It’s good to be thankful!

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. “- Psalm 69:30

One day I was fussing around trying to get everything done, worrying about this and that when I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge: “Don’t you have something you want to thank Me for?” Of course I did. I stopped my whirlwind and gave him thanks for several things that came immediately to mind. Amazingly, as soon as I did, I felt my spirit move from restless to restful. 

So what really happened? God’s reminder to thank him was not for his benefit, it was for mine. A gratefulness pause made me realize all God does for me every day and how much he must love me to remind me of that even when I was “toiling and spinning” like the biblical lilies of the field. Recognizing his character, his faithfulness, and his consistent drawing of me to himself helped me to trust him even in the middle of what felt like chaos.

Trusting is an emotion that grows out of a confident relationship with God as we discover that he loves, protects, teaches, and rescues us – and has been doing it for years. Even brief moments of remembering his never-failing consistency nurtures the emotion of trust in my spirit. Over time, I am finding that trust is more often my first response to struggle instead of my second, third, or fourth.

Maybe we need to stop telling ourselves to trust God and, instead, start realizing who he is and what he does for us. As we make gratefulness a habit, trust happens. Understanding that has made a big difference for me. It can for you, too. Don’t you have something to thank him for right now?

Our knowledge of God is perfected by gratitude.” – Thomas Merton

This post is an update of an earlier blog, but one that seemed appropriate for today. Enjoy!

Trouble with trusting?

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

I recently read Paul’s recitation of his immaculate pedigree as a passionate follower of God through Judaism. When he became a Christian, his new understanding made him realize he’d been trusting in his own goodness and zeal to earn God’s favor. After his encounter with Jesus, he understood that none of his efforts earned him any gold stars from God. Instead, God’s favor was gained by putting his trust in Christ, not himself. A commentator on Paul said, “It takes humility to trust.”

I began to think about ways in which pride can block our ability to trust God. Maybe it’s because humility means . . .

  •  acknowledging our own helplessness to change a situation.
  •  realizing that only God can see the future so knows best what to do for us and others.
  •  giving up control.
  •  accepting that what God chooses might hurt us for a time, but a greater purpose will be accomplished, even in our pain.
  •  believing, even when we can’t understand, that God is who he says he is and all his words are true.

You can imagine with me why it’s hard for a proud person to do the things listed above. Our pride doesn’t like helplessness, submission, accepting the truths in God’s word without argument. If there is any pride in us, we’ll find it hard to trust God.

Are you having trouble with trust? We all do, sometimes. When that happens, we should examine ourselves and root out whatever may be prideful or self-serving. Every time we do that with sincerity, we find it easier to trust God – our faith grows and his ability to use us grows.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” – Anonymous

Praying for Daylight

My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
    Yet the desires of my heart
turn night into day;
    in the face of the darkness light is near.
 – Job 17:11-12

Is sometimes the night so dark, the storm so strong, and the pain so deep that all you can do is pray for morning to come? You are not alone.

In Acts, we are told about the horrible storm Paul and Luke and many others experienced on their way to Rome. At one point, in the two-week-long nor’easter, the sailors took soundings and realized the water was getting shallower – they were approaching land. But it was the middle of the night, the ship was out of control, and they couldn’t see where they were headed. It was dark and scary and dangerous. Luke says, Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight (Acts 27:29). They did the only thing they could do – they waited and they prayed.

If you’re in a dark place right now, you can’t see what’s ahead, you are fearful and frantic, hang on. Morning will come. God promises it will. “. . . weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). 

In the meantime, focus all your attention on him. Pray for light. Pray for comfort. Pray for the security of his arms around you. Pray for the joy that will come when the storm subsides. The one who stills the waters is in the boat with you. He’s been there before. And he has promised never to leave you alone.

“Waiting for God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon our thoughts.” – Elisabeth Elliot

How much is it worth to you?

. . . anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. – Hebrews 11:6b

Do you want to get fit? Your success may depend on how much you’re willing to endure changing your eating and exercise habits.

Do you want to earn a degree? Your success will depend on how much you’re willing to prioritize, maybe even giving up sleep and social activities to reach your goal.

Do you want financial security? Your success may depend on how well you say “no” to things you can’t afford so, just maybe, you’ll be able to afford them later.

Now, here’s the bottom-line question. Do you want to know God better? To hear his voice? To know he hears your prayers? To sense his presence with you every minute? Your success will depend a lot on how much you’re willing to prioritize time, deny yourself, and say “no” to lesser things so you can pursue God with everything  you have and are. Anything as important as our relationship with God is going to cost us something. It may even be painful at times. 

Is it worth it? From my own experience, growing close to God is worth everything! Getting up early to read his word? I’ll do that. Talking to him throughout the day? That, too. Praying my heart out for people I love? Yup. Letting go of my need to control? OK.

The reward? Realizing and receiving his enduring love for me. Finding myself happily singing for no reason at all. And living with peace because trusting him has left me with fewer burdens to carry. Worth it? Oh, yes!

“The only thing between who you are now and who you want to be is the pain you are willing to endure.”

Rabbi Aryeh Markman

Did God say “no”?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

God speaks often about persistence in prayer, asking until we receive, and trusting he hears and will respond. But, apparently, there are times when we need to stop storming the gates of heaven for an answer we want desperately. Sometimes God simply says “no”. 

If that’s happened to you, you’re in good company. Moses had that experience when he pleaded with God to let him go over with the people into the promised land and God said: “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (Deuteronomy 3:26b). In other words, “Stop asking me, Moses. I already told you ‘no'”.

Paul had something similar happen when he prayed three times for his physical problem to be taken away. God didn’t answer the prayer the way Paul had hoped, but he did promise that his grace would see Paul through the difficulty.

If Moses and Paul, amazing saints, didn’t always get “yesses” to their prayers, we realize that sometimes we, too, have to accept “no” as an answer! When that happens, what do we do?

  • We stop repeating a prayer we know God has already said “no” to.
  • We don’t protest.
  • We persevere, asking for faith to rely on him to be with us in the difficult circumstance.
  • We acknowledge, as Paul did, that human weakness can be an avenue through which God displays his power – in ways we couldn’t even think to pray about.
  • We keep on loving, trusting, and worshiping God.

And then, at some point, we’ll find that God’s “no” was a great blessing!

“God’s refusals are always merciful – ‘severe mercies’ at times – but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.” – Elisabeth Elliot

On the Other Side

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. – Isaiah 30:21

God had already taken the people out of Egypt by his powerful hand, had led them day by day by a cloud and at night by a pillar of fire. When his cloud moved, they moved. When it stayed put, they stayed put. He was clearly leading them, and they willingly followed the cloud.

Now, they find themselves at the edge of Canaan and the spies come back to report there are giants in the land. The people are afraid, but Joshua and Caleb say this, “The land we passed through in order to spy it out is an outstandingly good land!” (Numbers 14:7). God has ‘outstandingly good’ things prepared for them. They just have to move forward when he says to move. But in spite of the amazing promises on the other side of obedience, they resist, they rebel, they refuse to move when God was saying “Go”.

I don’t want to be them and neither do you. We want to obey God and receive the blessings he has prepared for us! Think of it this way:

Dear Lord,

When you say go, I’ll go.

When you say stay, I’ll stay.

When you say speak, I’ll speak.

When you say be still, I’ll be still.

When you say give, I’ll give.

When you say withhold, I’ll withhold.

When you say pray, I’ll pray.

When you say work, I’ll work.

When you say listen, I’ll listen.

I’m trusting you, Lord, for the promises that come on the other side of obedience.

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” – Oswald Chambers

Being Still

“The Lord will fight for you and you have only to be silent.” – Exodus 14:14

The people of Israel had escaped from Egypt but now realize Pharaoh and his mighty armies were hot on their heels. They run faster. Then they stop dead in their tracks. They’re confronted by the Red Sea and there’s nowhere to hide from the advancing armies. The people cry out to Moses. He cries out to God, and God says he will fight for them. They just need to be quiet and wait.

This may be one of the most difficult commands in all of Scripture! It involves:

  • Silence. No crying. No shouts. No complaining. Just quietness.
  • Waiting. Unable to anticipate if God will act and, if so, how? And when?
  • Standing still. No helping. Only waiting for God to do something.
  • Being cautiously hopeful. Just maybe God has a plan.

He does have a plan. Always! But often we keep protesting our circumstances and trying to help God out with ideas of our own. We run ahead, we pace the floor, we plead. Right now he might be saying, “I’ll fight for you. Just sit still and be quiet.”

What do we do while we’re practicing quietness? We can thank him for his his loving care and his mighty resources – the ones we have experienced already and the ones we don’t know about yet. Then praise him for his power, his mercy, and his majesty. Wait. Thank. Praise. The answer will come – right on time.

For the Israelites, the Red Sea opened for them to cross into safety, out of reach forever from the Egyptian armies. What will it be for me? For you? Let’s wait in great anticipation of God’s amazing grace.

“It takes more effort to be still than to run.” – Brennan Manning