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I have learned in whatsoever state I am in to be content. Whether in plenty or in need
Paul is not being a martyr here. He is not talking like a victim with a great sigh. Oh, I’m fine. The Lord sees fit to have me suffering, and I will do it gladly. No. He is sincere. He is truly saying he has learned to be content in all things. A settled state. There is no more tossing and turning of the soul. The sense that things are not right is gone. The disturbed soul has been quieted like a weaned child with its mother.
King Solomon wrote, And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this grievous labor hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised with it.
What an exercise! To settle into a deep trust and rest in our God. In the scariest of times, to be holding tight to the Rock. In troubles and tribulations, to find the anchor of our soul. In times of great darkness when it seems God has forsaken us, to steadfastly walk in the path though we can barely see the next step.
Though I make my bed in hell, there you are.
This verse could be about sleeping around or prostitution, pornography or drug addiction, or any number of seedy activities we humans find ourselves entangled in (..abusers of ourselves with mankind) But it could have many other interpretations. Where we make our bed could be what we rest in. What we find comfortable. Habitual. Soulish thinking; worry, angst, dissatisfaction, irritation, anger. Anything other than peace and contentment and gratitude and sincere thanks. Fretting.
In James 5 it says, “Is any one of you suffering? He should pray”
That word suffering in the Greek is to suffer evil, endure affliction; to undergo hardship. This encompasses so many day to day things. Suffering evil could be at the hands of others. Praying provides the wisdom and direction in dealing with them. Enduring affliction may include all sorts of illnesses, mental or physical. Prayer will connect you to our Lord’s suffering and you’ll discover that you are not alone. Suffering evil: the constant barrage of darkness all around us at any given time and feeling like it has the upper hand. Prayer will clear that up too.
God is not the author of confusion, but of Peace.
We endure suffering as discipline. God is treating us as sons.
If anything comes your way, anything at all, the Lord has allowed it. Resist the devil and he will flee from you, yes. But if you have resisted, and have faith, and have asked God to help you with your unbelief, and see no change, then He must be showing you something. Taking you through something. Allowing something. In which case, all you can do is give thanks and trust His work. His timing. His plan.
Remember Job. In one day calamity railed him. But somehow He still trusted God, and did not curse him, as his wife advised. I believe this is because he knew God. And he knew He was good.
His ways are higher than ours. He brings us in close so he can comfort us and speak softly to us and reassure us. The Lord is gracious and compassionate. Though your situation or circumstance may not immediately change, the quicker you can surrender to His work and give thanks in all things the sooner you will see what it was all for. At times there are years and years of going in circles but all of the promises of God in Him are Yes! and Amen!
And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
I’m addicted. What a fun addiction! And a couple pillows too!
Over the years I have tried to be sure to write down prayers and answer to prayers so that in hard times when faith feels weak, I can look over my list and recall His faithfulness. I also have some favorite stories of his workings in my life. Here is one I particularly love:
I was driving late at night in the late 90’s, returning from a revival meeting. I was feeling full and happy and blessed, singing praises in the car, when I saw the flashing lights behind me. I pulled over and waited for the officer, praying the whole time. He informed me of my excessive speed. I was surprised and apologetic. I explained that I was in a rental car and I wasn’t used to it, assuring him that I would be more careful. He took my license and went back to his patrol car. I sat and prayed while I waited. I was so joyful from the revival that I was certain God’s favor would be upon me and I would be on my way with a warning.
When the officer returned he handed me a ticket and told me to slow down.
I was dumbfounded. I mean, I knew I deserved the ticket. But I was on my way home from a revival meeting! Surely God’s favor was smiling on me and we had an understanding and he would not do me like this. I was disappointed and carefully drove the speed limit all the way home.
A few weeks went by and I went to traffic court. I had never been to traffic court. This was my first ticket in 20 years. When I arrived at court there was no one else there. The judge and I made small talk and he asked me why I was there. I told him about the ticket and told him I was guilty. He said,
“Woah, woah! Don’t say anything else! The D.A. is not here, and you shouldn’t be telling me that.”
Then I continued, “But I am. I was speeding. It was a rental car and I wasn’t used to it. But I would like a pardon.”
“A what?” the judge looked baffled.
“A pardon. You know, when a person is guilty of a crime, but they are let off the hook anyways. That is what I am here for.”
The judge was clearly amused now, and still looked baffled. “Why are you so happy?”
I told him about the revival meeting and about Jesus, and for some reason I even ended up telling him about the deaths in my family, and how Christ healed all that. He was very attentive. Eventually, with tears in his eyes, he shared some very sad losses of his own. And I knew the Lord was moving. We talked for nearly an hour and I asked him if he had a bible. He got up and we went to a side room with a bookshelf where he found one. I opened it up for him and showed him where the Gospel of John was and told him to begin there.
Eventually, I mentioned my husband waiting in the car. He gasped and sent me on my way, apologizing for taking so much time. I wanted to pray with him but he insisted I hurry along. I told him would be praying for him. He looked so perplexed.
“Why would you pray for me? You don’t even know me.”
“I do now,” I said, and turned and left.
I was floating to the car. I was so happy to feel like I was EXACTLY where I was meant to be. I thanked God for the ticket, that led me to that meeting with the judge. And a few days later, there in my mailbox was a notice,
“In the interest of justice, your ticket is hereby dismissed.”
I got my pardon. That notice lived on my fridge for some time. Thanks God. I knew you had my back.
The easiest way to begin is to strum the heart strings. What’s going on in there? Fear, sorrow, panic, frustration? Let it play, whatever it is. Find some music that moves you toward or awakens you to God. Play it and let it move you. 2 Timothy 1:6 says to stir up the gift that is in you. It gives imagery of fanning embers into a flame. So the music you choose or the quieting you do, that is your part. God is always there but we have to settle down to receive from him.
If you aren’t familiar with how to praise and adore God, look to Psalms and take your time. Spend the time. Let the words do the work for you. Take them in. Yield. And then read them aloud. Read them back to God.
Ask Holy Spirit to help you. He has some other names; Helper, Comforter, Counselor. He is very good at these things.
Have you ever had a massage? You lay on a table and let go, exhaling away your cares so you can receive the soothing work. Have you ever opened a beer? Or sipped a glass of wine? You let go, breathe in and invite the calming affects you know it will bring. Have you stepped into a bath or a shower and felt the water running over you as you release all of your tension and cares, letting them pour down the drain? The key to all of these is letting go. This is the exact same letting go you do in prayer. Again and again. Over and over.
Maybe for some it would help to write a letter. Pour out all of your cares and worries to God. And then offer it up and let it go.
The goal isn’t necessarily to get God to do something. It’s to get YOU to do something. Trust. Rest. Change the channel. Align yourself to the Prince of Peace.
If you find you are fearful, delve into the scriptures. Read the Gospel of John. And meditate on the comfort you find. Highlight or copy the verses that move you. Not everything you read will move you. Some of it may annoy you. Skip over that for now. Just look for something comforting. Read slowly. If it moves you, copy it. Slowly. Keep your music playing softly. It will help you to stay focused and keep your heart open. The mind of our human nature is hostile toward God. It always has been. It is not subject to God, nor can it be. (Romans 8:7) This is why you feel that tug of war when you try to approach God. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Your heart wants and seeks God’s love and peace and yet there is another law at work in you fighting all the time. (Romans 7:22) Ignore it. Override it. It will shut up and settle down the more you ignore it. It is very much like the parable of the two dogs within. One evil, and one good. Which one will live? The one you feed! So keep reading. Pray without ceasing. Keep singing and playing music that moves your heart heavenward. The universe is not out of control. Great Peace is available to you.