Thursday, March 31, 2011

Overwhelmed . . . by God

Do not fret . . .
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
. . . (Psalm 37: 1-4, excerpts)

There are days (sometimes weeks) in my life where it all seems overwhelming. Whether I blame a lack of time with Jesus, or ever-shifting hormones, or not enough sleep the night before, that overwhelmed feeling is a weight I carry through the day, burdensome, sapping my strength and my joy.

This morning, recognizing that I’d had several days in a row where life felt like more than I could handle, I cried out to God about it. What came to mind were these words "Do not fret." Admittedly, I had been fretting about something, turning it over and over in my mind, instead of turning it over to my Lord. And I knew that those three words came straight from God’s own Word. I was preparing to run out for the morning, so I opened my Bible on the table to Psalm 37. I figured that when I cam home, I could listen more to what God was saying to me.

After I dropped off my sons and ran my errands, I returned home. Instead of heading straight for my Bible, I switched on the computer, hoping to "quickly" take care of some emails and announcements that had to go out. But the internet wasn’t working (and neither was the tech support’s advice) and before I knew it, I'd wasted an hour. I gave up, overwhelmed yet again! And then I remembered my open Bible on the sunroom table.

Reminding God of how much I needed His help (like He needed reminding!), I went to the table, sat down and began reading.

"Do not fret . . ." it began. And, as I read on: "Trust in the Lord and do good . . ."

I think I'm trusting you, God, but it’s the "do good" part, I prayed. I am weary; I feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities and the challenges in my life right now. You know all too well how weak I am! How can I find the strength to persevere in doing the good You’ve given me to do? (Ephesians 2:10)

I continued reading, and in the next line, God answered my question: "Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness."

There it is: Feeding on Your faithfulness is what gives me the strength I need to do good! Then I asked, What exactly is your faithfulness, God, so I can chew on it awhile? And I knew this answer from years of listening to His Word: He is faithful in loving His children perfectly always, without turning away or holding back (1 John 3:1). He is faithful to fulfill every promise He's made in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). He is faithful to do good in my life, making me more like Jesus step by step (Romans 8:28-29). Even when that process feels painful or overwhelming or sad.

Then in the next verse, God made it crystal clear: "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

Delighting in You means finding my joy in You,  giving my heart and mind fully into Your hands -- not giving my thoughts to worrying! You ARE my joy, Lord; don't let me ever forget it! With Your loving, ageless hands, You are shaping my heart so that what You desire for me becomes what I desire for myself.

As I look to God for all I need, my heart becomes more like Jesus’ heart, and I can gladly do what He's given me to do, by His strength!

And suddenly, instead of being overwhelmed by my life, I am overwhelmed by my glorious God.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mountain Mover

Repentance is not a turning from one category of works to another (ie, from evil to righteous); rather, it is a turning from human works entirely to God.
Repentance is not so much a doing as a depending.
......Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace

Have you ever tried to move a mountain?

Last year, God unearthed something ugly in me, a seemingly immoveable mountain that cast a shadow of idolatry across my heart. (Idolatry: a love and/or holy fear directed to something or someone other than the Lord.) Knowing Jesus to be the Light Who pushes away every darkness, I repented quickly, then grasped Him and held on, determined not to let go until He blessed me (Genesis 32:26).

Every time I talked with God, I told Him about this menacing mountain, and rejected it as best I knew how. To me, it looked virtually insurmountable, even though I knew God to be bigger and stronger. But in the end, I could not pry its tangled roots from the labyrinth of my own heart. I did not know how to repent of this wrong affection! All I could do was keep pleading with God to put it to death, and wait until He worked.

And on a Thursday morning in mid-December, He did.

As if to leave no doubt that He was the one responsible for my heart’s repentance (this wasn’t my own self-improvement plan at work), He answered clearly and dramatically. He toppled that stubborn idol in a way that felt almost tangible. What a release to be rid of it, to experience light chase away shadow! By His persistent grace, I’ve been free since that day and His light in me is nurturing a stronger faith.

If you’ve tried repenting from deep passions and emotions in your heart, you get me: the deepest convictions, the firmest resolutions, simply cannot transform your heart. You choose to bite your tongue instead of speak in anger, or take your jealous thoughts captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), or meditate on Scriptures to deal with your anxiety. Yet, while these choices are a necessary aspect of repentance, they do not accomplish repentance. As much as God tells us to do those very things, we also recognize that, in and of themselves, they lack power to alter our innermost desires. God alone changes our hearts.
The One who rescued us from the prison of sin and judgment when we were first saved, is the same One who continues to rescue our hearts as we walk with Him! By our faith in His sacrifice, Jesus has declared us holy — and He also declares He will continue to make us holy, by His life within us (Hebrew 10:14, Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Just last week Ben came to me, confused about Jesus’ words on mustard seed-sized faith (Matthew 17:20-21). He was writing a paper on the passage, and could not fathom this faith that could move the mountains we watch from our window. "Mom, how can anyone do that?"

We don’t measure faith in tablespoons, I pointed out, like we would with the actual seeds in my spice drawer. It’s a spiritual reality, a confidence in Someone we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). Jesus was talking about something far grander than global shifting of peaks and valleys: His Spirit’s power, which moves spiritual mountains that loom large and look unconquerable. God Himself is the mountain mover.

I think Ben got it, because his paper’s conclusion was this: "Things in life and in people’s spirits happen that are bigger than moving mountains. And God has enough power for that."

"Nothing will be impossible for you."
Jesus, in Matthew 17:21