Squirrels are relentless and sneaky, especially when they’ve made a nest in your house. Just five weeks into recovery from significant surgery, our Squirrel Wars feel like more of a weight than they probably should. Thankfully, I’m much more independent now, which allows my husband more time and energy to devote to warring with the squirrels. At the same time, it feels like an intrusion on the progress. I also miss having my windows all open but just can’t yet trust they won’t tear through them again, uninvited but drawn nonetheless to the quiet sanctuary that is our home.
Sometimes, we invite struggles and trials into our lives through our choices, poor ones usually but not necessarily. Often, though, struggles and trials come into our lives uninvited – often gnawing and relentlessly seeking entry – and remind us that we’re all fighting a war (Ephesians 6:12).
My back pain increased gradually over the years, but sudden leg numbness surprised me. “Nothing you did wrong,” my surgeon said. Just time (i.e., aging and wear and tear). Sometimes, the wear and tear of life is a battle.
There’s often no reason we can see for many of our struggles. Though we’ve tried to figure out why, we don’t understand the squirrels’ sudden interest in getting inside our house. There’s a reason, but it’s not one we can see or understand yet. Our struggles often come uninvited like that, too. They come unaccompanied by any good reason we can see.
We tend to forget that trials come our way to strengthen us. They don’t have to be overtly spiritual, either, to be what Jesus referred to when he said we would have “trouble” (John 16:33)
The trials Jesus describes here in John and elsewhere in his ministry at first diminish my health issues and certainly our Squirrel Wars. Then, I also notice that he also assures us of God’s love and encourages us to ask him for help.
“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24).
When we ask in Christ’s name, we “acknowledging our unworthiness” to receive from God and “show full dependence” on Christ (Matthew Henry’s Commentary). In that, though, we are told to ask for “anything” in Jesus’ name, and we will receive not only what we ask for but joy as well.
Anything = a thing of any kind; any thing whatever; something, no matter what; in any degree, to any extent, in any way at all.
This word expresses no limitations. It doesn’t indicate that my troubles need to meet any level of severity or intensity to qualify for complete joy or with what God will help me in when I ask him. This is not cart blanch to get whatever we want but an opportunity to trust God to supply what we need.
It’s not always the trouble itself, either. Sometimes, maybe more often than not, it’s the layer of events and situations one upon another that constitute trouble. That, or the back-to-back, unrelenting onslaught that keeps your guard up and makes anxiety seem impossible to overcome.
When anxieties flare, though ideally before they become an issue, another all-inclusive word becomes relevant.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Through habits of humble prayer and gratitude, I can go to God in “everything” and receive his unsurpassed peace.
Everything = every single thing; something extremely important or most important.
Again, nothing excluded. Again, peace promised.
Not, ask and the problem is solved or at least a solution is provided and the end of the problem can start, though those aren’t excluded and, in my experience, do sometimes happen. The promise, though, is for peace given without any qualification placed on the trouble.
“Everything” qualifies as a worthy request. Whether back surgery or squirrel troubles or “anything” else, and there are many other things – both worse and less troublesome – God’s peace and our complete joy are promised when we ask “anything” and “everything” of him.