Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Week Fifteen - Why Do I Feel Like This?

Do you ever feel broken inside?  Like there’s a rift of sorrow going across your soul as shattered fragments fall away landing with sharp pricks on raw, unhealed places.  You look whole and happy on the outside and keep trying to convince yourself you are, but inside there’s brokenness, confusion, wonderment, and the fear of being found out.  Or, the desire for rest and freedom from haunting doubt and unresolved questions? You are not whole.

There is a commercial about mental health here in England that asks, “What is normal?”  It concludes that there are millions of forms of normal dependant on many factors: the type of person you are, where you live, what you have experienced. Normal isn’t a consistent definition.

Here’s God’s truth.  We live in a fallen world.  We, ourselves, are fallen, too.  Brokenness is all around us—that is normal.

Once I came to understand this truth, I found much peace!  The more I read my Bible, the more I began to see that every person, since the angel stood at the entrance to Eden, experiences these feelings.  Satan tries to convince us we are odd, or no one else would understand, but the truth remains that all humanity is in the same boat.  We are all normal.  Broken, as a result of Adam’s choice.  We cannot escape it.

So, what can we do with it?  Well, we can succumb to it.  We can let our brokenness overtake us, creating depression, psychosis, and fear or we can accept it and allow God to deliver us.

When I feel my brokenness trying to overcome my sanity, I go straight to the book of Romans. I don’t sit around arguing my goodness.  I admit my weakness.  Romans 7:18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”  I am a sinner, faulty, normal—a normal sinner.  Satan’s accusing voice leaves.  He knows I am standing in truth.  There is nothing more he can say!

But I don’t stop there.  Though I am no good, if you will, I am not left there.  Romans 7:24 is my next step.  “O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” 

Do you know the meaning of wretched?  It has the idea of worthless, inadequate, inferior, miserable, heartbroken, and distressed.  All the words Satan throws at me!  And all the feelings I experience. I need someone to help me!

Romans 7:25 tells me a man is there for my rescue.  “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  He delivers me.  He helps me.  He fights my cause.  He restores me.  He forgives when I call on Him.

His grace and love heal my heart, and I become accepted, forgiven, valuable, and made adequate.  I come boldly to the throne recounting my misery, broken heart, and distress to Him as a child of God to have my “normalcy” restored.

But beyond that, though I live in this fallen world, and still battle my flesh, I know the blood of Christ has covered my sin, and I can now choose to live above sin, above the taunting voices of Satan and my own weaknesses, because of the sacrifice of Christ applied to my heart. 

For me, then, brokenness is reduced to a fact.  It is just where I live; it no longer defines me. There is no condemnation upon me.  I have been made free, and walk in Christ.  That, I choose to be my new normal!

These days of extraordinary pressure might be God’s tool to bring you to understand your brokenness, your vulnerability, your wretchedness, your need of a Saviour.  The story of Easter provides you a vivid example of the love of God for you.  There is no better time to admit your need and call upon Him for healing and forgiveness.  You can read more about it below.

“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me.” 
Galatians 2:21

If you need a Saviour:  Admit your need.  Believe Christ is the only one who can forgive and heal your sin. Confess your trust in Him.  And then, share your decision with others!

If you need encouragement: On the Beside the Well blog page and Facebook page you will find videos of support for these days, please take time to listen. I pray they strengthen your heart.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Week Fourteen - Rest

I don’t remember exactly where I found this little definition for rest, but I want to share it with you today. While we are all cooped up in our houses, we have time to reflect, to pray, to think, refresh, and rest. For some, it is a God-send, for others a real struggle, because many don’t know how to rest. 
We place all our identity and personal value in what we create instead of whose we are. 
Take time to think with me today about the rest available during this time of self-isolating.

F – Filling – we can allow the Spirit of God to fill our hearts with love, thankfulness, and compassion. It affords us growth in our prayer time and personal relationship with the Lord.

A – Accepting – we accept that God has the right to make changes in our lives and attitudes. We can learn more about the joy and secret of yieldedness.

I – Immersing – there is no excuse now for staying away from our Bible reading or study time. Immersing ourselves in the word help us find encouragement for the road ahead.

R – Reminding – This is also an excellent time for us to open our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to remind us of the areas where we need to grow, of the people who need a kind word or good deed from us, and of His great faithfulness – the Infinite Faithfulness.

S – Surrounding – And we can know the arms of the Lord around us at this time and at all times. We are surrounded by His love and protected by His grace. We are never alone.

When you take these five things and apply them to rest, you find your heart filled with the joy of the Spirit, open to the moving of God, deep into the word, aware of the need of those around you, and surrounded by the great, great love of God. There, you can rest.

My friend lent me a book entitled “We Neurotics.” It’s a story about an overworked man and some people he meets that help him see his humanity. In one chapter, he meets with a nun who begins to talk about how to rest.

“Mr. Dawes,” she said, solemnly and slowly, “you are but one among thousands in this very city who face the problem of curing themselves. We talk of people finding their feet, a ridiculous expression; the real task for most people is to find their souls. First step, you must learn to relax. And when I use the word ’relax’, I am, of course referring to therapeutic relaxation. I cannot help my children in the clinic until they are muscularly peaceful, so God needs a similar condition in the spiritual life.”  (We Neurotics, Bernard Basset, p 11)

Then she recommended. “Do not pray for, perhaps, a month, for God Himself is not at His best till we are relaxed.” Now, I’m not so sure about her suggestion, but I would say, coming hurried, frustrated, and too weary for communion hinders prayer. God wants us to draw aside, to take time, and fellowship to listen and draw strength.

She went on to describe her method for therapeutic relaxation. Lay flat on your back with your eyes closed until you feel your body relaxing.  “When at last the whole body was at rest, I had to stretch out my arms as a cat does so that the claws are exposed.  Then with my arms loose on my chest and my feet crossed for polarisation, I was to lie quite still for forty minutes, seeing myself strolling leisurely through luscious, green fields. After three weeks without a break, I could relax with comfort and the luscious green fields arrived at once.” (p 14)

Here is the real issue – we don’t stop long enough to let rest come to our lives. We pause for a cup of tea or a chat with a friend and think we have spent enough of our valuable time. We go on holiday and read books that keep our emotions stirred. We watch programs that cause our adrenaline to flow or play games that heighten our ambitious, competitive nature. These are distractions, not therapeutic rest. 

God calls us more often to rest than to work—or dare I say play too hard! He wants our fellowship most of all asking us to come to Him when we are weary, to come aside to pray, to submit ourselves to His hand, and He will give the increase. He will fight the battle. He will direct our paths.

So, during this time of forced rest, instead of chomping at the bit to get back to the rat race, let’s learn more about what rest means. Let’s take some real quiet time—even forty minutes on our back meditating on the beauty of the Lord. You've got plenty of time to do so, and the kids could do it too! Then—

R – Relax   E – Enjoy   S – Sing   T – Thanksgiving

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Week Thirteen - What's It All About?

I thought that people my age had everything figured out.  After all, they were adults.  But now that I have reached that enviable age, I know no one has it all figured out!  And more and more I am coming to understand that life isn’t about figuring it out, it’s about living by faith alone.  As I pondered on this, I looked back at some of the ideas I used to hold.  Let’s ask ourselves:

Is life about being top dog?  The brightest and the best?  If it is, we are all set for failure.  There are very few of these people, and those that appear to be on top can fall at any time!  It’s very lonely there, and the pressure breaks many of them.  So, life isn’t about being top dog, is it?

Is life about having control?  Getting everything working just as you like it?  Obviously, none of us have that much control over life. Just look at where we are!  Things rarely work out exactly as we want without a high price.  Living as a control-freak places us under undue pressure as well.  We aren’t God.  We can’t make everything work as we want.  Other people live here too.  It’s not all about us!

Is life about getting all you can?  Living life to the fullest?  That’s just greed and selfishness.  It breeds discontent because we are continually on the search for another high or another adventure.  Living life with such abandon has consequences.  True happiness and fulfilment are found in contentment.

So, maybe life is about keeping a low profile?  Living like a hermit.  How are you liking isolation?  It will hopefully work to slow down this virus, but it doesn’t work as a consistent lifestyle because no man is an island.  We affect others by our life choices. 

When it comes to what life is all about, we are better to ask the Giver of Life for a good definition.  And I have found God doesn’t withhold here!  He is very clear about the basis of life and the way to the happiness and security we seek.

Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes and the wisest man who ever lived, gives us the sum of it all when he says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”  Eccles 12:13

God never says we have to be top dog before He loves us.  He never instructs us to seek to control life but to live by faith.  He warns us about living in greed and selfishness and encourages us to use our lives for others.  But my favourite explanation of the meaning and purpose of life is found three times in Ecclesiastes. 

Eccles 2:24 says, “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.  This also I saw, that is was from the hand of God.”

Eccles 3:22 says, “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion.”

And, Eccles 5:18, 19 reads, “Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion…this is the gift of God.”

All three of these verses teach us to value what God has given and to live happily therein.

It is said if we have three things, we are rich – food, clothing, and shelter.  Most of us have them, don't we? Sadly, the consumer mindset means we are always shopping for more than what God has already given.  To ask us to be content with what we have, and enjoy them without trying to strive for more, seems almost anti-Christian.  Anti-productive.  Unwise and lazy.  We have swallowed the world’s philosophy here, I believe.  We no longer see contentment as valuable. 

Let’s ask ourselves a couple more questions.  As the old folks sit on the porch in their rocking chairs, do you see them as lazy, motivation-less, and a waste of time?  Or, do you see people who have lived a full life and learned the secret and happiness of contentment?

As we sit removed from our daily norm, it is the perfect opportunity for evaluation!  With all our scurrying and striving, where has it taken us? What’s it all about?

Let’s not forget that God is the one who gives the increase.  He is the one who provides and opens doors of opportunity.  Life isn’t about what we create.  It’s about what He gives.  Let’s pause, take a breath, rejoice, be thankful, and Wash Your Hands!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Week Twelve - Prayer and Providence

My heart aches for those affected by the virus, but it is also torn for the future outfall of the economic decisions being made.  The virus lasts a week to ten days, but the closing of business brings anxiety and fear to all of us.  We need to be praying for the ill, but also for the young families losing their jobs, for the small business owner losing his livelihood, and for the impending economic catastrophe.  We must pray for our leaders who make the choice between courage and fear, and between political correctness/pressure and a strong hand on the rudder!

Providence.  Some call it fate, others destiny, but for the Christian, we know it to be the protective care of God; a truth wherein we rest and in time, see the working out of His plan according to His perfect design.

A few years ago, God dealt with me about this issue.  I learned about His control.  He always does what is best for my life and for those around me.  He asks me to consider Him to be enough and to rest myself within the promise of that truth.  I have to say, it has brought much peace and calmness to my heart.

Still, at times, I may wonder why life takes the turns it does, and how the Lord intends to bring glory from it all, but again, I must fall back on the providence of God and content myself.

Spurgeon tells of a dream.  He was walking up a stairway to heaven with a voice urging him upward.  He writes, “I knew that my mysterious guide could not err.  I felt that infinite faithfulness would not bid me take a step it if were not safe: and therefore mounting still, I stand at this hour happy and rejoicing, though my faith be all above my own comprehension, and my work above my own ability.”  (p151)

My thoughts got stuck on the idea of The Infinite Faithfulness – God Himself.  Isn’t that a beautiful title?  The Infinite Faithfulness?  And in His providential care, he will not bid us take one faltering step. 

“Happy indeed are they who bathe in the bath of such a promise as this, ‘I am with thee.’  Put your whole soul into that consoling element; plunge into it, and you will feel your strength suddenly renewed, so that you can bear troubles which before would have overburdened you.  Take the naked promise of God, for it is enough, and more than enough, though all earth’s springs were dry.”  (p 153, 155)

“Christian!  There is no sweeter pillow than providence; and when providence seemeth adverse, believeth it still, lay it under thy head, for depend upon it there is comfort in its bosom.  There is hope for thee, thou child of God. That great trouble which is to come in thy way in the early part of thy pilgrimage, is planned by love, the same love which shall interpose as thy protector.” (p 146)

As we face the current pandemic, let us rest ourselves in the promise of God’s providence.  Adversity does not detour the Infinite Faithfulness! We can still know joy in God’s presence, and precious moments of prayer and fellowship as the Spirit is enjoined giving comfort, strength, and empowerment. 

I know those times, do you?  When God is so near you could virtually touch Him and feel his arms around you as you hear His voice whispering to your heart? 

Lay your head then, on the sweet pillow of providence, as Spurgeon calls it, and know God is with you.  The assuring promise of His Infinite Faithfulness is enough!

Spurgeon, C.H., Words of Cheer for Daily Life