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My Tears in a Bottle

October 12th, 2017

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

Are our sorrows forgotten by God? Are our challenges, difficulties, and sadnesses recorded? In sorrow and pain we often feel quite alone, but are we truly alone?

This verse should resolve those questions for our hearts. God keeps account of them. The word translated “sorrows” above, could be understood to mean purposeless roamings, or even to tossing and turning in bed. Often these things seem purposeless, mere reactions out of the pressures we are under.

As a psalm of David we can imagine him referring to the years he was hiding out from the wrath of King Saul - running here or there to random places. Are these places remembered by God? Did they have His blessings when they were used? My wife and I as missionaries, over more than forty years of marriage, have lived in more than thirty places, but each one was a home for the time we were there. Each had God’s blessing.

What makes life truly memorable is not the ease and comfort of our circumstances, nor the public attention we may have gathered for a brief period. It is the fact that God was with us as followers of Christ. He brings purpose, dignity, and meaning. He collects our tears, and records each day. And let us always keep before us the reality of His mercy, that He forgives all our sins and heals us as well.

One of the difficulties of growing older is the loss of shared memories. When those friends and family members with whom we lived, worked, and endured or celebrated life pass away, part of us dies as well, for we lose those with whom we lived our lives, those who know our histories.

Yet no memory is truly lost to God. He still recalls them all, and can warm our hearts through all of our lives. He turns our seemingly meaningless roamings into holy pilgrimages, where at each leg of the journey we have learned something about life, about ourselves, and especially about Him.

Daily Devotions, Dealing with Difficulties , , ,

Enlarging Your Steps

June 6th, 2017

Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. (Psalm 18:36 KJV)

Here is a promise for us that was an experience for David. Twice in the Holy Book he described his experience in these terms: God enlarging his steps. In his psalm recorded in 2 Samuel 22:37, and in Psalm 18 above.

The modern translations tend to say that this means, “You have broadened my path,” always trying to find the dynamic equivalent. Yet the original is clearly steps, and not path. God does straighten our paths (Prov. 3:5-6) and broaden them on many occasions. In His grace the rough places become smooth (Isaiah 40:3-4). That is stated in His Word. But David was describing something different here - not that the path became level but that he himself became stronger. His steps were enlarged so that he stepped over the rough spots.

Does not God do this for us? Is not this His plan as much as smoothing the path is? Children cry over the slightest of hurts, but a grown person knows these things are not worth crying over. Immature people fight to get their way, or erupt in fear over the slightest upsetting of their hopes, but mature people trust God in all things and know the difference between a major issue and a minor one.

Sometimes God does this through giving us a bigger problem. A few weeks ago I flew to Asia where we lived for twenty years. My knee was giving me such problems that I considered cancelling my trip - I am scheduled for knee replacement surgery next week. But I decided to go anyway, and while I was there I came down with shingles - a much more serious concern. Suddenly the knee pain seemed as though it was nothing, and God has often done things like this in my life.

The bigger problems seem sometimes to be easier for us to give to Him than the smaller ones, and perhaps that is why God allows us to have them. Cancer we will give to God, knowing we cannot handle it alone. But a sore toe we will nurse ourselves and complain and whine about. But all matters we can place in His hands and learn to stand in His grace and strength.

Our child’s studies may disturb us and cause us to worry if they will apply themselves, until they have a serious sickness. Then, in a matter of seconds, everything is put into a different perspective, and God has enlarged our steps to handle the harder matter. If we can step over a dangerous illness, then we also learn that the minor frustrations of life are really nothing at all to worry about.

Sometimes God does this by giving us a larger vision. We are often worried about how we can reach one person for Christ, when we ought to have entire cities and whole nations on our hearts. We trip over many stumbling stones in service and witness that are practically nothing at all. The Christian must learn to take great steps for God and not become disheartened over one little rejection.

Poet Sam Walter Foss, perhaps unknowingly, spoke of this spiritual enlargement in the hearts of Christians when he wrote:

Bring me men to match my mountains.
Bring me men to match my plains.
Men with empires in their purpose.
And new eras in their brains.

We need people who are not afraid to dream dreams with the Holy Spirit, to let the Spirit enlarge their hearts and enlarge their steps as well.

The vision of one single man from Macedonia got Paul and his companions to go there and begin work, but once he was there he realized a whole continent that needed Christ. Baker James Cauthen, speaking to newly appointed missionaries, spoke of this matter of a vision and the experience in living out the vision.

You have visualized the need, but in your place of service you will discover that the vision was smaller than the need really is. When you tackle the responsib.ility, the size, weight, and extend of it will make you feel your need of God that you may “be strong and of good courage.”

You will find that even though you have prayed about your mission task and carefully planned for it, the results you long for may not come as readily as you desire. You will need to be strong in your readiness to let God’s results come in God’s time - knowing that he will bring his word to fruition if you trust him. You have to be strong in your faith that when you share God’s word it will not come back empty.*

Our steps, if they are enlarged must also have the pace of God behind them, that we do not panic or become discouraged when things do not happen when we wanted them to. Large steps endure difficulty, maintain hope, see the mountains to which they are headed, do not stumble over the little pebbles in the way. They keep pace with the Spirit of God and trust Him in all things. This strength comes from God and we have no reason to boast in it on account of ourselves.

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*Baker James Cauthen, Beyond Call, Broadman Press, 1973, pp. 11-12.

Dealing with Difficulties, burnout, encouragement , , ,