In My Distress…

This has been a week full of distress.. My husband and I got our second COVID vaccine (even though we recovered from the virus earlier this year), and spent a day bedridden with fever, chills, and body aches. But we recovered. I got word that my great-nephew broke his arm. Someone I know had to take her daughter to the emergency room–Again–with a serious infection. Another couple delivered a stillborn son. Yet another delivered a tiny, premature little girl. Another woman is back in the hospital, and another friend is off work with a lingering illness that remains undiagnosed. And that is just a list of health issues!

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It has been said that when we are in distress– especially with bedridden illness– we are forced to look up. And this gives us the impetus to call out to God. Not everyone will do so. And some will call out in anger or bitterness. But the Psalmist David used his distress to call out to God for help. In Psalm 18:6 he says: “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”(ESV via bibleref.com) David’s distress was not from illness, but from being hemmed in by King Saul, who had closed in and had David trapped and seemingly helpless–first in a walled city, then twice in the wilderness. (1 Samuel 23) Three times, David’s situation seemed hopeless, and three times, he was rescued from capture and death.

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It is tempting to look out at our circumstances, and lose hope. Even when we know that God hears us and loves us, sometimes his answers are not what we expect. David called out to God, yet he had to face his enemy three times before Saul abandoned his hunt (temporarily!) My husband and I recovered quickly from our reaction earlier this week, but we faced the pain and symptoms three times– during the actual illness, and, less severely with each dose of the vaccine. My nephew will have to be in a cast most of the summer. The tiny baby will be in the neonatal ICU for several weeks, if she survives. Her family will be waiting and worrying and praying. Yet, God DID deliver David in a miraculous way; He brought my husband through a severe case of COVID that involved a stay in the hospital and a related case of pneumonia; He gave life to this precious little baby; He is bringing peace to the family that lost their precious little boy. His timing may not be ours; His ways are not our ways. But God’s ears are always open, and His ways are always good, and His wisdom is perfect.

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Distress can make us impatient and cause us to doubt Our Father’s care. But when we remember God’s faithfulness in the past– both toward us and those we love–we can find the strength to wait and even praise God in the struggle.

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…And I Am Not.

In my last post, I talked about “When God Doesn’t Answer..” Of course, there are times when God seems silent, and I spoke about a couple of times when that was true in my life. God’s timing and wisdom are reminders that He is God– and I am NOT.

I want to revisit that theme for a bit. I was reading the post and realized that I spoke of the waiting and hoping and God’s faithfulness in sending an answer in the person of David, who became my husband. I spoke of God’s ways being higher and better than our ways– and they are. But I left out one aspect of God’s character. Forgiveness.

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It is tempting, and I gave in to the temptation, to focus on my feelings, and my positive actions during those years of waiting– taking good advice and making good use of my time as a single to volunteer and serve. But I also did plenty of wallowing in self-pity, of questioning God’s goodness and His timing. I slipped into bad habits that I had to break as a married woman– selfish habits and indulgent thought patterns. And I find myself battling new bad habits, slipping back into depression and isolation, or taking for granted the blessings of married life.

I don’t say this to negate God’s goodness in answering my longing for a husband and family, nor to suggest that God’s long silence and eventual answer were any less gracious and loving. Instead, I want to thank Him for being patient with me, for extending both mercy and grace in His good time, and in spite of my bad behavior.

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God’s mercy and his goodness surround us–especially when we don’t see them. When we doubt His presence, when we accuse Him of not caring, when we pout, and posture, and resent the road He has us traveling. God’s word is full of stories of people who waited– some patiently, some not so much– and people who wandered, and even rebelled. And many of them perished without ever seeing God’s answer or without repenting. But I cannot think of any instance where someone who sought God’s face or His forgiveness and was turned away– EVER. God followed the grumbling nation of Israel for forty years, His anger breaking out against them multiple times, but He remained faithful to His promise to bring them to the Promised Land. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+1&version=NCV God went so far as to remove His Spirit from King Saul, but He allowed Saul to continue to reign, even when Saul tried to kill God’s anointed one and his own son-in-law. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Samuel+19-24&version=NIV God followed David from his days as a shepherd boy through his reign as Israel’s king– in spite of David’s sins, in spite of the drama and chaos of his household, in spite of betrayal by his own sons and generals.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+kings+2%3A1-10&version=CSB God chased down Saul on the road to Damascus– after Saul had hunted and hounded faithful followers of the Messiah.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=acts+8%3A1-3%3B+9%3A1-18&version=ESV

God is patient and faithful with us– whether we have grumbled at His timing, or turned our back on Him for a season, or actively rebelled against His sovereignty and kindness.

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When God seems silent, we often forget that He also remains silent in the face of our grumbling. He withholds His righteous judgment, giving us ample opportunities to rethink, repent, and return. His silence reminds us that He is God– and we are not. He does not owe us an answer– nor does He owe us a second chance. But He will give us both in His time. Because He is God– in His sovereignty, in His boundless Love, and in His mercy–and I am not. I am not God. I am the (sometimes) grateful recipient of all that He gives.

May I be grateful today, not just for the blessings and gifts and answered prayers, but for the patience, grace and mercy I don’t deserve.

The Politics of Prayer

I have been bombarded lately with political ads–and that takes some doing, since I don’t have television and don’t listen to the radio– still two major sources of “coverage” used by most candidates.  And many of the political ads are deceptive, in that they don’t seem to be “for” or “against” a particular candidate– rather they are trying to encourage me to see a particular issue (healthcare, abortion, gun control, education, taxes, etc.) in a particular way, or vote based on a single polarizing issue.  I get very frustrated with the intense saturation and obvious propaganda, but overall, I am thankful that we have the freedom to state our political preferences and encourage everyone to vote– hopefully based on thoughtfully looking at the issues, policies, and consequences of the actions proposed by the candidates.

One thing that frustrates me is the conflation of politics with religion and Christianity in particular.  God is apolitical…He is not a Republican or Democrat, a Socialist, Fascist, Capitalist, or even monarchist.  He is not American, Canadian, British, Honduran, Somalian, Laotian, Korean, German, Bolivian, Syrian, New Zealander, Nigerian, Greek, or Pole.  His Kingdom is a Theocracy– He is the sovereign and absolute ruler.  He does not consult with a Senate, or Assembly, or Cabinet, or Ministry.  He cannot be “voted” in or out, succeeded, or supplanted.  He allows for and even institutes worldly governments– He raised up priests and prophets in Israel and founded their Monarchy–but He also tears down corrupt governments and destroys empires.

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So when we pray for government officials, we are not doing so based on their merits in God’s eyes.  When we pray for upcoming elections, we do not pray for the “best” result, based on our personal political preferences..or we shouldn’t.  We should be praying that God will be honored by our vote; that our nation (and its leaders) will recognize God’s sovereignty and act in obedience to His will; and that we will be prepared for God’s blessings or corrective punishments as He sees fit to bring them..that we will learn from those in authority, pray for them with sincerity and good will, and use our vote as stewards of Grace, and not as power-hungry, politically rabid puppets trying to create a substitute Kingdom of God within our own state or nation.

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Consider King David– God had anointed him King of Israel to succeed King Saul, who had fallen out of favor with God.  David was hunted down as a traitor by Saul, his own father-in-law, and forced into exile.  Yet he continued to faithfully pray for and speak kindly of Saul.  When given the opportunity to kill his tormentor and take the crown, he refused– even though God had promised him the kingdom BECAUSE Saul had become corrupt. (see 1 Samuel, chapters 16, 19, 23 and 24)  David still prepared to become King–he learned many lessons during his exile that made him an excellent king– diplomacy, warfare, economics, and listening to his future subjects.  Most importantly, he learned from the bad example of King Saul that he should not second-guess God’s purposes and timing.

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Prayer isn’t about asking God to give us what we want– not on a personal level and not politically.  It is about asking God to help us want what He gives!

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