This song isn’t new, but it puts into words what my heart is singing today.
Typically, this unbelief surfaces when a situation we face triggers turmoil in our soul – and instead of acknowledging our feelings, desires and thoughts, and submitting them to God, we take matters into our own hands. We let our inner disquiet drive us.
The absence of rest kills. It reduces our minds to mush. It opens our bodies to disease. It replaces vitality with stupor and a crazed, mechanical running to keep up.
In spite of all that constantly fights against it, may the Lord bless us with grace to return to our rest.
Adapted from Return to Your Rest: A Spirit-to-spirit Journey, © 2016 Deborah P. Brunt
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Our Lord sees how very confused we are about rest and work; how backwards our understanding of life, both here and beyond the grave.
Jesus did not die and rise again in order that we might kill ourselves with busyness and deep unrest in this world – and then sit uselessly on clouds forever after. He gave himself that we might begin to experience now what we’ll know in fullness later. He came to give each of us an abundantly fruitful, forever life, lived from a place of rest.
From Return to Your Rest: A Spirit-to-spirit Journey, © 2016 Deborah P Brunt
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Of course you’ll encounter trouble.
But behold a God of power who can take any evil and turn it into a door of hope. – Catherine Marshall
Ages ago, a shepherd-turned-king named David sang,
The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing. (Ps. 23:1)
Centuries later, Jesus echoed and enlarged on David’s words. He said:
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. I am the Good Shepherd. (John 10:1011 MSG)
In other words: “I am the Lord your shepherd; you lack nothing. Quite the opposite, actually.”
Peter the apostle affirmed that it’s true:
By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. (2 Peter 1:3 CEB)
Ages ago, the tribe of Joseph sang a very different song. I’ve sung this song on occasion – okay, on a lot of occasions. Maybe you have too. It goes something like this: “Lord, what you’ve given us isn’t enough.”
Joseph’s descendants were numerous, but no more numerous than some of the other Israelite tribes. Yet, when Joshua divided up the land of Canaan in the way God specified, Joseph’s clan complained that their allotment was too small. In reality, they despised the good land they’d been given because: (a) it had hills, where crops wouldn’t necessarily thrive; (b) it had lots of forests, which would take lots of work to clear, and (c) it had plains, where Canaanites with iron chariots lived.
Joshua told Joseph’s tribe (my paraphrase): “You lack nothing. The area that you can easily occupy may be small. But that should motivate you to rise up and work. And because you have strength and numbers, and because God himself has given you this land, you can clear it and possess it” (see Josh. 17:14-17).
Always, these three things create deep unrest:
- a sense of lack,
- the feeling that God hasn’t treated you fairly,
- the fear of not having enough.
So, I ask you: What do you think you lack? In what areas do you fear not having enough? What has God done that makes you want to shout, “Not fair!”
With those things in mind, which song will you choose to sing? The song of Joseph’s clan? “The Lord has short-changed me. I don’t have what I need.”
Or, David’s refrain? “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” (NLT).
Today, I remind myself once again: When the Lord Who Shepherds is your keeper, protector, nurturer and provider, you lack nothing. You have all you need to be who he created you to be and to live out his purpose for your life.
As you rest in that truth, he shows you what you do have. He teaches you how to use it. He multiplies what may seem small. He empowers you to possess the abundance that Jesus gave everything to provide for you.
Adapted from Return to Your Rest, © 2016 Deborah P. Brunt
Today, we white Christians whose church culture has sprung from the Bible Belt desperately need to re-examine our roots. We need to recognize the areas where we and our ancestors have agreed with injustice and unrighteousness. We need to expose the ways we continue to let something shallow and misleading rob us. We need to see where we have deadened our oak taproots to pursue kings of our own making.
Please, Father in heaven, give us eyes to see.
Quoted from We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church, © 2011 Deborah P. Brunt
Waiting with hope is very difficult, but true patience is expressed when we must even wait for hope. I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.
Life’s a mess. One minute you’re up, the wind on your face. You’ve been voted most likely to succeed. In cap and gown, you receive the diploma. You get the job, the promotion, the raise. You master that skill that’s been eluding you. Your life’s love slips the ring on your finger. The baby’s a girl – and you can tell by the cry that she’s fine. The person you least expected is giving you a compliment. You’re laughing with a friend. You’re cuddling with a child. You’re singing as you work. All’s well with the world.
The next minute, you’re down. You can still feel the wind, but now it hits against you, biting, cold. And the drop has come so suddenly you feel you’re going to lose your lunch. You flunked. You’re laid off. The other candidate got the job, the promotion, the raise. Your fiancé wants to break the engagement. Your spouse wants a divorce. Your baby’s sick. Your teenager hurls stinging words to your face. Your “friends” say hurtful words behind your back.
Your car breaks down. Your washing machine breaks down. Your life breaks down. You’re tired. You’re sick. You’re angry. You’re depressed.
Then, you’re up again. The loan comes through. A new relationship buds. An encouraging letter or phone call arrives.
Life’s a mess. One minute you’re going a certain way. You have a plan. You have a dream. You’re sure the plan will get you to the dream. The next minute you’re jerked around 180 degrees. Without warning, you find yourself barreling at top speed away from what you hoped to accomplish, who you hoped to be.
You’re still single, though you intended to be married by now. You’re single again. You can’t get pregnant. Your baby changes your life in ways you hadn’t imagined. You leave the workplace. You enter the workplace. You switch careers. You relocate. Your youngest starts school. Your youngest leaves the nest. Now 20-something, your youngest moves back in. You become caregiver for a sick or aging relative.
And about the time you get oriented to each new course, your life takes off a different way. Up, then down, then jerked around, you’re frightened and more than a bit queasy. Like a roller coaster rider at a fair, you hear yourself scream …
Long before you and I were born, an Old Testament poet rode life’s roller coaster. He faced as many ups and downs and hairpin turns as we. When barreling where he had not planned to go, he yelled too. It’s what he yelled that is so very interesting.
Ratcheting upward, he cried, “Put your hope in the Lord” (Ps 131:3). Plummeting downward, he cried, “Put your hope in God” (Ps. 42:5).
By hope, that ancient poet did not mean wishful thinking. He meant confident expectation. He urged us all, but first himself, to reach for the good hope that springs from looking toward and resting in the Lord.
At times, the poet laid hold of that hope. At times, even in chaos, he could declare, “I have calmed and quieted myself” (Ps. 131:2). Literally: “I make level and make quiet my soul.”
Other times, even when the poet looked to God, he did not immediately find hope. Those times, he admitted as much. “My soul is downcast within me,” he confessed. And, repeatedly, he cried: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Ps. 42:6, 5, repeated in 42:11 and 43:5).
Still today, the God of that Old Testament singer remains sovereign, stable, good. Intimately present, he rides the roller coaster with all who hope in him. Ever faithful, he promises to make even the most crooked places straight, even the roughest places smooth.
In desperate times, it’s incredibly challenging to lay hold of that assurance. It’s incredibly rewarding when you do: It feels wonderful to find yourself waiting in quiet hope and encouraging others to do the same. It feels dreadful to seek the God you thought you knew while hope continues to hide. It feels like a betrayal on God’s part, or a failure on yours, or both.
Yet George Matheson, a Scottish minister who lived more than a century ago, offers a new perspective to our hurting hearts. He wrote:
Waiting with hope is very difficult, but true patience is expressed when we must even wait for hope. I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.[i]
Life’s a mess. When yours feels like a nightmare amusement-park ride that never ends, look to the one in whom hope lives: Rivet your gaze on the Lord your God. Appeal to him. Cling to him.
Then, as hope rises up, cooperate with it to calm and quiet your soul.
And if hope doesn’t appear? If it delays so long you think it will never come? Then, dear one, do not bail on God. And do not beat yourself up. You will yet praise him. In the meantime, summon the strength you do not know you have – and wait for hope.
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© 1996, 2005, 2017 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.
[i] George Matheson, quoted in Jesus Today (Sarah Young, 2013, p. 14). For more by Matheson on waiting for hope, see Christy Foldenauer, “15 years of inspiration (and counting) from George Matheson.”