I was recently talking to a young girl. I had prayed that day for her and the Lord showed me a turtle's shell. It was on the ground and I couldn't see the head, feet or tail but I knew the guy was in there.
So, what was he doing? He was hiding. Why? Why do turtles hide? They hide when they are afraid. So they pull their head and legs in and the bottom of their shell closes up like a trap door and they’re protected.
They can do that because God made them that way. People do that; they can close up like that and no one can get in. People can do that for the same reason: because God made them that way. God made it so that we can shut ourselves away, in ourselves, in our shells if we want to - if we think we need to.
So it’s a beneficial thing. Right? Well, initially it is. It gets the protection job done but there are some problems too. One problem is that sometimes we shut ourselves in and forget to come back out. We get sort of addicted to the "safe" feeling but the problem with that is that while initially it IS safe - over time the self-made fix for the fear becomes a problem in itself.
Another problem is this: if my feet and head are in the shell I can't move on and sometimes that keeps me in the dangerous place. After Hurricane Katrina many people in New Orleans died because they chose to stay in a dangerous place. Why did they do that? Many did so because they were afraid to leave.
I remember seeing on the video feeds that many of the houses had bars on the windows and doors. On the outside of these houses was painted a symbol showing how many bodies were inside.
So, we’ve seen that if we hide inside ourselves we can stay in the dangerous place and possibly be in more danger than if we braved the danger.
Another problem for turtles is that with the head and feet and tail inside the shell, the turtle can't eat and when a person shuts down, he starts starving for human interaction - food for the soul. We see it all the time: people who protect themselves from people (God's favorite thing) and, in doing so, they starve themselves for human contact. To be safe, they die inside, little by little.
Also, turtles that are shut in on themselves can't go to the bathroom; therefore, no waste material can come out. When people don't interact with others they rot inside. Things back up in their souls and it hurts them. They want to be safe but it traps them in the wastes of their own souls.
Another aspect of being a turtle that is shut down is that it always seems to happen on land where they can't seem to move very fluidly or freely. On land they are heavy, unwieldy but get a turtle in the water and they almost fly through the water. Locked down on the dry land they can't get to their best element: water.
When a person is shut down, locked in their own shell, they are earthbound. Although we are designed to be here on the earth for a while, truly we are heavenly beings. We are designed to soar!
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,” (Isaiah 40:28-30)
That’s when we "turtle".
“But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Once when I was a child I came across a turtle in the road. Two dogs were barking at it all shut up in its shell. Who knows how long that thing had been there, trapped in its shell?
What could I do? I reached down, picked it up and took it to a safer place – a place that was nearer to its true element.
“‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?’ says the LORD; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:24)
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)
Once when I had become a man I came across a person surrounded by danger. He was closed up in his shell, trapped. Did he let me take him to a safer place? He had no choice; the Lord lifted him.... through me.
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)
Many of us feel alone. Often, it’s because we are alone. For some of us in the body of Christ we are not alone - even in an earthly sense: we have a brother or sister that will fulfill the law of Christ and bear our burdens. Then, when we draw on the Lord and allow Him to flow through us...something else happens.
“Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
When we serve someone else or allow someone else to serve us and the Lord is also involved we become a 3-fold cord.
The man had no choice as to whether or not I would lift him up. When the Lord, through me, had put him in a better place he had a choice to make: would he come out of the shell or would he choose the prison, formerly a place of refuge, of shutting down?
Many choose the prison. Its “safe”, but in that turtle shell they starve, they are overwhelmed by the wastes in their souls, they stay in the place of danger and they rob themselves of the chance to be in a place in which they are designed to flourish.
As I talked to that little girl another verse came to me:
“Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24)
Jesus had just said something to him:
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’” (Mark 9:23)
His response: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I asked the young girl. “What is happening here?”
The Greek word translated here as “believe” means to “to have faith in”. The man tells Jesus, “I have faith in You - help me because I don't have faith in You”.
Which is true? Does he have faith or not? I think both are true. He has faith...and yet he lacks faith. So I asked the young girl, “Who has 100% faith in anything or anyone?” or “who trusts anything or anyone 100%?” and the answer is, “no one on the earth does.”
We don't know we lack faith until our unbelief is revealed. We'll trust Jesus for everything and then something comes along and we suddenly realize, “that's too important to me!” Sometimes we don’t or we won’t realize it; we’ll just freak out trying to make it happen or we will hole up in a shell.
I asked the young girl, “How can this change?” (“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”) We can do what the man did in Mark 9:24.
1) Recognize that Jesus IS Lord. Lord = Owner, supreme in authority. When HE brings His authority to bear anything can happen. Whatever it is in His kingdom that needs doing...HE CAN.
2) Cry out to Him for help! (“Help my unbelief!”) When that turtle is stuck there, so long as his head is in the shell, he has no idea what's up. He is at the mercy of his self-induced blindness; but if he peeks out he can see.
When we are holed up in ourselves we can't see anything, but Jesus sees us. We can cry out to Him, while in the shell, and He asks us, “what ya doing in that shell?” and we reply
“I have some unbelief!” or, in other words, “I didn't think You could save me this time so I locked myself away.”
Then Jesus asks us, “What ya want to do about that?” and we usually reply, “I want You to make the danger go away!” and I think He would say, “If the danger didn't suit My purposes for you.... I wouldn't have let it come in the first place.”
Then Jesus asks us, “so, what ya want to do about that?” and He is patient to let us go through this discussion over and over if need be until one day Jesus asks us, “what ya want to do about that?” and we cry out, “help me in my unbelief!”
When the man in Mark 9 said that, Jesus did something.
“When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!’ Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” (Mark 9:25-27)
What exactly did Jesus do? In the simple sense He took care of the problem and that brought the man to Him. It didn't just bring the man to Jesus, but additionally, it brought the man to a place where he could be confronted with the fact that he both had faith in Jesus and he lacked faith in Jesus.
THAT was the man's real problem. It was a problem in his soul and that's always more important (in God's eyes) than a physical or earthly problem. Therefore, what Jesus did was something that was designed to address THAT problem; He expanded the man's understanding of the fact that Jesus is worthy of our faith and trust.
The freedom from demons was secondary to the real issue and the man participated in this by calling upon the Lord, by being honest about his lack of faith and by crying out for Jesus to deal with that. This is important for us to see. We are all like that man: we trust Jesus and yet we don't trust Jesus.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:3-6)
God will complete what He started in us when we were first saved! Is that not great news? Not only that but He will be in that process, and we with Him, until we are face to face with Jesus.
Paul goes on:
“Just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” (Philippians 1:7)
Finally, we are all partakers of the same grace. We all need it and we all get it!
Father God, thank You for building us and for building us in such a way that we will try everything in our power to protect ourselves, sometimes to the point of shutting down - holing up inside ourselves like a turtle who is afraid. Thank you that You reach down...and lift us up and save us. We confess that we do these things because we are imperfect and because although we do have faith in You we also lack faith in You.
Father, help us in our unbelief! Complete us! Constantly reveal to us what You have always and forever seen in us so that we might cry out to our Lord Jesus to help us, help us, help us. We want to be whole. We want our faith to increase. We want YOUR faith to flow through us in an ever-increasing way. Reveal those things in us that quench Your faith through us so that we might surrender them to You.
Thank You for loving us and accepting us however much or little faith we have.
I offer this prayer to You on our behalf in the empowering name of Jesus. Amen!
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© May 31, 2006
(For use with permission)