Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Running Our Marathons of Pain with Confidence and Perseverance

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised”
(Hebrews 10:35,36).

In May the Marine Corps hosts a half marathon in our community.  My mother’s apartment complex is on the race route, so this year we went out to watch. 

As I saw the waves of people come in to view, I thought about the appearance of the runners.  Many looked extremely fit and confident, but many did not.  I wondered if some of them were going to finish. Yet they made it the 13 ½ miles, some walking and some running.  I’m sure they had all been persevering through months of training.  I’m sure they all wanted to maintain confidence throughout the race that they would receive the reward of reaching the finish line.

As I looked at the shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities of the participants, I thought of those including myself who are running the marathons of pain-filled lives.  Some of us are able to walk or run on our own.  Some of us race with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs.  Some of us are being carried or pushed by others.  Whatever our abilities or disabilities, we are all persevering in faith toward our final finish line, trusting that God’s strength will bring us through.

Tears came to my eyes as I thought about this unseen race and how valiantly we are trying to run it.  Although it is not a race of our choosing, we are bringing glory to God and encouragement to each other as we run.  Our confidence and perseverance will be rewarded with the promise of an eternity of pain-free living with the Lord.  We’re in it together, we’re going to make it, and I look forward to seeing each of you at the race’s end.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, many days I feel I can’t keep running in this race of pain and suffering.  I don’t know how I will ever make it to the end.  I pray that I will not lose my confidence in Your power and grace in my life, that Your Spirit will enable me to keep persevering, and that I will stay focused on what awaits me at the finish line.  Amen.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Joy of the Lord Is Our Strength

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

During my most recent bout with depression I pondered what the joy of the Lord actually is.  I read a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on this verse in Nehemiah and gained some insight.

The joy of the Lord comes from knowing God and who He is.  He is our power, our protection, our wisdom, our guidance, our foundation, and our salvation.  He is loving, forgiving, compassionate, and faithful. 

This joy also comes from our personal relationship with God.  We are reconciled, adopted, loved, and have the privilege of fellowship and communion with Him.

Knowing that every aspect of our lives and circumstances are under God’s goodness and sovereignty brings joy.  Even through the most difficult times, God is accomplishing good for us.

The joy of the Lord also comes from serving and being obedient to Him. It can be very difficult to pray or praise or believe Scripture when we are suffering, but Jesus said when we obey we will have joy.

And how does this joy bring strength?  As we focus on these sources of joy our faith and hope in God increase, strengthening us for future trials.  Knowing all we have in God leads us to praise and thankfulness which also help carry us through dark times. 

John Ortberg wrote, “Joy is at the heart of God.  Joy is a command.  Joy is strength and its absence will create weakness. God is the happiest being in the universe.  And God’s intent was that his creation would mirror his joy.”

My depression and health issues may always make it challenging for me to feel joyful, but by God’s grace I want to keep striving for it.  And if the feeling doesn’t come now, I want to live in faith for the endless eternal joy that is coming.

Prayer:  O Lord, you know how hard it is for me to maintain joy through my sufferings. Regardless of my feelings, help me focus on all the reasons to be joyful in You and to remember that one day complete joy will be mine forever.  Amen.