Have you ever woken up and you just feel sad? Nothing is wrong; perhaps, everything is actually going very well, but you feel a bit glum. You don’t know why. You try to shake it. Maybe you engage in retail therapy. Maybe you take a long walk. Maybe you watch a favorite old movie. You have coffee with a friend. You eat ice cream. Maybe all the above helped disguise your heart of despondency — for a time. Then the end of the day comes. With the setting of the sun an overall sense of sadness rises. You don’t want to go to sleep that way. You don’t want another day like the one you just had, disguising what’s on the inside by outward activity.
I share a verse in Psalm 22:26 that I find a great help. It says this: “The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the Lord will praise Him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.” Upon reading the first sentence, it would be easy to mistakingly think this is talking about those who are physically hungry, but that is incorrect. It’s talking about those who are sad, going through an emotional or spiritual despondency. For those, they may eat at the Lord’s table and be satisfied. What does that mean? It further tells us that all who seek Him, will praise Him. What does that mean? Then it tells us that such hearts will rejoice with a happiness that lasts for eternity. What? Really? What does that mean?
This is the Vickie Blair paraphrase: When you’re feeling really down, eat from God’s Word. His Word is a table laden with help in every time of trouble. Seek those truths from God. Eat and digest them in your spirit. The sweet words of truth are so tasty that praises permeate your once downtrodden heart with fresh hope. Joy will spread throughout your being. God’s joy lasts for eternity.
Eat from the table that serves a dish of, “Come to me all who are weary from heavy burdens and I will give you rest,” or “Cast all your cares upon me because I care for you,” or “As for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will sing for joy about Your unfailing love. For You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” Matthew 11:28, I Peter 5:7, Psalm 59:16-17
It is a table laden with hope.
“For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He is the ruler among the nations.” Psalm 22:28
When disappointment washes over us because of outside circumstances, it’s easy to forget that God is in control at all times. We may think God’s purposes have been thwarted, that He has been pushed aside, that He has even lost a battle. Never! Remember, nothing takes God by surprise. Remember, also, God has never had to stand for election. He has always been, is now, and will forever be! How awesome is our God!
He observes all the nations of the earth. He knows every thought of every world leader. He knows the intent of every heart. He knows what is meant for good and what is meant for evil. He knows whose hearts are generous and whose hearts are greedy. He is not fooled by those who pretend to honor Him and His people. He is also not careless concerning His most wonderful promise written in II Peter 3:9 that reads, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God’s love for nations, every ruler, and its people, is immeasurable and inclusive of all.
He gave a most important word to us concerning this very thing in I Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” This command of God is not suggesting a passiveness, an attitude of, “Que sera sera, what will be, will be.” We are to care about what is happening in our nations and communities and to be actively involved to make a difference, but overall, the best involvement is — in much prayer. When we maintain active prayer, we are peaceful in the midst of any governmental chaos, because ultimately we know that in God’s perfect time, all will be well.
We have irrevocable promises for our eternal lives. What happens on earth today is but a drop in the bucket on the timeline of eternity. Never react in anger, but in the peace of God that brings about the righteous prayers of His children. Remember, His delays are only because of His love, to give every opportunity to those who oppose Him to come into His eternal Kingdom.
The troubles of the earth’s kingdoms pale into nothingness compared to God’s Kingdom which is promised to all who know Him. So, whatever disappointments wash over, know this: “God is the ruler among the nations.”
It’s been a week of mixed weather in England. While sunshine has occasionally peeked out from behind the clouds, there have been long stretches of grey skies coloring the air in varying degrees of dark shades. I was walking Jack through a period of such grey when I met someone who called out, “It’s a gloomy one, isn’t it.”
I smiled and nodded my head in agreement. Looking up at the sky I hoped to see a patch of blue offering some hope that the sun would soon shine. Instead, the sky began to drop water on my face, sprinkles at first, and then a torrent! Jack and I dashed for cover beneath a tree that still held on to enough autumn leaves to offer shelter for a short time.
It was then that Jeremiah 29:11 shot into my thoughts. I know the verse and recited it to myself, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” I was wondering why that verse suddenly came to mind when the rain slacked. Jack and I took the moment to dash for the car and home.
While we were drying off the verse came to mind again. I was compelled to look up the verse and read further. It was the next two verses that jumped at me. In particular, verse 14 tells us, “I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.”
We can all fall captive to the same spiritual gloom that the day’s weather was giving. Often such gloom comes in the form of disappointment from something happening in our personal worlds, like sickness, financial worry, and emotional distress. The treasures of joy we once reveled in has faded away. In disappointment we have to admit that we are rich in the doldrums while being poor in the joy of the Lord.
What can we do? First, I have come to learn that doing nothing cannot be a option to restoring joy. Doing nothing never works. Doing nothing deepens that sense of despair. Remember the first part of verse 14, “I will be found by you,” says the Lord.” We cannot find something unless we look for it. Jesus told His disciples the same thing in Matthew 7:7 when He said, “Seek and you will find.” Notice it doesn’t say, you might find. It says you will.
How do we find His joy again? Praising and worshipping Him for who He is and for all He has done is a great start. Choosing to focus on Him no matter what is going on in our personal worlds begins to bring calm. Focusing on the gloom only makes us more depressed, but when we choose to focus on Him and everything about Him; well, that will certainly change a cloudy day to hope in our hearts.
“Keep your eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:2
Many of you may not know that my mother is a great sport fan, especially horse races, car races, and Alabama Football. Nearly every weekend there is a horse race for her to enjoy. A couple of weeks ago we tuned in for such an event. As the horses were being led into their start boxes, the commentators were filling us in with all the statistics. Just before the start my mother makes her winning prediction. “I choose, The Great White Shark,” she says. I asked why she was choosing that one. “Because it’s a nice light grey color,” she replied in quiet confidence, as if that explanation made as much sense as the statistics. Well, as it turns out, it did make as much sense because The Great White Shark won the race. I confess we do bet. The wager? A cup of tea. I duly went to the kitchen to pay my debt.
As fun as watching that horse race or the joy we shared in watching the Alabama-Georgia Football game last weekend, nothing is a sure thing. There are wins and losses in every sports event. Thinking of “the sure thing” got my brain to spinning with thoughts of what takes place in our spiritual worlds. Is there a sure thing? Most of you will know the answer to that to be a resounding, “Yes!”
Every human is born with desire — desire to succeed, desire to love and be loved, desire to be financially secure, desire to be liked by our peers, desire to be respected in what we do well. Sometimes all of the above desires come to us; sometimes they do not. Sometimes we fail in what we attempt to do. Sometimes we love and that love is rejected. Sometimes we struggle to pay our bills, sometimes our peers don’t like us, sometimes our best efforts are not met by any respect at all.
None of the above is a sure thing. Even so, when we choose to put ourselves on God’s path, then something far greater is ours. We are secure in His eternal love for us, secure in His peace in the midst of life’s troubles, secure in His joy when we do well as His Holy Spirit within us urges us on to run our race, “forgetting those things which are behind and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13
The things of this earth, like a horse race, brings times of winning and times of losing, but on God’s path we are always on a winning streak no matter any of life’s chaos around us. The passage in Psalm 119:89-93 explains. “Your eternal Word, Oh Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth You created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves Your plans. If Your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery. I will never forget Your commandments, for by them You give me life.”
Did you take note of the “sure things” in that passage? His Word stands firm. His faithfulness extends to us all. His regulations are true everyday. His instructions sustain us. His commandments give us life. Wow! Aren’t those “sure thing” promises enough to get us daily into His Word? His Word guides us, comforts us, assures us. So, let us not concentrate on life’s troubles. Instead, see them in the rearview mirror as we “look forward to what lies ahead.” And the race is on!
I was reading Ephesians this week. I’ve read that New Testament book more times than I can remember. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve often said that regular reading of God’s Word is like deep sea diving; because with each plunge into His Word, you never know what treasure you might discover in its depths.
It was a simple thing that captured my attention. On this occasion I was reading from the King James Version. Chapter 1:4 tells us that God chose us “before the foundation of the world.” I searched further and came to Matthew 25:34. Jesus is talking here and He tells His listeners to, “come you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” I was going deeper in my dive and next read from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
Excitement was growing! If anyone ever asked me, when does life begin, I would answer — at conception. Now my answer is different. Life has already begun for each of us — in the heart of God. He knew my name and He knew your name; He had a plan and purpose for my life and He had a plan and purpose for your life before the foundation of the world! Imagine that! You were created by His very thought in His own loving heart. Conception brought about your life from His heart into the womb. From the womb your life, already with purpose, came from His heart to conception, to the womb, and then into this earth’s atmosphere, to walk out His plans which were designed before the foundation of the world!
Along with that plan, He gives a gift — free choice. We can take our life, formed in His heart, and choose to walk in His ways or we can take our life and choose our own ways. Be very careful with your gift of free will. The following verses are helpful in making that decision:
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12
“They delight in the law of the Lord meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper (in peace, joy, and hope) in all they do.” Psalm 1:2-3 (Words in parenthesis are mine.)
When you come to a crossroads of understanding, I hope you choose Jesus and His ways. He loves you so much and has an amazing plan for your life. After all, you were in His Father’s heart of love — before the world was made.
It was an early evening walk around the neighborhood with my dog, Jack. As we passed one house after another, I noticed ahead a group of people coming out the front door. A woman handed a little girl something. She took it. The mother instructed, “say, thank you.” The little girl complied and said what she should with a smile.
As a child, my mother and father taught me to say thank you, as I’m sure many of you were taught and have taught your own children the same. I was immediately reminded of Philippians 4:6, “…Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” When we pray, asking God for a particular something, it’s easy to simply give our request and let that be that, but there is an importance in remembering to say “thank you.” The answer as to why is found in the next two verses, Philippians 4:7-8, “Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Peace. Isn’t that what we all want? Worries can mount a heart of calm, troubling thoughts can plague us with a list of “what ifs,” and a bleak outlook can overcome our sense of well being. It’s then that we want peace to come to us, and it can. There is a peace and power in praise and thanksgiving that dissolves worry and disparaging thoughts. Giving God our requests, then thanking Him that He is able to meet our needs, fills us with a refreshed hope. Then comes joy. When we can make saying “thank you” to our Heavenly Father as natural and sincere as thanking family and friends for something they have done for us, then there is a peace that is steadfast and sure. The peace of God is a strong tower that withstands all worry, not some of the time, but all of the time.
Here is a fun challenge: Think about saying “thank you” to Jesus today and tomorrow and the next day. Say it enough until it becomes a habit. Let it be an experiment. See what it does to your inner peace.