Renew, Revive, Restore Us Again

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.psalm51

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.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Flat

Well-meaning strangers have pulled up alongside my minivan and honked the horn so I’ll swivel my head in their direction.  Then they wave their hands at me and initiate a mini-game of charades.

Oh I get it—they want me to roll my window down before the light turns green.  So, I fumble around with my automatic windows, pressing every wrong button in nervousness until I finally get it right just in time to hear them shout out the message.

Passers-by in parking lots have strolled by my minivan and backed up to deliver the news.  Friends from church have walked the perimeter and told me what they saw.

“You have a flat tire.”

I appreciate the alert because I’m an unobservant ignorer of massively important details.  I’ve been known not to notice that my husband has shaved his beard completely off after having it for 3 months.

So, I’m pretty dependent on more observant folks to help me out and sound the alarm.

Unfortunately, the news they bear isn’t at all what I want to hear.

You see, someone has surely placed a magnet inside my tires that attracts every nail on the road in our entire county.  It must be true because I get a flat tire about four times a year.

That seems statistically impossible somehow.

And definitely unfair.

Of course, the frustrating thing about tires is that you never just replace one.  It’s always a matter of two.  That’s a law of physics or something.

Unfortunately, this time the rim was bent and my tires needed to be replaced.

Yes, tire”s” as in two of them (please refer back to the First Law of Tires).

This also means that by some miracle I didn’t drive over a nail in the last month.  I apparently drove over a pothole or something of that nature instead, just to shake things up and keep life interesting. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

This first reminds me of the Geico commercial of a pothole with a Southern accent.

The difference between the commercial and my reality being that my pothole didn’t speak to me like a Southern belle and apparently it was damaging enough to cause long-term catastrophic failure, but not terrible enough for me to notice it happening.

This whole experience has reminded me of something else, though: How it feels to be flat, sucked dry, breathless, desperate for the Spirit of God, lifeless, joyless, and emptied out.

Oh, how desperately we want to take in God’s presence and His life-giving breath, but no amount of gasping and gulping at the air lifts us off the ground.

So there you remain, feeling the void, unable to move.

It comes on us gradually, this emptiness.  We’ve picked up the tiniest of nails, over and over again from daily annoyances and perpetual busyness.  Perhaps we’ve even bounced over a few potholes that have dented and bruised our Spirit.

Even when you do everything right, even when you flop down at the kitchen table to read God’s Word and you serve in ministry and you love others and you pray and you blast the praise music (when your kids let you choose the songs in the car)….even then it’s possible to wake up one day and realize you are flattened out and suffocating for want of God’s Spirit.

The prophet Ezekiel stood overlooking a valley filled with “bones that were very dry.” They were hopeless and cut off, dried up.  It’s the same as feeling flat with its lifelessness, breathlessness, the deadness, and the void.

God’s message to the bones was:  I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life (Ezekiel 37:5 MSG).  Not just breath!  “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (Ezekiel 37:13 MSG).

It was a revival.  A newness of life.  Taking the dead, dried out, and breathless and filling it anew with the very Spirit of our holy God.

But it began with dead bones crying out:  ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off!’ (Ezekiel 37:2, 11 MSG).

They were clamoring for life instead of accepting their dry deadness scattered along the valley floor.  We also cry out to Him, “God, we’re desperate for your Spirit and we won’t remain silent here flattened to the ground.  Fill us anew!  Make Your Word come alive!  Stir my heart to see You, to hear Your voice, to feel Your presence.  Breathe Your life into me.”

And this He will do, maybe through gradual healing and patching together or maybe in a revival of a moment.  He will do it because we ask.  He will do it for the glory of His name so that “you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it” (Ezekiel 37:14).

One of my favorite worship songs: Desert Song, by Hillsong United

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King