Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God:
for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. Psalm 42:5 KJV
Some of my favorite memories and best life lessons come from the decades I spent working high in the treetops. This morning as I was struggling with the Winter blues and feeling overwhelmed with doubts, I remembered fighting with a heavy limb directly over my head that I was cutting while suspended sixty feet above the ground. My options were limited and the consequences of failure high, but then my foreman called up to me, “Just get mad at it Pete!” His advice got my attention just long enough so I could focus my energy on the solution and not the problem. A tree limb was not what David was struggling with in today’s verse, but his advice sounds a lot like something my old foreman would have approved of. With every reason to be afraid and a laundry list of problems facing him, David decided that the best place to begin was his own soul. He just gets mad at it! “Hope thou in God!” he cries. “Stop whining! Praising God is what your job is, so let’s get with it” (Okay maybe I stretched the Hebrew a little thin here, but you get the idea!) Sometimes we just have to read ourselves the riot act. Our soul is always looking for an easy way out of problems, but no matter our situation or how long the journey, we have to remind ourselves from time to time that God has not left the scene. He is still worthy of our praise, and able to help us. Our job is to be thankful, even if it means getting mad at the situation so we can focus again and put our trust completely in Him!
I enjoyed this recent devotional testimony from Join Eareckson Tada on how she fights off depression. Her battles are far more severe than most of us are facing and I love her idea of making a list of things to thank God for. We are all fighting the same enemy and there is nothing he hates more than hearing how great our God is. So, “Get mad at it!” if it helps. Join David in telling your soul to get with it! You just might be amazed how God will answer and come to help in ways we never dreamed!
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 NKJV
As you are preparing for Thanksgiving, you may be tracking down the family china, defrosting the turkey or running to the store for eggnog. The details of the day with its hustle and bustle sometimes muddle the point of the holiday for a moment. For Jesus and His disciples, the preparing for the Passover were very much the same. Special food had to be bought, a table laid out and certain decorations set in place. While we bring to mind the Pilgrims, the Native Americans and the Mayflower they were remembering their deliverance from Egypt. It was sort of what I like to call – The Jewish Thanksgiving.
And it struck me, that on that special night, that things were not what they appeared. Just beyond the candlelight of that table, the religious leaders were putting plans in motion to arrest Jesus and have him executed. Everything looked good while the disciples were at the table with Jesus, but the reality for Jesus was that the worst day of His life, lay straight ahead. Judas would betray Him, Peter deny Him and all of them whose feet He washed, would run away.
For Jesus, the song He sang with His disciples as they left for the Garden must have had some sadness to it. With the same bittersweet sense of loss that many of us face at Thanksgiving, Jesus still trusted His Father to work all things together for good. He couldn’t see it yet, but His betrayal, led to our salvation, His last meal would still be shared today, and His cross would give forgiveness of sins to hundreds of millions around the world. And when in times of grief or discouragement we wonder how all things are working together for good, remember that even Jesus cried out to His Father for another way. Yet, at His lowest point, Jesus surrendered to His Father’s will, “Not my will but Yours be done”. And His Father answered that prayer, but it was three days later. There God had completed working everything together for good. Then Jesus gave life in the place of death, eternal joy for temporary sorrows and a golden crown in the place of thorns! Why not crown Him Lord over all we are passing through today and believe with all our hearts that He is working all things together for our good?
As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
Mark 5:36 NKJV
I can identify with this synagogue ruler, because last year, right on Thanksgiving Day we received the last phone call from my wife’s sister. Diane was just hours away from passing on into the presence of Jesus. In the same way that the synagogue ruler begged Jesus to come to his home, where his daughter lay at the point of death, Diane was begging for my wife to fly back out to California. Just at that moment, his friends show up and tell him (and Jesus) that his daughter is dead, so why bother Jesus anymore. Imagine the emotions this man feels. During a crisis we often call our friends or family for help. I’ll wake up my wife or knock on our pastor’s door and I do all this because they are the ones who I trust the most. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. As the song says, “We all need someone to lean on.,” but in today’s verse, God tells us that sometimes even those people can be wrong. But Jesus doesn’t argue or try to convince them. Instead, He turns and talks to the man who had come for help. He more or less says, “Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Stay focused on Me”. In the same way, no matter what you are going through remember that God has not forgotten you and He wants us to know that no matter what everyone says, we need to keep our focus on Him.”
Then, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.” I am comforted that Jesus knows when we are afraid, and He isn’t angry about it. Instead of criticizing, He keeps walking with us and offers hope simply by His presence. Last, Jesus says, “Just believe.” That is good news, for me because when I am worn out, beaten down and discouraged, the last thing I need is for someone to give helpful advice. As Pastor Rick Warren says, “God loves you and everyone else has a wonderful plan for your life!” But Jesus doesn’t ask us to try harder, come up with a better attitude or cheer up. All that He asks is for us to believe in Him. He not only knows our problem, but He also knows the solution. He walks with us so we will keep going when we are at our weakest. The good news for all of us this Thanksgiving is that all Jesus asks is to trust Him, “Do not be afraid! Only believe!”
I hope you like this quiet song of thanks by Steffany Gretzinger with Melissa Helser. No matter what you are facing, take time to sit and rest. Then, allow Christ to come and fix things as only He knows how!
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