Saturday, November 30, 2013

Singing to God Through Our Pain This Holiday Season

“Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

A big part of the holidays is music, and it is one time of year that Christ-centered music is played in the secular world.

This verse in Colossians connects singing to God with thankfulness. This attitude can be hard to maintain when dealing with pain and problems, but oh how we need it, especially during the holiday season.

It is hard to be thankful when we are frustrated over the things we can’t do during the holidays or concerned about how we will get through those that we must do, all the while trying to maintain a properly joyful Christmas attitude!  Being thankful can be challenging if we focus on other holidays when we were in better health or our circumstances were different.

Singing songs of worship has carried me through some of my most painful times and has changed my attitude on difficult days.  Praise takes our focus off of our pain and reminds us of the loving and powerful God we serve and all the blessings that knowing Him brings, both now and forever. 

As we hear the well-loved Christmas songs of the season this year, let us not simply sing the words from rote memory.  Let us hear the words as they apply to our current lives.  We can sing with peace in our hearts no matter what we are facing because the Prince of Peace is here with us. We can sing with thanksgiving and joy because of the wonderful truth that since Jesus came down to us on earth, we will one day go to be with Him in heaven. And we can keep on singing when the holidays are over in anticipation of that glorious pain-free day when the object of our faith finally becomes sight.

Prayer:  O God, help us give back this gift of music to You in praise this Christmas season and beyond.  And let the hope of the words we sing fill us with peace and joy even in our suffering.  Amen.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Lord Has Dealt Bountifully with Me

“You brought us to a place of abundance”
(Psalm 66:12).

As Thanksgiving approaches, I like to focus more than usual on thankfulness, but this can be an effort when life is full of pain and problems.

This year has been a difficult one for me.  My father died, my daughter donated a kidney, I experienced setbacks with my back problems, and my future son-in-law is dealing with brain cancer.  None of these things have been easy, but I see blessings in them.  My dad is free from pain and died quickly.  My daughter’s kidney donation was a total success, and she saved a life.   God showed His faithfulness through another round of back pain.  Brain cancer is causing my daughter and her fiancĂ© to grow tremendously in their walks with God. Despite the exhaustion and pain I have felt through these and other situations, God has been incredibly faithful and given me the strength to keep going.

I don’t believe God expects me to downplay my sufferings.  He knows and understands my daily physical, mental, and emotional trials.  But I do believe He wants me to see the good as well.  My times are in God’s hands, and everything He brings into my life has the potential for my ultimate good and blessing, whether here or in eternity.

There have been and will be times when I don’t feel thankful.  In those moments, praise God I can rely on the truth that He knows my frame and remembers I am dust (Psalm 103: 14). He understands my human frailties and loves and accepts me even in my failures.  But as I seek the good in any and every circumstance, the constant goodness and bountifulness of God shine more clearly.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, I must confess I am not always as thankful as I should be.  Despite life’s pain and problems, help me to see all the blessings You give me, not only during this Thanksgiving season but throughout the year.  Amen.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Praying for Others When We Don’t Know What to Pray

“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding,  so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,  and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light”
 (Colossians 1:9-12).

When we know someone with pain or problems - particularly ongoing ones - we want to pray for them.  But sometimes we just don’t know what to say.  We pray for relief. We pray for perseverance.  We pray for ability to still enjoy things in life.  But I think this passage in Colossians is the best prayer we could offer for anyone, including ourselves.

We all want to know God’s will as to how we should deal with our struggles, so prayers for wisdom and understanding are quite appropriate.  And we want to live lives worthy of God as a testimony to Him even through our suffering.

Regardless of how limited we are, we can all bear fruit until God calls us home.  We can continue to grow in our relationship with Him and our understanding of Him as much as our earthly minds will allow.  Of course we need patience and endurance to survive our pain and problems.  We all know (at least in theory) that giving thanks and maintaining joy through suffering is not only Biblical but beneficial to our minds, bodies, and spirits. And lastly, keeping a focus on the glorious inheritance we have yet to come can help us hang on during the worst of times here.

Yes, we can pray for healing and relief.   But perhaps our first and best prayer should be these verses.  I can’t imagine more comprehensive, beautiful, or God-pleasing words than these.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, as we pray for ourselves and others, we want to focus on symptom relief.  May we pray for these Biblical qualities as well, knowing that as we live them out, we can face our suffering here with much greater victory.  Amen.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Being “Missional-Minded” Through Our Pain and Problems

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15).

Our church leaders recently taught on the missional-minded church, which emphasizes sharing our faith with others through everyday life rather than specifically trying to draw them in to the church.  Part of the reasoning behind this is our culture’s declining interest in and understanding of Christian concepts and church participation.

Most of us with health issues would not even think about being missionaries.  We may not be able to get out to the store, much less participate in an outreach event.  But think about the “mission field” we encounter through our health problems.  We see medical professionals.  We share our problems with family, friends, and perhaps neighbors.  Not all of these people are Christians. What an opportunity for sharing the hope we have through our suffering.

A dear friend of mine has been legally blind for more than 25 years, yet having her sight restored is no longer an important emphasis for her.  She travels a good bit and uses special glasses to read.  Her vision problem has given her some wonderful opportunities to share the hope, power, and strength that Christ has brought into her life through her disability.  I hope to follow her example and do a better job of sharing Christ’s power through my weaknesses from now on.

As we think about who will cross our paths, particularly during the upcoming holiday season, what better way of showing our love and gratitude for all God has given us than to share this gift of hope with others.
Prayer:  Lord Jesus, help me see my pain and suffering as tools to bless and encourage others by sharing the hope I have in You, and may I make the most of the opportunities You provide.  Amen.