When My Soul Needs Water

I apologize for not posting any devotions last week. I assure you it was not my intention, but I found myself in need of some one-on-one time with the Lord to work through some of my disappointments and frustrations. To quote George Mueller, “I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord but how I might get my soul into a happy state and how the inner life might be nourished.” So, I sat with the Lord day after day, setting forth the business of nourishing my soul, which ironically ties in to today’s devotion.

Last week, Jason and I were taking Barnabas out to a nearby heritage preserve for an evening walk/hike. As we drove, the Xterra began acting strangely. At first, it hiccuped a few times, then the temperature sky-rocketed. Uh oh! Since we weren’t too far from the house, Jason decided it was best to turn back so we could assess the problem. Unfortunately, the vehicle had other ideas. It hopped down the road—a process known as “limp mode” according to Jason. We had no idea what the problem was, but one thing was sure—the Xterra was NOT happy. Suddenly, there was a loud pop and an explosion of liquid from under the hood. Jason pulled over into a small pull off as I did my best to calm Barnabas. . .and myself.

It turns out, somehow and somewhere, the Xterra had dumped all of its water. It was running dry. That’s why the temperature was so high, and that’s why it refused to move smoothly.  It was dehydrated. Empty. Lacking that which it needed to run properly. Fortunately, the excessive rain of late had formed puddles in the ditch nearby, and we were able to fill the radiator with enough rainwater to get us home. (Talk about showers of blessing!) As to why the vehicle is losing water, we still don’t know. It’s scheduled to go into the shop next week. (Yay! More car repairs!!!)

Oddly enough, the more I thought about the situation, the more I realized I could relate to the Xterra. It seems as if I’ve been operating in limp mode for some time now. I knew something wasn’t right, but I guess I kept hoping my sad thoughts and irritability would just go away.  Of course, that never happens. But I felt too busy to deal with the issue. I knew I needed some time to sort things out, but I rationalized there were too many other things to do. I told myself to buck up and do life. But I wasn’t doing life, and the Xterra’s breakdown helped me to see that I, too, was dehydrated. Spiritually dehydrated. Empty. Lacking that which I needed to run properly.

Sure, I did my daily Bible reading and prayer time, but honestly, I think I was just going through the motions. My heart wasn’t in it. I needed more. I needed to immerse myself in the water of the Word and keep drinking until my dry soul felt renewed and refreshed. So, I spent last week doing just that. I poured my heart (and a lot of tears) out to God. I read the Bible. I journaled. I sat still in God’s presence and savored just being with Him. And you know what? I feel like a different person. Am I all better? Probably not. Will I go into a funk again? If I’m not careful, yes. But that’s not the point. The point is, I recognized a need and did what had to be done to meet that need, and in doing so, I remembered how valuable and vital God’s Word is. I may not be running on all cylinders, but I’m out of limp mode, and for that, I praise the Lord. Limp mode is miserable, but nothing a little water from the Word can’t fix.

Is your soul dry today? Are you going along in limp mode? Do you find yourself too busy to care for your spiritual needs? If so, I urge you to take time to nourish your soul. Get away with God. Immerse yourself in His Word. Pour out your heart to Him and spend time basking in His presence. Take a day or two or however long it takes for your soul to be renewed and refreshed. I assure you, it’s worth it. You know what they say—sometimes you have to come apart and rest awhile, or you’ll just come apart. Don’t let that happen to you. Refreshing, living water is within reach.  

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
— Psalm 63:1-7

Seeking Great Things

Love and compassion urged Jesus forward when everything within His earthly body cried for Him to turn back..png

In yesterday’s devotion, I laid my heart bare about my current season of life and how I found peace in learning some new things about having joy in the journey. If you didn’t get the chance to read it, I urge you to do so because, in today’s devotion, I want to pick up where I left off and share with you a couple of other Bible passages the Lord has used to encourage my heart. Let’s begin in the book of Jeremiah.

The word that Jeremiah the prophet spake unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch: Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest. Thus shalt thou say unto him, The Lord saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
— Jeremiah 45:1-5

As you can see from this chapter, Baruch had an “I” problem. Woe is me. My grief. My sorrow. I fainted. My sighing. I have no rest. Poor pitiful me! Unfortunately, I hear my own cries and complaints echoing in my ears, so truth be told, I’m no better than Baruch. I’ve been so wrapped up in my personal disappointment and discontentment that I’ve failed to see the needs of those around me. As the Lord put it in the passage above, I’ve been seeking great things for myself. “Who cares about anyone else? So what if people are lost and going to hell? I’m not happy with the way things are going. Poor pitiful me!”  I cringe as I type these words. Though these thoughts have not been in the forefront of my mind, they’ve been there nonetheless as has been proven by my actions and my self-consuming prayers. God, forgive me!

Before I go any further, let me say I truly believe God wants to bless us. He gives us far, far more than we deserve. But God never promised us a happy life. He never assured us we’d never suffer or feel disappointment or grief. In fact, He promised just the opposite (John 16:33). The point I want to get across is, God is not cruel. Life is hard because we live in a sin-cursed world. It’s not God’s fault. It’s ours. But despite that, God goes above and beyond to provide for our needs and even many of our wants because He’s a good, loving Father.

That being said, we saw in yesterday’s devotion how even Jesus became fearful and overwhelmed at the prospect of His crucifixion and all that it entailed. While He was willing to do His Father’s will, He wasn’t exactly happy about the circumstances. It wasn’t a joyful season of life to experience.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2

This is a familiar verse, but don’t overlook the words used to describe Jesus’ emotional state. He endured the cross. He despised the shame. Endured and despised. Boy, can I relate to those words? I’ve been enduring a lot lately—going through the motions of doing what needs to be done and trying my best to do so with a good attitude. And I’ve despised the person I’ve become through this season. Cautious. Critical. Cynical. That’s not me. That’s not who I want to be.  

But I want you to notice another phrase within that verse: “for the joy that was set before him.” Not the joy He was experiencing by obeying the Father. Not the joy He felt at laying down His life and suffering agony on the cross. Not the joy of being a good Son. It wasn’t a present joy; it was a joy to come. The joy of defeating Death and Hell. The joy of holding up the keys of Hell in victory. The joy of being reunited with His Father. And last, but certainly not least, the joy of living in eternity with us.

Unlike Baruch, Jesus wasn’t seeking great things for Himself. He was seeking great things for us.  Jesus wasn’t so consumed with His own suffering that He turned His back on others. Instead, He used that love and compassion to keep Him moving forward when everything within His earthly body cried for Him to turn back. He envisioned a brighter day—not for Him, but for us, and that vision gave Him the strength to suffer. Yes, He endured. Yes, He despised. But in the end, He rejoiced, and He will continue to rejoice.

Lord, please help me be more like Jesus and less like Baruch. No matter how difficult the season or how weary I become, please help me keep my focus on others and not myself. Let my love and compassion for them drive me to obedience and surrender. And help me remember there is a brighter day coming!

Relief From My Unbelief

Spring has sprung!.png

“There is great joy in serving Jesus.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this statement. I’ve even said it many times myself. And deep down, I know it to be true, which is why I’ve had such a hard time reconciling the feelings of stress and overwhelm swirling within me over the past months.  After all, I’m serving Jesus to the best of my ability. I am doing all that I know to do to live for and honor Him. So, why am I not basking in joy? Why am I struggling to find my song?

As I poured out my heart to God about this, I felt so ashamed. I thought of how many Christians are serving in horrible places and dreadful conditions, yet they praise the Lord with every breath. Here I am with more blessings than I can count, yet I can’t seem to ease the ache within my soul. I feel so alone, so out of place. Some days, it seems as if the task of deputation is far more than my body and mind can take. I long for the peace of God to overflow in my heart and life. I crave the joy I know can only be found in Christ. To quote a line from a song, “I want to believe there’s beauty here.” Yet, I weep in the in-between moments when I finally have a chance to stop and catch my breath. When I can lay down all the masks and costumes of “the good Christian girl who has it all together” and just be me. The real me. The confused me. The disheartened me. The shamed me.

I know it’s a privilege to serve the Lord, and I count it as an honor that God would use me. So, why, at this point in my life, doesn’t it feel like a privilege? Why does it feel like a trial? Why is it causing anxiety and stress instead of peace and joy? And what kind of lousy Christian must I be to feel this way?

I’m happy to say God met my questions with some powerful verses that opened my eyes to some precious truths. While there is joy in serving the Lord, that does not mean we will always be happy with where He leads us. In fact, sometimes, we’ll be heartbroken and afraid. . .just like Jesus was. Yes, Jesus. He came to this earth to do His Father’s will. He knew He would have to die for our sins. He knew the price He would have to pay, and He was more than willing to do it. But that doesn’t mean He wanted to go through it. He prayed the cup would pass from Him.

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. - Matthew 26:39

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. - Luke 22:41-44

Praying. Pleading. Sweating blood. If this isn’t a picture of someone who is dreading an upcoming season of life, I don’t know what is. On the one hand, Jesus wanted to do the Father’s will. On the other, He didn’t want to face such cruel agony. To quote another song, “His humanity cried, ‘Lord, any other way.’ His divinity rose up and said, ‘This price I have to pay.’” And if those two passages don’t paint a vivid enough picture, check out what Hebrews says.

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; - Hebrews 5:7-9

Did you catch that? Strong crying. Tears. Fear. Oh, that sounds so familiar. Jesus, in the center of God’s will, cried out to His Father. He felt overwhelmed by the task to which He had been called. I see no joy or peace in these verses, only fear and anguish. I see Jesus being obedient but not jumping up and down for joy at the prospect. I see an example that makes me feel less ashamed, less like the worst Christian in the history of Christianity. I see Jesus as a man. A man with emotions. A man living in the nasty now and now and deciding to keep serving whether or not He feels like it. I see a man desperate for different circumstances, for a change of heart and attitude. I see someone seeking for joy amid a less than joyful situation. I see myself. . . and I smile.

Jesus has been right here. He’s walked in my shoes. He’s felt my pain. He understands the tears I shed in secret and my seemingly fruitless search for joy and peace in my ever-changing life. He can relate to my roiling emotions and aching heart. And through His Word, He’s reminded me that it’s okay. He’s shown me that while there is joy in serving the Lord, there’s also suffering. At first, that doesn’t seem like much of a comfort, but if we know the truth of that going in, we’ll feel less disappointed and desperate. We’ll feel less alone in our struggles. When we realize that even Jesus Himself dealt with fear and the sense of overwhelm, it helps us know that we’re not as “off track” as we thought we were as long as we continue to follow Jesus’ example and be obedient. And if you’ll look back at that passage in Hebrews, it tells us that Jesus learned obedience through suffering.  

My life right now may not be all that I hoped and imagined it would be, but through it all, God is teaching me to be obedient. He is showing me how to put His will above my own, to set His purposes before my peace. And in the midst of it all, He’s reminding me I’m never, ever alone, and I don’t have to hide my pain. I can be honest with Him because He knows what I’m feeling anyway. There is a brighter day coming, but in the meantime, I find comfort in knowing I can be myself, and that myself is not such a bad thing after all.