yesterday was a bad day. THE day that makes you question all that you are. some of the things that you believe. all that you have done. where you are going, where you have been, and where you find yourself right now. that day.
the kind of day where you want to just curl up in your bed and cry your eyes out. but you can’t because there is cross country practice, and dinner, and church night so you just put on sunglasses and drive people where they need to go and hope that no one sees your puffy eyes.
the kind of day where you end up saying to one of your dearest friends on the phone over and over as she is trying to help you, “i just don’t know. i don’t know. i have NO IDEA whether i am doing anything right, wrong, or indifferent. i just don’t know.” and all she can say is, “i’m so sorry”.
the kind of day where you say to yourself dozens of time, “i can cry later. just hold it together for now.”
and then when it is later and you are in bed and no one but God can hear you, you start to cry. the ugly cry. then you sing hymns in your head at 2 a.m. to reassure you of what is True. and Right. and you still don’t know.
that kind of day.
the kind of day where YOU JUST DON’T KNOW anything. which is exactly why we have a God who knows. a God who can be Known. a God Who cares. Who sympathizes. and a God Who has given us His Word... but all you can see is that YOU DON’T KNOW. and you WANT to know.
then you wake up the next morning and you see this tweet from john piper...
I love God's symmetry of trouble and mercy. Troubles for every day (Matt. 6:34). Mercies for every morning (Lam. 3:23).
and then you read your esv reading plan Bible chapters of the day (which pretend not to notice that i checked twitter before i did my Bible reading. thanks.) i always like to have max mclean read the Bible chapters to me first (which might be my favorite feature of the esv online. in case you were wondering if max mclean just popped on over to my house and read the Bible to me in the morning... he doesn’t.) and after the words have washed over me then i read them for myself.
i could NOT believe the 4 chapters for today. well, i could BELIEVE them. i have kind of rested my life on BELIEVING them. but i couldn’t have imagined 4 more perfect chapters for where i was this morning. it was like a personal love letter from God. telling me that He was in control of this situation. telling me that i don’t have to know what to do. that He knows. and He told me OVER and OVER (like perhaps i was the village idiot). in the psalm and wisdom chapter (psalm 23). in the pentateuch and history chapter (1 samuel 12). in the chronicles and prophets chapter (lamentations 3). in the gospels and epistles chapter (1 peter 5). really He was a bit repetitive in His word. in the most glorious and assuring kind of way...
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
God reminded me that HE is leading me down this path (a path i didn’t want to do down) and yet i see that it is a path of righteousness because i am drawing closer to Him with each step deeper into the unknown.
i do not need to be afraid because He is with me. the rod and the staff are tools that Shepherd uses to discipline and lead the sheep. they are also used as protection for the sheep.
and that word “surely” means “ONLY”. ONLY goodness and mercy are following me all the days of my life. whatever God is doing, it is for my good. it is His mercy on me.
then onto the history portion of the reading... samuel’s farewell address. i will emphasize some of the highlights from that chapter that really spoke to me...
And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man's hand.” And he said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.”
And Samuel said to the people, “The LORD is witness, who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous deeds of the LORD that he performed for you and for your fathers. When Jacob went into Egypt, and the Egyptians oppressed them, then your fathers cried out to the LORD and the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your fathers out of Egypt and made them dwell in this place. But they forgot the LORD their God. And he sold them into the hand of Sisera, commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab. And they fought against them. And they cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. But now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, that we may serve you.’ And the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Barak and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king. And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the LORD has set a king over you. If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king. Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the LORD, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking for yourselves a king.” So Samuel called upon the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”
samuel recounts the story of the people. God rescues them. they turn away from God. He sells them into slavery. He restores them. they forget what He has done. they turn away. He seeks them. the story of the israelites is my daily story. forgetting what God has done for me. then recalling His power. and resting in that comfort. then forgetting again.
i was reminded what a GREAT thing it is to be able to pray (i have my moms in touch group today) and not only is it a WONDERFUL thing to pray... ummm, samuel considers that it would be a sin for him NOT to pray for those he is in charge of... wow. how often have i sinned by not praying for a situation with my children? for wailing and gnashing my teeth, reading every article on 10 ways to make your teen tow the line, calling every friend i know... but not praying? pray first. then instruct in the good and right way. and the instruction... isn’t a morality lesson. it is a “fear the Lord, serve Him faithfully, and consider what He has done.”
so onto lamentations... which started out perfect for my depressed mood of “woe am i. this parenting teenagers things is wayyyyyy too hard”... lamentations is perfect for the mom of teenagers. it kind of accurately describes my mood most of the time... of course the whole chapter is subtitled GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS, so i should have seen my nice pity party coming to an end...
I am the man (mom) who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.
He has made my flesh and my skin waste away; (and my hair grow gray, and my skin break out)
he has broken my bones; (well, my feet really do hurt)
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation; (and their little sister, hangry)
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.
He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has made my chains heavy; (well, my chains and my weight are heavy)
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
he has made my paths crooked.
He is a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding;
he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
he has made me desolate;
he bent his bow and set me
as a target for his arrow.
He drove into my kidneys
the arrows of his quiver;
I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, (and of all their teenage friends)
the object of their taunts all day long.
He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with wormwood.
He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the LORD.” (i think i actually said these very words yesterday)
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.
To crush underfoot
all the prisoners of the earth,
to deny a man justice
in the presence of the Most High,
to subvert a man in his lawsuit,
the Lord does not approve.
Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?
Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD!
Let us lift up our hearts and hands
to God in heaven:
“We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven.
“You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us,
killing without pity;
you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can pass through.
You have made us scum and garbage
among the peoples.
“All our enemies
open their mouths against us;
panic and pitfall have come upon us,
devastation and destruction;
my eyes flow with rivers of tears
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.
“My eyes will flow without ceasing,
until the LORD from heaven
looks down and sees;
my eyes cause me grief
at the fate of all the daughters of my city.
“I have been hunted like a bird
by those who were my enemies without cause;
they flung me alive into the pit
and cast stones on me;
water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’
“I called on your name, O LORD,
from the depths of the pit;
you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on you;
you said, ‘Do not fear!’
“You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
you have redeemed my life.
You have seen the wrong done to me, O LORD;
judge my cause.
You have seen all their vengeance,
all their plots against me.
“You have heard their taunts, O LORD,
all their plots against me.
The lips and thoughts of my assailants
are against me all the day long.
Behold their sitting and their rising;
I am the object of their taunts.
“You will repay them, O LORD,
according to the work of their hands.
You will give them dullness of heart;
your curse will be on them.
You will pursue them in anger and destroy them
from under your heavens, O LORD.”
and then onto 1 peter 5. which is all about how WE should shepherd the sheep given to us. which nicely patterns the example set by our great and good Shepherd in psalm 23... and which nicely gives me reassurance that even thought there is no 10 steps to being the perfect parent that there is a Perfect Example that lived and dies (and lives again) so that i don’t have to be the perfect parent...
1 peter 5
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood (or in my case, by the MOTHERHOOD) throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
humility is the key. sometimes that is the thing i am MOST lacking. when i want to KICK the door down. when i want to pry it open because i have that kind of power, that kind of control, i should be trying with the key that really opens the door... humility. when i think i know best. that my way is the best way. the only way. humility opens doors. humility. listening to others. considering others before myself.
i like the way the last part reads in the message version...
So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.
He gets the last word; yes He does. He has great plans for us in Christ. and He will put them together. He will put me back on my feet. He will speak it all into being. things that seem impossible, aren’t. things that seem inevitable, don’t have to happen. He has the last Word. i can’t wait to listen for Him to speak it. i am waiting...
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
(from lamentations 3)