Friday, January 22, 2016

in the grips of sorrow

Sorrow is a heavy burden, one which is quite often carried alone. Even in the midst of family and friends, one person's grief is so individual--so unique to that person--that it can't be shared with someone else in its entirety. When our hearts are breaking, and no one understands, it is easy to feel completely alone. Abandoned. Like the psalmist, we say,
"For my days come and go, vanishing like smoke,
and my bones are charred like bricks of a hearth.
My heart is beaten down like grass withered and scorched in the summer heat;
I can't even remember to eat.
My body is shaken by my groans;
my bones cling to my skin, holding on for dear life.
I am like a solitary owl in the wilderness;
I am a lost and lonely screech owl at home in the rubble.
I stare at the ceiling, awake in my bed;
I am alone, a defenseless sparrow perched on a roof."
~Psalm 102:4-7

Grief is a terrible burden to bear. It can bring us to our knees, break our hearts, and crush our spirits.

Thankfully, when no one else can help to bear our burdens--when no one else can see or understand the grief that has us in the pit--we have a God who knows our pain. He knows sorrow. He has watched His children turn against Him over and over again. He watched His Son as He was scorned and rejected by the very people He was sent to save, then watched as He was hung on a cross. Our God is no stranger to grief.

That's what makes it believable when He makes a promise:
"I will satisfy those who are weary,
and I will refresh every soul in the grips of sorrow."
~Jeremiah 31:25

God knows our sorrow and how it wears us down. When no one else can understand, we can be assured that He does. And He will come down into the pit to lift us up to walk with Him, refreshed.

Monday, January 18, 2016

cracked pots

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of thinking we have it all together. When life is easy, we think we know all the right answers. Like David, we say, 

"When things were quiet and life was easy,
I said in arrogance, 'Nothing can shake me.'
By Your grace, Eternal, I thought I was as strong as a mountain"
~Psalm 30:6-7a

From that lofty position, it's easy to look down on others and point out everything they are doing wrong, all the ways they are failing. After all, if I have it all together in my own power, doesn't that just make them weak if they can't do the same? The thing is, that's forgetting four key words from David's psalm: By Your grace, Eternal.

No matter what good I have in this life, it's through no strength or power of my own. Sometimes, though, I lose sight of that. It's in those times, I think, that God obscures my view of Him. Again like David, I say,

"But when You left my side and hid away,
I crumbled in fear."
~Psalm 30:7b

I don't have it all together--far from it, actually. I fail so often in so many ways, most of which I would hate to spell out here for anyone and everyone to see (but most of which the people close to me could probably list).

And yet, God loves me.

He in His grace and unending, unfathomable, unbelievable mercy still chooses to use me in the midst of my failings.

In fact, I think He prefers to use us in our failings. Just look at all the people He chose to use in the Scriptures--Moses was a murderer with a speech impediment, Rahab was a prostitute, David was an adulterer and murderer, Peter was hotheaded, Jacob (later named Israel) was a cheat, and Paul persecuted and killed the followers of Jesus (he was at the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr).

Because, you see, it's when He works out of the depths that His power is revealed in all its glory.

Not one of us has it all together, despite what people would have you believe on social media. We are all flawed people, but God embraces us flaws and all. He pours His spirit into us, letting it fill and cover all the flaws and spill out of all the cracks. Like Paul said,

"But this beautiful treasure
is contained in us--
cracked pots made of earth and clay--
so that the transcendent
character of this power
will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us."
~II Corinthians 5:7

That's us--cracked pots.

But God chooses to pour Himself into us anyways. You see, no matter how much we leak He's more than enough to keep filling us.

And sometimes, it's the cracks that let Him flow out of us to other people.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

One Word for 2016

For a long time now, I've begged to know God's purpose for my life. My own plans have fallen through so many times--plans that I thought were God's will for my future--that sometimes I wonder if I'm going to drift through life without ever truly finding the path He wants me on (for more on that, check out Walking with Peter). As followers of the Messiah, we hear so much about God's will. We're reminded time and again that we need to be doing His will:

~"Whoever does the will of God is My true family." ~Mark 3:35
~"...that you will continue to mature and stand tall in the confidence that comes from knowing God's will." ~Colossians 4:12b

We hear all the time about people claiming God's promise to give them the desires of their heart, but something I've been struggling with lately is knowing whether my desires are desires God has given me, or just earthly desires. In 1 Peter 4:1-2, we're told, "Since the Anointed suffered in the flesh, prepare yourselves to do the same--anyone who has suffered in the flesh for the LORD is no longer in the grip of sin--so that you may live the rest of your life on earth controlled not by earthly desires but by the will of God. (emphasis mine)"

So, how do I figure out what is an earthly desire and what is God's will? How do I live according to His will if I can't figure out what it is?

As I've been trying to come up with my One Word for 2016 (I spent all of December trying to come up with something...and failing spectacularly), I've stumbled time and time again over those questions. In fact, I've been so hung up on them that I haven't been able to focus on finding my word for this year. Tonight, I was looking up verses after flipping through the back of my Bible in an attempt to find a topic that would jump out at me. I got sidetracked again (or so I thought...again, a not-so-subtle reminder that I need to stop trying to choose my own path, because it doesn't work) and started looking up verses about God's will. That's where those verses above came from.

But then, just as I was starting to get aggravated by being told over and over again that I needed to find and follow God's will for my life, I came across a couple of verses I've read a hundred times:

"Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God's mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship. Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and compete."
~Romans 12:1&2

So again, I "stumbled across" my word for 2016:
renewal
I don't know why I continue to be so surprised by the fact that my one word each year is never one I intentionally picked. Just like has happened the last 4 times that I've done this, my word for this year was picked for me by Someone who knows a lot more about what I need to be focusing on.

Renewal: the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again

If I want to be able to figure out God's will for my life, I need to renew my mind. I need to get in line with who God wants me to be, because it's only then that I will be able to do what He wants me to do.

So, here's to 2016--a year of renewal.

****What's your One Word for 2016? Have you considered asking God to give you a word to focus on this year instead of making a bunch of resolutions? I started doing this in 2012, and to be completely honest I thought it would be a lot easier than choosing resolutions each year.

2012: faithful (which was the start of this blog)
2013: follow
2014: "do not neglect your gift"
2015: trust
2016: renewal

If you're willing, give it a shot this year instead of resolutions. I would love to hear your word!