Holding onto hope in hopeless places

Our new house has stairs and that means I’ve been practicing a new and heretofore undeveloped skill—yelling up those stairs to my kids.

My voice lacks the resonant quality needed to get their attention most of the time.  After all, I’m competing with earbuds, closed doors, radios, their own conversations, iTunes, and the like.  So, they don’t always hear me.

There are other culprits also.  Like the distance from the front of the minivan to the back of the minivan and all the ambient noise in said minivan while I’m trying to talk.

Or there’s simply my son’s natural talkativeness.  He can’t hear me very well when he’s trying to tell me a story at the same time.

Whatever the culprit, I spend a lot of time as a mom just trying to be heard.

All of this has been nudging my heart a little with a question:  What gets in the way of me hearing God?

Busyness, distraction, noise, inattentiveness, me not taking time to listen—all of them are to blame at times.

But there’s something else, too.  Sometimes heavy-heartedness, sadness, and discouragement throw us into a pit of darkness, and it’s so hard to hear God’s voice in that place.

There are times God speaks hope to his people and  even though hope is truly what we need, we can miss His message.

This is where Israel was in the beginning of Exodus.  Slavery trampled on more than their physical freedom.  Over time, it had beaten them into hopelessness.

That’s when God sent Moses with these words:

I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel….
I have remembered my covenant….
I will bring you  out from under the burdens of the Egyptians….
I will  deliver you from slavery.
I will redeem you…
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God…
I will bring you  into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Exodus 6:2-9).

The promises are stunning. The assurances are powerful.  These are the grandest, greatest, most extravagant declarations of God’s abiding love for His people and His determination to rescue them.

But they didn’t throw a block party when they heard Moses’s news, nor did they pack their bags and start planning for departure.

Instead, Exodus says:

“they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9 ESV).

They didn’t listen.

They didn’t listen because they couldn’t listen.  Their perspective had been damaged over time. God seemed distant and unreal, unhelpful and uncaring and words didn’t penetrate through  that wall of hurt and bitterness.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in places where hope is hard.

David had been there, too.  He wrote:

Look to the right and see; For there is no one who regards me; There is no escape for me; No one cares for my soul (Psalm 142:4 NASB).

What he needed was to know that someone cared for his soul.

Just like Israel, David felt abandoned, alone, and hopeless with no chance of rescue.  But there in the middle of that place of pain, he recalled the promise and the truth:

The righteous will surround me,
    for you (God) will deal bountifully with me. (Psalm 142:7b NASB). 

God’s people would  be there for him and God would come through for him.  That’s what David knew.

That’s what we need to  know, too, when we feel forgotten or abandoned, alone, or without hope.

God’s people  are there for us.  God will come  through. 

But we’re not just receivers of that message;  we’re messengers of hope to others.

How can we share about God’s love and keep sharing? Remind others of God’s promises and keep reminding them?  Speak truth in love and keep on speaking  that truth even when we’re ready to give up?

Some of us right now are loving  someone who is traveling through hard spaces: the valley, the wilderness, the pit, and that’s a messy kind of ministry.

We can be poured out and depleted when caring for the hurting. It requires deep compassion, supernatural patience, and near-constant trips into God’s presence for  our own renewal and refreshing.  Otherwise, we’ll be crushed underneath someone else’s burden.

Only the Holy Spirit can do that deep healing work in any of us.  Only the Holy Spirit can open blinded eyes and deaf ears.

So the pressure is off of us to make others hear or understand or change their minds.

Here’s what we can do: We be present with them in the pain.  We stick with them in prayer.  We keep holding onto hope, and we trust God do the greater work that He alone can do.

 

 

 

 

 

Bible Verses for the Days You Feel Discouraged

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV
    Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lordyour God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
  • Joshua 1:9 ESV
     Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • 2 Chronicles 15:7 ESV
    But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
  • Psalm 27:14 ESV
    Wait for the Lord;
        be strong, and let your heart take courage;
        wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 31:24 ESV
    Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
        all you who wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 42:11 ESV
    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my salvation and my God.
  • Psalm 55:22 ESV
    Cast your burden on the Lord,
        and he will sustain you;
    he will never permit
        the righteous to be moved
  • Psalm 94:14 ESV
    For the Lord will not forsake his people;
        he will not abandon his heritage;
  • Isaiah 40:31 ESV
    but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
    they shall run and not be weary;
        they shall walk and not faint.
  • Isaiah 41:10 ESV
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Matthew 11:28 ESV
    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  • John 16:33 ESV
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  • Romans 12:12 ESV
    Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Romans 15:4 ESV
    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
    We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  • Galatians 6:9 ESV
    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
  • Colossians 3:23-25 ESV
    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
  • Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
    Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 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. 16 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.

He is the endurance and encouragement we need

“Mom, I see the flowers we planted!”

We planted bulbs in November and by the very next day, my son started looking for signs of life, little green sprouts pushing up through the soil.  He’s been on the alert since then.

But I know how this works.  Those crocuses and tulips aren’t going to push their little green noses up through the dirt until about February.

He helped me dig each of the holes down and the dropped each bulb into its new earthy home.

He pushed the dirt over the seeds and he stepped down and we high-fived when it was all done.

So, now he wants results.  He wants to see the fruit of our labors.  Let’s have some flowers already!  Let’s see the growth now!

Maybe he’s like most of us, wanting things fast, impressive, instant, and now.

But James wrote in his epistle:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand….Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:7-8, 11).

The farmer is in this for the long-haul.  He isn’t in it for instant results or some overnight turnaround.

He knows what the plants need first.  They need early rains and they need late rains, all before the precious fruit of the earth is carried in at harvest.

We need this.  We’re not overnight bloomers.  We’re ripening fruit, needing the early rains, needing the late rains, needing Jesus to be at work all before we can be pulled off the vine.

Sometimes perhaps we just give up too soon.  Sometimes we just get too frustrated, too  discouraged, too shaken up by our plans tumbled into disarray.

Things break. Conflict occurs. People disappoint. I disappoint. I forget.  I mess up. I lose my temper. I make the wrong decision and I forget grace. The schedule suffocates. The expectations of others weigh heavy.

Whatever the form of brokenness we face, it is broken, and here we are with the same-old, same-old choice.

Give up on the fruit.

Or this:

Be patient.

Establish our heart.

Remain steadfast.

This speaks peace to me.  This says that even when the fruit delays, even when the ground seems interminably hard, even when the winter lasts and the rains don’t come, even then my heart is rooted deep down in Jesus.

So, the unexpected doesn’t distort my perspective.

I am at peace.

The interruptions and the disruptions don’t toss me into fear.

I am at peace.

The conflict doesn’t knot me up in a tangled mess.

I am at peace.

We have patience.  We shake off the mess and get back up and try again because that’s what it takes to be steadfast; that’s what it means to endure.

When James said, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast,” he reminds us that the blessing isn’t for those who ran fast, grew tired, and then gave up.

The blessing is for those who remain. 

God blesses steadfastnessthe stick-to-it, never-giving-up, endurance of day-after-day obedience and faithfulness and growth.

here’s the good news: we don’t do this alone.

James finishes that passage with the reminder we need that God “is compassionate and merciful ”

He helps us.  He loves us.  He doesn’t expect us to conquer and hold fast all on our own.

This is what Romans says:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6 ESV).

He is the God of endurance and encouragement.

What we need on those days when we just want to crawl under the covers and give up, on the days we’re overwhelmed by the mess we’re in or the mistakes we’ve made, on the days when we think it’s just not going to  get better and we’ll never see any fruit…what we need is Him.

He is the endurance and encouragement we need to obey and then obey and then obey again, one step of faithfulness after another step of faithfulness in a long line of faithfulness over time.

Take heart.  Be encouraged.  The fruit will come.  The life will break through the frozen dirt and there will be beauty and harvest if we remain, endure, have hope, and do not give up.

Bible Verses about Diligence (for the days you feel like giving up)

  • Deuteronomy 4:9 ESV
    Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—
  • Deuteronomy 6:17 ESV
    You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you.
  • Proverbs 10:4 ESV
    A slack hand causes poverty,
        but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
  • Proverbs 12:14 ESV
    From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
        and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.
  • Proverbs 12:24 ESV
    The hand of the diligent will rule,
        while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
  • Proverbs 13:4 ESV
    The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
        while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
  • Proverbs 14:23 ESV
    In all toil there is profit,
        but mere talk tends only to poverty.
  • Proverbs 21:5 ESV
    The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
        but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
  • Jeremiah 31:16 ESV
    Thus says the Lord:
    “Keep your voice from weeping,
        and your eyes from tears,
    for there is a reward for your work,
    declares the Lord,
        and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
  • Romans 12:8 NIV
    if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV
    Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
  • Galatians 6:9 ESV
    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV
     For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
  • 1 Timothy 4:15-16 NIV
    Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
  • Hebrews 6:11 NIV
    We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized.
  • 2 Peter 1:10 ESV
     Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
  • 2 Peter 3:14 ESV
    Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

These are the treasures to tuck away in your soul

There’s a couple in our church who’ve been married over 60 years.

They’re in a season of jet-setting, of cruises and spontaneous trips up to New England to see the fall leaves.  They drive all over to visit family and seem busier now than I am with my four kids.

They’ve known sadness too.  They’ve had cancer, lost family members to cancer, even lost a child to cancer.

About a year ago, I passed by my husband as he was chatting with the husband-half of this dynamic duo and I heard these words of wisdom:

These are the best days, when your kids are young.  I remember when all our kids were little and at home and it was crazy, but those were the best days. 

I didn’t catch any other part of that conversation, but oh how those words dug down deep within me.

The other day, I said to my husband as we drove home from church, “We’re super close to the time when we have a built-in babysitter in our home.  Aren’t you excited?  I’m excited!”

It’s so true.  Our kids are getting older, getting ready to stay home alone and even babysit younger siblings.  It won’t be long (dare I say it?) before my oldest daughter can drive herself to activities.  What a day that will be!

This is a new era for me.  And it’s just the beginning.  I’m living a life without strollers, diapers, wipes, and juice boxes.

I should be excited.  This is a new season, and it’s a beautiful season.

But I truly treasure the wisdom from this church-friend of ours because even on days when I’m rushing from activity to activity, breaking up sibling spats, or navigating a grocery store with the ‘help’ of my preschooler, even on the days when I’m most exhausted or most overwhelmed, I hold onto his truth.

These are the best days.  I will never have them again. 

I may get to go on weekend getaways with my husband. I may be less of a taxi driver and more of a world traveler.

BUT OH THE BEAUTY OF THE NOW.

Oh the beauty of making this family and loving this family through its most significant character-forming, faith-building, family-identity-forming era.

This gentleman isn’t the only one who has given such a gift of wisdom and perspective.

Last Easter, a dear friend in my church, a joy-bringer and encourager, gave me a little gift with a hummingbird on it.

She said the hummingbird made her think of me, flitting about, always moving, so beautiful.

This was another treasured gift.

I wage this constant battle for balance.  I’m a doer who is happy doing, and that’s something God created in me and what God creates is good.

But I have to choose and discipline myself for rest, for beauty breaks and for finding room to breathe.

I know this about myself.  I know my weakest weakness and how easy it is to call me out for doing too much.

But she chose to see the beauty.

And the funny thing is I’d never seen a hummingbird, not in my whole entire life, until about two years ago when we planted butterfly-attracting plants in our back garden.

Turns out hummingbirds like these flowers too, and they hover all summer long right next to the window where I write every day.

They have become God-gifts to me, sightings and reminders that God sees me and knows me, He made me and He loves me.  He helps me know when to do and when not to do.  He guides me ever so gently and cherishes me the way He made me.

These are the treasures I receive from God’s family, just two of many gifts I’ve been given, words of hope or encouragement, wisdom and perspective.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel with my kids recently and we discovered this verse:

Then Saul’s son Jonathan came to David in Horesh and encouraged him in his faith in God (1 Samuel 23:16 HCSB).

David was on the run once again from Saul’s envious wrath, and he discovered that the city he was hiding in planned to betray him and him over to Saul. So David escaped with his men into the wilderness.

If ever he needed a treasured friend, it was in his wilderness season.

And Jonathan was that friend.

Can we be a Jonathan for another today?

Can we give a treasure away, encouraging someone in her faith in God, share wisdom, see beauty, give hope?

Originally published June 1, 2016

We need lifting up

Today I received a mini-lecture from a random stranger in well-worn jeans and a baseball cap.

As I left the library with my three-year-old,my son danced over to the button for the automatic door and pressed it with a little bounce in his step and wiggle of his head.

He loves pressing these buttons.

When he was old enough to reach out of the stroller, he insisted on being the one to control the doors.

When he was two-years-old and leaving the library was always a fight, these buttons were a blessing.  He wanted to skip going home for lunch and naptime and just stay and play forever.  The massive terrible two’s tantrum hovered over us like a threatening storm cloud every single time we went to the library in those days.

So, I started giving him something to look forward to.  I’d say, “It’s time to go.  Would you like to be the one to press the button?”

Sometimes it failed.  He still had to be carried on out of there in a full-blown fit.

But on a lot of days, it worked.  He’d head out of the children’s section on a mission to be the one to open the doors on our way out.

Today was a good day at the library. We saw a friend.  My son played without fighting and even did some sharing, which is a new and still-developing skill.

When it was time to go, we grabbed our stuff and headed for the front without cajoling, threatening, or screaming.

So, when he pressed the button and did a little dance as the doors opened, I smiled.

Yes, this was a successful library day.  Thank goodness!

Then the stranger complained.

At first, I couldn’t tell he was picking at my son.  He said, “One day, those buttons might break.”

This was unexpected.  Mostly when people see my son so excited about pressing the buttons, they laugh or smile and it makes all of our days a little brighter.

Then this stranger said the mean words:  “Those buttons are for the handicapped.  Not for him.”

That’s when I realized he was complaining that my three-year-old likes to push these buttons—like probably every other three-year-old on the planet.

My son didn’t bang the button, hit the button, slam the button or in any way misuse the button.  He just pressed it.

He didn’t take up a handicap parking space without a handicap sticker or use a handicap bathroom when it wasn’t necessary and prevent others from using it as a result.

And I don’t ever use those automatic buttons myself since I can open the doors without difficulty.

But my son used this button to open a door that he can’t open any other way because it’s far too big and heavy for him.

And in the very moment he had joy,  we were criticized.

Sometimes this is exactly how it goes.

Just when you are having a good day, someone tries to bring you down.

Your child doesn’t have a tantrum, he uses the potty, and he doesn’t fight with the other kids, and you think, “Hurray!  Maybe I’m not failing completely as a mom.”  That’s when someone tells you how badly you’re doing.

Yesterday, I read something by Charles Spurgeon  that pinged again in my soul while standing a little tongue-tied in the library lobby:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

I don’t really need a stranger to tell me I don’t measure up, made a bad choice, or in any way am failing at motherhood.

I am heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.

All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

We need lifting up, above the tough circumstances, above the sin that weighs us down, above the criticism that tramples all over our joy.

And Jesus does this for us.

He is the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3).

David said,

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1).

And Psalm 146 tells us:

The Lord raises up those who are bowed down (Psalm 146:8 ESV).

In Psalm 28, it says God lifts us into His arms just as a shepherd cradles his sheep:

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever  (Psalm 28:9 ESV).

I don’t  know what might weigh you down at the moment or what might be dragging your soul into a pit of discouragement.

Whatever it is, we can lift it up to Jesus.

Lift your soul right up to Him.

He will carry you.

Bible Verses for when you need God’s Help

verses-about-gods-help

  • 2 Chronicles 32:8 ESV
     With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
  • Psalm 10:14 ESV
    But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
        that you may take it into your hands;
    to you the helpless commits himself;
        you have been the helper of the fatherless.
  • Psalm 20:2 ESV
    May he send you help from the sanctuary
        and give you support from Zion!
  • Psalm 22:19 ESV
    But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
        O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
  • Psalm 30:2 ESV
    O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
        and you have healed me.
  • Psalm 30:10 ESV
    Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
        O Lord, be my helper!”
  • Psalm 31:22 ESV
    I had said in my alarm,[a]
        “I am cut off from your sight.”
    But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
        when I cried to you for help.
  • Psalm 33:20 ESV
    Our soul waits for the Lord;
        he is our help and our shield.
  • Psalm 34:17-19 ESV
    When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
    18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.
    19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
  • Psalm 37:40 ESV
    The Lord helps them and delivers them;
        he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
        because they take refuge in him.
  • Psalm 38:22 ESV
    Make haste to help me,
        O Lord, my salvation!
  • Psalm 40:13 ESV
    Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
        O Lord, make haste to help me!
  • Psalm 40:17 ESV
    As for me, I am poor and needy,
        but the Lord takes thought for me.
    You are my help and my deliverer;
        do not delay, O my God!
  • Psalm 44:26 ESV
    Rise up; come to our help!
        Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
  • Psalm 46:1 ESV
    God is our refuge and strength,
        a very present help in trouble.
  • Psalm 46:5 ESV
    God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
        God will help her when morning dawns.
  • Psalm 54:4 ESV
    Behold, God is my helper;
        the Lord is the upholder of my life.
  • Psalm 60:11 ESV
    Oh, grant us help against the foe,
        for vain is the salvation of man!
  • Psalm 70:1 ESV
    Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
        O Lord, make haste to help me!
  • Psalm 71:12 ESV
    O God, be not far from me;
        O my God, make haste to help me!
  • Psalm 79:9 ESV
    Help us, O God of our salvation,
        for the glory of your name;
    deliver us, and atone for our sins,
        for your name’s sake!
  • Psalm 94:17 ESV
    If the Lord had not been my help,
        my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.
  • Psalm 106:4 ESV
    Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them,
  • Psalm 109:6 ESV
    Help me, O Lord my God!
        Save me according to your steadfast love!
  • Psalm 115:9 ESV
    O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.
  • Psalm 115:11 ESV
    You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
        He is their help and their shield.
  • Psalm 118:7 ESV
    The Lord is on my side as my helper;
        I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
  • Psalm 119:147 ESV
    I rise before dawn and cry for help;
        I hope in your words.
  • Psalm 119:173 ESV
    Let your hand be ready to help me,
        for I have chosen your precepts.
  • Psalm 121:1-2 ESV
    I lift up my eyes to the hills.
        From where does my help come?
    My help comes from the Lord,
        who made heaven and earth.
  • Psalm 124:8 ESV
    Our help is in the name of the Lord,
        who made heaven and earth.
  • Isaiah 41:10 ESV
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Isaiah 50:7 ESV
    But the Lord God helps me;
        therefore I have not been disgraced;
    therefore I have set my face like a flint,
        and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
  • John 14:16 ESV
     And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever
  • Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV
     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. 16 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.
  • Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV
    Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

    “The Lord is my helper;
        I will not fear;
    what can man do to me?”

Be a Jonathan Today

1 thessalonians 5

There’s a couple in our church who’ve been married over 60 years.

They’re in a season of jet-setting, of cruises and spontaneous trips up to New England to see the fall leaves.  They drive all over to visit family and seem busier now than I am with my four kids.

They’ve known sadness too.  They’ve had cancer, lost family members to cancer, even lost a child to cancer.

About a year ago, I passed by my husband as he was chatting with the husband-half of this dynamic duo and I heard these words of wisdom:

These are the best days, when your kids are young.  I remember when all our kids were little and at home and it was crazy, but those were the best days. 

I didn’t catch any other part of that conversation, but oh how those words dug down deep within me.

The other day, I said to my husband as we drove home from church, “We’re super close to the time when we have a built-in babysitter in our home.  Aren’t you excited?  I’m excited!”

It’s so true.  Our kids are getting older, getting ready to stay home alone and even babysit younger siblings.  It won’t be long (dare I say it?) before my oldest daughter can drive herself to activities.  What a day that will be!

Last week, I took four of my kids into a museum and we did not bring the stroller.  Each child carried her own backpack of stuff and I just toted a bag of my own.  Whoa!

This is a new era for me.  And it’s just the beginning.  I’ll be living a life without diapers, wipes, and juice boxes before long.

I should be excited.  This is a new season, and it’s a beautiful season.

But I truly treasure the wisdom from this church-friend of ours because even on days when I’m rushing from activity to activity, breaking up sibling spats, or navigating a grocery store with the ‘help’ of a two-year-old who doesn’t want to ride in the cart, even on the days when I’m most exhausted or most overwhelmed, I hold onto his truth.

These are the best days.  I will never have them again. 

I may get to go on weekend getaways with my husband. I may be less of a taxi driver and more of a world traveler.

But oh the beauty of the now.

Oh the beauty of making this family and loving this family through its most significant character-forming, faith-building, family-identity-forming era.

This gentleman isn’t the only one who has given such a gift of wisdom and perspective.

Last Easter, a dear friend in my church, a joy-bringer and encourager, gave me a little gift with a hummingbird on it.

She said the hummingbird made her think of me, flitting about, always moving, so beautiful.

This was another treasured gift.

I wage this constant battle for balance.  I’m a doer who is happy doing, and that’s something God created in me and what God creates is good.

But I have to choose and discipline myself for rest, for beauty breaks and for finding room to breathe.

I know this about myself.  I know my weakest weakness and how easy it is to call me out for doing too much.

But she chose to see the beauty.

And the funny thing is I’d never seen a hummingbird, not in my whole entire life, until about two years ago when we planted butterfly-attracting plants in our back garden.

Turns out hummingbirds like these flowers too, and they hover all summer long right next to the window where I write every day.

They have become God-gifts to me, sightings and reminders that God sees me and knows me, He made me and He loves me.  He helps me know when to do and when not to do.  He guides me ever so gently and cherishes me the way He made me.

These are the treasures I receive from God’s family, just two of many gifts I’ve been given, words of hope or encouragement, wisdom and perspective.

I’ve been reading 1 Samuel with my kids recently and we discovered this verse:

Then Saul’s son Jonathan came to David in Horesh and encouraged him in his faith in God (1 Samuel 23:16 HCSB).

David was on the run once again from Saul’s envious wrath, and he discovered that the city he was hiding in planned to betray him and him over to Saul. So David escaped with his men into the wilderness.

If ever he needed a treasured friend, it was in his wilderness season.

And Jonathan was that friend.

Can we be a Jonathan for another today?

Can we give a treasure away, encouraging someone in her faith in God, share wisdom, see beauty, give hope?

 

 

20 Bible Verses for the days you are discouraged

verses-for-the-discouraged

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV
    Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
  • Joshua 1:9 ESV
     Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • 2 Chronicles 15:7 ESV
    But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
  • Psalm 27:14 ESV
    Wait for the Lord;
        be strong, and let your heart take courage;
        wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 31:24 ESV
    Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
        all you who wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 42:11 ESV
    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my salvation and my God.
  • Psalm 55:22 ESV
    Cast your burden on the Lord,
        and he will sustain you;
    he will never permit
        the righteous to be moved
  • Psalm 94:14 ESV
    For the Lord will not forsake his people;
        he will not abandon his heritage;
  • Isaiah 40:31 ESV
    but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
    they shall run and not be weary;
        they shall walk and not faint.
  • Isaiah 41:10 ESV
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Matthew 11:28 ESV
    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  • John 16:33 ESV
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  • Romans 12:12 ESV
    Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Romans 15:4 ESV
    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
    We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  • Galatians 6:9 ESV
    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
  • Colossians 3:23-25 ESV
    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
  • Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
    Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 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. 16 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.

The Grace God Gives for the Wearied Soul

psalm 51-12

I could recognize the discouragement. The perpetual fatigue in the face and in the slumping of the shoulders, not extreme, but ever so slightly burdened down low.

It was clear in the mechanical activity, not the joyous friendliness of cheerful service like before. Now my friend moved from point A to point B, task one to task two, not smiling, just doing because doing is what needed to be done.

I recognized the discouragement because

I

Have

Been

There

Before.

We who have been weary can see the signs in others, the trudging, the exhaustion, the worn out soul fraying at every edge and held together with patches and slipshod stitchery.

So we come alongside our friends, our Christian sisters and brothers, those whose burdens we’re supposed to remove so they can walk free and unencumbered for a time.  We remind them of God’s goodness, His grace.  We encourage them in their efforts, cheering them on with reminders to persevere and not give up and yes, there will be a harvest in time, and no, it isn’t all in vain.

How do we know?  That’s what they might ask.

Oh my friend, how I know.

Because contrary to what you might have heard or expected, the Christian life isn’t all easy and Christian service isn’t all joyfully inspiring and pouring out to others out of an overflow.  Sometimes we’re emptying out the last few drops from our own parched souls, not knowing what to do when we’re dehydrated and depleted and still others hold out needy hands for more.

Yet, we know this also.

We pour out…everything….and He pours in anew.

You might think you’re alone in this, stumbling over your own weaknesses, serving to exhaustion, not seeing the reward or the gain or the purpose or the point.

Yet, the prayers of saints long before teach us that others have desperately needed to be renewed, revived, restored.

The Psalmists prayed:

Will You not revive us again
so that Your people may rejoice in You?
(Psalm 85:6 HCSB)

and

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest  (Psalm 126:4-6 NLT)

and

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 HCSB).  

Their prayers would be unnecessary, meaningless even unless they felt the need for the renewing, the reviving, the restoring work of God in us.

We need the grace again, the joy again, the steadfast spirit again, the life again.  That’s what they asked.

That’s what we need, too.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

Nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion.  The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish.  The prayer ‘revive us again’ keeps the body of Christ youthful and responsive to every new mercy and grace in God (Praying With the Psalms).

So we offer to help carry the cross for a time through this valley and we remind them of the hope and the promise as we travel along together.

We tell the fullness of our testimony, not just the revival, the renewal, the restoration after the fact…not the destination without the journey or the end result without the in between.

No, we remember that we were worn out and limping and God renewed us.

We were dead and hopeless and God revived us.

We had lost everything and God restored us.

God did this for me, that’s what we say.  And He will do this work in you, too.

And we pray, of course we pray.

We ask God to fill them right up again, fill their own parched souls so they are overflowing. We ask for strength anew and energy for each day, for reminders of the vision and reassurance of the harvest.

God’s plan isn’t for us to walk through discouragement alone, not any of us. How could we ever survive it, after all, if we thought we were the only ones and that somehow we must be here because of our own fumbling and faltering?

But to know others have been there, have made it through, and have traveled back to tell us the good news and to pray for us along the way…that’s the grace God gives for a wearied soul.