing better, while I held the tears back. I had to wake up on Monday and get everyone dressed and fed, then face a classroom of 11-year-olds who didn’t want to be awake, let alone learn about the American Revolution and subtracting fractions. I still had to make it on time to my son’s speech therapy, pay our bills, and do all the stuff that I had done so effortlessly a week before — but it wasn’t easy anymore. In short, I had hit a “Time Like This” and I wasn’t making it through intact.
People called and friends hugged me. They said all the things they were supposed to say, but it just made me more sad, or angry. The calm pond of my life suddenly had ripples in it…terrible waves that I couldn’t seem to swim above…and I remembered this poem:
“In times like these, you need a Savior,
In times like these, you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!”
I had read that poem over and over while thinking about how to write this, trying to understand if it held something deeper for me. Now, as I reread it for the umpteenth time, I began to get it. I DID have anchors in that serene little pond of a life, several very strong anchors! I had a steady anchor of a husband, a man of legendary and predictable calm. I had parents who define stability as surely as the house they’ve lived in for 40 years. I had an unflappable brother who stares chaos down. I had lifelong friendships with a few women who had seen me through decades of change, and still stuck around. All these PEOPLE were my rocks — I had surrounded my hurricane of energy with people who loved me and anchored me to everyday life. And that was my mistake— they were my anchors, not God!
Listen — I get it! I’m a reasonably bright, well-educated 42-year-old…how is this something I had not understood before? I’ve read the same books all of you have, heard similar sermons, delivered the same testimonies in SCSC over 20 years ago…but this wasn’t something I’d ever had to personally figure out! For better or worse, I am a person who learns best experientially.
I have to make lots of mistakes to understand something. I was recovering from the discovery of having made a 40-year mistake — relying on my friends and family for my stability in the storms of life. These are all lovely, wonderful, well-meaning, God-fearing people — but humans nonetheless, with all the fragility that God designed us to have. I had to find a new anchor, one that could weather every storm while I clung to it for dear life.
In the poem “Times Like These,” there are six stanzas. Each one ends with the line, “Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.” In 5th grade, we teach that if an author repeats something, it’s probably pretty important to the “Main Idea” that he or she is trying to get across to the reader. As I had first read this poem, I had been hyper-focused on “Times like these” — the “when”…and here’s the thing, it’s not the “WHEN” that’s important. The “when” is “ALWAYS” — “Times Like These” are everyday: running late to your job; the 4th tantrum of your toddler’s morning; the overdue bill that you swore you paid. The “WHEN” is arguing with your spouse over whose turn it is to do dishes; feeling left out when your friends go to dinner without you; even when a Sabbath morning car accident steals away someone who you were not prepared to lose. The “WHEN” does not matter —all those times are difficult and overwhelming when you’re living through them. It’s the Anchor that matters, the Solid Rock that you cling to when the waves of life get rough.
Psalm 62:1-2 says, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” I like that. I LOVE that I’ll never be shaken because He is my rock and my salvation. Here’s the thing: making Him my foundation will have to be a conscious decision, followed by action. The great thing is that even a late learner like me can get there. Buried in the poem is a single line of great importance, “In times like these you need the Bible.” You need, I NEED, the word of God to base our lives upon, to guide us when we most need it, to make turning to God become an ingrained habit.
In a world full of uncertainty, and sometimes even turmoil, I want to “be very sure, be very sure” (that’s DOUBLY sure) that my anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock. Counting on others’ (or even my own) strength to get through a difficult time is a gamble, even at the best of times. I like a sure bet. I like knowing that when I place my trust in God, He will always be my fortress and my rock. “Times like these” are every day in our lives, and in those times I need an Anchor that will never budge.