My last blog post was in June, so I decided it was time to write a new post. Typing is a challenge right now, using mostly one hand because my right hand is in a wrist brace with thumb splint, but here this goes. This is a short post I wrote this morning on one of the most familiar passages in the Old Testament.
This familiar psalm teaches us so much about our Good Shepherd. I used Psalm 23 in the New English Version this morning to gain a fuller understanding of what it means when we use the name of Yahweh Rohi, meaning the Lord my shepherd. (Numbers correspond to verse numbers)
As my Shepherd, He provides for ALL my needs
He meets my PHYSICAL needs.
He meets my SPIRITUAL needs.
He is WITH ME in the darkest valley.
He has a SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP with me, even in plain sight of my enemies. My cup is completely full.
His “hesed” – His GOODNESS and FAITHFULNESS – will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live with Him forever.
“Hesed” describes the covenant relationship Yahweh has with His children. This Hebrew word has no one English word that even comes close to it’s full meaning. Other Bible versions translate it LOVINGKINDNESS, UNFAILING LOVE, and STEADFAST LOVE. It also conveys the meaning of DEVOTION and LOYALTY.
Take some time today to thank Yahweh Rohi for all He is and does for us. Another good Scripture to study is John 10: 1-18, which gives us an extended picture of Yahweh Rohi through the life of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
side of the bed. Gradually increasing my walking is another goal. Yes, there are days I don’t feel up to exercise, but on days that this is an achievable goal I start my day with some light exercise. Another area where we can become more active is by doing my household tasks.2side of the bed. Gradually increasing my walking is another goal. Yes, there are days I don’t feel up to exercise, but on days that this is an achievable goal I start my day with some light exercise. Another area where we can become more active is by doing my household tasks.
I’m washing the breakfast and lunch dishes, a job I can do in less than ten minutes, and one other small job that needs to be done most days. When you live with the limitations of chronic illness, pacing yourself is very important, but for me a small job that takes around ten minutes is doable, and it takes a little of the pressure off of our daughter, who deals with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.
SELF-CARE FOR THE SOUL
Our souls are made up of our mind, will, and emotions. Romans 12:2 deals with our minds and thoughts.
“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
Do your thoughts line up with the truth of God’s Word? Or is your thinking “conformed to this world”? Renewing our MIND to see our lives through the lens of God’s Word is an area of self-care many of us need to work on. Lasting changes, even those that mainly affect the body, must start in the mind. That’s because our actions are a direct result of what our thoughts are focused on.
The apostle Paul spoke about our WILL in Philippians 2:13, saying we are to work out the salvation God has worked in us through His Spirit, “for it is God who worksinyou, both to will and to work for his goodpleasure.” While God won’t violate our self-will and force us to do His will, He will work in our will to help us embrace His will and then to empower us to do it.
The third area of our soul is the EMOTIONS. A passage that has helped me many times when my emotions are out of control is found in Philippians 4.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 ESV
SELF-CARE FOR THE SPIRIT
1 Corinthians 4:34 encourages us to be holy – set apart for God’s use – in both our spirit and our body. Just as our bodies need physical nourishment, our spirits need spiritual nourishment.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
Do you have a daily time in God’s Word? Are you taking time to listen to see if God has some truth that you need to make it through the obstacles before you today? Reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures are spiritual disciplines that are essential to spiritual growth.
Prayer is equally important. Prayer is an acknowledge of our need for and dependence upon a God who is bigger than anything we may be facing.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 ESV
This is no where near a complete list of all the areas where self-care would help us better deal with the daily challenges of life with chronic illness. But it gives a starting place for choosing some self-care actions that will enable you to better manage the daily challenges of your life. I encourage you to share in the comments an area of self-care that has helped you cope better with the limitations and struggles of living with chronic illness.
Life with chronic illness can make you feel very alone.
You go to a new doctor and leave the office feeling like you were not listened to. After being diagnosed, your earlier dreams have been sidelined. Your life now feels as if you have been assigned to a place of insignificance, and you are powerless to change it. In other words, chronic illness often causes us to feel marginalized, overlooked.
There is a story in the book of Genesis about a young woman who was very familiar with these emotions. Her name was Hagar, and she was an Egyptian servant, purchased by Abram for his wife Sarai. Her story is told in Genesis 16.
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Genesis 16:1-2 (all verses are in ESV unless noted)
A woman’s fertility—her childbearing ability—was of great importance in Bible times. A woman gained a sense of value by her ability to give her husband many sons. Those who could not conceive suffered greatly emotionally.
But Sarai had a plan to give Abram the son he wanted. Basically, instead of asking God to heal her barrenness, Sarai decided to take things in her own hands. And Abram went along with her plan. The story continues:
“So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.” Genesis 16:3-6
Sarai now decided Abram was to blame for this whole situation. Abram’s response: “Hagar is your servant, so do whatever you want with her.”
Sarai mistreated Hagar so badly that she ran away from her mistress. As Hagar flees from Sarai, God reveals to this lowly servant the name of God that is the focus of today’s blog post.
“Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?””Genesis 16:7-13 NASB1995
This is the only time that this name of God is used in Scripture. But we see this name demonstrated if not used in many other portions of Scripture. One of my favorite is Psalm 139, which begins with these words.
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalm 139:1-4
Yahweh is the God who sees us. He knows our every thought and hears our every word, and He is acquainted with all our ways. He is ‘Elrŏ’î, the God who sees you and me!
On November 5, 2018, our son David was taken by ambulance to St. Luke’s Hospital. I accompanied him, thinking this was simply one of many hospitalizations for our profoundly retarded, medically fragile son. But when we arrived at the hospital, I quickly learned this wasn’t just another ER visit or admission to the hospital. David was taken to a room, and his home care nurse, aide and I were taken to a different room to wait while he was examined. As I was waiting for a report from the ER doctor, I had one of the most distinct visitations from the Lord I’ve ever experienced. The Lord spoke clearly to my heart that it was time, He was taking our son to be with Him.
As we waited beside David’s ICU bed, our family and some of David’s private duty nurses stood at his bedside. We knew David would not be going back home with us this time, so there was a deep grieving in our hearts. Yet from the moment God spoke to my heart, a sustaining peace remained with me. As my husband and David’s other home care nurses joined us, that peace was obvious to all.
My husband Mitch left David’s bedside at one point and went out to talk with the ICU nurse. She told him she had seen family members at the bedside of a loved one who was dying many times. But, she said, the atmosphere in David’s hospital room was different than anything she had ever experienced. I don’t know if this nurse was a Christian or not, but I do know all in that room felt the presence of the God of all Comfort.
The name God of all Comfort is not a direct quote from the Old Testament. But 2 Corinthians 1:3 clearly gives this as one of the names of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.
Comfort is the Greek word paraklēsis. It means a calling to one’s side, and it combines encouragement with alleviation of grief.
Father of mercies means our heavenly Father has a heart of compassion toward those who are suffering. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines compassion as “suffering with another.” In love and sorrow, God comes by our side to share in our suffering. His comfort strengthens us, as we walk through loss or other painful circumstances. Romans 15:4 tells us that one of the ways God comforts us is through His Word.
“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”
Romans 15:4 NKJV
One of the most familiar uses of the word comfort in the Old Testament is in Psalm 23. The Lord is our Shepherd, and His rod and staff are reminders that He is with us. The Greek word for comfort used in verse 4 is nāḥam. It comes from a root word meaning to sigh. It means to be sorry, be moved to pity, have compassion.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23:4 NKJV
2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us the response God asks from us when we have experienced God’s comfort. Experiencing the comfort of the Lord enables us to comfort others who are suffering. The God of all comfort enables us to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
I want to close this post by sharing a song that God used to comfort me as I grieved the loss of our son David. Losing a child causes a deep grief, one that doesn’t go away quickly, but I found that the comfort and peace of God sustained me through those difficult months.
“People get greedy, grabby, and grumpy at Christmastime. We’re greedy when we obsess over excess while others go without basic needs. We’re grabby when we insist on drawing attention to ourselves when the glory belongs to God alone. And we’re grumpy when we forget that our worst day is often a thousand times better than most people’s good days. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves over-indulging, over-spending, and over-committing, none of which are healthy, helpful, or healing in any way for us or others.“
This quote from a YouVersion Bible devotional based on Susie Larson’s new book Prepare Him Room: A Daily Advent Devotional, stood out to me this morning. Christmas is a time when we need to guard our attitudes, especially when our circumstances are less than ideal. The weeks of Advent are a time to prepare our hearts for Christmas, the celebration of His first coming.
This Christmas is an unusual one for our family. It’s a season I’ve looked forward to, fully expecting we would be settled in our new home and decorating for the holidays as part of the process of setting things up.
God pushed the “pause button” on our plans, and as a result our Christmas plans were changed. Even decorating our house for Christmas underwent change, since every open space is filled with boxes we had packed before our plans changed. Decoration had to be minimal, with a tabletop tree to bring some color and our manger scene to help us remember the reason for the season.
But that’s not how things turned out. Hours before we were to close on the sale of our new home, the buyers backed out. Because of this, the family we had planned to buy from had to put the property back on sale. This Christmas, another family is living in the house we had fully expected to be ours.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the first coming of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This season is a reminder that we are never alone, that Jesus came to be Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus came to bring light to our darkness. He came to die as the Lamb of God, paying the price for our sins. And now He lives in us through the Holy Spirit. His love is constant. And we are never alone, no matter what circumstances we may be facing.
Advent is a time for heart preparation. Many of my readers deal with the daily challenges of chronic illness, and when you add other undesired circumstances having a right attitude doesn’t come naturally. I think that’s why this devotional really touched my heart. I needed to make a choice to face this holiday season with an attitude of gratitude instead of grumbling, a time of giving thanks for the good things we are partaking of in the midst of less than desired circumstances.
Even as John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus’ first coming, let’s prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. Christmas is a time of remembering the first coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We prepare our hearts by choosing an attitude that reflects the One whose birth we are celebrating. Let’s make room for Him to work in our lives, humbling ourselves and allowing Him to continue the good work He has begun in us.
A song to remind us to prepare the way for His coming:
King Solomon was known for his great wisdom, and one little tidbit of his wisdom is found in Proverbs 17. The first half of verse 22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”
In a Better Homes and Gardens article entitled “Laugh Your Way to Good Health, ” writer Nick Gallo said, “ Humor is good medicine – and can actually help keep you in good health.” He quoted William F. Fry, M.D., who described laughter as “inner jogging” and good for a person’s cardiovascular system. Laughter is also a great “prescription” for stress and anxiety.
Dr. Fry concluded, “An enduring sense of humor, especially combined with other inner resources such as faith and optimism, appears to be a potent force for better health.”
Christians, above all others, should benefit from laughter because we have the greatest reason to be joyful. Our faith is firmly rooted in God, and our optimism is based on the assurance that our lives are under His wise control.
If laughter is so good for our health, I thought we’d make today a day for sharing some short videos that have triggered our sense of humor. Let’s “laugh our way to good health!”
Are you feeling weary as we move into our fourth month of a life unlike anything we’ve experienced before? I sure am! The COVID-19 crisis still isn’t behind us. Some businesses have been able to open, others are delaying because of continued risk, and we hear every week of more businesses that will not be reopening over again.
On top of this, our nation is dealing with increased racial tension. Amid this is a push to defund police, and we hear of “autonomous zones” in major cities, where a section of the city is under the control of domestic terrorist groups. We can’t help but wonder what lies ahead? Life feels like a unending ride on a roller coaster, with highs and lows that never seem to end.
During times like this, we need to be alert to what is going on around us. But we also need to find something – or Someone – unshakable that we can depend on. We need something fixed and constant that we can depend upon. We need an immovable faith in the One the prophet Isaiah described as“… the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is his treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6)
This verse was written in a time of impending distress and judgment. Assyria was advancing from the north, conquering kingdom after kingdom, including the northern kingdom of Israel. Now, the armies were drawing near to Jerusalem, and the people of Judah (the southern kingdom) didn’t know where to turn. Isaiah was warning the people against making an alliance with Egypt and reminding them that the Lord was the key to their salvation. He was the only One Who would provide the stability they yearned for.
Are you feeling the need for stability in this tumultuous time? The “stability of (our) times” will only be found in the One Who is our source of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. This a time for putting our trust fully in the Lord, and allowing Him to direct our paths. Nothing we are facing is a surprise to Him!
“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” Isaiah 32:18 ESV
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 55:22 NASB
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.”
Being at rest during a time of turmoil requires a change of focus from our circumstances to the One who reigns over them. As I prayed about today’s post, I had a difficult time concentrating. Inner rest seemed far away because the outward circumstances were grabbing my attention.
When I’m feeling discouraged, reading from the book of Psalms often is helpful. I like to slow down and take the psalm phrase by phrase, meditating on its meaning. Psalm 100 is just five short verses, but those verses are filled with ways to turn our focus off of our circumstances and onto the Lord.
1 “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!” This refers to any loud shout, but can also mean a shout of victory. Is anyone feeling like it’s time for a shout of victory over the recent unsettledness of our circumstances? Proverbs 21:31 says victory belongs to the Lord. And all the inhabitants of the earth are invited to enter into His victory.
Serving the Lord can be with drudgery or with gladness. It’s our choice. We can serve our God with gladness, and come into His presence with singing. Thanksgiving and praise draw us near to Him. Remembering His goodness to us in the past, His unchanging love for us, and His continual faithfulness not just to us but to all those who are His adopted sons and daughters – all of these bring us into a more intimate relationship with our God.
I encourage you to take some time today to read some Psalms aloud in praise to our faithful God. And lift your voice in thankfulness and praise. Turmoil becomes rest in the sweet presence of the Lord.
I was reading an article this week, written by Jay Lowder, an evangelist who has spoken several times in our church. The subject of his article was overcoming fear so that we can walk in faith during this uncertain time. He wrote:
“The past few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a time of fear for many, even me. I’m a full-time evangelist whose work has come to a halt, and I have a daughter with an incurable disease that is highly susceptible to illness. Even as a person of faith, it’s hard not to have fear about these things which are completely out of my control.”
It’s easy to see that the circumstances we are living through are beyond our control. The good news is they are not beyond God’s control. We may not understand all of God’s purposes in this season, but we can choose to walk in faith in the God who wasn’t surprised by this pandemic.
In her book Praying God’s Word, Beth Moore wrote, “Faith is not believing in my own unshakable belief. Faith is believing an unshakable God when everything in me trembles and quakes.“
To walk in faith during seasons when everything in us is trembling and quaking requires something or someone unshakable that we can hold onto. Faith isn’t positive thinking. It is rooted in knowing and trusting the One who cannot be shaken. Faith is believing that God will do what He has promised to do and then acting on that belief.
Hannah Whitall Smith, a Quaker speaker and writer during the late 19th century, said of walking in faith,
“Sight is not faith, and hearing is not faith, neither is feeling faith; but believing when we neither see, hear, nor feel is faith; and everywhere the Bible tells us our salvation is to be by faith. Therefore we must believe before we feel, and often against our feelings, if we would honor faith... Faith, like sight is nothing apart from God. You might as well shut your eyes and look inside, and see whether you have sight as to look inside to discover whether you have faith.“
In her book, The God of All Comfort, Hannah Whitall Smith said the biggest obstacle to walking in faith is a life filled with supposes.
As we move forward in this season of uncertainty, let’s remember that the Lord Himself is our strong tower. Let’s make this cry of David our prayer when we feel our faith being shaken.
“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” Psalm 61:1-3
“Those who trust in the Lord are as unshakeable, as unmovable as mighty Mount Zion!” Psalms 125:1 The Passion Translation
Instead of living in the supposes, let’s run to our place of safety and rest. Let’s run to the Lord, our dwelling place. When we do, we will be held up by His everlasting arms.
“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. ” Deuteronomy 33:27a
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1 ESV
When we began our study on surrender, Romans 12:1 was one of the first Scriptures we studied. Now that we are coming to the end of our study, we go back to this important verse.
Laura says, “Considering all that Christ has done for us – making us right with God by his atoning death, freeing us from the penalty and power of sin, lavishing us with his grace – how should we respond?”
After eleven chapters full of rich truths that are the foundation of our faith in Christ Jesus, the apostle Paul begins chapter 12 of Romans with his answer to this question. How should we respond to the grace and mercy of God? The only appropriate response is found in surrender, in presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Paul says, this “is your spiritual worship.”
“We don’t surrender our lives to God to gain his favor. We offer ourselves to him in response to the favor he has already freely shown us because of the saving work of Jesus.”
A CORRECT UNDERSTANDING OF WORSHIP
Worship is not an emotional response, though often emotions may be a part of it. Worship is not singing songs of praise, though singing is often a part of it. True worship is a choice to respond to God in gratitude and praise for who He is and for all He has done for us.
True worship, according to Romans 12:1, is presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Surrender is the main requirement for worship. And worship is to be constant because it is an expression of God’s worth, which never changes, even when our circumstances and emotions fluctuate from day to day.
Laura shares a feeling of apprehension when she first began to understand the link between surrender and worship. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. But none of us are holy. Even our best attempts at surrender are imperfect.
Laura says, “I can’t present myself as a holy and blameless sacrifice on the basis of my track record. But I can present myself to God as holy and blameless based on his mercy!” When God looks at us he doesn’t see our self-centeredness and failures. He sees in us the righteousness of Jesus.
As we bring this study to a close today and tomorrow, let’s spend some timBlamelesse in thanksgiving and praise. And to get us started, I want to share the chorus of a song written by Laura Story reminding us this life we have is no longer ours to do with as we please.
Not My Life
This is not my life It is Yours, it is Yours This is not my heart It is Yours, it is Yours I surrender all I am Place my life into Your hands Jesus, I am Yours I am Yours