Our world is in distress. It’s like I can hear it gasping for breath and flatlining as disaster after disaster overtakes. Yet within the disaster is a unifying, rallying cry of the human spirit. Collectively, we turn to the One who holds our hearts in his hand.
God is my refuge. He is my safe place, my rock and my salvation. He lifts my head when I cannot hold it up. I run to him and he hears my cry. He is my God and my Savior. Is he yours?
Do you turn to him when the world collapses? Or do you turn to your strength? When I face insurmountable odds, I’m reminded anew how weak I am and how strong he is. Fire. Flood. Health. Disappointment. Heartache. Failed relationships.
Life doesn’t make sense, and sometimes God doesn’t make sense. However, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see and a heart that runs to him, he reveals himself. The mystery unravels and new depths of God’s truth is deposited in our hearts.
He is our rock and our refuge, but we have to run to him. When literal storms come we head for shelter, and when emotional storms come, God is our best shelter. Sometimes his rescue doesn’t come in the form of removing us from the situation, but comes in the form of refuge.
He is our shield and our defense. We align our lives with his and find comfort and rescue even when our lives fall apart. I don’t understand why we’re facing so much natural devastation. It could be that the earth is crying out, the rocks are praising him, and the seas are roaring because we’ve failed to praise him. But I refuse to explain the reason for the multitude of disasters this world is experiencing, because God’s ways and thoughts are not mine.
But what I am willing to explain is this: God is for us not against. He is just and kind. His heart beats passionately for us and he is the safest place for us.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a prayer for all of us facing life changing circumstances. Today I wanted to give you the prayer in a printable form so that you can see the reminders of God’s love before you. I know what it’s like to need those visual reminders of God’s goodness because sometimes the circumstances seem so large.
Please click the link for access to a printable pdf:
God is so good. He meets me where I am and he’s my safe place to pour out my heart when I’m feeling rejected. I know this sounds silly, but sometimes I wake up and feel like all my friends don’t like me anymore. By the end of the day I have myself convinced that I am friendless and un-likeable and rejection lurks.
I run to God, and I pour out my heart to him and tell him my fears and within his refuge he reminds me of myself. He reminds me that I am a child of God, that I’m redeemed, and that I’m secure in Him.
He reminds me that in him I am loved. He reminds me that my thoughts need to be brought captive and by thinking that all my friends hate me because of some imaginary thing I did is pretty inward focused. He gently redirects my heart to what is true: I have friends. They like me. I like them. I’m going to disappoint them. They will disappoint me. But that’s what forgiveness is for. I can forgive myself when I fail my personal friendship standards. And I can ask forgiveness when I fail theirs. God also reminds me that my battles with insecurity don’t make me weak, they make me strong because I run to him for strength and help.
Do you ever feel like your heart is about to vomit all over the place? That there’s so much inside and some of it’s great, but some of it’s really ugly and like mold it spreads and takes over the good stuff?
There’s some word vomiting happening around us. Too often someone speaks before they think and in the process spews dissension and hate all over the place. Too often we hid behind screens and keyboards failing to consider the consequences of our words. Social media is not our personal journal. Not everything we feel or every opinion we have needs to be aired in public.
Yet, we need a place for these ugly feelings and thoughts to go. Some of us have trusted friends that we can share the “uglies” and they will point us to Christ and his word for direction. Sometimes, though, we choose someone else to spew our uglies at and it becomes even messier than before because we’ve created a super-cell super-destructive storm of emotions.
Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the relatability of God. In the midst of our awareness of his awesomeness and majesty, we forget that he is also supremely interested in us. In all of us–the good stuff and the bad.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8
Our trust in God is related to how open open our hearts are to him. I don’t think God wants our sanitized hearts. Our sanitized hearts look a lot like the produce drawers in my fridge: clean on one side and nasty on the other.
In our world divisiveness rages. People hate on one another, turn their backs on their fellow man, use words to kill and destroy, declare tolerance in the name of hate. Our hearts fill with rage or disgust and so we speak. And sometimes in the speaking, we wound.
We wound because we haven’t taken the pain in our hearts to God and let him sanitize our pain so our words become life-giving instead of life-taking.
At times, our hearts have a difficult time separating righteous anger from regular anger, gossip from a prayer request, or conditional love from unconditional love. We need God to sift through the feelings and purify the things that don’t please him so that our hearts honor him with everything we say and do.
Pouring out our hearts to God can become the single most important thing we can do in our personal walk with him. He is the first to receive our confusion, our frustration, our questions, fears and anger. Only then, once our hearts are empty can he fill us up.
He fills us up with his peace, wisdom, guidance, joy and love. He becomes our refuge–where we’re kept safe and held close to his heart–so that we can know his heart. And when our hearts are filled with his heart, we can share words that give life and pour love onto the weary hearts around us.
Run to him first with all your care and concerns. Find solace in his word. Find power in the Holy Spirit. Live in his wisdom not your own and remember that your poured out empty heart has room for him to fill you.
I seem to forget the things I need to remember. It’s like I put them in a “safe” place in my mind, only I lose them, forgetting where I put them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned my house upside down looking for something I put in a “safe” place. So I’m a stacker instead of a filer and I have numerous junk drawers in the house that hold innumerable items of importance, like padlocks, pliers, and papers. If I see it, I remember, and I can find it when I need it.
God tells us to remember him and so we need to keep his promises and abilities close to our hearts and in our minds. We need to think on him and remember:
He holds the stars and calls them each by name.
He knows the number of hairs on my head, including the ones I daily lose.
His thoughts towards us are innumerable and good.
Why, then, do we doubt his goodness towards us? Why do we wonder where he is when he is silent?
Today, can you take courage? Can you take hold and hold onto your hope?
God is in the waiting. He is never failing. His love is unending and everlasting.
If you hold onto your hope, your triumph will unfold. Take courage. Stay steadfast. He’s there, in the waiting. He will turn your darkness to light because he is light.
Take courage and let your soul stay steadfast. Your doubts will fade, your questions dissipate as you focus on the King of Kings. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Hope of the world. Our miracles happen when our eyes are fixed on him, despite what we see, feel, or experience.
It’s in the steadfastness of our soul that we know the steadfastness of God’s heart. It’s in our faithfulness that we know God’s faithfulness. He is strong and mighty. He saves. He redeems. He triumphs.
When we’re at the end of ourselves, we see the power of God displayed in our lives. You see, God has promised that we will rise in His victory. Our triumph will unfold, but it won’t be because of us and our efforts. Our triumph will unfold because we’ve held onto hope when hope seems lost. We will experience victory when our hearts don’t waver in our belief in God’s mighty goodness and faithfulness.
We may not be able to see around the next bend, but God is there. He is with you in the thorny path and he is ahead of you around the curve that you cannot see. He is behind you protecting your back from the darts of the enemy of our souls. And he is beside you whispering direction and encouragement.
You will rise in victory. You will rise in His victory because he holds the stars and knows them by name and he will surely keep his promises of finishing the work he has begun in you. Take courage. Hold on. He is loving and good and steadfast. He is faithful. He is power. And as you hold onto your Hope, he holds onto you.
The Red Sea parted and the Israelites walked away from bondage to freedom on dry ground with walls of water towering above them. Their freedom had come in shifts. First the freedom from experiencing the plagues that attacked Egypt, then the freedom from their physical bondage when they walked away, and then miraculously as they crossed the sea on dry ground.
They were truly free! Egypt was destroyed, the army drowned, no one could enslave them again. The elation! The jubilee! Their eyes were eager as they set out. They watched in awe as the cloud covered them by day and the fire warmed them by night. “Let’s get to the mountain to worship God! Step lively! Don’t dawdle! We’re free!” The chorus of voices rang out.
The Privilege of Freedom
I’m free twice. I was born free in the land of the brave and then I was born free again when Jesus became my Lord and Savior. One was a right by birth and the other was a gift. With both comes responsibility to serve.
My freedom right means I have the beautiful privilege of serving my fellow man, woman, and child. It means I get to serve democracy and not my own interests. It means that I have a duty to the country of my birth–a duty to uphold the values that men, women, and children have given their lives for.
My freedom gift means I carry the weight of Jesus in my life and it means that my life is no longer my own to serve myself, but to serve him. This gift is an exchange for my life for the very presence of a holy, almighty God in my heart.
I wish I could say it were easy being free, but sometimes I look at the selfishness in my life and truly wonder if I understand freedom. I want to use freedom to do what I want to do. I want freedom so I can have a life of ease and comfort. I don’t really think of freedom and fear in the same sentence, but I’m beginning to.
When We Reject Freedom
Our Israelite friends? The ones who experienced a miraculous freeing? They gave up a personal relationship with God because they didn’t understand what their freedom was really for. Their freedom was a vehicle for them to know the heart of God towards them and they rejected it for a man to be the mediator between them and God. (Exodus 20:18-21)
The weight of freedom is the fear of the Lord. It’s a healthy fear than enables us to not sin, which explains why the Israelites had a problem with sinning. I can see why they rejected God’s extension of a personal relationship with him. I mean, the mountain was shaking and smoking and it was thundering and lightening and somewhere, somehow there was the sound of trumpets. It was a cacophony of sound. Overwhelmed and as frightened as they’d been while slaves in Egypt, this had to have brought their fear to a whole new level.
We like to pigeon-hole people. Someone behaves a certain way and all of a sudden they’re the “organized” one or a “perfectionist” or a “cleany” or a “messy.” Humans love categories and classification. But God doesn’t fit into a category or classification. He is both kind and just. He is both gentle and destructive. And the God who they thought they knew as their freedom maker just became someone they were all together unsure of.
When Freedom Surprises Us
I know I’ve been surprised by God. I think I’ve got him all figured out and then out of the blue he pulls a fast one on me and before I know it I’m tossed on the waves of questioning and wondering who is this God I serve.
When this happens we don’t have to be like the Israelites and back away from him. We can be like Moses who drew nearer to the shaking, smoking, clanging, and lit up mountain. Do you know his character? Do you trust his heart for you? He is good. He is also just. He is light and life. He is breath. He is trustworthy. He knows best. He wants to make us into a beautiful reflection of him. And sometimes that involves stepping closer to a mountain that seems like it’s going to explode.
Imagine if it did. Imagine confetti exploding and covering us with all the goodness his heart has inside. Even if we feel our world is about to collapse, he is still good and he wants us to know him.
Don’t be like the Israelites and shirk away from your duty that being free in Christ brings to you. The duty to be enveloped in his presence and to know his very heart. It might seem frightening, but let him show you his heart and who he really is.
Your freedom gift is a privilege. Embrace it. Esteem it and never let it go.
There is a song by Elevation Worship that repeats in my mind and meets me in the life-overwhelms and reminds me where my strength and hope is placed. One of my children had a dental procedure and the weight of the unknown overwhelmed her and I felt overwhelmed knowing how to help her. Have you been there? You’re overwhelmed by the weight of the unknown and you desperately cry out for help and your friend or husband or kids can’t help you. It’s the kind of overwhelming feeling that can only be carried by Jesus.
I couldn’t do anything for my daughter except hold her hand and comfort her the best I knew how and the best I know how is to point her to Jesus and remind her that he is calling her to himself. He calls us to come to the altar when we’re hurting. He calls us to come to him when we don’t know if we can handle one more second of the unknown. The fear weighs us down and we suffocate from it.
And so I remind you and me and anyone who wonders if they can take another step of this:
Jesus is calling. He calls you when you’re broken. He calls you when your sin threatens to overwhelm you, and he calls you to come drink from his well that never runs dry. He says to you, “Turn your back on your regrets and mistakes. Those are in the past and I have redeemed you, look to me—the starter and finisher of your faith. Don’t be afraid. Come to me. I have refreshment for you in the midst of your trials and pain.”
Ah friends, whatever you’re facing, there’s an altar waiting for you. An altar that points your eyes to Jesus. An altar where you can receive forgiveness. It’s an altar where you leave your mistakes and regrets as a testimony to God’s faithfulness because rather than your regrets pointing it’s accusing finger at you, you can use it as a reminder to yourself of God’s redeeming power in your life.
Sorrows and suffering. They go together like peanut butter and jelly—only they don’t taste as good–and I would never choose them. In fact, they sometimes leave a bitter taste, but when we recognize our feelings towards our sufferings, we have an opportunity to head straight to the altar and surrender our expectations to Jesus.
And then he does this amazing thing: he bears them for us while walking with us through them. But if we leave the altar, we stumble and fall because we begin relying on our own strength. We begin to rationalize away our feelings about our reality and once the rationalization happens we lose touch with the reality that God is with us in the midst of the unknown.
Jesus is calling us to come to the altar. He’s calling us to come when the weight of the world threatens to crush us. He’s calling us to come when our sin weighs on our hearts. Jesus is calling you to come to the altar. Run to him and find rest.
Senseless deaths. Wounds fester. Terrorists attack. Fingers point blame. The news channels sensationalize the bad and minimize the good and I wonder, where is hope? When life falls apart and I have no good words, what do I do? In order to know hope, I must walk through the suffering.
We can’t bypass it. We can’t go around it. Sometimes the only way through the suffering is to immerse ourselves in the suffering. And then call out all the fear and pain and lay it at God’s feet.
If we can read in the daytime that God promises to be with us, we must believe it when the darkness is so pervasive we cannot see our hand before us.
If he promises to be with us in the fire then we have to believe when the flames lick our skin and burn our hearts.
If he promises that nothing can separate us from his love then we have to believe him when the darkness closes in and God seems separate from us.
We must sit with him in our suffering. He’s there. He’s there when the world is trying to tell us that he’s not. I’ve chased peace and healing outside of my suffering because I didn’t believe God was right there in the middle of it. And when I leave my suffering, by refusing to acknowledge the pain I’m feeling, I leave God behind.
He’s always with us in our suffering and he wants to hear our hurts and disbelief. He wants us to rage at him because he wants our hearts and sometimes all that’s in our hearts is anger. This is lament.
The Psalms teach us to lament. The Psalms are full of how could you-s, and where are you-s, and why don’t you do something-s. But they’re also full of praises to God while still in the dark. They teach us to empty our hearts of the pain and then to fill our hearts up with reminders of God’s love and faithfulness. And this isn’t a one time experience, but it sometimes needs to be done minute by minute, hour by hour, or day by day.
Do you want hope in your suffering? Then enter into your suffering and feel the feelings that threaten to overwhelm you and then turn your lament into praise. Give words to your pain and then turn your heart to truth because what it true in the daytime is true in the nighttime.
He is a God of hope, of comfort, of peace and when my gaze is fixed on him, I don’t fret, worry, or grow anxious. Hope is Jesus. He is our hope in a fallen, decaying, dying world. I can believe in myself all I want, but when it comes right down to it, my effort is weak against the power in the name of Jesus. What if we wore the name of Jesus and felt the weight of the hope that is in his name rest on our shoulders?
But I don’t. I lie awake at night worrying a prayer, attempting to convince myself that I do trust God and my hope is in him. But my sleeplessness proves my struggle with hope.
Suffering. I’m afraid of it, but I’m learning to embrace it because I know that when I suffer, God gifts me with four things:
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10
God restores. He confirms. God strengthens and He establishes. And it all comes through our suffering.
God will restore what the locusts devour. He will confirm his truths in your heart. He is your strength. And he establishes you.
Enter into your suffering, not alone, but with him. He will carry you through and he will give you words to speak when your own are gone.
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