It’s easy to see what I care most about

1 Comment

“LORD, see my anguish! My heart is broken and my soul despairs, for…..? (fill in the blank) Lamentations 1:20 NLT

I’m writing this toward the end of November 2021.  Many people all over the world feel overwhelmed and live in life circumstances fraught with turmoil.  This sentence fragment could easily introduce someone’s lament today.

What are some verse completions that would fit?

Here’s what came to mind when I made a list…..

My heart is broken and my soul despairs because….

  • Covid feels like it’ll never end
  • Rude speech seems to be the norm
  • Our country seems hopelessly divided
  • Our politicians are self-centered
  • Too few governments take global warming seriously
  • Education today is deplorable
  • Racism seems to be permanent
  • My spouse has left me
  • My children don’t want to hang out with me
  • The cancer has come back
  • This mental illness my mom suffers from seems interminable
  • My dad shows no interest in the Lord
  • I still can’t find a job
  • No one understands how I feel

I’m sure you could add to the list.

But what did the author of Lamentations write? What caused him so much pain?

Drumroll……

His own personal disobedience to the Lord!

The sentence concludes with: ….for I have rebelled against you.

It’s not how I would have finished the verse.  The contrast between this man’s heart and my heart couldn’t be greater.

I focus most of my days on me and my activities. In sum: my little world of what and whom I care about.

You’ve heard it said that a useful evaluative tool for what you find important is to examine your checkbook or credit card statement to see how you spend your money.  If that is true, then food is way up there in importance, for my monthly grocery expenditures are pretty high!

I actually think a more accurate picture of what matters most to us is what we talk about.  What are the gripping go-to issues that spill out of our mouths when we’re with others? 

I think I bring up the latest on Covid, the number of cases, views about masking and not masking, being vaccinated and not with people I encounter.  In view of what pains our rebellious ‘lamenter’ most, what tends to grab my attention is what the Bible calls ‘vanity’, those fleeting and ephemeral matters.

‘Hold on a minute!’ you might say.  ‘My mom just died from complications with Covid.  That is no small matter!’  Of course, it’s no small matter.  But Jeremiah, or whoever wrote the book of Lamentations, no doubt also lost friends and family members in that harsh siege of Jerusalem.  Yet, his heart is what bothered him most of all.

That is why this verse models a better place to invest my strongest emotions.  How much better for you might it be if ALL that I was most concerned about became the state of my heart.  As Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians, “Let your gentleness be known to all. The Lord is near.” Chapter 4:5

You don’t care about my opinion regarding…. politics, or Covid, or even the best way to cook.  And who wants to hear my fears about our country or the world?  Besides they just show a distrust in our sovereign and good God.

May I tend the garden of my heart first! My relationship with the One whom I call Lord has to take first place in my thoughts, my heart and my words.

Do you use reason to strengthen your faith? God does!

1 Comment

Isaiah 1:18-20 Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

As the plane rumbled through the sky, I asked myself: Why did you EVER want to come and do this crazy thing, Maria!!!!

Helmet on, hooked up, ‘trapped’ in a shuffling line of other scared young men and women moving toward the open backside of the C-130 military cargo plane, I was about to step out into the air from 1500 feet above the ground.  Trusting that the parachute would open.

Tears stained my sweaty cheeks, but no one saw. I didn’t care, anyway.  I had to make a decision. And I did.

By force of will, I shifted my thoughts AWAY from the terror of stepping out into nothingness and focused on facts:

  • Most people DON’T die when jumping out of planes
  • This is a static line jump; my chute WILL open.  I don’t have to deploy it.

And you know what?  I made it!  The next 4 jumps that week were not nearly as scary. I successfully completed the Army’s Airborne School at Ft Benning, Georgia earning my Parachutist Badge.

I was thinking about that first jump last night when I couldn’t sleep. How I had to simply stop looking at my fears and focus on statistics, on facts.  Immediately I saw the connection to the life of faith over sight.

God teaches us throughout his word to focus on TRUTH, that is ‘divine facts’, to reason FROM them to more truth. To move logically from the following two categories of truth:

  • Who he is, his unchanging characteristics or attributes
  • His promises, bought for Christians by Jesus

Plus, a third and growing category of unshakeable evidence:

  • God’s ‘record’ of coming through for me, in answer to prayer, time and time again.

How long have these 3 categories been my source of strength?

I believe that God swapped out my old heart for a new heart warm toward him when I was 24.  I didn’t grow much until I was 40 and started studying my Bible in Bible Study Fellowship.  I turn 63 next week.  Therefore, my Christian experience was Bible-bereft for 16 years, but now has been Bible-enriched for 23 years. These past 23 years have built my confidence in both our Triune God AND his word.

Even before I was a believer, I knew God answered prayer.  In that very same 3-week Airborne School experience, I called on God to help me. It was Day 1 and we had to run 5 miles and then pass a physical fitness test.  I failed the pull-ups. The next morning, an ‘airborne sergeant’ retested me and gave the green light.  I had been praying fervently.  God came through.  I wasn’t even a believer.  But I have never forgotten God’s goodness to this unrepentant sinner. It was the first time I had prayed a specific, measurable prayer and God came through, immediately, undeniably.

If I add the fears of these Covid times together with ‘normal’ fears, I am getting plenty of practice in CHOOSING to shift my focus from current circumstances to God-facts. I am obeying God’s inviting command to reason prayer-ful-ly with HIM and refocus my view of circumstances through the lens of Ultimate Reality and not through the looking glass of my fears.

This is the only AND sure way I find inner peace:  when I shift my thoughts upward.

 

%d bloggers like this: