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God sees you.

“I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.
Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception.
I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth;
I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.
I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.
For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.”
~Psalm 38:6-16 (NIV – emphasis mine)

It seems to be a sad truth, that when are walking through a dark valley of some kind, we often feel abandoned by many of our friends and neighbors. There seems to be only a very few who really stick around, and make themselves useful, while everyone else backs off a little, because they don’t know how to help, and are afraid to ask. This doesn’t always happen, and many of us have more supporters than we know what to do with. This post isn’t for those people, though. This post is for those who feel a little bit abandoned by those they thought would be there, but haven’t been.

The Psalmist here is in obvious ill health, and it’s serious. He is in constant, agonizing pain, and there is “no health” in his body. He is weak, feeble, crushed, depressed, betrayed, and abandoned. So much so, that he feels as though he cannot hear God, that he doesn’t even have the strength to speak to his Father about his desperate needs. He feels unanswered and alone.

There isn’t a worse place to be.

We look at the very real, very serious circumstances surrounding us, and we lose sight of God. We lose sight of the promise he gives that all really does work together for our ultimate good. We forget that we are loved. We look around, and see that no one rises up to help meet our needs. We are disappointed in those we have called “friend” and “neighbor,” because we thought that they would come forward during our time of need and offer to serve us. After all, we have spent so much time serving them in our turn.

Then, when they don’t, we are hurt, for we know that we would do for them what we would ask them to do for us. We become angry and offended at what we see as a lack of true Christian love, when in reality, they may be dealing with needs just as deep, but not as visible as our own. We forget that we are not the only ones walking through the darkest valley of our lives. Our sight becomes very narrow. It narrows to the point that we can no longer see a vital truth:

That our needs are an open book before the eyes of our Father. Our deepest longings are constantly in the center of his vision.

It is one thing to know, intellectually, that God will meet our deepest need, it is quite another to trust him to do so – with or without the help of our friends and neighbors. Once again, we forget that what God will do in answer to our prayers will often look very different than we think it will.

Of course, there is a distinct possibility that at least a few of our friends and neighbors are not rising up to help, because they are in disobedience to God – but that is not something we can know with any certainty. God does not tell us the stories of others – he only tells us our own. Hence, his injunction against judging the hearts of anyone but ourselves.

So, what does the Psalmist here do?

He waits for God to answer. He knows that God will answer him, simply because he asked him to. The Psalmist never gives any other reason to believe that God’s answer is forthcoming. He doesn’t parade any righteousness before God – this psalm is full of references to his own sin. He is very aware that he is not worthy to receive help from God. Yet, he believes that God will answer him if he waits. He made his request, and has left it at God’s feet.

He knows God sees him, regardless of the sin he carries. He trusts God to meet his need.

The Psalmist is David – a real, flesh-and-blood man. A man with blood on his hands. The only man in Scripture called a “man after God’s own heart.” He struggled with doubt. He struggled with sin, anger, and fleshly desires, just as we all do. Imperfect as he was, David learned to wait in an attitude of humble trust in his God and Father. We see elsewhere in the Psalms where David rejoices in God’s faithfulness to lift him up and carry him. We see God’s answers as often as we see David’s petitions.

It can be the same for us.

When we keep our eyes on our circumstances; when we lean on our own understanding; when we fail to see the plank in our own eye, it’s hard to be patient and wait. It’s hard to trust. It’s difficult to wait, but that’s exactly what God asks of us. He asks us to put all our eggs in one basket. We must pour all of the faith and hope we possess into his person, and trust that he is faithful to answer.

When we do, He gives us a promise:

“Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
~Isaiah 40:26-31 (NIV)

And with that, I will close. There is nothing I could possibly add to God’s word to reassure you more. I urge you – as well as myself – wait on the Lord, your cause is not disregarded. God sees you, and there will come a day when you soar.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Circumstances, God's Promises

 

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“Why?” is a legitimate question.

“You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.” -Psalm 43:2-3 (NIV)

In church, growing up, I remember hearing over and over again that I should never ask God “Why?”

Then, as I grew up, and began to read the Word of God for myself, I stumbled across passage after passage of Scripture in which people indeed asked God this very question. I have yet to come across a word of condemnation from God for it. The closest God comes to it is his rebuke of Job. Even then, it is not condemnation, but a reminder to Job that his trust in God is not misplaced, that God’s knowledge is infinitely beyond ours, and that Job really can take God at his word. Basically, God spends three chapters saying “Trust me, I can handle this for you.” (Job 38-41)

Over and over again, I see a theme of “I cried out, and you heard me,” all throughout the Psalms. Then, we get to the New Testament, and Jesus himself promises that if we ask, we get answers.

“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For he who asks, receives, he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

So, ask away. Shake your fist at heaven, and ask “why!” God is big enough to handle your emotions – even wrath. You can’t hurt his feelings, or make him angry, just by asking a question. After all, he is the one who made you that way. He knows that you are a mere mortal, and gives grace to the sincere questioner. If you really are asking because you want to know; if you are truly seeking with an open heart and mind; if you are banging at the door with real urgency, then he is there to fulfill the promise Jesus gave.

The answer may not be what you expect – it likely won’t be, actually – but God will answer you. As long as you’re willing to accept the fact that God may only remind you of who he is, and that you can trust him, you can rest assured that the God you cry out to will answer you. In these answers, we can find comfort.

Within the answers he gives are light and truth, for God cannot lie. Whatever answer he gives has the potential to draw you closer to him, to his holiness and to his very nature. Questions keep us close to him, to the place where he dwells. Receiving answers to our questions keeps alive in us a sense of his presence in our lives, and reassures us that he really means what he says.

He who asks, receives. Period.

If you have children, think of the times they come to you for comfort, asking “Why did this happen to me?” What is our response as parents? Don’t we try to give the best answer we can, even if all we can offer is a tight, comforting hug and an “I don’t know”? How much more, then, does God our Father do for us? The source of all being, light, and knowledge is open and available to his children at all times, for all things! Why wouldn’t we ask him the hard questions?

I have found that, the more I ask, the less I want to ask. The more chances I give God to prove himself, the more he comes through, and the stronger my trust in him becomes. I find myself asking less and less over time, and I can’t wait for the day that the desire to ask is completely, finally gone!

I encourage you strongly to try it on for size. Open your heart and mind, with a readiness to be content with whatever answer you receive, as well as its unexpected timing, and ask him the tough stuff today. Be patient, soft-hearted, and open, and see if God won’t fulfill his promise to those he loves. Seek out the Scriptures in which his children ask him the tough questions, and look at his response. He proves himself there. Let him prove himself to you.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Anxiety, Doubt, Faith, God's Promises, Prayer, Troubles

 

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Never Disappointed.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me;
so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night and am not silent.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.”

~Psalm 22:1-5 (NIV)

Sometimes, I doubt that You hear me, O God. When I look back at my life, at everything You have already done, I know that I can take heart in the times when You are silent. Based on Your unfailing history, I know that my trust in you will never be disappointed. So, I willfully choose to trust You, and what you have for me at this time in my life, in spite of any circumstances around me that might lead me to do otherwise.

Circumstances can never change that You are God, that You are good, that You are in control, and that You love me.

They can never change the fact that I am Yours, to do with what You will.

So, I rely on the fact that those who have gone before me were never disappointed in You. I rely on the fact that I have never been disappointed in You, and trust that this will always be true.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

~Psalm 121 (NIV)

My help in life comes from no man, but You — Yahweh. Creator of all that is. The very source of Being is my help. It is in Your hands in which my very life exists.

Disappointed in You, Lord? May it never be so!

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Circumstances, Prayer

 

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My Cup

“LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” ~Psalm 16:5

The cup of my life has been poured already, and served to me by God himself. From beginning to end, the circumstances and decisions I will have to face in life have been laid out. (Psalm 139:16) What is in this cup is good for me. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Though I don’t know the exact contents of my cup, I do know that it will be, at the least, seasoned with troubles, if not filled to the brim with them. (John 16:33)

The Bible, as far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong), does not promise that my troubles will never be more than I can bear — only that my temptations will not be. (1 Cor. 10:13) There’s a big difference between the two.

Indeed, we see a concrete example in the Apostle Paul, who tells us flat-out that he was subjected to sufferings “far beyond” his ability to withstand them.

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” ~1 Corinthians 1:8 (NIV – emphasis mine)

If even the Apostle Paul was not spared such sufferings, who are we to claim that God promises this for us? It is simply not true. Even more, God’s own Son was not spared the kind of suffering that breaks a man. (Matt 26:36-46) Suffering is a given in this life. It’s only a matter of time before it comes around.

My troubles may very well push me beyond the breaking point, but I believe that “with God, all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) I also believe in both promises given by Jesus to those who follow him:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33 (NIV)

In my cup, I may taste troubles, but Jesus has overcome this troubled world by his blood and by his resurrection, and my peace rests only in Him.

My “lot” is secure.

There is no change of plans in my future. The cup I have been given is the only one I can drink from. Why? No servant is greater than his master – if Jesus had to suffer, then so will each one of us who follows him. It’s a natural progression, a “trickle-down” effect, if you will. (John 15:20)

There is another reason I will experience trouble. Troubles are allowed in my life so that I will learn to rely solely on God, and not on myself. To rely on the God who raises the dead!

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 highlights that I will receive comfort in and through the troubles in my life. I am not spared from them. Neither am I being punished – we all know that bad things happen to good people.

I am being taught to “endure patiently,” so that I can “comfort others with the comfort I have been given.” I encourage you to click on the link, and read this passage and digest it. Think about it.

Instead of trying to pray away my troubles, as Paul did in regards to his “thorn in the flesh,” I will choose to drink the cup my God has set before me. I will choose to find my peace in him, and in him alone. I want to learn, along with Paul, this lesson:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~2 Corinthians 12:9 & 10 (NIV)

I sometimes wish this lesson didn’t involve so much trouble, but I’m glad that it will be more than made up for on the day I finally stand face-to-face with my Creator and Friend, Jesus Christ.

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Posted by on September 15, 2010 in Circumstances, God's Promises, Jesus, Troubles

 

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Trust Love

1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

~Psalm 13 (NIV)

This makes me think of so many people, dear to me, who are dealing with some very serious circumstances. Cancer, divorce, abuse, adultery, and helplessness. (That last one is mine.)

So many are asking these very questions: “How long must I suffer, Lord? What is the point? How long must I struggle with these thoughts of anger, doubt, fear, and dread? Help me see what’s going on, or I’m going to die!”

Oh! how I relate to David here! If I let my own thoughts take over, discouragement and despair are the results. I’m not even the one dealing directly with these crazy-difficult circumstances. I am just a bystander, praying and encouraging, and hoping to be a blessing to my loved ones. God doesn’t want you to live with doubts and fears. He wants you to walk in strength and peace, standing firm in what you can know to be true.

God’s love is unfailing. (1 Cor 13) That is an undeniable fact. He loves you. Did you hear me?!

GOD LOVES YOU!!!

Just soak that in for a minute. Close your eyes, and let yourself really digest that.

How else can we respond, but to love Him back, and strive to obey Him in everything? Run the good race. Fight the good fight. Pass each test that comes your way. Don’t give up. You’re almost home.

David was probably fleeing Saul when he wrote this, which means that he was in peril of losing his very life! Yet, he chose to sing to the Lord.

He struggled too. He doubted. Yet, he chose to trust in the face of his circumstances. He chose to praise God’s name, and he chose to sing to Him. I don’t imagine he felt like it at the time – running for his life as he was. He certainly was very honest with God about his doubts!

It sounds, to me, like he just took a deep breath, and trusted anyway. It must have been so incredibly hard – just like it is for us.

We all have to make choices like this at some point in our lives. Let it be today. You’re not alone in it.

Choose to trust Love. He will not fail you.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2010 in Anxiety, Circumstances, Love

 

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I’m No Worse. (Genesis 16-19)

I begin this week already somewhat behind, but trying to prioritize, and to make a real effort at seeking God’s face between Sundays. Praise and worship music and prayer thrown ceiling-ward at various times of need just don’t cut it. I thank God for his grace that allows me to have a fresh do-over every time I need one. That said, I want to share a little of what I read today.

In chapter 16 of Genesis, I read the story of how Sarai, knowing her own inability to have a child, gave her maidservant, Hagar, to Abram in the hopes that she could have a family through her. However, once Hagar became pregnant, Sarai became jealous, and blamed her husband.

” ‘Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.’ Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.” ~Genesis 16:6 (NIV)

This story struck me as it hasn’t before. Abraham and Sarah (the names God gave them later) are supposed to be the father and mother of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people. Yet, Sarai purposely mistreated a pregnant woman. Wow! That’s pretty bad, in my book. This is a perfect example of how imperfect and unworthy they were for such a choice. Indeed, how unworthy any of us are of God’s attention, let alone his love.

We tend to revere the forefathers of our faith in Christ, and forget that they were real, flesh-and-blood people. There is no difference between them and us – God has touched their lives with grace just as much as he has touched ours, and even given his very life to redeem us from such a condition.

This whole story is a wonderful picture of God’s love for Abraham and Sarah, and one example of how Abraham was not chosen for any particular virtue he possessed. Neither was skeptical Sarah. They were chosen only by God’s grace, and a desire to to give this unbelieving world a picture of Himself, in order to draw all nations to Himself in a love relationship. In Genesis 12, we see God’s call of Abram, who simply obeyed that call. There is no preamble where God tells us that he chose Abram because of his great leadership ability, his many qualifications, or his genetic superiority.

Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham believed God, and that it was credited to him as righteousness. Verse 13 of that chapter tells us that he lived by faith until he died, though we know from other passages that even Abraham had moments of doubt and fear. (Check out Genesis chapters 12, 16-18, and 20 for those moments clearly illustrated.)

My point is this: We none of us have anything more to recommend us to God than Abraham and Sarah did. I am no better than they are, but even more, I am no worse. Oh! comforting thought! The great thing we have in common with these imperfect forefathers is that God loves us as much as he loved them.

In spite of my doubts, my failings, my weaknesses, and my fears, I serve a God who chooses people based solely on their willingness to be used, and not necessarily the abilities we tend to think of as making a person usable. I get to be me, and still, God will love me and use me and teach me.

Of course, that does not free me from striving to walk ever closer to Jesus in this life. My love for him leads me into a deep longing to obey what he asks of me. I am just relieved that I am not left on my own to do it, and that when I fail, he is there, with bloodied hands, ready to cleanse me and hold my hand along the way.

I am so glad to belong to such a God!

A few more verses to ponder:

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” ~1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 & 10 (NIV)

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” ~Psalms 18:32 (NIV)

What characters in the Bible encourage you the most, and why?

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2010 in Faith, Grace

 

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Facts Are Stubborn Things.

“Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, [Yahweh], have never forsaken those who seek you.

But the needy will not always be forgotten,
nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.” ~Psalm 9:10, 18 (NIV)

These verses are not feel-good sayings, designed to give us warm fuzzies. These verses contain facts. Bald, hard, non-negotiable facts. And facts are stubborn things. They demand my attention when I would rather wallow in my misery, and let the world pity me.

FACT: If you know God, you trust Him.
In this verse, the word “know” implies more than an intellectual acknowledgment of the facts. It implies a knowledge based on experience. It’s like saying, “Well, if you knew my dad the way I do, you’d understand where I’m coming from.” If you are on a first-name basis with the God of the Universe, then trust in Him inherently follows.

It does not inherently follow, however, that my trust is without flaw. My trust is real, but I have to remind myself to actually do it! Trust is a verb, my friends, not a feeling.

FACT: God never forsakes those who truly seek Him.
You may be going through hell on earth right now. Do not mistake this for the absence of God. On the contrary, there is no person on earth nearer to you than God is. All you need to do is choose to look full in his face, take his hand, and let him lead you through whatever it is you’re in the middle of.

When you finally acknowledge his presence, and choose to put your trust in him through what Jesus did for you, then you will have peace in the knowledge that God will never leave you. Ever. Regardless of your feelings on the matter, God is there.

FACT: God doesn’t forget those in need.
No matter what your need, be it physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental; God knows it, and is ready to meet your greatest need. You may think your greatest need is something to be gotten in this world, but God knows better. Often, our greatest need is simply to be forgiven, and relieved of the burden our sins lay on us.

FACT: My hope is not transient.
Yes, I am an afflicted mortal at this juncture in my life. What with cancer, divorce, and abuse, as well as all the daily trials of a normal life surrounding me and demanding my attention, I am swamped. Completely swamped.

“This too, shall pass,” is a mantra I’m sick of hearing, frankly. True as it may be. What I think I need to remember is that I do not use the word “hope” the way the world generally does. So what if it passes? I need to know that what’s ahead is better than what is happening now.

My hope rests on nothing this world can offer me. No medicine, no doctor, no church, no deeds I can do, no other person – no matter how mature in the Lord they are – can offer me any lasting hope.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)

Though I am wasting away lately, in more ways than one, I take courage knowing these facts. I know my God well. He is worthy of my trust. He has yet to let me down.

So, I will take all of my very real feelings, look them in the face, and tell them the Truth. They probably won’t go away, but I can now see them for what they are: feelings. While they are legitimate, and God doesn’t expect me to be stoic, I can still take courage that they will someday fade in the light of the glory awaiting me.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2010 in God's Promises, Hope, My Walk

 

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