Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Message For Thanksgiving

Today our key verse is coming from Psalm 31:7 which says: "I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul."

The Thanksgiving holiday is this week and Christmas isn't far behind, but not everyone feels happy at this time of year and I want to recognize all those who are hurting due to troubling circumstances. In my own family we have had holiday seasons that made us feel too sad to celebrate. There can be all kinds of causes for this: the death of a loved one, financial problems, relationship problems, illness, loneliness, and many others. When things in life aren't going right it seems like the holiday season makes us feel even worse. At those times it can be easy to feel very depressed when we look around us and see all the merriment going on. Right now the TV is showing movies with happy families enjoying each other's company. The stores are full of bright and happy decorations. Wherever we go, it looks like the whole world is rocking around the Christmas tree and having a holly jolly time. But when things aren't going right in our personal lives it's hard to feel merry. There have been times in my household when we would have been happier just to ignore the holidays altogether.

Not feeling like we are in step with the rest of the world during this season has a tendency to make us feel lonely and isolated. Like David in Psalm 31, we feel afflicted and anguished and as if no one knows what we are going through. In Psalm 31 David says he is in distress but at the same time he says to the Lord, "I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul." David had made up his mind to focus on the one thing he knew for certain in an uncertain world: God loved him. And on top of that, God knew and felt the anguish in David's soul. David knew he wasn't alone and that only one person, the Lord Himself, knew exactly how broken and sad he was. Anytime we feel like there is no one in the whole world who knows how we feel, we can be certain that God knows. He sees our affliction and He is is not ignoring our pain. He is with us, loving and holding and supporting us, like a good father.

David says in verse 22 that during the worst of his distress and alarm he cried out, "I am cut off from Your sight!" He felt like his troubles were so awful and so overwhelming that the Lord couldn't even see him. David was going by his feelings in that moment of panic instead of relying on what he knew to be true, that God did see him and that God was with him and that God was going to bring him through this terrible time. In the midst of his depression, David suddenly remembered this and got hold of himself. We know he did because he went on to say, "Yet You heard my cry for mercy, when I called to You for help." We can't rely on what we feel because our own distressed minds will lie to us and tell us that nobody cares and that no one is going to help us and that nothing will ever get better. Our feelings can't be trusted. But the word of God can be trusted and we have to tell ourselves that He hears our cries for mercy. He has not abandoned us, no matter what our fearful thoughts are telling us. Jesus never says for us to depend on our feelings but instead He says in John 14:1, "Do not let your hearts be troubled."

Psalm 31 is considered one of the Messianic psalms because in verse 5 we find the words Jesus spoke while on the cross, "Into Your hands I commit My spirit". After carefully studying this Psalm I feel that quite a few of the verses could apply to the Lord Jesus because in Luke 22:44 the Bible tells us that Jesus was in anguish while praying earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane. So we see that Jesus too could say along with David that God saw His affliction and the anguish of His soul. Jesus had asked the disciples to watch and pray with Him but they fell asleep and left Him all alone. He was let down by His closest friends in His greatest hour of need. In fact, the disciples were about to run away and leave Jesus to face the trial and the torment of the cross alone. He knew this ahead of time because we He says in John 16:32b, "You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me." There are dark watches of the night when no one but the Lord is with us, but He will be enough. He was enough for Jesus. He has been enough for me. He will be enough for you too.

No one in the whole history of the world ever had more reason to feel alone than the Lord Jesus Christ, but we see Him standing firm on the truth that God is with Him. God saw the anguish of the Son and He sees yours too. God loved the Son and He loves you too. So no matter how alone you may feel at times, or how difficult the holiday season may be this year, God is with you and He loves you. Not only that, but God is going bring you through this difficult season in life and there will be better times up ahead, even though you may find it hard to believe today. Remember, we walk by faith and not by sight. We stand firm alongside Jesus Christ on the foundation of God's love and promises, no matter what we feel in our worried minds at times. We stand on the truth, not our feelings. In the midst of David's troubles he goes on to say in Psalm 31:19, "How abundant are the good things that You have stored up for those who fear You, that You bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in You." Even though David feels cast down in spirit and lonely and afraid, his trust is in God and he believes that God has good things stored up for him in the future. No matter how bad David's circumstances look right now, he is standing firm in faith. David concludes Psalm 31 by saying, "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord."

Today, no matter how we feel inside, let's take courage along with David and speak the truth of God's word. God loves us. God sees us. God feels the anguish in our souls. We aren't alone. He has better days ahead for us. We have no need to feel hopeless and depressed, for the Maker of the universe knows us by name. He thought we were worthy dying for.

Please join with me in prayer:
"Father, we thank You for Your many blessings. They are more than we could ever count. Not only have You provided for us and kept us alive to study Your word today, but You have made salvation possible for us through the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the ultimate blessing! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Even at our worst, He loved us. Help us never to doubt that love, for if Christ thought we were worth dying for when we were at our worst, why would He fail to come through for us now that we are children of God?

Lord, we thank You for the good times and we thank You that in the bad times we are not alone. We thank You that even when we can't feel them, Your fatherly arms are around us. Even when we feel alone, You are watching over us. When we feel unloved or unlovable, we remind ourselves that You have proven Your love to us in ways that no one else ever has. Our faith is based on facts, not on feelings. Our faith is based on what the word of God says, not on what our fearful minds tell us. Help us to stand firm on the truth no matter what comes at us in this fallen world.

Father, be with those who are not having a happy holiday season. There are those who are finding it difficult to take any joy in the merriment going on around them because of troubles in their lives. We ask that You give these precious souls an extra measure of comfort. Help them to feel Your loving presence. Fill them with the joy that comes from knowing You, the kind of joy that the world can't give, the kind of joy that doesn't depend on circumstances. Lord, I remember several holiday seasons when all the merriment going on around me made me not even want to crawl out of bed in the morning, but while meditating on Your word You filled me with joy through the Holy Spirit. You overwhelmed me with Your love in a season when I didn't feel very loved. You were the solid foundation under my feet when it seemed like my whole world was falling apart. I ask You to do the same for all the hurting hearts this season. I have been as frail and fearful and doubtful as anyone has ever been during troubled times, but You helped an ordinary and mistake-ridden person like me, and I know You are able to help anyone else who calls on You.

Help us to remember that You will never leave us or forsake us. Help us not to feel alone. You have promised to be with us always. As David knew, Your eyes are ever on the faithful, and along with David we pray this prayer, 'But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. Surely, Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield.' (Psalm 5:11-12)

You are surrounded by the Lord's favor. You have the right to sing for joy. I pray that the Lord makes you able to do so this holiday season. We ask for this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the reason for our joy. Amen!"

Below is a link to a song that assures us, on the authority of God's holy word, that we are not alone.
"O My Soul" by Casting Crowns

(I will be going out of town today for Thanksgiving and will return Sunday evening, so we will temporarily suspend the blog posts until Monday. In the meantime, I wish you every blessing in the Lord!)