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

“Lord, Turn Our Whining Into Worship”– The Necessity Of Spiritual Regrouping* . . . .

It was a jolt to my system, the day I started to read James for the first time:

“Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds . . . . “

I say “started to read”, because I was so shocked and frightened by James’s instruction that, for months, I avoided going anywhere near his letter when I opened my Bible.  Looking back I can see where it was God’s mercy, giving me space before facing a life or death challenge that would change my perspective forever.

"Lord, turn my whining into worship . . . . "
“Lord, turn my whining into worship . . . . “

After that first encounter with James, life was going exceedingly well.  In fact, we were surprised and thrilled to announce to the world that we were expecting a third child that fall.  All appeared to be well until, at 25 weeks gestation, we faced the possibility of losing our son.  During those early weeks of being hospitalized, I went back to James–convicted that I needed to hear him out.  Picking up where I had left off, I found that James’s wisdom provided the perspective I needed to help me spiritually regroup*:

“Consider it PURE JOY my brothers (and my sisters),
whenever you face TRIALS OF MANY KINDS,
because you know that the TESTING OF YOUR FAITH produces PERSEVERANCE.
Let PERSEVERANCE finish its work so that you may be
MATURE AND COMPLETE, not lacking anything.”
 James 1:2-4 (Emphasis mine)

Where I had assumed that God was all about my happiness, I realized that He wanted much, much more:

A rich, full-bodied, mature faith that trusts in Him . . .
that, pure and simple, is God’s goal in allowing trials and uncertainty
to test and grow us.

All these years later,  I have helped many a Client to spiritually regroup with the forthright wisdom of James.  When God asks, “Will you trust me in this?”  There is nothing that delights His heart more than when we say, “Yes Lord, I will trust You in this.”

In these uncertain times, I find myself returning to James often to spiritually regroup.  That is why the opening prayer of a sermon I listened to recently got my attention:

“Lord . . . turn our whining into worship.”

Initially I caught myself smiling as I reflected, “Turn our whining into worship?”  I remembered a childishly scrawled addition to a grocery list I found many years ago requesting, “kids whine”.  It was referring to a favorite sparkling juice our children enjoyed during special meals when wine was served to the adults.  Even now, the irony of the misspelling of “wine” to “whine” makes me chuckle!

But then it struck a much deeper cord in me . . . “Lord, turn our whining into worship.”  I thought about;

  • How easy it is to complain to God about our troubles, even shifting blame to Him for allowing the fruit of our choices to impact our lives.
  • How easy it is to give way to fear, as the world blatantly denies Him.
  • Even now, I catch myself (a supposed “mature Christian”) entering into a whining, “poor me”  attitude when things to differently than I want them to.

To be clear, it is not whining when we seek help from God.  In fact, He urges us to run to Him with our fears and whatever weighs heavy on our hearts:

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

 (Matthew 11:28)

However, the “rest” we are invited to enter, does not necessarily take us out of the battle.  We ultimately discover rest for our souls when we choose to trust in Christ–whether our circumstances change or not.  Such rest comes as we answer the question God asks each of us, “WILL YOU TRUST ME IN THIS?”  

When faith says, “Yes Lord, I trust You no matter what . . . . ”
Guess what happens? We leave the realm of whiners and uncertainty
as we enter into a worship that reflects a maturing faith!

The Bible is full of wisdom to help us grow through difficulty. Recently I have found encouragement and direction from God’s instruction given to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple.  It is helpful and relevant to you and I today as we pray:

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray
and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin
and will heal their land.”

II Chronicles 7:14

Yes, we live in uncertain times
where it is easy to give way to fear or to be run by anger.
But such times offer us a myriad of opportunities to
spiritually regroup and deepen our faith,
as we trust in Him with humble, glad hearts.

All to His Glory!

*To spiritually regroup refers to those times when we are convicted that our emotions are running us rather than our faith in Christ.  We spiritually regroup when we confess our fears, anger, bitterness, pride, etc, as sin against God.  We spiritually regroup when we choose to trust Him to work out His Perfect Plan for our ultimate good and His Glory.