“Where there is sorrow there is holy ground. Some day people will realize what that means. They will know nothing of life till they do.” – Oscar Wilde
Nobody signs up for suffering, but it happens to us all: sickness, tragedy, loss, and pain. The hardest of all is the struggle that just keeps hanging on and day after day we feel alone in a hot, dry desert.
If you are there, be encouraged! God uses desert time to make us strong, to help us learn dependence on him, and, often, to prepare us for something he wants us to do. Think about Moses who spent years there tending sheep before God called him to lead his people out of slavery. The Israelites spent four decades in the desert learning to trust God alone to meet their needs. Jesus was in the desert for forty days of fasting and prayer before beginning his public ministry. His wilderness time included direct confrontations with Satan. The desert can be a difficult and dangerous place!
Desert experiences tend to strip away the trappings of life so we can see what is truly essential. It is then that God can reach down, touch our souls, and feed us with food that will satisfy: Manna, refreshment for the spirit, just enough until we are healthy and strong and ready to be led out of the wilds into a more abundant life.
The desert truly is holy ground. If you are suffering today, be as open as you can to God and his Spirit within you. Over time, his healing touch will come.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever. – Psalm 30:11-12
“However many blessings we expect from God, his infinite liberality will always exceed our wishes and our thoughts.” – John Calvin
On a recent trip to a South Asian country, my hustand and I attended worship services in a language we couldn’t understand. What we did understand, though, was the loving hearts of parents who brought us their children, asking that we pray for them. They trusted our prayers would be heard and their children would be blessed.
When Jesus was here on earth, there were mothers and fathers who brought their young ones to him for the same reason. If you are a parent, you understand. Who would not want his/her child to be blessed by God?
I remember, years ago now, sitting in the rocking chair, soothing my babies to sleep and praying over their fuzzy heads that God would bless them. I’m sure many of you have done the same. You know what? We can still bring our children to Jesus for blessing even if they’re not babies anymore
One of my favorite signs of God’s blessing was on his own Son – no longer a child, but all grown up. Can you imagine the joy in Jesus’ heart when he heard from heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased”? As a young man, Jesus was experiencing his father’s blessing because he was was making him proud.
God doesn’t stop blessing us just because we’re grown up. We’re still his kids! So, let’s not stop asking for God to bless our children. And let’s ask him to bless us, too. We never outgrow our need for his goodness toward us.
“Give thanks to him and bless his name! For the Lord is good, his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:4b-5
“It’s not those in prison for the sake of the gospel who suffer. The person who suffers is he who never experiences God’s intimate presence.” – Brother Yun
When God commands us to have no other gods before him, it doesn’t mean he wants to be highest on our list of priorities. It means he wants to be our only priority. He doesn’t force himself on us, though. Instead, he waits for us to decide whether or not to make him our one-and-only God, the Lord of our lives.
It’s risky business to make him our Lord because sometimes he asks big things of us. Christians throughout history have been persecuted for their faith, some have been imprisoned or even martyred. Others have been marginalized in their jobs or ridiculed by neighbors. Many of us don’t ever experience that kind of persecution, but the question is the same: Is God first in our lives? Would he still be first even if it cost us everything to serve him? Or are there still some lesser “gods” that interfere with our total devotion to him?
Maybe our home? Family? Health? Reputation? Or even more obscure things like exercise, favorite foods, hobbies, or activities. As we examine our hearts, let’s ask God to show us if anything might be in the way of our total commitment to him.
Making God first doesn’t necessarily mean we will suffer, but it means we will be willing to. Willing to sacrifice everything for him if that’s what he calls us to do. But in return, we gain his favor, direction, and intimate presence. God asks that we not live our life and make him part of it, but that we give him our life and let him lead it.
How many times have you had this pseudo-conversation?
“How’s it going?”
Really? Are you sure it’s great? We tend to go through life without really thinking about how it’s going, don’t we? We move from one task to the next, one conversation (digital or personal) to the next, just hoping we’ll get everything done so we can get to bed at a reasonable hour and rise to do it all again tomorrow.
Maybe there’s a better way. What if we took a few minutes at the end of each day to think about the conversations, encounters, actions, reactions, joys, and sorrows of the day? Then we could move on to confessing as sin any thing we did, said, or thought, that didn’t please God. Finally, we could pick one specific thing from the day for which to thank him.
If we practice this, even on occasion, we’ll begin to learn something about ourselves and how we are using our hours and days. There may be some patterns of life we need to change. There may be relationships we need to be less invested in and others we should nurture. There may be an awareness of God leading us in a new direction in our work or our service to him.
The point is to pay attention to our lives. We don’t often have time to do that during the rush of the day. But, before we close our eyes in sleep, maybe a few minutes of reflection would enrich us and give God a chance to take us deeper into him. Let’s really know how it’s going!