I am a closet wanna-be marine biologist and am currently reading Operation Orca, a book on the attempts to relocate two young whales that became separated from their pods in the pacific northwest. The title of this post is a comment made by one of the many volunteers giving of themselves to make that happen. In particular, a company had donated a bunch of equipment to make a pen and provide salmon for one of the orcas to be relocated. When they placed a banner on their boat, temporarily donated to the cause, that advertised their business, they were asked to take it down due to a conflict between farm raised and fresh salmon (don’t ask—I don’t understand this conflict). The manager of the project for the company acquiesced, recounting later, “Each time things changed we just took a deep breath and carried on.” Why was he able to say that? Really, they more than deserved a little free advertising based on all they were providing for the project. But they had a bigger purpose to all of it than advertising. They were genuinely committed to returning this little whale to her family and willing to endure unfair requests to make it happen.
It reminds me of something I read Matt Chandler (pastor of a large church in Texas who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer) say in an interview on MSNBC. He said that learning he had cancer was “kind of like getting punched in the gut. You take the shot, you try not to vomit, then you get back to doing what you do, believing what you believe.” What makes someone take a deep breath and carry on when they are maligned, unfairly stifled, seriously undercut in their attempts at ministry, or just plain socked in the gut with unexpected suffering? I submit the only thing that will really meet you in that place and encourage you to get back up and carry on is a deep commitment to and confidence in something bigger.
In Ephesians, Paul talks in great depth of our spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. He mentions “in the heavenly places” three times in Ephesians. There is much going on in and for God’s kingdom outside our line of sight, and we need confidence in what God says He is doing for us and through us to give perspective to the sacrifices and redirections we experience daily in our walk with Him.
As Paul writes Ephesians, he is under house arrest. Shortly, he will be put to death. He had experienced a long winding path of redirections. He had great experience taking a deep breath and carrying on. And he did it (and encouraged others to do it) because he had great confidence in something much bigger than his arrests, shipwrecks, and thorns in the flesh. At the end of Ephesians 3, he tells his friends in Ephesus,
13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
Then, as he sits in jail awaiting his death, he writes the prayer I hear repeated most often to send off believers in confidence into the world after Sunday worship.
16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Sister in Christ, if you have been socked in the gut with something that has taken your breath away and makes you want to vomit, know that God is doing something bigger in you and through you than anything you see here now. There is something going on in the heavenly places, and it is the only thing that can give perspective to what you are enduring now. May you have confidence today in the breadth, depth, and height of God’s great love for you. Know He is doing more than you could ask or think. And believe that His eternal purposes to bring Himself glory through His church makes “taking a breath and carrying on” a worthy response in your trial.