The Futility of Worry

For many years before we lost our 34 year old special-needs son David last November, I battled worry about the time the Lord would take him home to heaven. Early in his life, we had been told David probably would not live into his teens, so once he passed this milestone my anxiety just kept growing. Each time he was hospitalized, especially when he had pneumonia, I was filled with anxiety that this might be the time. And when he was well, other worries consumed my thoughts, often keeping me awake at night.

When this event I had dreaded for years actually came, one of the things that stood out to me above everything else was the peace I experienced, truly a peace that passed all understanding. As my husband and I sat at David’s bedside, releasing him to the Lord, while we were sorrowful we also were at peace. This was so obvious that the nurses in charge of our son’s care in those final hours commented to my husband that the atmosphere in David’s room was totally different from what they usually see when a family member passes away. 

What was the difference in my imaginations and in the actual event? In simple terms, God promises grace in our time of need. But when the “need” is simply in our minds, no grace is promised.

This week’s Teach Me Tuesday post focused on the importance of living in the “right now,” especially during times when it seems like someone has pushed the “pause” button in our lives. Warren Wiersbe said of the danger of not living in the present moment, “Most Christians are being crucified on a cross between two thieves: Yesterday’s regret and tomorrow’s worries.” Yesterday’s regrets cripple us because they leave us in the past, which we can do nothing to change. But living with anxiety or worry is equally damaging to our ability to live today in the way God intends.

Worry is a result of turning our attention on the future. It is the result of anticipating negative future events that may never happen. Even if the things we are worrying about actually will happen sometime in the future, worrying about them will do nothing to change that.  Worry about tomorrow accomplishes nothing, and it keeps us from living today to the fullest.  It does nothing to improve tomorrow, but it empties us of the strength to live the way God is calling us to today. 

Elisabeth Elliot said, “Worry is the antithesis of trust. You simply cannot do both. They are mutually exclusive.” Worry is rooted in thinking God is not big enough to take care of us. It is an indication we are putting trust in our limited resources and understanding instead of in the God who loved us enough to send His Son to the Cross so that we could be forgiven and restored to relationship with Him.

On this Thankful Thursday, let’s renew our commitment to live in the present, walking through life one day at a time as Jesus says we should do. When we’re tempted to give place to anxious thoughts, let’s remember the instruction God has given in this area. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

Let’s also thank God for His invitation to bring the burdens on our hearts to His throne of grace. In our pain He offers help. He just wants us to learn to handle our times of need in the way His Word teaches us. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

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When God Puts Life on “Pause”

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;” Psalms‬ ‭130:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Recently, I’ve been in a time when my life almost seems as if someone hit the “pause” button.  My days have been filled with waiting. Waiting for a referral to a doctor to come in. Waiting two months for an appointment I was able to schedule. Waiting for a call from the homecare agency my doctor recommended so my therapy can begin. Waiting for some relief from all the symptoms I’m currently dealing with. Waiting on people who seem to take an unreasonably long time to get routine matters taken care.

So what are we to do during such times? First, we are to remember that God is in control. Delays are a part of life, but they aren’t evidence that nothing is going on. Even when we see no outward changes, God is at work in the background. So see your times when life doesn’t seem to be moving forward as times of waiting on the Lord.

Times of waiting are meant to be times of seeking God, of drawing close and spending time in His presence and His Word. And they are to be times of faithfulness in the things the Lord has already told us to do. 

The past is behind us, the future isn’t yet here, so our focus needs to be on living the best life we can during these times when nothing seems to be moving forward. It needs to be on what He is saying to us and putting in front of us … right now. And that means times of waiting need to be times of drawing near to God and His Word so we can hear what He’s saying.

Charles Spurgeon said of these times of waiting that are so much a part of our lives, “If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes.

Are you currently in a time of waiting? If so, I encourage you to forget the past, don’t be anxious about what lies ahead, and focus on living in the present. Focus on what God has called you to do today, and be faithful. Spend time listening to His voice to receive instructions for today, and then walk them out in faith. He is at work in your life, even during times when it’s difficult to see what He’s doing.

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Transformed By God’s Spirit and His Word

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”‭ Romans 12:2 ESV‬

‭Renewing our minds is such an important Christian discipline! In both our constant exposure to the input of the world in which we live and our emotional response to the difficult circumstances that are a part of life, we need to take time daily to renew our minds in the truths of God’s Word.‬

‭This Monday morning, as I do many mornings, I began my quiet time in the book of Psalms. I found Psalm 27 on my Bible app and began reading a passage I’ve read many times before. But as I came to the final two verses, I heard God speaking to my heart. ‬

‭I read, ‬“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14)

God gently spoke to my heart, “Are you really expecting to see My goodness in this place where I’m asking you to walk?”

Immediately, I knew the honest answer was “No, Lord, I’m not.” And I knew it was time to renew my mind in the truth of the goodness of the Lord.

Life with its many and varied challenges has a way of wearing down our resolve to be doers of the Word and not just hearers (James 1:22), but the indwelling Holy Spirit is quick to teach us if we remain open to His voice. Our part is to open up God’s Word daily, with our spiritual ears ready to listen and obey. That’s what happened to me on Monday, as I did a search on my Bible app for verses about the goodness of the Lord and began renewing my mind in this important truth.

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit is able to take our willingness to open the Bible, in whatever form we prefer, and use it to renew our minds to see our circumstances from a biblical mindset. Whether He works by reminding us of some truth about the character of God, as He did for me this week, or He reminds us of some other principle taught in Scripture, the Bible and the Holy Spirit who lives within us as believers in Christ together are God’s agents of transformation in our lives.

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Hope in the Darkness: Dealing with Discouragement

Part of my scheduled Bible reading for today was Psalm 42, which begins with a superscription identifying it as a Maskil of the sons of Korah. What is a maskil?

Easton’s Bible Dictionary describes a maskil as a song enforcing some lesson of wisdom or piety, a song intended to give instruction. So as I read this psalm, the first question I asked myself was what is the intended instruction? I think the answer to that is found in the following verses.

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I believe the lesson God is seeking to teach us through this psalm is how to deal with circumstances that cause us to feel “cast down,” to experience discouragement or even despair. When we walk through problems that seem to stretch on and on, one of the biggest struggles we face is holding onto hope. In this psalm, the message is clear. God is our source of hope, so to experience hope we must shift our focus off our circumstances and on to the Lord.

Corrie ten Boom said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”

When we walk through on-going trials, the key to victory is fixing our eyes on the One who reigns over everything that touches our lives. God alone can bring peace and rest in the midst of circumstances that bring tears to our eyes and sorrow to our hearts.

Or as Hebrews 12:1-2 says, to find renewed strength to continue the race God has set before us, let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Our Savior was strengthened as He turned His focus beyond the Cross He was facing to the joy to come after, when His death and resurrection would provide the way for us to be forgiven and restored to relationship with the Father.

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Never Alone: Help for the Brokenhearted

Psalm 34 is one of my favorite Psalms, from it’s opening verses that encourage us to “bless the Lord at all times,” to its reminder in verse 8 to ”taste and see that the Lord is good” this is one Psalm I go back to frequently when I am needing to shift my focus off of my sometimes overwhelming circumstances and on to my God who rules over everything that touches my life.

Since last November, when we lost our son David, verse 18, today’s I Am Not Alone verse, has also become a favorite. Because suddenly, I knew what it was to walk around daily with a broken heart.

God has never promised His people that we won’t experience a broken heart. Life is full of circumstances that cause us to feel like our hearts are being crushed to the point that the thought of facing another day seems beyond our ability. The death of a loved one, a miscarriage ending a long-awaited pregnancy, a devastating diagnosis such as cancer, broken bodies, dreams and relationships – all those and many other things can result in a broken heart that makes it difficult for us to keep going.

So where is God in the midst of circumstances that break our heart? What does He do to help us through such times? I am currently reading a recently published book by Elisabeth Elliot, a book based on one the her final teaching series before dementia took her memories and finally her life, entitled “Suffering Is Never For Nothing.” In a chapter called “Acceptance,” she spoke of the need for accepting the painful circumstances God allows to touch our lives and moving forward.

Elisabeth Elliot said, even in circumstances that crush our hearts, “We’re not adrift in chaos. We’re held in the everlasting arms. And therefore, and this makes a difference, we can be at peace and we can accept. We can say yes, Lord, I’ll take it.”

And she goes on to say, acceptance is possible because suffering is never for nothing. God is at work in our lives during times of suffering. We may have many questions, whys that He does not answer. But there is one thing we can be confident God will do during those times when life leaves us brokenhearted. He gives us Himself, His sustaining presence that gives us peace that passes understanding.

As I read these words spoken by one who was well acquainted with grief, I was comforted. Because even now, nine months after the loss of our precious son, I had to acknowledge that was exactly what God did in the days following that devastating loss. I cried out to Him for help, and His presence sustained me through the tears.

On this Thankful Thursday, I don’t know what you are currently walking through. You may be facing a situation that has you feeling crushed and unable to move on. Or you may simply be feeling stretched emotionally by the daily challenges of life. But in every situation we face in this life, if we cry out to Him God answers by giving us Himself. When we walk through difficult seasons, we can be assured that the Lord will never leave or forsake us, that He will walk at our side and sustain us by His presence. And that’s a good reason to give Him thanks!

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Never Alone: Our Bodies, Temples of God

One of the biggest challenges of daily life with chronic illness is the constantly changing condition of our physical bodies. In recent months I personally have dealt with increased pain and disability and a long list of new digestive issues. And changes like these mean looking for new ways to live in the best way possible with the “new normal” to which we are learning to adjust.

In the midst of dealing with a less than perfect physical body, today’s I Am Not Alone verse and some related ones in Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth remind us that our bodies are holy temples that we need to take the best care of possible. Our bodies as believers in Jesus Christ are individually and collectively the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. And collectively as our individual bodies are healthier, we function better as a part of the body of Christ.

Personally, when this truth concerning my body comes to mind, the first Scripture I think of is found in 1 Corinthians 6. It refers to our individual bodies being temples of the Holy Spirit.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This call to glorify God in my body motivates me to learn the best ways to function with my current health issues so I can live the most fruitful life possible in spite of the new health challenges I’m facing.

But today’s focus verse, found in 2 Corinthians 6, deals with the second aspect of the New Testament concept of God’s temple, the truth that the body of Christ is collectively the temple or dwelling place of God on earth. In context, it speaks of us living lives that are markedly different than those of the unbelievers around us.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.’” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭6:14-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

No matter what lies ahead of you today, remember that your body is the dwelling place of God, and let that truth determine the choices you make today. We are each a part of the body of Christ, individually members of God’s dwelling place on earth, so let’s live in a way that honorably reflects that truth. Since the Holy Spirit has made your spirit His home you are never alone.

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Never Alone: God’s Presence & His Rest

Early in July, on the day before I was scheduled to go in for an MRI on my left knee, I heard the still, small voice of God speak a very clear message to my heart. Since the pain in that knee had gone from very mild to extremely severe overnight over a month before, I was ready for some answers. But what I heard wasn’t exactly what I was asking for in prayer. Instead, the Lord clearly spoke two verses of Scripture to my heart, with the strong impression that I was going to need to hold onto these to make it through the following months in victory. I immediately opened the Bible Memory app I use as a part of my daily quiet time, entered these two verses, and began memorizing them.

The first verse was Deuteronomy 31:8, which says (in NIV84, the version I frequently use when memorizing Scripture), “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The second verse was today’s I Am Not Alone verse, Exodus 33:14. In the same version, it reads “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Since that day, though God has given me several other verses that have been helpful during this time of dealing with multiple health issues, these two verses have been the ones that I’ve returned to over and over and over again. So on Wednesday morning, when I looked on our list of verses for the I Am Not Alone Bible Reading Plan to find today’s verse, I didn’t need to stop first to look up the verse in my Bible.  After reviewing this verse nearly daily since July 8th, I immediately recognized the Exodus 33:14 reference. “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the meaning of today’s verse. It contains two promises from God, first to the children of Israel to whom it was originally addressed, but as we’ll see later, also promises God has given us.

First, it says, “My presence will go with you.”

The children of Israel were on a journey. God had delivered them from bondage and oppression in Egypt, He had gone with them through a wilderness experience characterized by disobedience, dangers and drought, and now it was time for the final stage of the journey to begin, actually entering Canaan, the land of milk and honey God had promised His people.

But as Exodus 33 begins, God is not exactly happy with His people. Read these words God spoke to Moses at the beginning of this chapter.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:1-3 ESV

‭‭So what happened between verse 3 and verse 14, today’s key verse? Moses interceded before God for the stiff-necked people he had been called to lead. A part of Moses’ prayer is recorded in verses 12-13.

“See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

Basically, Moses was apprehensive about taking on the responsibility of leading God’s people into the promised land without God’s help, and he appealed to the mercy of God. He told Almighty God, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” And today’s verse is God’s response. Moses’ prayer of intercession changed God’s mind.

As God’s people under the New Covenant, He has made the same promise to us, as the verses we have been studying this month have confirmed over and over again.

‭‭The second promise of today’s verse: “And I will give you rest.”

First, what exactly does the word “rest” mean as it is used in the Bible. There are several words both in the Old and New Testament, but for today I’m going to stick to the three that most directly apply to us.

The Hebrew word used in the Exodus 33, “nawach,” means “to rest, settle down and remain; to repose, have rest, be quiet.”

When Christ taught on entering rest, He used the Greek word anapauō” which refers not to a “rest from work” but rather to a “rest in work.” Christ’s rest is not the rest of inactivity, but rather the inner rest of living in harmony with God.

But the word used in the Hebrews passage I’ll refer to later “katapausis” more closely parallels the Hebrew word used in Exodus 33 and includes the idea of “to cease, refresh, be quiet.”

God’s presence and His rest are inseparably joined in today’s verse. But there is also something required of us to enter God’s rest. Let’s look in the book of Hebrews for a clearer understanding of the process of entering God’s rest.

For the children of Israel, this was a promise of rest from the toils and dangers of the wilderness wanderings as they entered their promised land. Unfortunately, Hebrews 3:18-19 explains that they failed to enter His rest for two closely tied reasons, disobedience and unbelief.

The good news is that the account in Hebrews concerning entering God’s rest doesn’t end with these words. Hebrews 4 begins with a promise that the possibility of entering God’s rest still stands. These verses also include a warning for us, a reminder that entering God’s rest has the same two requirements for us that it had for Israel, faith which is demonstrated through obedience.

If it’s your desire to enter God’s rest in the midst of the sufferings and conflicts that are a part of life on this earth, take time today to open your Bible and read Hebrews 4:1-13. Remember, rest is found in God’s presence, but it also requires something from us.

As you read these verses, thank God for the gift of rest that He is offering you today, but also take some time to pray and ask God to show you if there is anything in your life that needs to be dealt with so that you can enter His rest. Any unbelief? Any disobedience to something He has clearly instructed you to do in His Word? God’s rest is one of the richest gifts He has offered His children. As Hebrews 4:11 (NLT) says, “So let us do our best to enter that rest.”

‭‭On this Thankful Thursday, let’s thank God for this gift of His rest and do our best to enter that rest.