This morning, I opened up my 'Jesus Calling' devotional book and read the following:
"Let Me help you through this day. The challenges you face are far too great for you to handle alone. You are keenly aware of your helplessness in the scheme of events you face. This awareness opens up a choice: to doggedly go it alone or to walk with Me in humble steps of dependence.......so consider it all joy whenever you are enveloped in various trials. These are gifts from Me, reminding you to rely on Me alone."**
Anyone who has never read this book as a part of their daily devotions can easily dismiss this as being just the creative, random writings of an author. But believe me, it's not. There are several peeps of mine (one being my darlin' friend, Toni, over at her Lakeside Lessons blog), who marvel at how uncanny the messages from this book can be for us on any given day, whatever our situations or circumstances may be. I am on my second go-round of reading 'Jesus Calling' and the messages, while the same as last year's, are never stale.
So today's was yet again another right-on-time message from the Lord for me. But truth be told, I did think, as I read the first sentence, "Oh no, Lord. Challenges? Will there be more? In addition to all the OTHER ones I'm dealing with right now? Really?? PULEEZE -- No mas, no mas!!!"
For the past month, I've been attending to my husband's every need since he had spinal fusion surgery -- helping him shower, getting him dressed and undressed, changing bandages on both incisions (one in the neck and one in his hip where they had to remove bone marrow), making special meals for him since he can still only eat soft foods (soft as in mashed potatoes, Cream of Wheat, eggs, soups). Taking on some of my husband's jobs here at home. Trying to encourage him in his pain and frustration. And -- just learning to BE STILL (big lesson for moi!) and sit with him, talking and watching movies together, which I'm seeing has actually STRENGTHENED our severely anemic marriage. (Whoa, God -- what ARE You doing here? So amazing!)
Yet, add all of this to the daily duties of a being homemaker, shuttling both kids back and forth to their respective schools and trying to find some quiet time to pray, read God's Word and journal/blog in the midst of it all and well, it has been quite challenging to say the least.
In addition to all of this, I'm going through some rough waters with both my teen son and daughter. Both aren't making good choices in their lives, continuing to do, say and be involved in things that as children of God, I don't think they should be doing. There's just so much out there bombarding them daily, like a serpent holding out forbidden fruit, tempting them to "C'mon and try me!" I've done and continue to do my best to teach them, lead them and guide them in the right direction, but they don't seem to be listening to me. The sounds of warfare are deafening around here. I feel tired, exasperated, discouraged, angry and at times, broken.
Challenges. Trials. Difficulties. I sigh and wonder how many more of these challenges are on the horizon, headed my way today, and how much more I can take.
Yet, after reading through today's 'Jesus Calling' devotional entry, I am once again presented with something to consider, something Jesus wants me to know, to remember, to hold onto in the eye of the storm.
Challenges, trials and difficulties are very often gifts from God. Yes, gifts. Not the kind of gifts I'm certainly hoping for, but gifts nonetheless. These Divine challenges actually help to remind me of my constant need for and continual reliance on my sweet Lord -- always Him, all of the time.
Surrendering all of my (supposed) control and placing my total dependence on Jesus is to humble me, not humiliate me. Humility is one of the virtues with which we are to clothe ourselves (Colossians 3:12), thereby making us more like Jesus, Whose very nature was one of humility (Philippians 2:1-8).
In the midst of all of these current challenges, trials and difficulties, in the eye of the storm, Jesus wants me to look to Him continually. To reach out to Him constantly. To cry out for His help, over and over. I don't need to walk through all of this alone, a lesson our pastor taught so beautifully and creatively this past Sunday. Jesus is here, and although it doesn't seem possible at times, I can experience joy in my journey.
There is a song from the musical, 'Carousel!' which the character Nettie sings to Julie, a woman who finds herself drowning in deep despair. I grew up hearing this song sung once a year at the end of every Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy telethon, and it made me cry each time. As a child, I always considered it a very sad song, but that is not so. It is a song of great encouragement; a song that Jesus very well could be singing to us, as He holds out His hand to us, not only offering us these gifts of Divine challenges and trials, but this hope-filled, loving promise: "You'll Never Walk Alone."
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk onWith hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone. ~ 'You'll Never Walk Alone, written by Rodgers and Hammerstein
You'll Never Walk Alone
Above is a link to a YouTube video, with Johnny Cash doing the vocal honors. I could have chosen other artists, but I feel that his life of brokenness and his looking to the Lord in the midst of his own storms lends quite a different flavor to this song. My hope is that this song and the words that the Lord gave me to share today will be of great encouragement to someone out there.
**excerpt taken from 'Jesus Calling,' by Sarah Young, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.