Friday, May 28, 2010

Deliverance or Survival

“The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine" (Psalm 33:18, 19).

This verse speaks to me of two possible scenarios - times when God totally delivers us from difficult situations and times when He brings us through them. I prefer deliverance, but that is not always best for my spiritual growth.

I recently visited one of my daughters. The five hour drive was challenging, but God enabled me to do it. Of course I was hoping to feel well during my visit since we had an agenda of activities. I developed a headache on my drive there. By the evening it was a severe migraine which stayed with me for my entire trip, despite medication. God gave me brief times of reprieve, but He never removed it. The headache left the day I came home.

In previous years, my plea during such an excruciating time would have been for deliverance only. I would have viewed this trip as a total loss, even though I was able to do all the activities I had planned and enjoyed them as much as possible. God did not deliver me, but He kept me alive through my “famine”. Surviving a famine may not be pleasant. This Scripture does not promise abundant food that is easily accessible, but it does promise provision.

I am learning to pray for endurance as well as deliverance. I must believe in faith that whatever method God chooses for each circumstance is best. This experience was another step on my journey of pain with the Lord and it was a victory, although not an easy one. The ultimate deliverance is coming. For now the ability to persevere and survive can be just as much of a miracle as deliverance. This was one of those times, and I will not forget it.

Prayer: O Joy that seeekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be (Hymn "O Love That Will Not Let Go"). Amen.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Positive Deposits and Temporary Negatives

“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. . .”
(Ephesians 1:13, 14)

“What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Depression is an ongoing battle for me. I am unable to take antidepressants, so each new wave is a struggle to withstand. Friends have suggested that I have a pre-planned strategy to handle these depressive cycles.

As I was reading the above verse about the Holy Spirit, I began thinking of the concept of deposits. One definition of a deposit is a partial payment. I decided to keep a list of all the partial payments, or “little glimpses of eternity”, that God brings in to my life every day. These are my positives. I also remembered that my struggles are temporary, although right now they seem endless. I listed my trials as temporary negatives.

Keeping this daily list has been a tremendous help to my outlook. I am amazed at the many heavenly deposits I am given. Even small things can bring such joy if I allow them to -  a bird at my feeder, a rabbit in our yard, a good cup of tea, a phone call from my daughter, quiet time outside with God on a lovely morning, and many, many more.

Now when the suffocating heaviness of depression weighs me down, I think of my deposits and remind myself that the trials are temporary. Although I may struggle with depression here on earth, it is indeed temporary in the light of eternity. I do have to walk through fire in this life, but I have God’s word that I will not be consumed by it (Isaiah 43:2). His loving presence and comfort are shown in each sign of heaven on earth.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank You for the many ways You reveal yourself to me daily. Thank You for the hope of knowing that one day I will receive my full inheritance, and until that day, Your strength will carry me through my temporary earthly sufferings. Amen.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Like A Well-Watered Garden

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

Despite my physical limitations I enjoy gardening. Most of it is container gardening and I can only work at it for short amounts of time, but enjoying God’s handiwork in plants and flowers is very satisfying to me.

The above verse is a wonderful word picture for life. Countless times when I wake up in the morning, I feel sun-scorched and dry rather than well-watered and fresh to meet a new day. Whether it is due to another night of limited sleep or just weariness from daily pain, many of us know the feeling of waking up more tired than when we went to bed the night before.

What a different picture a garden represents – alive, green, vibrant, easily swaying with the breezes, and fragrant. God’s Word says we will be like that. Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17 both state that those who trust in the Lord will be like a tree planted by a stream, whose leaves will not wither even when the heat comes. At times I ask, “Lord, how can that be possible?”

God is our bountiful reservoir of life-giving water. His Holy Spirit channels that water into us, renewing and rejuvenating us as it flows. According to God’s Word, He gives all of us this water, no matter how weak, insignificant, or useless we feel on a given day. Somehow today He can refresh us so that we can refresh others - through prayer, physical, or verbal encounters - making our lives gardens of praise for His glory.

Prayer: Father, when I am dry, water the garden plot of my life with Your Holy Spirit. May I feel your presence flowing through me, allowing me to be the fragrance of Christ to others. Amen.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Water Supply

“They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2:13).

I love birds and enjoy watching them at my feeders and birdbath. One birdbath that I would like to own has a fountain in it, providing continual fresh water for the birds. The flowing water attracts them and is healthy for them as well. Cisterns, like birdbaths, store water. If a cistern’s walls are cracked or broken, it will not hold water. Any water it may hold temporarily becomes tainted with impurities.

There are many Scriptures associating God with water. Obeying His commands brings peace like a river and righteousness likes the waves of the sea (Isaiah 48:18). Those who trust in Him are like trees planted by a stream, bearing fruit even in times of drought (Jeremiah 17:8). Drinking of His living water brings salvation and eternal life (John 4:14).

Just as my birds need fresh water to drink, I need God’s living water to sustain me, particularly through the droughts which pain and illness bring. Yet many times I dig and drink from the untruths of cracked cisterns whose waters are bitter and unhealthy. I have chosen fear and worry over my circumstances, rather than trusting God and seeking His peace. I have believed that pills are the only answer to my suffering, looking desperately to them for relief. Although medications can be a tremendous blessing, my faith should be in God and not in them. I have placed unrealistic expectations on friends, family, and physicians, forgetting that only God will never disappoint or fail me.

Streams of love, mercy, faithfulness, compassion, joy, power, and strength are continually flowing from the fountain of God. Why would I not choose this fresh and living water rather than the bitter waters of my cracked cisterns? As I spend time in His Word, this water will fill me, satisfy me, and flow from within me (John 7:38).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to choose the life-giving truths springing from the fountain of Your Word, rather than the stagnant waters of my false beliefs. Amen.