Tag Archive | brokenness

God, my arms are getting tired!

There is a story from the Book of Exodus that I have thought about many times. It is a story that shows the importance of holding each other up and praying for each other.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites are to go to war with the Amalekites. The Amalekites had long been a thorn in the side of the Israelites, and they worshiped pagan gods and often led the Israelites into sin. If you know the Bible, you probably know that Moses was the man God chose to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Leading the Israelites was no easy task, either. They so quickly forgot all the miracles God did for them and how God delivered them from Egypt. They walked through the Red Sea when God parted it as they were being pursued by Pharaoh and his army. They saw the Red Sea collapse on the Egyptians, destroying them. They were guided by God in the wilderness. He gave them manna and water, and he met every need they had. Despite all these things, however, they grumbled and complained, even going as far as saying they had it better in Egypt—a place where they were enslaved for about 400 years. Although the Israelites were stubborn, Moses was a strong leader. He was humble, he sought God, and he interceded for the people time after time, many times pleading with God to not judge the people too harshly. If it hadn’t been for the intercessory prayers of Moses, the Lord quite possibly would have been much more harsh with the Israelites.

Now, remember that God had entered into a covenant relationship with Israel, and He told them He was giving them a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey. The Promised Land. But, the Israelites had to fight for this land. They had to go into battle to drive other peoples out of the land before they could possess it.

Exodus 17:8-13 describes the actions of Moses while Israel, led by Joshua, fought the Amalekites:

“Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”

Here, we see how Moses interceded for the people. As long as Moses held up his arms, the Israelites were winning the battle. When he let his arms down, the Israelites began losing the battle. His arms would get tired to the point that he had to let them down to rest. His arms became so tired that Aaron and Hur had to hold them up for him. Because of Aaron and Hur, who came alongside Moses and held him up when he grew weary, the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.

I have shared many times just how weary I became in my journey. There were times I did not feel like getting out of bed, and there were numerous times I could not even pray. I was just utterly exhausted and had nothing left to give. The battle wore me out. I know you can relate. I have also shared that had it not been for the prayers of some of my sisters in Christ, I would not have had the strength to keep fighting. They, like Aaron and Hur, came alongside me and held up my arms. They interceded for me. They saw how weary I was, how much I wanted and needed to rest, but they also saw the battle waging against me. They knew it was a battle worth fighting, and they knew the prize would be great if I could just keep going. So, when I could no longer walk, they picked me up and carried me. When I could no longer pray, they prayed for me. When I could no longer fight, they fought for me. They had my back and they covered me in prayers. I cannot say for certain that the only reason my husband repented and my marriage was restored was because of my prayers and the prayers of others, but I am certain that had I not prayed, and had others not prayed on my behalf, my marriage would have dissolved. I shudder to think about where I would be now, or where my husband would be now, if others had not stood beside me and held up my arms.

For a while, I did not want others to know about my husband’s adultery. I did not want to share my pain. I wanted it to remain private. However, I quickly realized that the battle was much too big for me to fight alone. I needed my sisters in Christ to fight with me and for me. I needed them to hold me up, encourage me, support me, strengthen me, and weep with me. I needed them, there was no way around it. Without them, I certainly would have lost the battle. As part of the family of Christ, my victories and defeats are not just my victories and defeats; when one person in the body hurts, everyone hurts. When one rejoices, everyone should rejoice. We should have the backs of each other; we should be prepared to go to war with and for our fellow Christians.

Our pride quite often keeps us from sharing our hurts and struggles with others. We tell ourselves no one will understand. Or we tell ourselves that no one really cares. Or perhaps we tell ourselves that others have their own problems to deal with so they don’t have time to hear about our problems. I thought I had to be strong, but no one could be strong for me if they didn’t know my battle. I thought I could handle it, but I was getting beaten up. I didn’t want to ask for help. But that pride had to go. My feeling of self-sufficiency had to go. My thoughts that I could handle it on my own had to go. I quickly came to realize that I could not fight for my marriage alone, and neither can you.

Throughout Scripture, especially in the New Testament, God’s people are called to bear one another’s burdens, to strengthen each other, to pray for each other, and to help each other. If people do not know what you are going through, what battles you are facing, what your hurts and fears are, they cannot help you. They don’t know how to help you. You have to be willing to ask for help, to ask for someone to lean on, and ask for someone to hold you up. And, once that person or those people come along, you have to choose to let them help you. It’s okay if those people do not understand exactly where you are, if they do not comprehend the magnitude of your pain. They can still pray for you. They can still go to war with and for you. Notice in the story above that Moses did not know exactly what the Israelites were experiencing in battle. He wasn’t on the battlefield, but he could see what was going on. He knew God’s people needed him; he knew the battle had to be won. So, he prayed, and when he grew tired of holding up his arms, two others did it for him, because they, too, knew how important the battle was. Maybe more importantly, they knew how much Moses and the Israelites needed them.

Just as God used Aaron and Hur to hold up Moses and to carry him, in a way, he can and will use others to hold you up and carry you when you cannot go on by yourself. So, like Moses, find two or three people you can trust, people who are rock solid, and lean on them. Allow them to help you. Allow them to carry you and to intercede for you. Let them know when you are feeling like giving up, when you are too weary to fight anymore, when you need to rest. Let them know when you need a shoulder to cry on, or when you need a listening ear. And, most importantly, at some point, let them know that you appreciate and covet their prayers and their help. Let them know that you could not have made it or done it without them, and, when the time comes when they need someone to carry them, be that person for them, as much as it is possible for you. Let God use you to hold up their arms so they can fight the battle they are facing.

Here are some verses you can meditate on:

“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, NLT).

“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” (Isaiah 35:3, NIV).

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV).

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, ESV).

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26, ESV).

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV).

 

 

 

Be still

This post will not be like my usual posts. What I am sharing with you tonight is actually a word God recently gave me, and it keeps resounding in my spirit. I know you are in a world of pain. I know you have cried more tears than you ever thought possible, and I know how despondent and desperate you are. When I was going through what you are going through, God was my ever present help in trouble. But, like all of you, I am human, and there were numerous times I got my eyes off of Jesus. Many times when this happened, my soul was so unsettled within me. I could not rest. My mind would race with fretful thoughts that only worked me into more despair. I often felt like God had deserted me. Those are terrible and dark places to be, and I hurt for you.

Several months ago, something happened that got me very distressed and anxious. I just kept going over the incident in my mind, rehearsing it, and as I did, I only became more agitated. I was so uneasy and upset that I emailed a dear Christian lady friend of mine and shared how I was feeling and why. She responded to my email by asking me for more details, which I provided in another email. Once she knew what was going on, she reminded me that God is a God of peace and order. He is not the author of confusion, chaos or disorder, though it may sometimes seem like that. God is a rock. He is solid. He is stable. He does not change. He does not move. He does not waver. God is not scared, intimidated, threatened, or anxious. He is the peace in our chaos. He is the calm in our storms. He is the shelter and refuge when the rain is pouring down and the wind is howling.

As I thought about all my friend told me, I kept hearing this scripture echo in my spirit: “Be still and know I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I actually have that verse as my screen saver on my laptop. God reminded me of that as I thought about my friend’s advice. So, the question became, “Why did you point this verse out to me, God? Why is it resounding in my spirit?”

“Because you don’t rest before me; you are not still before me. You busy yourself with the responsibilities and cares of this world, when what you should do is be more like Mary and less like Martha. Taste and see that I am good. Let my word restore and refresh your spirit. Let my life revive you. You have no burden, no need, no desire that I cannot meet. But, you have to be still before me. I AM!”

The New American Standard Bible words it this way: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.”

Being still denotes being relaxed, at ease, at peace, without anxiety, fear, or concern. It means quieting my noisy heart and listening for the voice of God. It means resting in God, knowing that I am in the palms of His hands, nothing can touch me without His knowledge or permission. It means trusting Him even when things seem to be out of control, even when darkness encompasses me. It means leaving matters with God. So, why then, does my soul not rest? Why then is my soul not still before God? Why then is my mind anxious? Perhaps it is because I do not realize all of who God is. I do not realize all of His nature, all of His power. I do not understand the depth of His love and compassion for me. I do not fathom the fullness of His mercy, kindness and goodness. I sometimes fail to see His hand of protection on my life, and I sometimes fail to recognize His blessings on my life. In short, I forget Who God Is. I forget His faithfulness to me.

Instead of casting my eyes up to the heavens, I look at the circumstances surrounding me. I see the problems, the complicated situations, the difficult people. I see the obstacles; I see the harm others are trying to inflict. How easily I forget that God is my strength, my shield, my fortress, my tower, and my hiding place. He hides me in His love; with his love, He covers me. He is a mighty mountain that cannot be shaken; He is a rock that cannot be moved. He is my defender; he is a mighty warrior. At His voice, the earth trembles. When He opens His mouth to speak, only truth comes out. He is an all-consuming fire that burns within my soul. What He orders happens. All of nature is at His command. He is not a God who is double minded or fickle. He has a purpose and plan, and the gates of hell shall not overcome Him. The grave could not hold him. He is the final and ultimate authority.

I can choose to be anxious, to have my soul disquieted within me, or I can choose to rest and be still before God. The apostle Paul reminds us:
Philippians 4:6-8
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Peace is possible. It is possible if I lift my burdens and my requests up to God. It is possible if I will remember who God is. God’s peace will guard my heart. Guard my heart from what? Guard it from despair, worry, discouragement, anxiety. It will guard my mind. Guard my mind from what? From restless, agitating thoughts. From thoughts that exalt themselves against God. From thoughts that lead me into captivity. From thoughts that rob me of joy. From thoughts that detract me from God’s unique purpose and plan for my life. From thoughts that keep me from being all God desires me to be.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV)

Psalm 37:5: “Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (NIV)

Psalm 55:22: “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

Psalm 56:3-4: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (NASB)

Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan? And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans pursue all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

So, no matter where you are right now, no matter how chaotic or out of control your life seems, take some time to be still before God and reflect on who He is. Allow Him to comfort you and love on you. Let Him speak peace to your troubled mind. He is there, waiting for you, calling out to you, to come before Him and just be still.

I didn’t see THAT coming!!!

SHām/

noun

1. a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

“she was hot with shame”

synonyms: humiliationmortificationchagrinignominyembarrassment,indignitydiscomfort

Perhaps you are where I used to be. Maybe you hear the whispers behind your back or see the glances that you were not meant to see. Possibly, you feel like you cannot look anyone in the eyes and your head is down from shame. You know that everyone in your church or town know what your spouse did, and you can only imagine what people must think about you.

Do any of these phrases ring true for you? “She is stupid for staying with him.” “She must not have much self-esteem or self-confidence if she is staying with him after what he did.” “There must be something she did wrong.” “This is somehow her fault.” “She must think she deserves what happened, otherwise she would leave.” “She’s too scared that she can’t make it without him.” “She is a glutton for punishment.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

When my husband cheated on me, I was not surprised to feel angry, afraid, confused, bitter, and depressed. Shame, on the other hand, took me totally by surprise. As a matter of fact, several months passed before I realized that what I was feeling was shame. Once I realized this, I was confused. Why was I feeling so much shame? I was the innocent one. I had done nothing wrong. I struggled to understand it.

At one point, I grew so distressed over what I imagined people were thinking and saying about me that I confided in a good Christian friend of mine. I knew she would be honest with me. I told her how I felt so ashamed, like people were judging me for what my husband did and that people thought I must be an idiot for not leaving him. As I talked to her, she began to shake her head. Once I finished, she said, “Oh, no, no, no. I don’t see it that way at all. I, for one, have nothing but respect for you. I totally respect your decision and I have come to have enormous respect for you.” She also told me that people who knew me and knew my heart understood my choice. In time, I discovered that at first, many friends and family thought I should leave my husband and could not understand why I stayed with him. Eventually, though, family and friends revealed to me that they had come to have a lot of respect for me and see me in a different light. They had come to respect my decision to stay and try to save my marriage.

Until this time, though, I struggled with shame a lot. I felt like a teenager again—with feelings of not measuring up and not being good enough. There must be something wrong with me. I was somehow inadequate. The feelings of low self-esteem that plagued me in my adolescence were rearing their pestering heads again, and I was taken off guard. I could not stand it. I did not want people talking about me, gossiping or feeling sorry for me. “Poor little (my name) must not think she’s good enough or else she would leave.” I was under almost constant assault by these feelings and thoughts.

I knew what God was telling me to do, but I was extremely preoccupied with what I thought others were thinking or saying about me. In retrospect, on some level, I had begun to believe some of these lies and think these things about myself. Instead of using the Word of God to combat these thoughts, I fell into the trap of trying to reason the thoughts away. I was trying to do for myself what only God could do. I kept myself in the prison of shame for much longer than was necessary because of it.

After I talked to my good friend, my perspective slowly began to change. Maybe some people were thinking and saying some bad things about me. I had no control over that. I did not have the time or energy to continue to worry about such things. The anxiety was weighing too heavily on me, so I had to find a way to resolve the issue in my heart and mind. Slowly, as I sought God and shared my feelings and thoughts with Him, He began to show me that obeying Him and standing firm in my decision would have far greater impact than caving in to pressure from others, whether the pressure was real or imagined. I began to understand that, in the end, it would not matter what others thought of me; what mattered was what God thought of me. He was the one I was going to have to answer to, not men. The situation was one in which I had to trust that God would sort it all out in the end. I could almost hear God whispering, “So what? So what if people talk about you and make fun of you? Get over yourself and stop worrying about it. You know what to do, so do it. I will take care of the rest of it.” I gradually realized that I should not expect people who had not been where I was to understand. If they wanted to gossip, I could not stop them. God would have to deal with that. In the end, God would help my righteousness shine as brightly as the noon day sun (see Psalm 37:5-7). God would defend me if and when I needed a defense.

I will not lie and say this was easy for me. I found it very difficult at first to continue to cast off the nagging feeling of shame and obey God. I could not stand it that others were gossiping about me and making assumptions that were not true. I wrestled with these things even after God spoke to me. I began to understand, however, that I was already trusting God with so many other things so why couldn’t I trust Him with this matter? He was being faithful to handle all the other things so He would be faithful to handle my feelings of shame and to silence those who were speaking about things they did not understand. Once I came to this realization and began to consistently apply it to my life, the relief and freedom I felt were unbelievable! When Satan tried to lead me back to the prison of shame, I now had the key to defeating him. Like Jesus, I exercised authority over him and said, “Get behind me, Satan!” I set my face like flint and walked on. Only now I was walking in freedom, no longer hindered by the chains of fear and shame. So, if you find yourself wrestling with shame, be encouraged! God has given you all you need to conquer it. In Christ, you are MORE than an overcomer (Romans 8:37). Hold on to the truths of God so that you can recognize and destroy the lies of the enemy!

Broken

The following is a poem I wrote in 2008 in the midst of my husband’s affair. I am sure many of you can identify with it.

Broken pieces lay around,
my shattered heart cannot be found.
Jagged edges, rough and sharp,
cut away, deep into my heart.
Longer and darker
does my journey grow;
where the destination is
I cannot know.
I hope for joy,
await some peace,
yet they do to me seem
out of reach.
Tears to be stored–
how many bottles can there be?–
Will they one day
fall joyfully on me?
Wounds still open,
healing left to do,
Only after the battle
Will I know if love is true.