Category Archives: discouragement

joy in Your presence

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In your presence, Lord, there is joy.
Am I far from your presence?
Am I missing your glory when I focus on my pain?
I am weak.  You are great.
Have I forgotten what is truly important?
Why do I not feel the joy that once proved so precious to me?

If you can be glorified through my weakness, will I be content with it?
If you become bigger though my pain, will I give you thanks?
Can I live in gratitude despite exhaustion? Or frustration? Or confusion?
When it’s a sacrifice, will I still choose to praise You?

How long, Lord can I go on like this waiting for your voice?
Help me to listen. Help me to see it.
Help me not to focus on a conclusion as my answer, help me to focus on You.

For You are my answer.  You are my hope.
In Your presence I find my joy.
You drew me out of my pit.  If you’ve done that, why do I doubt?
Why does my heart cry out in anguish and fear?

You’ve proven your faithfulness time and again
Why is my soul downcast yet again?
I look to You. My feet are on You, my Rock.
My ways are secure.  Though hidden in darkness for now.

I will rest.  I will hope.  I will have joy.

er visit

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So I spent about 4 hours tonight in the er…being poked, prodded and tested. I went in with severe pain in the right side of my abdomen. I left 4 hours later with the same pain, despite 2 morphene shots. Once again, I heard those gut-wrenching words “we don’t know what’s wrong with you…can’t explain why you are in pain. But here’s a prescription for narcotic pain meds…”. That’s the point where I stop listening. I’ve heard all this before. I’ve heard this at just about every doctors visit I’ve been to for the past two years. I don’t understand why God is choosing to allow me to suffer and yet giving neither me nor the doctors the wisdom to know what to do. It is so frustrating. I am so weak and yet at the same time so angry. I’m 28…is this what I have to look forward to the rest of my life? Why won’t God answer the thousands of prayers that have been prayed for healing of my body? Why do we have to keep going through this? And in the middle of all this God just calmly says “look to me. I am faithful.”. Honestly right now that doesn’t seem enough. I don’t want faithful. I want answers. And yet at the same time I know like Job, I cannot demand from this all-powerful God. He does as he pleases. He does not have to explain his ways to me. But then I come back to the Psalms “do the dead rise up to praise you, God? Where is the faithfulness you showed to our fathers? Has it ceased?”. And yet I know those spats hold no bearing. Of course his faithfulness continues. I know it in the fact that I’ve been given the right to call Him my Father. Its been shown through every breath He’s given me…even the ones where it hurts to breathe. How much more did Paul understand of this Jesus than do I. He rejoiced in the prison. I bring my feeble and weak complaints to an almighty God who has the power to strike me dead. Yet he doesn’t. Even that is mercy. Do I want healing for this body? Absolutely! I’m tired of living life in pain day after day just doing what you can to get by. But then what I wrote this morning comes back into mind…bless the Lord. My soul that is so prone to despair, bless His holy name. Sigh. Exhausted and weary, I pray for grace to fall asleep resting there…

when the dots don’t connect…

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lately i seem to be back into a season where the dots just don’t seem to connect.  i’m weary.  physically i’m weak.  emotionally i’m tired.  spiritually i’m worn down and dry.  mentally i’m… well, i guess i’ve never been right in that area… :)

i have failed to cling to my hope in Christ.  i’ve failed to trust Him to provide.  i’ve questioned whether God really wants what’s best for me.  i’ve accused Him of forgetting me… or simply leading me on only to later disappoint.

i’m powerless to lift myself from the pit that i am in. 

and then i’m reminded of the gospel… Christ came to lift me from my own self-made destruction and misery.   He came to give me a rock of hope to cling to that will never fail… not in physical pain, loneliness, confusion, darkness… never.  He promised He would never leave me. 

that applies not only to the day He redeemed my soul 4 years ago but for today as well. in the middle of a migraine, He holds me.  In the middle of my questioning His goodness, He holds me secure in His arms of love.  In the middle of loneliness, He never leaves my side.  In my tired weariness, He reminds me that He is the God who watches over me and He never sleeps.  There is never a moment when He is not in control of every event of my life. 

I’m reminded of the hymn “Be Still my Soul.”  While visiting Covenant Life a few weeks ago, we sang this song… its been in my head ever since.  It is such a great example of “talking to yourself” instead of “listening to yourself.”

 I think my favorite line is “be still my soul your Jesus can repay from His own fulness all He takes away.”

In the past few years, its obvious with even a brief glance at my life that God has taken much.  He’s taken friends.  He’s taken people I looked to and respected.  He’s taken a sense of belonging and home.  He’s taken my health.  He’s taken much more. 

But I have the promise that He will never take His presence from me.   And knowing that, nothing else matters.  I’d rather Him take my health, security and comfort than to leave all those and take His presence.. 

That is the reason that my soul can be still.  That is the reason my weary soul can find hope.  I am just praying for grace that God will connect those dots…

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.   Trust in him at all times, O people;  pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:5-8)

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to your God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt you better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe your sorrow and your fears.
Be still, my soul: your Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to your Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all your words and ways,
So shall He view you with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

whirlwind

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wow! the past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind for me. i’m glad to be back home. i’m hoping things calm down back to some degree of normal…

I left Greenville on June 20th for vacation in Washington DC and haven’t really stopped since.  I got back from DC on the 28th, spent 4 days working, unpacking, cleaning, etc, and spent the last 4 days in NC visiting a friend.   

Though the past few weeks have been great, I am exhausted.  Lately God has been reminding me that rest and peace don’t mean that life is not in chaos – it means remembering that He is faithful through all the changes and confusion.

Emotionally I feel worn pretty thin… like I really haven’t had any time to think, process, pray, recuperate, etc. And I really have been missing my church… its been 3 weeks since I’ve been there and in many ways I feel very alone.  Physically, my body has been thrown through the ringer due to eating out so much and that doesn’t agree so well with my food allergies.  And I haven’t slept well in about 2 weeks as a result of it all.  Today starts a 2 week detox diet so hopefully things will start to get back to normal soon.

Yesterday at my friend’s church in NC, the sermon was on Philippians 4:6-7 (do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.)

What a helpful truth to be reminded of.  I’m so prone to anxiousness and worry.  I am glad that my God is in control of everything… even the changes that make no sense to me.  And I’m glad that though He is aware of my weakness and failure, that He grants me the gift of peace, that He guards my heart and mind, and that I am secure in Christ Jesus.

what are you doing, God?

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ever have those times where you ask “What are you doing, God?”  I know His ways are higher than mine.  I know that He loves me and give and takes for my good.  I know what He’s given me, He also has the right to take away when He should choose.  And I know looking back that every time God has taken something from me its always been for my good, even though immensely painful and gut-wrenching at times.  I know that though things can be taken, that nothing can separate me from His love.  How I need that love to hold me close today.  How I long for my war-torn heart to rest there. 

God seems to be shifting me from one furnace to another.  And I am as unhappy with this appointment as I was with the last.  How I long for it to end.  Trials are a funny thing like that… you beg and beg for them to end and as soon as they do you realize that you’ve learned so much more than ever possible had you not gone through that trial.  So as incomprehensible as it seems to your feelings, you find yourself thanking God for what you just walked through.  And simultaneously you pray that you’d never have to go through it again.  In many ways, that’s where I’m at.  I’m grateful for the trials that God has carried me through because I know to a greater degree the depths of His love, care and compassion towards me.  But as I face yet again another trial, I approach it with the same dread and horror as I faced the last.  Horror because as God is calling me to pick up my cross and follow Him, I’m seeing the death, pain, suffering and heartache that accompanies that cross.  And nothing in me wants to go there. 

Yet somehow my loving Shepherd has promised to be with me each step of the way.  He has promised to complete what He has begun.  He has already cared for me time after time and He is faithful.  Because of that, through His strength to hold me, with His help, I will rest in His control over this.  I am choosing to look past the pain, to look past the cross to my Strong Deliverer, who defeated the power of death and the cross.  He will preserve me by His mercy.  He is my Rock in the middle of the storms.  God has promised to complete what He’s begun, therefore I can have hope that He will keep me safe and true in Him…even here, even in this, even though nothing in me wants this.

Somehow I’m excited to see God provide.  As He keeps taking and in my mind its getting even more difficult for Him to provide, I look to my Jehovah-Rophe with hopeful anticipation to meet my needs and comfort my sorrows.  I haven’t really known what to say lately because it seems there are no words to describe the unutterable ache in my soul.  Nothing seems sufficient other than crying to my Maker… the One who knows me and will never leave me alone.  So, in my loneliness, I look to the One who will never leave, abandon or forsake.  In my pain, I look to the One who suffered in my place.    In my despair, I look to the only One who was ever forsaken by God with gratitude that He will not leave me here.  And in my moments (or days) when I just want to complain, I remember how good He has been to me.  The God who restored my broken soul and gave me life, the God who gives me a reason for joy in my mourning, the God who drew me through His kindness and irresistable love… that God will not quit.  So I look to Him.

free in Christ

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So often in my life
I’m tempted to despair
I see the sin in my heart
And the wickedness in there

I can feel like I’m unworthy
Unfit to bear His name
Like I am not His child
Weighed down by all my shame

But then I remember
That the source of my faith
Does not lie within me
But in His amazing grace

Jesus saved me from myself
And all my wickedness
He rescued me from God’s wrath
And gave me His righteousness

Now I am forgiven
I No longer stand condemned
I’ve been cleansed in His blood
Washed clean and free from my sin

So now I am worthy
Because I bear His name
I am His chosen child
He has taken all my blame

Now I’m free in Christ
My hope in Him secure
I’m free to live for Him
My inheritance is sure

Copyright Matthew Rawlings, March 27, 2009

when feelings win

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ever have one of those days when feelings win?  or one of those weeks?  months?  yeah, you get the point… 

i’m curious what you do at those times.  for those of you who read but rarely comment, this is your chance to speak up.  for those of you who comment regularly, this is your chance too.  :)   i want to know… what do you do?  at those times when everything in your gut tells you to just quit.  or when you feel that you have no strength to take another step.  how do you effectively preach truth to yourself?  are there certain truths / aspects of God’s character / verses or songs that you find especially helpful? 

in many ways the last year or so of my life has been characterized by a melancholy cloud.  i know that much of that is simply my sin in allowing emotions rather than truth to guide my life.  i’ve read many scripture passages and many helpful books, such as the hidden smile of God by Piper, Spiritual Depression by M. Lloyd Jones, Job by Piper, When the Darkness will not lift by Piper and many more.  I find glimpses of hope yet so often find myself quickly circling back around to hopelesness. 

i know that my Father chose me, loves me and is in control over each second of my life.  i know that my Jesus forives my sin, that there is no condemnation for me.    i know that the Holy Spirit empowers me to resist sin and to live a life of godliness that is pleasing to my Father.   i know that i must continually be killing sin in my life, empowered by the Spirit.  I know that there is an inheritance kept in heaven for me.  And i know that one day I will see my Jesus face to face.  I know that one day there will be no more pain and my sweet Jesus, who suffered for me, will in joy wipe every tear from my eye. 

i am just weak right now.  and i need reminders.  so as my friends, will you please remind me?  share with me once again the hope that lies (albeit right now hidden to me) within me?  physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and every other way possible, i feel that the battle is greater than my God.  but i know that’s not true. 

so, my request for you is two-fold… first, would you pray for me?  pray that my hope will be in God, not my ability to fix or my utter inability not to.  and second, would you share with me some of the promises of God that have encouraged you?  thanks!

the cliffs of insanity

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insanity21 

do you ever feel like God asks too much of you? 

I was sitting at lunch on Sunday with a few friends and one guy mentioned this statement: “it just feels like God is asking for too much… holiness, sexual purity, hope despite circumstances, etc… its just too much.” 

My first thought was to remind him that if he compared his circumstances with all God has offered him through salvation, that he wouldn’t say such a thing.  But before I said a word, thankfully the Holy Spirit convicted me of often thinking and saying the exact same thing in my own life.  “God, ___ is too much.  Please stop.  Please take this away.  Enough already. Can’t we be done with this trial / lesson / etc?”

As I was thinking about this last night, my thoughts turned to the Princess Bride.  In this movie, is a section where Fezzik carries the princess and two others on his back as he climbs a rope up the cliffs of insanity.  They are dizzying and from a normal human’s perspective its “inconceivable” to think that someone could climb those cliffs.  Its an obstacle that can’t be overcome. 

I think of many situations in my life this way.  For this post, the obstacle of choice is finances.  I often find myself overwhelmed by the struggle, frustrated by my lack of self control in certain areas, and discouraged that I’m still fighting this battle and disheartened by additional unpaid days off work.  In my mind if I could just pull myself up by my bootstraps, then all would be fine.  I’d have millions in the bank, no struggles and happiness galore.  But thinking that is about as foolish as expecting the princess to climb the cliffs by herself.  Without the power of Fezzik, the giant, there is no way she would make it to the top of the cliff.  And the same is true in my life… without the power of the Holy Spirit to lead me and carry me, there is no hope for change in my life.  The cliffs really are insurmountable. 

Thankfully, the Bible has something to say about the cliffs in our lives and the power of God.

Mark 9:22-24 [the father of the child said] “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Romans 8:26 … the Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Matthew 6:32 But if God so clothes the grass of the field which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Nehemiah 9:19-20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.  Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. 

Psalm 9:10 for you, o LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 He who calls you is faithful, He will surely do it.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

I’m grateful that the power to make changes in my life is not up to me.  if it were, there would be no hope.   I can look back and see so many other insurmountable cliffs that now seem miniscule.  And because of God’s faithfulness, I know we’ll get over the current ones too.

fun times :)

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today is valentines day.  some cynics choose to call it singles awareness day… or a day designed by desperate chocolate makers simply to boost sales after the Christmas slump.   in my 27 years, i’ve had varying types of valentines days and have been both in the love bug and the cynic category.

this year was something altogether new for me.  the guys in our singles group from church, spearheaded by Barry, put together an amazing night for us gals.  in total there were 18 of us and i think somewhere like 12 or 13 waiters, chefs, musicians and water-refillers.  i didn’t get an exact count because they never stood still.  but here’s what happened…

in an effort to bless us, aware this can be a difficult day of struggling with discontentment, our guys pampered us beyond belief.  the evening started with a salad of mixed greens, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, mushrooms and olives with a choice of dressing, followed by an amazing dinner of steak, portobello mushroom, baked potatoes and rolls and finished with rice krispy treats and red velvet cake.  there were gluten free marinated steaks for those of us allergic to wheat (there’s quite a few allergies in our group), and the rice krispy treats were so that we could also have a dessert.

after dinner the guys sang to us (HILARIOUS), gave us each a rose and cleaned everything up.  it was such a nice, peaceful relaxing evening.  and to make sure that they were available to serve us, they ate little ceasers pizza ahead of time so that they could make sure our glasses were never empty and our plates were always full.  i mean, that right there’s a sacrifice… give up steak and potatoes and watch 18 girls eat it instead??!!  :)  and the whole thing?? zero dollars (well, for the girls anyways!)

it was an amazing evening… just a reminder that God provides for us… always.

it was 5 years ago tonight that I was putting an engagement ring on my finger.   i never thought the last 5 years would turn out the way they did.  But God in His kindness, knew that this path was the one for me.  He chose in His amazing lovingkindness, to not give me my way when i was planning to get married 5 years ago.  He protected me and I can look back now with gratitude for where I am now.  But that was a painful time indeed.  i spent many nights questioning what God was doing and why.  I lacked faith in His care for me.  I doubted His love as I saw my world come crashing apart.  Yet over and over and over again, He patiently and faithfully and tenderly proved His compassionate love to me… though often in ways I didn’t understand or like.

and right now, I find myself in yet another one of those seasons… questioning, doubting, lacking hope, and wondering what my God is doing here.  but tonight was a glimpse to me of God’s care… of His insight… of His tender love to me.  He cared for me tonight through a dozen or so amazing godly guys whom I am blessed beyond belief to call my brothers and friends.  yeah, my God does care for me… tonight was yet another example.

so, thanks guys!  thanks for your service. thanks for your encouragement.  thanks for reminding me that God cares for me.  thanks for the laughs.  thanks for the picture of humility and service.  you are all amazing guys!

and thank you God for your care.  thank you for your patience with me in the midst of my doubts and hopeless self-introspection.  thank you that you guide my steps and that even when those steps are painful and hard, that you are good.  please help me to trust in your care.  please help me to find hope in knowing that your ways are indeed best.

are you talking or listening?

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“I say we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing “ourselves” to talk to us. Do you know what that means? I suggest that the whole trouble of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow ourselves to talk to us instead of talking to our selves. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you when you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Yourself is talking to you. Now this man’s (David in Psalm 42:5, 11) treatment is this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, oh my soul?” he asks. His soul has been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for a moment and I will speak to you.”

“The whole art in spiritual living is knowing how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say “Why art thou cast down? What business do you have to be disquieted?” You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself and say to yourself “Hope thou in God” – instead of muttering in this depressed and unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, What God is and What God has done and What God has pledged Himself to do. Then, having done that, end on this great note – defy yourself and defy other people and defy the devil and the whole world and say with this man, “I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance and my God.”

Psalm 42:1-6
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Savior and my God.”

M. Lloyd Jones: Spiritual Depression