Broken Walls Made Whole

If you are with me in that place of impossible burden, feeling guilty and useless, not just hidden but buried, be encouraged.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14 (ESV) 

When I looked at the original language of this verse, I found something unexpected, what seems like a vivid contrast, or even an oxymoron. 

I have always thought of waiting as a still (maybe frustratingly so, like sitting in a traffic jam) and almost sedentary activity, and patient waiting as almost an impossibility.  

The Hebrew word qavah (קָוָה), translated wait, is used twice in the verse. It means to look for, wait patiently, tarry, wait for, wait on, wait upon. It has this underlying meaning of the “tension of enduring, waiting.”1 But the words translated “be strong” and “take courage” are far from still or sedentary in their meanings. 

The word translated “be strong” is chazaq (חָזַק). It means “to be or grow firm or strong, strengthen.” In its various verb tenses it carries the meanings of prevailing over, the sound of a trumpet growing louder and louder, securing a kingdom. It means to seize, grasp, take hold, retain, and keep, restore to strength, make strong and encourage. In Nehemiah it is used of the repairing of the walls of the city. 

Wow, these biblical images sound familiar and do not sound like passive waiting. They almost don’t seem very patient either.  

The word translated “take courage,” or be courageous is amets (אָמַץ). This word means to confirm, be courageous or of good courage, steadfastly-minded, be strong, make strong, strengthen yourself, fortify, to be alert, physically (on foot) or mentally (in courage), increase, prevail. 

So, the psalmist appears to be saying we have something to do while we wait: 

Wait for the Lord. But while you are waiting for Him, secure the Kingdom. Seize, take hold, restore. Sound the trumpet of the Good News. Strengthen yourself and others in the Lord. Repair the broken walls of the church. Be alert for the attacks of the enemy and resist him.  

It seems like the psalmist is saying while you wait conquer, prevail over the enemy, bring the lost into dwelling place of the Most High, our most loving God. And I absolutely believe that is true.

But to tell you the truth this study has left me feeling guilty and deficient. I am in a place right now as a caregiver where I cannot do much for the Kingdom – or so it seems. I find myself overwhelmed, burdened with necessary responsibilities, unable to do one more thing, even sometimes it seems to take one more breath. Obvious, visible doings like volunteer work and helps ministries are impossible right now. And I feel sad and stymied. 

But then the Lord showed me something. Could it be that by waiting patiently – yielding to Him and the place He has me in right now, serving Him though “the least of these” – focused on Him and together with Him, I conquer my self-life, prevail over oppression in the unseen spiritual realm, I witness to my faith, and encourage others by my perseverance. Maybe in this waiting-yielding time I become better, as Chris Hendrix recently blogged Becoming Better.  

Maybe this is a refining time for me. I have always wanted to do big things for God, maybe for the wrong reasons. Maybe I have wanted to be wonderful and seen, when He wants me to be hidden in the One called Wonderful. And who is to say whether our patient waiting and enduring and persisting in love is not as powerful an encouragement and witness to others as physically sounding trumpets and repairing broken walls? Aren’t the faithful prayers of one person powerful and effective according to scripture (James 5:16), even though only heard by God?

So, if you are with me in that place of impossible burden, feeling guilty and useless, not just hidden but buried, be encouraged. Put on your armor, grow strong, stand your ground, hold on, keep loving the hard to love, keep lifting up your prayers. Maybe be still and let God repair some broken walls in your soul. Cultivate the fruits of the Spirit. Let them beautify walls made whole. And you and I will come out of this with a witness of God’s faithfulness. We will come out better. 

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 1 Timothy 1:18-19 

For our struggle (fight, conflict, wrestling bout) is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground (take a complete stand against, withstand, resist, oppose, refusing to be moved, to keep one’s possession; ardently withstand, without giving up), and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13 

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40

Occupy (do business, make legitimate gain, bear much fruit, the opposite of being fruitless) until I come. Luke 19:13 (KJV)  

… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

1All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Discovery Bible, NAS Concordance of the Bible, and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. 

Image, Pomegranates hanging over wall on our climb to the castle, by ralmonline alm, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pomegranates_hanging_over_wall.jpg  

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  

His Right Hand is Free

If God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it.

Yet I am always with you; 
you hold me by my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel, 
 and afterward you will take me into glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you? 
 And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
 but God is the strength of my heart 
 and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 

When I was meditating on these verses I realized that if God is holding me by my right hand I can’t use it. And since I am right-handed anything I tried to do with my left hand would be awkward and malformed.  

The right hand in the Bible is a symbol of strength. Also, “The right side of a man is the side on which God ‘marches’ when assisting him in battle (Isa. 63:12; Ps. 109:31; 110:1, 5) and it is the right hand which God grasps as a symbol of election (Isa. 41:13; 45:1; Ps. 73:23).” i  

Wow, what amazing grace! He has grasped my right hand; He has chosen me! But, if my right hand is in His, I basically can’t do anything in my own strength. I would have to take my hand out of His. That explains my frequent urge to do just that – shake Him off and do it myself. Fearful that things are taking too long, that I’m missing out, afraid He has forgotten me.  

But His word assures us that He will never forget. Yet, I am always with you. He will never leave us or forsake us. And think of this: though His left hand is occupied holding on to me, His right hand is free. And so, “though my flesh and heart may fail” God is my strength and help. He is fighting for me with His mighty right hand. 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Psalm 138:7-8 (ESV) 

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13 

Lord, keep my right hand in yours

iJewish Virtual Library “Right and Left” 

Photo, free download from Piqsels

It Takes Time to Grow

“My times are in your hands.”

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 13:2 

Sometimes it feels like it takes forever to heal, to change, to mature, to overcome. Sometimes I feel like I will never grow up out of my trauma. I struggle with the same dark thoughts, negative self-talk, unbelief for years. I cry out with David, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” The following verses and quotes have encouraged me in the past weeks. If you are struggling and feel like it is taking way too long, may they bless you too. 

Believe Him in the darkest hours. See His faithfulness emerge rock solid. Now we see His truer essence. Now we know faith in our Savior – from faith to faith. Joy! Things take the time they take. ~G.W. https://collinsgw.wordpress.com/2022/03/21/mystifying-dismay/  

“God still speaks today through dreams, visions, prophecies and we can make the mistake of thinking they are “now” words for this present time or the immediate future. We have to learn to submit the timing to God. The fulfilment may actually be for years in the future. We need to practice patience while we wait … It takes time to grow.” — Eagle Sight https://eaglesight.blog/2022/04/08/joseph-hero-of-the-faith-4/  

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4  

The real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time. — Ann Voskamp 

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand … Psalm 31:14 

“God has absolute control over time and what David realized when he uttered those words [My times are in your hand] is this: that God has absolute control over the times in our lives. He’s never late. He’s never premature. He has a time for every situation, every circumstance. If we will just commit our lives totally into His hands, we’ll find that our times are in His hands. What a relief from pressure, from strain, to know that God has control over the time element in our lives. Our times are in God’s hands.” — Derek Prince 

I have to keep reminding myself that God’s timing is always right and healthy for me, as I keep trusting and walking with Him. Some seeds take a very long time to sprout and grow. And some have to struggle up through a lot of rubble. Sometimes they seem dead, but life is coming – I have to wait for it. In the mean time …  

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73.26 

Wait for the Lord; 
Be strong and let your heart take courage; 
Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Image, free download from Pixabay

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

Rest

“‘Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.’ Yes, for Him. Seek not only the help, the gift, seek Himself; wait for Him. Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, by waiting patiently for Him. This patience honors Him greatly; it leaves Him, as God on the throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into Him hands. It lets God be God.” — Andrew Murray, Waiting on God

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

Yet God

I am reblogging this post from a while ago. Still true. Always my heart.

Image, Baby’s hand, by Fruity Monkey on flickr https://flic.kr/p/99tqDR

Wrestling Word

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23 NIV)

“Yet” is my favorite word in the Bible. That may seem weird, but what comes after “yet” in many verses so often is a startling declaration of the faithfulness of God, of faith, hope, or of steely resolve to persevere. Many times, these are some of the most beautiful and inspiring verses in the Bible.

What comes before David’s declaration above in Psalm 73 is his expression of frustration and anger at the seeming injustice of God, saying at one point, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.” (Psalm 73:13-14). His doubt and bitterness increase to the point of acting “senseless and ignorant” like a “brute beast” before God.

Yet!…

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How Long?

He knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us.

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?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

The beginning words of this Psalm are familiar to me. I have said them a lot in the past 48 years. “How long, Lord? Feeling like I am forgotten, that God has turned away. Especially the “wrestling with my thoughts” part. These verses seem almost scandalously unfaithful – Charles Spurgeon called this the “How long Psalm,” or the “Howling Psalm.” But the words are real. It is how we feel many times. I am so glad that God let them stay in the Bible.

There are many other places, especially in the Psalms, where the Holy Spirit includes these scandalous thoughts and cries. Our being real with God does not bother him. In fact, he loves it when we turn to him and cry out to him, even with doubts in our hearts. Because he knows that a thousand years may seem like a day to him, but it sure seems like a long time to us. And he will respond. His father-heart cannot help but respond. And we can trust in his unfailing love, his chesed. The Psalmist always, somehow, comes back to that trust.

It made me smile when I saw that the Hebrew word chesed, which tries to encompass the kindness and mercy and goodness of God, is translated into Greek as Bethesda – the House of Mercy. This is the name of the pool where they would lay the many disabled people – lame and blind and paralyzed – and they would wait. Wait for the chesed. One man had waited 38 years when Jesus came and healed him. I imagine he may have wondered many times “How long, Lord?”

But sometimes God has to wait for us. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to become well?” I can hear him adding to himself, “now? Yet? Are you ready?” Because we have much to wrestle with – me in particular. Much anger and resentment and pride and rebellion to fight through and howl about.  But God is there. And he is working in us, whether we can see or feel it or not. He won’t give up on us, even if it takes a thousand years. So, we can say:

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Shout of Victory

I wait for (hope, expect, await, am patient, pained, trust in) you, O LORD;

you will answer (respond, testify in court on my behalf, shout in victory), O Lord my God. Psalm 38:15

I wait for (look for, hope, am bound together with) the LORD,

my soul (by very being) waits (looks for, hopes, is bound together with Him),

and in his word (I am trusting, waiting, expecting) I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

Lord give me strength to be patient and trust you though it may be painful. Give me faith to hope expectantly with all my being, that my waiting will bind me ever closer to you and inspire your shout of victory.

Image: Jump for Joy by Kreg Steppe https://www.flickr.com/photos/spyndle/3480602438

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