Shout out if you’ve led a perfect and happy childhood, followed by a blameless adolescence, followed by a flawless adulthood. Now shout if you’ve never been afraid or lonely. And, finally, sing out loud and clear if you’ve never been hurt or suffered loss, or struggled to find a place in the world. Hah! I reckon I must be deafened by the silence.
And if you did shout out, if you say you’ve been totally content and perfectly happy and well adjusted and secure for all your life…… ooh, you fibbers.
In this life we will have trouble. Jesus said that. He says the words our hearts need to hear. And He never gets it wrong – you will have troubles! Guaranteed. If you’re in distress tonight, or feel yourself slowly slip-sliding towards a bad place, you need to hear His words – and accept them. It happens. Bad stuff happens. It’s not the end of the world. You will survive. You will.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46)
I suppose this blog is for those who are struggling, and it’s also me talking to me. When the rubbish and detritus of the past, or fears of the future, threaten to overwhelm and defeat us, we need to think about who God is, how powerful and caring He is, and what worshipping Him can mean to us, right now. What it means to me, tonight.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
That’s in Isaiah, chapter 43. How fabulous. Chins up, Luce – you are redeemed and guarded! And a few chapters later, Chapter 49, I discover that I’m loved:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;”
How can I keep from singing? Even as my boat sinks and the engine catches fire, and the lifeboat springs a leak and a shark is circling…. how can I keep from singing? I am loved.
My problem is sudden stupid irrational fear, terror from the past. It crashes in on me uninvited and unannounced and it takes my breath away and for a while I can barely think. When that happens, as soon as I’m able to, these are the verses I run to. And as the fog and panic clear, as the ghosts dissolve and the present comes back into focus, I turn to a simple command, the command that’s becoming (almost!) second nature from the book of Philippians:
“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Because you can’t juggle two thoughts simultaneously – you can’t live in a dark and horrible past and at the same time think about God’s love, or His wonderful creation, or anything else pure and good. You can’t. Simply impossible. The Bible isn’t full of only God-ology, it’s also full practical, wise and helpful stuff. It’s the blueprint for living in joy, even when everything seems to fall to ashes around your ears.
If you’re a bit battered tonight, a tad low, maybe lonely… whatever is troubling you, from debt to drink to fear, take these words, from Jesus, and know that they’re true if you belong to Him
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Hey – you know what else? As well as praying, you can ask others for prayer. Prayer is a balm to the soul, and knowing that others are praying for you puts you in a family. I’ve discovered that only recently. Reach out for help, to God and to others. You are not alone. God did not create you to be alone. He created you for fellowship with Him, for trust and love, peace and joy.
Isn’t that wonderful? However hard the going gets, isn’t that a wonderful, eternal, ever-present truth? How can I keep from singing?
PS If you’re wondering how the radio play went… it’s getting there. I lasted to 3am. Apparently all-nighters are beyond me these days.