Lemon Drop Memories

Another road trip to the new house, another stop at Kwik Trip for more coffee. And there I saw them, a bag of lemon drops. I pulled the bag off the metal piece it hung from and immediately tears stung my eyes. Lemon drop memories. It’s funny how little things can cause liquid grief to flow as the memories pull on your heartstrings.

Dad loved lemon drops, I thought as I held the bag in my hand. And the missing feelings overwhelmed me. Dad went home to be with the Lord a little over five years ago. I think about him nearly every day. He was full of fun and loved to joke around. He could always bring a smile to my face. My tears surprised me.

Pushing the painful away use to be the way I chose to live. I use to hate fragility, and neediness. I would do anything to avoid tears. I would even try to keep others from crying so I didn’t have to deal with their sadness, or feel my own. I still do sometimes. But I am finding that when I allow myself to be touched by the pain of loss, healing begins. It is okay to miss the ones we love and allow tender memories to move us.

Burying my feelings use to make me feel strong. It helped me believe the lie that nothing could hurt me. But believing lies and building walls left me alone in the pain I was afraid to feel. I locked others out.

Sometimes it feels like our pain and tears can annihilate us. They feel too big, too overwhelming. And it seems that if we allow the tears to start they will never stop. It feels like we will crumple under the heaviness of our deep feelings. But that too is a lie. When we can open up about our feelings, and be held in them, the load is lightened.

Slowly I learn these truths, and release the lies. More lessons on my path of recalibrating life. But actually these lessons are ones I have been struggling through for a long time.

My fear of allowing the pain to touch me is still a very real part of me. But on that drive, sucking on one of those lemon drops, I told my husband about the sadness I felt, the missing dad feelings and the need to hold him near in my memories. I shared my grief, and it was okay. When you are willing to share the tears and talk about the hurt, you often find community and compassion.

Satan wants us to remain in the bondage that his lies create. He wants us stuck in the fear, debilitated by the grief. He wants us to feel like we need to hide. He wants us alone and walled off. Because in our alone, he can destroy our faith, he can shred our hope, and he can leave us for dead.

But Psalm 56:8 reminds me that the Lord collects my tears in a bottle. My tears are precious to the Lord. And He meets us in the grief we feel. He comforts our hurting hearts with His love, and gives us the hope of seeing our believing loved ones again. He brings restoration and healing to our brokenness and grief.

Our souls are refreshed once again in knowing His loving-presence. And we truly are not alone. He knows our fragility, and when we are weak He is strong. His grace truly is sufficient (2 Corinthian’s 12:9) for whatever life brings, for whenever memories roll over us like a tsunami. He will collect our tears as if they are precious diamonds, because He loves us that much. He will strengthen and uphold us through it all.

The bag of lemon drops is still in my car. As I am driving, I often pull one out of the bag, and the bittersweetness of the candy reminds me of the tears and my lemon drop memories. Life is bittersweet like those lemon drops. We taste the bitter and the sweet in life. Sweet memories can bring tears. I am learning to realize the preciousness of both.

What about you? Have you had “lemon drop memory” experiences? How do you deal with your grief and pain? Do you wall it off so it doesn’t touch you? Have you found the Lord’s comfort in the midst of it all?

May the Lord refresh your soul today with His loving-presence no matter what life brings your way.

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God’s Word Refreshes, He Restores our Souls

Do you ever feel defeated? Everything is going wrong. No matter what you try it seems things just don’t work out. You feel frustrated and at the edge of despair. And you are just ready to give up. Can anything else go wrong?

In Psalm 143:3 AMPC David says,

For the enemy has pursued and persecuted my soul, he has crushed my life down to the ground; he has made me to dwell in dark places as those who have been long dead.

David was at that place. He felt “crushed down” by the enemy. The enemy of our soul, Satan, desires to crush us to the point of despair and even unto death.

1 Peter 5:8 AMPC tells us,

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion. [in fierce hunger], seeking  someone to seize upon and devour.” (my emphasis) 

He wants to steal and destroy (John 10:10).  He wants to steal our hope and joy. He wants to steal the victory we have in Christ.

Sometimes God’s Word is given and you don’t even realize how much you need it,  or how much you will need it. A few weeks ago I was studying 1 Chronicles and read this:

What a friend we have in Jesus! The words from this hymn by Joseph Scrivener have a special place in my heart. Read them and be encouraged.

  1. “What a friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful,
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
  3. Are we weak and heavy-laden,
    Cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
    Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
    Thou wilt find a solace there.
  4. Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
    Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
    May we ever, Lord, be bringing
    All to Thee in earnest prayer.
    Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
    There will be no need for prayer—
    Rapture, praise, and endless worship
    Will be our sweet portion there.”

Our Ally, Our Friend, Our Hope for every moment of every day. He restores my soul. May you find refreshment and restoration in Him today! He is our Light in this very dark world.

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Cultivating a Peaceful Heart

My life has been anything but peaceful the past few weeks. It has been crazy busy as I am helping my mom get moved into a safer environment.

I had forgotten how much there is involved in a move. Especially when it is a move requiring downsizing and there is so much left in the house, so much that still needs attention.

Even so, I do not want to lose sight of recalibrating life. I need to constantly cultivate peace in my heart despite the chaos in my life. Have you been there?

Peace is such a beautiful word and such a tranquil feeling. But where can you find it? How can you live in a state of tranquility?

Colossians 3:15 says: “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body.”

When life gets overwhelming, and your heart grows anxious, and fretful words stream from your lips, you soon recognize need for peace within.

Anxiety, worry, and overwhelm scream fretful words in our heads. “You’ll never get done.” “There is too much to do.” This is impossible.”

God’s Word tells us not to be anxious about anything. Instead, pray. Offer up your requests. Give thanks. And then God’s peace comes. “The peace that passes all understanding.” It makes absolutely no sense to our human minds. But this peace fills our hearts and minds, it stands guard. These are the truths of Philippians 4:6-7.

Peace also is given as we keep our minds “stayed” on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3). Perfect peace is promised. My mind is often like a bouncing ball, rambling about from one place to another. My mind needs to instead be like a tether ball, attached to the Lord, like the rope that holds the ball to the pole. When I focus my mind on Him, Who He is, and what He is able to do, as well as all He has done, new peace fills me. Feeding on His faithfulness, remembering His goodness, these can bring great peace to our hearts. My heart and mind need His perfect peace to help me find rest.

Psalm 29:11 tells us that “The Lord gives strength to His people, He blesses them with perfect peace.” What encouraging words when you are feeling weak and overwhelmed. When your body feels weak and exhausted from too much work, and your mind cannot fathom how it will all get done, the Lord promises strength and peace. He meets us in those impossible places, renewing our strength, somehow replenishing our depleted energy, and filling us with peace to calm, which in turn renews our hope.

It is too easy to fall back into the old pattern of needing to control everything and feel responsible for it all. Peace is not a by-product of a life trying to keep it all under control. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10)! But in walking the path toward recalibrating life, I need to remember to let go of control, and learn deeper trust in the One Who truly is in control, that is where true peace is found!

So with aching muscles from lifting, packing, and unpacking…with a tired mind from five hours of driving almost daily for about a week, I find rest. Not because the work is done, but because I know I am not alone in the doing. The Lord continues to faithfully provide. He knows my weariness and He touches me with His love in sweet and unexpected ways. My husband heating up dinner, Mom’s neighbor offering to rake up all of the leaves that have fallen. Another neighbor promising to get the mail, take care of the garbage and recycle containers, as well as cleaning up any snow that may come. And then there is the Christian realtor who has access to many other helpful resources. The Lord never ceases to amaze me with His goodness and loving-kindness. His mercies really are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

He knows my overwhelm, He knows my worries, He knows my neediness, and He has it all under control. He is able (Ephesians 3:20)! His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)! He meets, He supplies my needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

His peace is real, and I find rest in the hope of its constant availability. He is present with us through all of life. Pray. Keep your mind stayed on Him. Remember His faithfulness. Look at how He has been at work. Your heart can know peace in the midst of anxiety and overwhelm. He only wants us to whisper a prayer, tell Him our need.

Cultivating peace means the need to weed out worry, and choosing to focus on Him.

When Fear Blinds You

Numbers 13:27-28 “They reported to Moses and said,”We went in to the land where you sent us and it certainly does flow with milk and honey and this is its fruit. But the people who live in the land are strong and the cities are fortified (walled) and very large; moreover, we saw there the descendants of Anak [people of great stature and courage]… “

The Israelites were ready to enter the Promised Land that the Lord had told them He would give them. We learn in Deuteronomy 1:22-27 that the Israelites, in their lack of trust, decided that they should check it out themselves. They did not take God at His Word believing His promise to be true, but wanted to see it with their own eyes and decide for themselves what would be best. So the verses you read above from the book of Numbers records what the spies saw when they scoped out the land.

They saw fortified cities and giants, and fear blinded them to the truth of God and His faithfulness. Have you been there? Have you been blinded to what God is able to do in your trials and difficult times? Have you lost sight of His faithfulness because of the impossibility of the situation? Has the reality of His strength and willingness to fight your battles, His ability to work on your behalf, has it all been lost to you in your trembling fear?

Caleb and Joshua were two of the men that had accompanied the spies and they came back to the Israelites with a different report. The spies saw defeat and felt that they did not have a chance. Caleb and Joshua said, “Let us go up at once and take possession of it for we will conquer it” (Numbers 15:30). But the spies replied that they could not do it because the people of Canaan were too strong for them.

What giants are you facing in your life?

What is causing fear to engulf your heart?

The truth here is that God made the Israelites a promise. He promised to give them this land. They only had to step forward in faith. The spies focused on the impossibility of the situation, Caleb and Joshua saw what God could do. The spies were looking at the problem and it blinded them to God, while Joshua and Caleb looked at God and found hope.

Life can lead us into place where we may face looming giants.  Our hearts tremble in fear. Yet the Lord calls us to trust when we are faced with insurmountable giants.

Psalm 28 is a psalm of David, it is a plea of his for help. David calls on the Lord because enemies of God that he is facing cause him to feel fear and hopelessness. David is earnest in his prayer, he calls the Lord his “rock.” David is believing and trusting in God’s power. He is choosing to depend on God. He feels as if death is at his door and focuses on God, crying out and pleading with Him to answer his prayers, to not be silent. David prays for deliverance, he recognizes apart from God’s deliverance there is no hope.

Later in the Psalm, David goes on to speak of how the LORD heard the voice of his supplication. David prayed in faith and rejoices as he finds hope in God. David encourages himself to live in that hope,  trusting that God will perfect everything concerning him.

We see his dependence on God in verse 7, “The Lord is my strength and my [imperishable] shield, my heart trust [with unwavering confidence] in Him and I am helped. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices. And with my son, I shall thank Him and praise Him”

David is trusting God to be his strength, to support him, and to carry him through the difficult times. He is trusting God as a shield to protect him from all that his enemies can throw at him. And in trusting, David finds God to be faithful. David trusted in God’s power and His promise and was not disappointed. David finishes this psalm by telling us he is standing firm in the Lord.

Fear is at the bottom of so many reactions and emotional responses. My desperate need to control has been fueled by fear. At the base of my anger and frustration I find fear. At the bottom of my people-pleasing behaviors I find fear. Where do you find fear in your heart today? Satan uses fear to cripple us. He uses fear to blind us to the truth of who God is and what He can do.

In Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s study,  Live a Praying Life Without Fear:Let Faith Tame Your Worries, the author states: “The situation causing you fear or anxiety right now is an opening for God to show Himself strong on your behalf and He delights to do so. ” She goes on to quote one of my favorite verses (written here from the Amplified version).

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth so that He may support those whose heart is completely His. ” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

God wants to support, help, and strengthen those who are fully committed to Him.

Dean goes on to say,  “He is not aloof from your struggle or inured to your pain. He is eagerly waiting for you to turn to Him so He can do for you what you cannot do for yourself. ”

The part that is most difficult is recognizing that I cannot do it myself and then for me to be willing to let Him do it His way. When we choose to acknowledge our need and relinquish our grasp on the outcome, then we allow Him to have His way with us. That is the surrender He calls us to.

We, then, are able to praise God with David, Joshua, and Caleb, with all those who have trusted in His way and found Him faithful. He is the One who gives us victory!

So today in the midst of your fear, seek Truth.

1 John 4:4b AMP “… He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind] .”

Isaiah 41:10 AMP “Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with my righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].”

Philippians 4:6-7 AMP “Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which assures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. 

Allow His Truths to encourage your heart, and in your fear step out in faith. Rely on Him who is our loving, sovereign God!

A Look at Depression: Naomi

The darkness of grief and depression can smother out the light of any hope and faith we may have.

The story of Naomi and her grief and depression is found in the book of Ruth. Naomi was the wife of a man named Elimilech. Naomi and Elimilech had two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. This family lived in Bethlehem until a famine came to the land and they moved to Moab. There in Moab, the two sons married Moabite women. Mahlon married Ruth and Kilion married Orpah. In the years that followed first Naomi’s husband, Elimilech, died and then Naomi’s sons also died.

Imagine the sorrow in Naomi’s heart losing her husband and sons, and still being in a foreign country. Naomi and her daughters-in-laws lost their providers and protectors. They were suddenly vulnerable with no person to stand up for them or take care of them. Or so it seems when your faith has faded and you see no reason for hope. Naomi only knew bitterness in her heart and the hopelessness of an unknown future.

Naomi came to believe that the Lord was punishing her and blames Him for her sorrow. She grew very bitter. With nowhere else to turn she decided that she would go back to her home country. She was prepared to do the trip alone, but her daughter-in-law Ruth offered to go with. Naomi refused, but Ruth was insistent.

Reading this account of Naomi’s life made me realize how she totally missed the reality of the grief her daughters-in-law must be experiencing. She could only see and feel her own pain.

Yet, Ruth still wanted to go with Naomi, despite Naomi’s bitter attitude. And so the two women returned to Naomi’s home country and were greeted by the local women. Naomi told them not to call her by her name which means “pleasant” but instead to call her Mara which means “bitter.”

Naomi was very depressed. She couldn’t see anything but the darkness, she couldn’t feel anything but the pain within and only responded with blame towards the Lord.

Grief can bring despair and depression, and Naomi had a lot to grieve about, first losing her husband and then her two sons.

When we suffer pain and loss in life it is easy to feel tempted to blame God. It is common to question Him and ask “why.” We often don’t understand His purpose in allowing such deep sorrow in our lives.

My depression stemmed from sorrow that I had buried when I was young. The grief within was hidden away for many years until it was triggered by a friend losing her mom. Then my buried grief spilled out in endless tears and my deep depression became apparent.

The pain of loss, whether it is that of a husband, child, parent, grandparent, or close friend, can be devastating. When your heart is attached to a loved one, the separation of death feels unbearable.

I was able to work through my grief all those years later in therapy. I said goodbye and let the pain spill out for my loss. I also worked through the many issues that the loss had brought about.

My heart wanted the need for the one I lost to be filled with the nurturing love that had been taken away by death. I wanted it to be done my way. But God… yes, He had a different, better plan for me. And that was true for Naomi as well. The Lord brought a man named Boaz into Ruth’s life as she tried to get food for her and Naomi. Boaz ended up marrying Ruth and together they had a child. The Lord blessed them with new hope and new life.

The darkness of grief and depression can smother any hope and faith we may have. We just can’t see how anything good is possible in the midst of the pain. We lose sight of the Lord, the God of the impossible. But He can bring hope, He can heal our hearts and nurture us in our neediness.

Oh, I know the pain is not erased. But the Lord works in and through our pain to help us know Him and His love in greater and deeper ways.

Naomi learned of the Lord’s faithfulness. The Lord supplied her with a “kinsman”. He blessed Boaz and Ruth with a son, and so Naomi had a grandson. It is from this grandson, Obed, that the Messiah would come.

“Kinsman” in these verses of Ruth, is the Hebrew word  “goel” from the root word meaning “to redeem.” “The “goel” among the Hebrews was the nearest male blood relation alive… If anyone from poverty was unable to redeem his inheritance it was the duty of the kinsman to redeem it” (Bible Study Tools).

The Lord gave Ruth and Naomi someone to redeem their inheritance. And through the birth of Obed, God has given us a Redeemer also. Jesus has redeemed our inheritance, in Him we have eternal life and everlasting hope.

Grief and depression affect many of us during the course of our lives, but in Christ there is help and hope. We only have to turn to Him. And as Sheila Walsh says, we only need to pray to Him, to call to Him out of the “cellar of our souls” and tell Him all that we feel. He will hear us and meet us there. He will bring hope and light in the darkness. If you are going through grief and depression, I pray that you find hope in Him.

 

A Look at Depression: Elijah

DEPRESSION CAN BLIND US TO GOD’S LOVE!

Elijah is another man in the Bible who suffered with depression. 1 Kings 19:4-19 shares the details of what Elijah experienced.

Elijah’s depression struck him after he had had a mountain-top experience with the Lord. He had prayed and asked the Lord to prove Himself as God and the Lord did just that in a miraculous way. The people were in awe. You can read specifically about this highpoint in Elijah’s life in 1 Kings 19:16-39.

It was following this that a woman named Jezebel, a wicked queen of that time, began to threaten Elijah’s life and Elijah ran scared. He literally ran for more than eighty miles. He fled to Beersheba and then went deep into the wilderness. There he crawled under a broom tree, exhausted and feeling great despair. He cried out to the Lord and asked the Lord to let him die.

Often in the depths of depression, people lose hope to the point of wanting to end their life. The sadness becomes overwhelming. And all of life can weigh you down.

The feelings of not wanting to live life can consume you. It is especially important during these times to have the support of a Christian counselor, a medical doctor, or a psychiatrist to help keep you safe. But beyond that, above all, it is important to remember who God is, and to remember His love for you.

Elijah lost sight of what the Lord had just done for him and he ran in fear, not consulting God for help, direction, or protection. He forgot about God’s presence and love.

Sometimes when life feels so heavy, we become very overwhelmed and only look inward. We live consumed with our feelings; drowning in our pain, in our needs, and in our fears. We become blind to the Lord reaching to us.

I know in my depression I was consumed with the fear of not having what I needed, I never realized how a death of a loved one early in my life, the loss of that very special relationship, had affected me so deeply. I had buried the pain and loss. The fear of losing again, the fear of not having the love I needed overwhelmed me. The grief I had not dealt with buried me under its heaviness. I didn’t see how the Lord’s love could meet me and satisfy me. I only could feel the desperation of my heart.

Right now, as I look back at that time I realize how my lack of seeing God’s love propelled me into greater hopelessness. I only need to look at the Lord’s response to Elijah to realize the depth of God’s love for him to begin to know the reality of it for me.

It seems the most human reaction to Elijah’s behavior would have been frustration, like, “Are you kidding me?” It seems like the Lord could have been a bit angry with him, “how could you forget what I just did for you? How could you forget to even call on Me?”

But no, that is not God’s response at all, instead the Lord meets Elijah in his neediness, in his deep exhaustion and the Lord cares for him. He lets Elijah sleep. He gives him food and drink.

What love! I needed that kind of non-judgemental, ever-present kind, gracious love. I needed someone to see the pain and fear within as I journeyed through my depression. But I missed it for a long time.

The Lord saw Elijah’s need and met him in it. And the Lord did see my need too, and He met me in my need as well. It just took me a long time to recognize Him in the middle of my anguish, because I was looking for a different answer.

The Lord sees the deepest needs of our hearts in a very real way. He knows the pain, the loss, the emptiness, the fear, whatever we are experiencing, He knows. And He is here. He comes to us with His loving presence and the tenderness of His care. He works to restore our brokenness. He picks up the pieces of our hearts and our lives, and puts them back together with the glue of His love. He shows us the way out. He gives us guidance and purpose. He doesn’t rush us but helps us to see Who He is, He helps us to see that He is all we need. He is the One Who fills our hearts with joy, and wraps us in His peace. And above all He holds us in His love.

What more could one want or need? Yet, our hearts get set on a desire, or on something we feel we can’t live without and we miss the Lord’s love. The only love that can fill our emptiness in a perfect way.

There are so many lessons to be learned from Elijah’s story, but the one that stands out to me the most is that our God is a personal God full of tender love. And it is in that love that He meets us in our pain, despair, and anguish. He comes alongside and helps us to see. He helps us to see Who He is and that He is for us and that is one of the most important things one needs to know in the loneliness and desperation of depression.

The Lord gives our hearts a reason to hope in a time when there doesn’t seem to be any hope. We must cling to the hope of His everlasting love and to the reality of His presence. He is with us through it all and He is faithful!

Next week I will continue to look at depression in the Bible in the story of Hannah.

Knowing Hope in the Heartache

“Pain is the most unchosen catalyst to an authentic faith journey” Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue
It is often easy to go through the motions in our faith-walks until pain comes into our lives and we know deep desperation in our hearts. Pain truly is the catalyst that sends us crying out to our Lord, begging Him to meet us, to help us, and to heal us.

Recently, there have been many deaths within my family and circle of friends. There also has been much serious illness touching the lives of loved ones. It has been a time to dig deep into the Lord’s truths to search for promises that bring the light of hope in dark times. It also has been a time of searching for the right words to say to those experiencing the loss of someone dear, or experiencing great pain in sickness.

As I laid in bed this morning, the room darkening curtains making it pretty near black, I thought to myself how much the room was just like a hopeless heart. My heart will remain hopeless, just as the room remains dark without the curtains being opened. The room brightens with the light of open curtains and my heart receives hope as it takes in the Light of Truth from God’s Word.

God’s Word is a light for the darkness and it is hope for the despairing heart. He can meet us in that dark place. He met me in the pain of my deep debilitating depression, in the grieving of losses of loved ones, in the heartbreak of the gradual ripping away of my dad suffering with Alzheimer’s, and through many other times of despair.

Knowing the hope from the Light of the Word of the Lord made all the difference in the world throughout those times. And knowing this great hope gives me a responsibility to share it. Because of what the Lord has allowed in my life I can share my pain and His compassion. I can be open about how He reached into the dark places of my heart and brightened the blackness with hope. I can reveal how He opened my eyes to the realization that my neediness, pain, and fear are all avenues to learning deeper intimacy with Him. These painful paths all led me to know Him in new ways and more deeply. They led me to learn different facets of His love and His character. And growing in knowing more led me to trusting Him more.

Who do you know who is grieving, going through a difficult time, in physical pain, or emotional turmoil? Consider how you can share the Light of hope we have in Jesus and His Word. Bring light into darkness and hope into despair.

It seems that just going along in life when everything is rolling smooth, we fail to learn to trust. We, too often, depend on ourselves, our own strength, and our own wisdom. So, the Lord allows pain to intrude in order to help us grow in intimacy with Him.

Truly His ways are higher than my ways. I would do it differently. I would prefer to avoid the pain, but my Heavenly Father knows what is best and He is teaching me to depend on Him. He is teaching me to know hope in the midst of heartache.

Is the hope found in Him brightening your heart today? I pray that you will know the light of His truth, the hope it brings, the comfort of His presence, and the warmth of His love.

Prayer as Demonstrated in the Bible

The importance of prayer was instilled in me from little on. As a young girl my Opah taught me much about Jesus. We lived by my grandparents. Each Sunday evening my brother and I would have “church” with them. My Opah would be the “pastor”, Omah would be the congregation, and my brother and I were the choir. We would always sing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” A beautiful hymn outlining the truths about the importance of prayer.

Now when I think of my prayer life, my joys and struggles in praying, my mind returns to these precious moments. Opah taught me so much. He demonstrated so much about Jesus and life in Him. As an adult I now look to the Lord and His Word for help in prayer, but often wish that Opah was still here to guide me when I am struggling.

The Bible is filled with prayers demonstrating ways we can pray. It gives many examples of how others prayed. I would like to share a few examples of the different kinds of prayer, there is so much to learn in God’s Word.

Many of our prayers fall under the umbrella of petitions, sometimes this type of prayer is referred to as supplication, these terms refer to the times we cry out to the Lord with our needs. We may petition the Lord about anything; our finances, our health, for our protections when we travel, or about difficulties in our workplace, the opportunities are endless.

David shares his prayers throughout the Psalms. Psalm 3 is an example of him petitioning the Lord for deliverance. David is in the middle of a very stressful situation He is feeling as if everyone is against him. There are times in our lives when we feel exactly the same way, whether it is in the workplace or in our homes, or maybe just in dealing with inner conflict about an issue. David knew the Lord was on his side and he needed the Lord to help him through and out. He felt pummeled by his enemies. We may have human enemies but many of our emotions can seem like enemies. Guilt, greed, anger, and jealousy can entangle our hearts and destroy our peace and joy. We then may need to call out to the Lord for deliverance in these situations as well, petitioning the Lord for His help.

When we are not praying for ourselves, we often are praying on behalf of others. We see the needs of family and friends. We see problems in our world; problems of persecution, wars, human trafficking, abuse, and other injustices. When we look in the Bible, one of the most beautiful examples of intercession is found in John 17 when Jesus cries out to His Father on our behalf. He prayer for his disciples and ultimately, for us. It is such a beautiful prayer of love. Intercession is truly a prayer of love for another, there is nothing more important that we can do than cry out to God on another’s behalf. Paul also give us many examples of intercession, for example He speaks of his prayer for the people in the church of Ephesus in Ephesians 1:15-23. He prays for their spiritual growth. He asks that the eyes of their hearts be enlightened so that they will know the hope of God’s calling. You can’t go wrong interceding for someone’s spiritual growth, what could be more important to the Lord than that.

Another kind of prayer we see demonstrated in the Bible is the prayer of thanksgiving. In Psalm 138 we read the words of David giving thanks for the Lord’s favor. He thanks God for His loving-kindness, His truth, and His answers to prayer. He gives thanks for the confidence and strength that the Lord gave him in life, for fulfilled promises, for deliverance, and so much more. David has seen the hand of the Lord at work in his life and he is grateful for so much. We too have many reasons to give thanks. I think that we often neglect sharing our gratitude with the Lord, and in doing so we often miss out on the joy that can fill our hearts because of such a prayer.

Similar to this are the prayers of worship and praise. Hannah prays such a prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Hannah  rejoices in the Lord because of Who He is and what He has done. She is filled with worship and praise because after a time of infertility the Lord has answered her prayers and blessed her with a child.

When we see the reality of God’s goodness in our lives or recognize the gift of answered prayer we too may go to the Lord as Hannah did with words of worship and praise.

The last type of prayer that I want to mention is that of confession. David gives us a beautiful example of a prayer of confession in Psalm 51. He wrote this after he sinned with Bathsheba. You can read about his sin in 1 Samuel 11. David realizes his sin of committing adultery after the prophet Nathan confronts him. David then pours out his heart to the Lord in Psalm 51. He prays for God to have mercy and compassion on him. He asks that the Lord would blot out his sins (transgressions). He admits that he has sinned against the Lord by doing evil in His sight. He asks for cleansing and restoration. David desires to praise the Lord again. He wants his heart to be right before the Lord and his realtionship with Him restored.

When we personally find ourselves realizing that we have grieved the Lord with our sin, we too need to bring that sin before the Lord in confession. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confession restores our relationship, broken by sin, with the Lord.

There are many reason to come before the Lord, to cry out to Him, these are only a few examples. These prayers give us words to express our feelings and needs. They can encourage us in praying when we are at a loss for what to say or when we feel stuck. Each of these prayers are expressed by real people going through real struggle, recognizing heartfelt needs, or responding to God’s intervention. We can relate to their heart cries, and our heart have cries of their own that we can bring before the Lord.

When prayer is a struggle we can find hope and help in God’s Word. The Lord often uses His Word to prick my heart to help me realize a personal prayer-need of my own or to realize the need of another. The Lord wants to hear from us. He wants to meet us in our neediness, in our desperation, as well as in our rejoicing and praise. Jesus is our loving Friend. The hymn I use to sing in my grand parents living room tells it all.

“What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer.

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear.

All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer.”

(written by Joseph M. Scriven)

What a privilege it is to take our needs to God in prayer. I am so grateful for these beautiful scriptural examples that serve as a guide when I struggle in my prayer life. I hope that you have found encouragement for your prayer needs also. Truly what a privilege we have to take our concerns to the Creator God of this Universe.

Lord, I Need You, I’m Depressed

Sadness is a part of life. It is often related to or can be attributed to life circumstances, disappointments, or losses. But there are time of deep sadness or even depression that can really knock you down.

I went through a very deep depression a number of years ago. It was a time of darkness and hopelessness. I was out of work for 11 months. I felt like I was drowning, and I couldn’t find my way out.

When we deal with depression we have varying responses as to how we get help, or even if we get help. I met with a Christian counselor and she helped me work through some issues that were affecting me. I also went on medications to help me with my depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.

The more I knew about the emotional pain from which my depression stemmed, the more I felt like I knew exactly what I needed to have happen in my life so that I could go on. It was a heart neediness that I needed help with. There was a deep emptiness, a hurt endured, a need unmet, but, my first response was not to call out to the Lord. I thought that I knew what I needed and I tried to manipulate getting the need met on my own terms.

It took a number of months of suffering before the Lord made it clear to me that I was praying for Him to work in my solution in my predetermined way rather than coming to Him for healing according to His wisdom. I prayed that the Lord would work it all out according to my plan.

When I finally accepted that truth of my sin and confessed it, I chose to ask Him to heal me His way. It was then that I saw Him work in my heart and life. It was amazing how He showed me His love for me and helped to grow my trust in Him.

He used the medications, the counselor, and the doctor to help me through, but He is absolutely the One who healed my heart. He knew I needed to trust Him with my neediness. in the deepest of ways. He knew I needed a deeply intimate relationship with Him more than I needed anything else.

O Lord I need you!

Elijah went through a period of depression. It is recorded in 1 Kings 19 in the BIble. Elijah had just experienced God’s miraculous, supernatural power in response to his prayer. And the next thing we read is how Elijah is filled with fear. He is exhausted, he is depressed, and he wants to dies.

Elijah had been running because his life was being threatened. One day he knows the hope of God’s power and suddenly he can only feel the gloom of despair. The Bible doesn’t explain how Elijah gets from that mountaintop joy of a miracle to the place of defeat and despair. But the Lord is there too. Elijah tells the Lord that he just wants to die. And, God meets him in that place.

I think when we are feeling so depressed we often just want the pain to be gone. And sometimes the pain is so excruciating we just want to die.

The Lord knew Elijah’s need and met him there. We too can cry out to the Lord in our neediness. The Lord know our needs. He knew that Elijah felt lonely and scared. He knew that Elijah was exhausted and in need of food and water. And the Lord met those needs.

The Lord also knew that Elijah needed to know the Lord in a new way. I think that the Lord allows us to hit rock bottom so that we can look up with new eyes of neediness to see Him again. It is in those wilderness places of life when we feel no hope that the Lord wants us to see Him as all we need.

Elijah had just seen the Lord send fire down from heaven. Elijah had prayed and trusted that the Lord would answer and prove Himself as True God. Yet when Jezebel threatened his life he crumbled.

I know one thing I realized about my faith in my depression mostly after my depression is that the Lord wanted me to grow in my trust of Him. He wanted me to share the depths of my neediness with Him and depend on Him in it to care for me and satisfy me.

God is a personal God who is able to do amazing and miraculous things in this world. yet we so easily forget that He is that same able God in our personal wilderness of depression.

Yes, He has given us doctors, counselors, medications, and books that we can turn to for help. But He desires us to bring even our deepest neediness to Him. Nothing is too hard for Him. He wants to personally show us His glory. He wants to whisper hope in His still, small voice into our brokenness.

The Lord is able to take the deepest hurt and emotional pain and bring healing. He is able to use whatever we have gone through for His glory. He is able to satisfy our hearts with His love and with His perfect plans for our lives. When you cry, “Lord, I need you,” you can expect Him to show up and work in that hurting place. It may not be an overnight fix, but He will hold you in the pain and bring you to a place of new hope. We can always depend on and trust in HIm!

 

 

Lord, I Need You: I’m Helpless

Helpless. Desperate.

There are times in life when we just feel as if there is nothing we can do. We can’t fix or change the situation and life seems impossible.

There is a great story about a situation that seemed impossible to King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 2. He was feeling desperate. The Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites were coming to fight against him in Jerusalem. There was a vast number coming and they were getting closer. There was no time to prepare and this left the King feeling very helpless, it seemed that there was nothing that he could do.

Have there been times in your life when it felt like everything was coming down on you? Maybe you feel like that right now. You see it coming, and it seems that there is absolutely nothing you can do. King Jehoshaphat had these vast armies coming at him and he wasn’t able to prepare.

  • Maybe you have an overwhelming number of expenses hanging over your head and you don’t know where the money will come from to pay all of the bills.
  • Maybe it’s cancer that is spreading or some other illness warring on a loved one’s body or your body and you are left feeling helpless.
  • Or maybe it’s your adult son or daughter who has made  wrong choices and now faces court sentencing that will soon mean a prison term.

Whatever it is you are not able to fix it or change it. What do you do in such a desperate situation? Kin Jehoshaphat chose to seek the Lord and then he proclaimed a fast for all those joining him. Many gathered before him and he stood up and prayed.

He begins his prayer by recalling how the Lord has met them in their troubles, in their needs, and in their helplessness before. Have you seen God at work meeting you in previous times of difficulty?

King Jehoshaphat tells the Lord that no matter what kind of disaster comes upon them, they will stand before Him and cry to Him in their distress. They know where their help comes from. They know that the Lord will hear and will answer. It has been their experience with the Lord to see Him work on their behalf and they come to Him in faith. King Jehoshaphat’s confidence is fully in the Lord’s ability, he knows that he himself is helpless.

The king went on in his prayer telling the Lord of their previous dealings with these who were about to come against them. He reminds the Lord that He had not allowed them to be invaded, but these armies were coming to drive them out of the land that the Lord had given them. King Jehoshaphat asks the Lord if He wouldn’t bring judgment upon these armies because Israel is powerless before such a vast number of warriors.

And then, there is this key phrase in the king’s prayer. He tells the Lord, “We do not know what to do, but we look to You.” Wow, that is a prayer of helplessness. The feasible options have run out for us, there is nothing we can do. That is what the King is telling the Lord, he is saying I now am helpless in this situation, but I know You are able, so “we look to You.”

When we come to that place of helplessness, we can place all of our hope and trust in the Lord and look for Him to act. Are you in that place, helpless, there is nothing more that you can do? Don’t give up, keep reading because our great God is amazing.

So, the story doesn’t end there, God hears and speaks to one in the crowd by His Spirit. The Spirit tells them not to be afraid, and not to be discouraged, because the battle is not theirs, it is the Lord’s. Can you feel the peace wash over you?

Think about your situation the one that has left you feeling helpless. The battle against evil is not ours. The battle against the sin in this world is not ours. Satan has come to deceive and destroy. He has come to discourage and send you into despair. Satan does not want you to find hope in God. But the Lord has told us the Truth, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). We only need to call on Jesus and the enemy will flee.

The Lord goes on to tell the Israelites exactly what to do, they must walk in faith knowing that “YAHWEH is with them.” God’s with us too, Immanuel literally means, “God with us.”  We have His presence, and access to His power.

Now you may be thinking, yes, but I prayed for this person who was dying in hopes that the Lord would save her life, but she died. And my friend’s son has been in prison for years, despite our prayers for his freedom. I know we often cannot understand the ways of the Lord.

The point of seeking Him is that in our helplessness there is no one else to go to that has the power to change things but Him. He is the one that can lead us, comfort us, and make His presence known to us in the midst of the situation. He is truly our Hope in our helplessness.

King Jehoshaphat listened to the Lord’s instruction through His Spirit, and followed His directions. They went out to the battlefield singing and praising God. Yes, in their helplessness and in their desperation, in the midst of this impossible situation, they trusted God and sang praises to His name.

They knew God’s faithfulness, and the Lord worked on their behalf setting an ambush against their enemies. Those that came to war against Israel ended up destroying each other. Israel found the place where the war was to take place covered in corpses.

And as if that wasn’t good enough, King Jehoshaphat and the people gathered the plunder. They were busy for three days gathering the abundance of goods and valuables. They found so much that they count even carry it all. The fourth day they spent praising God. They went back to the temple to worship the One who helped them in their helplessness.

We often strive in every and any way we can think of to make the situation work or at last to get it to seem better, we try everything humanly possible. And sadly enough, we often forget to even seek the Lord in our helplessness.

What situation in your life is leaving you feeling helpless right now? Have you tried everything? Are you discouraged and ready to give up? When we come to a place of desperation, let’s remember King Jehoshaphat’s prayer, “We do not know what to do but we look to You.” Truly, the Lord has the answer. And take time to recount to the Lord His amazing faithfulness as you cry out to Him in your desperation and helplessness.

I will be honest, there are times that I don’t think that His way is best. I have it all figured out and want it to go my way. But EVERY single time He works it out for His glory and I can tell you that He satisfies my heart through it. His ways are perfect. His way may not be easy, it may lead us through wilderness places, but He will meet us in them and hold us in His love.

His loving presence is what I need all of the time, and He is the One I will look to in my helplessness. What about you? Will you go to Him and cry out, Lord I need You!?