Beautiful Day

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Who Shall Deliver Me?

Now you might be thinking that perhaps my life is so put together and pretty, after the previous two posts on the joyful celebrations we've shared.  But it simply isn't true.  To be quite honest, there are days of deep struggle, conflict, and pain.  And those aren't so lovely or beautiful.  But as this place is where I write of how I look for the beauty that is in all things, yes, even the hard and ugly, I needed to write here today to collect my thoughts.  More than that, what I sincerely desire is to speak the Words of Gospel life into my heart in a way that truly impacts it.  Somehow going around just thinking thoughts to myself doesn't always feel very productive or helpful in achieving that goal--though I do believe it is right and necessary as well.  John Piper has said that writing helps us see things in a way we do not otherwise see.  I have always felt and understood this to be true in my own processing of what God is doing in my life.

This morning I came to my quiet reading desk where I spend time in Bible study and prayer.  The tears started flowing as soon as I read what I was "supposed" to be studying this morning.  A cloud of condemnation, waves of doubt, even a crisis of faith.

I came to the breakfast table a little while later and saw the Tabletalk magazine sitting there with the topic this month of "The Seven Deadly Fears."  I skimmed through what those fears were.  I landed on one, thinking it would speak most to where I was, but actually discovered it was another.  And in His Providence, every word of this article spoke directly to my present struggle.  I will likely spend a lot of time quoting because this is just the tool God used to direct me back to His Word this morning--and just what I needed to preach the gospel to my heart today.

God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.

All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.

I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?

If I could once lay down myself,
And start self-purged upon the race
That all must run ! Death runs apace.

If I could set aside myself,
And start with lightened heart upon
The road by all men overgone!

God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease and rest and joys

Myself, arch-traitor to myself ;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.

Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me
Break off the yoke and set me free
~Christina Rossetti
This poem is quite a depiction of the internal struggle with self and the condemnation that so often plagues, as Paul so aptly explains for us in Romans 7:24..  If you have not guessed, the fear that this article addresses is "Fear of Self."  Right away, after a brief analysis of this poem, the author of the article, Kris Lundgaard,  makes this statement.  And I find it perfect.
"The beauty of the Bible is that it never leaves us to think we are alone in our fears."
I've found that word I was looking for......BEAUTY.
What was Paul's response to his own desperate cry?  To start preaching to himself.
"I thank God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."  (Romans 7:25, NKJV)
Anyone else think it frustrating that we can imagine in our minds how obedient we'll be, and know what is the right thing to do, and be powerless to carry it out?
Then he continues on:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1, NKJV)
What I had not noticed before is that Paul models for us how to make this move--how to go from self-condemnation to self-proclamation of the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus.  And it is likely that Paul learned the same from the models given in Psalms, like in Psalms 42 and 43.

I have spent much time in these Psalms the past year or so, and have only begun to unpack what's here.  These laments show a pattern that encourages me in knowing just how to speak the Gospel into difficult situations.  First, the psalmist shows his thirst and longing for God, yet feels distant and perhaps separated from Him.  Can you relate?  He shows his sense of oppression, and the feeling of being overwhelmed by grief and trouble.  A very deep and troublesome groaning inside (I always think to Romans 8 when I find my spirit so deeply hurting; those groanings that words cannot express). 
But then...HOPE rises!  The psalmist begins to turn from his inward laments, his self, toward God. 
"Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance."
~Psalm 42:5, NKJV
The author of the article again says this well:
"As long as the heart searches inward--reckoning up past sins, rehearsing past failures, bemoaning hardships--it will only find reason for self-doubt, discouragement, and fear."
Been there.  Am there, perhaps.
He continues on:
"We must preach the gospel to ourselves.  This demands that we keep our noses in the Bible, listening for God's voice, founding our confidence on Him and His promises rather than on ourselves.  What we will find in the Word is that though 'our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything' (1 John 3:20).  That's right--He searches our hearts more piercingly than our own conscience can, and He knows that we are actually worse than we ever imagined."  (Kris Lundgaard, italics mine)
I saw those last words and immediately remembered the Sonship course we took over ten years ago, in which the author was very fond of saying something very close to, "Rejoice!  You are worse than you ever imagined.  But God's grace is greater than you ever imagined."  Somehow it's easier to remember the first statement than the last.  The last statement is where we shine the light of His truth and gospel into our dark places.
Preaching this truth to myself has really brought about a peace in my spirit that "rules" over the circumstance.  Perhaps another way we were designed to take dominion in the image of God.  I've never thought of it that way, but it makes sense.  I find that I do have to "rule over" my sinful flesh with the Word of His truth.  Not an easy task...but most essential.
"God is on our side--even against our hearts...In fact, the thought that God would turn against us after giving His Son for us, or that the Son would abandon us when He's the very one who died for us and who lives to pray for us--well, the thought beggars the imagination."
And that, dear friends, is our only hope for deliverance!
**Quotes, besides the poem by Christina Rossetti and the Bible, are taken from Kris Lundgaard in his article, "Fear of Self," Tabletalk magazine, October 2013.


1 comment:

  1. Hello Sherry!

    I've been trying to get in touch with you. My computer crashed and I lost your last email. Is it possible for you to re-send? I feel so badly....I didn't even get to read it before it was lost. :(

    Look forward to hearing from you!



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