Take Heart ~ Finding Courage Right Where You Are (Part 5)

Remember What Has Come Before
Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed.
I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
~ Psalm 143:4-6

Who do you go to when you need to talk out a problem? Who do you call if you need help?  Who’s that person you’re texting if you run out of gas on the side of the road (yes, I’m that person who procrastinates filling the tank), or when you’ve gotten to your limit and just need someone to tell you to keep trying?

If you’re like me, a few names came to mind ~ and those names most likely belonged to people who have been there for you before, people whose concern for you has shown itself in action.  The first thing we do in a moment of crisis is reach out to someone who has proven themselves to be a help in the past.  It just makes sense.  We base our expectation of what they will do on what they have done.

It’s the same way in our relationship with God.

So when I start to feel like I can’t handle what the day is bringing, when I get the phone call with news I don’t want to hear… if God has carried me through trouble before, I should have ready expectation that He will carry me again.  But this is not always an automatic reaction.  And when it’s not, that’s the moment we bring up the truth of His promises we’ve already talked about and then we choose to remember how He has already been faithful to us in the past.

At different times in the Old Testament, God told the Israelites to build memorials of certain events.  We don’t hear about the crossing of the Jordan River as often as we do the Red Sea, but it was another instance of God parting waters for His people to walk across dry land to their destination.  God spoke to Joshua, the leader of His people at that time, and gave instructions for twelve stones to be carried out of the bottom of the Jordan and set up as a memorial.  When their children would one day ask why the stones were there, they would answer: “Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land, for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the people of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.6

My memorial stones are words on pages of journals, lines of answered prayers that I sometimes even forget I’ve prayed until I re-read them, sentences that preserve both the pain of that moment and the comfort that was given.

When I look back and begin to count the ways God has changed me, protected my life from what could have ended in disaster, when I remember the days that I didn’t know how to survive, when I think about the times my heart was broken… when I can look back and see how far I have come from who I used to be, I remember I can trust Him to lead me where I need to go from here.  Remembering my yesterday builds my faith for tomorrow.

If you don’t have a way that you hold onto the moments of God’s faithfulness to you, it’s not too late to start.  Start today.  Start now.

Write it down in a journal.  Record a voice memo on your phone.  Jot it down in a notes app.  Make a video. Draw a picture. Take a picture.  It doesn’t matter what form it takes.  It just matters that it is an easy way for you to preserve the moments you feel the yes and amen of God’s promises.

When the unexpected shakes our lives, it’s hard to see which way is up.  Our emotions can go all over the place.  But if we can tangibly come back to the moments when His steadfast love held us together before, truth will steady our feelings and we can rest in the expectation that He will do it again.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
~ Psalm 43:5

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me,
bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness
and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
~ Psalm 103:1-5

Room For Wonder
I know we’ve talked a lot about how life itself is really, really hard right now.

And I’ve already told you that I won’t pretend that choosing trust, whatever your situation, is the easy way.  Sometimes, for me, acting in faith means feeling nauseous while doing what He asked.

HOWEVER. That’s not all there is.

Here’s the invitation of Christ in Matthew 11:28-30: Come to me, all you who are weary
and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I
am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is
easy and My burden is light.

The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy ~ but Jesus came to bring us life and life abundant. (John 10:10)  He brings rest.  He brings peace when logic says we have no reason for it.  He meets us in the middle of the mess and the chaos and stays right there in it with us. In the middle of the nausea and heaviness of heart, He is praying for us and urging us through the fear, because He has been in that Gethsemane moment.

Abiding in the love of Christ brings the deep-rooted hope that even if things are not all okay right now, He is always working beyond what we can see for our good. (Romans 8:28)  Even if we don’t feel gladness right now, we hold to the promise that one day it will come.  Even when we are sitting in ashes, we can believe that beauty is waiting for us. (Isaiah 61:3)

The Kingdom of God within us is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  God is a Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children… to us ~ and stopping to look for those gifts is a practice that reminds me of this: He cares about our needs.

Sometimes we just need to open our eyes to what is already around us.

Pay attention.  When you walk outside, be still.  Be present.

God does not hide His character from us; we can find glimpses of who He is in the world around us.  Even with the affects of sin, the earth belongs to God. His creation reveals Him.  Don’t take the glory of the sky for granted.  Look up and really see the stars, remembering that He has named each of them.  Notice how the even the smallest flower is perfectly formed, carefully made.

I’ve seen lilies grow in the middle of the weeds in the woods.  I’ve seen roots strong enough to break through concrete.  I’ve seen life come from what looks broken, abandoned, dead.

He shows us His compassion, His majesty, His detailed care, His power, the enormous spectrum of creativity in what He has made.  And He brings all of that into how He cares for us.

It’s not just nature that He gives us.  It’s music, dance, a basket of tortilla chips and salsa in the middle of a circle of friends.  It’s laughter.  It’s the toddler taking a first step toward us.  It’s the caring call or text from a friend at just the right time.  It’s whatever we need, showing up, because what matters to us matters to Him.  It is not circumstantial happiness that He promises, but a quiet joy that becomes our strength.  His joy becomes a steady burning flame inside of us that cannot be taken away by what is happening around us.

When we ask Him to open our eyes to all He is, all He is giving to us… we see how completely surrounded we are by His goodness.

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us ~ set us right with Him, make us fit for Him ~ we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus.  And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that He has already thrown open His door to us.  We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand ~ out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.  In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged.  Quite the contrary ~ we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
~ from Romans 5, MSG



6 Joshua 4:22

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