Strength Will Rise ...

First off, I want to thank the Lord for meeting with me today in a very real, tangible way. I thank You, Father, for the little glimpses we get of You here on earth. Thank You for increasing my faith.

To be honest, I didn't feel like reading the Word this morning -- ever have those days? It's been a trying season. Lately it seems as though every time I step into deeper waters with God, drawing nearer to His heart, asking for His Spirit, pouring myself out in ministry and encouraging/serving others, I get hit that much harder with spiritual attack. Even last night I wrestled with wave after wave of doubt, fear, and depression and cried out, God, I just can't do this anymore. My family has been going through a lot of lately. But this morning, His Spirit was pressing me to open up His Word yet again.

He brought me to Psalms. God, I've read these before, I told him, expecting to change His mind or something. *face-palm* But He led me to a psalm I don't think I had delved deeply into before.

By the beginning of Psalm 31, I was hooked:
In You, O Lord, I put my trust; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in Your righteousness. Bow down Your ear to hear me, deliver me speedily; be my rock of refuge, a fortress of defense to save me ...
I read on and on, the Spirit refreshing me with the simple yet timeless truth that God is still my strength -- cuz right now, I feel as though I have none. Not only that, He is my defender. My mom and I have both had our share of injustices done toward us and people we love, so it is indeed comforting to know that God is a God of justice who comes to the defense of His children. Here is yet another beautiful reminder:
For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities ...
Here I had felt as though I had dropped off of God's radar. But here, the psalmist confesses that God knows exactly what we're going through. He knows my soul in the hard times. He sees the tears we cry. He knows and understands when our souls cry out, God, I just can't take this anymore -- it's too hard. But who better to know us than the Lord Himself? I mean, really? Where else could we go?

The final verse hit me the hardest:
Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
If I can be honest, I had given up in this area. Courage is a choice -- and I have felt as though I have not made the choice to fight or be courageous. Nor had I really had a solid hope that the Lord would come through in certain situations. But here is a promise, that if I indeed take courage, and hope in my Lord again with all the faith I can muster, He will strengthen my heart.

God must have anointed me with faith again, because I started to pray that I would indeed take this promise to heart as I went throughout the day. In fact, I wanted to write that verse down on my hand so that I wouldn't forget it!

But I turned out that I didn't have to. At work today, I was operating the register at the drive-thru window, getting lost in the chaos of cars and cash, when a smiling man drove up in his little beat-up Honda. I knew I had seen that smile before. When I handed him his change, I knew I had even felt those shaky hands before. It was when he pulled out some brightly colored cards and said, "Pick one!" that I remembered -- He was the guy who had come through my workplace before and handed us workers his scripture cards. So I picked one, the green one. My friend working with me also picked one. After I said a smiling goodbye to the man and he drove off, I looked at the scripture on the card I just picked. Wouldn't you know it, this was the verse he handed me:
Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord. -- Psalm 31:24, KJV
All I seemed to hear was God saying, "Noelle, I'm right here. I've never left you. I am right here with you. And if you continue to hope in me, dearest one, I WILL strengthen your heart." And He did.

You see, tomorrow is my last day at this job that I have been in for more than two years: definitely bittersweet. I had this hunch that God was indeed calling me to quit -- I say hunch because I am still plagued with a sense of doubt that it was the right decision! Especially when I consider all the people -- coworkers and customers -- that I am leaving behind. And considering that God would call me out without giving me another job to lean on. The world would shout at me, Are you crazy? Quitting before you know what you're doing afterwards? That's stupid! And to be honest, I still feel a little stupid about it. But God has been doing a lot through my resignation. He's already been doing a lot through my boss. And in that beautiful little affirmation through that little green scripture card given by that smiling man, God has given me some insane peace that it's all going to work out. So I am going to hope in the Lord. 

After church tonight, as another sweet affirmation from God, we sang these well-known (yet no less encouraging!) lyrics in the closing song:
You are the everlasting God ...
You're the defender of the weak 
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles ...   
Fully believing and trusting God's promises is not always easy, especially when we go through times when things just aren't working out the way we think they should, or at least what seems logical or reasonable to us. But I am slowly learning that God is not inside our box--He is the uncreated One who is completely beyond us. If He is that much more above us, how much more worthy is He of our complete trust? Who else could we ever trust? Who else could we possibly turn to? He is the only One. My problems and struggles are far from being resolved, but if I truly believe that He is ALL I need--my defender, my strength, my hope now and always--then I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. And I will be soaring like an eagle.   



From King's Cross by Timothy Keller

Jesus is saying, "It's not enough just to know me as a teacher or as an abstract principle; you have to look at my life. I went to the cross--and on the cross I lost my identity so you can have one.

Once you see the Son of God loving you like that, once you are moved by that viscerally and existentially, you begin to get a strength, an assurance, a sense of your own value and distinctiveness that is not based on what you're doing or whether somebody loves you, whether you've lost weight or how much money you've got. You're free--the old approach to identity is gone. Nobody put this better than C. S. Lewis in the last two pages of his Mere Christianity, where he comments on Jesus' call to lose yourself to find yourself:

The more we get what we now call "ourselves" out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become ... our real selves are all waiting for us in him ... The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surrounding and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call "Myself" becomes merely the meeting-place for trains of events which I never started and I cannot stop. What I call "My wishes" become merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by other men's thoughts ... It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His personality, that I finally begin to have a real personality all of my own ... [Nevertheless], you must not go to Christ for the sake of [a new self]. As long as your own personalitty is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all.

If you go to Jesus to get a new personality, Lewis says, you still haven't really gone to Jesus. Your real self will not come out as long as you are looking for it; it will only emerge when you're looking for him.


"Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it."  -- Mark 8:34-35


Rest Oration

This is skin.
This is the beginning of vulnerable.
the sting of cleansing,
the burn of antiseptic.

Refinement is fire
And blood, purification

To rest before You
is to arrive
of my sorrows,
my stresses,
my fear.
is only found
in weakness.

If brokenness
is peace,
I throw my mirrors
upon the temple floor
and kneel
into the shards, 
before Your mercy seat.

Revive me
with incense,
Or I’ll only go back
into the black.

Yet, lead me into darkness
so I can see the Light

And there, I’ll find my rest