Never Felt More Alive . . . .

It has been over six weeks since I knew I was closer to death than I had ever been before, and yet . . . I had never felt more alive. After being hospitalized with a badly infected perforated ulcer and then having problems with my heart, I was finally released from the hospital and wrote the following to a friend:

Thank you for your prayers! They carried me through many a cliff-hanger as doctors and nurses did everything they could to save my life.. Once the surgery was done, that took the back burner as two nurses worked through two nights to restore the natural rhythm of my heart. It was tough in many, many ways. But God blessed me with His presence and peace, which many non-believers who watched the drama unfold could not deny. It took 3 days and switching around countless medications to finally get the rhythm of my heart restored.

“Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display Your power among the peoples.
With Your mighty arm You redeemed Your people . . . .”
Psalm 77:13-17

I never realized how awkward it is to write about something that you know happened, but there is no other explanation for it except to say, it was a miracle.

Miracle defined: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.*

As I write about some of the “extraordinary events” that happened after being unexpectedly hospitalized, I do so in the hope of enlarging the vision of those of you who are facing challenges you would never have chosen for yourselves.  I invite all to draw your own conclusion as to whether it was God “intervening in human affairs” or if it was something else. (I would love to hear your thoughts.)

In the first of this three post series** I wrote about“sheltering in place” for months because of COVID-19, and how the thought of going to the hospital and picking up the virus terrified me. Then the night came when, finding myself in unbearable abdominal pain, I had no other choice than to face my greatest fear. As the ambulance siren wailed I found myself praying this simple prayer:

Thank you God that You love me and that I am not alone,
Thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life..
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path with Your eyes
as I trust You no matter what!

Such was the beginning of an adventure that would transform my faith in remarkable ways. It was that first night and into the next day that I came to understand this simple truth:

 God often uses the very things we are most afraid of
to draw us closer to Himself.

In my second post I wrote how God has faithfully worked in the lives of people since the beginning of time. I pointed to the prophet Elijah, who ran away when Jezebel threatened to kill him. The passage talks about how God ministered to Elijah and how eventually Elijah “pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave” when he heard God speak in “a gentle whisper.”  (1 Kings 19:11-13) In that post I wrote about  learning to listen for His gentle whisper when fearful, discouraged or feeling utterly alone.  The night I was wheeled through the Emergency Room doors I heard that gentle whisper in my mind asking, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” 

Looking back all these weeks later, I can now see that when I responded to God’s question (at first tentatively and then fully) with, “Yes Lord, I will trust in You!” –it was then that the Holy Spirit stepped in. During the entire time He helped me take my eyes off myself/my fears and to choose to trust in God’s sovereign goodness.

Only now, as I reflect back on the night of my surgery, can I better appreciate what happened. Scheduled for exploratory surgery at five that evening I was remarkably at ease. In fact, as I was wheeled into the surgical room I suddenly remembered having seen the same setting of lights, people and a surgical table waiting when I had my tonsils removed when I was about six years old. For me, it was a pleasant memory as I remembered seeing stars after they put the mask over my face. That is my last memory until I was taken back to my room three hours later. I was told the surgery was a success, but I paid little attention to it as I watched two nurses diligently work through the night trying to get my heart rate under control. As they worked together the lights were low, and it felt like being in a cathedral.  Surrounded by a scattering of vaulted light and soft, shimmering colors, the nurses ran lines of various combinations of medications to finally stabilize me. I watched and prayed but experienced no fear and no pain. Finally the male nurse (Shawn) spoke to me: “Mrs. Siler, your hair is shining!” Moments later he exclaimed, “Mrs. Siler, your skin is beautiful!” and then asked, “Mrs Siler, what are you doing?” All I could think to say was, “I’m cheering you on!”

It wasn’t until weeks later that I thought about Shawn’s question: What WAS I doing?!! I thought about how they couldn’t understand how I was able to stay with them as I teetered on the edge of life and death!

  • Humanly speaking I should have been exhausted. I’d had major surgery to address a life threatening issue just hours before. (Imagine my surprise when, days later, I saw the seven inch incision down my middle being held together by fourteen staples!).
  • Yet I was clear-headed, not a bit fearful and felt no pain. (My only concern for the nurses.)
  • In fact, I felt exhilarated to the point where I cannot remember ever feeling more alive!

The only reasonable answer was the working of the Holy Spirit in me. It was indeed, “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs” .

So what can we learn from this?

  1. God often uses the very things we are most afraid of to draw us closer to Himself.
  2. To enjoy our God-given life to the fullest requires that we be fully invested in Him–not our fears or the things of this world.

But how can we avoid giving way to our fears/emotions and the stress that is so much a part of this world? The Apostle Paul put it well: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:18) To fight the onslaught of emotions that can so easily overtake us, I have found it most helpful to simply bring Christ into the center of my thinking:

Thank you, God, for loving me and
for sending your Son to save me for Yourself.
Thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life.
Help me Lord to live for, love and serve You with a glad heart.

The words of Jesus that flew like a banner in my mind when I first entered the hospital, continue to be true for all who choose to trust in Him:

“I have come that they (YOU!) may have life,
and have it to the full.”

John 10:10b

All to His Glory!

*Merriam-Webster Dictionary
**To access the first and second posts of this series press here >>Not Afraid << for the first post and here >> The Fullness Of Life << for the second.

 

The Fullness Of Life . . . .

Inspiring words posted by a friend about to lose her hair due to cancer treatment:

“And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:12)

“The stars are beautiful this morning, Venus in the eastern sky like a diamond. The moon in the southwestern sky. Every star has a name given by the Lord. Billions just like us, the sparrows, the hairs on my head, all the good and bad cells in our bodies, He knows it all. And with His great love, mercy, grace and justice, new every morning.”

As I write to you, I do so to share my story about the largeness of God and how He can use what we most fear to draw us closer to Himself.  We see it happen again and again in Scripture as we read about how He worked in the lives of people determined to trust Him since the beginning of time:* 

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.”
1 Kings 19:11-13

 This picture of how God ministered to Elijah, after Jezebel threatened to kill him, is one of my favorites.  Full of fear, discouraged and feeling abandoned, Elijah wanted to die.  But God still had plans for him.  In the passage God was not in the wind; nor was He in the earthquake or fire.  Instead, Elijah recognized God’s voice in, “a gentle whisper.”  I love it because I have learned to listen for His whisper when fearful, discouraged or I am feeling utterly alone: “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” Perhaps you have heard Him too?

In my last post  I told you about how I had “sheltered in place” for months because of COVID-19. During that time, the thought of having to go to the hospital terrified me most of all. Twice I experienced bouts of extended heart palpitations (when I normally would have gone to the hospital) but did not go because I so feared picking up the virus.

That changed on the night of August 4, when I was overcome by abdominal pain that was so severe that I could not walk. I screamed for my husband to call an ambulance. As the crew bundled me into the back of the ambulance my husband was told not to follow because he would not be allowed to enter the hospital.  It was then that I embarked on an adventure not of my choosing. As I rode to the hospital I prayed a prayer I have prayed many times to quell my fears and put my focus on Him:

Thank you God that you love me,
thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life..
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path with Your eyes
as I trust You no matter what.**

As I was transferred into the hospital Emergency Room my fears were left behind me as the words of Jesus pulsed through my mind: 

I have come that they (you!) may have life,
and have it to the full.”

John 10:10b

Suddenly the words ‘life” and “full” took on new meaning for me:.

To enjoy our God-given life to the fullest extent
requires that we be fully invested in Him.  

As I contemplated my circumstances– separated from the shelter of my home, family and friends– I none-the-less felt energized, even as I was poked, prodded and questioned. I did my best to answer their questions but I honestly don’t remember much about any of it except that the pain subsided even as doctors determined the danger was very real. They decided I had a perforated ulcer that might be infected but they needed to run more tests. I was admitted as a patient under observation and finally put into bed at 4 A.M.

Sound asleep and assuming I was in a private room because of my age and vulnerability (I am over 70 and have heart and lung issues)  I awoke to the booming voice of a young man trying to translate the hospital menu into Spanish for the roommate I didn’t know I had! There were other sounds I could hear but because of the heavy draperies that separated our beds I could not tell how many people were actually there or what was happening. I would love to tell you that I took it in stride but I didn’t. It was in that moment that fear gripped my heart in a big way.

After calling for the nurse, a young woman came to my bedside. In a shaky voice I expressed my concerns about being in the category of “most vulnerable” (I’d heard it on the news for months) and for that reason I had expected to be in a private room,  The nurse was patient but unsympathetic, telling me that there were no private rooms available.  She added that patients with COVID were no where near where I was. Suddenly I saw the tired eyes of a nurse who had had the same conversation many times before. Feeling very convicted at giving way to fear, I heard that gentle voice whisper, “Kathie, will you trust Me in this?” 

In that moment something changed in me. After battling health concerns for months, I had longed to connect with God as I once did. Instead, I felt increasingly distant from Him. Even my love of reading Scripture had wained, as I looked around for other distractions. Watching television programs I had recorded and doing paint-by-number projects had become my two favorite distractions.

It was then that I knew God’s answer to my longing for more of Him,
was to place me exactly where I was,
away from all the distractions.

With that realization I gladly replied, “Yes, Lord, I will trust You in this!”

Are you in a place not of your choosing?  Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed by problems with your health; or are stressed over finances and/or family responsibilities.  Maybe you have so distanced yourself from the world out of fear, that you have also lost connection with God as I did?

Then if you claim Christ and desire to enjoy the fullness of life God intends for you, I encourage you to pray in the quiet confidence of His Sovereign Goodness:

Thank You God that You love me;
thank You that You have a plan and purpose for my life.
Help me Lord to see those You put on my path
with Your eyes, as I trust You no matter what.**

In my next post I will finish my story about how:

  • God worked miracles large and small that would change me forever.
  • He opened up my eyes to appreciate healthcare professionals even more than I had.
  • My confidence in God’s Sovereign Goodness continues to draw me ever closer to Him.

All to His Glory!

*Read Hebrews 11 and the beginning of chapter 12 for inspiration.
**I have found that developing a praise response to God when trouble comes, is helpful to battling depression.and anxiety.  Keeping a praise journal (I recommend logging three things you’re thankful to God each day) helps breakup the negative perceptions so common with depression.

 

 

 

More Than Words: On Being Christ In An Angry World . . . .

Living in a world where anger comes increasingly easy and words are used as weapons rather than a means of blessing, can be frightening. It is tempting to get angry and play the child’s game of, “tit for tat”. But as followers of Christ, called to be in the world but not of the world, we are instructed to love and forgive in the mercy granted to us because of Christ..

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I write this with Christ’s call to peace in mind:

“Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27

This week I gained insight into our penchant to hate when anger or fear take control   The wisdom of James, half-brother to Jesus, written over two thousand years ago, rings truth today::

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet
but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask,
you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures..
You adulterous people, don’t you know that
friendship with the world means enmity against God?
Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world
becomes an enemy of God.”

James 4:1-4

Our word choices matter.
They reflect how we view ourselves,
how we relate to the world around us and, most importantly,
how we perceive God.

But God’s concern for His people is less about words
and more about attitude and action.
When hate comes easy, we distance ourselves from the One we are called to serve.

So how can we make things right?

Step One: Pray through the words of James and ask God to check the motives of your heart. Are you right with Him or are there areas that need to be confessed and made right?  Don’t put it off! Take care of it now and I guarantee your heart will feel a lot lighter.

Step Two: Ask God for the names of three people you would otherwise never pray for.  Jesus said we are to love and pray for our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) so start praying and be faithful to watch for miracles large and small.

Step Three: Take your focus off of yourself.  Ask God to show you how you can love the people in your life better as you choose to trust Him more.

In recent weeks I have been encouraged and found direction from the Apostles who faced every sort of difficulty we face–and much more. I invite you to consider the wisdom of Peter and Paul:

“Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another,
because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that He may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

I Peter 5: 5b-7

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you
to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage . . . .”
Philippians 2:3-6

Humility is beautiful in God’s eyes, something we fail to see. Ask God to embrace humility as you determine to trust Him in every area of your life..

Do you yearn for authentic relationships? Then take your focus off yourself and look to being a blessing in the lives of others as Christ leads.

This is one I go to often:

Love must be sincere.
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice;
mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud . . .
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:9, 12-21

Looking for wisdom and direction in times such as these?  Look no further than the Scripture as you love others, not because they deserve it, but because it reflects Christ’s  love poured out on you.  Life is more than words . . . much, much more!

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause
righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.”

Isaiah 61:11

All to His Glory!

On Dealing With Fear and Bullies . . . .

This is the second in a series of posts featuring spiritual lessons God taught me through my family.  Over the years these stories have been helpful to many a Client; I share them now in the hope that they might also encourage you. ❤️

There is much talk about bullies/abusers in the world today, but bullies have been around since the beginning.  It was their fear of bullies, that resulted in Israel having to march around in the wilderness for forty years*; and Goliath (of David and Goliath fame) was nothing more than an oversized bully.

Of our three children, Amy (our middle child), was the most fearful. Amy was afraid of (or was resistant to) such things as:

  • Volcanoes. When we received orders to move to England, our then four-year-old middle asked with serious intensity in her voice: “Are there volcanoes in England?” (All these years later, we still laugh that if we’d received orders to Hawaii, we would never have been able to get her on the airplane!)
  • A boy in our village named Christopher Blackman.  I doubt that Christopher (who was probably about 10 and DID have a bad reputation) had any idea that our little Amy had stopped going to the village shop for sweeties (candy) because she was afraid he might be there.  Also, he probably was unaware that she immediately hid herself behind a garden wall or bushes if she saw him when walking home from school.
  • Pick-pocketers.  After traveling into London on a train, we heard an announcement warning that pick-pocketers had been active in the area that morning.  Amy clutched the little purse I had made for her tightly against her chest as she said, “They should make them wear uniforms so we can tell who they are!”
  • Learning to write–because she knew she wouldn’t be able to write as well as her sister–Amy resisted the pressure to learn to write.)

    Amy

Yet despite her fears, Amy could also be the most courageous.  When she saw a smaller classmate being bullied, she took it upon herself to stick up for them.  On one such occasion, Amy was quite surprised when the bigger kid (not Christopher) knocked her down.  Fighting back tears, Amy got up and yelled passionately, “I FORGIVE YOU!”  (I heard later that the bully looked quite embarrassed as he slunk off!)

When I learned about the incident I was both stunned and proud.  I had to admit that Amy’s response demonstrated a special courage and biblical wisdom that I lacked.

COURAGE defined: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

True courage demonstrates moral strength to withstand danger despite our fears
as we take our stand against evil.

God chose to teach our family a deeper lesson through Amy’s second fear: Christopher Blackman.

BULLY defined: “a blustering, browbeating person . . . one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.”  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

Our youngest, Luke (about 2 1/2 years old at the time), was notoriously friendly toward anyone he met.  While taking Luke out to the local playing field in his stroller, Luke reached out to Christopher–who I had no idea was THE Christopher Blackman!  Soon after, Christopher began showing up by our garden wall calling out for Luke.  Having found out WHO the boy was, I kept Luke inside at first.  But I remembered what Jesus taught about dealing with enemies in Luke 6:27, 28,

Luke
with Christopher Blackman

“Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.”

As we (Amy and I) began to pray for Christopher, something unexpected happened: God softened our hearts.  I began to see that Christopher genuinely held a special affection for Luke–who Christopher called, “Lu-key”.  As I made some inquiries around our village I learned that Christopher was in foster care and was waiting to be placed in a special school. (He had been put out of the village school because of something he’d done.)  We reached out to Christopher’s foster parents and learned that because his foster mom was quite ill with diabetes, she put him out of the house after he’d had his breakfast each day to roam the village.  I realized that Christopher was showing up at our garden wall, because he was lonely while all the other children were in school.

What happened next is really kind of a blur.  We began by allowing Christopher into our garden and it wasn’t long until he became a special part of our lives.  I cannot tell you how long it was before Christopher and a couple of his friends began attending church with us.  Looking back, I do not recall even a hint of Christopher’s bad reputation being expressed in our time with him.

You may be wondering about Amy in all of this?  Well, she now says that Christopher probably DID push her down, sat on her and pounded on her back one day before he became a special part of our family.  But when she saw how he liked her little brother and saw our genuine concern for Christopher, she was okay with it.  Besides, even as a child, Amy said, she “figured that it was what Christian families were supposed to do!”

Soon after we returned to the States Christopher started at his new school.  We wrote back and forth for a while but then lost touch with him.  After all these years, I still wonder what he did with his life and would love to see him again.

So what did I learn from my children about dealing with fear and bullies?

  1. To take sin seriously–my own included–in difficult relationships.  Romans 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”  God is both sovereign and good and worthy of our trust.
  2. To faithfully pray for my enemy.  I have learned that by doing this God keeps my heart soft. Praying for my enemy also opens the door to miracles, as God also can work in the heart of the bully/abuser.  James 4:7 hits the mark with this counsel: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
  3. To trust God to provide courage to resist being run by my fears. By standing up to bullies/abusers (and asking others to pray where needed) the sin is exposed for what it is.  The wisdom contained in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare, lends powerful encouragement to all who seek Christ’s help:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when (not if) the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then . . . .”

Ephesians 6:10-14

After 25 years of counseling, I have learned (where bullying/abuse is concerned) that prayer and getting help (be it in the church or by calling on the civil authorities) to stop the pattern of abuse is the best course.

To allow the sin of abuse to continue without addressing it,
encourages disrespect in the heart of the abuser toward the one being abused.
To call for outside help often forces the abuser to face the ugliness of their sin.  

In the end, there is opportunity on both sides of the relationship, for spiritual growth to take place as God works in both hearts.

All to His Glory

*Press here–> Joshua 5:6, to read the text.

BOLD TRUST . . . .

How do you respond when the unexpected becomes a reality . . . when people disappoint you and what means most is taken away? Me? By nature, I shy away from conflict. I tend to be a runner, especially when fear grips my heart.  When forced to face my fears, I have been known to come out fighting–like a bulldog on steroids–angry because I feel very alone and trapped.  That is why I find this passage in Isaiah so meaningful:

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

Courage to trust . . . .
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,

but you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee
at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
you will all flee away,
till you are left
like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”
Isaiah 30:15-17

Yep, setting aside any thought of turning to God to confess my fears and trust in Him, that’s me . . . or at least is was me.  How about you?

It would be devastating if the passage ended there.  Thankfully it doesn’t:

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!
Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it.'”

(Isaiah 30:18, 21)

Over time God has given me a boldness to trust Him despite my fears.
It is a gift that I treasure and is what I endeavor to pass on to my clients–
a deeper appreciation for God as Sovereign and Good.

I was captivated when I heard the testimony of Lynsi Snyder, America’s youngest female billionaire.  Lynsi was also a runner and bears testimony to the Sovereign Goodness of God.  Watch and listen to her story of how her decision to stop running and boldly trust in God changed everything:

In Psalm 30:11 & 12 King David declared,

“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”

Because He is faithful . . . He is worthy of your trust!

ALL To His Glory!

*Lynsi Snyder, a White Chair Film – I Am Second®

Soul Work: Rx for the Weary Heart . . . .

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

We find ourselves weary and discouraged as what was once “unthinkable” has become common place.  Even so, I am grateful to report that God continues to impact the hearts and minds of those who hunger and thirst for His perspective on their lives. With every problem faced in the Counseling Room, I marvel at God’s faithfulness as He consistently brings forth meaningful Scriptures that:

Come to Me . . . find rest for your souls.
Come to Me . . . find rest for your souls.
  • Challenge and direct according to Client need,
  • Shine forth hope and light to encourage each one forward and, above all else,
  • Inspire heartfelt repentance and thanksgiving for His truth spoken in love.

Understandably, there are times when tears are spilled.  Yet anyone who passes by my office is more likely to hear peals of laughter break through the walls as God ministers as only He can do.  The best part for me?  Is listening and reflecting on what God has shown them since our previous session through their Journey Notes Praise Journaling.  (It is then that I take notes!)

Last week, Matthew 11: 28, 29 came to the forefront while working with several Clients; each one was uniquely touched by Christ’s tender call:

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.”

It is an invitation that is also a command– “Come . . . COME TO ME . . . and I will give you REST.”  Jesus makes this appeal to our weariness as He:

  1. Acknowledges the burdens that go with living life on this earth,
  2. Calls us closer to Himself to help bear our spiritual and earthly burdens,
  3. Sets the example of gentleness and humility of heart we are called to emulate, and (finally)
  4. Speaks to our deeper need of soul work where we discover rest in Him.

SOUL WORK*. . . what is it and how is it accomplished?  I write this not as any sort of theological expert. I am a sinner saved by God’s mysterious and wondrous grace through faith in His Son.  After more than four decades of walking by faith, with the Scriptures and God’s Spirit shepherding me through many a trial–plus encouraging others in the Scriptures for twenty-five years–this is what I have learned:

SOUL WORK is:
That deeply mysterious work only God can do
as we open our hearts and minds to Him.

Scripture gives much instruction about our hearts and minds:

Proverbs 4:23 is one of those verses that warn us to guard our hearts:

“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.”
 

(NASB)

In Luke 6:43, Jesus taught that what we store in our hearts is reflected by our actions as well as our words:

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart,
and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

As culture teaches, “follow your heart”, Jeremiah 17 admonishes–

“The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
(Verses 9, 10)

While we are responsible for what we store in our hearts, Jesus calls us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. In Matthew 11 He urges: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” 

So what is this “yoke” Jesus urges His followers to take?  I appreciate the perspective of seventeenth century commentator, Matthew Henry** who wrote:  

It is a yoke that is lined with love.
So powerful are the assistances He gives us,
so suitable the encouragements,
and so strong the consolations to be found in the way of duty,
that we may truly say, it is a yoke of pleasantness.
The way of duty is the way of rest.”

To embrace the loving kindness of Christ’s invitation, though scary at first, is to discover the pleasantness of rest found only in Him.

SOUL WORK is not something we strive for;
it is worked out as we yield our hearts and minds
to God’s Sovereign Goodness.

So how is it begun?

  1. Prayer . . .
  2. Confession of fear, anger, pride, resentment, you name it . . .
  3. A willingness/determination to trust God no matter what your circumstances.

For me it required desperation.  As a new Christian I wanted to please God: but there were mountains of garbage stored deep in my heart that kept tripping me up.  Over time, I noticed that King David (said to be, “a man after God’s heart” in Scripture–despite his many failures) exposed his heart to God more than anyone else in the Bible.  I resolved to pray every portion of  the Psalms of David that mentioned the heart.  The day I got to the end of Psalm 139 was my “Day of Reckoning”.

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
(Verses 23 and 24)

I remember terror gripping me as I contemplated praying David’s words.  I vividly imagined myself, laid out on an operating room table and the scalpel God held poised to open my chest.  I wanted to run . . . yet remained transfixed.  As I contemplated the painful rawness of being totally exposed, I prayed the words anyway:

“Search me, God . . . open me up and do what only You can do to make me whole.  
Cleanse me . . . please . . . that I may find freedom in YOU.”  

I braced for the pain of my chest being opened and my sin ripped out of the crevices of my being–but there was only silence.  I continued to wait until finally . . . I realized that God is far gentler and kinder than I ever imagined.  Slowly, I relaxed my grip on my fears as relief flooded my mind and heart like never before.  That marked the beginning of what has continued for a lifetime: learning to trust Him only deep within my soul, in good times as well as in bad.

No matter where you are or what your circumstance, Christ’s invitation to enter His rest awaits your response.  He has a plan and purpose for your life that will likely include heartache and confusion.  Yet, as you learn to trust in His Sovereign Goodness . . . that elusive rest found only in Him will be yours.

I pray that you will be encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s vision and prayer for all who trust in Christ Jesus:

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you
with power through His Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ . . . .”
Ephesians 3:16-18

Do you hunger and thirst to go deeper in your walk with Jesus?  TODAY is the day to answer His call to trust Him more and yourself less!

All to His Glory!

*I found very little when I googled the term soul work except for this article (actually it’s only the first bit of the article–the rest is blocked from non-subscribers of Christianity Today): http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/may-web-only/real-transformation-happens-when.html
**To learn more about Matthew Henry I found this site helpful: http://www.truthfulwords.org/biography/henrytw.html