Celebrate, The Weeping Time is Over

wailing wall“…be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.” -Nehemiah 8:10 (AMP).

If you look at the context of the above Scripture and the time period in which it was written, the Jews had just completed a hard process of reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem that had been torn down for at least 70 years. The whole city, including the beautiful temple constructed by Solomon, had been reduced to ruins by the Nebuchadnezzar in the Babylonian conquest of Judah in 586 BC. The Jews been exiled (or “carried away”) to Babylon, and those who’d been left as stragglers had endured unmentionable atrocities. A huge proportion of those now back within the borders of their homeland hadn’t even been born yet when it had all been destroyed, to remember the grandeur of how things used to be in Jerusalem. Now the wall was back up, and the fact that it went up in a mere 52 days was enough to shake the rumor mill and put the fear of God into their enemies. Jerusalem was back, and it would be restored. And it was known that they had God’s strong arm on their side. So as the people were gathered and the Word of God was being read by Ezra, they just began to weep uncontrollably. Ezra comforted them and told them, “Today is not a day for crying–it’s for rejoicing! Go home and prepare a feast for celebration!”

Sometimes when we have been oppressed for so long, the response we have when the cloud has been lifted is just to weep uncontrollably. It’s like all that time you were having to be strong, putting on a tough act; and once you can relax, the natural reflex is to just begin to cry. I’m like that. I’ll be a rock until a crisis is over then I just turn into a weepy mess.

But for God’s people that day, the reading of the text of the law seemed at first to grieve them–they were reminded of where it all went wrong, the choices they’d made, the God and His blessings they had taken for granted, and the people who were lost along the way.  But then, as they deliberately began prepare for a time of joy, the hope of those Scriptures begin to soak in and they understood that, even with judgment, God’s ultimate plan is for our deliverance. I think that this as the perfect example of putting on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…something that involves choice. See, God was never NOT for them–and He was bringing them full circle because He loved them! And He had just enabled them through supernatural means, good leadership, and favor from unexpected sources, to rebuild what seemed impossible. Yeah, He’s all about that restoration. All things new.  True repentance does indeed take us through a feeling of grief over what we didn’t get right, but it also shifts to rejoicing when we allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us that there’s a chance to move forward.

Reach for the joy of the Lord, at wherever on the timeline of trial you find yourself today. I don’t know if your situation arose from bad choices, or whether you have just been facing one attack of the enemy after another.  Lots of different scenarios can bring us to an emotional pitch-point.  And maybe now that you don’t have to be so strong, you find yourself unable to stop crying. Let it out…and then let it go.  The joy of the Lord is earmarked for you–has your name on it. It’s in reserve for the taking. It will not only empower you, but it is a safe place whose walls hold off the enemy’s attack! Thank the Lord today that He is doing for you what He did for the exiled of His people–He is setting you free, He is sending help from the most unlikely people/sources, He is strengthening you to start all over again, and He is setting you up for safety in His presence.  Why not take a moment, right now, and call those things out specifically in a prayer of thanksgiving?  Thank Him especially for those items on the list that haven’t materialized just yet…they’re on the way.  God wants you. He doesn’t care that you have had years of bad decisions, bad circumstances, bad everything–He wants you to be His “comeback kid” with a testimony that glorifies what He’s done in your life.

Think once more about that 52 days it took to rebuild the wall. It was hard work. Their enemies were interfering. There were grumblings and disagreements among themselves. And it still went up and the gates still got hung and pulled shut and order restored! Right now you are at a potentially pivotal time. What if the answers to your biggest prayers were only 52 days away from coming to pass? Another Old Testament prophet wrote this: “The vision will still happen at the appointed time. It hurries toward its goal. It won’t be a lie. If it’s delayed, wait for it. It will certainly happen. It won’t be late.” (Habakkuk 2:3 NET) Whether your prayer is 52 years, 52 days, or perhaps even 52 minutes from being answered, it will not be too late. God will sustain you and yes, He will even help you to have joy and peace in the place of waiting.

I pray all of you just get saturated today in the joy of the Lord, and that you encapsule yourself in the protection it gives. You can still have that joy even if all hell is breaking loose around you…it’s not governed by your circumstances…it’s existent in SPITE OF them. If you don’t have it, ASK GOD for it! Keep asking until it floods your soul! Now dry your eyes, understand that God’s Word points to a good and expected end for you, and prepare that feast of celebration. Even if you’re just going to have a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, look at it as a celebration meal. The vision hurries to its goal! And you are greatly loved by the God who watches over His Word to perform it!

Release and Renew: Prayers for Those with Heartbreaking Jobs

”I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13 NAS1977)

Be deliberate today in your pursuit of the goodness of God. I speak especially to those in careers where you daily see the ugliest side of humanity, or perhaps the most hopeless-appearing situations. Soldiers, law enforcement, social workers, oncology nurses/doctors, ministers, teachers, counselors, and others–at the end of your day you must find a way to disconnect from the despair, lest you become a casualty instead of a catalyst for healing and hope. You can find that in prayer. At the beginning of your day you have to coat yourself in the hope of the Word to shield yourself from what you’re going to encounter. You might say, “why aren’t you suggesting I pray for the people I encounter instead of myself? This feels so selfish. What about their problems?” I’m writing this today to help keep you strong enough to do the hard work you do. You can’t help others if you wind up taken out by despair. It’s time to gear up because we NEED you doing what you do. Please, stay strong! Take care of your spirit!

Our world is sad. It’s bad out there. There’s so much despair and so many wicked activities taking place. There’s so much sickness and tragedy and cruelty. So many children, elderly, weak, innocent who are preyed upon. So many people operating under demonic influence inflicting pain and suffering on themselves and others. So much ADDICTION.

I’ll be honest. I went through my Twitter feed earlier this morning and the bad news was exhausting. I wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. I honestly thought, “Death’s not such a bad thing…it’ll be a relief to leave this world and go on to heaven!” But then I remembered what Paul said about it being more expedient (needful) that he remain behind to help others instead of going on to be with the Lord. I want heaven. I want to go and be with the Lord and be away from all the madness for all eternity…eventually. But what I really want to do first is effectively hold back the worst of evil by collectively offering up effectual fervent prayer. I want to point others to Jesus and be someone who hammers signposts in the ground of life that show a lost world the direction in which to run to find hope. THE ONLY way I can remain objective is to have God’s Word tattooed on my heart and mind, and to stay close enough to Him to hear His voice. Otherwise I just disappear into the sludge of despair with everyone else who’s given up and is waiting to die.

So for all of you who are so bravely doing the jobs I could not do (or rather, don’t necessarily WANT to do), I just encourage you this morning to cover yourself. Even if you’re already well into your shift, there’s no time like the present to start. Pray with me:

“God, thank You for helping me survive all the situations I encountered yesterday. Your Word says Your mercies are new every morning. Today I receive Your new mercy. Clothe me with salvation, with humility, with strength. Just like the “whole armor of God,” I put on my tactical gear. My head’s covered with salvation. My heart’s covered with righteousness. My tactical belt is truth…I can attach every tool I need to do my job to this truth. My feet are covered with peace. My shield is faith. My defense weaponry is Your Word and Your Spirit! That said, Lord, I’m getting ready to walk into the unknown today. I will encounter messed-up lives. I will meet hurting people. My heart will break over what’s not fair. Use me to make a difference, to be Your light bearer in a dark place. Help me to respond not out of anger, but with great wisdom.

Help me to do my best while I’m on the job and then help me to LET IT GO at the end of the day. Lord, help me not to carry these problems home to my family. I need my family and they need me. Help me to appreciate and be ministered to by the innocence of the home I’ve worked so hard to build and protect.

Keep me safe today, guard me against burnout; help me to strategize with the mind of Christ about how I can use my gifts to bless others and my strengths to help those who are in the place of need. Help me not to lose my sense of compassion nor my sense of duty to minister to the disparaged. I don’t want to be callous or insensitive when someone is needing treated gently. Help me to be just and fair with all people, even those who aren’t just and fair with me. Remind me that I represent YOU and can’t afford to let my words and actions go contrary to Yours. Help me not to think as the world thinks, but as YOU think about situations. Keep me from being jaded. Keep my heart tender even as you keep it from breaking in two at the things which also grieve YOU. In Jesus’ name.”

And at night (or the end of your workday, whenever that is 😉 ):

“Father, thank You for helping me to make it to the conclusion of another day. These burdens I bore all day long, these suffering people I worked with, the situations I can’t necessarily fix with an easy button…these worries and cares all want to come home with me. The memories want to invade my ability to wind down, to hear my spouse and children’s conversations, to keep me from the place of prayer and the much needed place of recharging and sleep.

But just like a set of coveralls, I choose to unzip the activities of the day and I step out of them. What I couldn’t fix today, I will deal with tomorrow, but for now I let it go. I’m not God–You are. I trust You to put things on hold, to keep the people I can’t help 24/7, to send others alongside to help, and to keep this world spinning on its axis for another day. In Jesus’ name I reject the effects of constant exposure to negative forces. I will not cope with frustration and sorrow by engaging in substance abuse or destructive relationships. I will seek out things that keep my heart pure and guileless, I will freely laugh at every possible opportunity, and I will give mindful thanks for the simple blessings You afford me, like a beautiful sunrise or the giggles of a small child.

I boldly declare that the helmet of salvation will keep my mind and protect me from becoming a walking case of PTSD. You are strengthening me, You are renewing my mind, You are restoring my innocence, and You ARE my joy, my strength. I will run to You and not be so “tough.” You’re the One I run to when I’m out of my league. It’s ok for me to be vulnerable in Your presence because You heal me and help me. I plead the blood of Jesus now to wash me clean, to cleanse the portals of my mind from what I need to let go of. Thanks now for blessing my family time, my worship time, my downtime and strengthening me to fight another day. I love You and trust You. Amen”

Repentance: Don’t Hide–HEAL

Don’t let the enemy guilt you out of your #destiny. If you have sinned or otherwise failed or fallen short, repent. Yes, I know there’s seemingly nothing profound in that advice, but it’s still true. I didn’t say resign; I said #repent.

#Repentance isn’t just being sorry for something you’ve done (or in some cases, haven’t done), it’s evaluating where you went wrong and making the necessary corrections to keep it from happening again: a change of heart and action. Maybe you’ve done something or allowed something and it’s wrinkled the fender of your reputation and distanced you from God. Maybe you’re just disappointed in yourself and it’s easier to bail than to humbly start all over. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to HIDE. And may I even say, the more we are respected and admired, the harder it feels to get back up when we stumble because the accuser wants our shame to be very public.

Yeah, Satan’s goal is to take us out and damage as many people as he can in the process…but friends, when we’ve taken a faceplant, the world needs to SEE us recover, even if a few folks (and particularly some who are supposed to be on our “side”) hurl a few insult-and-accusation stones as we are picking ourselves up. Sometimes we privately recover, but truthfully, sometimes what we resolve to just do in private enables us to wallow a little longer in the mess–and kept hidden, sometimes we fix it, but sometimes we just choose to stay broken. Don’t stay in that place. It’s a rat’s nest.

There may be shame in failure but there’s no shame in turning to God to fix us when we have failed. Last night before I went to sleep, this verse went through my mind and I just meditated on it as I drifted off: “So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free from the law that brings sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NCV) The KJV says there’s “therefore now no condemnation.”

Because of our trust in the redemptive power of the cross, we can machete our way through the choking, dense growth of sin’s effect on our lives and emerge back onto the right path intact. Paul realized the possibility of preaching to others but himself becoming a castaway–so he held himself accountable. So should we.

It’s just where we are. Sharing the good news is relatively easy. Being the “living epistle read of every man” part, not so much. The best thing to do is to keep ourselves holy, on guard, prayed-up, free from bondages. It’s a lot easier to maintain than to break down and repair. But if you are reading this from the cave where you went to hide after your embarrassing fall, please know there is HOPE for you. Sure, there’ll be a few who would remind you of your inadequacy, but there is a whole host of witnesses crying out just beyond your earshot, “Get up! Try! Finish! Keep going! You’re almost home!” There’s a Father checking out the window, pacing in the roadway, wanting to put a ring on your stinky, stained hand and restore you with full privilege instead of demoting you from sonship to servitude.

I remember once when I was still in school, one of my schoolmates wound up getting badly burned when he threw gasoline on a bonfire. The kid was ashamed/afraid to tell his parents because it was a foolish act of disobedience, messing with fire and flammables; and because he hid the terrible burn under his clothing without getting help, the burn got badly infected and became a serious, dangerous problem much worse than a parent’s chastisement for disobeying. No doubt the scars are still on that leg, decades later. We hide our burns too, sometimes, don’t we?

Peter had to repent when he fell. Yep, one of “the three amigos” whom Jesus kept privy to His most important missions actually betrayed Him in a most contemptible way when things got too dangerous. But Jesus WANTED him back. He even said to him, “when you’re restored, strengthen the others.” See, your recovery is never just about you. Jesus didn’t choose to just gloss it over and strengthen them Himself in Peter’s absence; He in essence told Peter, “YOU do it.” There’s going to be a visible restoration of the part of you that needs healed, friend, and the people who’ve been let down by your absence are also going to be strengthened…by YOU. It is this action that will bring you full circle and it will keep you accountable in the future because of its humbling quality.

As much as it feels to the contrary, you aren’t expendable. God needs you on that front line. Replacing you is not His ultimate will — redeeming you, however, IS! He saw in ages past where a you-shaped piece of the puzzle needed to go, and He created you to fit exactly right there in the big picture. He doesn’t have a bunch of spare you’s just lying around in case you malfunction! Repentance says you are willing to let Him rebuild you to keep doing what He created you to do. And sometimes, we need rebuilt not only because of our sins, but also even from just being battle-weary, worn-out, and hyperextended. Let Him.

Lay aside what’s holding you back. Phooey on what anyone might say or think, don’t you wallow in condemnation one more day. Your destiny is right where you left it, and Jesus can recalibrate the driving directions from WHEREVER this moment finds you…to make sure you arrive safely. Come home.

Prayer Over the Emotional Health of Those in Christian Leadership

Kneeling man“Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us.” — The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica  (1 Thes. 5:25)

It’s one of the least talked-about issues in the church, because leaders oftentimes feel an obligation to appear stronger than their congregations; yet some of the greatest pastors and Bible figures have had struggles with anxiety and depression! We’re more than a little naive if we think that our leaders are immune to the struggles we ourselves face. I can tell you firsthand, a mature Christian can absolutely suffer emotional issues. Although we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope, we still suffer sorrow and loss, grief, oppression, and we still have to guard our hearts from the attack of an enemy who definitely doesn’t want leaders to be effective.

Look at King David, man after God’s own heart, who often wrote psalms that revealed despair and uncertainty—on the mountain in some of his songs, and hitting rock bottom in human desperation in others. Paul had a recurring or chronic obscure problem of which that he sought earnestly to be relieved. Jonah fell into depression after he’d completed the task to which God had assigned him. Elijah called fire down from heaven in between declaring a 3-year drought and declaring its end; and in the very next chapter, was hit by anxiety and asked God to just let him die. At age 23, Charles Spurgeon was hit with depression so great he nearly didn’t recover. On and on, the list would just continue to grow. My point? We have a completely saved spirit, but we have a soul and body that are still navigating a fallen world. Whether it’s environmental, trauma-induced, hormonal, generational, too-little sleep and exercise and quiet time, or just an attack of the enemy to derail a person—emotional issues can be just as huge a matter for a leader as they are for his/her followers!

So while we certainly need to pray for one another, we also need to know how to pray for ourselves. Our leaders are indeed there for us; but they are human too, and we all can lean too heavily on them at times. They wear many hats and get very little downtime. The person you’re counting on to listen to your problems and get that prayer through may be encountering an inner battle you know nothing of. That person’s spouse may not even have a clue that there’s a private agony of anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion, burnout from packing a burden the size of a church on his or her shoulders. Ask yourself, in whom can your own spiritual leader(s) confide, go to for honest accountability and prayer, and feel comfortable being real? Leaders want to be bulletproof. Many don’t want to reveal their own struggles because the devil wants them to believe they are incompetent leaders if they’re not always on the mountain; that their followers will lose confidence in them or begin to view them as hypocrites! They don’t want to be judged as weak, out of God’s will, or flawed and unfit for service. So today, while I realize many of you are wrestling with depression and emotional issues of your own, could we just turn our attention away from ourselves and pray collectively for the front line leaders, apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers, ministry workers, and intercessors who are oppressed?

Father, You already know our personal struggles and we trust You to finish the work You’ve begun in us. So in this prayer, we turn to the emotional health of our leaders and ask You to bless them and meet them where they are. Oh how they need Your angelic assistance, Lord! You alone know the agony they feel when they’re under pressure and feel they must put on brave masks in front of their constituents. You know the pressure of feeling as if they can never relax or come out from under the burden of other people’s miseries and suffering. You know the guilt they feel when they get weary of late nights and other people’s drama. You know every time they stand behind a lectern or pulpit or a writer’s pen feeling bankrupt—disqualified to help others because they too are wounded and bleeding. You know the very ones who’ve thought of suicide, who might be self-medicating, and who’ve thought of quitting the very ministries You’ve called them to. Lord, intervene! Teach us how to pray for those in authority over us, instead of expecting the prayer relationship to be one-sided!

O God, we pray, send Your ministering spirits to them! Father, we plead the blood of Jesus around our pastors, teachers, elders, public speakers, and believers who serve You as they work in civil government. Bring laughter and lightheartedness to their weary souls. Let a joy bubble up within, a calm and assurance and a FREEDOM, that actually matches the face they put on in front of others. Give them wise answers to the questions they often take to their pillows with them at night, so that they can sleep in peace. Give them opportunities for recreation and fun and keep insisting in that still small voice that they need to take what You’re making available to them! Father, we ask for special confidantes and mentors and accountability partners, for counselors, and for genuine friends for these in leadership. They need people they can “get real” with to talk about and pray about their private struggles, fears, and failures. Finally, Father, help them keep open doors of communication between themselves and YOU; and as You bring healing for their anxieties, and for the depression the enemy tells them they wouldn’t have if they were walking worthy of their vocation.

Father, ease their financial burdens and their family tensions we pray. Whatever issues are bombarding leaders tonight, we pray angels are released to do war in the heavenlies on their behalf. Give them days and nights where not one phone call fetches them away from needed rest or time with family. Intercept delays perpetuated by the enemy to keep them too busy to pray and invest time in study. Send laborers into the harvest so that they’re not doing all the work themselves; place armorbearers around them who will not bail and betray, and assign intercessors who not only pray daily for them, but who are awakened and sensitive to pray “emergency” prayers when that leader is silently suffering. May You keep those (including leaders on every level) in perfect peace whose hearts and minds are steadfast because they trust in You!

And Lord, for every fallen leader who’s given up, succumbed to temptation, walked away, or departed from the faith, we ask that angels and people You assign will go to their aid and help them regain their bearings. Remind them that it’s time to repent, get healed up, and strengthen others after they themselves are restored. Their latter days CAN be greater than their former ones!

Open up ministry centers geared toward the healing of wounded and weary leaders, where they can get help in a nonthreatening environment. Let this be the year when leaders have healed marriages, restored families, and renewed sense of purpose; not just painted-on facades of how they think they’re expected to look. And Lord, help us to cut the faltering a little more slack! Forgive us for not forgiving them their shortcomings, for judging them inappropriately, for speaking evil of them when we should’ve instead been on our knees in intercession.

We rebuke spirits of suicide, doubt and unbelief, pride, lust, delusion, anxiety, depression, fear, lack, mental illness, confusion, and afflicting spirits of every kind who are trying to take out godly people in authority. The Lord rebuke you and break your assignment off God’s chosen! We speak it in Jesus’ name and we release healing and a time of refreshing over the lives of apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, leaders on every level, intercessors, and godly civil servants. May these last days find Your called ones more determined than ever to make it and to bring in the harvest! Seal it, we pray, with good sleep, much laughter, and contagious joy, in Jesus’ name. Thank You, good good Father!

His Name is “Faithful” – El Hanne’eman

el-amanKnow therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.  Deut. 7:9

This is a hard one to articulate correctly, so I pray that I can with great grace. When a #believer says #God never lets us down, never fails us, it can appear to #nonbelievers that we’re delusional or just saying things to justify our #faith. He has never failed me…but to be sure, God has not always met my human expectations; neither has He said ‘yes’ to certain prayers I’ve prayed. He has not always diverted my feet from walking into hard places, or spared me from having to wait; or from having to believe for what I could not already see in the natural. He hasn’t always let me get the promotion, let my team win, or shielded me from false accusation. Some of the not-so-bad things I’ve asked for, I didn’t get. So on the litmus test of the world, my testimony that He never fails seems to not make sense–those who expect that we always get a trophy for participation, that we are never denied, never discriminated against, never left standing alone.

But I am firm in my conviction when I reiterate that my God has most certainly never failed me! I don’t have to make excuses for the times He has said no…for it’s what He’s said YES to that proves that all things work together for good for me and for every believer who’s called according to His purpose. Jesus didn’t come and live a shielded life. He wasn’t some celebrity’s son who served in a safe zone and was then hailed a hero for wearing the uniform of flesh away from the field of front-line combat. He was tested, tested, tested. He was the prototype who was subjected to more hardship than I would ever be, pushed to the point of death, so that I would never have to bear up under more temptation than I could handle without an escape route.

Salvation isn’t a Kevlar jumpsuit that keeps us from getting scraped, burned, uncomfortable here on earth. We were never designed to be so fragile that we couldn’t take being ordinary, frail earthen vessels holding the treasures of a holy God inside of us. It’s not what He spares us FROM that makes us remarkable. It’s how He holds us together in spite of what we encounter. Some of us are cracked and broken and glued back together and His light is shining not out of the top of the vessel, but through all the wounds we’ve encountered. And if I believe anything in the whole 66-book volume called the Bible, I believe Romans 8:28 when it shows that no matter what we encounter, He will not let us go. He will not allow us to not recover. He will somehow make up to us our deficiencies and losses and disappointments. He will give us peace on the worst day of our lives that the world cannot explain, and neither can we. It just IS. His children going through their bitter seasons will have friends coming to bring encouragement, only to go away themselves encouraged by the very ones going through the fire.

And He does all of this for His glory. He will take His children and place them in assignments far beyond their credentials. Oh, they’ll have to plead with Him for wisdom and strength and divine guidance just to pull it off…and He’ll give all of the above. And people will marvel that the worst possible appointee to that assignment just did the best possible job of it, because God was with him or her. He will bring His children through to the other side of inconsolable sorrow. What would destroy anyone else seems to build a resolve in them that contradicts every reason for them to still be able to dredge up a remnant of joy and hope and optimism. And there really is joy. There are abundant blessings and abundant life to be had. There are better outcomes to situations where believers obey a now-word from God on a matter and miss the heartaches that come from wallowing in sin and rebellion. It’s an infinitely better life with Him than without Him here on earth. We’re not even talking eternity yet…life’s better HERE, now, because He lives. His Word is full of truth that causes us to make better decisions that invite honor, favor, blessing…certain advantages we don’t have outside of relationship with Him.

I’ll be honest: I’m a path-of-least-resistance kind of gal. I would be thrilled if the path God chose for me had no speed bumps on it. I don’t like confrontation, or dealing with people or circumstances that vex me and get on my nerves. I don’t like failure and I certainly don’t like burying my loved ones. Truth is, I’m going to encounter every type of situation that a nonbeliever encounters (aside from some circumstantial consequences, like getting shot while robbing a bank of course). I’ll have bad days and wake up grouchy or depressed. I’ll have to confront what makes me scared. I’ll be the one not chosen. I’ll be misunderstood. Someone will be prejudiced toward me or just not like the way I fix my hair. I’ll have the choice every day of my life to either push through or give up. And when I make bad decisions, I’ll have to live with what comes of them.

However, what I have that a nonbeliever doesn’t is HELP. I’ll face those exact same life encounters as anyone else, but I will not be alone. He will whisper to me when I have negative feelings. He will bring to my remembrance His promises, and reward my faith for embracing and believing them. He will supernaturally stretch my finances when I put Him first, so that not only am I able to meet my own needs, I’ll be able to do something to bless someone else, too. He will heal my body if I’m sick or injured. Sometimes He’ll just bless me for no good reason, too! And when I ask something and put full faith on what His Word has said in that matter, He really does say yes! At a time when I’ve been my worst, expecting a rightfully disapproving hand of judgment, He will extend mercy and just lavish me with love and totally unexpected favor. Though it appears to some that I’m an underachiever (and occasionally an undeserving winner), He will never let me ultimately be a loser. He will mix my tears, my losses, my disappointments, my frailties together with my praise and my prayers on His altar of incense and will ultimately cause me to emerge whole and shining–His trophy. His trophies aren’t flawless, by the way. You can see every scar on our bark where we’ve lived to fight another day. That’s what makes us trophies.

So, half a century into this journey of life, I’m still here. If you’re reading this, so are you. Every fracture in my framework has grown back stronger for having trusted in the God who fails me not. So I am not basing my joy on whether today and tomorrow rack up nothing but wins for me. He’s got the scorecard…and though I look to be irrecoverably down, He has a plan to emerge me a champion; a survivor. He won’t let go of me. He won’t wad me up in the wastebasket of life. My life is so much richer for having put my trust in Him for most of that life. I doubtless would have been destroyed long ago if He hadn’t had good plans for hope and a future for me.

The Old Testament passage above calls God (in Hebrew) “El Hanne’eman” or “El Aman”–Faithful God.  (Sound a little like Immanuel, God with Us?)  For a life that has no ups and downs, there’s little need for faith and faithfulness.  Speaks clearly to me, then, that in good times and bad, God is with us.  Will you consider allowing Him into your life as well? I can’t promise you’ll never have another bad, sick, or lonely day again, but I can promise you that if you put your hand in His, He will never let go.

Lord, our El Hanne’eman, reveal to us what it really means to be in relationship with You. There are a million flowery prayers out there that use Christian-ese words which mean little to someone who’s never darkened a church door. I am asking You to reveal Yourself to those who don’t have a concept of what a “personal Savior” is. Reveal Yourself to the ones who’d just be grateful to have a helper and a friend. Meet them where they are. Put someone in their path who can help them know You better. Reveal Yourself to them so they can say yes to a relationship with You. Extend some sign of Your mercy in their lives today that causes a light to come on where they say, “Hey, maybe there really IS a God after all.” In times when they acknowledge You, cause them to be flooded with such a noticeable peace that, whenever there’s an absence of that peace, they know that they truly need You in order to maintain it. Help their desperation. Hear their cries even when they’re throbbing with addictions from which they aren’t sure they want to be delivered. And while knowing You will never whisk them away from having to sometimes wait and believe for answers to prayer, let them know that You will hear every single one they pray; and that You will hold onto them while You work a solution that will be for their ultimate good.

All the times aren’t always good, but all the time You are always good. Thank You that, through the good, the bad, and the ugly, I’m still here and I’m still Yours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Curing Chronic Unhappiness–One Day at a Time

despair-257x300Lord, deliver us from the #stronghold of chronic discontentment and #unhappiness.

Many of us are in an emotional limbo–counting on some future circumstance to unlock happiness in our lives. If only I could win the lottery, I would be happy. When I get old enough to leave home, I’ll be happy. If I could just lose weight or get a hair transplant, retire, find love, have a baby, travel, move out of this town, get a better job, get healed.

If only. Hope deferred and many sick hearts. So we rationalize that it’s ok to be unhappy now since we could possibly be happy later. But oh, that nagging question: if I ever get what I say will make me happy...will it? Or when I get there, will I find that I’m still discontent with my life? At what point do I cross the line from having a cryogenically-frozen hope into a place of being irredeemably miserable? What if I’m unable to even BE happy?

Boy, I just struck a nerve! Because unlike the diet and exercise and estate planning we rationalize that we’ll do “tomorrow,” this hits home on a deeper level. For sanity’s sake, there must be some point when we stop living out of our spiritual suitcases and emotional moving crates and say, “You know, I choose to be happy today. Right now in the middle of all this chaos and the things so desperately wrong and incomplete, I’m going to break out that bottle of bubbly I’ve been reserving and celebrate.” Bottle of bubbly? Yes, the dusty,”bubbly” happiness with the vintage label on it that we bought somewhere long ago, thinking we might store it away for a more deserving occasion.

Today might feel like a hollow occasion for celebration. There might actually appear to be no good reason to smile or be thankful. What if I break the seal on that happiness only to find out it’s not all that I’d hoped for?  Why shatter the fantasy?  Or, what if I wind up just wasting happiness on the place I’m in, and I never take steps to go after the things I feel I must have in order to feel complete? Isn’t it better to keep happiness in its display case and maintain the illusion that I can have a perfect circumstance eventually?

No.

Choose to be happy NOW. Now, at the worst possible time, while nothing’s going the way you it to.  While frustration is suffocating you and your circumstances make you feel claustrophobic, trapped. Choose happiness now, not because IT has an expiration date, but because YOU do. And whether you are someone whose face flashes neon discontentment, or one of the untold millions who bury their unhappiness deep behind a facade of pretending they’re fine…fine…I’m FINE…I pray that your cover is now blown and that you are forced to deal with the elephant in the room. Before you reach the end of life and find that, all along, there was enough happiness allotted to spread out over a lifetime if you’d only chosen it.

Pray with me: Father, this may be one of the most important prayers I pray, next to my salvation! I need You to help me with this issue, this spiritual virus of discontentment. It’s been with me for so long now, it’s become part of me and I don’t know how to detach from it. Save me! Not just my soul, my spirit, but please save my emotional well-being. Fix what’s broken in me that’s forgotten how to just be happy. Forgive me for allowing my surroundings to choke out my thankfulness.

Jesus came to give me abundant life, not an existence on autopilot. This chronic lack of happiness is a cancer and I need Your Word to surgically cut it out of me. Please, wash me clean! Your Word says Your mercies are new every morning. It’s been a long night. Day is breaking and I reach to You for that new mercy. I’ll need it today. Teach me to think on the good and pleasant things. Help me to meditate on Your promises. Forgive my backslidings.

David prayed to You to create in him a clean heart, to renew a right spirit, and he asked for Your Spirit and mercy not to be separated from him…and then he asked You to restore the joy of Your salvation. Lord, I ask for no less. Fill me with Your Spirit, and with Your joy. Give me unspeakable, glorious joy that trumps even the “happiness card.”  Your joy will get me through days when I don’t particularly feel happy. In reality, I may be in these circumstances for a while longer…your joy will undergird my choice to be happy even though things aren’t ideal just yet.

I trade up now. I’m swapping this feeling of heaviness for a garment of praise. I’ve been wearing black for far too long now. Please, hand me the loudest, most colorful, least circumstance-appropriate jacket on the rack! Until it comes natural, I will keep confessing happiness and wait for circumstances to line up with my confession.

I say this (whether or not I “feel” it):

Today is a good day. It’s Your gift to me, God. I will find the good in it. I will find the reasons to laugh and give thanks even if I have to write them down! I will stop putting my life on hold. Today, while it appears I’m still in debt, still sick, still lonely, still unfulfilled in my station of life, or still in some circumstance I’d rather not be in, I choose to be happy. While changing a flat or being stuck in traffic or in a smelly doctor’s office or the unemployment line, I choose to be happy. Though someone is betraying me, I choose to be happy. Though someone discriminates against or disrespects or mocks me, I choose to be happy. Though the devil tells me that my life will always be this bad (he lies), I choose to be happy. I will stop putting on fake happiness that people sometimes put on to make everyone think life is perfect–I choose to REALLY be happy.

I will stop saying “if only.” I will go into this day fully expecting and behaving as if everything in it is the best I’ve ever had. As I thank You, my gas station burrito becomes a feast. My mid-lot parking space is so much better than the one all the way out on the far end. And as I trust You, I receive Your peace to let go of hurts, to forgive, to release. I stop punishing myself for not measuring up and I will be happy now, though far from who I want to be. I can be happy later too; but until I get there, I will be happy while I work toward a better set of circumstances. I will be happy even though I’m needing more sleep and more money; though my knee is hurting or my kids all have the stomach flu or my neighbor’s dog won’t stop tearing open my garbage. I’m still alive; it’s not to late to make the best of what I’ve got, and be happy while I do it. It doesn’t mean I’m “settling” for less; I’m settling for MORE because I’m going to be happy now AND later, too!

Happiness (or, “hope-iness,” this first cousin of hope) is one of Your new mercies, Lord! I don’t need enough to last me a lifetime all in one day; I just need enough to last me for today. Like daily bread. There’s more tomorrow but I don’t have to wait till tomorrow for today’s portion. Those things I long for, You already know about. I put them in Your hands…but for right now, I’m no longer waiting till I get them to be happy. In Jesus’ name, today changes everything about how I view my life and my future. Thank You for helping me get it right. If I slip, hold me to this decision to be happy! Never again let me settle for hope deferred, Lord.

Cast Down, But Not Destroyed

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This is Dana and me, pictured just doing what we’d loved ever since 2001.  We logged thousands of miles on motorcycle rides and long road trips. Who knew that one seemingly uneventful night in October 2010, just miles from our home, it would all take such a frightening tumble?

 

 

In commemoration of God sparing our life on a cold October night, I’m expanding a little devotional I wrote in April 2011.  Most of what’s in here is taken from the piece, “Trust and You Won’t Be Crushed.”

It was just at the edge of dusk, 6 years ago this evening, when I woke up to find that I was lying flat on my back on the cold pavement. I remembered seeing the dog run out in front of our motorcycle; and I remembered us bracing and hitting it, then it was like being tumbled in a dark clothes dryer. There hadn’t even been time to be scared, much less avoid the impact. How long had I been unconscious? Someone had already stood up our motorcycle, and a couple of men were looking through the tour pack for some ID. I could see out the corner of my eye that Dana was lying about 10 feet away from me, but I couldn’t hear him speak and I couldn’t see if he was moving. People standing over us were saying things that indicated to me that we were both bad off.

At first I couldn’t even talk, and it was so hard to breathe—I suppose from having had the wind knocked out of me. My helmet was shattered. Later I would find that I had a basal skull fracture as well as a fractured bone in my neck. I vaguely remember a woman holding my helmet and talking about how messed up it was. Someone commented that my head was bleeding. I wanted to get to Dana but I couldn’t raise up; and they were trying to keep me still so they could put me on a backboard. My arm was twisted over my head and I thought it was dislocated, but was told later that the shoulder was broken in two places. In the midst of the confusion and the excruciating pain, reality began to set in about what had just happened.  The loud noise of onlookers and emergency workers was making me more and more uncomfortable as I struggled to get someone to tell me whether my husband was ok.  A couple knelt on the ground and asked if they could pray with me; and as they prayed, the Holy Spirit rose up inside me and I began to pray loudly in Him.  It sounded like an authoritative voice not my own was declaring boundaries around the two of us!  As the noise of urgency began to subside in His presence, I could hear, quite clearly, the Lord whisper just one word to me…“COVENANT.” And in that moment, I knew exactly what He meant. I began to cry and say, “Thank you, God, for rebuking the devourer for our sakes!” A peace I can’t even begin to describe rested on me, one that would get me through the longest night of my life.

I’m told for a little while at the first hospital, Dana was conscious, and he was giving them fits; wanting to come and get me and take me home.  We were airlifted, one at a time, from Williamson Memorial to St. Mary’s.  I begged the paramedics to elevate my head.  I felt like I would absolutely smother to death flat on my back, and would feel that way for the remainder of the night.  No one would move me though, for fear of a spinal cord injury.  I was more afraid of suffocating than I was of being badly hurt.  Once at St. Mary’s, my stepson Coby held my hand and coached me to breathe in sync with him while they repositioned my broken shoulder.  The only relief I had from the discomfort was to occasionally lose consciousness.  Then, as I lay on a gurney in the hallway, waiting to go into a CT scan, a doctor came up and with no expression whatsoever, told me, “Your husband is unconscious and has a serious brain injury. His brain has begun to swell. We’ll do what we can.” With that, she turned and left. I had to make up my mind right then and there…am I going to trust God or am I going to collapse under a weight of fear? I chose to trust God, and that’s exactly what I called out to her back as she was walking away.

For just a little while, they wheeled me into a holding room with Dana. He was lying there, eyes closed, not moving.  I reached my fingers through the bars on our gurneys, gripped his hand, and prayed for him. Looking back now, I wonder whether the doctors might have thought he was going to die, and they were giving me a chance to say goodbye. But I spoke to him this Scripture which came to my remembrance, before they wheeled us in two different directions, “(You) shall live and not die, to declare the works of the Lord.” (Psalm 118:17) 

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Dana, lying near death and comatose for 17 days after our accident. Swollen almost beyond recognition, he had multiple brain bleeds, and fractures throughout his body, and had developed the deadly condition called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. This picture was a couple of weeks into the ordeal…I couldn’t bring myself to photograph him at first, and wouldn’t again for at least another month.

That was a long first night in the hospital.  Eventually, by the wee hours of dawn, I felt like I could breathe again, but I would have to watch for the next several weeks as a machine did the breathing for Dana.  Angels on assignment kept vigil over him, as did family and friends around the clock for the first nearly three weeks.  I was too sick and injured to sit up with him for the first week or so, even though I stayed nearby and spent as much time as I could in his room.

There are those times when we have to choose to believe, or be crushed under the weight of despair. And there are times when we can’t just think it or hope it…we have to hear ourselves say it—I CHOOSE TO BELIEVE.  I learned to say it out loud, and often, beginning that first night.  I stood on the Word and quoted Scripture as I stood in the gap, and prayed day and night over my husband.  When anxious or despairing thoughts tried to do war internally in my soul, I smiled on the outside in front of others; and I would privately share my sorrows and fears with Jesus.  I bet some folks thought I’d knocked my brains out on that pavement, when I’d counter the negative news with what God’s Word says… but I really didn’t care.  This was a battle for my husband’s very life.  The Holy Spirit cautioned me to set a watch on my lips.  Had I allowed myself to give voice to fear or unbelief, my actions would have followed.  Sometimes I actually wanted to let my vulnerability show, to cry on someone’s shoulder, but the Lord made me brave in the face of a lonely secret:  my words were declaring what I didn’t always feel in the natural!  Faith does it even when we are scared, friends.  And God proved faithful.  When pneumonia and infections came, He kept Dana from succumbing.  When acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) threatened to cause his lungs, one of which had already been collapsed, to just deteriorate and stop working altogether, God was there.  When Dana lay so long with his eyes partially open that the whites turned into what looked like pink sponges, God spared his sight.  Through blood clots, through huge wounds that were left undiscovered and untreated on the back of his head because of the position he had to lie in, through an unbelievably high fever that could have cooked his already-damaged brain, God kept him.  And when they had to bring the crash cart as he came out from surgery for being trached, God did not let him die.  When I had to sign consent for them to give him a special paralytic drug that totally disabled his functions so that his body would stop fighting the respirator, God gave me peace that He would keep Dana alive.  So many miracles that came, so much blessed assurance just in the nick of time.  I still marvel over how the Lord preserved my husband through the next six weeks without a bite to eat or even a sip of water in his parched throat and mouth.  He was tube-fed and intravenously hydrated all that time.

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Dana had to go 43 days with nothing by mouth. In this picture, he had not yet gained the ability to swallow and had to be fed through a tube in his stomach. We still had about 5 weeks to go before we could leave the hospital, and then another 5 months before we could move back into our own house.

When Dana regained consciousness in the second hospital, he couldn’t speak, but because he made eye contact with us and seemed to understand us when we talked to him, we assumed he was ok; however, when at last they capped his trach and he was able to speak,  it became apparent that the head injury was affecting his personality and his cognizance significantly.  He was hallucinating, saying things out of character, behaving not like himself.  I didn’t recognize the man inside the man; and I thank the Holy Spirit for holding onto me and numbing the pain of uncertainty of how long Dana would be this stranger.  His behavior begin to grow worse just as we moved him to the rehab hospital, and the brain injury made him very combative and angry and hard to handle.  Because he only slept for very short periods of time, so did I.  He acted at times like he despised me, but would go into an anxiety mode if I even left to step into the restroom.  He couldn’t even walk yet without a walker and a person or two at his elbows; but one night managed to get out of bed and wobble around on that walker, swearing he was going to find the exit and go home…in 6 inches of snow.  I had to lie to him (forgive me, Lord!) and tell him they bolted the exits from the outside after visiting hours were over…it was the only way to settle him down and make him go back to his bed!  At one point, the hallucinations were so bad, he even thought he was married to two different women at the same time–me and me.  He told me, “She’s good to me, but YOU are the one I love.”  Folks, this wasn’t a cake walk.  At times it has been downright scary and it took every ounce of faith I could muster.  If God hadn’t held us in His hand, we couldn’t have made it.  I only share these very private memories with you because I want you to understand what God’s brought us from, and how He kept bad situations from spiraling completely out of control. I knew from the start that there were ways this situation could’ve been infinitely worse…yet the Lord was merciful.

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Learning to stand—and walk—again. It was at times a very hard process.

The Word and our prayer partners kept me together as I stayed for nearly three months either right there with him or close by.  I only left Huntington to come home a few times to catch up my work, to get clean clothes, pay bills, etc., then right back to the hospital.  Until he was able to be moved to the rehab hospital in December, I’d stayed at a hospitality house. I’d come come home on a Thursday afternoon, work for 24 straight hours on the parts of my job that couldn’t be handled remotely on my laptop; and then Dana’s dad would drive me back (I was in a neck brace and a sling, so I couldn’t drive for quite some time).  At the rehab hospital, I was finally able to move into his room with him.  I just set myself an office up in the corner and kept working! And, friends and family kept driving the nearly two-hour drive to Huntington to those three hospitals. We had a steady stream of visitors.  I’ll never be able to thank them for being there for us…that they even cared this much for us moves me to tears.

On January 21, 2011, Dana was finally released from the hospital.   Even now, he remembers nothing about his hospital stays except for vague little bits the last couple of days or so.  Leaving the hospital was another chapter, and another time when trusting God was critical to survival.  I still was concerned about his healing brain and whether I’d be able to do anything with him if he had another “episode” like the night he tried to leave the hospital!  We weren’t able to go directly home.  We would spend the next four months in his dad’s den–him in a hospital bed and me on a couch beside him, because Dana was still in a wheelchair and walker and couldn’t climb the steps to our house.  He also still had to have his liquids thickened and his solids very soft, to keep from choking on his food from his damaged trachea.  God bless Joe and Thelma for persevering right there with us.  We couldn’t have made it through this without them.  Near the end of May, seven long months after our ordeal, we got to sleep in our own bed again for the first time.

Dana spent 82 days in 3 hospitals, and couldn’t even swallow an ice chip for the first 43 days. He lay in the ICU trauma ward for 17 days comatose, and running an insanely high fever for several days. He had multiple fractures, multiple brain bleeds, and a series of serious complications; but when Satan tried to take him out, God drew the line and said, “No.”

Though it’s been at times a physically and emotionally exhausting 6 years for both Dana and me, we have not lost our joy and we have not lost our love for life and one another. God has been so good to us.  We have adjusted to a “new normal,” and part of it is to lighten up a little and find humor in what would otherwise be frustrating or difficult or just…different.  The head injury left Dana’s personality and behaviors a tad changed from before, but mostly in very good ways.  I think of it as “Dana’s personality—on steroids.”  😉   Dana has a childlike, literal faith that God can and will do exactly what He says.  I’ve watched the Lord transform a lukewarm/backslidden man who’d completely stopped serving God before our wreck into a mighty man of God who prays for hours each day, witnesses to others continually, and encourages folks to believe and speak the Word. (I will draw an exception here however, and I would be remiss in leaving this out:  when he had stopped professing faith and attending church before our wreck, he was still diligent to tithe and give.  He would repeatedly tell me on payday:  “Whatever you do, don’t forget to pay tithe and give offerings on my check.  I may not be living right but I won’t rob God!”  Could it be that, in the time where our lives hung in the balance, God honored a man’s tenacity in this small thing????). What God has done and continues to do in Dana’s life, inside and out, is quite miraculous.  We still confess and believe for the areas of restoration that are yet to manifest.  We believe that what still needs to become whole will be whole again– as our friend Cathy had confessed over us repeatedly, “nothing broken, nothing missing, nothing lost.”  We have surely come from a mighty long way.

And God proved to me that He doesn’t leave;  He didn’t leave me and He won’t abandon you, either!  Even on those days when you feel frightened, alone, ashamed of your personal struggles, numb to all emotion or crying uncontrollably, He’s there.  He watches over His Word to perform it.  Our job is to take that Word and keep speaking it over our lives even when there’s no evidence whatsoever yet that it’s doing a bit of good.  We are to speak it even when our hearts are hollow and the words seem to fall to the ground.  The answer will come if you and I will pray and not faint; or if we fall, we keep getting back up as often as it takes.  There were days when I was so overwhelmed that I wished I’d died that night on the pavement, but God restored joy to my life and a stronger faith in His faithfulness!  God helped Dana and me to emerge from a catastrophic situation to become more resolute in our faith, more devoted to one another, and hopefully better people for having persevered during this detour on our journey.

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10/28/2014 – Standing in the approximate area where our bike went down four years earlier. A sobering feeling of gratitude washed over me as we looked around this spot where God spared our lives! Even now when I drive through that area, sometimes emotion wells up inside me as I ponder the goodness and mercy of God.

I’m telling you, friends, you need Jesus. You need Him, your marriage needs Him, your family needs Him to carry you through times like this.  It’s not a matter of if you’ll ever have to go through hard seasons, but when..and when you do, faith in God can preserve your very sanity.  Covenant relationship with God doesn’t mean you’ll never face difficulty. It can, however, mean the difference between you surviving or being mowed down by the enemy.  It will keep you when you go through depression, through loss, through grave uncertainty, through the outright unfair happenings of life in this fallen world; and on the other side of your storm, God will pull out a mysterious parcel and hand back to you.  You will find that you didn’t lose your joy and innocence after all; He’d wrapped it securely in the Holy Spirit’s comfort and kept it from being annihilated by the tribulation of life.

Sooner or later, we all have to face the most difficult time of our lives. Are you prepared? God can keep you from falling apart. I can say that because, six years later, Dana and I are still held together by the duct tape of God’s wonderful, saving grace. Even these fractured pieces form something beautiful…like a prism of glass that scatters light in every direction, testifying that truly, love never fails.

“But the LORD God keeps me from being disgraced. So I refuse to give up, because I know God will never let me down.”  Isaiah 50:7 CEV

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Prayer Confession Over Anxiety

Prayer over anxietyI am sitting down in Your presence, Papa God, spending the night with my Most High God. I am pressing in close to You–close as I can possibly get. I’m Your little shadow–right under Your wing! I say to You, “Abba, You’re my refuge. I trust in You and I’m safe!”

That’s right…and even now, I thank You for rescuing me from hidden traps, shielding me from deadly hazards. Your huge outstretched arms are protecting me— under them I AM perfectly safe; Your arms fend off all harm. YOU LOVE ME AND I’M CERTAIN OF IT!

I will fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows (or bad news, or big bills, or negative doctors’ reports, or money worries, or even family drama) in the daytime. None of these things will cause me to lose my peace and not one ounce of sleep!

I’m not affected by fear of disease that prowls through the darkness, nor of disaster that erupts at high noon. When the enemy does his worst, YOU WILL DO YOUR BEST!  When he tries to flood me with despair, YOU are my floodwall of protection and YOU ARE SHUTTING THE FLOODGATE ON DESPAIR!  I am safe until the torrent subsides.

Even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze me. I am standing untouched, watching it all from a distance, I watch the wicked turn into corpses, watching it on tv news, yet not being a part of it. I DON’T FEAR THAT THOSE SAME THINGS WILL HAPPEN TO ME!

Yes, Papa, because You are my refuge, the High God my very own home, evil can’t get close to me, harm can’t get through the door. You’ve ordered Your angels to guard me wherever I go…and that’s just what they’re doing! Even if I would stumble, they’ll catch me; their job is to keep me from falling. Thank you, Papa God, for having my back (and all the rest of me) covered!

There may be feisty young lions and cunning serpents lying in wait on my pathway, but You’re keeping me safe. I walk safely along just as though they’re not even there…and if they try to attack, You’re empowering me to just kick them out of my path. I will treat them as the nuisance that they are and nothing more. They will not break my spirit and they will not break my stride.

Abba, You’ve said, “If you’ll hold on to Me for dear life, I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call Me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”

Well, that’s just what I’m doing! Thank You for getting me out of trouble, for giving me the best of care as I strive to know and trust You more. Thank You for always answering when I call, for staying right with me through thick and thin. Thank You for rescuing me and then making me feel celebrated and special…because I’m Your child and I know You love me! Thank You for quality of life, a satisfied life, and a perfect salvation which will last me all of eternity.

I am taking a deep breath now and breathing in LIFE. I receive Your Holy Spirit with every breath! I am exhaling and pushing out every negative thought. I expel any thoughts that would crowd my mind from the knowledge that YOU are in control. I clear my soul of any problem that tries to look as tall and strong as my Lord Jesus! Any idea that violates my peace, any thought that would cause me to doubt that YOU are Sovereign, I arrest, handcuff, bind, toss into jail and throw away the key!
In Jesus’ name, anxiety has no more control over my life!

(Adapted into a prayer from Psalm 91:1-16 Message and KJV translations; and also from Isaiah 59:19, John 20:22 and 2 Corinthians 10:5)

Hold Out for Your Eternity

A cloud of sadness has hung heavy the past couple of weeks over our close-knit, rural area.  We’ve seen the death of a teenager, a child, and an infant within days of one another, and it’s painful to hear the stories of families and friends coping with unexpected losses.  I can’t imagine what agony they’re navigating through right now; it’s one of those times when there seems to be so much we should be able to say, and yet the words won’t come.  It’s like that when there are no easy answers.

I’m reminded of several stories in the Bible where parents had to cope with the unthinkable.  A mother, Rizpah, who spent months standing off the wild birds and beasts after her sons were executed to exact vengeance for a broken covenant; a grieving King David, who had fasted and prayed for days that his young son might live…but still had to bury him; Job, who said that the thing he feared most had come upon him when he lost all of his children in a single tragic accident; and finally a mother, Mary, who had to stare up helplessly at her dying Son Who’d been born for the very purpose of giving His life a ransom for many.  To these parents, hope would find its way in time, but as some of you may well know, there’s nothing a mother and father can do but just swim against the riptide of immeasurable sadness when a child is lost.  There’s no detour around the grieving process; and whether your child is 3 months old or 70 years old—when it’s your child—the only thing that comes to mind is “too soon.”

I wish I had the perfect soothing answer to fill the gaping wound left in these families’ lives, but since I’m of only finite wisdom, I’ll keep my answer to this:  sometimes the worst things happen, even to the best of people.  Even to God’s elect.  Does it mean that our Father doesn’t care about us…that He is absent, indifferent, or caught by surprise at our misfortune?

No; on the contrary, God loves us very much.  He isn’t sitting up there playing a cosmic shell game with us.  He does, however, have a timetable that operates quite opposite of our comprehension of time.  We can only see the joys and sorrows that are right in front of us.  He sees eternity past and future.  Before time was, He is.  Somewhere on that timetable, there is a set date which only He knows; and on that date, sin’s lease upon this earth will expire.  Sin set the opportunity in motion for perfect lives to go perfectly wrong.  Bad things happen to even good people, because Adam’s fall forfeited man’s lease of our world.  A serpent’s conniving deceit—and that first couple’s desire to venture outside God’s safe boundaries—set the stage for many tears to follow.  The devil had no dominion over the human race until man chose to take his word over God’s, and it’s been a mess ever since.

Prayer will divert many bad things from our path, but not all.  And just because you or a loved one has just experienced the worst thing that could ever happen, doesn’t mean you did something to cause it.  The disciples in John 9 asked Jesus who had sinned, the blind man or his parents, to cause his illness.  Jesus replied that neither had…but that this was an opportunity for God’s works to be displayed in him.  God didn’t strike this man blind, as some might have supposed;  He would, however, bring glory to Himself through the restoration of what was broken. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but Jesus came to bring life—filled to the brim and overflowing.

Right now you may be going through something for which there is no answer, no consolation.  As you feel your way through the fog of grief and confusion, I encourage you to talk to God.  Cry to Him, even argue at Him, but don’t walk away from Him.  Even if you feel He has allowed something grossly unfair to happen, talk to Him anyway.  Don’t allow the enemy to drive a wedge between you and the Source of hope, because as badly as you hurt, God is still the only one who can heal the hurt.  The “accuser of the brethren” can’t pull the wool over God’s eyes, but he will often try the angle of isolation to separate us from our Father.  If he can get us to harbor unforgiveness toward God, others, or even toward ourselves, he can cause our healing to be delayed indefinitely.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.

When you can’t find rhyme or reason behind any of it—-and yes, life is not always fair, as I’ve well come to know-—remember one word:  eternity.  That same timetable on which the end of sin’s lease is situated has no finish point itself…because there is no end to eternity.  Whatever has failed or gone wrong in this one fallible, short life, He will perfect in the eternity that follows.  He will take the injustices, the tragedies, the losses you’ve encountered, and will work them toward your eventual good, as Romans 8:28 assures us. Some of it He’ll make up to you in this life.  Some of it, He’ll finish in eternity.  Just know that to the believer, we have His assurance that we won’t have to hurt forever. Clutch onto the reality of eternity, and hold on for dear life…it will comfort you when you feel out of your mind with grief.  Right now, my words may offer little solace; they may even anger you. In time, you will be ready to move out of the most painful place of grief and will seek answers.  There will come a day when your soul will be open to reaching for an eternity better than the present circumstance…and when you are ready, you’ll find God’s constant grace right there.  You’ll even look back and see where He had never left your side.

At the end of Job’s nightmare season, God blessed him with twice as much as the enemy had robbed: double the lost material goods, greater measure of health, more sons and daughters.  But the best part is, when at last he got to eternity, and after he got to behold the God Whom he’d refused to deny, he found that those original sons and daughters (remember, those kids on whose behalf he prayed and gave sacrifices to God just in case they committed any wrong) were also waiting on him.  He didn’t lose a thing, because prayers to our Heavenly Father are never wasted.

Revelation 21:4 says everything I couldn’t possibly sum up about the end to sorrow as we know it:  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (NLT) There will come a day, friends, when for those of us who place our hope in Jesus, all the terrible things we’ve suffered in this life will be faint memories overshadowed by the glory of His resurrection power.  Isn’t it mind-boggling to think that sadness, sorrow, mourning will be obsolete emotions in our eternity, upgraded to peace, fullness of joy, and never-ending pleasure?  Hold out for your healing.  Hold out for your eternity.  A better day awaits you, because God IS good.  All the time.

©May 2012 Lisa Crum