Sometimes our Christian growth gets marked by starts and stops; wet seasons and dry seasons; valleys and deserts; gentle rains and torrential down pours. Some years we grow by leaps and bounds and other years we take a couple or three steps backward. But God is faithful. He doesn’t give up on us, but continues to direct our steps asking us to trust him.
The one thing that this life with Christ has taught me is that all I need to do is trust. Trust his heart when the way seems too good to be true and trust his heart when the way ahead seems too awful to be real. He is for us friend, even when we struggle against our circumstances. What can we do to trust him? We can praise him.
“I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” Psalm 34:1-3
“Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.” Psalm 118:19-20
Affliction follows us because we live in a world influenced by sin. Weeds grow where we don’t want them to. Attitudes form that war against what the Holy Spirit tries to accomplish in us. We deal with offenses against ourselves and others and struggle to reach for forgiveness. But God uses it all to bring us ever nearer his heart. If we let him.
We can let him when we remember. We remember his benefit and that his mercies are new every morning. We remember his kindness to bring us to repentance. We remember that in him there is no turning of shadow, but that he is light in our darkness. And praise helps us remember.
A Prayer for Praise
Holy God, You are the Almighty One, forever exalted, the Beginning and the End. You know my ways and you lead and guide me in your paths of righteousness. I rejoice in who you are. You are Bread of Life, Living Water, Holy One, Friend, Savior, Lord, Good in all your ways, and my Eternal Father. I praise you that you give me mercies every morning and that your grace is available to me when I need it. Your peace is my peace, and in you is my reward. I look to you for satisfaction because you satisfy my every need. You are my portion. You write me on your hand and hold me close to your heart. I cry, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord and worthy to be praised. In Jesus’ name, Amen
I fell up the stairs the other day (again). I promise I’ve walked those stairs numerous times and haven’t fallen down them (yet). But going up them? That’s another story. Falling forward is something I’m pretty familiar with. My toe hits the step first, then my knee and shin take the brunt of my weight, and I’m left limping the rest of the way.
Sometimes it feels like we go through life limping. We can’t seem to shake the regret that haunts us. Or we struggle with doubting God’s goodness. Or maybe there’s a habit that we can’t seem to shake. We try harder, but we’re left feeling weaker. When I’m feeling this way, I remember Paul the Apostle.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV
Even Paul had an issue that he struggled with. We don’t know what it was, just that he called it a thorn. Have you ever had a sliver you can’t seem to see well enough to pull it out? It aggravates and distracts. It throbs and pulsates.
But what did the Lord say to him?
That God’s grace is sufficient.
That God’s power is made perfect in weakness.
We can’t be strong in our own strength, but we can receive grace and strength from the One who made us and calls us his beloved children. Our weakness provides the ideal opportunity for God to display his divine power in our lives
Our weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties provide us opportunities to delight in God as he perfects his power in us. When we let him navigate us through our weaknesses, our glory and thanksgiving comes from a place of, “Only you, God. Not me, not my genius, not my strategy, but you.”
You are strong and I am weak. The burdens I bear feel too heavy and I’m not sure I can carry them any longer. So I lay them down at your feet and I lay me down on your mercy and grace. Will you work in me to strengthen me to follow you? Will you fill me with your grace and power so that I can run the race you have me on? You word says that I might be hard-pressed but I won’t be crushed. So, Lord, I look to you. You are my source of strength and power. I bring you my weaknesses and hidden hurts and say, “Help me. I cannot do this on my own.” Be my strength and show me your ways.
In Jesus’ name, Amen
I believe that God has good in store for you and that he’s holding you as you walk through the hills and valleys, mountains and meadows, and along cliffs and through deep ravines. Keep your eyes fixed on him, steady your heart, and hold onto him.
Have you ever felt that your weakness holds you back?
Maybe you feel like your soul limps through life and you experience the same difficulty over and over again and that somehow you failed because you can’t quite seem to move past it.
I shared a post on Instagram a few weeks ago about exchanging our weaknesses for God’s strength and how it’s in our weaknesses that God demonstrates his strength. His strength isn’t dependent on me overcoming, but it’s because of him I overcome.
What do you need to overcome today?
What “middle” are you in? Marriage? Career? Parenting? Health crisis? The middle parts of our journey refine our faith because we’re far from the beginning and the end is not yet in sight. I’ve found comfort in a passage from Psalms 27:13-14:
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
A Hidden Strength to Remember
Next to this verse written in blue ink is the date 8/28/98 and nothing else. Nothing to indicate what was going on in my life, but I remember that season. That was the season in the middle of recovering from a miscarriage and praying for a child. The months passed and the middle grew ever longer. Despair fought a war with hope. I didn’t know what the end would look like, but I chose to stand on the declaration of these verses.
It takes courage to stand on a truth when you can’t see it for yourself.
It takes faith to wait believing God is still good when the voices around you tell you he’s not.
It takes strength to hold your heart steady when the storm rages.
Strength in Stillness
We read in Joshua 1:6 to “be strong and courageous”. It’s a battle stance. Face the winds that blow. Hold your ground against the enemy. And so we do. But we grow tired and weary. Our shoulders sag and we lose our balance.
Then we read in Psalm 46:10 to “be still and know that I am God.” So we rest. We cease striving and fall forward into him. Maybe we face plant in the muck of our life. Maybe we hide behind a closed door. We retreat so we can rest. And in that time we remind ourselves about what we know about God:
He is good.
He is faithful.
He is victorious.
He is our bread of life.
He is our living water.
He is with us.
He is light.
And in the stillness our courage grows and we stand strong and courageous once again. We square our shoulders knowing he has our back. We plant our feet knowing that he is our solid rock. We lift our hands knowing that praise is our most powerful weapon. We wait for the Lord and take heart because he is faithful to his promises.
Today’s Prayer for Hidden Strength
You are mighty to save, ever-faithful, and always true. I am confident that I will see you move in the middle of my middle. You are my rest and peace and I trust in you. Guide my hands, my steps, my thoughts, and my ways. Let me know your strength in me as I rest in you.
In Jesus’ name,
If you’re a parent of adult children, myself and a few friends put together a compilation of devotions to help you navigate parenting adult children with grace. You can get it completely free by clicking the link: Navigating Life with Adult Children
The Lord is enough and our portion, but sometimes the suffering in life takes our eyes off of this truth. Listen in on one of my letters of grace to readers who subscribe to Welcome Grace. I’d love to send you these Grace Notes to you too! Sign up using the banner at the top of the page.
Because of God’s love. . . our fears and doubts don’t have to consume us.
Because of his compassions. . .we can trust him for the next step.
Because of long, dark, nights. . .we know the kind of joy that comes in the morning that fills us with peace.
May your hearts and lives grow in love for the Lord as you wait on him. His mercies are new every morning. He is your portion. Great is his faithfulness.
Praise is the final piece in biblical lament. It’s the paradoxical nature of life with Christ. We worship in spirit and truth. God is both merciful and just. We lay down our life and live as living sacrifices. Lament is both pain and praise.
I encourage journalling as a way to process emotions, pain, wounds, and regrets, but the way I journal has changed over the years. One journal, from my “old way” of processing emotions, reeks of judgmental, negative, and self-righteous attitudes. It contains the full expression of my emotions and my cries for help written in black and white for all to see, but the confession of trust, the petition for help, and any type of praise is noticeably absent.
That old journal is despairing rather than hopeful. I contemplate burning that old journal, but I keep it tucked away as a reminder of what happens to sorrow and pain when it’s not processed through the biblical lens of lament. Someday my grown up kids will sort through my belongings and find that gorgeous covered journal filled with rotten words that led me further into despair and hopelessness, but they will also find a stack of journals that grew my heart.
Let Praise Lead
The lament arc takes us from despair to release to hope and, finally, to praise because it allows for the full expression of emotions this life provides. When we tuck our emotions into a chest in the depths of our heart’s attic, we rob ourselves of a deeper authenticity with Christ. Sorrow, pain, disappointment, fear, and, even anger, give us an opportunity to run towards God. However, we wonder how to, “Praise the Lord” or declare, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul,” when our lives fall apart.
Lament is not merely a venting session of all the ugly that hides in our heart. Venting the full breadth of our emotions without biblical exhortation results in a gossipy, negative view of our struggles and the people in it. My old journal is a prime example. God longs to shower us with grace and he’s given us lament as a way to share our hearts with him and a way for our hearts to be reminded of his goodness and grace.
Praise in Lament
A beautiful example of this is from Psalm 31:19-24:
“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.” But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the Lord, all you saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
David ends his lament with words of praise. He praises God for his abundant goodness and reminds himself to keep fearing the Lord and finding refuge in him. We need to re-remember what we already know. God is for us. He preserves us. But it’s easy to let our circumstances cause amnesia when our “heart melts like wax” and the “what-ifs” grow our fear.
One of the Hebrew words for praise is Towdah and it renders as a “confession of thanks and praise for what God is going to do.” We cannot confuse what we wish God to do based on our agenda, but we must base our praise on what God is going to do because of his character.
His character is solid, and he doesn’t forsake us because he is faithful. Light floods our darkness because he is light. We experience good gifts because he is a good father. He brings us strength because he is full of joy.
Praising God based on his character is what allows our heart to grab hold of courage. Praising God in our lament reminds us that God is God and we are not. The whole world rests in his hands and on his shoulders, not ours. Through lament we find surrender, hope and courage for our weary, exhausted, hurting hearts.
Ending our lament with praise points our hearts to our good, good Father and fills us with hope.
Asking for help doesn’t come without risk, and voicing questions holds opportunities for ridicule. But sometimes the risk is worth the ride and the questions unfold into glorious answers. However, before I give voice to my question, I jump through mental hoops like these:
“Shouldn’t I know this?”
“What if I come across ignorant?”
“That’s a stupid request.”
“I don’t know how to ask this without offending anyone.”
I keep telling myself and my kids that there isn’t a dumb question because asking questions is a sign of someone who’s hungry for knowledge and information. It’s when those questions reveal that I need something from someone–whether it’s someone’s help or their acknowledgement or advice– that I feel like I’m a major inconvenience. Too often, I turn to Google or Alexa because they’re less intimidating. My racing heart stills and the idea cements that I need to figure things out on my own.
In our self-sufficiency driven culture, the pressure to know all the things or at least perceive to know all the things creates a pride that prevents us from asking. On the flipside, insecurity whispers that we’d just better figure this life out on our own because we’re really not that important. Pride and insecurity drive us away from the One who receives our questions and who desires to give us good gifts.
If we turn to the first few chapters in Genesis, we discover the tendency of human nature towards self-sufficiency. Two humans in a perfect relationship with God hid from God once sin entered the world. Instead of running to God they ran away from him. They turned to themselves in an attempt to solve the problem.
Our tendency is independence and self-sufficiency, but self-sufficiency and independence feeds the pride that prevents us from running to God in times of need. When we screw up, we want to cover up. But God asks us to uncover and run straight to him.
Take Up Your Courage
Hebrews 4:12-16 tells us that God sees all things because everything is laid bare before him. It tells us that we have a high priest who intercedes for us and makes a way for us to boldly approach the throne of God to receive the grace we need.
Imagine if we approached all our problems with this mentality. Envision running towards God, crying for help, pouring out our hearts to him, confessing our trust, and asking for what we want. This is the power of lament: it brings us to a place of peaceful trust because we run towards God instead of away. It gives our heart a place to dump the hidden and the visible garbage. Lament allows God to make something beautiful out of our pain.
We don’t need to have it all figured out before we come to God. We don’t need to be prim and proper or spit and polished. It’s in the coming to him– just as we are– where he refines us and creates beauty out of ashes.
Bring Your Petition
Using Psalm 31 as a model, we see how David brought his petition before the Lord.
14 But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. 16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. 17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead. 18 Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
David begins the petition portion of his lament with a redeclaration of his trust in God. Then he goes on to ask for deliverance from his enemies and that God would save him. He petitions God to look toward him and not let him be put to shame.
Reveal Your Heart
These verses echo what’s so often hiding in our hearts: that God would do something about our circumstances and that his face would be turned towards us–in the big and little stuff of life. Yet, we’re often shamed into hiding our need. Shame leads us to false belief that we don’t deserve God’s help. Fear of disappointment holds us back from asking the question: “What do I want God to do for me today?”
And that’s the question I leave with you: What do you want God to do for you? Is it healing, provision, intercession, advocacy, trust, peace, or strength? Take your pain, tell God everything, redeclare your trust in him, and ask. Take courage and be bold.