Tag Archives: troubles

Psalms 56-61; Praising in the Pit

How do you pray when life seems unbearable? Or do you?

We all know David’s life was hard. I mean, he lived for years in caves, hiding from Saul who pursued him relentlessly in order to kill him. David never knew who he could trust. He was alone and tired, frustrated and discouraged. In 57:4 he describes his life like this:

I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts — men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

But then, in the very next verse David says these words:

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

Is that your experience? Or on those days when you feel like you’re lying among ravenous beasts, do you stop praying and just focus on the beasts? Do you sit in your cave and feel sorry for yourself? Do you watch other people who don’t have your problems and ask yourself, “Why me?”

Why not take a suggestion from David’s example?

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (56:3-4)

O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (59:17)

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (57:10)

You may be in the pit of despair, but God is worthy of praise. Praise Him! You might feel like there is no hope, but God is our hope. Praise Him! You might think you are alone, but God promises to never leave or forsake His children. Praise Him!

Praise Him just because He is, and He deserves it. Then trust Him with the details of your life.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth!

April 18 – Out of the Darkness

Psalms 17, 35, 54, 63

When you read these psalms you can almost hear the sadness in David’s voice. Life is not being fair. He is in despair. His enemies are real and fighting hard to destroy him. For no reason.

But you can also get a sense of the trust David has in God. David is not without hope. You can read about his torment. But listen to his words of faith:

17:15 As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I wake.

35:28 And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness and Your praises all day long.

35:54 Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul. 

And here is the key to what I believe is David’s ability to completely trust God during the worst time of his life, during his darkest hours:

63:1  O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

If you don’t read anything else today, I hope you’ll read Psalm 63. If you are beaten down by the cares of this world, if you are being treated unfairly, if it seems like Satan is winning the war, turn your eyes toward Jesus.

The more you dwell on the problems in your life, the more power they have over you.

Does your soul thirst for God, or for something else? Does your flesh yearn for God? David tells us God’s lovingkindness is better than life itself. Do you believe that?

Allow yourself to rest in the shadow of His wing. Cling to God because His right hand can hold you up through these dark days. You’ll begin to see the light because Jesus tells us HE is the Light of the World. He’s the light of YOUR world.

When you take your eyes off the problem, when you spend time in God’s Word and allow Him to carry you, the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of the Savior’s glory and grace.

My Dear Comforter, I pray for hurting people today. I thank You that You inspired David to write these beautiful psalms that express what many of us are going through thousands of years later. And I thank You that David reminds us that You are able. You are righteous. You have our backs. And when we cling to You, You are able to give us exactly what we need to face today. May hurting people spend time in Your Word today. May they talk to You, the One who loves them to death. And may they allow You to bring them out of the darkness of the situation, into the light of Your Presence. Comfort them. Strengthen them. May we all look to Jesus only today.

Stormy Seas

I’ve never been in a storm at sea. I don’t even want to imagine the fear of being that exposed to danger out there surrounded by water miles deep. I’ve never been in a tropical storm or lived through a tornado. In fact, there have been only a few times I’ve even come close.

But as I read about the terror the passengers and crew experienced in the ship carrying Paul to Rome, I can relate. (Acts 27) Not because I’ve been there, but because I know to an extent, what it’s like to face storms of life.

Getting laid off from my job, Mom’s cancer, financial struggles, my sister’s cancer, my nephew Geoff’s death, Dad’s death. I can’t hold my storms up next to anyone else’s and say mine were harder or that mine were less significant. I only know there have been times that I felt hopeless and lost, when I found it hard to breathe, when fear of the future (or present) caused me sleepless nights.

The account of Paul’s storm at sea reminds me that, no matter how bad the circumstances, no matter how hopeless the future appears, when I am tossed about and can’t find the sun, God is standing next to me.

My only hope is to stay in the boat, holding on to my Savior, riding out the storm together. In this account in the book of Acts, God didn’t calm the storm. But the people on board made it safely to shore. This tells me that my circumstances might not change. The cancer diagnosis might not be a mistake. A broken relationship might not heal. Whatever the cause of my anxiety, depression, fear, might not magically disappear.

But God can see me safely to the other side. I can trust him. And I will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Presence. You are stronger than any storm I have to face. And I find comfort in knowing that… knowing You. I pray for those reading this today who are being bounced around in a frightening storm. I pray your strength, your comfort, your direction will be evident in the midst. I pray they will hold on, that they will trust you to see them through. Thank you in advance for what you are going to do in the lives of those of us who are facing stormy seas.

Why Evil?

Last Sunday, the pastor posed a question in Sunday School: Why is there evil and has it always existed?

I guess to truly understand all the details of the answer to that question, you would have to have the mind of God. Our understanding is limited to what he inspired men to write in Scripture.

Like I Corinthians 15:56. Paul tells us the law gives sin its power. We wouldn’t know what sin was if God hadn’t spelled it out in the law.

We wouldn’t know what light was if it wasn’t for the darkness.

And we wouldn’t know what good was except for evil.

If there was no law, sin would have no power because sin, by definition, is the breaking of the law. But if there was no law, no sin, we wouldn’t know forgiveness, would we? There would be no choice. We would be puppets, robots.

It was important to God that his creation choose him.

Why?

I don’t know, except to say the love someone chooses to demonstrate toward me is precious, personal, more meaningful than if that someone feels obligated or forced. Being made in God’s image, I can only imagine he feels the same.

Dearest Heavenly Father, you are good. You are holy. And I thank you that you have made it possible to choose you. It’s hard to thank you for sin. It’s hard to thank you for sickness, wars, evil. But if it weren’t for those things, I wouldn’t understand what it is that you offer through your Son, Jesus. I wouldn’t appreciate grace. So, Father, I want you to know that I choose you today. I love you because I can. I resist temptation because I can. I deny Satan because I can. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Thank you!

The Show Must Go On

I remember, when Mom was dying of cancer, I would drive to work with a heavy heart. Most mornings I would cry as I talked to God about Mom. But when I got to the stop light a mile from school, I would dry my tears and take a few deep breaths. And before walking into the office, I’d put my hand on the doorknob, breathe again, put a smile on my face, and pray, “God, let’s do this. I need you to go in there with me today.” I didn’t want to be there. I wanted time with Mom. I wanted to be alone in my grief. But I was a middle school counselor, and I had a job to do.

It was hard. And listening to the familiar complaints of 11-year-olds tested my patience like never before. Suzie took my pencil. Billy made fun of me. Nobody likes me. The teacher yelled at me. Even the: Mom grounded me or worse, didn’t separate me from my own pain.

But I loved my job, loved those children, and it wasn’t their fault my mother was dying.

I realized today Jesus knows exactly how I felt. His cousin, John, was murdered. His heart must have hurt like mine did. And he needed to be alone. He needed time to grieve. So he went off to a remote place to be by himself.

But the crowds followed him. They had needs only Jesus could meet. So Jesus put a smile on his face, and preached, and healed their sick.

Did you know the feeding of the 5,000 from five loaves and 2 fish happened in the midst of Jesus’ grief? (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9) He had compassion on those needy, demanding, insensitive people, even when his own heart was broken.

I know some of you are going through hardships of your own. Sickness, finances, relationships can cause us to live with the burden of grief on our shoulders. Yet that doesn’t stop the “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy”, or “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” demands from your children, or the deadlines your boss gives you at work, or the electric from being turned off for lack of payment. Life goes on even when we want it to just stop for one minute.

Jesus knows what that feels like. Jesus shows us by example that sometimes the show must go on. Sometimes we have to choose to let God pick us up and help us meet our responsibilities even if we don’t feel like it.

But here’s something else Jesus teaches by example. He made time to get alone and pray. (Matthew 14:23) He didn’t go off to “find himself”. He spent time talking to God.

That’s where our society might be wrong. It says we’ve got to be happy before we can make someone else happy. Put yourself first and things will get better.

But doesn’t Jesus teach us something different? Didn’t he take “self” out of the picture? Didn’t he place God first, others second, and himself after that? I’m thinking if it worked for him, it probably will work for us, too.

Pray, dear one. Pour yourself out before God, give him yourself and your circumstances. Ask him to empower you to be who he wants you to be in the midst of your pain. Bathe yourself in prayer, then trust God to be exactly what you need him to be. Yes, the show must go on. But you don’t have to go on solo. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you have someone who has been there, to guide you, to strengthen you, and to love you like no one else can.

If we take the world’s advise and concentrate on ourselves, we are concentrating on the wrong person. Concentrate on God. Notice the opportunities he gives you to minister to someone else. Take him up on his offer to never leave or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5-8)

Is that a recipe for a trouble-free life? What do you think?

It is, however, a recipe proven by Jesus himself, to be exactly what we need to face the worse life hands us. And to be victors. And to let others see Jesus in us.

God, I pray for grieving people today. Some have burdens that are breaking them. Father, I pray they will come to you and lay that burden down. Give them strength. Give them purpose. Help them to look to you instead of looking within themselves. And may they find peace from allowing you to be exactly what they need to get through today. May they feel your love right this minute. And may Jesus be seen in and through them as they walk through this storm.

Jesus Gets Me

The birth of Jesus is undoubtedly the second most important event in history, the first being his death on the cross. (Read about his birth in Matthew 1 and Luke 2).

Jesus. God in the flesh. He chose to come into this world as a human, from the fertilized egg inside his mother, to the screaming little baby boy emerging from her body at birth. Did God choose this route to becoming human so he would know how it feels, so that he could experience things to better understand us?

Not a bit. He chose this so that we would believe he gets us. We can go to him and tell him about our financial woes, knowing he gets what it is to grow up poor. We can be assured he knows what physical pain is, what rejection is, what anger and temptation are. He gets me like no one ever could.

The truth is, he could always understand us humans from Adam on. The difference is, after Jesus, we can identify with him.

All of creation, everything about life is about God, created by him and for his pleasure. This one act, Jesus in the flesh, is about us. God loves us that much. And him becoming one of us proves that.

Dearest Jesus, thank you for becoming human and living this life here on earth for 33 years. Thank you for the times you faced the same temptations I face, for the fatigue your body felt, the pain you endured at the hands of those who killed you. Thank you for the times you laughed and cried, for the friendships you developed and for the pain their betrayal caused you.  Thank you for loving me so much you wanted to assure me that you do get me. And ultimately, thank you for dying for me, for offering forgiveness for my sin, and for wanting to be in my life today and forever. I love you.

 

Nothing Is Impossible For God

Nothing is impossible for God. (Mark 1:37) To me, that’s a given. He’s God. He can cause a virgin to be pregnant, and her older cousin to have a baby. He can heal diseases, and soften the hardest heart. He can move mountains if he wants, or dry up the Red Sea.

I know some people claim this verse as a promise. I don’t see it like that. If you read this verse in the context it was written, I don’t think you’ll see it as a promise, either. I just don’t see that God promises to give us what we want if we conjure up the right kind of faith, or “claim” a verse.

The fact that God “can” doesn’t mean that he will. The question isn’t, “what’s in it for me?”, but rather, is what I want able to be used to draw someone to the Savior.

My dad fully believed God was going to heal my mom of her cancer, right up to the second she took her last breath. Her death shocked him.

Could God have healed her? Of course. Nothing is impossible for God. But God, being God, took her to be where he is.

Dad thought Mom’s healing would be an amazing testimony of God’s greatness. Think of the people who would be touched by that miracle! Instead, God chose to reveal himself through the mourning of her family, and our steadfast trust in our Savior in all circumstances.

It would have been easy to praise God for healing Mom. But God did the impossible. He gave us the desire to praise him in our loss.

Yes. Nothing is impossible for God.