In the Middle of Doubt

As sure as the sunrise, whenever I stumble, He reaches out to catch me.

Doubt has been flapping around me like vultures over a half-dead animal. Struggling with the high stress of caregiving and accompanying health problems, wrestling with disappointment and maybe even anger at God about how things have turned out in my life. The unhealed lacerations of past trauma making it hard to feel or receive anybody’s love, God’s love. Feeling that God’s love is conditional toward me. That I haven’t been able to get it right. I haven’t said or done the “correct” thing yet. My daily Word another disapproving censure. Out of yet another dark place I reached out to my sweet (and may I say oh-so-patient) sister. She had this to say: 

“God’s Spirit came to live in believers through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of love. We now live in Roman’s chapter 8 love. No condemnation love. No separation love.”  

And then she prayed: 

“Lord, we need revelation to sink down into our hearts! Change us! We can’t do it without you. We want to love you more truly and deeply. Amen.” 

Yes, I need revelation. That flash of Light in my darkness. And, let me say with deep thankfulness that whenever – always, as sure as the sunrise – whenever I stumble, He reaches out to catch me. Almost immediately. I am humbled and undone. 

In my daily reading the next morning were Paul’s writings about Jesus, who came as a priest in the order of Melchizedek, “not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:16). That word translated “indestructible” means no, not, or without (in other words it is impossible to) dissolve, disunite, destroy, demolish, overthrow, to render vain, to deprive of success, bring to naught, to render fruitless one’s desires or endeavors, to deprive of force, annul, abrogate.  

Jesus’ life is indestructible and our lives are hidden in His (Colossians 3:3). His plans and purposes, His desire and will, His power, His unity with me in the Spirit, are indestructible, cannot be destroyed, dissolved, rendered vain – not even by my weakness and wounds.  

And then I noticed that in the margin I had written, years ago, “Romans 8:38-39.” Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God. Soon after, in my inbox came this from a daily devotional1 I follow: 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 

OK, I’m listening. When this happens, I always know that God has a message for me.  

Well, the very next blog2 I read had this to say (thank you Alan Kearns!): 

“So often in life we are left scratching our head at how things have turned out; despite our best plans or efforts the unexpected has happened. We are left with a handful of question marks … we are mystified by the circumstances we find ourselves in, praying for His light on the matter … Be assured if you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, His Father is in control of your puzzle – He knows what the final picture is!” 

And then a link to this beautiful song. (Remember how I told you that God uses song lyrics to speak to me.) 

God Jehovah, Jehovah Rapha 

You’re our healer 

You and You Alone … 

In the middle of doubt 

In the thick of sorrow 

You say look up 

To where our help comes from 

If everything around us 

Says there is no hope 

We’re never gonna let go 

Of the hem of Your robe … 

We’re leaning on your power 

You’ll do what can’t be done … 

All depression, every worry 

Every sickness Lord, You heal 

All addiction, every family 

Every heartbreak Lord, You heal … 

You and You Alone3 

I looked up what Jehovah-Rapha means and found this at Got Questions. “Jehovah-Rapha has the power to heal physically (2 Kings 5:10), emotionally (Psalm 34:18), mentally (Daniel 4:34), and spiritually (Psalm 103:2–3). Neither impurity of body nor impurity of soul can withstand the purifying, healing power of Jehovah-Rapha.”4  

Yes, I need healing in all those areas – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. I need them all and I know He will do it. Because nothing can withstand His indestructible Life

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37 

He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert. Psalm 105:41 

RAPHA – Stephen Mcwhirter & Jason Clayborn (ART Music & Video) 

1Henri J.M. Nouwen, Daily Meditation, November 5, 2022 

2https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/11/05/the-puzzles-of-life/  

3Jehovah Rapha by Stephen Mcwhirter and Jason Clayborn 

4https://www.gotquestions.org/Jehovah-Rapha.html 

Image, A shaft of sunlight pierces the threatening clouds, by Mark Levisay  https://flic.kr/p/J9cBSr   

I Am Certain of This

Well, when the first four blogs I read in a morning are saying the same thing it makes me sit up and take notice. What is the Spirit saying to me? Maybe He is saying something to us all (?) 

… for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Romans 14:8‭-‬9 (Blogged twice by Beholding Him Ministries) https://beholdinghimministries.org/  

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. Matthew 5 11-12 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom.8.35-39 (Blogged by Eagle Sight) https://eaglesight.blog/2022/10/01/persecution/ 

And then this from Henri Nouwen: 

“We are fearful people. We are afraid of conflict, war, an uncertain future, illness, and, most of all, death. This fear takes away our freedom and gives our society the power to manipulate us with threats and promises. When we can reach beyond our fears to the One who loves us with a love that was there before we were born and will be there after we die, then oppression, persecution, and even death will be unable to take our freedom. Once we have come to the deep inner knowledge—a knowledge more of the heart than of the mind—that we are born out of love and will die into love, that every part of our being is deeply rooted in love, and that this love is our true Father and Mother, then all forms of evil, illness, and death lose their final power over us and become painful but hopeful reminders of our true divine childhood. The apostle Paul expressed this experience of the complete freedom of the children of God when he wrote, ‘I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:38–39).” — Henri J.M. Nouwen https://henrinouwen.org/meditation/  

Photo by Sheila Bair

How Long

Hope, it seems, is hardwired into our souls.

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2 

If you have ever gone through a very long, dark night of trial and bewildering hard times, you may have felt forgotten; you may have cried out with David, “How long?” Actually, the Psalms record multiple times this question was asked of God. Other people in the Bible too, like Jeremiah (4:21) and Habakkuk.  

How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Habakkuk 1:2 

Even Our Lord himself expressed this sentiment, though I don’t blame him. I am sure that dealing with someone like me for even three and half years would seem like an excruciating eternity.  

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Mark 9:19 

But sometimes our hard times do stretch out for very long times, even into decades, and we cry out with David, My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? (Psalm 6: 3). Yet, even then, there is a hope we can’t seem to shake. 

“There are times when in our despair we cry, ‘God hath forgotten me.’ yet somehow the conviction rises, ‘No, I am not forgotten forever.’ The soul is in that condition which Luther knew so well. — hope itself despairs, and despair nevertheless begins to hope. In our dejection we think there is no hope, yet we feel in our souls that God cannot forget, and so we begin to question Him, ‘How long shall it seem as though Thou forgettest us forever?’” — McConnell, Moody, and Fitt (emphasis mine)1 

Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? Psalm 42:9 

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” Hope, it seems, is hardwired into our souls. Zechariah called us “prisoners of hope.” Hope, no matter how hard we try to get rid of it, is tenacious. It pops back up, poking through the hardened covering of our hearts or, at least, humming relentlessly beneath it. Sometimes hope feels like an invasive species that though it is poisoned, chopped down, and yanked up, just keeps coming back. Its roots run deep and are pervasive. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12), yet hope does not shame us.  

And hope does not put us to shame (disgrace, shame down, shame of one repulsed, shame of hope deceived) because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5-6 

I think it depends on what and who you are hoping for and in. Because, real hope, the hope that is hardwired into us, is hope in God. Hope that He is always doing something, even when we can’t see it. That is where hope and faith in what we do not see are intertwined. After Habakkuk complains to God in the above verse that God is not listening, not helping, not saving, how does God answer? 

The LORD replied, “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. Habakkuk 1:5 (NLT) 

… Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” John 5:17 

So, in the end, the pain of “how long” can be endured through His grace and love if I remember that God has not forgotten me and will not put me to shame. He will not repulse me or deceive me. His promises are faithful and true. He is doing something amazing right now that I cannot see, but will see someday. 

I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13 (Amplified Bible) 

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:10-11 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Luke 12:6-7 

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12 

1Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work, Volume 39, 1920 

Image in the Public Domain, Dead Sparrow by Marc Franz, 1905 

To make us rely not on ourselves …

It was like the Lord said, read your blog.

A miracle happened as I cared for my elderly parents a while back. I wanted to share it with you, but in the mean time my dear Dad passed into glory, and the caregiving for my bereaved Mom has been overwhelming. But I keep thinking that this may help someone else, so here it is.

You will understand how wonderful this was if I if I go back a little. Ever since I can remember, as the oldest daughter, I was made to feel that it was my responsibility to “save” the family. As a child as young as five I remember being asked to solve adult-weight possible catastrophes. So, my parent’s recent devastating health (dementia, COVID, COPD, heart failure) and resulting financial problems have triggered a lot of anxiety and panic and even despair in me.

This particular day, my parents called me in a panic because they had purchased 400 dollar’s worth of Target gift cards to send as gifts and were positive that either they had left them at the store on the counter or in the little basket of the motorized cart my dad was using, or that my mom had thrown them away in the garbage (part of the dementia is an obsessive urge to clean and clear away clutter). So, I went over there to help them find the cards, or, if possible have them canceled so they could get their money back.

First, I looked around in the house just in case. My dad said to look for a little grey Lowe’s bag and that he was pretty sure they were in the garbage. Luckily, they had failed to get the two cans out to the curb, and they were very full. So, I went through both, item by item, refilling garbage bags. Some of it was pretty ripe. Anyway, I found two little grey Lowe’s bags, but no cards. So, then we went down to Lowe’s to see if they could help us.

They were polite, though looked at us with pity. They said no gift cards had been turned in. My heart sunk deeper. The manager said I would have to call the 1-800 customer service number that is on the back of Target gift cards, as they were not Lowe’s products and they could do nothing. So, as my parents sat on a bench, I called the number and talked with a representative. She said she needed some numbers, which apparently are on the cards themselves because they were not on the receipt or the gift receipts containing the activation codes. In that case, she said she would send me an email and that I should respond with photos of the all the receipts.

I waited and waited but the email did not come. As I stood there, I asked God again to help us, and it was like he pointed me to the receipts I had in my hands and said if we had all the receipts and codes, why didn’t we have the cards too? I felt Him say that the cards were in the house. I knew that God had delayed the email so I wouldn’t get the cards canceled.

Let me go back again. A few months ago God gave me a blog post about these two verses:

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

That morning before I left my house I had been crying out to the Lord and asked him for a Bible verse I could hang on to that day. It was like he said to me, read your blog. Ha ha. So, I did and grabbed unto Philippians 4:6. I had just enough strength in the panic and despair to present my requests to God and try not to be anxious. As we drove back to the house, I cried out to God again, but this time said to him: it’s not up to me to save anybody, it’s up to you, and even if we never find the cards, I will trust completely in You and believe that you have good in mind for my parents. Suddenly, every burden lifted off me and I was at complete peace.

When we got back to their house I asked if I could poke around. I looked in every drawer, every closet, every shelf (I did find my mom’s glasses that had been missing for months!), under piles of junk mail, under furniture. I looked in the attic, in every room on the main floor, and in the basement. While in the basement, I felt sure that the cards were in the kitchen, though I had already searched there several times.

There are two deep drawers in the kitchen packed with random items and junk mail so that you can hardly open and close them. And as I took things out a few at a time, there were the cards about a third of the way down. I was jumping up and down and praising God and they were looking at me like I was strange, but smiling. I knew it was a witness to them because I had prayed with them that God would help us find the cards.

So, God did a “three-for” as my Dad used to say. I believe God healed me deep down of some of the childhood trauma and gave me faith to believe for other grave situations in my family, and he helped me find the gift cards, saving my parents a lot of money, and he showed them that he cares for and loves them. My sister later told me that she was praying “that God would show you where the cards were so that you would feel deep in your heart that God loves you, cares about you and would never leave you.” Thank you thank you thank you sister! God heard you and answered. Praise God for His love and mercy towards us!

But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God.

He’s Not Going Anywhere

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:1-2 (NLT)  

Where it says above “I waited patiently” the Hebrew literally says I waited waiting. The same word repeated twice – waiting and waiting. Yes, that is how I have felt, like I was waiting and waiting for the Lord. And not so patiently either. 

But I am completely humbled and undone by the next amazing word. Translated here as “he turned to me,” the word is natah (נָטָה) and means to “stretch out, spread out, extend, incline, bend,” or, to “pitch a tent.”1 It is the same word as this verse, the first time it is used in the Bible: 

From there he [Abram] went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Genesis 12:8 

Think about that. As Abram stopped and spread out, pitching his tent in order to incline his ear, bend toward God, so God pitches His tent near me when I cry to Him. He spreads out and makes himself at home. Right here with me. He turns His attention to me. He hears me, He is listening. I have someone to talk to. He lifts me – I like the NLT version – out of the pit of despair. The mud and the mire have grabbed on to me and tried to suck me back in. It has stolen my shoes – my way, my walk. But He pulls me out (over and over it seems) and sets me on the firm place of the Rock.   

  God pitches his tent toward me. He is with me. And He is not going anywhere. 

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20 

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23 

1Definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Brown–Driver–Briggs 

Image by Andy Rogers https://flic.kr/p/fehFPP  

How Long?

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2 

I can so relate to David’s wrestling right now. It does feel like God has forgotten or turned His Face away from me at times. Yet, this quote by Martin Luther from a commentary on Psalm 13 arrested me.

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

“There are times when in our despair we cry, ‘God hath forgotten me.’ yet somehow the conviction rises, ‘No, I am not forgotten forever.’ The soul is in that condition which Luther knew so well. — hope itself despairs, and despair nevertheless begins to hope. In our dejection we think there is no hope, yet we feel in our souls that God cannot forget, and so we begin to question Him, ‘How long shall it seem as though Thou forgettest us forever?’” — McConnell, Moody, and Fitt (emphasis mine)1 

“Hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope.” 

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid [don’t be alarmed, don’t run away, don’t fear or be in awe of, and therefore reverence your enemy] … Luke 12:6-7 

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. Zechariah 9:12 

1Alexander McConnell, William Revell Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt, Record of Christian Work, Volume 39, 1920 

Photo by Derek Bair

Shadow of a Cloud

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert. You silence the uproar of foreigners [or enemies]; as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. Isaiah 25:4-5 

That last image in the above verse has always arrested me – as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. It is so silent and even peaceful. No big warfare and sounding of trumpets and going into battle. Just a cloud quietly moving between those struggling on the ground in the heat of the desert and the source of the life-sucking, deadly heat.  

It is something that God does easily. The searing breath, the storm, the uproar, the mocking, the seemingly victorious song of the ruthless is stilled. It seems impossible, this situation. It appears as a huge mountain. It seems that the enemy is winning. But it is easy for God. Like a cloud moving silently to block out the sun. 

He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:29 

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39 (NLT) 

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27 

Image, Cloud by Peter O’Connor https://flic.kr/p/8Dupzn  

Fractured

Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you. 

Cast all your anxiety (merimna) on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries (merimna) of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:22 

Both of the above verses about worry or anxiety use the Greek word μέριμνα, transliterated merimna. J.D. Walt has this to say about this word: 

“The word is transliterated ‘merimna’ and sounds like it spells. It carries a meaning of dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts. Anxiety, in a very literal sense, pulls us apart. It dis-integrates our very sense of self by attacking our core sense of security. 

So how do we deal with anxiety?  

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

Is it as simple as telling God what we are anxious about? It sounds good, but all too often when we are anxious we tend to worry our prayers rather than casting our anxiety on God. Anxiety must actually be displaced within us. The little word, ‘because,’ tells us how this displacement works. It brings us to the four most important words in today’s text: 

He cares for you.  

Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.”

J.D. Walt https://seedbed.com/swing-thought-2/ 

Merimna means care, anxiety, “properly, a part, separated from the whole,” “worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts.” It dawned on me that it is the opposite of the “all” I wrote about recently – loving God with all. When we let our hearts and minds be pulled apart by worry into parts it separates us from God. We need to cast it all unto God and love-worship Him with all. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:36-37). 

The Greek word that Jesus used in quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, translated “all” three times in the verse, is holos (ὅλος). It is the root of the English term “whole.” It means whole, complete, entire, “properly, wholly, where all the parts are present and working as a whole – i.e. as the total, which is greater than the mere sum of the parts.” 

Worry, then, is the opposite of this “all.” Worry fractures me into parts separated from the whole. Loving the Lord with all – all the parts present and working as a whole – is the opposite of being fractured into parts by anxiety. Anxiety robs God of my all-love. It means I am reserving some of my love – worship – for that which I worry about. Do I really trust God whole-heartedly? Anxiety, as I’ve experienced lately, can become my default mode. But He cares for you.  

The Greek word translated “cares” above is meló (μέλει) and means to be an object of care. I love that! “To be an object of care.” As Louie Giglio says “you’re on Heaven’s radar.” Even when we can’t feel it or see it or hear it. Even when it seems we have been abandoned and forgotten. 

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care (meló) if we drown?” Mark 4:37-38 

“Don’t you care?”  

How many times have I asked this question, roiling in my anguish and doubt? But he said he cares for me, and has demonstrated that love.  

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares (meló) nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13 

So not being fractured, but being whole, means following the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for me. As Henry Nouwen wrote, it means trusting in God’s love. 

“It’s a question here of trusting in God’s love. The Greek word for faith is pistis, which means, literally, ‘trust.’ Whenever Jesus says to people he has healed: ‘Your faith has saved you,’ he is saying that they have found new life because they have surrendered in complete trust to the love of God revealed in him.” — Henry J.M. Nouwen 

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 1 John 4:16 (NLT) 

God wants me to be whole. I become whole following the Good Shepherd – trusting – loving with all, complete, entire, as one. Letting Him lead and guide me, bind up my wounds, rescue me, hold me close. Christ in me and I in Him, making it possible. His all, my all. 

Christ is all, and is in all. Colossians 3:11 

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6 

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:22-23 (ESV) 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 

“Did you hear that? 

He cares for you.” 

Photo, Fractured, by Brett Jordan https://flic.kr/p/8f8EHy  

Not Chicken Hearted

Does the heart empowered by the Presence of God stand and love no matter what?

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:5 

According to Barnes Notes on the Bible, the word translated “downcast” means to sink down under the weight of sorrow; to be depressed and sad. The word translated “disturbed” means literally, to growl as a bear, to be agitated, troubled, or anxious in mind, to moan internally. I’ve done a lot of both growling and moaning lately. 

That last part of this verse says in the Hebrew: I will yet praise him for the salvations of his face. 

“For the help of his countenance – literally, ‘the salvations of his face,’ or his presence. The original word rendered help is in the plural number, meaning salvations; and the idea in the use of the plural is, that his deliverance would be completed or entire – as if double or manifold.”i 

It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. Psalm 44: 3-4 

  
The Psalmist, like me, was downcast, depressed, despairing, trying to inspire and encourage his soul to wait, to be patient, to hope expectantly. Ah, that is hard. Charles Spurgeon commented on this verse: 

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? As though he were two men, the psalmist talks to himself. His faith reasons with his fears, his hope argues with his sorrows. These present troubles, are they to last forever? … Why this deep depression, this faithless fainting, this chicken hearted melancholy?” — Charles Spurgeonii 

“Chicken hearted melancholy.” That made me laugh, and reminded me of the 1961 exercise song we were forced to sing as part of President Kennedy’s Youth Fitness Program: “Give that chicken fat back to the chicken and don’t be chicken again!” Maybe what I should be singing now is, “Give that chicken heart back to the chicken and don’t be chicken again!” 

Ruth in a recent blog from Planted by Living Water (https://plantedbylivingwater.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/antithesis-of-love-1-corinthians-13/ ) listed the antithesis of love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8.

This anti-love:  

  • runs from difficulties,
  • is unbelieving, cynical, and suspicious, 
  • feels there is no hope, and 
  • gives up. 

Is the opposite of love to be chicken hearted? Does the heart empowered by the Presence of God stand and love no matter what? Is it like the Ukrainian President refusing to leave the city under siege and reassuring the people after the long, dark, terrifying night, “I am here.” iii 

The psalmist commands his failing soul to hope, which means to wait expectantly for the promised salvation. That is the opposite of despair, isn’t it? As my pastor asked in his sermon this past Sunday: am I walking around in anxiety or anticipation? A lot of times I walk in anxiety, but “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” I think it is time for me to stand on the Rock, grab onto His hope and pray. And that is only possible by the salvations of His Face, the Light of His Face, for He loves us.   

Lord, let it be! Help me to stand and keep loving in the light of your Face. Work in me persevering faith and expectant hope, no matter what is going on around me. 

“A loss of the present sense of God’s love is not a loss of that love itself; the jewel is there, though it gleams not on our breast; hope knows her title good when she cannot read it clear; she expects the promised boon though present providence stands before her with empty hands. For I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Salvations come from the propitious face of God, and he will yet lift up his countenance upon us.” — Charles Spurgeon 

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 

I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 

iBarnes Notes on the Whole Bible, by Albert Barnes 

iiTreasury of David, Charles Spurgeon https://archive.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps042.php  

iiiUSA Today on Twitter https://twitter.com/USATODAY/status/1497635825860820993  

Image in the Public Domain

God Does Not Leave Us Alone

Well, it sure is obvious when God is sending me a message. Here is what came to me in my email this morning. Maybe it is for someone else too. Thank you bloggers!

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV) — blogged by Beholding Him Ministries  

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 

“You might need to read the verse again. Did you see the shift? God changes the focus for the Christian from what he has, to who he has. God tells us to do more than match our desires to our circumstances; we reconsider our circumstances based on the promise of enduring relationship with our God: I will never leave you nor forsake you.” — Greg Morse https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/in-love-with-the-life-you-dont-have  

Today, and every day, may we remember the secret of contentment in all circumstances: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”—Philippians 4:13 (NIV) — Alan Kearns https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2022/01/30/when-little-is-much/  

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 — blogged by Beholding Him Ministries 

“What I find amazing is that our feelings of fear and doubt do not repel God from us. God does not label us as coward or weak when we feel afraid. In the Bible, whenever God meets a man who is fearful, God never turns away. He deals kindly, gently, and patiently as a loving father is to his child. So, His Word always instructs us not to fear. He always tells us, as if reminding us all the time and knowing that we easily fear and we easily forget, to ‘do not fear’. 

“For I, Yahweh your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13 (WEB)  

God does not leave us alone in our fears. Instead, He stays with us, comforts us, assures us, and helps us overcome our fears.” — Deborah Agustin https://lifehub.home.blog/2022/01/29/god-helps-us-overcome-our-fears/  

Thank you so much Lord that you do not leave us alone with our fears! 

Photo by Sheila Bair

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