This week on the podcast Olivia and I talked about lament. Laments are seen throughout the Bible, but are particularly important part of the book of Psalms. Psalm 42 really struck me this week. Read it with me below.
THE HOLY BIBLE (ESV translation)
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah."
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God."
Psalms have been such an important place for me to run to, especially during times when I feel like my emotions and thoughts are just racing out of control. They instruct me and remind me of the strength and truth I have in God.
Psalm 42 reminds me that I have to fight for the grounding that comes with peace in God. The writer says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” This psalm moves me away from two very dangerous ways that I tend to deal with my emotions. The first is ignoring my emotions. This writer is obviously feeling his feelings. The psalmist is asking God, entering into a dialogue with the creator of the universe. When I think about how God has allowed me to come to him with questions like this psalmist it really boggles my mind. God is saying that asking why is ok and legitimate.
The second dangerous way I deal with my emotions is wallowing or allowing them to dictate how I see reality. The writer is reminding his heart and his mind that he “shall again praise [God].” I love that he reminds himself of what will happen in the future. I don’t have to wait until I feel like praising God to remind myself that I will one day. This season will pass, this darkness will go away, and God wins. This is the hope of the gospel, even in tragedy. I hold on to what I know is true about God’s character, what he has promised about the future, and how he has provided for me in the past. I don’t have to praise perfectly in the middle of hard times, but simply know that it doesn’t change God or the promises he has made.
John Piper summed it up well by saying, “if we meditate on this instruction day and night, our thoughts about God and life, on the one hand, and our emotions, on the other hand, will be shaped by God. And we will become like a tree that bears fruit and whose leaves don’t wither when the drought of oppression and discouragement and turmoil comes.”
Love you all so much!
God has been showing his faithfulness in my recent study of the book of Jonah. The book is fascinating because it ends in a way you wouldn't expect. Jonah preaches to the city of Nineveh, after much reluctance, and the city repents. Instead of staying, rejoicing, and teaching them further he retreats to the outskirts of the city. Jonah hopes and believes it would be fitting for God to still bring the destruction He promised Nineveh. Despite this, God reminds Jonah that He is a loving and gracious God. God relents and does not bring destruction on Nineveh and this makes Jonah angry. Throughout the story we see God pursue Jonah. He cares for Jonah so much that He is not willing to leave Jonah's heart, with all its hatred, in its current state. He wants to get Jonah's attention so badly and cares so much that He sends a storm, fishermen, a fish, a protective plant, a worm, and then finally confronts Jonah with His own voice.
What I realized in the book of Jonah is that when I value anything over God, His glory, or His plan He will get my attention. When I hold my own ideas, plans, and desires above God I am making Him a liar. I am saying He doesn't know what is best for me, when in reality He is my perfectly just, loving, and all - knowing creator. It does not do me well to be angry at Him. God knows what I need and holding the different idols of my heart tighter only hurts me.
Author: Trenda Byrd
During his time of being in a pandemic, I have experienced God's faithfulness more than ever. I say that because I have kept my health, my job, and my relationship. God forcing the world to stop has forced me to stop and slow down. I have been able to really lean more into the Word and meditate on it. In terms of my relationship with my fiancé, we have gotten closer because we have been able to spend more time with one another. Throughout this time I believe God has been showing me things because I have not been so distracted. It is almost as if this pandemic has helped me to re-center myself in order to prepare me for this next season in my life. Everyday I am reminded of His faithfulness by looking at the positive things in my life.
In Ezekiel 34: 22 -24 it says "I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David , and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken."
For me, God's faithfulness is shown in the power He shows in His word and in my own life to bring about what He will, for His glory. There is nothing sweeter or more peaceful than knowing God will bring about what He wants for my life. I don't have to be anxious because he is my creator and comforter and knows what is best.
I've been reading through the Bible this year and it has been sweeter than I could have imagined. The stories of God's faithfulness in the Old Testament show a more powerful and merciful God than I knew before this year. I think my encouragement of God's faithfulness is how beautifully and fully He reveals himself in consistent time spent in scripture.
As Daniel says, "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; HE knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him." Daniel 2: 20 - 22
An overarching example of God's faithfulness in my life was the death of my first wife. There were many things that I knew about God up until this terrible event. Through her death, God, in his mercy, made himself better known to me. In the fog of living that followed her death, God met me with exactly what I needed at work, with friends and my church community. It takes time and perspective of multiple years to see the landscape God had me travel and to see his hand in the path. There was indeed a whole set of problems that had been handed to me at the age of 26. I was and simultaneously wasn’t prepared for this much trouble. I was blessed to be given the opportunity to work out my faith in the years following. God glorified Himself by becoming much bigger than what I understood him to be capable of and more beautiful and lovely than I had previously thought possible.
God's faithfulness started in my life before I even knew the Lord. After a broken relationship with a college boyfriend sent me to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was heartbroken and had no real understanding of what the Lord had done for me. He was providing a path for me to know Him. Through the pain of my circumstances I was being moved into lives of believers. I met a guy who talked to me about Christ and his faith. At that time he was cleaning the office I worked in. Those were some of the first seeds that were sown about the gospel.
I met several people at my apartment complex and they eventually invited me to a bible study. I went but I was pretty nervous because I knew very little about Jesus. At that time I was in need of some friends and that's what motivated me to go. Little did I know that God was drawing me to himself.
As my eyes were being opened, I started attending church and then received Christ when I was 26 years old. He continued to be faithful as I grew in the word and eventually lead me to a wonderful man who I have been married to for 31 years. The rest is history. I can look back and and see His hand in every part of this journey.
Author: Antone Scott
My daughter asked me to write about God’s faithfulness in my life. I thought about it long and hard and found it someway overwhelming to pick out just one story. God has done so much in my life that I could write several books about his faithfulness, and His promises. I hope you notice that I said HIS PROMISES, for Jesus does not lie, and He does not make empty promises like we do…ok, I will speak for myself as I do. I am truly thankful that God keeps his word because people will disappoint every time.
I thought about writing of a time God saved my husband and I from being crushed by an 18-wheeler truck. I was driving and it would have been my fault. I may tell that story one day. Then I thought about writing of a time God showed me in a dream which daycare to put my toddler in, that’s an interesting story that I may share later.
What I am going to write about is a conversation that my husband and I had with my daughter Olivia at my birthday dinner this past week. Some how we got on the subject of “raising children in a corrupt world." She was explaining to us that in this technological age and the horrific things going on, this would be a difficult time to have children. My husband and I agreed that it is not an ideal time; however, each generation has voiced this same concern. This took me back to my early twenties, when I was thinking about marriage and children. I remember sitting in a car listening to the radio when the news came on. The broadcaster announced how a local school system was making plans to put police officers in the schools because of the growing drugs and gang violence happening among students. Wow! That was not only shocking, but disturbing. I thought to myself, "Oh no. This world has gotten too cruel for me to bring children in it. Lord, what am I going to do?" Well, you know what popped into my head? Yep! That scripture that people half quote…where God said-be fruitful and multiply. God said so much more:
Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
There are many more scriptures in the Bible that reference to us being fruitful and multiplying, we can even apply this concept to our own lives in serving Him.
Back to my story, in the car that day, I almost went against what God wanted for me. I almost missed out on my blessing. He sent his son to this world in human form. He knows exactly what is going on in this world. As time goes on, His message should become stronger in His followers, His disciples. We are here to spread God’s word in this world, to do God’s work-to bring in the lost to His kingdom. Christians already know how this story will end: we have the victory! Through my conversation with my Heavenly Father that day, he helped me to see the work of not only what I was put here to do, but what my offspring will do in His name. I trusted Him and believed in His promise. He put a shield of protection around my children and helped me to raised them to know Him, to worship Him, to live for Him, to be disciples for Him. Thank you, God, for His faithfulness, and His promise. It was not me, for I did not always hold up my end, but I thank God for His grace and mercies, they are new every morning.
Antone Scott, a disciple of Christ, a mother of three, and a school counselor
Here we go again—another issue... another challenge... another closed door... I started questioning whether I really heard God’s voice when He told me to leave my corporate job of 7 years where I was rapidly climbing the ladder of success, had the CFO coaching me on becoming a VP, made a NICE salary with AMAZING benefits, and had co-workers who I absolutely adored. Granted, I did experience problems, but that comes with the territory, right?
Since God instructed me to leave all that behind and enhance my own nonprofit that I founded 3 years ago, surely THIS journey would be a piece of cake, right? He wouldn’t take me from greatness to mediocrity, right?
I expected my transition to be smooth with minimal setbacks. I expected God to send me a building, equipment, vehicles, and personnel within a few months because I obeyed him. What He did, however, was allow the people who always volunteered to help my nonprofit be too busy to help me. He allowed everything and everyone I once relied on to be removed from me. He placed me in a season of isolation where there was no one but me, myself, and I. He started giving me business ideas to implement. I was so confused that I didn’t do anything with those business ideas for months. I mean, God, you told me to build my nonprofit, not start 2 other businesses! This is not how I imagined things going.
The most difficult part of this continuous journey hasn’t been the journey itself, but my perspective of how I feel things SHOULD be versus how they’re actually playing out. One thing I’m learning is that I have to have faith not just in a crisis, but all the time. The Bible says, “And the just shall LIVE by faith,” so that means walking in faith is something I have to do all the time. Regardless of how things crumble around me, I must be so grounded in Christ that I’m not phased by what I see. I’m only moved by the Word and promises of God because I already know the outcome—I WIN. I had to trust that God’s plan was bigger and greater than I knew and I just had to walk in the calling and anointing that’s been placed on my life.
I have started to see God’s hand shift. Doors of opportunity started opening and networking partnerships began to flourish. Businesses started asking questions about my consulting company. An attorney from California, whom I have never met, sought me out to be on The Board for a national organization he started 4 years ago. He said he’s been watching my growth and needs my expertise on his team. My businesses are gaining major momentum. Had I been disobedient and stayed at my old job, NONE of these opportunities would have presented themselves.
I said all that to say it’s all about alignment. When we submit ourselves to God—not just with our words, but with our actions, thoughts, and desires—we free his hands to move on our behalf. We reap the reward of trusting and obeying Him. When we murmur, complain, and try to do things in our own strength and might, God sits back and allows us to do it and receive the consequences of our work.
I challenge you to free yourself of your own thoughts and walk in the freedom of knowing that if God instructed you to do it, he will make the provisions, partnerships, and all things align in HIS perfect timing, when he knows you’re ready. We have to get out of our own way, remove the thoughts of how things SHOULD play, and simply submit to the perfect plan of God through the good, bad, and the ugly. At the end of the day, as difficult as it may be sometimes, God rewards our CONSISTENT obedience to him and his word through it all. Be blessed
Author: Brittany Gardner
Love is such an obscure yet intriguing thing. It’s depicted everywhere in the media and many cultures even have multiple names for it: pragma, eros, philia, agape. All of these words describe different ways that love can be expressed. We all desire it, we search for it, and do crazy things for it. But unfortunately, many of us get deeply wounded in this pursuit. I think it’s because we don’t truly know what we are looking for. In this crazy journey called life, I’ve discovered that without Christ, there is no way to truly understand what love is because He embodies it. In my own pursuit of love, I came to realize that God was actually pursuing me. Let me tell you about how my life changed when I realized that God was chasing after me because He desperately wanted to show me what love is.
My story starts out like that of many others. I was raised by my mom and dad with two other siblings and just as many other Jamaican families do, we attended church. They claimed that God loved me but the fire and brimstone stuff wasn’t really working for me so by the time I got to college, the concept of God wasn’t anywhere near my mind. I arrived on campus eager and starry-eyed, ready to revel in my newfound freedom. But as I watched their Honda Odyssey minivan pull off from the curb, a heavy loneliness descended on me and I ended up not being able to shake it until the end of my senior year. I definitely tried though. I joined a sorority, went to parties, and slept with men that truly didn’t deserve all my goodness. I spiraled into a confusing tornado of isolation, insomnia, depression, and anxiety and didn’t even know that I was being torn apart. So one night, without really thinking much of it, I prayed. I hit rock bottom and was being drilled further into the ground. I was without the language to even describe what I was feeling, the campus psychologist wasn’t really helping, and I literally didn’t know what else to do so I hoped that he would hear me, even from the bottom of this pit.
And He did. He heard me loud and clear. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, but that next semester I just felt a little lighter. I honestly hadn’t done anything differently. But the heaviness that characterized my every move, making it hard for me to even take a breath, had slightly lifted. But the next semester is when God really showed up. I was spending the spring semester at Spelman College on a domestic exchange program and you couldn’t tell me nothin’! I was ready. I was gonna be at all the parties, in all the clubs, King of Diamonds, you name it, I was gonna do it. AND I was gonna get me a Morehouse Man. But God had other plans. At every corner I turned, there was someone talking to me about Jesus. Every door I opened, from orientation, to lunch in the cafeteria, He was there. Two of the other women on the domestic exchange from another school, who I am still very close friends with to this day, were believers. One of them actually grew up in the area and invited me to her family church for Tuesday night services. I distinctly remember her saying, “You know Brittany, there’s no pressure if you don’t want to come.” But in that moment it hit me and I knew that it was God who was responsible for the lightness I experienced last semester. It was so uncharacteristic of me, but it was like I couldn’t resist it. I had to keep going with her. I had to say yes and I wanted to say yes. And that semester I decided to keep following Jesus.
The next academic year it only got better. Once I returned to Duke, I felt so new and so refreshed but I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I felt like I was seeing myself with new eyes and the people I usually hung out with wouldn’t understand. But God had already taken care of that. He was pursuing me even before I got to Spelman. During the semester before I did the exchange, my roommate was a strong believer in Christ and a leader in the campus ministry group. I had no clue what a “campus ministry group” was but she invited me to their meetings a few times and also invited me to church. She was my roommate and I wanted to be nice, so I agreed. But all these people that I had briefly met were the very same people waiting with open arms to embrace me once I returned from Spelman. They revolutionized the way I interacted with people and with myself, turned everything I knew upside down. Why were they always so happy to see me? Why did they actually expect a detailed response when they asked me how I was doing? They made time to eat meals with each other, they spent time catching up and talking about things other than class work. Being a part of it was almost intoxicating. I couldn’t stay away. I needed more Jesus, I needed more of these people. It was Jesus in their approach to friendship. It was the Holy Spirit in their prayers for me when I wasn’t even in their presence. It was God in their authenticity. It was love, bursting from their seams.
Each post of the Made Plain Blog is a story submitted by a Made Plain community member describing an experience of God's faithfulness and love in their life. The blog is distributed in our email newsletter as well as here!
We hope this encourages you to look for God's faithfulness in your own life. We'd love for you to share your stories of God's faithfulness with us and the Made Plain Community!