Thursday, September 23, 2010

Discouragement and a Sufficient Savior

Recently I have been struggling with discouragement. Yesterday I finally took time to examine why I was feeling this way...basically why I felt like things just weren't going so well. Well, I am so thankful that I have a faithful Heavenly Father who doesn't just leave us in our sin, but reveals it to us and then gives us the strength to fight against it. Oddly enough, my "Aha" moment of what was causing all my struggles came from hearing the sweet encouragement of a friend. This dear friend has moved away, but left me a message on my voice mail that spoke such encouraging words. I was rushing around trying to get our house ready for our community group meeting and just stopped and listened to her words. They were like a healing balm to my hurting heart, and God used them to point me to my sin. My friend was not praising all the things I had done. She was encouraging me with the things she had seen God do through me. And, that is when it hit me. I have been striving to be very self-sufficient lately. I have been trying to love my husband, care for my daughter, serve others, take care or our home, and all the many other things in my own strength. That is why I was so discouraged. Because when things didn't go so well, I would feel as if I was in this dark pit...I would feel like I needed to do better. When I just didn't have the right words to encourage someone, or I didn't love my husband well, I would feel like a failure. And, really, I was. I was trying to do so many things on my own, and that is prideful sin. I will not always be perfect, no one except Jesus will ever be on this earth. So, that is why I must run to perfection. He will give me everything I need for life and godliness. And, his shed blood is enough for my sin. He alone can enable me to love my husband, my daughter, and others in my life well.
I was reading Psalm 40 today and verses 1-5 were very encouraging to me. Perhaps they will be to you as well.

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.

Just look at all the things HE does! Not me! He heard my cry, drew me out of the pit, set my feet on a rock, and makes my steps secure. He put a new song of praise in my mouth. And He blesses those who trust in him. His wonderful works are too numerous to mention them all!

May we wait patiently on the Lord for he alone will make our steps secure. May we ever be praising our Lord so others will fear and trust in his name. May we make the Lord our trust and not turn to man (or ourselves). And, may we ever be recounting the wondrous deeds of our God...they are too many to recount them all. For, "your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve" us! (Psalm 40:11)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Misplaced Fears

If you asked me what my greatest fears are, I would have two answers for you. One is that I fear losing my loved ones. The other is that I fear excruciating pain in dying. To think about losing my daughter or husband (as well as other family members) is almost unbearable to me. I wonder how I would survive. When I think about some of the ways people have died, I beg God to spare me. And, this leads me to the book that my church is currently reading, Radical , by David Platt. I have only read the first three chapters, but already this book has served to bring these fears to the fore front of my mind. In this book, Platt speaks of Christians in other nations who daily risk losing their homes, jobs, families, and lives for the sake of the gospel.

So often when I read of those in other countries who are losing their families or their lives for the cause of Christ I ask myself would I be willing. And, then the fears crowd in. I am left just pleading that if I am ever faced with one of these things that God would give me the grace at that time. But, as I was reading in chapter 2 of this book, I came across something very encouraging. David Platt is speaking of Jesus as he is praying in the garden before he is to be arrested. Jesus is pleading for God to "take this cup from him" if it be possible. He is so burdened that he is sweating blood. Now, I have always assumed that Jesus is fearing the pain of what is going to happen. That is what I would be fearing! But, Platt sees it very differently. Jesus, knows the full weight of what is about to take place. And, he sees crystal clearly that the physical pain he is about to endure is of no comparison to the wrath of God that is about to be poured out upon him. All the wrath of God that has been built up since the very first sin and all the wrath for all the sins yet to be committed are about to be poured out on Jesus. So often I just see the side of God as my loving Heavenly Father that I also forget that he is a wrathful Judge. He cannot tolerate my sin. And, the only reason that I am able to know Him as loving Heavenly Father is because Jesus took on the punishment that was meant to be mine. As torturous as Jesus' death truly was, that was not the most excruciating thing for him. It was taking on my punishment. Nothing I will experience on this earth will ever compare to the wrath of God that was reserved for me. O what a wonderful, glorious Savior I have! Does he not deserve my full affections, my full devotion? And, here is the real clincher...when he he took on the punishment for my sins, he saved me from an eternity of being separated from God.

As I look at all the things I love in my life (my husband, my daughter, my friends and family), they would not be wonderful to me if not for Christ. I have a loving relationship with my husband because Jesus is the center of our marriage. We cling to the Word and the power of Jesus so that we, two sinful beings, can love each other well. My relationships with my family are so much sweeter because we share the common bond of Christ. I am hopeful as I experience hard days as a mommy because I can trust in the One who has all my days ordered and gives me everything I need for life and godliness. Jesus just makes my life sweeter. When I look accurately at the gospel, I see that this life on earth is nothing to be treasured. All the things that truly bring my heart joy are joyful because of Jesus. And, when I now think of having to sacrifice my life or see my loved one's lives sacrificed for the cause of Christ, I see, by the grace of God, that it is truly nothing to fear. If I were to deny my Lord here on this earth, I would be escaping momentary pain and affliction. But, through Jesus, I have escaped an eternity of pain and suffering. So, my fears were so misplaced. I should not fear afflictions or suffering here on earth. This is a sinful fear resulting from not trusting my Lord and loving things of this world. My fear should be the fear of God. I should be overwhelmed with the Greatness of the God I serve and know that he should hold all my affections and devotion. When I am fearing the one who lovingly holds my life in his strong hands, I really have nothing to fear at all.