30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness Day 12 –Sovereignty of God

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Maybe your greatest sorrow is also your greatest deliverance.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Last month I wrote about a hope I discovered when I was going through the greatest suffering of my life. I call this hope – Hope Reinvented – because my view of hope has been forever altered. One of the biggest sources of comfort to me was God’s sovereignty while I was on the hunt for deliverance and a scrap of hope.

The sovereignty of God is not just comforting because He knows everything, but because He sees everything and weaves all our moments together into a perfect masterpiece. How He manages to take the most painful pieces and carve them into a thing of beauty just blows my mind. I am forever grateful that God can take our wounds and use them in our lives for good.

Instead of despair, the very moment of our debilitating hardship becomes a place of worship at the feet of our sovereign God Who is LORD over all.

maybe-your-greatest-sorrow

Lord, thank You for giving us just a glimpse of Your greatness. Oh how much we thank You for being Who You are – Holy, perfect, Omniscient, Omnipresent, I cannot fully describe You – but I rest in Your sovereignty with delight in my heart.

Day 1: Salvation is Here

salvation

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Hope would be meaningless if we did not have a living God Who makes and fulfills His promises.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Peter 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Ever feel like salvation looks a little different than what you had hoped for? I mean, if we are on the Jesus team now, life should be unicorns and roses without the thorns, right? Or maybe you haven’t accepted the free gift of salvation yet because you are not sure you can hope in one more thing that will possibly let you down.

Seriously, life can send us some hard times and it is not enough to quote some nice sounding sayings to get us through it all. Our hope in God can begin to falter when we pray and we pray and circumstances don’t change. Where is God when life hurts? Why doesn’t He choose to end our pain sometimes?

It seems wrong to question, but in all honesty, the only path to healing and finding genuine hope is to walk through the door of pain and seek to understand the heart of God in it all.

It is in the moment of our angst and grief that we find more than comfort in God’s Word and His presence. We discover a purpose and a hope far less superficial than the quest for a perfectly pain-free life, and God surprises us with a living hope in Him.

If you have ever wondered where God was when you discovered the most horrific, painful truth that shattered your life and family, or your home was foreclosed, or when you suffer with multiple illnesses, or your marriage ends in divorce or your pregnancy ends in miscarriage . . . the list goes on and on with the disappointments life can bring . . . you are not alone. I’ve wondered, too, when I walked through all of the things I just mentioned. But that wondering has been transformed into a wonder at how awesome God is – even when life hurts.

Religiously saying He is there or won’t give us more than we can handle doesn’t cut it when the sky is falling. He is not just there when we suffer – He chose the suffering we seek to avoid – because He loves us so much. When He chose to be rejected by men, spat upon and to bear our punishment, the Bible says He had joy. He endured His suffering knowing firmly the hope He had. In His immense suffering, He knew what He was accomplishing in that suffering – the salvation of many.

So it is with us. When we suffer and long for our deliverance, long for just a glimmer of hope again, God is accomplishing something far greater than relief from our temporary pain. He is changing our hope and making us into His image, but He also gives grace in our time of need.

To be human is to hope – to hope and believe in an ultimate good end. God uniquely made us with a craving for hope and something more than we see around us. This is not ingratitude, but a longing placed there by a sovereign God, who knew we needed to be people of Hope to live worthy lives.

He does not tell us to hope and then crush our dreams. Hope would be meaningless if we did not have a living God Who makes and fulfills His promises. Hope is an overused word that can lose its meaning, unless we begin to look deeper into what this hope is really like that God has for us.

The Scripture above says that when we are saved we are saved into a living hope. Not just a concept, nor a thing to strive for – this hope is alive and given to us. Our hope is alive because our Savior is alive. This does not mean the removal of pain or sorrow, but it does mean He will rescue us. It might be a mighty deliverance that brings Him glory or it might mean an awesome testimony of His enablement throughout. The irony of God’s salvation is that God does not always save us from our troubles, but He often saves us through our troubles.

Some of the most amazing men of God in the Bible died, never having seen their hope fulfilled, yet their hope was certain. Their hope was beyond the grave and eternal.

When we feel without hope, it is in that moment that our hope is in the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong – it is not wrong to hope to see the goodness of God in the land of the living – the Psalmist echoed the same heart cry – but when our hope is in Him alone, we are no longer disappointed.

There is an awe that God will somehow use the mess to bless and also glorify Himself. He promises to. Instead of hoping I will no longer have to suffer, I now hope that I can honor God in every situation that arises.

During one of the greatest sorrows of my life, I was crying out to God and asking Him why He let someone else’s sins destroy my life and why I was suffering consequences for their sins. “I wasn’t angry when I bore your sins” was the answer. God forgive me. I had forgotten about His glory and felt forgotten by my loving Father, when He was inviting me to get hope and strength from Him in the midst of the fire.

On the day God drew me to Himself, I was saved from eternal suffering, but my circumstances did not change. I was submerged into a litany of newfound persecution, but my heart was full of hope. This is the mystery of a supernatural hope – it does not depend on anything this world has, but is firmly anchored in God alone.

This hope is anchored in a future salvation that is yet to be fully revealed. It is not anchored in a problem-free, perfect life on earth.

As we explore this hope together, the verse above reminds us that this salvation is a living hope. Our salvation is a constant hope that we look to and can depend on. It never fades, it is certain. It is a relationship with the God Who made us.

One last promise to keep us going – Jesus is interceding for us. He knows we get discouraged. He will not fail us and will restore our hope if we will just hang on to His word and promises.

Hebrews 7:25: “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

Thoughtful Thursday: Whose Fault Is It?

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Proverbs 11:5-6

“The righteousness of the blameless will make straight their way, but the wicked person will fall by his own wickedness.  The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the faithless will be captured by their own desires.”

Proverbs 12:12, 21

“The wicked person desires a stronghold, but the righteous root endures.  21 The righteous do not encounter any harm, but the wicked are filled with calamity.”

Genesis 4:7

“Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.”

Romans 6:12-13

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.”

James 1:15

“Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.”

Jeremiah 19:5

“They have built places here for worship of the god Baal so that they could sacrifice their children as burnt offerings to him in the fire. Such sacrifices are something I never commanded them to make! They are something I never told them to do! Indeed, such a thing never even entered my mind!”

Proverbs 19:3

“A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.”


Daily we bear the sins of one another as well as our own.  In vanity we scramble to attempt to cover our shortcomings, but underneath is the same intent and heart.  In all the stress of our messy lives, a sinless Lamb covered all of the sins of the world and yet our hearts somehow still can blame Him.

Every day sin captivates mankind and every day the consequences of those sins are born and the blame is cast.  Sin ravages our souls and is often permitted to do so by the very ones whose lives it wreaks havoc upon.

A sane mind would not seek to suffer purposely, yet that is exactly what we do when we give in to sin’s deception.  God’s laws still stand whether or not we pay heed to them.  Like gravity, our decisions will affect the course of our life and the weight of sin will be felt, much like the joy experienced from the fruit of obedience.

God hates sin.  He hates what it does to us.  Our flesh hates the rules and boundaries set, thinking we are being deprived. All the while God wants to spare us from the spreading cancer which threatens to steal our joy and imprison us.

Time and time again throughout history God’s people are lured away by sin’s promises deceitfully dressed up in an attractive array.  There is nothing new underneath the sun.  How is it we cannot recognize the same strategies of the enemy and refrain from indulging our flesh?  Especially when we have seen in history the effects of sin on this weary world?

Deception.  Lust of the flesh.  Distrust.  Rebellion.  Self-reliance.  If in the moment of temptation we cry out to God, He will provide the grace and strength we need to overcome.  But all too often we don’t.  He makes a way out and we rationalize that our way seems better.  Or maybe we doubt God’s goodness or His ways and choose to be our own God.

While the prevalence of sin in our culture can be discouraging, there is still hope.  We can stop blaming others or God and put no confidence in our flesh.  We can turn away from sin and ask God to help us recognize it for what it is.  We are left without an excuse, but God forgives us anyway.  What kind of grace would choose to bear our blame?  Selfless, Holy grace – from the Only One Who can grant it.

Lord, help us to recognize sin in our lives and to turn away from it, the enemy of our souls.  Thank You for Your gracious covering and for setting us free!

Worshipful Wednesday: The Fruit of Patience in God Alone

Patience

Psalm 62:1-2, 5-9

1b  “For God alone I patiently wait; he is the one who delivers me. 2 He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. 5 Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For he is the one who gives me confidence. 6 He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended. 7 God delivers me and exalts me; God is my strong protector and my shelter. 8 Trust in him at all times, you people! Pour out your hearts before him! God is our shelter! (Selah) 9 Men are nothing but a mere breath; human beings are unreliable. When they are weighed in the scales, all of them together are lighter than air.”

Our flesh does not want to wait.  It does not want to be inconvenienced.  It wants what it wants, when it wants it.  It is a well known phrase that we should not pray for patience, but pray or not, we will all be tested to see if we possess this attribute. Patience is hard, but truly a trait of a virtuous person. It is the ability to endure hardship or suffering with humility.  It is the setting of our will to look to God alone.  It is not merely surviving.  It is not thinking that we deserve better, but recognizing that we all suffer in this life and that our dependence on God is what will strengthen us and enable us through whatever life brings.

The Psalmist knew that waiting on God alone was where His deliverance lay.  David knew where his help came from – only One.  How often we run to other sources for comfort or an escape, only to find we are worse off than we were before. Vices and substitutes can never fulfill us like God can.  They can temporarily provide relief, but deep down our soul cries out for more.

Patience is needed during the trials of life but the reward for patience is well worth it.  Eternal rewards are certain, but God also grants us encouragements on this earth.  To be able to have confidence despite our circumstances is supernatural. To have peace when everything around us ignites fear is nothing short of astounding.  That is the heritage of those who patiently run to God for the answer to every dilemma.

Our hope is not found in an entity or a person, which both fail.  The sovereign God Who knows all is the only real hope we have.  How amazing that the God Who we insulted and sinned against delivers us and exalts us when we come to Him.  We are not worthy of such a reward, and yet He lavishes His love and kindness upon us.

The fruit of patience is beautiful in its full bloom.  It is not patience for patience sake.  It is a deep trust in God and gratitude in the face of harsh reality.  It is rest in the wake of any storm.  Considering what we truly deserve, we learn contentment through suffering.  We can acknowledge that the ugly side of life has usefulness for patiently producing righteousness in all who do not harden their heart with bitterness, but instead look to God in faith – waiting on Him alone.

Lord, help us to go to You alone while we are in the waiting room of life.  You are our hope, our ever-present joy.  In a sea of uncertainty, You are our firm anchor.  Help us to see where we are impatient.  Grant us patience in all walks of life and a quiet trust in You.

Weapons of Warfare

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covenantpromises.org

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“For though we live as human beingswe do not wage war according to human standards4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weaponsbut are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments  5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient,  25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

It is difficult to live in this body of flesh and live for the LORD.  Fatigue and worldliness creep in easily if we are not watchful. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false perspective that being Christian is to be “nice” and flexible, tolerant of everyone and everything.  I can become disillusioned when I think salvation is equated to being loved by all and living a trouble-free life.

While we are called to love everyone, that does not mean we should expect reciprocation.  It also does not mean that we ought to condone sinful lifestyles or give in to the philosophies of this world.  Paul, who had previously zealously persecuted Christians, was a fighter.  He knew that to be faithful to God meant to be vigilant with our thoughts, faithful to seek God and spread His word.  He recognized that this Christian walk is a battle and he armed himself for the task at hand.

But we all do not have personalities like Paul.  I confess that I am naturally a shy person and a peacemaker.  I would rather avoid conflict, but sometimes it is necessary.  On one hand, I will not seek it out and waste energy on controversial arguments, but on the other hand, I want to be ready at all times to give an answer when someone is truly seeking.

Timothy strikes me as a more gentle soul, wanting to shepherd those around him, but equally as faithful to disseminate the word of God.  I love his heart to keep what really matters in perspective – winning one precious soul with gentle correction. It wasn’t about being right, but about caring for the other person enough to be unpopular with them while the truth was lovingly shared.

We have all perhaps seen hostile arguments over faith and even tearing down of fellow believers because their style or personality was different.  We might have even done so ourselves.  These are not the weapons we are to use as believers. Pride and vanity can cloud our view and cause us to see things from a merely human point-of-view, but love can clear the fog.  Not the world’s definition of love, but God’s Agape, unconditional love, which speaks the truth completely in love.

Boldness from God consumes me and causes me to see my need of God and to fulfill the calling He has on my life.  I just want to be faithful.  Sometimes we can be about the work of God and suddenly find ourselves under attack.  (Which, by the way, should not surprise us, but being that my short term memory is lessened a great deal, I am surprised every time).

Even fellow believers can nip at our heels and judge the work we are doing in the LORD.  What weapons should be use in our arsenal?  Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.  When persecution or judgments arise, they are opportunities to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh; to cry out to God, not man; to read His Word and apply it in our lives.

The stumbling blocks of fear and self-preservation can inhibit us from using the weapons God prescribes for use in spiritual battle and from trusting in God to fight for us.  He is our Deliverer and able to accomplish far more than we ever could with our human tools.  His weapons are not of this world and the battles we face are not, either.

Lord, thank you for being our Defender.  Help us to recognize that every we battle we face in this life is a spiritual encounter, not a physical, fleshly one.  You have overcome all!  Help us to use the weapons You have given us, that many will be saved and healed.

The Higher Goal of God’s Deliverance

1 Samuel 1:10

“She was very upset as she prayed to the LORD, and she was weeping uncontrollably.”

1 Samuel 2:1-3, 9

1 Hannah prayed, “My heart rejoices in the Lordmy horn is exalted high because of the Lord.  I loudly denounce my enemiesfor I am happy that you delivered me. 2 No one is holy like the Lord!  There is no one other than you!  There is no rock like our God!  3 Don’t keep speaking so arrogantly, letting proud talk come out of your mouth!  For the Lord is a God who knows; he evaluates what people do. 9 He watches over his holy ones, but the wicked are made speechless in the darknessfor it is not by one’s own strength that one prevails.”

Each day, I am amazed how God speaks to just what I need to hear.  This blog is written directly out of my devotion time, which is from a bible-in-a-year plan.  Yet in God’s sovereignty, He uses right where I am at in His Word to speak to me. What an awesome God.

Hannah’s story has always been special to me.  God sees our longings, but fulfills them in accordance with His will and timing.  Her response is so humble and surrendered to God.  In the face of a rival mocking her for her perceived inferiority because she could not bear children, she cried out to her God.

Don’t we all not measure up somehow, in someone else’s eyes?  Hannah suffered from the onslaught of minimizing, but it was not so much her concern for Penninah’s opinion.  She did not get involved with the small-minded desire to be esteemed by others or to have what others had for vanity’s sake.  No, she longed to be a mom.  The pain and shame of not being able to bear children stemmed from her innate, God-given role as a woman.  God honored this desire.

The sting of a longing unfulfilled can paralyze us if we let it.  But in this beautiful moment of Hannah’s submission to God’s will, she wipes away her tears and trusts in God.  When God granted her request, she praised Him and then gave back this cherished gift to her God.  Our tendency as humans is to want to hold onto God’s provision, but Hannah knew that Samuel, her precious son, was God’s and not hers.  Ultimately, her desire to honor God brought about more blessing for her and five more children.

More than victory over those who would demean her, Hannah had a joy in her relationship with her LORD and had gained something even more precious – character.  Humility gained from other people’s judgment is a reward, too.  It teaches us perspective and guards us from living to please man and reminds us that none of us are without fault.

Overly being concerned with man’s affronts is not righteous.  Jesus modeled this heart of humility when false accusations were hurled at Him and He is the only One in whom there was not a hint of truth in his enemy’s rants.  He was spat upon and murdered and responded by praying on behalf of those who wished Him harm.

Letting go of the idol of currying man’s favor is a beautiful place of peace and freedom.  Hannah was not trying to be glorified by man or be the best at anything.  She was not concerned with other people’s perception of her, and when Penninah’s judgment hurt, she ran to her Father – and He heard.

Man’s opinion is insignificant in the scope of eternity, but our response reveals pride and insecurities or trust and surrender to God.  Hannah chose the latter and glorified God, not herself.  We can, too.  Her “ladder” was leaned against God, not the culture.  Her greatest goal was not being right or triumphing over her enemies, but in glorifying God and being found in Him.

Lord, help us to be in the world and not of it.  May we care more about pleasing you than anything or anyone else.

The Goal of Selflessness

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Photo Credits:
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Genesis 44:33-34

“So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave instead of the boy. As for the boy, let him go back with his brothers.  For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father’s pain.”

Philippians 2:4

“Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”

2 Corinthians 6:3

“We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

What a beautiful picture this is of selflessness.  Although Judah had spared his brother’s life before by suggesting they sell Joseph into slavery rather than killing him, Judah had finally seen that his former jealousy hurt others.  He had robbed his father of a son and was now willing to take the place of another brother, rather than see his father suffer anymore.

Jealousy is an ugly thing.  Striving for favor instead of being content with what God has provided is prideful.  Condemning others as if we hold the one correct view is sinful, yet we do this even in the body of Christ.  Why?  Self preservation. Defending self when we have been unfairly judged is understandable, but is it really the highest goal?  I know, I know. More death to self.  Ugh.  I feel it, too.

Don’t worry – dying to self does not mean we do not matter.  Biblically, we are to be concerned about our own lives, as well, but not myopically focused on self alone.  Deference hurts, especially when you have been wronged, but ultimately not one of us is always in the right.  Seeking God’s glory in the matter is paramount and helps to clear up our vision.

As we all want to have people believe the best in us, so must we extend this grace.  The church is a place where people should not be condemned for being imperfect, for we would all be condemned then.  As Christians, we cannot think that we are better than our fellow brother or sister.  No, we are all in the trenches side by side, working out character and sharing the Gospel.  Instead, humility and grace lived out and generously bestowed is demonstrated by loving one another in the face of rejection and hurt.  God help us to do so.

This weary world always has some new drama to unfold; someone who is not happy with you, or someone wanting “our” position.  But when we see everything we have as not ours in the first place, we have no need to defend self or hang onto anything.  Since we are hidden in Christ, He is our Defender and ultimately the harm others do to us is not to us at all.

Lord, help us to seek the best for others and favor them above ourselves.  May we be sensitive about Your Name being glorified by how we live and not as sensitive about ours.  Everything You have given us to do is about You. 

The Devil’s in the Details

Judges 8:22-27

22 The men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us – you, your son, and your grandson. For you have delivered us from Midian’s power.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 Gideon continued, “I would like to make one request. Each of you give me an earring from the plunder you have taken.” (The Midianites had gold earrings because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 They said, “We are happy to give you earrings.” So they spread out a garment, and each one threw an earring from his plunder onto it.26 The total weight of the gold earrings he requested came to seventeen hundred gold shekels. This was in addition to the crescent-shaped ornaments, jewelry, purple clothing worn by the Midianite kings, and the necklaces on the camels. 27 Gideon used all this to make an ephod, which he put in his hometown of Ophrah. All the Israelites prostituted themselves to it by worshiping it there. It became a snare to Gideon and his family.

When presented with people wanting to hail him as their king and leader, Gideon did not crave power – instead, he wanted God alone to rule His people.  God had led Gideon successfully to defeat the Midianites (Ishmael’s descendants).  15,000 Midianite men against 300 Israelites, armed with trumpets, clay pots and torches.  A God like that was the only One Gideon wanted to lead His people.  He rightly knew that he was not the one who led God’s people – God was.  Gideon followed God and was blessed for this obedience.

I love the humility of Gideon here, and yet, directly after he professed so beautifully that God alone was the true King, he stumbled.  Right after seeing an amazing deliverance where God told him ahead of time about His deliverance and fulfilled it, Gideon got sidetracked.  A little decision to make a simple relic destroyed his pure devotion and the devotion of ALL the Israelites to their living, One true God.  How sad.

An ephod was not necessarily sinful; in fact, historically it was part of the high priest’s garment, which had a breastpiece overlaid, containing the Urim and the Thummim, used for obtaining oracles from the LORD.  This ephod designed by Gideon, however, was not made in the same manner or with the same elements.  It was not used as a priestly garment, but was instead used as an item of worship, kept in Gideon’s own home.  Gideon had been insecure about whether or not God would use him in the past.  I wonder if Gideon considered seeking divination from a relic instead?

Even more striking to consider is the crescent-shaped ornaments that Gideon was enamored by.  These ornaments are a foreshadowing of modern-day Islamic iconic symbols, reminding us of Sarah and Abraham’s choice to take matters into their own hands, when they tried to bring about God’s promise through Ishmael. That one decision, made in a sea of right decisions, is the very source of the catastrophic attacks on God’s people today, played out on the world stage.  Think about that.

God help us to consider not just the vast decisions that lay before us, but the small ones, too.  The failure of a saint does not always have to be a big glaring sin.  It is often in the subtle, hidden places where our enemy lurks to see if we are paying attention.  May we care about motives and diligently seek God to walk blamelessly before Him.  Those who follow behind us will be impacted, too.  Will we surrender over every aspect of our lives to obedience to God, or hold back a portion that seems insignificant?

Lord, thank you for revealing our sins, that we might confess them to You!  Thank You for your mighty deliverance.  Help us to not take Your salvation for granted and to be aware of the enemy’s tactics, seeking You in all things.

Thoughtful Thursday: Debunking Positive Thinking & other Escapes

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Job 9:25, 27-28

25My days are swifter than a runner, they speed by without seeing happiness27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaintI will change my expression and be cheerful,’ 28 I dread all my sufferings, for I know that you do not hold me blameless. 

Job 10:8-9, 15

8Your hands have shaped me and made me, but now you destroy me completely9 Remember that you have made me as with the claywill you return me to dust?  15 If I am guiltywoe to me, and if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head; I am full of shame, and satiated with my affliction.

Job 8:21

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughterand your lips with gladness.”

Psalm 27:13

“Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the LORD’s favor in the land of the living?”

Life can deal some painful blows that do not make sense and cannot be rationalized by our human perspective.  Well-meaning people can try to either hyper-spiritualize our situation or prescribe the power of positive thinking dogma.  Others might even try to pin your current demise on the possibility of your own sin being the cause.  These solutions do not bring us out of our pain, they only serve to multiply our sufferings.

Be honest about the struggle.  It is not fun – in fact, it is often heartbreaking.  A good attitude is a great approach, and seeing things through the lens of faith a necessity, but we cannot just resort to positive thinking as our solution.  A good profession of faith in God, yes, but not just merely saying positive words or self talk which are not grounded in Scripture. Pretending won’t work, either.  Religion, too, is not our Savior.  Using Scripture or numbly trying to manipulate the results we want is also not effective and ultimately trying to bypass the heart surgery God wants to perform on our character.

We don’t like being examined so ruthlessly, put through such prodding; we would rather worship God in our comfort zone. But Christ is in the dark valleys with us.  It is there that we fellowship with Him and realize our perspective was focused on self and our deliverance – being free from the trial at hand.  Deliverance is given, but not the kind we were seeking – escaping pain or the end of hardship.  No, instead we receive the priceless gift of deliverance from self and a right focus of bringing God glory in all of the many testings life brings.

Sometimes when calamity visits our home or our life, if we are honest, we admit that the trial can create a doubting of God. He let it in.  We thought He loved us, and our definition of love evidently meant that no hardship would be allowed to encroach upon our lives.  Instead, the medicine God provides is His counsel, His comfort and His presence.  This happiness does not mean all is well.  It is choosing to trust God and delight in Him, choosing to place our hope in Him when sorrows abound.

There is a sweetness in surrendering and trusting in God when it appears that He slays us.  The profession of Job in the book of Job 13:15 was such a surrender.  Instead of looking to escape adversity, it is an opportunity that we do not want to waste.  In that place of knowing God is good and knowing that He has covered all of our sins, we begin to see that temporary hardship is not the final judgment – it is just a passing through and a refinement which will pale in comparison to the sweetest moment of all, when we are with Him for all eternity.

Lord, we are but flesh and cannot comprehend how anything good could come from pain.  Give us Your eyes and understanding.  Give us faith when life hurts.  You are our sufficiency and with us always.  Thank you, God!

Worshipful Wednesday: Christmas Countdown Day 3 – Victory over Depression during Christmas

Photo Credits scottegbert.com

Photo Credits
scottegbert.com

Psalm 124:1

“If the Lord had not been on our side”— let Israel say this!— if the Lord had not been on our side, when men attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive, when their anger raged against us. The water would have overpowered us; the current would have overwhelmed us.  The raging water would have overwhelmed us. The Lord deserves praise, for he did not hand us over as prey to their teeth. We escaped with our lives, like a bird from a hunter’s snare. The snare broke, and we escaped. Our deliverer is the Lordthe Creator of heaven and earth.”

Christmas can be a difficult time for many.  The celebration of Christmas does not deliver what we hoped.  Painful memories echo in our minds of family members who left us or harmed us.  Thoughts of what should have been or could have been – regrets and dreads can loom large and steal our joy.  Maybe you do not even want to read this or dare to hope that there could actually be real joy at Christmas – keep reading.  The world offers many solutions for this emptiness of our soul. Entertainment, satisfying the flesh, avoiding the pain.  God’s prescription is quite different – feel the pain in all of our humanity, but come to Him, Who can heal our souls.  It is not a “just be happy” or just “choose to be happy” solution, but it is a choice to come to God and a real answer in the face of real pain.

On Wednesdays I always read from the book of Psalms.  A songwriter myself, I cherish David’s songs – a heart cry to His LORD. If anyone understands what it is to have emotional torment, it is David.  He could have been diagnosed with many labels in his day – PTSD, panic and anxiety disorders, even depression.  He said as much in many of the Psalms.  But He was looking to One who he knew would resolve the battle within.  David demonstrated again and again what looking to God for help would do – give hope and peace – even joy again.

That is what Christ does for us.  He offers us hope through His trustworthy promises and deliverance.  Christ understands suffering, too, and when we look to the Christ child this Christmas, we see a God Who is our Master, but Who also walks beside us.  He chooses to call us friend – we are friends with a King!  Now a King can grant any request – so it is with our God.  Happiness at Christmas or any other time is not based on getting what we want, but on being content with what God has allowed.  We can trust Him and He can bring real lasting joy more than a day ever could.

Pain is real – what do we do with it?  The pain may not be absent and scars might last the rest of our days, but there is a healing balm in Jerusalem found in an infant Who changes our heart, understanding and perspective.  The compassion gained through our pain is a beautiful gift we lay at the feet of our baby King, and He is pleased.  May we lay down our idols as gifts much like Frankincense, gold and Myrrh, of what we wanted from life and Christmas and humbly accept the gift of life that God has given us.  This is when joy enters our soul and we are relieved of the burden we have been holding onto. Give it all to Him and ask Him to help deliver you.  He will do it and His grace is sufficient to all who call on His Name.  It is going to be a Merry Christmas, after all, friend.

Thank You, LORD, for the amazing gift of your baby Son.  What a treasure, what a delight!  We lay our burdens at Your feet and trust You with all of what life brings our way.  Amen.

#curefordepression