Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

Danny Gokey’s song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” has recently been the song playing in my head when I wake up. Hearing praise music in your mind is a wonderful way to start the day! But why is this particular song the one I’ve been waking up to almost every day lately?

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to tell me that it’s time to stop nursing my wounds over the lack of response for my recently published book Valiant Warrior and for this blog. In addition, earlier this year I started a graduate program in ministry – something I had been praying about and wanting to do for years. However, when a series of unanticipated events demanded my time and attention, school proved to be too much for me and I had to drop my classes. I was ready to close the door on my dream of studying theology and writing Bible studies, but my dream just doesn’t want to die.

Warriors, we all go through periods when our hopes are dashed, our dreams destroyed, and our spirits broken. After mourning these losses, God encourages us to “tell our hearts to beat again”. If we trust in Jesus, there is always hope. No matter how far we’ve been knocked down, God can and will minister to us and give us the courage to get back up again. However, there must be willingness on our part to do so.

When Jesus visited the pool in Jerusalem, he saw a lame man who had come to the pool seeking healing. It was believed that “an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had” (John 5:4 HCSB). After learning that the man had been an invalid for 38 years, Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well (John 5:6). I particularly like the way Jesus poses this question in the ASV: “Wouldest thou be made whole?”

The man explained that because he had no one to help him into the pool when the water is stirred up, someone else always gets there ahead of him (John 5:6-7). Accepting no excuses, Jesus told the man to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8 NIV). The Bible tells us that the man was cured at once; “he picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:9).

Warriors, it is never too late for us to take up our mats and walk. Our God is a God of restoration.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

I pray that whatever disappointment and discouragement we face we would be valiant and find the courage to once again get up and walk.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

 

 

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Who is in the Battle with You?

Who is in the battle with you imageThere is nothing like a tragedy in our lives to reveal who really cares about us and who we can depend on. When I hit bottom with depression and subsequently got sick, I was too tired to participate in all of the activities I was previously involved in. Therefore, I wasn’t attending events where I would regularly touch base with many of the people in my life at the time. This change alone eliminated many relationships, but I accepted it because many of those friendships were largely superficial anyway. It became clear that I would only have energy to devote to the most important and cherished people in my life, and this presented some difficulty. I was scared to let go of many people, but I had read in a book about living with Fibromyalgia that the people that really matter and who are supposed to be in your life will stick around and put in the effort it takes to stay close.

God is so good and faithful to give us what we need when we need it! When my husband and I first started attending our current church after many years at our previous church, I have to admit I had a very difficult time making the transition. My husband Chris was welcomed into the community of men with open arms while I stood by feeling like an outsider. Chris was asked to be an elder, and I saw myself as an invisible passenger just along for the ride. The elders-to-be attended monthly meetings, and the men were asked to bring their wives. At one of the meetings, our pastor asked me not to leave before the group could pray for me. As the meeting drew to a close and the group asked for prayer requests, my pastor brought up my health situation. Everyone then gathered around me and laid hands on me. One of the elders anointed me with oil, and the group prayed over me. After that, my attitude toward the church completely changed. The love of Christ as shown through the actions of others won me over! I have since become friends with a few of the elders’ wives, and I treasure our shared faith and that we pray for each other.

Over the years, it’s also been a blessing to have a Bible study group that cares about me and knows what’s going on in my life. I need the support of fellow believers to help me through my battles. It’s also an honor for me to be there for others both in their times of sorrow and in their joys. The Bible teaches that confession and prayer with other believers has healing power. In addition, we remain accountable by praying for one another and sharing where we are in our faith journey. There is power in the prayers of true believers praying for each other:

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.

If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:13-16)

Scripture also encourages us to meet together regularly, as the church needs its members to lift one another up and keep each other from falling into sin:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Furthermore, Scripture declares that believers are much stronger together than they are on their own:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

The Bible cautions us to choose who we will walk through life with carefully. It’s important to search for people who are wise, who will offer us love and support and who will help us grow in our relationship with God:

Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20)

Fellow Warriors, may we take comfort in knowing we are not in the battle all by ourselves, but rather that we are all in this together. Let us both receive and give Jesus’ love for us through one another. I pray that our hearts would be open to share the amazing gift of fellowship with another lost, lonely and battle-weary soul who may desperately need to experience God’s love today.

Enjoy “No Man is an Island” by Tenth Avenue North!

Letting Go

Happy New Year, warriors! As we look forward to 2015, it’s a good time to say “Out with the old, and in with the new.” Some folks in different parts of the world take this suggestion literally. For example, in Italy it is customary to throw pots, pans and even furniture out of windows at midnight on New Year’s! Performing this act “symbolizes casting away the old in favor of the new, letting go of past sorrows for a more hopeful time” (Tharoor, “Throw Your Furniture out the Window, and Other Ways to Ring In 2015”).

If only it were that easy to let go of the past with all of its hurts, pain, regret and disappointments. A recent visit with my family this holiday season provided much opportunity to revisit many pleasant memories. Some family discussion also brought up painful recollections as well as wounds that are still festering. The reunion experience reminded me of all the work it takes to fully let go, be healed and move on.

The first step in letting go of a painful past is arguably the most difficult – coming out of denial and facing our truth about the pain we’ve experienced. Pushing down our feelings, ignoring them and pretending they don’t exist may seem easier and may even work for a time, but inevitably if we want to be effective warriors in full allegiance to the Lord we must treat our wounds in order to receive healing.

I praise God that He knows when I’m emotionally and spiritually ready to work through and move beyond something painful from my past. I do my best to run away from dealing with the “hard stuff” by staying really busy and/or not allowing myself to be still too long with my feelings. But at some point my depression becomes so debilitating and my body manifests intense physical symptoms of stress that I no longer have the option of avoidance.

When I suffered my last severe episode of depression last year, I was forced to seek out every healthy means of relief including therapy, medication, the laying on of hands by our church elders, deeper Bible study, and intensive shoring up of my spiritual armor with fervent prayer for clarity, wisdom and forgiveness. I discovered that it was yet again a time that Jesus wanted to expose and heal a deep wound in my soul. It wasn’t until I allowed him access to every nook and cranny of my heart that true healing took place, and I was able at long last to let go and be free.

Only Jesus has the power to free us from ourselves and our sinful nature, and only he can free us from bondage to all that enslaves us whether or not we recognize our enslavement. Jesus explained to the Jews who believed in him that if they held to his teaching they would “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (New International Version, John 8:32).

In the rooms of recovery, alcoholics and addicts are familiar with the expression, “You’re only as sick as your secrets”. In other words, it’s only what we keep hidden inside – whether it is sin, resentment, things that we’ve done to hurt others or things that have been done to hurt us – that will eventually catch up with us and lead us down the path of darkness. In Proverbs 28:13, we learn that “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

When we offer the painful parts of our past to Jesus and discuss them with another trusted person, we open ourselves up to healing and restoration. And Scripture reminds us again and again that Jesus has the power to expel our demons and mend our broken hearts:

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.(Matthew 4:23-24)

Satan would love for us to continue stumbling through life in the dark, never revealing our evil thoughts and secrets. We may unintentionally go along with Satan because by our very nature we recoil from the light. Perhaps Christ’s light blinds us with its purity and holiness, especially when it contrasts with the darkness in our hearts. As John 3:19-21 explains:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Shining Christ’s light on our wounds may be painful at first, but exposing our darkness to the light ensures that darkness won’t overtake us. As the Apostle John wrote of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

Once we have faced our pain, our sin and our regrets and have allowed the Lord to forgive and heal us, we can move forward with confidence. The goal is not to linger in painful memories but to press on in pursuit of spiritual maturity in Christ. An effective warrior must be single-minded, unencumbered and focused, possessing only one ultimate objective – knowing Christ and living the Christian life. The Apostle Paul describes his dedication to following Christ:

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12b-14)

Reflecting on the past and seeking healing is beneficial for a season. However, it’s not healthy or productive to constantly look back and relive painful memories. The enemy just loves to sidetrack us and push us off the path of righteousness by reminding us of experiences that hurt us or make us feel ashamed about something we did that God forgave us for long ago! When those negative thoughts creep up, we can heed Solomon’s advice:

Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
(Proverbs 4:25-26)

References:

Tharoor, Ishaan. “Throw Your Furniture Out the Window, and Other Ways to Ring In 2015”. The Washington Post, 31 December 2014. Web. 02 January 2015.

Zondervan NIV Life Application Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print.