Protection against Prosperity

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The Lord has done great things for us, whereof we are glad! Psalm 126:3

God has come through with an extraordinary mercy to us in answer to much fervent prayer – our own cries for help along with sustained prayers offered up by family and faithful friends. I’ll tell you more in a bit.

I’ve been reading in Scripture examples about the dangers that ‘good’ times can present. King David gives us many examples. His most notorious is his complacency (leading to the Bathsheba incident) after God’s divine help in driving away Israel’s enemies. Were it not for Biblical narratives of his downfall and his own writings in the psalms we would not be warned. Yet despite his astonished and grateful joy in God’s forgiveness, over time, David’s gladness waned. He grew distracted by comfort, helped along by an increasing lack of attentiveness to his Master, the LORD.

Merriam-Webster explains complacency this way: “self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” Com means ‘with’ and if you recall the verb ‘to placate’ (to please) the idea of being pleased with oneself is obvious.  But self-pleasure can be dangerous, especially if we grow über-SELF-confident.

But what does prosperity in the title of this post have to do with complacency?  We can see that it was God who had made King David prosperous. And in the beginning, David’s gratitude over his ‘prosperity’ or successes was real. But he didn’t nurture that spirit of thankfulness. As life grew easier after years of hardship, his attentiveness to God slackened. He let himself get preoccupied with the gifts.  Not only was David wealthy he enjoyed multiple blessings of regional peace, family, friends. For sure during those painful, difficult years he had followed Moses’ advice to Joshua about how to be ‘prosperous’:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Josh 1:8

But once God was gracious to him, David FORGOT the part about ‘meditate on God’s law day and night.’ A change came over the prosperous David. Enjoying God’s bounty, he let down his guard. 

I don’t want that to happen to us! 

As Mike and I have come to know our Bibles, we understand how to please our Father.  Ultimately it’s because He has changed our hearts that we WANT to obey Him. We also have grown to realize that afflictions are gifts from God that keep us clinging to Him.  They keep us needy and very close. Desperation keeps us ‘meditating on God’s Word night and day’.

Since June 2013, when we left Virginia and moved to the Asheville, NC area, we have been especially needy.   How so? through hardships right and left, one after the other. Like what, Maria?

  • a blatant closed-door, dead-end to Mike’s plan to work from home in NC as an operations research analyst
  • no open doors to other significant work for him during our time in NC
  • perplexing difficulties for me in a new school teaching French – each year in that school was laden with painful experiences. Nor could I couldn’t find another teaching position
  • Mike’s frightening heart crisis that lasted some weeks
  • his slide into depression during our 6 years in North Carolina, alienating some people
  • a surprising decision to leave mountains we loved for Mike to go back into full-time engineering work
  • then after God’s good gift of a job and sale of our house in NC, a recurrence of a physical stress symptom that had dogged Mike for 25+ years but had been absent during the previous 7-8 years. ‘Complacently’ we had assumed it would never come back.

The return of this latter affliction seemed to be the most painful of all the above. It colored Mike’s world and spilled over to me.  He could hardly avoid noticing it, because it affected his body, every day and all the time. I prayed fervently.  We both did. As did friends and family.

What else did we do?  We journaled, we tried functional medicine, Mike met with a Christian counselor.  Friends and family continued to pray and stay connected. Most of all we went deep into God’s Word. As we did, He began to change our thinking to align more with His Word. Whether you believe that He ‘allows’ or ‘sends’ suffering, in God’s hands He wills all things for our good.  We began to ask God to change our desires – that we would desire HIM more than an affliction-free life.

Then, about 4 months ago God seemed to be directing us to have Mike go back on a medication that had ‘stopped working’, one he had gone off of.  He visited his doctor, asking for a higher dose. We prayed on, willing to live with this suffering if it were God’s best for our holiness and ultimate joy.

It took a full 10 weeks for any relief to be evident.  His body started slowly to respond, in fits and starts.  Mike kept meeting with his Christian counselor.  We continued to pray, to journal, to study God’s Word. 

It is now almost the end of May 2020 and we rejoice. Mike DOES have relief. The symptoms have subsided. His body feels normal. He is visibly relaxed and cheery.  I can tell he is enjoying life in a new way. 

I check in with him each evening as we write down our God-directed thank-you’s in our prayer journal.  Then we pray for one another mentioning the next day’s needs. We don’t hesitate to ask Him for another day of relief for Mike.  Just as we ask Him to grant me a good night sleep. We take NEITHER gift for granted. We also know that God has the right to withhold both. They are not our due.

Hence my meditating on the ‘danger’ that comes with answered prayer, when the pressure lets up.  Not that God is dangerous, but that a cavalier attitude on my part can easily endanger my heart. I want to lay in place good habits of thinking. Yes, our Father IS good and He delights to give us rest and periods of joy-filled relaxation.  Mike and I are grateful for these broad or open spaces where ‘enemies have been driven back, bodies have healed, children have been born, and the harvest is plentiful.’ 

Psalm 18:9 He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.

So how DO I guard against complacency?  I have landed on two ways: 

  • Gratitude and
  • Humility

Gratitude looks like this for me:

  • recognizing and chattering my thanks to my Father throughout the day for all the gifts I can see 
  • mentioning His kind provision of what I might not even think to ask for, like safety or how loving my friends are

Humility looks like this for me:

  • Recognizing that I am a contingent being, that I cannot do ANY thing on my own.
  • Acknowledging daily that God, the Creator and Sustainer, gives me life moment by moment. Unless He wills that I KEEP LIVING, I am but dust molecules
  • Talking out loud to Him about what I need Him to provide NEXT in order to do the task at hand

This, then, is how I am trying to ‘walk humbly with my Lord’.

Friends and family, we want YOU to know how glad we are for the great things He has done.  Thank you for your prayers and years of encouragement throughout these past years. This new broad and fertile time is refreshing us.  We are savoring it.  It feels sweet.  We don’t deserve it, and we are grateful.  May we continue to keep our eyes on Him!

 

Why does everything feel like a burden?

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This is embarrassing to admit, but some days, the idea of fixing dinner FEELS like a burden.  I’ve told Mike that I think I’m addicted to ‘pleasant’ or pleasure. I can’t come up with any other explanation.

So what does ‘pleasant’ mean to me?

Not having anything to do that I don’t want to do.  The funny thing about dinner prep is, is that I CHOOSE to cook. It’s not like someone else MAKES me.

I also choose to exercise each day.  Three of the days each week I push myself hard, working on cardio endurance and muscle strength. Those are the mornings I dread. Yet I know that discomfort is a small price to pay for fitness and health.

Then there are the once in a while tasks that feel like burdens. The other night the reality of a new month hit me – a month with Mother’s Day and 4 birthdays in our family.  My desire to give thoughtful gifts that please clashed with a lack of confidence in being able to find them. 

After a couple of days of churn over the gifts ‘burden’ plus some other unresolved matters I had to get myself in hand, via God’s Word.

Feeling sorry for myself and with a bit of drama I wrote in my journal: Things I need to do ALWAYS feel like a burden. But I’m supposed to cast ALL my burdens on God (Psalm 55:22).

ALL of a sudden, one of God’s truths came to mind. It’s those two verses from Psalm 18:

28 For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.

Here’s how verse 28 helped me: If God lightens my darkness, that means He will show me what I’m to do about each purchase for my family. 

Reading further in Psalm 18 I mused: Well, what are walls, but obstacles?  With the gift example my lack of creativity is no hindrance to God who is CREATOR of all that exists.

And what is a troop but an enemy army whose diabolical objective is to RAID my peace of mind!

As a redeemed little sister of Jesus, family PEACE is my due. The Father doesn’t intend for me to worry.  He wants me to hand over EVERY burdensome, anxiety-producing decision or problem to Him, however minuscule they seem. He even calls my relying on Him ‘obedience.’

Seeing these truths, together with writing down my thoughts in my journal dispelled the self-pity and lightened the tasks.  Even my workout didn’t feel so painful afterwards!

Here’s my prayer for today: “Okay, Father, I’m handing over ‘all I gotta do’ about gifts during May. Today, I will just do what is at hand, what I CAN do.  Thank you for reminding me of my privilege to off-load all that feels burdensome.  Thank you for your promise of energy for today.”

And about the ‘burden’ of preparing dinner for Mike and me? Another truth from God’s word came to mind as I was getting dressed.  God has sovereignly ordained for all of us the GOOD gift of work, (a pre-fall blessing). Yes, there is time to relax and restore. But work is the natural guiding principle of human activity.  We are meant to TEND our gardens, whether in the home or in the office.

Father, help me to remain content with the work you have given me this day. May I do each task depending on you, for the welfare of those around me, for my joy and to please you. Amen

PS:  My mother used to say that the THINKING about something was always worse than the actual DOING.

 

 

 

 

Feeling overwhelmed today?

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Are you like me, sometimes? Do you ever feel unprepared for what you have to do?  Do you feel the task at hand is too big for you?  Do you feel insecure at different times?  It could be that like me, you’ve forgotten some very good news.

First a fact:

Where you are today is where God has put you.  Nothing happens without His directing.  That is, if we take the plain meaning of God’s word in scripture.

Ephesians 1:8-11 (GNT)

In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. 
All things are done according to God’s plan and decision; and God chose us to be his own people in union with Christ because of his own purpose, based on what he had decided from the very beginning. 
Now a story:
Mike, my husband, is into his 4th week at a new job.  Like any change in work situation, there is a lot to learn.  The culture of the work community; the expectations of a new boss; the protocol for this or that; wisdom about how much to share of your heart with new colleagues – a lot.  It ALWAYS feels overwhelming, no matter how long you’ve worked.
Last week (Friday, 19 April) in our assigned reading (Chronological reading plan) Psalm 18 was included.
While reading some of the verses I saw explicit mention of how God equips His people.  I saw hope for Mike and for anyone who is in a spot where the demands and expectations feel overwhelming.  It could be a new and different job like is the case for Mike, or a call to volunteer in a new ministry or just to persevere in a difficult situation.  Maybe your ‘hard’ is the day-in, day-out parenting/elder care or loving and tending someone with a disability or chronic illness.  Then there are those who persevere in marriages with an unresponsive spouse or ‘trying’ spouse.  And how about just plain ole stuck in a situation for which there seems no good outcome?
Hear, then, what our good Father says to you, to me, to my husband Mike:
Psalm 18: 31-35
For who is God, but theLord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
    and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
    and set me secure on the heights.
 He trains my hands for war,
    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.
With those power facts, we can pray for ourselves and for others.
For Mike I prayed this morning:
  • Thank you, Father, that you have equipped Mike with a good mind and the ability to think and make connections and then articulate them to others so they can understand
  • I rejoice that you made Mike to see and create analogies on the spot
  • How amazing that you have placed Mike in this new job here in Huntsville and set US in a church where we can grow in our knowledge and love of you!
  • Father, you continue to train Mike in new applications of systems engineering so he can add value to his firm.
  • You are the God who has given Mike your divine Spirit; the One who is counselor and provider and intercessor and comforter.
  • It’s YOUR right hand that keeps my husband safe, keeps him relying on you, keeps him  repenting and thanking you and you will bring him to you  in the end
  • What more could we be glad about than your gentleness in coming to earth to rescue us and make us adopted kids in your forever family.  That is what we boast about, that we know you, our Rock.

Do you see how God’s word can fill one with HOPE!  O, dear friends, feed on God’s good word and pray it for yourself and for those you love.

 

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