“Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” Psalm 33:22 (NLT)
I’m not sure what it is exactly about this time of year that stirs a deep melancholy in me. It’s hard sometimes to put my finger on why. I’m sure there are lots of factors that color my outlook with a general shade of gray. The weather is not stellar in Oregon this time of year. We haven’t seen the sunshine in weeks and I probably need to take some Vitamin D and level-up my fruit and veggie game.
I think there is probably more to it than that though. We are coming off the busy holidays, full of hustle and bustle and plenty of distraction. Now things are quieter. There’s more time and more space to breathe, rest, think and process things that maybe I’ve been putting off dealing with.
Whether it’s stress and anxiety or pain and grief, if I don’t take time with Jesus to honestly process how I’m feeling, I cannot truly find peace. I will miss out on the hope of healing and the joy that surpasses any circumstances I may be facing.
As women, we have to slow down long enough to take stock of our emotional health and well-being. Whether you are dealing with big, serious stuff, or just day to day frustrations, we can bring all of it to Jesus and process it in the safety of His loving-kindness. Like Psalm 33:12 says, we are surrounded by His unfailing love, and in Him we have hope.
This song by Audrey Assad reminded me of the importance of taking time to observe what you’ve lived though, so that you can find healing and hope. It is my prayer for you today friend, that whatever is weighing on your heart, whether it’s something big and obvious, or a subtle melancholy hanging around in your headspace, don’t run from it. Lean into Jesus’ loving kindness to “calm the raging of the wound. May your healing be a clearing in the woods, and may you breathe in deeper than you ever could before.”
When I think of the power of God, my mind, like most people’s, turns toward the grand and mighty things he has done in the history of humanity. I picture the parting of the Red Sea or Jesus miraculously feeding five thousand people from what was the Bible-time equivalent of a modern-day Lunchable. I think about the power He had in His very touch to heal and save and redeem. All of these acts and miracles tell of God’s greatness and power. And we have access to that same power through the Holy Spirit. The very power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us as Christ-followers.
But sometimes I don’t feel powerful or ready to take on the world, or even the tasks right in front of me. Sometimes I feel small and quiet and still, or over-busy and stressed and spread too thin. It’s easy to forget that even in those moments, there is power. Just being in the presence of God and inviting Him into our busy, into our chaos, or into our heartache is powerful beyond what we can comprehend. One of my favorite songs is called Fall Afresh by Kari Jobe. Here’s the chorus:
It’s the power of Your presence That changes us Your glory all around us And we’re undone You open up the Heavens And fall afresh on us
I love that in this song, the power of just being in God’s presence is enough for the moment. It is in His presence that we become more like Jesus. It is in God’s presence that we find strength, peace and hope. It is in the company and care of our Lord that we are refreshed and renewed in our body, mind and spirit. We don’t have to go far to find Him either. God promises that when we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him. He declares “I will be found by you”.
Take a moment now and listen to the song here. I pray that whatever your circumstances today, however you are feeling, that being in God’s presence fills your heart to overflowing. May you find power in His presence, and rest in His arms.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. John 6:16-21
Picture this scene with me. After a long day of ministering and feeding 5000 people, Jesus goes up to a mountainside to pray. While He is there, His disciples decide to go ahead of Him to Capernaum.
They take the only boat on the shore and start rowing. By now it is getting late and it is dark. They get to the middle of the lake and a strong wind starts blowing and the waves get rough.
I don’t know if you have ever rowed a boat before, but it isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially in the dark with strong winds and rough water! Even though they were experienced fishermen, the storm and waters were so rough that they struggled to get across to the other side.
At just the right time, Jesus shows up, walking casually across the rough water, no less. I don’t blame the disciples for being frightened as He approached. It’s not every day you see a person just taking an unhurried stroll on a stormy sea!
Jesus calls out to them, calming their fears by reminding them who He is. His voice calling out above the waves and the wind must have been the most welcome sound the disciples had ever heard. In that moment, they recognized Him and they were willing to take Him into the boat. As soon as He stepped into the boat, they instantly arrived at the shore.
Did you catch that? They were in the middle of a lake, in a storm, waves crashing everywhere. They are rowing and rowing and not getting anywhere. Then Jesus shows up. Once they decided to invite Him into the boat, they miraculously were transported to the shore, to the exact place they were headed!
Jesus didn’t calm the storm first and walk to the disciples on peaceful waters. He stepped right over the waves, because He himself was Peace. In His presence, they found a life-line that no circumstances could ever break. When we feel stuck in a rough situation that’s hard to see through, we need Jesus to show up. There is nothing, not the darkness of night, or the strongest of storms that can keep Jesus from coming to you.
That rough water–He controls it. The wind obeys His commands. He is in control of all creation and has got you firmly in His grasp. He will not let you go under. He will keep you from sinking and lead you to safety.
Jesus is present in your situation, even if you don’t always recognize Him there. When you take your eyes off the storm long enough to look toward Him, you will always find Him nearby, waiting to help. Listen for His voice above the wind and the waves. Will you let Him into the boat to be your peace and your life-line?
Too often when I find myself in the middle of difficult circumstances, I work so hard to fix it by my own strength that I end up weary and distraught. In those situations, I’m like the disciples, rowing and rowing and not getting anywhere (except worn out!). How long do we needlessly struggle when simply allowing God into the boat will help us experience His strength and peace while we get to where we are supposed to be.
When we are reminded of who God is and allow Him into our situation, we get to experience the peace of knowing we are safe in His love and protection. In His care, He is able to get us to the other side of our situation. He himself is our peace, we need not be afraid. He is always near and ready to step into any storm.
When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” Joshua 4:1-7
2019 was a mixed bag for me. Overall, it was a good year with more moments of joy than of stress. There were times when I could clearly see God’s provision and love. And there were other times that I waited in silence, anxious to hear some whisper of hope from my Lord.
Honestly, that probably describes 2019 for a lot of us. Each day has its own ebb and flow and rhythm that we dance to, doing the best we can to care for the people in our life, keep the house respectable and all the plates spinning.
But in the midst of the busy day-to-day, it is so important to take a moment, breathe deeply and reflect on how God has been at work. When you do, you might be surprised how much it changes you and your relationship with God.
Take the story of Joshua in the Bible. Moses had been leading the Israelites for decades in the desert and when he dies, Joshua is appointed as the new leader. His first assignment is to lead a ton of people across the Jordan river which is, by the way, at flood stage. This is not an easy task, but God reminds Joshua to be strong and courageous because He has given him everything he needs to complete the task before him. (If you ever need a good pep talk-check out Joshua 1:1-9)
Joshua obeys God and leads the people right up to the edge of the water. As soon as the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant dipped a toe in the water, the water upstream stopped flowing and they all crossed on dry ground. It’s very reminiscent of when God parted the Red Sea years earlier. While they are crossing, Joshua tells the leaders of each tribe to gather stones from the middle of the river, and set them up where they will sleep that night, so that they will always remember how God had worked that day, but also so that they could build the faith of others by telling them about what God had done.
So the Israelite Leaders stopped and collected large stones just as Joshua instructed them. Joshua set them up to serve as a reminder of what God had done, giving them hope and courage for the future.
It was paramount that they stopped right then and there to honor God and recognize His deeds. Their journey was far from over. They would go on to Jericho next, and succeed in bringing down a city fortress.
But Joshua knew that even in the time it would take the Israelites to travel to Jericho, it would be easy for them to forget all that God had done to get them there.. It would be tempting to fear the unknown before them or lose sight of the One who was holding everything together.
As humans, it doesn’t take long for us to forget what God has done. We too can become desensitized to His presence in our day to day routines.
For us, it is equally important to stop and recognize God’s presence, power and provision in our lives.
The New Year is a perfect time to do just that. As we put 2019 in our rear-view and look ahead to 2020, it’s important to stop and take stock of what God has done in the past and what He is doing in and around us now. As we take this time to reflect and remember, our faith and trust in Him grows and He grants us boldness and courage for the future. We are then able to share with those around us how God is real and at work everyday.
In every circumstance, good or bad, God has been present, active and moving, working on your behalf. Because of His great love for you, He will continue to go before you and give you courage and strength and hope.
What could you use as a memory stone in your life? Perhaps you could write down some of the ways you’ve felt God’s presence or seen His provision this past year, and put it someplace you will see it regularly. Maybe there were times you witnessed His power in situations where you could not have succeeded alone.. For me, I am overwhelmed with awe when I see a beautiful sunset and I marvel at the beauty of His work. You could even download the image at the top of this article, print it out and write your own “God-moments” on the back.
Take just a few minutes and “set out some stones” to remember the past, to recognize Him in the present and look forward to the wonderful things He has in store for the future.
Merciful God and Father, sometimes it is hard to see you at work in the moment. Please help us to see you with fresh eyes. Help us to see how you have been at work in the past, in the blessings and the tough times. Help us to recognize your handiwork, so that we can see it now, as you work in and around us. Father, you have promised us hope for the future. You go before us and call us to be strong and courageous because you are always with us. Help us to look forward to the future, with the faith and strength that you give, knowing that we are your beloved children and that you will never leave us. We trust that in the same way you led Joshua, that you will lead us and provide for our every need. Help us to draw close to you and follow you always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.