Caught up in the whirlwind of the end of the school year, so once again: Apologies for being mostly vacant from the blogosphere! The good Lord willing, I’ll be back in the mix soon. Until then – and for anyone else going through a crazy time – I wanted to share this wonderful post from my dear brother-in-Christ, Bill Sweeney. If anyone knows what it means to be held aloft by the grace of God, it’s Bill…
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.John 19:30
O God, what can we say? As we look back on the work Jesus did on the cross – giving up His life of sinless perfection to pay the staggering cost of our transgressions – there are no words of gratitude powerful enough. We are humbled by Your love and favor; we are in awe of Your mercy and grace.
How can we express our thankfulness but to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to You in Christ? We are Yours, Lord! Thank You for setting us free from bondage to sin and to death and making us alive together with our Lord Jesus! By His death, our ransom is paid and the work of atonement is finished, once for all. But praise be to God, we do not serve Savior who is dead and gone.
And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen…”Luke 24:5-6a
By His resurrection we are brought from death to life and made victors over sin. Hallelujah to our God and King, for our Savior is risen and now makes intercession for us at the right hand of the Father on High!
O Most High God, we praise You for that first Resurrection Sunday and for the Risen Lord our King. Let us celebrate, not once, but each day all year long. May it be that we celebrate our new life in Christ by living our lives for You every single day.
Keep that momentous event fresh in our minds and hearts, Lord. Remind us daily, hourly, of the wonder of Your saving grace, the terrible price of Jesus’s sacrifice, and the glorious righteousness that He imparts to us because of it.
You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:19b-20
May we be ever mindful that our lives are no longer our own. We were bought with a staggering price – the lifeblood of Emmanuel – and have been redeemed as Your own possession. Teach us to live in this way, Lord. Train our hearts in obedience and shape our desires as You choose. May we live for You, love for You, and if necessary, willingly die for You.
From this day and forevermore, Lord, use us as the instruments for Your purposes here on earth. May we hunger and thirst for Your righteousness, seeking first Your kingdom, and aligning our hearts with Yours. May our perspective be permanently changed as we learn to see the fleeting hours of our days through the lens of eternity.
With this in view, may we devote our lives to fulfilling the great commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all You have commanded us. And O Lord, teach us to obey first so that we can lead by our own actions, amen.
Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.Psalms 107:10-11
God our Savior, we exalt Your glorious name today! Thank You for saving us from our own slavery to sin; for treating us like Royal sons and daughters when we were no more than street urchins living in hostility to God and rebellion to Your ways.
When we were groping in the darkness, You brought us into the light of Your love and washed us by the blood of the ultimate Sacrifice, Jesus our King. Truly there is no god like our God who holds in His hand the power to save the most depraved sinner and turn us from death to life!
Let Your praise never be far from our lips, O Lord. As we go about our days, show us how to keep in mind Your incredible deeds – the ones we read in Your word and the ones we’ve seen in our own lives. Teach our tongues to forgo complaint and instead express gratitude for the works of our wonderful and merciful God.
May we celebrate in our hearts the gift of being among the redeemed, and may that celebration spill out as words of praise for You to all we encounter. May our homes be monuments to Your glory where we share Your praises and thank You for Your blessings.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble…Psalm 107:1-2
But even as we celebrate our salvation and Your awesome deeds, remind us of those we know and love who have not yet accepted the free gift of Your grace. To them especially, may our words be seasoned with graciousness, praise, and thanksgiving, and may the joy of salvation be very real and evident in our lives.
Help us to be alert for the nudges of Your Spirit prompting us when to speak and when to listen. Grant us the humility to remember that we, too, once walked in darkness and were dead in our sins. Only by Your grace have we been made alive in Christ, so by Your grace help us to share the hope we have in You.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12
When those who are lost hurt us, remind us of how our disobedience hurts You. Just as we have been forgiven much, train our hearts to forgive much. May the grace and mercy You showed to us be the impetus for grace and mercy toward others.
As we speak and interact with a lost and hurting world, change our responses. Instead of anger, give us kindness; instead of agitation, patience; instead of harshness, gentleness; instead of self-righteousness, humility; instead of arrogance, meekness. May our lives reflect You and may the light of Your love in us draw the lost and hurting to You that they, too, may be set free; amen.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
Bit of background on today’s prayer:
As some of you know, I have been studying Biblical Hebrew with the goal of someday being able to read the Bible in both Hebrew and Greek. The reason? I just plain love the Word that much; both the Word who was in the beginning and the Book. For real.
At any rate, I was working through a portion of Exodus 3 and came to the end of verse 7 where God says, “I know their suffering.”
Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings… (Exodus 3:7)
The Hebrew word translated “I know” ( יָדַ֖עְתִּי) is transliterated yadati. The root, yada, connotes several concepts, among which are to discern or find out, to know by experience. It is the same word used metaphorically for carnal knowledge (as in “Adam knew his wife”), which in my mind implies a very intimate knowledge.
Then it hit me. God truly does intimately know the suffering of His people. He even knows suffering by experience, because He experienced suffering as one of us.
By the hands of those He came to save, He endured flogging and blows. By the mouths of those He supplied with the ability to speak, He sustained mockery. By the act of one of His closest companions, He faced betrayal. Upon the wood of a cross made from a tree He created, he bore our shame.
And because He did these things and more, we who are in Christ have a great High Priest who intercedes for us before the Throne of Grace. When we turn from our own way and submit our lives fully to Him, we receive grace. Because the One who never sinned became sin for us, we become His righteousness when we, though faith, become His.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)
So today, I raise my plea to Him:
El Roi, our God Who sees, we praise You for the simple yet profound fact that You do see us. You see us in all our afflictions, in each celebration, and in every mundane moment in between.
Nothing done in the darkness is hidden from Your sight and no evil passes without Your noticing it. Not only the wrongs others commit against us but also the wrongs perpetrated by us – all alike are noticed by You and wrought for the good of those who love You. For this, our hearts overflow with gratitude and praise.
Not only do You see us, but You know us far better, even, then we know ourselves. Before a word is on our tongue, You know it. You even know the number of hairs on our heads. But perhaps the most poignantly, You know the suffering of Your people because You also lived and suffered as a man.
Thanks to Your compassion and grace, we can trust You in the intimate way You see and know us. Because of Your love, this knowledge does not beat us down but instead inspires us to keep pressing forward, lifting our eyes off of ourselves and our sorrows and onto the Man of Sorrows who is acquainted with grief.
It is Christ’s experiential knowledge of suffering which allows us to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence. Because of what our Lord Jesus did in his time on earth, we have a high priest who has suffered in every way we have yet did so without falling to sin.
So it is today, Lord, that we as Your church humbly approach You and ask for a filling of Your mercy and grace. Please supply us with both in ample supply that we are enabled to serve You with fierce effectiveness, bearing much fruit for Your harvest – fruit that will last and that is rooted in mercy and grace as we share Your truth with others, amen.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 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.
And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.
This rainy morning finds me somewhat melancholy. For one, I blew my top at my eldest yesterday. Although he did not deserve to shoulder the brunt of my wrath, he was the unfortunate person in my path when I reached a tipping point. I took my eyes off the Lord and focused on my problems instead, and I am heartbroken at my own foolish response to my child.
I am, however, proud to say that he handled the whole thing with maturity that put me to shame. But today, another problem also grieves my heart: the ridiculous and entirely insane fact of racism. I have never understood this issue. I never will.
In high school, I had the misfortune to be admired by a boy who belonged to a group of Neo-Nazi skinheads; a racist group that existed in my town in the 1990s. I recall one of his friends handing me some printed material – some preposterous drivel about sending the black people back to Africa and taking back “our” country.
Far from gaining my respect, this nonsense raised a cold fury in my heart. One of my closest – and indeed, one of my only – friends at the time was black. Of all the people in my grade, she was also quite possibly the one I respected the most.
Refusing to be defined by any clique, Miss C was funny, gregarious, and cheerful even when life was hard. When depression eclipsed my heart and I became sullenly withdrawn, often behaving like a complete freak, she still always treated me with a dignity I knew I didn’t deserve. Thus, for some combat boot-wearing child to tell me that she needed to be shipped back to Africa aroused only my contempt.
Needless to say, that little boy never earned my affection, but he has since earned my pity. How sad a life to believe oneself superior to another by a mere accident of birth! How wretched to be so lacking in logic as to think white skin gives one a “rightful” claim to a land mass that was originally wrested from a brown-skinned people. How horrible to live so full of hate and darkness.
My response to the Neo-Nazi race propaganda remains the same today as it was when I was a teen. Though we might share a skin color, we emphatically do not share an ideology. If anyone ought to be shipped back anywhere, it is us representatives of a lighter-skinned population – the descendants of land thieves, exploiters, and slave-owners.
Although I am ashamed that these things likely lurk in my ancestral closet, I am not my ancestors. Personally, I agree wholly with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. that each of us ought to be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our epidermis.
Recently, the above-mentioned friend posted on Facebook about several instances of racism she has experienced in her life, some flung out by foolish peers and others perpetrated by authority figures. It grieves me to think of those incidents, and again I admire her that she has never given up hope in the human spirit despite such atrocities.
Then… then I heard about what happened in Virginia. May I state something for the record? As a white woman, I utterly reject any such notion as “white supremacy.” The very idea of something as arbitrary as pigmentation offering any people group supremacy over another is not only abhorrent, it is entirely illogical.
As if my friend or any other person has any control over the very fact of being born! To hate someone for that is the very paramount of ridiculousness.
Oh, people! Have we still not learned? There is truly only one race among humanity; we are all of the human race. Despite differences in skin color, hair color, eye color, geography, or intelligence quotient, we are all subject to the same curse of sin. It is sin that breeds such nonsense as racism. It is also sin that bears a grudge and refuses to forgive.
Today, I am sorry for all the atrocities of human nature, for every news headline that demonstrates the truth of words penned so many centuries before: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
I weep for those damaged by racism and hatred; both those who are its victims as well as those whose souls are devoured by such cancerous hatred. I pray for my beautiful nieces whose skin is browner than mine, that they may see the goodness of God more completely because of the evil of mankind. I love that my own children have friends of many colors, shapes, sizes, and nationalities.
I also long for mankind to judge rightly, assessing one another by the content and expression of character rather than arbitrary cosmetic differences. More than that, I hope that we will learn to humbly apply the standard most rigorously to our own sorry selves.
Yet even as I write, I realize that I stand condemned by my own character as evidenced by my childish outburst mere hours ago. It seems that we will need something more than character. As a species, we are in need of grace.
As Ravi Zacharias wrote, “…no matter what part of the world we come from or what strata of society we represent, we must all admit our own shortcoming–that we only feel exonerated when we gauge our level of saintliness in comparison to someone else of lesser esteem.”
My friends and brothers of all colors, we are all of lesser esteem.
The solitary standard by which we may rightly measure our own character or that of another is the perfect standard of holiness – the standard of God Himself expressed in human flesh by the works and person of Yeshua Messiah (Jesus Christ).
If you are tempted to look down on another person, look up to Him first. He alone offers true grace, for He is the sole owner of holiness and worthy of reverence. The rest of us stand condemned daily by our own, innumerable childish outbursts.
One final plea – as you do look to Him, be certain that you are looking to Him alone. Humanity has perpetrated many evils in His name, all of which will be called to account someday. Beware of discarding the veracity of God because of the fumbling mishandling of sinful humanity.
No matter where you stand on the issue of racism, know that the sinful expression of anger is only foolishness. Even those of us who are victims must be careful of our responses. My rather loud outpouring of fury to my son last night was no less an expression of foolishness than that of the anger-fueled murder of other people in Virginia days ago.
I feel deep sorrow for my angry words, and I feel no less sorrow for the very fact of racism. Yet as I was reminded rather painfully last night, responding in anger only feeds a fire which already rages out of control, damaging all who are caught in its blaze without regard to complicity.
With full understanding that by giving vent to my anger I have played the part of a fool, I leave you with a Proverb as it is translated from the original Hebrew by David H. Stern, a Messianic Jewish scholar:
Don’t answer a fool in terms of his folly, or you will be descending to his level; but answer a fool as his folly deserves so that he won’t think he is wise.
Proverbs 26:3-4, CJSB
My friends, let us no longer act as fools and beasts ruled by our impulses, but let us instead submit in humility to God and allow Him to set us apart for holiness instead, agreeing with His definitions of goodness and truth, imitating His example of perfect love, and shunning evil – especially the evil that lies in our own hearts.
(As a side note, all comments on this website are modereated. While America may still play at offering freedom of speech, I do not, nor do I tolerate disrespect. Any useful, respectful, gracious words will published; all hateful comments or angry retorts will be heartily ignored).
In our years of pet ownership, my husband and I have developed our own dog ranking system, partially in jest and partly because… well, partly because. In order, the hierarchy is:
- Good Dog
- Has Potential
- Bad Dog
Allow me to embellish.
This is Mayumi:
Mayumi is a Good Dog.
Most of the time, she is very obedient… with occasional exceptions, usually because I haven’t given her adequate exercise. When small children are over, she is gentle and submissive. As for tricks, she can jump through hoops, sit, stay, high-five with alternating paws, close the door (well, sometimes), and play dead.
As a puppy, she would only quiet at night if she could see me. Overall, she is my loyal companion who follows me from room to room and generally wants to be near me. She is calm and can be trusted with people of all ages and animals of all sizes. I love this dog!
Chestnut Has Potential.
For the most part, he is obedient (occasionally even surpassing Mayumi in coming when called), but he does lack self-control. He adores people, often rather exuberantly in wild, oafish boundings and clumsy gyrations that threaten the vertical stability of moderately sized humans. Chestnut also has trouble holding his licker and frequently leaves slobber trails on… well, everything.
Due to his… enthusiasm… we crate him when small children or elderly people are visiting. Not all furry things that enter our yard survive except the three skunks that got him first (really, three times !!!).
My husband and I joke that his tombstone will read RIP Chestnut: He Had Potential.
I have no pictures of Sable, but she was aptly named. Sable was a Bad Dog.
In the few weeks she lived here, she managed to frighten the children (who were still very young), lose all off-leash privileges in the house, and made me rue the day I first saw her. One rare occasion when she was allowed off the leash in our yard, she attacked me. Fortunately, I had some training in judo and her challenge went rather badly for her while I was angry but unhurt. Sable became a junkyard dog.
…And this is our Miscreant thinning the herd of origami reindeer given us by the talented Mr. Leonard Gluck.:
But he’s in a different class entirely.
Before I came to know and love the Most High, I was as dark-hearted as Sable, a miscreant in an altogether separate category – an aimless and nameless wastrel.
Can I even express how grateful this repentant reprobate is to the King who expunged her record of lawlessness by sentencing Himself to death in my stead? Can I find words for my awe that He did not stop there, but took up His life again? No, words fail.
Where I deserved a pitiless death, I received mercy… and yet He did not stop there. With grace beyond my wildest reckoning, He called this waif, “Daughter, ” lavished upon me a spiritual inheritance of inestimable value, and has brought light and life to all that was deadened and darkened within me.
My Lord and my God! May the wonder of it never cease to astonish me!
If my God is truly powerful; if His grace is truly sufficient; if I believe that fullness of joy is found in His presence – in short, if He is truly all He says He is – my life ought to reflect nothing short of complete devotion and steadfast loyalty to Him.
Where He is, I want to be. When He commands, I want to obey, and though I may slip up from time to time, overall I want to be fully His, wholly trusting Him and trusted by Him around people of all ages.
May I never be a casual partaker of Grace, giving the Almighty a perfunctory nod as I tuck His gift carelessly in a pocket while asking Him to bless my self-determined course.
In short, I do not want to a disciple who merely Has Potential…
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules…
O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy.
O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act…”
(Daniel 9:4b -5, 18-19a)
Most High God, Creator of all things both visible and unseen, Refuge for Your people and wise and just Judge, You alone are good. To You belongs all manner of praise and honor. You are faithful and Your lovingkindness is without end. I rejoice in You today, for no matter what circumstances may lie in my future, You are enough and Your grace is sufficient for me.
But Lord my Strength, I also weep before You today for my weakness and the weakness of my people. I come to the Throne of Grace empty-handed, for I have nothing to offer the Almighty but my confession. Even my most noble deeds are stained and soiled by selfishness and pride. To my shame, my mouth utters complaints that expose my unbelief and do not magnify the incredible benevolence of my God.
And my nation, O King of kings; my nation is reeling and staggering from the effects of a huge and horrible malignancy. My countrymen are consumed by our own sin. Like lepers, we can see the ravages of decay yet we are numb to the pain. Sadly, we are even in denial of the extent of the damage, for we have called what is evil, “good” and what is good, “evil” and reviled and ridiculed those who reject confusion and embrace purity and truth.
As a nation, our faces no longer burn with shame but instead we delight in debauchery and make it a source of entertainment, casually exploiting others for that which does not satisfy but only increases a peculiar, wasting hunger. We have cast off all inhibitions, even rejecting common sense and reason in favor of feelings and perceptions.
With pride grown grotesquely bloated, we have believed our foolishness to be evidence of our great intellect and mocked the very God who gave us life. We have exchanged Your truth for a lie and we worship our selves along with our own mad notions rather than the Creator of life.
What was formed in hopes of a “more perfect Union” has become a disunion. My race, the human race, has become impulsive in our fears and prejudices and have divided ourselves up into groups bordered by nothing more than economic and cosmetic differences. We seem to live fueled by rage, harboring grudges and licking our wounds instead of extending kindness and forgiveness. Rather than bear with others patiently, we jostle and jockey for positions as silly as being the first in line at the next streetlight.
We have attempted to rationalize evil by sanitizing the words we use to speak of it and have attempted to escape the consequences of our deeds by eliminating or ignoring them. Just as Israel did, we have sacrificed our children to worship prosperity, prostituting ourselves to the gods of wealth, convenience, entertainment, and comfort.
We have dressed ourselves in the garments of our success, yet we cannot see that they are mere tatters, soiled by the stench of our own putrefaction.
In all this and so much more, we have sinned and fallen far short of Your grace. And yet, Lord, I do not believe the sickness and folly of this nation in which I sojourn is beyond hope. Your grace is sufficient even for this great burden of guilt.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, You declared to Israel:
…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
I believe You, my Lord.
I repent of my own wickedness, of my critical and unforgiving nature, of my careless words and my unbelief. On behalf of the waywardness and wickedness of my nation, I repent as well and plead with You on behalf of those who have been blinded and hardened by the deceit of our ancient enemy.
As I lift up my supplication to You, I know I do not pray alone. Even so, O Lord, hear the cry of Your people! Oh Lord, forgive! Oh Lord, save!
Send Your Holy Spirit in full force, piercing the hearts of this nation, healing the blindness and opening many eyes to see Your Truth, replacing numb and stony hearts with vulnerable hearts of flesh that ache with the pain of contrition.
Bring about a flood of compassion for others, of mercy and tenderness for those who hurt, of zeal for Your Kingdom, and of hunger for Your truth.
Teach our hearts to forgive the little slights we have endured because of the immensity of what You have forgiven us. What a gift You offer in Jesus! May the eyes of many, many enslaved souls be open to see the wonder of His sacrifice and the riches of Your grace. How astonishing that we who deserve dishonor, contempt, and death have been offered forgiveness, mercy, and everlasting life!
Then, O Lord, as many come before the Throne of Grace in true repentance, replace our leper’s rags with garments of praise. Place a new song in our mouths and teach us to magnify Your name together, opening our lips in praise for the marvel of our Salvation and for love of our Savior.
No matter what the future holds for our nation, may it be that we soon see an influx of new sheep to Your flock, and may we welcome them with tears and shouts of joy.
For those who are in Christ already, we ask that You increase our thirst for You, O Living Water. We confess our distraction and our spiritual lethargy and ask You to renew the joy of our salvation. Renew our passion and our fervor for Your Kingdom.
Fount of Living Water, fill Your people to overflowing, drowning out the chattering lies of our enemy in a thunderous cascade of Your righteousness. Help us to hear only Your voice, our Good Shepherd, and compel us to obey swiftly with eager diligence.
As a nation, I pray that You will humble our hearts and bring us to our knees in gratitude for the work that Jesus has completed on the cross. Turn our mocking into shouts of adoration and praise. Let us magnify You, our God! Restore that which is broken, cut away the festering disease, and heal our land.
And then, O Gracious Redeemer, restore us to Yourself that we may be fully restored. Even if we should wait weeks, years, decades — even lifetimes — remind us that Your timing that is perfect. May we never doubt Your goodness nor waver in trust, for what You have begun You will surely bring to pass.
Great is Your faithfulness; even when we falter in unbelief, You are steadfast and Your mercies are new each morning. O Lord, give strength to Your people! Amen.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The third, but perhaps the most purely delightful, lesson I took away from those years of suffering was in learning to praise my God even when shrouded in pain. While those words are easy to write now, it is critical to note that my gratitude for the suffering did not begin after I had exited the dark valley of daily pain– I began to express thanksgiving and praise aloud to God even while striving to function through the throes of migraines.
Those years were truly dark ones in all senses of the word, some points of which I have already outlined in my previous posts. Implacable pain was only one of the reasons for the gloom, but it was a pushy, domineering one. I could not escape the grip of pain for long. Medications would work for a few weeks, but they had their own side effects besides losing efficacy over fairly short periods of time. I began to dread waking, knowing that all that waited for me was an awareness of pain. My mind also seemed to be failing as I struggled to recall familiar words like “toaster” and “laundry” or my children’s names. I was perpetually, relentlessly tired, almost a zombie trudging mindlessly through each day. Because of the intensity and long-term quality of the affliction, I found myself frequently succumbing depression.
I remember clearly the first time when, in the clutches of a migraine so fierce that I dared not twitch a finger for fear of the repercussions, I was compelled to whisper oh, so quietly my adoration of God and praise that He was allowing me to be broken and reshaped by such pain, allowing me to participate in some minute way in the sufferings of my Lord Yeshua. It was the first toddling steps of a shaky practice that I began to form, a routine of murmuring blessing or praise even. or rather, especially in the depth of affliction or when despair constricted and stifled my heart. It was some time and many stops and starts before the practice began to be a habit. It is still not a solid habit, I am sorry to say, but I now remember more often than I forget.
Slowly, strangely, the leaden fog of despair was rent and began to dissipate as surely as mist in the sun. I began to understand the truth behind yet another quote from Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “True joy is not the absence of pain but the sanctifying, sustaining presence of the Lord Jesus in the midst of the pain.” I understood because I had begun to learn to recognize His Presence always, even when veiled by my own pain.
Through this moment and countless others like it, I learned to acknowledge the glory and worthiness of my King despite what I may be feeling. Though my body was wracked with exhaustion and tormented by ruthless headaches, I learned to be thankful that He was greater than my pain.
What’s more, I learned that He is worth praising no matter what my circumstances are. Even the worst of my pain can never amount to the humiliation and rejection my Lord experienced when He literally became sin on that cross as ransom for billions of undeserving, debauched human lives like my own. Even the temptation to despair can be overcome when I focus less on myself and more on the majesty and undeserved compassion of my Lord and my God.
So all in all, I am thankful for the trials God has sent my way. I am thankful for pain so persistent and intense that I was forced to the end of myself… and most gloriously of all, I am thankful that I found Him waiting for me there.
It is my sincere prayer that you will know that He is there with you in your dark valleys as well, and knowing that, you will unabashedly sing His praises into the cold and uncaring darkness. Hang in there, my dear, no matter how long it takes. He is there, even when you do not see Him. And His grace truly is sufficient for whatever trial you face.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
Today I am thankful for the relatively recent freedom from chronic migraine and associated headache pain I have experienced. I am grateful beyond words that my days are no longer bookended by varying degrees of that miserable pain which was both my first and last awareness for so many years. As appreciative as I am for the fact that the number of headaches has drastically reduced, I feel the need to stress that I am also thankful for the many years I spent in the ruthless, dense fog of chronic migraine.
Strange though it may be, I now consider those months of incessant pain a blessing. There was absolutely nothing about it that was pleasant, nor would I wish to repeat even a week of the experience. Still, it was during those interminable, torturous days marked most heavily by fatigue borne of perpetual pain that I learned such a great deal about the goodness of my Creator.
I have always been the type to plow on through an illness or injury to the point of utter collapse. Even that trait, however, proved a poor prop under the onslaught of nearly a decade of being both awakened and lulled to sleep by the pitiless ache in my head. For a while, my own strength sufficed. . . for a while. But there came a day when I simply had nothing left. Even the most mundane tasks were overwhelming and the job of educating my children with patience and love seemed hopelessly out of reach.
Up to this time, I had sporadically called upon God for help when I found myself quite over my head. Now, however, I was in a perplexing state of trouble where my tremendous need was not covered by occasional pleas for mercy. This was the time when I began to understand that a commonly spoken platitude was horribly flawed: God does give us more than we can handle. Often. Repeatedly. Even tenaciously for those of us who, like myself, are stubbornly proud and unwilling to even recognize our own weakness.
Finally desperate to break the cycle, I began to pray for help and confess my ineptitude continually throughout each day. I asked for His Spirit to expose and give me strength to repent of every act of self-sufficiency and for the grace to remember to call upon Him for mercy and for help in time of need — not only when troubled waters had swelled and I was drowning, but at the very moment those waters began to rise around me. I began to call upon Him sometimes hourly, sometimes every minute, and He willingly provided far above what my feeble efforts were worth. Slowly, the darkness of the valley did not bear down so intensely and though I still was too benumbed by pain to see far ahead, at least He provided the light to my feet for the step that was imminent. I could see enough to walk forward. I could see that I needed to lean completely on the limitless sufficiency of His great grace.
But God had still more to show me…
Lord, thank You that Your grace is truly sufficient! Thank You for not allowing me to move forward in self-sufficient pride; that You care enough to humble me and cause me to see my need to abide utterly in You.