From Your Heart...
Hello everyone! Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of EDiBS! I’m so glad to be back with you after a brief time away from the camera, and so eager to get back to God’s Word with you after several days of wrestling with over-the-hill computers, unbacked-up hard drives, and other IT related issues that have kept us apart. This is the day the Lord has made, and I pray that by His grace and mercy you’re endeavoring to rejoice and be glad in it.
As I say that today — especially today — I want to be quick to say something else as well: sometimes life is tough. Not IT issue tough, but tough for real. In fact, sometimes with all that folks are going through in a given season it can be extremely difficult to rejoice and be glad in anything, let alone another day to have to trudge through from the rising to the setting of the sun.
When those unforeseen moments come (and in one way or another, they come for each of us from time to time), what do we do? Where do we go? How do we cope? And perhaps most important of all, how does our Christian faith inform and move us through the drama?
When we were together at the end of last week, I asked you to share your answers to those questions. Your responses were a marvelous mixture of comfort and encouragement. They were also a study in earnestness and vulnerability. Many of you shared that you happen to be going through some of your own especially tough times right now, and the more I read, the more grateful I became over your willingness to speak as you did. The capacity to be real with people is a rare commodity in our world these days, and the fact that some of you were able to share your present burdens so that others could be blessed was a truly selfless act. I do thank you.
I’d like to take a moment to pray with you today, and from there we’ll spend the rest of our time together this session going through some of your offerings to your brothers and sisters in Christ…your words of encouragement, insight, and recommendation on what to do when the hard times come. We won’t get to all of your thoughts today, but what we don’t get to here has been set aside in a special place so that we can come back another time and do more sharing when the Lord so leads. I’m glad you’ve come along, everyone — let’s bow our heads and go before our Savior.
Jesus our Good Shepherd, lead us, uphold us, and walk with us in every step of life’s journey. Help us to lean on the promises that you’ve given us in your Word. Remind us that in you, we will make it through. O God, you are our refuge and strength. May your name be praised forever. Amen.
As you wrote to me last week and explained how it is that you walk through — or are carried through — seasons of trial when they appear, three juggernauts quickly stood out as common themes in your devotional lives: The Word of God, Prayer, and People. Today I want to talk briefly about the first two, and down the line a bit we’ll have a special session to discuss the Lord’s great people gifts in our lives.
The first broadly popular idea running through your notes and letters? The Scriptures in general, but more specifically, the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs. Proverbs for wisdom, Psalms for comfort. Actually, many of you read from each of those books each day, which is a phenomenal way to get those portions of Scripture flowing in and through the rhythm of your daily journey. Some of your favorites are Proverbs 3:5-6 and Psalm 23. Such wonderful, accessible, and memorable passages to be sure…passages that bring life to lifeless hearts in need of being resuscitated. Do you need reassurance concerning God’s power and love for you today? Take a moment and look those verses up to be comforted, quieted, and encouraged!
Another selection of passages mentioned quite often in the responses I received from you were 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, along with a large sampling of verses from the book of Isaiah. The 2 Corinthians passage, of course, is the two-verse section everyone knows even if they don’t think that they do:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
As for the Isaiah passages? There were about a half-dozen mentioned by you, all with powerful stories connected to them. Here’s just one of those stories from an EDiBS family member who battled cancer. She wrote,
I knew with Jesus on one hand and my husband on the other I could get through anything. From my memory bank, I pulled out my go-to Scripture verse that I had memorized years ago in another situation: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You ( Isaiah 26:3).” That would get me through the stress. Then I looked for and found the one I needed for the fear: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).”
Having God’s Word — any portion of God’s Word — in your heart and on your tongue is powerful medicine that you can bring to bear in the midst of life’s difficulties, and I love that so many of you so readily turn to it in your time of need. Get into God’s Word and let God’s Word get into you, everyone; it will always lead you home to Jesus, who loves you and gave Himself for you…and who has promised never to leave or forsake you. Ever!
The second big, but not surprising, focus that almost all of you mentioned in some shape or form in your notes to me was prayer.
What kinds of things did you say?
Out loud when possible.
In the car.
Especially in the car!
How to pray? One of you wrote, “Simply pour out your heart to your heavenly Father, emptying your mind of all of your thoughts — the good, the bad, and the ugly.” Continuing on, this person said,
The "where" of my crying out to God isn't all that important to me — it's knowing I can go to Him at any time, anywhere, and ask for His help and guidance and wisdom and provision. This knowledge is SUCH a great comfort to me.
And so it is!
Several of you also wrote quite honestly and perhaps even searchingly or questioningly of the heartaches in life that have moved you toward prayer. A dying parent. A dying relationship. The hard journey of dying to self. Your words were so moving and your pain so evident. I can so relate — as can the rest of the folks here today. Yet the beautiful thing is that even in the pain, the wisdom and understanding you’ve gained through your experience is evident as well — and the deepening relationship you’ve experienced with Christ through it all has been a healing salve to your brokenness. One of you said,
While I would love to erase my struggles, they have, in a way, been a gift. I have never, in all my years, ever leaned on and into my Savior as I have these past two years. When I have felt hopeless, I have asked to feel His presence and He has never let me down once. I can always count on His promise of loving me and being in control of my life. And I surrender. I lean into Him and surrender.
That’s so powerful. Powerful because it’s true. And powerful because it speaks truth. At its heart, prayer is often nothing more than surrendering. Leaning into God and surrendering, knowing that you can count on His promise to love you and to be in control, especially in those times when things are most out of control in your everyday.
God is with you today, my friends. Carry some of His life-giving Word with you as you go. Lift up your heart before Him. Lean in — and surrender to His healing love.
Thanks for these wonderful devotional reminders, everybody — they’ve been a great blessing to me, and I’m sure that many others will be encouraged as well! I’ll see you again tomorrow to head back into the Gospel according to John. Take care, and until then may the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, guard your hearts in Christ Jesus our Lord.