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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Strength’

Most everyone knows her name and a bit about her work. But few know of the discouragement and self-doubt she faced, the depression during her early twenties that led to suicidal thoughts, the criticism she endured, her ruined health, and collapses from overwork.

Yet Florence Nightingale, Mother of Modern Nursing, persevered through it all.

Coloured lithograph by H. M. Bonham-Carter, 1854.

Even as she suffered, Florence wrote, “It is such a blessing to have been called, however unworthy, to be the handmaid of the Lord” [1].

We marvel at her determination and strength, yet such endurance is available to us too. God has provided numerous ways for us to endure all circumstances.

Especially in this time of turmoil and uncertainty in our world, we’d do well to build up a nest egg of intentional faith deposits—deposits that include:

STANDING firm on the Bible

Psalm 119 in particular celebrates the benefits of immersion in God’s Word. A short-list would include: delight (v. 16), counsel (v. 24), understanding (v. 32), hope (v. 49), comfort (v. 52), wisdom (v. 99), truth (v. 160), and peace (v. 165).

Who couldn’t use more of these qualities in their lives?

TIME with God

Turn your mind to worship throughout the day, and in the process of being worshiped . . . God will communicate his presence [2]. Awareness of his presence then leads to strength, and strength leads to quietness of spirit.

TRUST in God’s character

Those of us who’ve known God for awhile can attest to his unfathomable grace, unwavering faithfulness, never-ending compassion, supreme goodness, infinite wisdom, over-arching power, and perfect love.

Meditating on his attributes also replenishes our spiritual strength.

.   

APPROPRIATION of what God has provided

Think of the value of such God-given gifts as forgiveness, prayer, the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, and contentment.

Why would I ever say, “No thank you, God!” to such glorious gifts?

DETERMINATION to stay in the fight

You might remember that composer Ludwig van Beethoven became deaf, beginning in his twenties. Yet he declared, “I will take life by the throat” [3].

May we exercise such determination and embrace our life in Christ with the same tenacity, no matter the circumstances. Strain contributes to strength.

AWARENESS of the evidence

How has God provided for you? Protected you? Guided you?

Contemplate the examples and you’ll find yourself echoing the psalmist: “You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” [4].

And joy in the Lord also fosters strength [5].

ENJOYMENT of God’s blessings

To keep the joy flowing, remember his magnanimous blessings—those gifts beyond necessity and surprises beyond dreams.

More joy; more strength.

FELLOWSHIP with God’s people

Praise God for family and friends whose winsome ways make our lives a little lighter, whose compassion makes our troubles easier to carry, and whose love and encouragement enable us to press on.

They infuse strength when ours begins to wane.

SINGLE-MINDEDNESS on the goal

With the Apostle Paul we can focus on one thing: forget what is behind and do our best to reach toward what is ahead, “which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above” [6].

All of these deposits . . .

S  tanding firm

T  ime with God

E  njoyment of God’s blessings

A  ppropriation of what God has provided

D  etermination to stay in the fight

F  ellowship with God’s people

A  wareness of the evidence

S  ingle-mindedness

T  rust in God’s character . . .

. . . will contribute to the kind of STEADFASTNESS that propelled such people of faith as Florence Nightingale and Ludwig van Beethoven through the adversities they faced.

And do you remember what happens when perseverance finishes its work in our lives?

We become mature, complete, and lacking in nothing [7].

Ready for anything.


[1] https://www.christiantoday.com/article/god-has-spoken-to-me-and-called-me-to-serve-12-inspiring-florence-nightingale-quotes-to-mark-her-birthday/108984.htm

[2] C. S. Lewis, quoted by Linda Dillow in Satisfy the Thirsty Soul, 17.

[3] https://bible.org/illustration/life-throat  

[4] Psalm 92:4

[5] Nehemiah 8:10

[6] Philippians 3:13-14 GNT

[7] James 1:4 HCSB

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wkikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.piqsels.com.

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Fitness experts will tell you, strong core muscles of the mid-section greatly enhance your physical well-being, contributing to stability that prevents falls, minimization of strain that causes pain, as well as effective breathing that optimizes oxygen flow.

When core strength is absent, a person is likely to:

  • have difficulty getting up from a chair without leverage
  • struggle to bend down and tie his shoes
  • find himself slouching
  • lose his balance
  • experience back pain

But it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Those same fitness experts recommend exercises: crunches, planks, and bridges—to name a few—although just a brisk walk engages core muscles and contributes to strength.

Of course, even more important than our physical fitness is spiritual strength, which raises a new question:

How strong is your core–of the soul?

Just as we can identify symptoms of physical weakness, we can identify soul-weakness when challenge mires us in such thoughts as: Why me? This is so unfair. If God cared, this wouldn’t be happening.

However, it’s never too late to reverse such ills. Our spiritual Fitness Expert, God himself, has provided exercises to strengthen our souls, including:

Bible Meditation

More than just reading a passage, meditation includes taking to heart God’s Word and responding personally.

For example, how might you respond to Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit?”

Perhaps your response would be similar to my own.

I praise you, O God, for your omnipotent power. Nothing is impossible for you (Luke 18:27)! Just that knowledge alone can settle my anxious heart and foster sweet hope.

I praise you also for your unlimited understanding. You are a God of infinite wisdom and you generously offer to bestow wisdom to me–if I just ask (James 1:5).

Thank you for coming alongside, ever-ready to expend your power and wisdom for my good. You are a gracious God beyond what anyone could hope for!

Such an exercise develops the muscle of faith, contributes to stability of soul, and helps prevent falls into worry and fear.

Positive Prayer

Even the tone of my prayers can impact soul-strength. If I focus on the problem, the emotional pain is likely to remain:

Lord, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I keep trying various scenarios in my mind but there seems no way out of these circumstances. You’ve got to help us, although I don’t see how. What a mess!  

On the other hand, if I focus on God’s attributes at work and his promises that apply, the strain of the situation diminishes:

“I praise and thank you, Father, that I have no reason to fear. You’ve given our family the promise that you’ll fight for us; all we have to do is stand firm and see your salvation (Exodus 14:13-14). YOU are our strength, providing the wherewithal to rectify this situation. YOU are our very present help in this time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

As positivity is expressed in our prayers, the spiritual muscle of hope develops.

Gratitude & Joy

It stands to reason: if we focus on the problems surrounding us, discouragement will weaken our spirits.

But if we focus on all the good things flowing to us from God’s loving heart, we’ll find plenty to be joyful about. It’s just a matter of engaging our praise and gratitude muscles.

Most sets of the physical exercises I do each morning include twenty repetitions. I wonder if we could name twenty of God’s attributes, providing twenty reasons to be joyful in him?

Skim through the psalms with me, and let’s see what we find:

1. Watchfulness (1:6)

2. Righteousness (5:8)

3. Protection (5:11)

4. Encouragement (10:17)

5. Unfailing love (13:5)

6. Security (16:5)

7. Perfect ways (18:30)

8. Victorious power (20:6)

9. Goodness (25:8)

10. Uprightness (25:8)

11. Faithful ways (25:10)

12. Strength (28:8)

13. Splendorous holiness (29:2)

14. Justice (36:6)

15. Ever-present help (46:1)

16. Guidance (48:14)

17. Great compassion (51:1)

18. Power (62:11)

19. Forgiveness (65:3)

20. Sovereignty (71:16)

We did it—and long before reaching the end of Psalms!

Do you find the strain on your spirit relaxing, just in reviewing his surpassing greatness?  Is renewed strength, stability, hope, and joy flowing into your soul?

Keep up those soul-core exercises!

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; pxhere.com.

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Today’s post is an acrostic poem (I use that term lightly!) of praise and prayer, based on the phrase, “peace in the midst of the storm.” For each letter, I chose scriptural affirmations that seemed especially appropriate for this time of upheaval and uncertainty.  (You’ll find the references at the end of the post.)

Why the Bible? There is no better source of hope and strength.

Abraham Lincoln expressed it this way during his time of trouble:

(Photo taken in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War.)

I believe that the Bible is the best gift

that God has ever given to man.

All the good from the Savior of the world

is communicated to us through this book.

I have been driven many times to my knees

by the overwhelming conviction

that I had nowhere else to go.

While collecting biblical truths that apply to our current situation, I felt my own heart uplifted.

May the following be an encouragement to you as well.

Praise be to the Lord our mighty Rock; from

Everlasting to everlasting he is God.

As we cast our cares on him, he will sustain us.

Call on him when in distress and he will answer; his

Ears are attentive to our cry.

I trust in your unfailing love, O Lord.

Nothing is too hard for you.

The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.

He performs miracles and displays his power among the people.

Every promise he has fulfilled; not one has failed.

My shield is God Most High.

In him I take refuge.

Do not fear; he is with us…and will help us. He will

Satisfy our needs and strengthen our frame.

Truly, our souls can find rest in God; our salvation comes from him.

Our Lord is gracious, righteous, and full of compassion; the

Fruit of his righteousness is peace.

Those who know his name trust in him, for he has never

forsaken those who seek him.

He hides us in the shadow of his wings; the

Eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,

who hope in his unfailing love.

Send us your light and your faithful care, O God. Let them guide us

day by day.

Thank you for always leading us in triumph.

Our enemies you will trample; with you we will gain the victory.

Righteous and kind are all your ways and all your works.

My hope is in you.

Scriptures used:

  • Peace–Psalm 144:1; 90:2; 55:22; 86:7; 34:15b
  • In–Psalm 13:5a; Jeremiah 32:17b
  • The–Psalm 1:6; 77:14; Joshua 23:14
  • Midst–Psalm 7:10a; 16:1b; Isaiah 41:10; 58:11; Psalm 62:1
  • Of–Psalm 116:5; Isaiah 32:17
  • The–Psalm 9:10; 17:8b; 33:18
  • Storm–Psalm 43:3a  ISV; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Psalm 60:12; Psalm 25:21b

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.geograph.org.uk; http://www.pickpic.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr. com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.needpix.com.

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How would you fill in the blanks of this quote?

 

“Nothing is so strong as _______________,

Nothing so _______________ as real strength.”

–St. Frances de Sales (1567-1622)

 

Possibilities include:

  1. Discipline / disciplined
  2. Gentleness / gentle
  3. Steadfastness / steadfast

According to de Sales, the answer is 2.

Yet gentleness is not a trait that readily comes to mind when we hear the word strength. We’re more likely to describe the strong person as self-confident, self-reliant, and assertive.

 

 

But consider which of the following actions requires more fortitude:

  • Defending one’s own rights or deferring to another’s?
  • Airing one’s views or actively listening to understand someone else’s?
  • Tackling the personal to-do list or taking time to help another person with theirs?

Gentleness includes consideration, kindness, and grace. It is genial, not demanding its own way, and it refuses to manipulate people or circumstances. Neither is it easily threatened, offended, or angered. Gentleness requires humility, maturity, and self-control.

 

 

Most of us do not gravitate toward such habits on our own. It takes strength to become gentle—strength that begins with God, as we learn to relax in his sovereignty over all things (Psalm 145:13), and count on him to work in his way (Proverbs 16:4a), in his time (Acts 1:7).

Gentleness begins to grow in our spirits as we:

  • Become acquainted with the One who personifies gentleness–Jesus (Matthew 11:29)
  • Choose to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:18), which improves our perspective and calms our spirits
  • Refuse to complain or grumble (Philippians 2:14)
  • Desire to be molded by God and patterned after his purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Affirm trust in his reliability and endless resources (Psalm 62:5-8)
  • Practice his presence (Exodus 33:14) through continual, prayerful connection

And the result? “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5 NASB, emphasis added).

Or, as Max Lucado interprets the verse, “Blessed are those who acknowledge that there is only one God and have quit applying for his position.” *

 

 

That inheritance Jesus promised includes joyful contentment in God’s provision and pleasure in the simple things of life, the delight of blessing others and celebrating their successes.

My grandmother was just such a person.

Before she turned forty, Grandma lost a young sister, a toddler son, and her husband. During the depression she kept the mortgage paid and her family clothed and fed by baking all night, then catching a bit of sleep while the three children were at school. Yet Grandma’s strong faith in God never wavered. (You can read more about this amazing woman in another post, The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, Part 1).

 

 

I never heard Grandma raise her voice or speak unkindly. What I do remember is hearing her humming along with the hymns on the radio as she worked in the kitchen.

She spent much of her time serving others, beginning with family. When Grandma stayed with us, she mended and hemmed our clothes, helped turn the apples from our tree into applesauce for the freezer, and braided old woolens into small rugs to place in front of our doors.

Grandma was gracious with praise and gratitude. One time I noticed tiny aphids on her prized African violets. You’d think I’d saved the neighborhood from a locust invasion. “Well aren’t you my Little Bunny Bright-Eyes!” Grandma cried, and hugged me tight. “I hate to think what would have happened if you hadn’t been here. Thank you!

 

 

Later in life she developed neuralgia in her right cheek. The slightest breeze could cause an agonizing bout of pain. Grandma would grimace and gasp as her hand flew to her face. But she did not complain.

In these ways and many more Grandma Rachel proved that the strong of faith are also gentle of spirit.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

O God, I know the quality of gentleness is precious to you, and I want to cultivate a life that brings you honor and pleasure. Keep me mindful of your empowering presence so that your gentle spirit of grace, kindness, and goodness will flow through me to others.

 

(1 Peter 3:4; Psalm 147:11; Isaiah 40:11; Galatians 5:22-23)

 

Who provided an example of gentle strength in your life?  Tell us about them in the comment section below!

 

* Grace for the Moment, Thomas Nelson, 2000, p. 277.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (3); dailyverses.net (2).

 

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How would you fill in the following blank?

 

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by _______________.

 

Pop psychologists might tell us that inner strength comes from:

  • Positive thinking,
  • Surrounding ourselves with uplifting, encouraging people, and
  • Appreciating our individual personality traits and abilities.

Their ideas aren’t wrong (The Bible even supports these steps in Philippians 4:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and Psalm 139:14); it’s just they’re leaving out the most important steps.

Turn to Nehemiah 8:10 and we learn:

 

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Our hearts are strengthened by JOY.

 

 I like the phrasing of GOD’S WORD Translation:  “The joy you have in the LORD is your strength.”  (Emphasis added.)

We have access to God’s effervescent joy because Jesus offers it (John 15:11). The question is, do we avail ourselves? Will we allow our thoughts to spiral around our problems, or will we train our thoughts to focus on God—his glorious attributes and wonderful deeds? It’s the latter, of course, that produces joy.

 

Our hearts are strengthened by HOPE (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

Hope becomes confidence, confidence becomes strength. Part of the process is to affirm God’s many promises—promises for:

  • His unstoppable love (Romans 8:38-39),
  • A prosperous* future (Jeremiah 29:11),
  • Reliable guidance (Psalm 32:8),
  • Help—sometimes out of trouble, sometimes in the distress (Psalm 34:19), and
  • Victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54).

 

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Think of it: Our hope is in a God of overwhelming love who has planned the future down to the minutest detail. He is our all-wise God, ready to guide us into that future, and he is all-powerful, fully capable of providing the help we need. In the end, our final destiny is secure; the victory over death has already been won.

Do you feel your hope strengthened? That’s just a smidgen of what he’s guaranteed!

To embrace the promises in faith is not to ignore reality and live in a shell of denial. It means to view reality through a faith-lens, faith in the all-inclusive capability of our God.

 

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(“The permanence of God’s character

guarantees the fulfillment of his promise.”

–A. W. Pink (1886-1952, British Bible teacher)

 

But we still have not filled in the blank from the beginning of this post:

 

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by…

 

 GRACE.” (Hebrews 13:9).

 

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Why? Because God’s grace encompasses the full spectrum of his qualities, including joy and hope– each one contributing to our strength of spirit.

Just as brilliant white is the presence of all colors, God’s grace is the brilliant totality of all he is and does.

 

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To grow strong of heart, we need to:

  • Revel in the abundant life he provides.
  • Breathe deep the promises of God.
  • Immerse ourselves in his encouraging Word.
  • Bask in the many facets of his grace.

__________________________________________________

 

I praise you, Father, for your never-failing, all-pervasive grace that strengthens my heart as I turn my attention to you. How thrilling to realize your grace will only grow more delightful as the years pass, renewing me day by day, until I dwell in your house forever!

 

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(Psalm 73:26; Jeremiah 17:7-8; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Psalm 23:6)

 

* A prosperous future with God has nothing to do with monetary blessing and everything to do with a contentedness of heart, soundness of spirit, and perfect peace.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest (3); http://www.twitter.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.pinterest.)

 

 

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(A conversation between God and me)

 

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GOD: In quietness and trust is your strength.* 

Me: Wait a minute, Lord. I don’t understand. Quietness and trust result in strength?  How can such static activities result in power?

GOD: Let’s analyze the key words of that statement I first spoke to Isaiah.

Quietness is the atmosphere within a tranquil, peaceful spirit where agitation and turmoil are not allowed access.

Me: How do I keep out agitation and turmoil, God?

GOD: Keep your spirit filled to the brim with other thoughts: 1) praise and gratitude, 2) scripture truth and promises, 3) memories of how I’ve guided you and provided for you in the past, and, of course, 4) prayer (Philippians 4:4-8, Psalm 119:15-16; Psalm 105:5a).

You can even thank me for the circumstances that are threatening your peace right now, because they are turning you towards me and accomplishing my purpose (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When your spirit is filled with these things, there will be no room for agitation or turmoil.

Me: I know you’re right, Father. But sometimes it’s so hard to stay focused on the positive while negative thoughts shout at me.

GOD: I know, Child.  Be mindful that many people of faith before you have fought the same fight. Remember King Jehoshophat? He and the people of Israel faced war with strong neighboring tribes. And in his prayer for deliverance, Jehoshophat said: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Me: What did King Jehoshophat mean when he said, “Our eyes are upon you?”

GOD: That’s a word picture for trust. He and the people of Israel were not looking to their own tactics or their own power to overcome. They looked to me—the Omniscient One—for wisdom on how to proceed. They looked for me—the All-Powerful One—to intercede on their behalf.

Trust is total confidence in the integrity, ability and good character of another. I am your most trustworthy Ally, just as I was for King Jehoshophat. No matter what uncertainty you may face, I am with you, working for you and enabling you to cope.

Keep your attention focused on me, not your circumstances, by:

  • Affirming my attributes—attributes like sovereignty, omnipotence, grace, and perfect love,
  • Naming your blessings—including those occasions when I’ve interceded for you and bestowed gifts you didn’t even ask for, and
  • Remembering how I’ve guided you, especially when you weren’t aware until hindsight gave you a clearer view.

Did you notice? The same strategies that quiet your spirit also expand your trust.

Me: Yes, I see how serenity and trust are intertwined. As I quiet my spirit, trust has an opportunity to develop. As trust flourishes, my spirit grows all the more tranquil.   But how do these two qualities of quietness and trust result in strength?

GOD: Strength of spirit includes power to endure stress and resist attack. It is developed by: persevering with calm patience, looking forward with expectant hope, affirming what you know in order to withstand doubt and worry, and declaring trust in spite of circumstances.

My desire is for you to become like the eagle, allowing the winds of storm to lift you higher on the wind of my Spirit (Isaiah 40:31).

 

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Me: I praise you, Oh God, for your ability to take the storms of life and use them to develop my strength. Remind me to choose quiet rest in your loving care and confident trust in your powerful competence. “In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all” (1 Chronicles 29:12).  Hallelujah!

 

*Isaiah 30:15 NIV

 

Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.christianquotes.info.

 

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tired_treadmill_workout_exercise_run

 

Nearly every morning I make myself exercise. I hate it.  All that huffing and puffing, and muscles crying out, “Stop! You’re hurting me!” Add to that the boredom factor.

What I do like are the results. My body feels strong. I can still hop up the stairs, lift our toddler granddaughter with relative ease, and get up from a squat without leverage.

I like the increased energy, and the elevated metabolism, too.

But one benefit I never considered until recently: improved balance.

When our muscles are strong, our bodies have an easier time maintaining balance. That means we can reduce the possibility of sprains, injured joints and back, or broken bones.

Three factors contribute to good balance: Stability, strength, and flexibility.

However, it’s not just our bodies that require those three factors. Our spirits need those same characteristics:

  • Stability to handle disappointment and frustration,
  • Strength to endure loss and pain,
  • Flexibility to manage unpleasant surprises.

But how do we create balance in the abstract world of our spirits?

Just as there are many exercises to improve physical balance, there are numerous strategies that contribute to spiritual balance. For example:

  1. Stability can be enhanced by spending time with stable people. Get in the middle of a Christian support group, and allow them to hold you up with their prayer, concern, encouragement, and counsel. Look for members who demonstrate spiritual maturity and follow their example. 

Stability also grows as we spend time in God’s Word. Just as daily physical exercise is important to the body, so is daily reading and contemplation of the Bible. God’s truths and promises, His encouragement and direction, all contribute to our steadfastness of faith.

  1. Strength can be developed through praise and gratitude. Look for the positive things in your life, and you’ll find yourself experiencing joy.  Joy fosters strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Another strategy for building spiritual strength is to affirm God’s character.   He is sovereign, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Our Heavenly Father is trustworthy, good and loving. We can stand firm with such a God at our side and in the strength of his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

  1. Flexibility is needed when circumstances don’t meet our expectations. We have a choice when life takes a sudden turn down an unexpected pathway: 1) Fuss, fume, and balk or 2) Go with the flow and see where the pathway leads.

Kaye Arthur suggests: “Change the D of Disappointment to an H, and you have His Appointment.”* Such an attitude can relax the tension in our spirits, and prepare us to be flexible, to embrace the unknown.

Several years ago, I heard about an elderly resident of a senior citizen facility.  She was being transferred from the assisted-living apartments to the full-care center.

As the nurse wheeled her through the corridors, the senior saint said, “I just know I’m going to love it.”

The nurse exclaimed, “But Mrs. __________, how do you know? You’ve never seen the full-care section.”

The woman’s profound answer: “I’ve already decided I’m going to love it.”

Such an example of:

Stability—maintaining her emotional equilibrium in spite of circumstances.

Strength—determining ahead of time to look for the positive.

Flexibility—going with the flow to see where the pathway might lead.

Surely, such an attitude reflects trust in a gracious and powerful God, knowledge and application of God’s Word, and a positive attitude of contentment (Philippians 4:11).

If the spiritual stability, strength, and flexibility demonstrated by that elderly woman were transferred into physical traits, she’d be able to balance on one toe.  With her eyes closed.

I want to be like that woman in my spirit.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What strategies help you maintain spiritual balance?  Please add your experience and insight to the conversation below!

 

*His Imprint, My Expression, by Kay Arthur, p. 96.

Photo credit:  www.sparkpeople.com.

 

 

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desert

 

Last Thursday we pondered these promises from Isaiah 58:11:

 “The Lord will guide you always,” and

“He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.”

 Today, more discoveries and encouragement await as we meditate upon the last two promises:

  • “[He] will strengthen your frame.”
  • “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

 

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Do you long for strength within your frame, that is, inner strength? Perhaps you’re moving as fast as you can, but never quite reaching the end of the to-do list. And you’re bone-weary from the effort.

Perhaps the stresses of life—difficult relationships, a high-pressure job, financial obligations—are squeezing in hard.

Perhaps boredom or depression surround you in a gray shroud, and you haven’t the energy to fight against them.

“He will strengthen your frame.”

But God doesn’t wave a magic wand over us and suddenly turn weakness into strength. Usually he invites us to be part of the process.   And his solutions are radical.

For example, celebrate anything and everything (Philippians 4:4).

 

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Take joy in:

  • Your cozy robe to ward off the morning chill.
  • That cute tuft of hair sticking up on your toddler’s head.
  • A parking place opening up when and where you need it.
  • Licking the stamp just as the mail carrier pulls up in her truck.
  • An earring lost last week turns up between the counter and stove this week.

You see, joy and strength are closely related. Ezra told the people of Israel, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Those five examples above, and thousands like them, are gifts from your Heavenly Father. “Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

In the same way we can build up physical strength with exercise, we can build up spiritual strength with praise—by expressing gratitude and joy for every good and perfect gift.

And now, the last promise of this verse describes in metaphor the result of living according to God’s design.

“You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

 

TotalChildCareVegetables7 

 

Visualize a flourishing garden, with rich, green plants overflowing with healthy, ripe produce.

Those can be descriptors of you and me.  We are:

  • Rich in God’s grace, which he has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Ephesians 1:8).
  • Green and flourishing, because we spend time with the Master Gardener and allow him to cultivate our spirits (Psalm 1:2-3).
  • Healthy and prosperous of soul (v. 3). As we soak up God’s Word, we’ll produce actions and attitudes that honor God and bring us inner satisfaction.
  • Ripe and mature, lacking in nothing (James 1:3).

God offers us “a continual source of thirst-quenching, drought-ending, fruit-producing, spiritual hydration” (James MacDonald).

Doesn’t that sound refreshing?  Who could turn down such provision?

*     *     *     *     *     *    *     *     *     *

Thank you, Father, for the precious assurances of these promises: 

  • You are leading me along the path you preordained before time began.
  • Every day of this earthly journey I can count on you to supply my needs.
  • Every day you provide fresh strength. One way is through the exercise of praise.  
  • As I spend time in your presence, I will be transformed–like a garden replenished by hydration. In fact, I can grow into your likeness with ever-increasing glory!

 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is too lofty for me to attain.” Yet I know it to be true because these are truths from your reliable Word.  My heart overflows with wonder and gratitude.

(Psalm 139:16; Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 139:6)

 

(Photo and art credits:  www.dayofgrace.me; http://www.anativegarden.blogspot.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.naturalearning.org.)

 

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