“I will gather those who have been driven from the appointed festivals; they will be a tribute from you and a reproach on her. Yes, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you. I will save the lame and gather the scattered; I will make those who were disgraced throughout the earth receive praise and fame. At that time I will bring you back, yes, at the time I will gather you. I will give you fame and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes. Yahweh has spoken.”
Zephaniah 3:18-20 HCSB
For those who have physical, mental, or emotional difficulties, going to big gatherings can be a challenge on multiple levels. Isn’t it a comfort to know that one day we will have new bodies and new minds free from the hindrances that plague us here in the present? All will enjoy a worldwide gathering free of the burdens that once bound us in shackles, free to praise and worship our Heavenly Father with our entire healed beings in all His glory. What a sweet time this will be! 🚦
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
When I go see a patient in their home for acute post op cardiac rehab I am taking with me a Borg Perceived Exertion Scale for them to rate how hard they feel they are working at the exercise they are doing. I want their rate of exertion to stay in the green zone as a safety measure for the health of their heart.
If we took one of these scales and placed it next to our lives would we find ourselves staying in the safety of the green zone, fully appropriate for a person recovering from trauma and severe hardship, or are we pushing into the less comfortable yellow zones and beyond?
We may even find ourselves in the dark red “10” zone, not of our own choosing but because that is where God wants us so that we are fully relying on Him. It’s uncomfortable, maybe even painful. If I were exercising a patient as a therapist, I’d get them out of there pretty quickly, but it seems as if God leaves us in that blood-letting sector interminably! Conceivably, it takes this long for us to completely turn over our issue to Him and trust Him. He will take as long as is necessary to teach us reliance upon Him. We may be afflicted but not crushed, struck down but not destroyed; He will be there with us in the thick of things.
(Side bar: If you are in a place of high stress for an extended time, you may need outside help beyond what talking with friends can give to you. Please pray about it and consider talking to your pastor or your doctor if needed. )
Now that you have seen the chart, are you ready to push into a zone that’s just a little bit outside of the comfort level where you have been living? 🚦
“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:3-6 HCSB
It is easy to get caught up in a swirl of negative thinking that God has no use for us now that we can’t run like we used to, cannot even walk without limping, for that matter. The list of physical ailments goes on and on, and we think that surely God is done with us. The non-stop doubts play in our minds over and over again like top hits on a pop radio station. “Why should I sign up to help decorate with that women’s retreat when I can’t even decorate my own living room?” “What do I have to offer those younger men when I can barely mow my own yard?“
Friend, your identity need not be caught up in your physical ability but in who you are in Christ. He has started a work that He can and will complete no matter your physical state as long as you have a willing and open heart. He is still at work in you! May your spirit be teachable and ready to walk with Him in divine revelation of the holy. 🚦
“The wilderness and the dry land will be glad; the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose. It will blossom abundantly and will also rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.”
Isaiah 35:1-2 HCSB
The adage, “Bloom where you are planted,” takes on new color when one awakens to the idea that he is singing praises to the Creator when flourishing in the environment in which God has placed him. From the moment we wake up we have the opportunity to sing praises to God, to worship Him by thriving where you are—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. It’s so important He put it into a commandment to us:
“He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command.”
Matthew 22:37-38 HCSB
We further bring down the glory and majesty of the Lord when we fulfill the next commandment Jesus gave to, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39
Nature bows to worship God by doing what it was created to do— bloom and grow bountifully. Mankind worships God by fully engaging in the life given by Our Creator, loving God and loving people.
So what do we do when we find ourselves withering in the wilderness instead of thriving as we know we were created to do?
◦ First, we give ourselves the same grace our Heavenly Father gives, and lighten up the pressure to perform.
◦ Next, we turn to our practices that lead us back to Him—time in His Word, meditation, prayer. “But,” you lament, “I’m to weak to pray. The words won’t come.” Just say, “Jesus,” over and over; it’s the prayer that never fails.
◦ Perhaps it’s time to pull out a journal and start writing down whatever He brings to your mind about Scripture and life.
◦ Singing songs of praise and adoration to the Father draws us into His presence. Familiar hymns and choruses are especially soothing to hurting hearts.
◦ Finally, fellowship with other believers is so necessary Paul admonished us to not neglect this practice in Hebrews 10:25.
“I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”
John 10:10 HCSB
Yes, you were made for more, and His heart is calling out to your heart to fully live. 🚦
“But they deceived Him with their mouths, they lied to Him with their tongues, their hearts were insincere toward Him and they were unfaithful to His covenant. Yet He was compassionate, He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them. He often turned His anger aside and did not unleash all His wrath. He remembered that they were only flesh, an wind that passes and does not return.”
Psalm 78:36-39 HCSB
The world tells us to cancel people out of our lives who have wronged us, but God takes a different direction with us when it is we who have wronged Him. Instead of a passive-aggressive approach or shutting down, He recognizes our humanity and offers a way of redemption.
Perhaps the next time someone hurts our feelings or steps out of their lane we can follow His example of compassion and remember they, like us, are only flesh. 🚦
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
James 5:16 HCSB
Have you ever prayed and felt as if your prayers were merely hitting the ceiling, going nowhere? I almost fell into this trap again this morning when God spoke to me and reminded me not to get on the feelings train. When feelings want to tell you that kind of a lie, that God does not hear your prayers, remember what truth tells you: “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
And His hearing is not dependent upon how big our faith is, because Jesus Himself tells us that all we need is faith the tiny side of a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds, and we can accomplish powerful things in His name.
“Because of your little faith,” He told them. “For I assure you: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great! ””
Psalms 70:4 HCSB
The enemy was fast approaching, battle-ready to attack Judah and to destroy the mighty power Jehoshaphat had built up over time. This amazing leader called all the cities to a time of fasting, as he lead them in prayer with a message to God saying, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”
As Jehoshaphat’s army prepared to face the Moabites and Ammonites, it was not the biggest and strongest positioned on the front lines; it was the singers and worshippers! Yes, they led with praise and worship to our God and Savior, rejoicing in the certain victory that was to come. And deliver God did! God completely wiped out the enemy without Jehoshaphat’s army lifting a single weapon! All that was left for them to do was gather the plunder.
It’s hard to imagine when we are in the middle of a trial that we can rejoice and be thankful in the midst of the storm, but Scripture repeatedly calls us to do this. But how?
Our lesson from Jehoshaphat tells us to rejoice and be glad in the victory that is to come, even when we don’t know what that outcome looks like in the moment. God is on our side and will be glorified in the end, so when we start praising Him and anticipating the triumph ahead with a grateful heart, things do start to change, especially our hearts.
The psalmist exhorts us to continually, without ceasing proclaim the greatness of God. Let’s challenge ourselves to do this today through whatever we face. 🚦
“But as for me, Lord, my prayer to You is for a time of favor. In Your abundant, faithful love, God, answer me with Your sure salvation.
Rescue me from the miry mud; don’t let me sink. Let me be rescued from those who hate me and from the deep waters. Don’t let the floodwaters sweep over me or the deep swallow me up; don’t let the Pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, Lord, for Your faithful love is good; in keeping with Your great compassion, turn to me.”
Psalms 69:13-16 HCSB
My second semester of freshman year of college was definitely a time of the Lord’s favor. It was a grand time with special roommates, making memories to last a lifetime while excelling academically. We cherished that time even while we were in it, knowing it was unique and special, though we didn’t recognize God’s hand in it at that time.
I wonder how often I miss the goodness of God because I simply am oblivious to Him in my everyday life. I hope I have outgrown that much younger self who was growing in faith but not so in tune with the Spirit.
When you are rescued from the miry mud, as I was after just one semester of my sophomore year, do you attribute the deliverance to the Father, or to “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps?”
Let’s vow to walk in Spirit, in tune with Him, so we can see how He favors us and when He saves us from the muck. 🚦
“You crown the year with Your goodness; Your ways overflow with plenty. The wilderness pastures overflow, and the hills are robed with joy. The pastures are clothed with flocks and the valleys covered with grain. They shout in triumph; indeed, they sing.”
Psalms 65:11-13 HCSB
Yes, even the hardest years He crowns with His goodness. He meets us in the middle of our mess and brings beauty from the pain, the anxiety, the heartache, and the mistakes. When everyone else is too busy or wrapped up in their problems and issues, God is the one who is there, overshadowing the difficulty with His glorious presence. What have you been facing God is walking with you through? 🚦
“The righteous one rejoices in the Lord and takes refuge in Him; all those who are upright in heart will offer praise.”
Psalms 64:10 HCSB
The things I rejoice in and celebrate as a believer in Jesus Christ should look different from those things championed by an unbeliever. Our lives are not the same, and I must not look for positive affirmation from them because our way of looking at the world is different. Instead, I run to the cross for confirmation of my path. I find fellow Christ followers trekking through this journey whose judgments are trustworthy and sure, those who are as iron sharpening me when we are together, and I seek their perspective. This definitely narrows the scope of who gets a phone call or a text from me and how much gets divulged on important matters, but it protects my mind from worldly views. It keeps me from becoming full of myself when I want to be so full of Jesus He’s all anyone notices when they look my way.
Where are you looking for your stamp of approval or as a green light for your thoughts? 🚦