Rest for the weary

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.

—Matthew 11:28-30, NASB

Through All The Seasons. . . God Is Loving and Powerful

Today I’m sharing an article by Dr. David Jeremiah that was published recently on FaithGateway.

Through All the Seasons…
God is Loving and Powerful

By Dr. David Jeremiah

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 — Why has this passage endured the ages as one of the oldest philosophical poems in our literary canon? It’s certainly among the most pensive passages of God’s Word, a beautiful meditation that casts a near-hypnotic spell over readers of any generation.

The author was the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived, and this book is a chronicle of his lifelong quest for true happiness and joy. Solomon tried wealth, wisdom, work, and wild living. At the end of his wide-ranging experiments, he concluded that everything was an empty exercise in vanity. It was like trying to capture the wind in his hands.

As we come to the third chapter, we find Solomon facing an even bigger challenge, a “problem with God.”

I know all about the “problem with God.”

I would not have chosen cancer as a path to spiritual growth, nor would I wish such fear and pain on anyone. On the other hand, I do not see my illness as a random event, some miscellaneous accident of health. And I do not believe there was a moment when God was absent from the physical, emotional, and spiritual crisis I endured.

In fact, I found Him everywhere during that time. I found Him as never before. I glimpsed His face among the doctors and nurses who cared for me so skillfully. I saw Him there in shining power among the family of my church, and intimately among the family circle of my wife and children. He met me in the private chapel of my soul, where with each passing day I felt deeper in His grace and comfort. I found my Lord more present and more powerful.

Knowing there must be pain and suffering for us all, I dearly wish everyone could travel the road I did. I wish every human soul could see the face of God in the fear and turmoil. 

So many walk a very different path; they experience only His absence.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, when his own three-year-old son contracted a rare disease that took his life at a young age, penned his conclusions about God and suffering in order to provide answers to others in similar circumstances.

Kushner’s conclusion was a popularization of an ancient theological conundrum:

How can God be both perfectly good and perfectly powerful? The suffering in the world suggests that if He is God, He is not good; or that if He is good, He is not God. In other words, there must be something lacking in either His love or His strength, or He would cure every little pain.

Rabbi Kushner worked through the old enigma. He concluded that God is all-loving but not all-powerful. He cares deeply about the people He created, but after creating the world He backed away and allowed it to run without His interference.

Solomon had a different view entirely. He concludes that God is sovereign and in control, regardless of the imponderables that remain. Solomon sees God as being present with us but not helpful enough. The king wants to know why God does not improve the standard of life, do something about the aging process, show more favoritism to His children, and perhaps discontinue the program of human pain.

In his poem, there are fourteen negative statements and fourteen positive ones, and they fall into three separate categories. The first describes the influence of time on our bodies, the second focuses on our souls, and the last deals with our spirits.

And Solomon’s main thought? Well, it doesn’t take a Hebrew scholar to notice that the word time occurs twenty-nine times in these verses.

Time and Your Physical Life

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, And a time to die;

A time to plant,

And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up.

Solomon begins his contemplation with a sobering observation: birth and death both have their appointed times.

When my grandson, Ryland, was born, I flew to Baltimore for the event. As I peered through the nursery window at this beautiful new citizen of the world, it struck me that only a corridor away, some other citizen was being dispatched. Some family had gathered for the agony of farewell. It is not a lengthy walk between the nursery and the intensive care unit. We spend our own time making that trek between entrance and exit, womb and tomb.

Meanwhile, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. Solomon refers to the food supply because he knows that God sets the boundaries of the seasons. God has built certain rhythms into His world. The steady repetition of the seasons provides comfort and a workable cadence to life.

We are a bit discomforted to read that there is a time to kill as well as a time to heal. Yet our bodies are in the process of dying every moment. Scientists tell us that every seven years we replenish all the cells within our bodies. There is an ongoing maintenance department in the human machine that is constantly changing out the old for the new. And it is governed by time.

Cancer cells, infection cells, or simply worn-out cells must be killed — so even killing has its time, and we are grateful. There must be a time to kill so we might also have a time to heal.

And what of “a time to break down, and a time to build up”? We build up in our early years, and we start breaking down as we get older — painful but true. How old is old? I was enjoying a birthday when David Todd, my six-year-old grandson, crunched the numbers on my age. He said, “If Poppy was a dog’s age, he’d be dead!” He was right.

There is a time for breaking down, but God is there. He is as powerful as He is loving, and you have the opportunity to experience His power all the more effectively and vividly when you turn to Him in the breakdowns of life.

Read the rest here.

God Never Changes

I am the Lord, and I do not change.
—Malachi 3:6, NLT

Here in our part of the Southwest, we don’t enjoy the same drastic change in seasons as those who live in the North. I was born and raised in New England and have many fond memories of crunching autumn leaves underfoot. Raking those leaves was a chore but jumping into piles of raked leaves was certainly fun.

Right now our autumn daytime temperatures are starting to fall below 70. In the high desert area of Arizona where we live, we don’t have the privilege of viewing the brilliant autumn hues without traveling further north.

Sometimes the seasonal changes up here are subtle, but most of the time our hot summers are followed by warm autumns which change to chilly winters that make us shiver. Most winters we even have snow up here that only lasts a few days. And the re-emergence of warmer temperatures heralds the arrival of spring. 

There isn’t much in life we can count on except for one: God never changes. He is the same yesterday as He is today and will be tomorrow. My pain levels ebb and flow, sometimes in tune with the change of seasons. I can be in despair one minute and joyful the next, but I can always be sure that God is unchangeable. What an assurance that is to me.

How patient and loving God is with us! Even though we constantly strive to do things on our own, He patiently waits for us to remember that He is in control and will help us through our days. That part of His unchangeable personality soothes and reassures me as I struggle to understand and deal with the constant change going on around and inside of me.

No matter how much things change in my life because of what I can or cannot do, I can rest on the promise that God is always with me. He holds me close to comfort me as I lean on Him in faith—no matter what is going on in my life.

I am so utterly thankful for my Lord of the past, the present and the future!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!

—1 John 3:1

When You Want to Trust but Life Won’t Let You

Today I’m sharing a great article from the Bible Gateway blog. I think this is something we can all relate to.

When You Want to Trust
but Life Won’t Let You

By Craig Groeschel

“I want to believe God cares about me; I really do,” she told me, wiping tears from under her darkened, bloodshot eyes. Under the harsh fluorescent lights of the hospital corridor, Marci barely resembled the vibrant girl I remembered, that kid I’d watched grow up in our youth group at church. When she was a teenager, Marci was outgoing, fun-loving, and full of life, even as she was growing more and more serious about her faith, coming early to youth group and staying late. No one loved to worship and talk about God more than Marci.

Then, in her early 20s, Marci met Mark, a great Christian guy with a charismatic personality. They fell in love practically overnight, marrying almost a year to the day after they met. Mark’s dynamic personality served him well, helping him land a great sales job. Before long, he was making more money than most other professionals his age. They bought their dream home, and as Mark and Marci served God together at our church, they just knew life couldn’t get any better.

But then it did.

After just two months of trying, they learned they were pregnant with their first child. When beautiful little Chloe was born, my wife, Amy, and I joined Mark and Marci at the hospital to thank God for his blessings. Celebrating with them was amazing, all of us thanking God for this wonderful family that he was growing in his presence.

Back then, none of us could see even a hint of cracks around the foundation of their lives. But as the years ticked by, Mark’s job had him working longer and longer hours and required ever more frequent travel. Even so, when he came home one day and informed Marci that he was leaving her—for one of her closest friends—she never saw it coming. Devastated, Marci found herself battling on two fronts, coping on the one hand with Mark’s betrayal and struggling on the other as a single mom trying to build a new life for herself and Chloe. She took small comfort in thinking that at least things couldn’t get any worse.

Until they did.

Read the rest here.

The Secret of Being #Content

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

—Philippians 4:12-13

Are we really content or do we pine away for what we don’t have but think we need? How can we find true contentment? I believe the answer lies in our perspective, our priorities, and our source of power.

Perspective

We are a tiny speck in God’s grand design, but He can see the bigger picture and knows everything that is going to happen to us before we ever do!

I know of a writer who suddenly became quite ill. It took some time for the doctors to diagnose her illness and then she suffered through a long recovery period. During all of this, she never gave up. She firmly believed God would carry her through. In fact, she found contentment in her situation and praised God for granting her that period of rest and recuperation. She could have bemoaned her circumstances and blamed God for it, but instead she chose to use the time to get closer to Him.

Afterward she said she could not wait to get back to her writing because she really had some great things to put down on paper based on what God had revealed to her while she was ill. What a good example of how we can turn something bad into something positive! She exhibited a peace and contentment that transcends all earthly understanding.

Priorities

Is God at the very top of our list of priorities? If we believe that God created all things, why can’t we remember that He can also guide us in all things?

God wants only the best for His children and He reveals this to us in many ways. His love and care for us are evident as He works in us through the people in our lives, and through the Bible, prayer, the church, and the circumstances of our lives.

How many times have we heard (and perhaps even said ourselves), “Why is God letting this happen? Why didn’t He do anything to stop it?” Suppose your child is fighting the ravaging effects of leukemia, or you go into work one day only to find you’ve been laid off. Where is God and how can we find contentment in situations such as these?

As so often happens, the Lord wants to see where our priorities lie. Have we just been giving lip service to our faith and trust in God to provide for our needs, or do we really believe this? It is sometimes difficult, but that trust is another kind of contentment—knowing God will take care of us and resting in that knowledge without worrying about the outcome.

Power

What is the source of our power? Do we turn first to God for help or do we try to solve the problem ourselves? We can do nothing on our own. It is only through the strength of Jesus Christ that we can find any kind of strength at all!

If you’re anything like me, you have struggled with an unruly shopping cart more times than you can remember The first inclination is to fight the rebellious cart, trying to “bend” it to your will—in other words, trying to make it move straight ahead instead of sideways. Usually we finally give up and exchange the stubborn cart for another one, hoping the second one will be easier to steer.

Isn’t this similar to how we oftentimes react to God’s power in our lives? When He tries to show us the error of our ways in a particular situation, we dig in our heels and pretend there’s no problem. We might even turn away from God’s guidance. But when we finally allow God to do His work in our lives, there is a contented and peaceful heart after that struggle with what we know is right.

The more we seek the Lord, the more faithful He is to grant us the emotional means to deal with our lives. True contentment is when we are in stressful situation but remain calm and at peace because we know He is with us no matter what.

God Never Slumbers or Sleeps

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

God Never Slumbers
or Sleeps

by Austin Bonds

I recently came across a tweet by Matt Smethurst, Managing Editor of The Gospel Coalition, quoting Mary Crowley: “Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He’s going to be up all night anyway.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if Crowley’s words are based on Psalm 121:3-4. The psalmist writes,“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Psalm 121 is a bold word for the weary. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” the writer declares at the outset (v.1).

While every follower of Jesus can turn to this short song for clarity and strength in times of uncertainty, it takes on fresh significance for new parents who find sleep elusive and fatigue as commonplace as dirty diapers.

Three hopeful observations about God’s character emerge from Psalm 121.

Three Observations About God’s Character from Psalm 121

1. He’s an Able Helper

The psalmist says that our help is from the one “who made heaven and earth” (v.2). God is able. God is capable; and he is waiting for us to let go of the prideful urge to “go at it” alone, and call out to him in prayer for strength.

But how does God practically help us? Supernatural aid comes from the intercession of the Holy Spirit. He prays for us to faithfully endure during seasons of weakness (Romans 8:26-27). Help also comes from a spouse dealing with their own exhaustion, who is willing to strengthen their marriage by serving their beloved through sacrificial love (I Corinthians 16:14, 1 Corinthians 13:7, 1 John 3:16). And it comes from family members and friends who graciously offer to babysit so lethargic parents can recoup some lost shuteye.

In short, between the holy Trinity, a spouse, and family and friends, this collective cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) surrounding new parents is substantial help delivered down from God on high.

Read the rest here.

Depressed and Thankful: 6 Ways to Find Joy

How can we possibly be thankful when we are depressed? And how can we be joyful when there is so much in our world to be depressed about these days? This kind of depression is different from clinical depression, which is a constant sense of hopelessness and despair, and it may be difficult to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy friends and activities. I don’t think it matters what type of depression we have, it still makes life difficult. Today’s post about how to hold on to our joy during times of depression is from Revive Our Hearts. I pray it blesses all of us.

Depressed and Thankful:
6 Ways to Find Joy

By Stacy Reaoch

It was only about a year into our marriage when I had my first bout with mild depression. And it didn’t make sense to me. I finally was married to the man of my dreams. I had landed my first teaching job. We had started a new life together and were making new friends. But for whatever reason, my heart was downcast. Life felt overwhelming, like I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed for the day.

The constant sadness in my heart finally led me to go to a doctor to share how I’d been feeling. Instead of quickly writing a prescription, my physician wisely talked through the major life changes I had experienced in the last twelve months—college graduation, moving away from family, marriage, my first real job—and assured me that my roller-coaster emotions were normal in light of all I had experienced in one year.

Eventually, I came out of that gray fogginess, but over the years of my adult life there have been other times where I’ve started to slide into the pit of despair. A melancholy side to my personality makes me prone to see the glass as half empty. I realize that for many individuals, medication is truly necessary. But the weapon that has made the most difference in my life in fighting depression, and something we can all benefit from, is gratitude.

Worship Grows in Gratitude

In Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s excellent book Choosing Gratitude, she makes the point that we are either whining or worshiping. Our natural, sinful state makes us prone to see what we lack, what we don’t have, and what’s gone wrong in our lives.

Complaining is often my default response. Just the other day I noticed how even though I’d had a relatively good day, as soon as my husband walked in the door after work, I talked about the kids’ after-school squabble, our little guy’s potty-training accident, and “did I forget to mention the freezer isn’t working right?”

Often the things that pour off our tongues to others can be complaints of things not going our way or how we’ve been mistreated by others. We live in a rights-oriented culture, and if we don’t get what we think is rightfully ours, we storm off in anger or despair. Often, we slip on the sins of entitlement and discontentment down the slope to anxiety and depression. We can become surrounded by dark thoughts and unmet expectations that weigh down our hearts and put a cloud over our minds.

Read the rest here.