At the beginning of this week I shared about my joyful, yet sorrowful Father’s Day. And by the end of the week, I’ve learned of the many sorrows of friends near and far. One dear family received news that could likely change the course of their lives forever. It’s been a tough week for many of you. Life is hard and although for some it may appear easy, we will all undoubtedly experience hardship and trials at some point. There are many thirsty, hurting and needy souls out there. So, where do we run? And whom do we run to? This morning I found myself in Psalm 63; an unlikely place to run to with sorrows, perhaps. But like David in the wilderness, when all seems lost, I want my soul to cling to the One who doesn’t grow faint or weary.
I want to remember that God, even in the midst of pain, difficulties and trials, isn’t far off—He is my God and He is with me. Isn’t it amazing that we can join David and say confidently, “O God, you are my God…” (Psalm 63:1)? In the face of great adversity, I want to remember that this life is but a breath and, while beholding God’s awesome power and glory, I also want to remember that God’s steadfast love truly is better than life (3). Our circumstances may not change, but our soul can be satisfied and lips can sing praises (5). During those anxious, fretful, sleepless nights, we can still call upon the Lord—we can recall that He has been our help (6). And I want to remember that it isn’t me who upholds my faith—rather, as my soul clings to the Lord it is He who upholds me (8).
Weary friend, I pray the Lord meets you in your wilderness. I don’t know all that you are battling through, but our good and loving Father does. May the Lord satisfy you as you remember His steadfast love that endures forever.
If you have a moment, perhaps read over this Psalm and say a word of prayer to our Father. If you have a friend who is carrying your burden with you, maybe today is a good day to pray together.
My Soul Thirsts for You
A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
(Psalm 63 ESV)
I never know exactly when it’s going to hit me, but when it does, it seems to come on like daggers piercing my heart. The recent celebration of Father’s Day was a wonderful time of being grateful for and affirming my husband, the father to our two children and the love of my life. But with every picture shared on social media about my friends’ fathers, I was given a reminder that mine is gone. My father passed away when I was 19. He was my best friend. It’s been many years since his passing but it seems the sorrow, though at times not as strong, never fully goes away. Tragically, my father isn’t the only one my family has lost. I won’t go down the list, but I will say that almost every holiday is a reminder that someone is missing.
Grief and sorrow are the shadows that follow many of us around during holidays. But there’s often something about the holidays that makes you and I think that we must put on a happy face and hide the pain we feel in our hearts. We don’t have to. The pain is real. The sorrow is real. Trials are hard to endure at times. God never once promised the Christian life would be without trials. On the contrary, as it has been said before, all one needs to do is live long enough and surely trials will arrive. So there is no date on the calendar that can take away the sadness of losing a loved one. No magic pill. No man-made celebration.
God can ease our pain and sorrow. God can give us peace. God can remind us of the joys of this life even in the midst of great sorrows. God also sent His Son who reminds us that we don’t suffer alone. Thankfully we have a Savior who relates to our suffering. Jesus is aware of and acquainted with the grief of man. He is acquainted with my grief and your grief. The God-Man endured trials and temptation but is without sin (Heb 4:15). He faced agony to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:44).
On his way to the cross, Jesus sat and prayed to his Father that, if it were God’s will, to take the cup of His wrath away. And yet we know that Jesus willingly followed his Father’s will, drank that cup and he hung on the cross. And in his final moments on the cross, Mark records him saying, “’Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34).
His pain and suffering was for a purpose — the redemption of the world. He endured great pain and wrath, which I can only begin to imagine, on my behalf.
Our Future Hope
However, paradoxical it may seem, I can rejoice in suffering because I know I have a living hope. I know that my hope will bring me to an eternal glory. I will one day rise and be with Christ forever. I can rejoice in suffering today because I know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put me to shame, because God’s love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to me (Rom. 5:3–5).
God has promised us that one day every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 21: 4). The truth of these words and our future hope are some of the greatest comforts to me each holiday. We may not be able to rejoice and celebrate with a fairytale happiness—but we can have real joy. This joy comes from knowing that we await something so much greater than any earthly celebration.
Our hope is in Christ. We rejoice during these earthly trials with a living hope, knowing that nothing — no great trial, no pain or sorrow, and no one — shall separate me from the love of God. The next holiday will come and I will likely have a sting of sadness, but one day I will be able to say:
Death is swallowed up in victory
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
(1 Cor. 15:55).
Fear held a tight grip on my life. It wasn’t just segmented to one area for me — no, the lies and anxiety of fear spread to so many of my relationships and situations. Pause and think about how fear impacts you. What do you fear specifically, and why does that fear have such power in your life? My own struggle with fear is one of the reasons I wrote Fear and Faith. It’s not a book about a woman who has arrived, rather it’s about how I’ve learned to fight for faith. Fear is ultimately rooted in unbelief, that’s why we need faith. So, Fear and Faith is about God—it’s about his goodness, grace, sovereignty, love, wisdom, and protection. And the book is a reminder that there is One strong enough for all your fears.
Is there any real hope for all of our fears? Yes, yes there is! We know that if we confess our sin God is faithful and just to not only forgive us but to also purify us (1 John 1:9). And God will indeed finish the good work He began in us (Phil 1:6). We are not left to flounder alone and we will not be tempted without a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). There’s great hope in fighting against fear and finishing our race.
So, if you struggle with the fear of man, one remedy comes by caring more about what the Lord thinks of you and resting in the knowledge that because of Jesus, He sees only righteousness (Psalm 103:12; 2 Cor. 5:21).
Do you fear you won’t measure up to your standards or the pressures you feel from society or those around you? One remedy to this fear is embracing that we actually don’t measure up, but Jesus does. He is our measure, and He satisfied every failure. When we are weak, He is strong (2 Cor. 12:9).
Or are you feeling guilty because you can’t seem to stop comparing yourself to others? One remedy for comparison is to learn to rejoice. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and ask God for a heart that is content in all circumstances (Phil 4:11). Preach the gospel to your heart and mind as you fight the temptation to compare.
When you look towards to future have you convinced yourself that it would simply be best if you, and not God, were in control? One remedy is to remember the character of God — He is good, sovereign, wise, and loving (Psalm 136:1). Our future is in the hands of a good Father. We can also pray — we don’t have to sit around waiting, we can ask God for good things.
The power of the Spirit can help us fight our fears and God can transform them into faith.
THE FEAR OF THE LORD
Ultimately, we all must grow in the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). The Scriptures tell us that we are to fear the Lord above all things. The fear of the Lord isn’t likely the fear that you might be thinking of. It’s not a fear that calls us to be afraid of God — as if he is a tyrannical monster. If perfect love casts out all fear, than surely that’s not what it means to fear the Lord; we no longer need to fear His punishment (1 John 4:18).
The fear of the Lord is an awe, reverence, and honor of God. The reverence and honor from fearing the Lord not only leads to worship but it also to obedience, obedience that is covered by Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9). It’s an acknowledgement of his holiness, and our response as a result of that holiness is worship. We grow in the fear of Lord by reading His word, praying, and worshiping.
Let’s take all fear and temptations to fear, to the Lord. All of these situations need loving guidance and wisdom from the Lord. Submit your requests to the Lord who provides generously to those who ask. And, above all, grow in your fear of the Lord, and find your strength, peace, and rest in Him.
Special Note: Fear and Faith is on sale right now for only $0.99 in its kindle edition. That’s right, they are practically giving the book away! If you haven’t picked it up, I hope you’ll consider today! (Find it here)
This election season has been one for the books. The results so far have taken many of us by surprise. It’s also brought out fear, anxiety, and a great deal of tension. I am certain that we will experience the effects of this election season for years to come. But what I wonder (and fear) is that our political responses, discussions, and beliefs might do damage to dear relationships. At the end of 2016, will we see carnage from the battle of political ideologies and differing opinions among brothers and sisters in Christ? Will those of us who were united in friendship become enemies as a result? Is it possible that we can disagree and still continue to love one another or is this where our paths diverge from each other?
There are times when dear and God-fearing friends do part ways. We know the story of Paul and Barnabas. After Saul’s conversion, he attempted to join the disciples but because they still feared him and didn’t trust that he was indeed a disciple they distanced themselves (Acts. 9:26). Barnabas, however, took him in and began to share all that Saul had done in the name of Jesus (Acts. 9:27). Barnabas and Saul (also called Paul) began to minister together. They were friends, close friends. But eventually, like we see so often, the two disagreed and parted ways (Acts 15:36-41).
Friends parting ways is not uncommon and may indeed be justified in certain situations. There is wisdom in evaluating our friendships. We do not want to be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). All one needs to do is search the Scriptures to see warning after warning against bad friends (Prov. 16:28; Prov. 22: 24-25; Prov. 13:20, etc.). So, it’s good and right to evaluate friendships and even challenge a friend if he seems to have strayed from the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:11).
But I wonder if more often our actions are selfish and self-righteous. Are we ready to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things this election season (1 Cor. 13:7)? When we open our Internet browsers and see something we disagree with on social media—are we going to assume the absolute worst about our brother or sister? What are we going to do when we learn that our friend voted for someone we completely disagree with? We can indeed challenge each other, but out of love and not hate or anger.
I don’t want to give power where power is not due. This election is not what will divide and destroy us. We will. This election is revealing our hearts and what we believe to be true about God and our fellow man. We must be ready to love and forgive where needed. Whoever is elected won’t care a wit about our local churches and our organizations and our neighbors and whether or not they have been damaged. They won’t know. We will be the ones left to clean up the mess. We will have to stand once again with one another. My prayer is that we’re not left in a wasteland of friendships destroyed.
May I plead with you not to abandon your friend? Engage with them; disagree even, but wait before disowning or running away. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Be that friend. The coming days will undoubtedly be filled with much pain and confusion. My prayer is that we’d be the Church. And that those who look in will know that we are His disciples because of our love for one another (John 13:35). This election season will divide our culture. The Church can reveal something different – the unifying power of the Gospel. This will take the power of God and His Spirit. God can show us, if needed, where we have been tempted to self-righteousness and abandonment. He can and will give us the wisdom and strength to be faithful to one another.
I remember when I became a Christian, the lady who shared the gospel with me told me that she had several friends praying that I would come to know the Lord. And the day I became a Christian, three friends gathered around me and joined me in praying to the Lord for the forgiveness of my sin. I remember meeting with my two girlfriends every other week for several years, sharing about the various trials we were experiencing, the joys of life, and praying each time. I have never been a part of church that didn’t include a small group, therefore I’ve been blessed by weekly or biweekly prayer times with other believers consistently over the past 15 years.
The greatest benefit of prayer, of course, is that we have the privilege to participate in communion with God. But I’m so grateful for those many opportunities I’ve had to speak to God and fellowship with others. That’s why I’d like to invite you to join me in praying this summer. If you need a guide to help you along the way, I’d like to also recommend a new book Praying Together by Megan Hill.
Hill’s book will inform your prayer life. What do I mean by inform, you ask? This isn’t a “how to” book, although she does share practical tips. It is a book filled with biblical explanations, foundations, and examples for why we pray. In her own words, “And so this book about praying together must begin with the foundational reality that prayer is an activity of relationship: God and us, God and God, all of us and our God.”[i] We are invited to pray together because “In praying together, we nurture our relationship with other Christians, uniting our hearts even as we unite our voices (Acts 4:24).”[ii] I have found this to be true in my life.
The good news about praying together is it doesn’t have to be complicated. So, here’s some suggestions:
- Find a friend (or two or three) and pick some dates to pray together.
- Turn your summer book club or Bible study into a time of praying together at the end.
- Set up a prayer time over Skype.
- Open your Bible and explore what the Word says about prayer.
- Grab Megan Hill’s book for a bit of inspiration, instruction, and encouragement: Praying Together
It’s astonishing to me that we can say those words, “Our Father.” God is holy and awesome in every way and yet He is also our Father, who not only welcomes us to speak to him, but also invites us to. Prayer is an essential to the Christian life and a discipline that I have not only enjoyed, but have benefited from greatly. My prayer for you is that you, too, would experience the joys of praying together in your context.
“The Father’s desire to hear the prayers of his children is so radical that he says, ‘Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear’ (Isa. 65:24).”[iv]
p.s. Every week throughout the summer I’ll be posting a short prayer. Check back in if you would like to pray weekly prayer with me.