Discouraged. Waiting. Trusting. Rescued.

It was a tough week. A wandering and wondering week. Many battles between the old nature and the Spirit. Doubts. Debates. Turmoil.

The Dragon of Discouragement had breathed his fire all week, but by Saturday he tired of threats and stood ready to devour me whole. The last post on Eternity that I had planned … never took shape.

Sounds gloomy, I know. Don’t stop reading here, though.

*****

I find comfort in the Psalms. Not only do they remind me of the goodness and unfailing love of God, they also depict writers who are so much like I am—seeking God with all their heart, yet sometimes so utterly paralyzed or sabotaged by human weakness. Many of the prayers in the Psalms I can make my own.

Somewhere I had read that Psalm 40 was “the writer’s psalm.” But it’s also the social worker’s psalm, the bookkeeper’s psalm, the taxi driver’s psalm, the care giver’s psalm, the teacher’s psalm, the mother’s psalm, the father’s psalm, the friend’s psalm ….

So on Sunday morning I went to Psalm 40.

Every now and then, the Scriptures absolutely startle me. Yesterday, that happened again.

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair …  (Psalm 40:1-2a)

And I heard the word again, “Wait.”

*****

Have you ever heard someone describing an experience when the Lord’s direction came to them as clearly as if someone had actually spoken? One woman told me once, “It was as clear as if I’d heard a voice saying…”

The closest I’ve come to that was a number of years ago, also during a time of questions and agonizing. Then, the word came clearly: “Wait. See what I have for you. Wait.”

And here, at the beginning of the very psalm I was planning to read as my prayer and cry for help, was the same clear word. Even before my prayer came out, the Word spoke: “Wait patiently for Me.”

 *****

There’s so much more in Psalm 40 that gives us comfort. Verse 3 talks about God giving us a new song, making us hymns of praise for what He’s done. Verse 4 exclaims that there is great joy for those who trust the Lord. Verse 5 looks backward to great things He has already done and forward to His plans for us, “too numerous to list.”

But for the present, for me in that hour, the word was “Wait.”

*****

Now when you wait for something, you expect it, you know it’s coming. Wait for God. Expect His rescue. King David had a whole lot of tough weeks; at times he was even so discouraged or frustrated that he felt God had forgotten him. But he always knew rescue would come. He knew that unshakeable hope is found in only one Person and one Place.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)

Wait quietly? I am much better at stewing and worrying and, really, getting quite carried away with my own fretting.

These words also came, this time from King Jesus: “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (See John 14:1)

There it is in a nutshell. That’s faith. “Trust me.”

He says Trust me when we are all too aware of our humanity, when our old nature rises up and stomps on our best intentions. He says Trust me when we are doubting, when we’re discouraged, when we feel too weak for the battle. He says Trust me when we’re haunted by the past, fretting about the present, or worrying about the future.

“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; and trust me.”

That’s not just a last resort, clinging to a straw when we are desperate. Trusting Him is the ONLY place we can go to live fully the life He died to give us. Trusting Him is the ONE place He wants us to live.

“Just trust me.”

The assurance of my King comes while I wait quietly.

.

Psalm 40: Joys, Wonders, Plans

Every September, we trek to Maine for a week of recreating and renewing ourselves and our friendship. The Maine Ladies have almost a decade of memories tucked away that we sometimes bring out and inspect and admire yet one more time, relishing our treasure.

We are a group of seven. Although we are almost never all together throughout the rest of the year, we keep in touch. We share a spiritual connection and, when any one is missing from the September Maine vacation, we feel as though our body lacks an arm or foot or hand.

The amazing thing about us is that … we are. All agree, this is a combination of ladies that none of us would have ever thought to put together. We come from different towns and varying life circumstances. No two of us attend the same church. Yet, somehow, this group came together, clicked, and endured.

All of us agree, this group is a gift from God to each one of us.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD,
who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols.

O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.

If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.

May I just say AMEN! and stop here?

Oh, the joys of placing myself and my life in the hands of our Father,
     instead of resting my hopes in those who are so sure of their
                   own capabilities, strength and control
    or laying my life on the altar of all those things the world today worships and 
                   adores.

What joys? All the wonders He performs for us. And I could write about the monumental, life-changing miracles like making us new creatures or engineering a new job or healing a heartbreak.  But today, let’s think about the small, too-often overlooked gifts of every day, like friendships, a word of encouragement at just the right time, a rainy day.

I’m still reading Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. It’s a book to be taken in small bites and then digested. To remind herself to look for the daily gifts, she keeps a written, numbered list of all those things for which she is grateful. Her list tells of ordinary things in her farmer’s-wife life, like “nylons without runs” and “kettle whistling for tea on a cold afternoon.” She calls this a list of all the ways God loves her, “the pulse of His love.”

I can make my own list every day:
     a grandchild snuggling close
     music of the rain in the woods
     someone else cleaning up the mess after I cook dinner

These tiny little things that we love season our lives, come as gifts from the heart of our Father. When we start paying attention and offering thanks, we do indeed hear the heartbeat of His love for us.

And what excitement, what security, what peace comes with knowing that God’s plans for us are too numerous to list!

I rest in that, knowing the Lord of the Universe has plans for ME (amazing) and hearing every day the pulse of His love.

 

Scripture: Psalm 40:4-5(NLT)

You can read more of Ann Voskamp’s thoughts on her blog at www.aholyexperience.com.  (Her post today on forgiving your parents is … wow … for every child and every child who has become a parent.)

Psalm 40: In the Pit, Remember

Because I am a writer, part of my job is to study the craft, sharpen my skills, practice, practice, practice. Someone once suggested that Psalm 40 is “the writer’s psalm”, a passage to combat writer’s block, fatigue, burnout, fear of failure, discouragement, lack of courage—everything that writers face in their writing lives.

I’d suggest that it’s also the mother’s psalm, the retiree’s psalm, the factory worker’s psalm, the administrator’s psalm, the bookkeeper’s psalm, the social worker’s psalm, the student’s psalm, the truck driver’s psalm …

David writes for all of us whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. He was, like us, one who trusted in God, who believed and received God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. He was also one who sometimes landed in the mud at the bottom of the pit of despair.

Jeremiah 38 tells the story about the prophet who is doing exactly what God tells him to do, yet he is thrown into a cistern and left to die, because those who don’t like what he’s saying want to silence him. At the bottom of the pit, Jeremiah sinks into mud and will soon starve, unless rescue comes quickly.

And sometimes we’re thrown into the pit and we start sinking into the mud of despair, the mire of discouragement, the muck of … what? Fatigue? Low self-esteem? Guilt? Loneliness? Worry? Temptations? Fill in that last word yourself. What is it that drags you down, holds you captive, and keeps you from walking on solid ground and singing new songs?

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me,
   
and he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
   
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
   
and steadied me as I walked along.

He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the LORD.

Although the writer puts this in the past tense, not all of the muck and mud and mire is behind him. If you read the entire chapter, you’ll see him crying for help yet again. Rescue me! I’ve lost courage! I can’t find my way out!

It’s as though he begins writing to remind himself of what God has done in the past, remembering that God can — and will — pull him out of the pit.

A lesson for us. A lesson for me. God has pulled me out of the mud so many times when I could not free myself, when I could see no escape, when all I could do was cry, “Help! I’m sinking!”  I’m guessing He has rescued you, too. He hears our cries. His love for us is never forgetful or absent.

Not only does He pull us out, He sets our feet on solid ground, steadies us as we go onward, and gifts us with a new song of praise. Out of our times in the pit come new strengths and new thankfulness.

These three verses remind me to remember. Remember what my Lord has done in my life. When I’m in the mud at the bottom of the pit, I must remember. Cry for help and rescue, yes. But do not lose heart, because I know that He hears, He rescues. And then He strengthens and renews!

He brings good things from our hard places, not only for us, but also for others. Many will be amazed. Many will know that only the LORD could have done this. Many will put their trust in Him, too.

I hope when people look at my life they know that only God could do what has been done, what is being done. I do know this—when you share with me stories of your hard times and rescues, you encourage me, my faith is strengthened, I am reminded —

If God is for us, who can be against us ?

Scripture: Psalm 40:1-3 (NLT); Romans 8:31 (NIV)