how to be … healed

I said a while ago that I want to write about God’s greatness and goodness. Then I wrote two posts lamenting my own experiences. I am realizing again and again one very important thing.

My body needs healing, but my heart has always needed it. As long as I’m alive, my heart will need mending and restoring. You don’t stop having issues with sin when you become gravely ill. In case you were wondering.

At first, I was so grateful for every little thing. But then I began to wonder who that person was and did I make her up? Because I started finding it very easy to be discontent with my circumstances. And that generally led to ungratefulness, which diminished joy. Which all went together with not seeking God.

So really, I’m not that different from who I was before cancer. I still am selfish. I still focus inward too much. I still fear, I’m still prideful, I still mis-prioritize my loves. I still deny God His lordship so often in my daily life. I still don’t consider His will, His calling for my every day. I still tend to think this day is mine, rather than a gift given, to be given back.

These ailments to me are becoming far more serious, and their cure far more desirable, than anything to do with leukemia. I want to be cured from my physical illness – oh, I can’t express how much I want it. And still, this other sort of illness seems very grave indeed. I want this sort of thing to be the business of my heart, to be what occupies my mind, more than my physical healing.

And I truly believe that the way for these priorities to be sorted is to fall on my face before God every day, to gaze upon Him and His beauty, to become enamored of Him. Because if He is my first love, I think things in my heart won’t help but shift to make room for Him.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple…You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Hide not your face from me. [Psalm 27:4, 8]

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” [Luke 10:38-42]

He is good, and deserving of all praise, and all my devotion.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. [Psalm 19:14]

 

 

how to be … uncomfortable

When I write on Mondays, I want to talk about our state of being, and how we are meant to live. Society and culture everywhere lack some or other of what God calls us to. There is so much glory and goodness awaiting us! I have this idea for a series of posts that discusses how the life of a Christian should 1) reflect Truth about God and 2) demonstrate an abiding in Him through bearing fruit. The first post is here. I don’t mean the posts to be lectures, because they are actually the outpourings of what I have learned and of how God has corrected me. I am one who needs an extraordinary deal of re-shaping, and all I hope to do is share the resulting thoughts with you. I eagerly welcome your wisdom and engagement in these discussions.

I’ve had a little wake-up call. It’s not exactly what you would call pleasant.

Even those of us who decry the prosperity gospel, with its claims and promises, affection for wealth and wellness — even we still have a sense we deserve to be healed.

We still bemoan our suffering and are discontent when we feel we lack something we need or want. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (and all martyrs) chose suffering and chose to trust God, regardless of the outcome. They fully acknowledged the possibility that God wouldn’t save them. And Abraham trusted God to provide the sacrifice even though he fully planned to obey God’s command to kill his son.  There seems not to have been much time for complaints about comfort. And God saved Isaac, and saved the three from the fire. But then there’s Jesus. He asked for relief, but simultaneously chose to obey and submit to suffering, to the point of pain and death.

And He died (oh also He crushed death). So what makes us think we merit freedom from pain? We spend so much time and money and effort trying to control our pain levels. Trying to escape discomfort. Trying to lengthen our lives and preserve ourselves. Did God ask us to do any of that? Or did Christ say we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him?

Well of course He did. It’s a direct quote from Scripture.¹ But how often do we let our hearts accept the enemy’s deception: “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3)

This is me. I brush over what God really said. Because I am running from the pain. Here are two places I struggle.

  1. I have chronic headaches and migraines. I’m now working with a doctor to determine the causes and find solutions. I used to contract sinus infections and respiratory stuff in college, and somehow during those times I often grew closer to God. He was my only refuge. Sometimes I couldn’t speak because of how messed up my throat and breathing were. But He was always there. My headaches do the same thing to me. They isolate me from others to an extent, and they make my thinking fuzzy, and they make me want to cry. Medicine is ineffective, and often sleep is too. God is all I have when I’m in that dark, alone place in pain.

I’m trying to find a way out, an escape from these aches. Until today I hadn’t considered the possibility that I may never get away. But what if? What if there’s no future permanent relief? It’s never been promised to me. I think I need it, but I didn’t make myself so I just don’t fully know my own needs. My deepest needs, the ones that are more important than temporary pain relief.

2. Here’s another one. Sleep really impacts me. If I sleep for fewer than 7.5 hours at night, I inevitably suffer the next day. Headache, body ache, mental fog, emotional sensitivity. If I know I won’t be sleeping long enough, I become anxious and my mood sours. It stays that way when I wake up. I worry not only about the day ahead, but also about how my life could be shortened by insufficient sleep. So I try to plan so I can sleep enough. It just matters so much to me.

But that word: insufficient.

I don’t know why I’m so sensitive to so many environmental and physical things. I don’t know why, but I see how God is using it to teach me throughout my life. I’m one who seems to need re-teaching a lot. I don’t remember stuff too well, or I just can’t get it down (ask my husband about driving a standard or understanding the stock market and credit). I’m highly sensitive, and physical things affect me greatly. I find I’m so discontent when I am sleep-deprived or in pain. I find it terribly hard to be grateful or even hopeful. I’m becoming pretty familiar with a certain level of moody darkness, in my little misery bubble.

But that word: deprived.

Am I really the one to determine what’s sufficient? Am I the one to decide what I deserve? God has already told me:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

Sufficiency doesn’t include comfort. It doesn’t exclude suffering. It is only about God’s grace.

Paul had a thorn in his side (whatever that means). Sounds like the worst. But he said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”²

Somehow Paul knew that the pain he was given was to prevent him from becoming conceited. I don’t know why each of us encounters our trials. Mine remind me how dependent I am on Christ for my very life.

So here and now, I want to say something, and I pray my heart eventually catches up: If this be so, my God whom I serve is able to deliver me from various physical sufferings, and He will deliver me out of this pain. But if not, be it known to you, headaches, and you, Satan, that I will not serve my strong desires for — or worship — relief.³

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Lest you conclude that I’m claiming God wants us to be miserable, let me clarify. God indeed made a perfect world long ago. God’s intent for us and for all creation was to be at peace with the creator. Although there is brokenness today, Jesus died to bring us back to God, to be at peace once more. And I staunchly believe that the purpose of the Church is to work toward that shalom in the world. But there’s still an important question regarding the condition of our desires:

Am I seeking relief from pain more than I’m seeking His kingdom? My answer breaks my own heart.

Yes. I am. Lord, have mercy.

These are the areas where I doubt God’s provision, where I fear insufficiency. For you it might be financial, or relational, or health, or a loss of someone/something priceless, or power. Remember that God says God’s grace is sufficient. Remember God’s crazy love. God doesn’t really give a baseline for anything else we need, except to seek that kingdom first. All other needs (which God determines) will be met. We really just need God. Christ provides Himself, and the Holy Spirit remains with us, which is enough, by a long shot. There is so much hope just in God.

How, then, shall we be?

content amidst discomfort.

…………..

¹Matthew 16:24

²2 Corinthians 12:9

³see Daniel 3:17-18 for a comparable statement

 

 

how to be … on my face

When I write on Mondays, I want to talk about our state of being, and how we are meant to live. Society and culture everywhere lack some or other of what God calls us to. There is so much glory and goodness awaiting us! I’ve posted here and here about being in awe, and here you can find more background. I think I keep coming back to this because it’s so foundational for me.

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So you guys. I’m not really done talking about awe. Sorry. But not.

I’m being consistently reminded of how necessary this is. It’s how we’re supposed to be. I so much believe that.

Last time I wrote the ‘how to be,’ I remarked that awe is not pure fear – it is fear and reverence and delight and peace all in one. But it might take us a bit to get to that. So I’ve thought about how that internal journey sometimes looks.

First, it takes us acknowledging God’s glory and sovereignty. It takes us at least admitting that we’re tiny. We might not have let go of the power we imagine we have, but we have hopefully noted that God is eternal and we are dust.

……….

A fairly natural consequence of such an acknowledgement is to be afraid. In Hebrews 10, the author discusses the judgement that awaits those who sin in light of Christ’s sacrifice, effectively profaning Him. ‘For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ (Hebrews 10:30-31) God alone has the right to punish, and His holiness and power should be terrifying to those who have no hope in salvation.

There’s this gorgeous hymn. Let all mortal flesh keep silence. And, you’re welcome, I’m putting all the verses. If that seems too much to read, we have bigger issues here. 🙂

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
as the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
that the powers of hell may vanish
as the shadows clear away.

At His feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
“Alleluia, alleluia,
alleluia, Lord most high!” 

This song always does something to me. It puts me in my place, and I am happy to be here. I am overwhelmed with the privilege of being here.  That I could sit at the feet of God is the most marvelous gift. That He could accept me in all my refuse and filth is an incomprehensible grace. And all I will ever be able to return is ‘Alleluia, Lord Most High.’

And please enjoy a pithy quote from Calvin …


“So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity. Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them, nay, they are, in a manner, swallowed up and annihilated, the inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and  impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. Frequent examples of this consternation occur both in the Book of Judges and the Prophetical Writings; so much so, that it was a common expression among the people of God, “We shall die, for we have seen the Lord.” Hence the Book of Job, also, in humbling men under a conviction of their folly, feebleness, and pollution, always derives its chief argument from descriptions of the Divine wisdom, virtue, and purity. Nor without cause: for we see Abraham the readier to acknowledge himself but dust and ashes the nearer he approaches to behold the glory of the Lord, and Elijah unable to wait with unveiled face for His approach; so dreadful is the sight. And what can man do, man who is but rottenness and a worm, when even the Cherubim themselves must veil their faces in very terror? To this, undoubtedly, the Prophet Isaiah refers, when he says (Isaiah 24:23), “The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign;” i.e., when he shall exhibit his refulgence, and give a nearer view of it, the brightest objects will, in comparison, be covered with darkness.” (Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 1)

What I mean to say is that the better we know God, the better we see our own dust-ness. And we have nothing to protect us from His wrath or from the glory of His Presence. This is an incredibly important truth to know. But not to dwell in by itself, alone.

………….

Because God is not all anger and terror. In very fact, He is near and merciful. He is gentle, compassionate, and forgiving. It simply wouldn’t do to remain in quaking fear without love. What good is that? The fear is only the beginning.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.  (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:10)

I absolutely think our society has an enormous problem. And I would say Christians have the same problem as anyone else: we don’t believe that God is that great. That all-powerful. That worthy of complete worship and deference. I think we don’t get it. We don’t really know Him if we don’t fear Him. Awe and wisdom are together. It is wise to be in awe, because when we’re in awe, we are acknowledging the truth about God. When we’re not in awe, we are foolishly ignoring plain reality.

Now listen to this song. And agree. Let it sink into your heart. We don’t know anything about holy. God is too great for us.

But He is near to us. It has to be an intimate fear. One that believes He loves us, and that desires Him.

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah sees God’s glory and recognizes his unworthiness in the Presence of God’s purity. And then God tells him his sin is atoned for.

What else can you do after God says, “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for”? There was no hesitation from Isaiah. God told him what to do, and he only asked “how long?”¹

………….

So we know that, although we are nothing, He made us in His image. He made us His own. And we spit on Him and we disregarded His law and scorned Him to the greatest extent. And then He atoned for our filth and hatred toward Him, even as we gave Him every reason not to.

Hm. How shall we respond to such ridiculous, outrageous, foolish love? Our answer, unspoken, un-thought, is “let’s forget about all that, except at a surface level. Let’s carry on as though we can take care of ourselves. That’ll be the best.” But if we do really know God, and if He has really loved us that way, here’s what we should do. We should fall before Him. We should worship Him and be at peace, utter peace.

So we have to let go, Reader. Is that a little scary? Only if you believe you are in control of things and always make the best decisions and don’t need salvation. Which I do. Yeah, all the time.

Let’s give up on that. The gloriousness of awe means I don’t have to be deluded that I am in control; I can be at peace. I’m not in charge of maintaining the universe or atoms. I’m not in charge of justice or salvation. Glory be. You might read Psalm 96.

………….

Contentment is essential to this awe-being. I spoke of longing before – of longing for eternity and the fullness of God Himself. Longing for wholeness.

But contentment is also there in awe. It looks like rest and thankfulness.

Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to me, the least of saints, to me, allow that I may keep even the smallest door – the farthest, darkest, coldest door, the door that is least used, the stiffest door – if only it be in Your house, O God. That I can see Your glory from afar, and hear Your voice, and know that I am with You, O God. (St. Columba)

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Let us respond with adoration. What else is there to do?

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“I’m afraid that I can never do justice in describing or explaining the majesty, power, and perfection of Jesus. That’s the nature of human discussions, I suppose. No matter how high above my own experience I reach, I’ll never be able to adequately pen the qualities of a perfect God. And so even my attempts to expose how I have domesticated Jesus will do just that: I’m bound to domesticate Him further—to wrap Him within pages of description implies that He is small enough to describe. To have humans speak of Him, to write of Him, implies that we can in some way wrap the human mind around Him.”² 

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“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces.”³

How, then, shall we be?

on our faces.

and alleluia.

…………

A pair of delightful awe songs to get your blood pumping.

Rising Sun – All Sons & Daughters

Great I AM – New Life Worship

¹http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/spiritualformation/prepareforshock.html?start=1

²http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/theology/domesticatinglord.html?start=3

³Lewis, C.S. (1962) The problem of pain. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company