Day Forty: Pay Attention to My Prayers

READ:  1 Kings 8:22-30

 

(22-25) Before the entire congregation of Israel, Solomon took a position before the Altar, spread his hands out before heaven, and prayed,

O God, God of Israel, there is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who unswervingly keeps covenant with his servants and relentlessly loves them as they sincerely live in obedience to your way.  You kept your word to David my father, your personal word.  You did exactly what you promised–every detail.  The proof is before us today!

     Keep it up, God, O God of Israel!  Continue to keep the promises you made to David my father when you said, “You’ll always have a descendant to represent my rule on Israel’s throne, on the condition that your sons are as careful to live obediently in my presence as you have.”

(26) O God of Israel, let all this happen; confirm and establish it!

(27-30) Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood?  Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built.  Even so, I’m bold to ask:  Pay attention to these my prayers, both intercessory and personal, O God, my God.  Listen to my prayers, energetic and devout, that I’m setting before you right now.  Keep your eyes open to this Temple night and day, this place of which you said, “My name will be honored there,” and listen to the prayers that I pray at this place.

 

THINK:  What’s your immediate reaction to Solomon’s candid prayer to God?  Think about the statements Solomon makes and the things he asks God to do.  Are they things you could let yourself ask of God?  Or do they indicate a belief in qualities of God that you have not encountered or experienced?  Which qualities?

 

I’m a sucker for adverbs; so, immediately, I latched on to the words unswervingly and relentlessly and sincerely.  God unswervingly keeps covenant with those who sincerely obey him and he loves them relentlessly.  When I read that, I wonder:  “Really?  What does that look like?”  This time a year ago, I would’ve asked the same questions but they would’ve been asked rhetorically and sarcastically (see, 2 more adverbs). Now…I just want to see.  We did sincerely obey God in our current situation.  If the word of God says that God keeps unswervingly to the covenant He made and that He relentlessly loves those who are sincerely obedient, then why are we in this position?  What covenant is He keeping when He lets injustice prevail?  Of course, I realize that this is where the relentless love part comes into play.  Because God loves us so relentlessly, He will not give up on us until we are perfected until the day of Christ Jesus.  Everything is working toward that end, to include this situation we are in.  I also know that the covenant He made, that He is keeping unswervingly, is the one that says that we will get to be with Him in paradise so long as we are sincerely obedient to His Way.  Other than that, we are also guaranteed to suffer as Christ suffered because the world will hate us as it hated (and still hates) Him.  And, he’s doing a pretty good job of keeping His end of the bargain on that one too. 

 

Finally, the only other promise I know that God has made us, regarding our current situation He made to my mother and that had to do with taking care of me during this ordeal.  Well…we’ve been cared for.  Immensely!  Even if it hasn’t looked like I wanted it to or prayed it would. 

 

 

PRAY:  Read Solomon’s prayer again, this time listening for what stands out to you as representing the lack of belief you noticed in yourself when you read the passage the first time.  Explore your reaction more deeply, paying attention to what it tells you about yourself.  Maybe you feel that you can bring to God only desires that are completely selfless, or perhaps you don’t trust that he “relentlessly loves” you.  Share with God what you uncover.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, in a day and age when so much love we receive is conditional, it is often hard to believe that there is anyone out there who would love us just because.  It is even harder to believe that someone would give their lives in return for what could be nothing.  Your love is easy to doubt because we just don’t see it these days.  Fathers leave.  Marriages break apart.  Nothing is permanent anymore.  I know this is not the way you designed the world to be, but that’s how it is and it makes coming to you, in faith, very difficult.  It’s much easier to believe a person we can see loves us because they are there to demonstrate it visibly and tangibly.  So much of your love for us seems to be based on faith and sometimes we just want “proof” – and no, because we woke up today is often not proof enough.  Because the sun rose in the east and set in the west, and there’s no real reason why is not proof enough.  I realize that means that there are many things we take for granted, Lord.  So many things.  And yet…here we are.  And unless Jesus returns in the middle of the night, I imagine that today is going to go pretty much like every other day in my life, with or without the bumps and bruises.  With all this, it’s hard to feel like, or believe, that you would answer a prayer that is not completely selfless because we know that we have done nothing to deserve you answering any of our prayers.  It’s much easier to have faith in your answering a prayer that is selfless than it is to believe you will answer a prayer that only seems to benefit ourselves because you don’t want your children to be self-seeking.  So, Lord, my prayer, tonight, is that you would help us with our insecurities that drive us to feel like we have to justify everything we ask for that is just for ourselves.  We will have what you give us, but, as a Father, as a Good Parent, you want your children to also ask for the things they want, as well as for the things they need.  Help us to step out in faith and pray for those things, trusting that you will hear us and that you want to hear those prayers.  Help us to ask and keep asking; to seek and keep seeking; and to knock and keep knocking.  Lastly, Lord, please, pay attention to our prayers. 

          In Your Son’s Precious and Holy Name, I pray…Amen.

 

LIVE:  Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Everything that one turns in the direction of God is prayer.”  No matter what has arisen in you during this time – irritation, fear, desire, disinterest, lack of trust in God – it can all be prayer when shared with him; it’s all part of your conversation with God.  Notice how Solomon lets his anxiety and insecurity spill into his prayer to God, and allow yourself to do the same.

Day Forty: Pay Attention to My Prayers

READ:  1 Kings 8:22-30

 

(22-25) Before the entire congregation of Israel, Solomon took a position before the Altar, spread his hands out before heaven, and prayed,

O God, God of Israel, there is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who unswervingly keeps covenant with his servants and relentlessly loves them as they sincerely live in obedience to your way.  You kept your word to David my father, your personal word.  You did exactly what you promised–every detail.  The proof is before us today!

     Keep it up, God, O God of Israel!  Continue to keep the promises you made to David my father when you said, “You’ll always have a descendant to represent my rule on Israel’s throne, on the condition that your sons are as careful to live obediently in my presence as you have.”

(26) O God of Israel, let all this happen; confirm and establish it!

(27-30) Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood?  Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built.  Even so, I’m bold to ask:  Pay attention to these my prayers, both intercessory and personal, O God, my God.  Listen to my prayers, energetic and devout, that I’m setting before you right now.  Keep your eyes open to this Temple night and day, this place of which you said, “My name will be honored there,” and listen to the prayers that I pray at this place.

 

THINK:  What’s your immediate reaction to Solomon’s candid prayer to God?  Think about the statements Solomon makes and the things he asks God to do.  Are they things you could let yourself ask of God?  Or do they indicate a belief in qualities of God that you have not encountered or experienced?  Which qualities?

 

I’m a sucker for adverbs; so, immediately, I latched on to the words unswervingly and relentlessly and sincerely.  God unswervingly keeps covenant with those who sincerely obey him and he loves them relentlessly.  When I read that, I wonder:  “Really?  What does that look like?”  This time a year ago, I would’ve asked the same questions but they would’ve been asked rhetorically and sarcastically (see, 2 more adverbs). Now…I just want to see.  We did sincerely obey God in our current situation.  If the word of God says that God keeps unswervingly to the covenant He made and that He relentlessly loves those who are sincerely obedient, then why are we in this position?  What covenant is He keeping when He lets injustice prevail?  Of course, I realize that this is where the relentless love part comes into play.  Because God loves us so relentlessly, He will not give up on us until we are perfected until the day of Christ Jesus.  Everything is working toward that end, to include this situation we are in.  I also know that the covenant He made, that He is keeping unswervingly, is the one that says that we will get to be with Him in paradise so long as we are sincerely obedient to His Way.  Other than that, we are also guaranteed to suffer as Christ suffered because the world will hate us as it hated (and still hates) Him.  And, he’s doing a pretty good job of keeping His end of the bargain on that one too. 

 

Finally, the only other promise I know that God has made us, regarding our current situation He made to my mother and that had to do with taking care of me during this ordeal.  Well…we’ve been cared for.  Immensely!  Even if it hasn’t looked like I wanted it to or prayed it would. 

 

 

PRAY:  Read Solomon’s prayer again, this time listening for what stands out to you as representing the lack of belief you noticed in yourself when you read the passage the first time.  Explore your reaction more deeply, paying attention to what it tells you about yourself.  Maybe you feel that you can bring to God only desires that are completely selfless, or perhaps you don’t trust that he “relentlessly loves” you.  Share with God what you uncover.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, in a day and age when so much love we receive is conditional, it is often hard to believe that there is anyone out there who would love us just because.  It is even harder to believe that someone would give their lives in return for what could be nothing.  Your love is easy to doubt because we just don’t see it these days.  Fathers leave.  Marriages break apart.  Nothing is permanent anymore.  I know this is not the way you designed the world to be, but that’s how it is and it makes coming to you, in faith, very difficult.  It’s much easier to believe a person we can see loves us because they are there to demonstrate it visibly and tangibly.  So much of your love for us seems to be based on faith and sometimes we just want “proof” – and no, because we woke up today is often not proof enough.  Because the sun rose in the east and set in the west, and there’s no real reason why is not proof enough.  I realize that means that there are many things we take for granted, Lord.  So many things.  And yet…here we are.  And unless Jesus returns in the middle of the night, I imagine that today is going to go pretty much like every other day in my life, with or without the bumps and bruises.  With all this, it’s hard to feel like, or believe, that you would answer a prayer that is not completely selfless because we know that we have done nothing to deserve you answering any of our prayers.  It’s much easier to have faith in your answering a prayer that is selfless than it is to believe you will answer a prayer that only seems to benefit ourselves because you don’t want your children to be self-seeking.  So, Lord, my prayer, tonight, is that you would help us with our insecurities that drive us to feel like we have to justify everything we ask for that is just for ourselves.  We will have what you give us, but, as a Father, as a Good Parent, you want your children to also ask for the things they want, as well as for the things they need.  Help us to step out in faith and pray for those things, trusting that you will hear us and that you want to hear those prayers.  Help us to ask and keep asking; to seek and keep seeking; and to knock and keep knocking.  Lastly, Lord, please, pay attention to our prayers. 

          In Your Son’s Precious and Holy Name, I pray…Amen.

 

LIVE:  Ignatius of Loyola once said, “Everything that one turns in the direction of God is prayer.”  No matter what has arisen in you during this time – irritation, fear, desire, disinterest, lack of trust in God – it can all be prayer when shared with him; it’s all part of your conversation with God.  Notice how Solomon lets his anxiety and insecurity spill into his prayer to God, and allow yourself to do the same.

Day Thirty-Nine: A Dream Fulfilled

READ:  1 Kings 5:1-5

 

(1-4) Hiram king of Tyre sent ambassadors to Solomon when he heard that he had been crowned king in David’s place.  Hiram had loved David his whole life.  Solomon responded, saying, “You know that David my father was not able to build a temple in honor of God because of the wars he had to fight on all sides, until God finally put them down.  But now God has provided peace all around–no one against us, nothing at odds with us.

(5) “Now here is what I want to do:  Build a temple in honor of God, my God, following the promise that God gave to David my father, namely ‘Your son whom I will provide to succeed you as king, he will build a house in my honor.'”

 

THINK:  Read the passage aloud slowly again, especially verses 3-5.

  1. Listen for the words or phrases that stand out to you–perhaps one of these
    1. “build a temple in honor of God”
    2. “wars he had to fight on all sides, until God finally put them down”
    3. “God has provided peace all around–no one against us, nothing at odds with us”
    4. “here is what I want to do…in honor of God, my God, following the promise that God gave”

 

These phrases indicate that David lived an interactive life with God and that Solomon is attempting to do the same.  They also refer to David and Solomon’s dream coming true.  David had wisely let go of his dream of building the temple, while Solomon was now taking the next step by implementing the dream.

  1. What dreams have you had?
  2. What dreams have you let go of or picked up?

 

I’ve had several dreams over the years.  For instance, in high school, I wanted to be a test pilot.  Then, I realized that it would be impossible because I had poor eyesight.  That was fine.  I gave that dream up.  Another dream that I had – when I was in 4th grade or so – was that, one day, I would marry someone who had a dark complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes.  That dream came true.  I’ve been married to that man for going-on-21-years.  Some dreams have come true; others have fallen by the wayside.  But, I am of the opinion that there is a difference between having a dream and just dreaming.  But, I also believe that either one can take the place of God in a person’s life and, if that happens, then God has this uncanny way of making sure you know that if it’s a dream from Him, it will happen in His timing, and if it isn’t, it won’t happen.  Of the dreams I’ve had (and still have) I don’t know if I can tell you which ones are from God and which ones are not.  I figure, if it’s from God, then it’ll happen because nothing can subvert the will of God.  If it isn’t, it won’t happen. 

 

Perhaps this is why the verse of the 4 passages above that speaks to me is the last one.  I can honestly say that my goals have not all been so honorable as to only desire to honor God.  Some of my dreams have only been about bringing honor to myself.  But, at this time in my life, I’m learning that if it isn’t about God first, it isn’t going to work out.  He won’t allow it.  As for following any specific promise, I’ve only felt like I’ve ever been given one promise (the promise of our third child), and that one has been fulfilled.  Other than that, I know we are promised Heaven and that God will never leave us nor forsake us.  These days, that’s just about all I feel like I can hold on to without running the risk of latching onto a false hope and having it dashed on the rocks by a wave of disappointment.  And…I’m learning to be okay with that. 

 

Don’t get me wrong.  I still pray and ask for what I want, but after being told “no” and “wait” so many times this past 3 years, I’m learning to trust that I’m going to get what God wants me to have when He wants me to have it or whenever He has adequately prepared me for it, and it for me.  He has to do it that way because, otherwise, I’d be running headlong after the gift instead of the Giver.

 

PRAY:  Talk to God about the phrases in the passage that hint at dreams you have.  Ask God to give you wisdom about whether you need to let go of these dreams or pick them up.  Ask God for vision and power to take your next step.

 

Abba Father, you have made each of us with our own special set of appetites and dreams and desires and wishes.  Only you can deliver unto each of us those things you desire us to have or those things that we need to help us grow into the people you want us to be in order to fulfill the purpose for which you designed us. Though it will be painful, strip away those things that do not conform to Your Will and Your Purpose for our lives.  Help us to see that there is nothing wrong with mourning the loss of a dream because You created us to be emotional beings.  But, help us, also, to see that we are led by faith and not by feelings, so we do not have to be tossed about on waves of indecision and fickle emotions and appetites, and we can bring our wills into submission to Yours despite how we feel.  Grant us an extra measure of grace to accept on faith those things we cannot yet understand and are not yet ready to see.  Remember that we are just dust and we are going to fall, and please be patient with us as we are all fallible, but we are trying. 

 

For the person out there tonight who feels like you have turned their back, I pray for peace.  Lord, you did not lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the desert to die, but you did it to prove to them that YOU were all they needed.  Help them to see that it is because You love your people that you lead them into places where they have to rely on You and You Alone, otherwise we never learn that You are all we need.

 

For people who feel like you are always saying WAIT and that their dreams are always being put on hold, I pray that you would strengthen their spirits.  They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength and they will mount up with wings as eagles because Your Word says so and Your Word does not return to You void.  That means, if you said it, it has as much as happened.  But you exist outside of time and space and sometimes it is hard to be so eternally minded when we live in such a microwave world.  Lord, we believe, only help our unbelief.

 

Thank you, Lord, for your LONG-SUFFERING.  You are forever having to be patient with us, and yet, you desire that none should perish but that all should come to you.  Thank you for not giving up on us when we are ready to throw in the towel on ourselves.  Thank you that we do not have to live in the past and thank you that tomorrow does not have to be like today because your mercies are new every morning and you will give us THIS DAY our daily bread.

 

In Jesus’ Name, I pray…….Amen.

 

LIVE:  Relish the peace that God gives, knowing that dreams don’t have to be realized today.  Maybe ponder and pursue your next step.  Put on the idea of readiness and see if it fits.

Day Thirty-Nine: A Dream Fulfilled

READ:  1 Kings 5:1-5

 

(1-4) Hiram king of Tyre sent ambassadors to Solomon when he heard that he had been crowned king in David’s place.  Hiram had loved David his whole life.  Solomon responded, saying, “You know that David my father was not able to build a temple in honor of God because of the wars he had to fight on all sides, until God finally put them down.  But now God has provided peace all around–no one against us, nothing at odds with us.

(5) “Now here is what I want to do:  Build a temple in honor of God, my God, following the promise that God gave to David my father, namely ‘Your son whom I will provide to succeed you as king, he will build a house in my honor.'”

 

THINK:  Read the passage aloud slowly again, especially verses 3-5.

  1. Listen for the words or phrases that stand out to you–perhaps one of these
    1. “build a temple in honor of God”
    2. “wars he had to fight on all sides, until God finally put them down”
    3. “God has provided peace all around–no one against us, nothing at odds with us”
    4. “here is what I want to do…in honor of God, my God, following the promise that God gave”

 

These phrases indicate that David lived an interactive life with God and that Solomon is attempting to do the same.  They also refer to David and Solomon’s dream coming true.  David had wisely let go of his dream of building the temple, while Solomon was now taking the next step by implementing the dream.

  1. What dreams have you had?
  2. What dreams have you let go of or picked up?

 

I’ve had several dreams over the years.  For instance, in high school, I wanted to be a test pilot.  Then, I realized that it would be impossible because I had poor eyesight.  That was fine.  I gave that dream up.  Another dream that I had – when I was in 4th grade or so – was that, one day, I would marry someone who had a dark complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes.  That dream came true.  I’ve been married to that man for going-on-21-years.  Some dreams have come true; others have fallen by the wayside.  But, I am of the opinion that there is a difference between having a dream and just dreaming.  But, I also believe that either one can take the place of God in a person’s life and, if that happens, then God has this uncanny way of making sure you know that if it’s a dream from Him, it will happen in His timing, and if it isn’t, it won’t happen.  Of the dreams I’ve had (and still have) I don’t know if I can tell you which ones are from God and which ones are not.  I figure, if it’s from God, then it’ll happen because nothing can subvert the will of God.  If it isn’t, it won’t happen. 

 

Perhaps this is why the verse of the 4 passages above that speaks to me is the last one.  I can honestly say that my goals have not all been so honorable as to only desire to honor God.  Some of my dreams have only been about bringing honor to myself.  But, at this time in my life, I’m learning that if it isn’t about God first, it isn’t going to work out.  He won’t allow it.  As for following any specific promise, I’ve only felt like I’ve ever been given one promise (the promise of our third child), and that one has been fulfilled.  Other than that, I know we are promised Heaven and that God will never leave us nor forsake us.  These days, that’s just about all I feel like I can hold on to without running the risk of latching onto a false hope and having it dashed on the rocks by a wave of disappointment.  And…I’m learning to be okay with that. 

 

Don’t get me wrong.  I still pray and ask for what I want, but after being told “no” and “wait” so many times this past 3 years, I’m learning to trust that I’m going to get what God wants me to have when He wants me to have it or whenever He has adequately prepared me for it, and it for me.  He has to do it that way because, otherwise, I’d be running headlong after the gift instead of the Giver.

 

PRAY:  Talk to God about the phrases in the passage that hint at dreams you have.  Ask God to give you wisdom about whether you need to let go of these dreams or pick them up.  Ask God for vision and power to take your next step.

 

Abba Father, you have made each of us with our own special set of appetites and dreams and desires and wishes.  Only you can deliver unto each of us those things you desire us to have or those things that we need to help us grow into the people you want us to be in order to fulfill the purpose for which you designed us. Though it will be painful, strip away those things that do not conform to Your Will and Your Purpose for our lives.  Help us to see that there is nothing wrong with mourning the loss of a dream because You created us to be emotional beings.  But, help us, also, to see that we are led by faith and not by feelings, so we do not have to be tossed about on waves of indecision and fickle emotions and appetites, and we can bring our wills into submission to Yours despite how we feel.  Grant us an extra measure of grace to accept on faith those things we cannot yet understand and are not yet ready to see.  Remember that we are just dust and we are going to fall, and please be patient with us as we are all fallible, but we are trying. 

 

For the person out there tonight who feels like you have turned their back, I pray for peace.  Lord, you did not lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the desert to die, but you did it to prove to them that YOU were all they needed.  Help them to see that it is because You love your people that you lead them into places where they have to rely on You and You Alone, otherwise we never learn that You are all we need.

 

For people who feel like you are always saying WAIT and that their dreams are always being put on hold, I pray that you would strengthen their spirits.  They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength and they will mount up with wings as eagles because Your Word says so and Your Word does not return to You void.  That means, if you said it, it has as much as happened.  But you exist outside of time and space and sometimes it is hard to be so eternally minded when we live in such a microwave world.  Lord, we believe, only help our unbelief.

 

Thank you, Lord, for your LONG-SUFFERING.  You are forever having to be patient with us, and yet, you desire that none should perish but that all should come to you.  Thank you for not giving up on us when we are ready to throw in the towel on ourselves.  Thank you that we do not have to live in the past and thank you that tomorrow does not have to be like today because your mercies are new every morning and you will give us THIS DAY our daily bread.

 

In Jesus’ Name, I pray…….Amen.

 

LIVE:  Relish the peace that God gives, knowing that dreams don’t have to be realized today.  Maybe ponder and pursue your next step.  Put on the idea of readiness and see if it fits.

Day Thirty-Eight: God Feels the Pain

THE PASSAGE:  2 Samuel 24:13-17, 25 (EXPANDED PASSAGE:  2 SAMUEL 24)

 

(13) Gad came to deliver the message:  “Do you want three years of famine in the land, or three months of running from your enemies while they chase you down, or three days of an epidemic on the country?  Think it over and make up your mind.  What shall I tell the one who sent me?”

(14) David told Gad, “They’re all terrible!  But I’d rather be punished by God, whose mercy is great, than fall into human hands.”

(15-16) So God let loose an epidemic from morning until suppertime.  From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand people died.  But when the angel reached out over Jerusalem to destroy it, God felt the pain of the terror and told the angel who was spreading death among the people, “Enough’s enough!  Pull back!”

          The angel of God had just reached the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  Davie looked up and saw the angel hovering between earth and sky, sword drawn and about to strike Jerusalem.  David and the elders bowed in prayer and covered themselves with rough burlap.

(17) When David saw the angel about to destroy the people, he prayed, “Please!  I’m the one who sinned; I, the shepherd, did the wrong.  But these sheep, what did they do wrong?  Punish me and my family, not them.”…

(25) He built an altar to God there and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings.  God was moved by the prayers and that was the end of the disaster

 

READ:  Skim the expanded passage.  Now read the excerpt three times carefully.

 

THINK/PRAY:  Set the text aside and imaginatively replay the story, inserting yourself as a character in it.  Perhaps you will be one of David’s elders, or David himself.

          What do you think and feel as you hear God’s words of discipline?  What do you experience as you walk through this tension-filled and tragic day?  What do you see?  Hear?  Smell?  What questions do you have for God?  Are you angry?  Afraid?  Talk to him.

          As the end of the day approaches and you see God’s interaction with the angel, what is that like for you?  When God’s heart is changed by David’s prayers, what thoughts and feelings bubble up in you?  Express them to God.

 

LIVE:  C. S. Lewis wrote, “[Each sinful act leaves a mark] on that tiny central self which no one sees in this life but which each of us will have to endure–or enjoy–for ever.  One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that, however angry he gets, he will only be laughed at.  But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both.”  Are there any “little marks” on your soul that you haven’t talked about with God?  Explore recent experiences, reactions, thoughts, and feelings you’ve had.  What do they tell you about what’s inside your heart?  Talk to God about this, and make note of any action that you feel he is leading you to.

 

So…I don’t really want to do the activity suggested by this week’s reading.  Furthermore, even if I did do the activity (or rather, when I do the activity), I don’t know that it’s necessary I share with you what my “little marks” are for you to benefit from this blog.  Call it an effort to practice discretion in whether or not to participate in full disclosure or fear, but I’m not going to share all my little marks (though, admittedly, I’ve shared quite a few already).   But, I will share what has struck me about this passage.

 

God felt their pain.  God felt their pain, and David’s prayer for deliverance or mercy was enough for God to stay His hand (or the angel’s hand).  I don’t mind saying that hearing that David’s prayers for mercy being answered while mine weren’t would’ve been grounds for me to throw a fit this time a year ago.  If God really felt our pain, why didn’t he deliver us from our circumstances?  That would’ve been my prayer a year ago.  Honestly, that probably would’ve been my prayer as recently as 6 months ago, too.  Because, you see, when I feel pain, my first reaction is to recoil.  When I see others feeling pain, I want to rush in and alleviate it, if I can.  I realize that this is not always a smart move.  Sometimes people need to live in their pain because they need to know what the consequences are.  Sometimes people don’t have a choice but to live in their pain because God refuses to move them until His purposes have been fulfilled. 

 

But there’s one thing I’ve come to believe about suffering.  It doesn’t matter the cause of the suffering.  It doesn’t matter the delivery method of said suffering.  Anybody who is suffering – everybody who is suffering – has to deal with God over that suffering.  Some press in and draw closer to Him.  Some jerk their hand out of his and try to take back control of their lives.  Others turn their backs on Him.  Regardless, we all have to decide where we go from here (wherever our “here” is when the suffering starts). 

 

Maybe you are like me and wondering where God was when you were crying out for your deliverance from the injustice in the world.  Maybe you just wanted to catch a break just this once because all your life you’ve felt like you’ve always gotten the short end of the stick.  Maybe you are just tired of the “bad guys” always winning while the “good guys” always seem to come in second.  I don’t know where you are in life right now, but I bet there’s a good chance that you’ve wondered how God let it get where it is.  And if your life is just fine right now, I bet you can remember a time when you felt that way.  But…if you’ve neither been in either position, let me tell you – it’s coming.  The question is:  what are you going to do with your suffering?  Are you going to let it make you bitter and dried up on the inside?  Or…are you going to let it do its transformative work, making you look more and more like Christ as time goes by?  Will you throw in the towel?  Or will you get up, dust yourself off, pick your gloves back up, and fight for another day?

 

My prayer is that you will fight.  His mercies really are new every morning.  And you only need strength for the day you are on.  You can hold on to yesterday’s victories and you can’t borrow from tomorrow.  You have to do the best you can with the measure of grace you’ve been given today. 

 

Dear Heavenly Father, if there is anyone out there right now thinking about quitting in whatever form that may look like for them (suicide, divorce, back-sliding), I pray that you would send someone their way to encourage them to hold on just a little while longer.  I pray that you would intervene supernaturally in such a way that they have no doubt that you have visited them tonight and they would be strengthened and comforted by the thought that “this too shall pass.”  Show them that you do feel their pain, that you are intimately touched when they are suffering.  Show them that this was never your plan for your Creation, that you long to be in communion and relationship with us, and show them that you have made a way for them to come back into the fold.  I pray for anyone who is reading this who may be hurting and needs comforting.  You alone, O Lord, are the Great Comforter.  To who else can we turn when things have gone wrong.  You are the creator of the universe.  You knew us before we were formed in our mothers’ wombs and you know every single hair on our heads.  You alone know exactly what it is we need when we are hurting.  Meet the needs of those who may be hurting tonight, Dear Lord, as only you can. 

 

I pray all these things in Your Son’s Precious and Holy Name, the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Day Thirty-Seven: Loving Those in the Here and Now

READ: 2 Samuel 19:1-8  Read the passage aloud slowly.  Absalom had rebelled against his father, David, and took over Israel.  As David mourns Absalom, the people who defended him and brought him back with honor are listening.

 

          (1-4) Joab was told that David was weeping and lamenting over Absalom.  The day’s victory turned into a day of mourning as word passed through the army, “David is grieving over his son.”  The army straggled back to the city that day demoralized, dragging their tails.  And the king held his face in his hands and lamented loudly,

          O my son Absalom,

          Absalom my dear, dear son!

          (5-7) But in private Joab rebuked the king: ” Now you’ve done it–knocked the wind out of your loyal servants who have just saved your life, to say nothing of the lives of your sons and daughters, wives and concubines.  What is this–loving those who hate you and hating those who love you?  Your actions give a clear message:  officers and soldiers mean nothing to you.  You know that if Absalom were alive right now, we’d all be dead – would that make you happy?  Get hold of yourself; get out there and put some heart into your servants!  I swear to God that if you don’t go to the  they’ll desert; not a soldier will be left here by nightfall.  And that will be the worst thing that has happened yet.”

           (8) So the king came out and took his place at the city gate.  Soon everyone knew: “Oh, look!  The king has come out to receive us.”  And his whole army came and presented itself to the king.  But the Israelites had fled the field of battle and gone home.

 

THINK:  Read the passage aloud slowly again.  David did what we often do.  He lived in regret.  He wanted what he used to have and what he couldn’t now have.  As a result, he undervalued and discouraged the people who had stood by him and helped him.

  1. Who do you identify with more: David or the army?
  2. Consider their feelings: David living in regret; the army feeling ignored and discarded.
  3. Consider their next steps: David turning his heart to the people around him who loved him; the army speaking up and stating their needs to a hurting person.

 

If I am to be honest, I’ve spent a lot of time this past year-and-a-half moping and whining about what I don’t have.  I’ve tried not to send the message that I thought I was the only person going through this.  I know that I am not.  But I am not sure if I have done a good job of making sure the people who love me know that I know what this has cost them.  I would say it.  But then, I would continue with my complaining and my pity party.  People have been kind.  Most people close to me cannot imagine what it would be like to be in my shoes.  And, to be fair, most of them are going through things I do not want to experience either.  But, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because I am in a somewhat “needy” position, I do not have resources to meet the needs of others.  Or, even easier than that, to fall into the trap the Enemy would set that would say that because I am in a needy position, I have the right to wallow in my pity.  Or, to check out of life because I didn’t get my way.  To pack up my toys and go home until God lets me have my way. 

 

HOW RIDICULOUS!

 

PRAY:  Pray for yourself and others, especially that they’ll see and implement any possible next steps (for example, moving out of regret and valuing the people in front of them, or speaking up to someone who is devaluing others).

 

Dear Heavenly Father, help us to remember that, every day, we need you.  You are Sovereign and nothing can thwart Your Will being done in the lives of those who are called by You for Your Purposes.  When times get hard, and they most certainly will, help us to rest in the knowledge that all things do work together for the good of those who love You.  And help us to be patient and steadfast when what is good for us is not comfortable or when it is downright painful.  Show us those people standing with us whom we may have overlooked or slighted by our complaining and whining, and show us ways that we can be a blessing to those who have blessed us in our hard times.  Show us the reserves we have stored up, out of which we can bless others.  Help us not to be stingy with our gifts (spiritual, physical, emotional, or financial); trusting that you will take care of those who you have called to be generous.  And, help us to be good stewards of those gifts: not throwing them around aimlessly, but using them the way you would have us to use them, to bless others and to glorify your name. 

In Your Son’s Precious and Holy Name, the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

LIVE:  Let your mind rest in glad appreciation for those who stand by you.  Ask God for opportunities to bless them.  Then in the dailiness of life, look for those opportunities.

Day Thirty-Six: An Absalom Moment

READ:  2 Samuel 15:3-6  (Read this five times.)

Then Absalom would say, “Look, you’ve got a strong case; but the king isn’t going to listen to you.”  Then he’d say, “Why doesn’t someone make me a judge for this country?  Anybody with a case could bring it to me and I’d settle things fair and square.”  Whenever someone would treat him with special honor, he’d shrug it off and treat him like an equal, making him feel important.  Absalom did this to everyone who came to do business with the king and stole the hearts of everyone in Israel

 

THINK:  “There are point in our lives (more often than we would like to admit) when we are attempt consciously or subconsciously to promote ourselves in unhealthy and selfish ways.  We puff ourselves up, brag about our accomplishments, and embellish the truth.”

          “Absalom, the son of King David, promotes himself for selfish gain in front of those who came to the city gate.  The text says he “stole the hearts of everyone in Israel.”

          “When are you most tempted to steal the hearts of everyone in_______________?  Think about your most recent Absalom moment.  Consider the roots of your temptation and how you might avoid it in the future.”

 

I have to admit that there have been plenty of times when I have wanted to steal people’s hearts by coming off as pleasing or by showing off my work.  In fact, I used to get my husband’s hand and lead him through the house when he came from work just to show him what all I had done for the day so that he could tell me “Good Job.”  I justified it by telling myself that if I didn’t do that, he probably wouldn’t notice.  Now…just so you know, I’m not that far off.  However, I heard a sermon several years ago that left me feeling rather convicted of those activities.  This sermon included the scripture that says that we are supposed to do everything as unto the Lord, and that we should be storing up treasures for ourselves in Heaven AND that it is better for God to promote us than it is for us to try to promote ourselves because Our Father who sees those things done in secret will reward us.

 

That being said, more often than not, I am guilty of fishing for compliments.  I have a tendency to downplay what I’ve done anyway, but when someone turns around and counters that with a compliment on how well I’ve done, it can feed the ego.  There have been times, I won’t lie, when I have thrown out those statements as bait, just hoping someone would bite and I’d get my compliment “fix”.  However, there have been plenty of times when I’ve thrown out that bait and never gotten a bite.  It’s a bad habit that I still struggle with occasionally, but I am getting used to letting God honor me for being obedient to him rather than stealing His chance to do so by seeking out my own form of praise.

 

PRAY:  “Spend time inviting God to remind you that he loves you just the way you are, that you cannot earn his approval.  Welcome God to show you your true identity as his child, an identity that is defined not by what you do, but by who you are and to whom you belong.”

 

Dear Heavenly Father, I know you do not make mistakes.  Therefore, there is not a single person on Earth who is not exactly how you intended them to be.  Therefore, we all have been designed to fulfill a unique person.  Lord, please help me and each person reading this to remember that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that you knew us before you knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs, and to behave in a manner worthy of our divine calling, rather than sitting around complaining that we are not like “so-n-so.”  You love us, and want each of us to know that and to experience the truth of that love deep down in our hearts and spirits.  Help us to know what that looks like and to trust it, walking in it daily, without fear of rejection.

 

LIVE:  “Ask a good friend to gently keep you accountable when you begin to promote yourself in front of others.  Be ready to accept your friend’s input.”