A Calm On The High Seas

I’ve recently had an experience of high winds and waves while travelling on a ship.  Wonderfully and thankfully, there were no sea sick feelings.  I even managed to have sailor legs and keep my balance, although at times, the slight rocking and tilting from one side to the other caused me to reach my hand to the wall to steady myself.  

I am not in the least a sailor.  I love to look at the sea and occasionally swim the edges but I have never thrilled at the thought of taking to the high seas.  Nonetheless, I determined to make the best of this experience. I was taking mental note of all my surroundings.  One thing in particular captured my attention.  I noticed that when I was at either side of the vessel, I could feel the tilting with greater swaying back and forth.  However, I also took note that when in the centre of the ship, the feel of the sway was at a minimum.  It was still there, but my balance was unaffected and I could carry on and walk straight without the occasional aid of the wall to hold me up.

You may have guessed at this point exactly what I am going to say:  it’s the same in our spiritual world.  Life has its ups and downs, its challenges and difficulties.  None of us can escape times of turmoil that, like high waves and wind on the sea, may send us grabbing for something to hold us up.  We may look for a handrail of mental escape where we just don’t have to think about it for a time.  We may hug a wall of anything that gives us hope so we keep standing in the storm of our difficulty.  

While any of the above may help for a time, it’s only when we go to the source of all calm, the One who is the centre of all we are, Jesus who is our peace of mind and heart, when all around us there is tilting and swaying of confusion, depression, and fear.  If only we could remember, when all around the edges of our world, troubles abound, in the centre of our own hearts and minds, there is Jesus with us in the storm, speaking to the wind and wavs of our dilemmas to be calm again.

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with His disciples.  Suddenly a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke Him up shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’  Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith.’  Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.”   Matthew 8: 23-26

Does God Care That I’m Hurting?

No one on earth escapes hard times.  Perhaps difficult situations cause us to feel stressed, frustrated, rejected, angry, trapped — or — perhaps nothing has happened at all.  Perhaps life is going well for us, and yet, feelings of despair and loneliness come upon us.  We have the unexplainable “blues.”   When we get the blues (and we all do at times) we might question, “Does God really care about how I’m feeling?”  In answer to that, let me share this beautiful verse in Psalm 34:18,  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

It’s easy, when we are feeling low, to forget that God cares.  In fact, we can quickly turn our thoughts away from God, in order to concentrate more fully on our misery, but one thing is for certain — misery begets misery.  We can become our own worst enemy when we are dealing with any level of depression.  When misery attacks, the one thing we need to do, call upon our Father, becomes a last resort.  Misery grows, and feelings of rejection from God and friends, takes on a false realism in the recesses of our mind.  The “blues” likes to feed on misery.  Therefore, the deeper we go into misery, the fatter becomes the blues.  Before we know it, we’re rolling in melancholy and feelings of desolation.  We have one big, fat problem, and we don’t know how to lose it.

I encourage each of us, when misery begins feeding on our inner turmoil — begin to starve it!  How do we do that?  It’s a training of our minds and it takes practice, but like anything that is practiced, we become skilled.  In this case, we become adept in knowing how to better choke the blues away.  Take a look at instructions given to us in Philippians 4:8, “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”   This is such an important instruction that, when adhered to, helps to bring our thoughts out of the doldrums, and back into joyful thinking.

I can share from personal experience — when I feel down and choose to think on “what is true,” despondency begins to lift.  If, on the other hand, I continue to think on the misery itself, then despondency grows.  We can feed it or starve it.  Never forget, you are not alone even when you feel you are; your Father in heaven “is close to the brokenhearted and ready to rescue those whose spirits are crushed.”   Let us take command of our minds.  Be the one who takes the reigns of your own depressing thoughts that want to run wildly in the wrong direction.  Lead your horse of despair to quiet waters and there reflect on “what is true and honorable, and right and pure and lovely and admirable.”  Think on Jesus and His love for you.  Think of His heart’s desire to rescue you.  Then, envision your rescue.  Imagine crawling into your heavenly Father’s lap, and rest there.  Remind yourself of His love.   Recall the times He has shown His care for you.  Practice thinking on those things, and watch unexplained despondency melt away into peace.

Disconnected

I write a new blog entry every Friday – but not this past Friday.  There was no blog.  There were no emails.  There was no catching up on Facebook or Twitter.  There was nothing at all.  I had lost my internet connection!

Frustration flowed into my mind and set in my heart like fresh poured cement.  At first I was just disappointed on Wednesday when it all began.  The frustration came on Friday when I couldn’t write my blog.  Further anxiety took hold on Saturday and drained me of all joy for the day.  It was just an internet connection malfunction but I couldn’t shake the “down in the dumps” feeling that took up residence in my heart.

Then, a phone conversation with the technician and presto! Here I am back online!  Frustration disappeared immediately!  Joy returned in full!  Oh what ecstasy.

At first, I had made my own attempts to find and fix the problem.  Nothing worked.   I tried   just one more click of this and moving that and – still nothing.  Only when I phoned the technician, listened to the instructions and followed them, did I get my connection back and frustrations melted away.

We all experience occasional internet malfunction.  There are also situations in life that can give us relationship malfunction.  It might be relationship malfunction with God; it might be relationship malfunction with people around us.  Things seem to be going well and then suddenly, we discover we are disconnected.  Disappointment comes, then frustration, then we realize our joy has slipped away.

We try to repair the situation on our own – usually by ignoring it and hoping it all just goes away and normalcy returns by itself.  Those hopes are usually dashed as feelings of separation takes control of our thoughts.

How do we get connected again?  God’s own Word is our instruction manual for any situation in life.  It is only when we go to it and search like we are looking for buried treasure, that we find what we need.  I love Proverbs 2: 3-5, “Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.  Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.  Then you will understand what it means to fear (honor and respect) the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.”

It’s a promise.  When we seek and find, we are connected once more.  Frustration is replaced by that lovely, sweet joy, that only comes when we are choosing to obey the instructions found in Philippians 4:6-8, “…Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  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.  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable.  Think about these things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Today I pray for all of us to choose to stay connected; to “fix our thoughts” on our Father and His instructions that always bring peace into our frustrated worlds.