Tuesday, March 25, 2014

God Revives Our Hearts

“Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?” 
(Psalm 85:6).
Where I live, this has been one of the hardest and longest winters we have had in a while.  My contacts with friends and other believers have been greatly limited because of bad weather.  I am tired of seeing only brown and white, tired of being cold and hurting, and ready for the warmth and colors of spring.
As I drove through town recently, I noticed the welcome sight of spring revival - flowers beginning to bloom. I literally felt like crying!  God revived my spirit with the hope that this long winter will end and spring is coming.
Chronic pain may seem like an unending winter, yet God is faithful to bring moments of revival even in the most difficult times.  It may be through encouragement from a friend, reading an article or Scripture passage, a reprieve from suffering, or one small flower in an otherwise bleak place.  His means of revival come in various forms, but they are there if I look for them. 
When something is revived, it is given new health, vigor and spirit. It may also be returned to effectiveness.  How many times have I felt like giving up or shutting down, totally incapable of maintaining my own faith in God, much less being an effective testimony to others? Yet God has faithfully and continually revived me with fresh hope, perseverance, and the ability to serve Him.
The flowers I saw that day were covered in snow the next, but I knew it wouldn't last.  Spring revival is coming. And in the same way, God will revive me in the midst of my most barren and hopeless times and will continue to do so until there are no more winters.  So I will look for that one small flower in the bleakness, and rejoice.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Word says that You live within me, reviving my heart and spirit (Isaiah 57:15).  Thank you for faithfulness to do so, and make me ever more aware of the revivals You bring through my pain and suffering.  Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When I Am Faint-hearted, God Replenishes My Soul

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint”
(Jeremiah 31:25).

I have heard the expression "not for the faint-hearted" used to describe very difficult conditions, and I think chronic pain and illness fit this category quite well.  Ongoing health problems have a way of wearing me down until I feel I can’t handle any more. 

I particularly like the King James Version of this verse:  “For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul”.  When I think of being satiated, I think of a plant so drenched with water that it cannot absorb anymore.  Being replenished reminds me of a water glass that is continually refilled the minute it is empty.  And this is what God promises to do for me.

I have been dealing with continual bad headaches and eye pain lately.  I am weary of persevering through the throbbing headaches.  I am sorrowful over the limitations my eye pain brings.  But as I cry out to God in faith, He gives me the strength to endure.  Sometimes His refreshment comes through pain relief.  Sometimes He leads me to websites or other sources of information that offer me fresh hope. The Holy Spirit may bring the words of a worship song or Scripture passage to mind that calms my anxiety.  Each day God enables me to keep going.

When my life springs are dried out by suffering, God drenches and satiates my soul with the waters of His love, mercy, compassion, and grace.  His strength carries me through all may pain and problems, no matter how intense or long-term they may be.  There has never yet been a time when He has not replenished my ability to endure, and I am clinging in faith to the truth that there never will be, praise God.

Prayer: Lord, you know how hard it is to keep enduring through my pain and trials.  But You have given me Your strength and refreshment until now, and You will keep giving it, no matter how faint-hearted I feel.  Let me press on today believing  that truth.  Amen.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Renew a Right Spirit Within Me

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” (Psalm 51:12).

We are entering the season of Lent in preparation for Easter, when many people choose to give something up as a sign of repentance and in memory of Jesus’ sacrifices for us. One message I heard suggested giving up or adding a behavior or attitude that would draw us closer to God, and I thought of this verse.

I am constantly battling negative attitudes related to my pain.  I’m tired of the cold, the headaches, the eye issues.  God understands my struggles, but I can express my feelings and still maintain a right spirit.

One commentary describes a willing spirit as constant, steady, determined, and yielding itself to God.   Many times my spirit is not constantly yielded to God, and I am certainly not focusing on the joy of my salvation.  So what do I do?

When my emotions cause me to doubt God’s goodness, power and plan for my life, I need to repent and ask for forgiveness.  I need to pray that the Holy Spirit will change my attitude to one of faith and trust.  This may mean keeping my focus only on the current moment, not worrying about how I will endure tomorrow or even later today.
I need to choose joy – “a contented resting in God”.  Joy and pain really can coexist if the focus of my joy is on the right things:  seeing God’s mercies and blessings even in my suffering, praising Him for His constant faithfulness, and placing my hope on an endless eternity of active and pain-free communion with and service for Him. 

I may not succeed at maintaining a right spirit every day, but by God’s grace I will keep aiming for it.  And my hope is that these changes won’t just be for Lent, but for life.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, as I think about Your sacrifices for me, I want my spirit to respond in gratitude, praise and trust, rather than in negativity and complaints.  Help me choose to be joyful for all that You’ve given me now and all that is yet to come.  Amen.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dealing with the Construction Zones of Life

“But he knows the way I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

We have lived midway between our nation’s capital and our state capital for more than thirty years. Traffic has always been challenging, but over the past decade it has gotten much worse. Construction is always going on somewhere.  A trip that should take thirty minutes can take two or three hours. 

I try to avoid construction areas whenever possible.  They cause delays. Sitting for long periods aggravates my back pain. I get frustrated and impatient. If I have to take a detour, I may get lost.  But there are times when construction zones are unavoidable if I want to reach my destination.

My health problems remind me of construction zones. My ongoing pain, discomfort, and problems cause delays.  I lose out on things I want to do. I sometimes have to take detours and follow new routes, such as trying a new medicine or exercise, eliminating a certain food, or changing my sitting or sleeping position.  I become frustrated and impatient.  I want to move on.

But what is the purpose of construction?  Usually to build something newer and better.  God has a purpose for the construction zones in my life.  He knows what thoughts, attitudes, and responses needs to be improved to conform me more into the image of Christ.  The changes He is making in me are part of His grand design and roadmap for my life, so that I will accomplish His purposes for me here on earth and for all eternity.

The Lord knows the difficult roads I must take now.  My patience and my faith are being tested. But by that same faith, I must believe it’s worth going through this construction in anticipation of the heavenly roads that lie ahead.

Prayer: Lord, this life would be easier without construction zones, both physical and spiritual.  Give me patience, perseverance, and a willing attitude to travel the roads You have planned for me, knowing the trials they bring are for my benefit.  Amen.