Psalm 116 - MarthaJoy Conner - Mother's Day Collection Day 14
I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!”
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
As we are tenderly aware, the presence of suffering will always be a part of our lives this side of Heaven; and the various circumstances we encounter can be devastating. We can easily find ourselves feeling stuck in the midst of overwhelming grief.
But have you ever found yourself running away from your painful reality?
That is something I have struggled with, though I wasn’t aware of it until I spent several years being brought back to the valley of the shadow of death over and over again. I suffered two miscarriages in the first two years of my marriage, and the loss of those precious babies was the beginning of an extended season of grief and continued losses in my life.
Despite these difficulties, I knew that God was ultimately for me, and, by His grace, I found it fairly easy to remind myself of His goodness and sovereignty amidst my trying circumstances. I thought that proclaiming truth in this way was what it meant to be walking in faithful obedience.
But while I kept busy filling my mind with theological principles, I was also unknowingly burying my heart—and my true need for Jesus—deeper than I ever realized. Was it good to call upon biblical promises and remind myself of God’s character? Yes, absolutely. But rationally knowing “God is good” is sort of like knowing that water quenches thirst. It’s an objective matter of fact, whether you’ve experienced it as true or not. However, when you’ve wandered in the wilderness until you have become desperately parched and need a drink of water as a means of survival—you will have a much different knowledge of what it means to have that thirst quenched. And oh how sweet it is to be intimately acquainted with our Savior as He satisfies our needs in that same way.
For years, I struggled with believing that the symptoms of suffering were essentially sin. If I was sad, I thought it meant I was rejecting a gift from the Lord’s hand. Discontentment or discouragement meant I didn’t believe Jesus was enough. And I didn’t want to be in sin! Or more accurately, I didn’t want to be a failure of a Christian. So, for years, I refused to truly acknowledge experiences like sadness, disappointment, and pain. I was aware of my difficult circumstances, but I didn’t give myself permission to properly grieve. I told myself and everyone else that I was fine, and I sincerely believed it was true. Because in the eternal sense, I was fine! And I was much more inclined to live in light of that eternal reality than I was to expose the unruly nature of my heart.
But I was mistaken. I was in denial. And I was missing out on intimacy with Jesus. What I thought was obedience was actually more like ignorance and arrogance. I wanted to be a successful, faithful Christian. Not a broken, struggling Christian. But, friend, an obedient Christian IS a broken Christian! And I learned this the hard way.
“When I was brought low, He saved me.”
The Shepherd wanted to lead me through—not just directly out of—the shadowy places, gently guiding me, loving me, and healing my broken soul. I needed to know my need for Him. And He had to break down a lot of barriers, comforts, and sin that I clung to in order to get to the place where my needy heart had been hidden so far out of reach.
Believing correct theology in my mind wasn’t enough… my heart had to be engaged and responsive. I eventually learned that fighting against difficult emotions and running from pain doesn’t actually make them any less real. It just meant I was ignoring reality. I was living in darkness and calling it light.
“I love the Lord because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.”
I can praise God’s objective attributes all day long, but I will find the greatest delight in Him when I cry out for salvation and have Him meet me in my deepest need. More than platitudes for my mind, I needed a true embrace for my soul. Friends, I needed to cry. I needed to ask for help. I needed to invite community into my life. I needed to be seen and known and loved for the person I really am, not the person I was determined to be.
“Gracious is the Lord, and...merciful. The Lord preserves the simple.”
For so long, I tried to be faithful in my obedience, my correctness, and my perceived absence of brokenness. But inevitably, I failed. And I am grateful for that, because God isn’t looking for the absence of brokenness. Rather, He blesses those who know their own weakness and entrust their broken hearts to Him.
If we don’t grieve, we don’t get to be comforted. If we can’t be vulnerable, we can’t fully experience being known and loved. If we don’t humble ourselves and truly realize our own state of disrepair, we can’t savor the blessedness of the One who satisfies our every need.
Our hearts can’t be brought to this kind of awareness without God’s grace. So I am praying that the Lord would reveal Himself to you, and that He would shed light on the true nature of your heart as you grieve. I am praying that you would find comfort in His tender care as He faithfully leads you through the valley of the shadow of death. And that you wouldn’t run away from your neediness or your pain, but rather feel the freedom to lean into it fully— so you might treasure Him fully— not just in your mind, but with your whole heart. He will never fail to meet you in your time of need.
“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”
Abiding in grace with you,
Hi Friend, Ashlee here. Below is a song that I encourage you to listen to. I thought it would be a beautiful way to enter into worship as you begin your day and dwell on the Psalm above. Praying that you would feel the closeness and peace of the Lord as you walk forward today.