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Pouring out the Soul

September 17th, 2018

Trust in the Lord at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. (Psalm 62:8)

God created us with the capacity to feel, and this is because we are made in His image. Just as God felt love for the world, despite its sinfulness, and gave the Son as payment for our sin, so our hearts are also capable of great feelings – including love, compassion, and godly desire. But because sin has entered into the human race this trait has become warped and misshapen. We now feel fear and lust mixed with longings and ambitions.

Not all that we long for is wrong – many long for peace, harmony, enough to live on, happiness for our loved ones, success in life, justice for our cause, etc. – though much of it is. But sin has seemed to infiltrate and pervert to some degree even the best of our desires until longing is corrupted by fear instead of supported by faith.

The theme of Psalm 62 is a calm resolve to patiently wait on the Lord. “Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation” (Psa. 62:1), David wrote. Then he repeated the thought, strengthening his faith, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved” (Psa. 62:5-6). Whenever we are tempted to panic, whenever we feel wrongly pushed to action that God has not ordained, we need to tell our souls to wait and trust in the Lord.

But what about all of these feelings inside us? What do we do with the thoughts of our hearts, for inside there are good desires mixed with fears. The solution is to pour them out before God, and this is a description of prayer, “pour out the heart.” Hannah used similar words as she described her praying for a child. As a childless young wife, in an age when to bear children was considered a woman’s duty and main significance, she longed for a child with all her heart. Due to the intensity of her praying she was suspected by the priest Eli of being drunk, and she replied:

No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now. (1 Samuel 1:15)

The psalms are the primary scriptural guide for us on how to pray and they are filled with examples of people emptying out their hearts to God, expressing fears, longings, concerns, hopes, and hurts. There is nothing that we may not take to God in prayer. We can pour out to Him the thoughts that we are afraid to mention to another human. We may confess every sin and find forgiveness and cleansing. We can take every fear and find a loving Father who patiently listens to His child. And when worldly fear and godly longing are intermixed in our hearts, we can still bring these to Him and leave our requests before Him.

Prayer does not always consist of great emotional outpourings, nor need it be so. We often pray with calmness of heart and with unperturbed souls. But sometimes we feel differently, and in such circumstances we need to learn the discipline of taking these matters to Him.

And in our spiritual growth into Christlikeness, there comes a level of maturity where we do feel strongly for things of God, where it is righteousness that is our concern. Where we are not obsessed merely about our own problems, but sin and its effect on others has troubled our soul. We see the lostness of the world and the injustices of human society. We see needy children and sick people, the poor and abused, and our hearts hurt for others because of the evil in this world. Society seems to be running away from God, and our hearts are broken. So these are also feelings we need to pour out before the Lord.

Whatever is on your heart, take it to God and learn to trust in Him. Prayer is a ministry to others for it brings the world’s needs to God, and it is a ministry to our own souls as it unburdens our hearts.

Psalm 23

Not to Worry

March 20th, 2017

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want. (Psalm 23:1)

I heard a good sermon last night here in Milan, Italy, at the International Church of Milan, by Pastor Jim Albright, on this text.  Rarely does a day go by that would not become brighter if we would just remember this simple truth. He who has all power has promised us that He will care for us, and this simple truth should resolve our tendencies to worry.

Yet, sin being what it is, infectious, deep, troublesome, stubborn, still dampens our spirits. Our problems land on us like rain on a leaky roof, and they seep down, dripping through all the cracks and crevices of our lives, the untended places and unresolved things, to the deepest parts of our souls, pooling and stagnating there. A memory is all it takes to trigger a wave of worry that blocks out the sun in our eyes on any day. Something that happened long ago can conjure up in our minds all manner of doubts and worries.

So we need constantly to keep such verses before us, to put them there and to keep them there. We can never predict when a doubt will surface, when a fear will take our minds off of God’s benevolence and faithfulness.

Corrie Ten Boom wrote, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Warren Wiersbe said: “Most Christians are being crucified on a cross between two thieves: Yesterday’s regrets and tomorrow’s worries.” Unresolved regrets feed into our worries and both rob us of the joy of the Lord. John Maxwell said: “The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”

We take responsibility by choosing what to think about – the faithfulness of God or the problems of life. Our minds must always make a priority to meditate on the positive blessings of God. It may seem chic and realistic to complain about life – “misery loves company” the adage goes – but it is far better to be reminded of God’s goodness in the midst of each day than to be obsessed with life’s unpredictable nature.

The soul that sings through its troubles chooses to do so out of its faith in God’s promises, and not simply because it has no sorrow. The Christian sees the hand of God active – forgiving our sins, feeding our souls, strengthening us in the inner most of our lives. Rather than obsessing over the problem we face, we would do better to anticipate the strength of God we will receive through the problem. What new thing will I learn about God’s amazing care for me through this new challenge? That is a question worthy of a Christian’s attention.

The scripture says:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19 NIV)

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