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Hitting the wall of Desperation (Finding Joy in the Midst of My Life)

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Psalm 107 describes 4 desperate groups of people.

  1. People wandering in the desert who are thirsting and hungering until their lives ebb away
  2. People in iron chains of bondage/labor because they rebelled against God and his counsel
  3. People who became fools and suffered affliction because of their sins
  4. People out on a fierce raging ocean, whose courage has melted away

In each situation, when “they cried out to the LORD in their trouble” “He delivered them from their distress” (vs. 6, 13, 19, 28).

  1. For the parched and hungry wanderers, God led them by a straight way; he satisfied their thirst and filled the hungry with good things (v. 7 & 9)
  2. For those in bondage, he brought them “out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains” (v. 14)
  3. For those who were foolish and suffered affliction because of their sin, “God sent forth his word and healed them; and rescued them from the grave” (v. 20)
  4. For those out on the sea, at their wit’s end, adrift on waves that seem to rise to the heavens and go down to the depths, whose courage had melted, “God stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (v. 29); God “guided them to their desired haven” (v. 30)

Have you ever found yourself in a desperate place?

I have. I remember the way it felt to be overweight. I weighed close to 200 pounds. I had an addiction to food. I overcame that addiction through prayer and by God’s help. At my weigh-ins, from 197 down, I wrote over the charted weight loss, the verse from Philippians 4:13, which declared my dependence upon God to help me get out of my desperate situation.

Years later, as I had gained some weight and tried to get it off again, I hit a wall. I couldn’t seem to get myself motivated enough to get back into the discipline I needed to get healthy again. Until I admitted my inability to do this on my own, and asked God for his help, I couldn’t seem to get myself motivated for the long haul and committed to the changes I needed to embrace.

I had maintained my weight loss for over a decade; I had slipped into an attitude that I could somehow do this on my own. I had grown proud and forgot that God had delivered me. I had forgotten to be thankful to God.

As I approached my need to lose weight, only when I admitted my powerlessness over it, and my need for God, did the answers start coming.

I think this is what the Psalmist is referring to here—the joy of dependence upon God, and our need to daily remember it’s not us who has gotten us out of the desperate situations. It is God. Thankfulness is the key to remembering what God has done in our lives and sustaining lifelong changes.

Today, take a long look at the pathway of victories behind you. Remember all the ways God has been faithful to you. Remember his love endures forever and is great (vs. 1-2, vs. 43). Give thanks with joyful songs (v. 22).

Are you facing another desperate situation? He will make a way. He is the same God. But first, you and I must humbly come to the end of ourselves and cry out to God for help.

Prayer: God, I know. I know your ways are mysterious. I confess my pride before you, and lay my life bare before your holy gaze. I lay down my defenses. And I humble myself. I turn from my self-interest, my thinking I can devise my way through. And I turn my empty hands toward you. You are my redeemer. God, help me. Thank you for your enduring and great love for me, and for never giving up on me. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Finding Joy in the Midst of my Life (A Daily Bible Study)

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Day 4

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4

In a modern pop rock classic, the singer talks about how it would feel to lose every material thing. It would be a very dark and personal place the songwriter claims.

Yet as believers, we can be living a rich joy filled life, in Christ, no matter what our bank account has in it. How? I think John shows us some insights here in this verse.

  1. John had his perspective heavenward-focused on God. The LORD was his first thought and his consuming passion. He wasn’t living in denial. He was simply convinced Christ was the main thing. And John kept the main thing the main thing.
  1. John’s life-focus pointed upward to Christ and secondly, outward to his “children” in the LORD, those who God had placed in his spiritual care.

I can think back to people in my life in whom I invested, but God doesn’t want us to live in the past. When I read this passage, it challenged me to continue to engage in mentoring. God has given us a lot as Christians. We have the regular teaching in church, listening to sermons. God has given us many trying experiences through which he has comforted us with his love and wise counsel. God’s desire we share the comfort with others that he has given us is not just for the sake of giving. I believe it is for the sake of the joy!

With whom is God leading you to share your testimony? With whom is God leading you to come alongside and mentor?

It’s easy to grow inward as Christians and actually live in cocoons. But Jesus said we were to be reaching out not reaching in. Yes the experience of working with others can be challenging and take a lot of energy. Yet the joy of seeing “our children” learning to walk in Christ’s truth, and in turn see them reaching out to mentor others, is the stuff of real joy! Nothing we can possess in the material world compares to this spiritual blessing.

Jesus knew what he was talking about when he urged us to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, he knew that if we throw off self-interest, and seek his kingdom, our lives would gain joyous perspective (Matthew 6:33).

Prayer: God, when my life lacks joy, help me to reach out to someone who needs my encouragement. Help me to throw off the heavy weight of self-interest. Help me to seek your kingdom first. You see how these things are counter cultural. Culture would lead us dive in to life me first. So we need your help God. We cannot do this on our own. Give us courage to focus on you first, and then help us have an outward focus on helping those who you have placed in our lives for us to help along the way. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

The Story Behind our Blue Chair

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Our blue chair has a story behind it. I still remember the day we selected it. It didn’t come from a furniture store. Rather we saw it on the way home from a speaking contest. I was dressed like a princess (because I was speaking about my fairytale marriage, and how letting go of the things I thought I wanted (temporal things) enabled me to hold on to the things that really mattered most). I wore a dark blue flowing silk gown, high heels. I even had a tiara.
As we neared our home stretch, I saw this blue chair, sitting by the road. “Oh Jeff, look! A chair just like I was praying for, for our family room.” With little money, we couldn’t just go out and purchase furniture.
Jeff rolled his eyes and giggled at me as I hopped out of the car, in my blue flowing dress and high heels. “Do you want your tiara princess?” He joked, extending his hand my way with the crown.
I glanced back at him and smiled, dodging mud puddles, and keeping my eye on the chair. As I neared it, I noticed a rip in the fabric, down from one of the decorative front buttons. But I could fix it. I glanced at the legs of the chair. The fabric had come unhemmed. But a needle and thread could do that up nice. There was some obvious soiling beneath the arm rests, but I had faith that with some scrubbing and old fashioned elbow grease, it would come clean.
“What do you think?” Jeff hollered out the car window.
I glanced at Jeff. “I think we can fix it up. Let’s take it home.”
I grabbed one side of the chair, Jeff grabbed the other. Together we placed the chair in the trunk.
He skillfully managed the car down the streets and to our driveway. We scurried out and lifted the chair from the trunk, and walked it back to the patio. Jeff drove off to work. I went to task.
First I sprayed the chair down with disinfectant. Then I lathered it with antibacterial soap, scrubbing off all the layers of soiling. I rinsed off the suds and let the chair dry in the sunlight. I soaked and scrubbed the cushion. I laundered the cushion cover and then dried it on the clothesline. After the chair had dried, I threaded a needle and carefully mended the upholstery.
That night, when Jeff arrived home, we added our “new” chair to the family room. It not only worked, it matched our decor perfectly. It has become one our favorite comfy spots to enjoy.
My chair story reminds me of my marriage story. As a woman whose husband experienced job loss and depression, I know marriage is not easy. But I want to offer hope. Christian marriage is a cleansing process. With a lot of prayer, and following the Bible’s principles, God’s mending and scrubbing at the stains of the hearts of imperfect humans, marriage can be a treasure and a comfort. Maybe we’ll think of the little blue chair next time our marriages challenge us.