Look around. What do you see? Does it discourage or lift you up? Would you believe that despite how you look at what lies about you, it may be a misdemeanor.
The ocean is a completely different place when you are 100 feet beneath its surface than the body we know from where we stand beside it. When we move away from the sun, we discover how much of it never has the pleasure of enjoying the acquaintance of such a majestic bit of creation. The vast, unsearchable reaches of a domain that wakes up to darkness and falls asleep to blackness. Little difference is detected by the untrained eye, yet it is there.
We may feel certain that nothing could survive in the conditions that you see, but is our Creator thoughtless in what He chooses to expose His creatures to? Does He not know the limitations of every species He has designed with His own hands? Could He form you and sustain for every millisecond until this time, and then lose sight of what confronts you? Would the biggest trial you have ever faced fail to draw His attention? Do we imagine He is so insensitive and inept as our God and Savior?
If we do, our hearts need to be changed; this is not the God that we have been called to love and live out our lives with forever and ever. This is a lie that Satan works day and night to promote through the mystery of every evil He can stir up under the permission of the Father. We must be waken up by the truth, to turn from the deception of our former father — he who lies for a living — and come under the wing of He who lives and declares the truth of His living. And what can affect this alteration but His Word? May we run to it!
God rules: there’s something to shout over! On the double, mainlands and islands—celebrate!
Bright clouds and storm clouds circle ’round him;
Right and justice anchor his rule.
Fire blazes out before him,
Flaming high up the craggy mountains.
His lightnings light up the world;
Earth, wide-eyed, trembles in fear.
The mountains take one look at God
And melt, melt like wax before earth’s Lord.
The heavens announce that he’ll set everything right,
And everyone will see it happen—glorious!
All who serve handcrafted gods will be sorry—
And they were so proud of their ragamuffin gods!
On your knees, all you gods—worship him!
And Zion, you listen and take heart!
Daughters of Zion, sing your hearts out:
God has done it all, has set everything right.
You, God, are High God of the cosmos,
Far, far higher than any of the gods.
God loves all who hate evil,
And those who love him he keeps safe,
Snatches them from the grip of the wicked.
Light-seeds are planted in the souls of God’s people,
Joy-seeds are planted in good heart-soil.
So, God’s people, shout praise to God,
Give thanks to our Holy God!
Do you feel torn down by your troubles? Uncertain of what kind of good purpose God could have in what you’re going through? Consider these verses from Psalm 102:
God, listen! Listen to my prayer, listen to the pain in my cries.
Don’t turn your back on me
just when I need you so desperately.
Pay attention! This is a cry for help!
And hurry—this can’t wait!
I’m wasting away to nothing,
I’m burning up with fever.
I’m a ghost of my former self,
half-consumed already by terminal illness.
My jaws ache from gritting my teeth;
I’m nothing but skin and bones.
I’m like a buzzard in the desert,
a crow perched on the rubble.
Insomniac, I twitter away,
mournful as a sparrow in the gutter.
All day long my enemies taunt me,
while others just curse.
They bring in meals—casseroles of ashes!
I draw drink from a barrel of my tears.
And all because of your furious anger;
you swept me up and threw me out.
There’s nothing left of me—
a withered weed, swept clean from the path.
Yet you, God, are sovereign still,
always and ever sovereign.
You’ll get up from your throne and help Zion—
it’s time for compassionate help.
Oh, how your servants love this city’s rubble
and weep with compassion over its dust!
The godless nations will sit up and take notice
—see your glory, worship your name—
When God rebuilds Zion,
when he shows up in all his glory,
When he attends to the prayer of the wretched.
He won’t dismiss their prayer.
Write this down for the next generation
so people not yet born will praise God:
“God looked out from his high holy place;
from heaven he surveyed the earth.
He listened to the groans of the doomed,
he opened the doors of their death cells.”
Write it so the story can be told in Zion,
so God’s praise will be sung in Jerusalem’s streets
And wherever people gather together
along with their rulers to worship him.
God sovereignly brought me to my knees,
he cut me down in my prime.
“Oh, don’t,” I prayed, “please don’t let me die.
You have more years than you know what to do with!
You laid earth’s foundations a long time ago,
and handcrafted the very heavens;
You’ll still be around when they’re long gone,
threadbare and discarded like an old suit of clothes.
You’ll throw them away like a worn-out coat,
but year after year you’re as good as new.
Your servants’ children will have a good place to live
and their children will be at home with you.”
Maybe God has more spiritual goals then we can consider. Maybe He loves us enough to change us from the inside out, even if He has to bleed us dry. He can not be dismissed because we don’t at first understand what He does with us. Why would He empty us, but that He meant to fill us with more than what we had before?
Maybe He desires praise that is not merely a theme among themes in our hearts, but is so strong that it must subordinate everything else that lies within us. Maybe God is more than we thought. Maybe knowing Him is more self-requiring than we could ever know until we have fully died. Maybe He knows that what we will know then is all that we should ever want as people who belong with Him. Maybe believing all of this is enough for right now — even with these lesser things, these troubles that are also true in this moment of our lives.
What is your idea of salvation? Is it more about you or Christ? I must confess that I most often live like its about me. I think about being saved and my mind turns to me. I don’t see it as a work that has ultimately been decided. I look around, and I expect more to have been accomplished, even if I haven’t seen it all yet. I don’t care how it has to be, I want it and right now! What worth is there in having a Savior if He doesn’t work for me? I wonder.
I know, this doesn’t sound very grace-full, but the dismal truth is that I am not grace-ful. After all, I am not the reason I was saved. At the littlest opportunity I walk away from seeking Him — I don’t remember that fact that I am nothing without Him for very long.
Again, let me remember that He is the reason that I was saved.
It was by His might.
It was by His fight.
It was by His delight.
Where is there any room for my glory in that? There is room for my responsibility and response, but there is no room for my own promotion campaign. He has done, and, in fact, is all.
Is anyone here feeling angry today? It is such a nice day, seemingly so perfect on the outside, and yet there is a war going on internally. I am there today. I am particularly angry because God has told me to sit still and be quiet when I would rather vent my emotions and give no consideration to whom I may hurt along the way. As far as I am concerned this is not about anyone but me. I am hurt and I deserve the satisfaction of retaliation.
But, God asks me to wait; to let Him have the place of revenge; to trust that even in pain and disadvantage, He knows better than I how to handle me and my problems. That can be very hard. In my view, for Him to allow this struggle in the first place is to mangle the trust I have put in Him.
But, the truth is, God is not manipulating my dependence upon Him. He is, perhaps, straining that dependence, but He is not going to break it. I can trust Him in anything and everything because when it hurts, I know why. No, I don’t know how hard it will get, or how long He will continue to chasten me, but I don’t have to wonder why He does it or what will be the result.
When I am tested, I am being allowed to thirst for and seek out God more than I would unless He moved in my life this way. I will not grow if God leaves me to walk with Him based on my own interest and understanding of my need for Him. On my own I just don’t get that He is that important. I need harsh circumstances to present the truth to me in such a way that I can begin to walk in it.
Trials and unexpected troubles work upon us much like the signs that direct us on a major highway, making us ready to take a particular exit. They give us no option for getting where we need to be other than to follow the directions on them. They are firm, unyielding, and inattentive to our excuses.
When it is our habit to travel on the far left lane, we are separated from the side ramp by several busy lanes. Thus, when we continue in this vein of personal transportation, we make it impossible for ourselves to effectively follow the traffic pattern that will get us to our desired destination. To be unwilling to make any alteration in our present traveling pattern in favor of enjoying a fast and smooth ride, is to sacrifice ending up where we would like to be later.
It is the same way in life: we can’t just move freely along on our preferred path and expect to be in the appropriate attitude and position to turn in whatever direction God calls us to down the road. We must remember that God is not about giving us gigantic signs and routes that coincide perfectly with our regular speedway. The whole point of the trip is to drive with God from beginning to end, always getting closer to Him, and more certain of His instructions.
If the whole adventure isn’t about Him, neither will any of our decisions be. We will not get over when we need to and we will miss the lanes of blessing and burdening that we need to be on to grow more aware of He who is our only reliable destination.
O my soul, bless God! God, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps,
made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings.
You commandeered winds as messengers,
appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.
You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever.
You blanketed earth with ocean,
covered the mountains with deep waters;
Then you roared and the water ran away—
your thunder crash put it to flight.
Mountains pushed up, valleys spread out
in the places you assigned them.
You set boundaries between earth and sea;
never again will earth be flooded.
You started the springs and rivers,
sent them flowing among the hills.
All the wild animals now drink their fill,
wild donkeys quench their thirst.
Along the riverbanks the birds build nests,
ravens make their voices heard.
You water the mountains from your heavenly cisterns;
earth is supplied with plenty of water.
You make grass grow for the livestock,
hay for the animals that plow the ground.
Oh yes, God brings grain from the land,
wine to make people happy,
Their faces glowing with health,
a people well-fed and hearty.
God’s trees are well-watered—
the Lebanon cedars he planted.
Birds build their nests in those trees;
look—the stork at home in the treetop.
Mountain goats climb about the cliffs;
badgers burrow among the rocks.
The moon keeps track of the seasons,
the sun is in charge of each day.
When it’s dark and night takes over,
all the forest creatures come out.
The young lions roar for their prey,
clamoring to God for their supper.
When the sun comes up, they vanish,
lazily stretched out in their dens.
Meanwhile, men and women go out to work,
busy at their jobs until evening.
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
brimming with fish past counting,
sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.
All the creatures look expectantly to you
to give them their meals on time.
You come, and they gather around;
you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back,
they’d die in a minute—
Take back your Spirit and they die,
revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life—
the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.
The glory of God—let it last forever!
Let God enjoy his creation!
He takes one look at earth and triggers an earthquake,
points a finger at the mountains, and volcanoes erupt.
Oh, let me sing to God all my life long,
sing hymns to my God as long as I live!
Oh, let my song please him;
I’m so pleased to be singing to God.
But clear the ground of sinners—
no more godless men and women! O my soul, bless God!
What does it really mean to represent God? I know that this is supposed to be our everyday occupation, but not every day looks the same. What about the days when I’m angry, when I feel ill-used, when I’m not confident that I can be a Good Godly Girl?
What about the moments when God feels far away and I feel too weak and full of sin to chase Him down?
What about the weeks when living for Him doesn’t feel worth it?
What about the instances when I’m not sure I can hold up God in my circumstances because I’m not sure that He’s able to hold me up in them for yet another day?
When my question-petitions are not answered with what I want to hear; when I don’t know how to go on living this way; how can I still be for Him?
When I don’t know what He’ll do next, how can He expect me to rationally say, “I will praise Him still”?
I am broken, and still He is real. He won’t back down. He moves in when I feel like it would be best to move away. He insists on open access to my heart when not even I want that. He knows with all the tenderness of a Father of heaven that I can not represent Him as I am. He cares that I don’t know where He is, and I wonder how He could let me hurt this much.
That’s why I’m in this mess. No, not so that He can punish me for failing to fulfill expectations too lofty for me to even see. My God is just not like that with His own.
Instead, like no other person I know, He is using His power to challenge and chasten me. His highest aim is to make me at home with Him in my heart so that He can make me that woman who represents Him.
Because He orchestrates my deliverance from more sin every day, my heart does not want for opportunities to see Him, reasons to praise Him. He will establish my glory in Himself as He resolutely dethrones my glory in myself. As the comfort I find in sin fades, so will my empty boasts. It is not wrong for Him to deride my sin and devastate my hopes in temporary heroes until there is no one left for me to witness to and bless than the One who ever is my Savior.
I don’t know why I didn’t realize until now that perfectionism was such a pride thing. But, when a sin so consumes me like that, it will naturally keep me from recognizing anything that is apart from sin — anything that is holy.
When I make a sin like pride my shelter I need no other. And being so confident that this is the only place for me, I will behave defensively toward anything that threatens my position and respectability in remaining there in that hiding place. When this is how I carry out my life, how can I be surprised that the ways of God should regularly seem to be against me?