God, Actual Size

I’m really good at exaggerating to make a point. I am one of the best exaggerators I know. Maybe the best in the world. Whoops, there I go again. (I know you saw that coming.)

When I find myself face first in a dilemma, it always feels like I’ve been stuck for centuries and the whole problem is hopeless. Often I complain, which I call “external processing”, but my introvert husband doesn’t buy it. My condition feels insurmountable, whether it’s a health issue, a financial crisis, worry about my future career, or what to have for dinner.

Each poses a troublesome obstacle for my tiny brain. Why? Because I’m excellent at elevating problems. Good self-talk shrinks problems down briefly, but before long, another one pops up to take its place.

God’s answer comes in the form of two old words that always trip me up: magnify and exalt. One particular spot brings them together in radiant obscurity:

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34:3)

Like any good, modern English-speaking Christian, I hop the text. Sounds archaic. It probably means sing songs to God or something. And…moving on.

But if he just means music, why isn’t he saying that? Because magnify and exalt are not only about guitar and drums and hands up – or down, if you’re more comfortable – on a Sunday morning. David’s talking about a proper view of God.

I remember in grade school, taking a magnifying glass out to the driveway, and if we tilted it just right, we could chase an insect with a ray of fire or burn a scrap of paper. It was a fun science experiment. You should try it, if you haven’t.

Magnification makes things larger. When I encounter an obstacle, my response is magnification. Will it be God or the problem? What I choose depends less on the problem and more on what I’ve been practicing up until that point.

Exalt is really an old word, and there are no elementary science tricks to help us with this one. The word means “to raise in rank, honor, power, character, quality, etc; elevate.”

Back when I had all-disposable income, I used to attend concerts as often as possible: Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, to name a few of my favorites. They played different styles and genres, but they all played on a stage.

Stages elevate, which makes the band easier to see, but it’s also a physical representation of what we’ve already done to the band. We paid a minimum of $30 for lawn seats or nosebleeds because months before, we “exalted” this band or artist to the position that justified spending that much money and time. The stage is a place of exaltation. 

Dave, high up on stage.

So here we have two old words that finally make sense.

Magnify = make bigger.

Exalt = lift up.

What if I was to make God bigger and lift him up every day? How would I do it? Here are a few ways to make God actual size:

1. Worship and praise: Making God large is most certainly done through worship, by singing songs about his power and connecting our hearts to heaven through music. Worship admits to our hearts about our own smallness and gives God the proper stage elevation in our lives. Psalm 22:3 says “You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” God’s governs from the top of his people’s adoration. When we praise God, we allow his ruling and government into our situation, where we are sure to benefit from his mercy and justice.

2. Remember. One of my biggest problems is forgetting, not just where my keys are, but mostly how God has powerfully intervened in my life, again and again. He brings the right thing at the right time. He gives me all my necessities and more. When I forget, I grow fearful and orphaned, trying to figure out how I will make my own ends meet. Psalm 78 illustrates how our hearts wander and fail us when we forget what God does:

“The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle; they did not keep God’s covenant, and refused to live by his law. They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.”

Israel, fully-armored warriors with God on their side, panicked when they forgot every time God supernaturally moved in their midst. They forgot. And they ran. Their problems grew while their God shrank.

3. Gratitude. A relative of remembering, gratitude puts us in the recipient position. It’s the place where I acknowledge I am the one in need, and I need someone to give me something. That’s what Thank You means. “I needed something; you provided it. Thank you.”

When my God dims and my troubles brighten, my heart grows anxious instantly. It looks like even God can’t save me this time, I tell myself. Paul faces off against this forgetful fear in Philippians 4.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” 

Anxiety bows to prayerful gratitude.

So next time you can tell your problems are swelling, and fear is rising up and choking you out, put on some worship music, write a short list of the last five times God bailed you out and thank him for each of them.

Then you can restore God to Actual Size in your heart and mind. Now doesn’t that feel better? 

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