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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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Have you forgotten me, Lord?

But I trust in your unfailing love.
      I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD
      because he is good to me.

This declaration of trust in God sounds like it was written by a committed, devoted, on-fire, unshakeable Christian, right? You know—one of those people who seem to have everything together, everything’s going great, their lives are shining models of what we all think we should be.

Read it again, and notice that first word: But. 

These lines come, instead, from a soul in a dark valley. The preceding verses call out a desperate plea that might awake an echo in our own hearts. The writer of this psalm is going through a painful time of anguish and struggle, and he sees no light at all in the darkness. Everything seems to be going against him, and even in his own heart he is wondering if maybe God is not paying attention. He feels so separated from God that he asks, “Have you forgotten me? Where are you?”

His struggle sounds familiar. We’re battered by hard times, times of doubt, times of loneliness, times of discouragement. We go through dark, dark valleys, and we wonder if all of God’s promises are true. Can I believe Him? Will He really do what He says? Can I depend on Him?

BUT, no matter what we might feel, God says His unfailing love surrounds His children. He cares about the anguish of our souls. He holds us in His hands, and He will not hand us over to the enemy. He will help us and put our feet on solid ground.

Psalm 147:11 says He delights in those who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Even when it feels as though we are lost and alone in the dark valley, if we can say, “I will trust in Your unfailing love. I know You have rescued me,” then we will also come to the place where we can say, “I’ll sing to the LORD, because He is good to me.”

Even in the dark and the pain and the aloneness.

We will trust in your love, Lord!
Spirit, help our unbelief.

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Scripture: Psalm 13:5-6 NLT

Afraid of the future?

“The outlook is so gloomy…” he admitted.

“I’m scared! I’m really scared!” she said.

They were in their mid-sixties, involved in a discussion about getting older and wrangling with medical issues and the health care system. But the comments could possibly be heard in a group of 21-year-olds talking about a bleak job market or 45-year-olds watching plummeting stock numbers or parents sending their twelve-year-old off to junior high.

On a larger scale, those comments can come at any time in a country’s history—during a time of riots and civil war, under a regime of a persecuting tyrant, in the shadow of a threatening cloud of nuclear annihilation, the insanity of terrorism, or—well, just look at the stories on the weather channel these days.

At any point in our lives, we could easily look ahead with anxiety and fear. Or we can listen to the voice of the Creator who made us and loves us with a love beyond any earthly love we’ll ever know. He’s made an eternal covenant with us—do we choose to keep our eyes on the unseen and trust in all the promises and hope He’s given us?

Instead of biting our fingernails over what may lie around the bend, we can clutch more tightly the hand of the One who says, “Don’t be afraid. You are mine, and I am here to help you and will never leave you.”

To whom do we give our ear? Who do we believe? The One who created us and chose us as His beloved children? Or the world who says, “Be afraid. There is no hope”?

Jesus said we will have trouble in this life; that’s a given in this world. But He tells us that He has overcome the world, He’s greater than anything we’ll meet on this earthly plane, everything is under His authority, and everything He has is ours as well.

Whose wisdom do we trust?
Whose truth do we believe?
Where do we look for strength and encouragement?

We must make a choice.

Listen to the One who says, “I have chosen you and will not throw you away.” He gives  reassurance for times of uncertainty, strength for days of weariness, courage for moments of fear.

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Scripture paraphrase from Isaiah 41:8-16

A Confession and Cry for Healing

He suggested it, the boat trip across the lake. It was His idea, even though it was an ordinary move, a simple transition, and we got in the boat without much thought. None of us would have predicted the huge storm that bore down upon us and battered our small vessel so that I was sure we would all drown.

I bailed frantically, but my small efforts were of no effect against the huge waves that broke over us. I was angry with Him. It seemed He did not care that we were in such peril. Or at least, He was doing nothing about it. Did He not understand how fragile our craft against these storms? Of course He can sleep – He is God, what can a storm do to Him? But this storm could have killed some or all of us—why was He asleep and silent at a time like this? If He loves us as He says, why was He letting us drown?

Then, with one word from Him, the storm was over. And I see that once again, I have not done what I long to do. I have failed to live by trusting the Lord God Almighty who loves me.

He didn’t ask me to walk across the water to Him. All He asked was that I trust in His presence, that I rest safe in His love. Yet now, after the storm has calmed, I hear Him say, yet again, “Why were you so afraid? You have so little faith.”

His brother, James, wrote, Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

So now I confess. After all these years with Him, after I have seen with my own eyes proof of His care and provision and love—yet still I doubted. How little my faith. I hear His words and feel my own sorrow.

Lord Jesus! Hear my cry. Heal my unbelief and teach me to rest secure in Your love.

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Believing God’s Promises

Do you ever fantasize about a dream house? Or is there a certain community you’d love to move into? Maybe you’d like to build on a wooded property with a lake or on that hilltop acreage with views for miles?

Just for a moment, let’s pretend that a wealthy benefactor offers you that chance. Money is no object. Build what you what, where you want. The perfect spot and a house that suits you. Whatever you’ve always thought would make you happiest—we’ll make it happen.

The house is finally finished and furnished. The landscaping is done. All’s ready and it’s all yours. When are you going to move in?

Would you be there this afternoon? Or would you start thinking about practicalities—taxes, utilities, upkeep, moving the kids to a new school. Or might you start worrying about the possibility of legal fine print that you have yet to discover—what if it’s not really yours?  Maybe you even start feeling sentimental about that old house you’re crammed into now and wondering if you really want to leave it. Besides, you’ve got a lot on your plate and you aren’t sure when you’ll find time to move …

In the meantime, you look at pictures of the house and think about how great it would be to live there. You savor the satisfaction of knowing that someone has said it belongs to you. Sometimes you drive by and admire the place and determine that you’ll get there … soon. But it never happens.

Does that story seem ridiculous?  Read this story–

Then the LORD said, “I will pardon them … But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the LORD’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it.” (Numbers 14:20-23)

The children of Israel have seen God’s mighty hand at work in their lives; He saved them from a hopeless slavery and destroyed the Egyptians who pursued them. He forgave their many and recurring sins—even idolatry—and did not rejected them as His children. He was leading them to a land they would call their own, a good place where He would bless them.

But now as they’re poised to enter the land God has promised them, they react in fear and distress when ten of their spies come back and predict problems ahead. And because they listen to the voices of men and do not listen to God’s voice and believe His promises, He declares they will never set foot in the land He wanted to give them. They have treated Him with contempt. They’ll wander and die in the wilderness, within sight of a promise that will never be fulfilled!

As we read the stories now, we can be pretty hard on the Israelites… with manna appearing every morning and miracle after miracle providing for them and that cloud and pillar of fire constantly with them – how could they doubt God’s care and protection and promises?

Yet we do the same thing. We forget all He has already done for us, and we don’t believe His words to us. Even though He has forgiven our sins, if our hearts will not trust Him, we can never live in the land He’s promised us. It’s very much like never moving into that dream house. Our lives here will never be what the Creator wants to give His children.

God says, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me’ (Psalm 95:10). I believe this is not talking about those who reject God, but about those who call Him Savior but will not trust Him in daily life. Their hearts are not centered and anchored to God.

I see this as a matter of focus.
Do our eyes focus on what’s going on in the world or on what God is doing in our lives?
Are we tuned into what human thinking promotes or are we listening to what God is saying?
Do we build our bridges to tomorrow and lay our stepping stones to the future on the groundwork of worldly logic and practicality or do we move ahead by building on the foundation of God’s promises?

Have we turned our hearts away from Him? Have we treated God with contempt?

The same phrase is used in Jeremiah 17, the very descriptive passage that contrasts two ways of living:

This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the LORD.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited and salty land.”

Turning our hearts away from the LORD lands us in a barren wilderness with no hope for the future. Believing Him and trusting His promises, Peter writes, is what enables us to escape that wilderness and actually enter into the life God has promised us (2 Peter 1:4). The next verses in Jeremiah 17 describe the secure and fruitful life of those who put all their hope and confidence in God. Where is my heart, my hope, my confidence?

If I put my faith journey into a very simple timeline it would be this: First, I believed being a Christian was all about what I did—I must live up to God’s standards. Then, I learned through painful lessons that we can never be good enough and it’s only God’s grace that makes us His children. And now, I’m concentrating on living my inheritance, believing and living the promises God gives His children. I want to know all those promises. I want to move into that house He’s promised me. I have no desire to wander in the wilderness with His promises unfulfilled.

I believe it’s a matter of turning my heart. Where does my heart turn? May it always turn to God’s promises and His unfailing love and care.

 Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the LORD our maker,
for He is our God.
We are the people He watches over,
the flock under His care.
If only you would listen to His voice today!
Psalm 95:6-7

If only we would listen to His voice today!

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