By Cindy Van Wingerden, PhD
What do you do when you are struggling to find joy? It is a challenge for everyone at one time or another. For me personally, I love David’s response from 1 Samuel 30. In the story, David’s wives and children had all been taken by the Amalekites. Verse 6 says, “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.” David’s response to this was remarkable: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord.” 1 Samuel 30:6
Whenever I find myself fighting for perspective and joy, I sense the Holy Spirit prompting me, saying “learn to encourage yourself in the Lord.” So then the question is, how do I actually do that, especially when my soul is so downcast?
I was recently spending time in the book of Ephesians when I discovered a list of verses in my old study Bible. It is a list of very clear promises regarding who I am and the reality of my identity in Jesus Christ. As I read them out loud, I was reminded of the prompting of the Holy Spirit to “encourage yourself in the Lord.”
I can encourage myself in the Lord by meditating on the Truth of God. I also do it by replacing the lies of our culture, of the enemy, and of my own flesh with those truths. Of course, other ways include calling a godly friend who I know will pray for me, immersing myself weekly in biblical community, or making a slight change of scenery. But, to encourage myself IN THE LORD means actively putting off the lies that currently weigh me down and putting on the truth of God. His Truth cannot be matched for its excellent, restorative power.
I trust that you might be blessed by these few truths that follow. Of course, this is just a small fraction of the promises of God to us in Jesus Christ. Encourage yourselves in the Lord!!!
By Karen Baloy
“1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. 3 My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? 4 Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. 5 Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? 6 I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. 7 My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. 8 Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. 9 The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.” Psalms 6
This psalm was written toward the end of David’s life when he was expressing sorrow for sin. It is the first of seven psalms that are referred to as Penitential Psalms or Psalms of Confession. While not all sickness is a direct result of personal sin, when it is, the pain can be instrumental in bringing the sinner face-to-face with God.
David and I have shared the same battle cry. One early morning in 2015, I woke up and wasn’t able to count numerically. Over the next few days, I began to lose my words. I had to stop driving a few weeks later because I couldn’t remember where I lived. Shortly thereafter, I started losing weight rapidly. Then my organs started to fail and I was too weak to walk more than a few yards. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.
Doctors and family members had their opinions of what was going on, but I knew none of it was true. I was eating well and serving myself healthy portions. I kept searching for answers all the while being taken care of by adult babysitters. Through the help of a dear friend, I eventually received a diagnosis of long term chronic Lyme disease. It took over a year to rehabilitate my body with very expensive treatments. While I had a series of biological risk factors to contract the disease, years of stress on my body made me particularly susceptible.
Lyme disease is incurable. The best I can hope for is to have long remissions where I can lead a normal life. But I live with the uncertainty that I could flare overnight and my life could come to a screeching halt for anywhere from a few days to a few months. The threat looms large. I would often cry myself to sleep wondering what the next day would hold and whether I would have to cancel my plans yet again. I immediately related to David when he cried, “I am worn out from all my groaning; All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.”
After spending a lot of time in the Word and reading “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, I realized that God was using this disease to teach me how to live in the present. I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone, yet I am grateful that it forced me to lean on Him rather than my worries and human understanding to get through each day. God is the great Healer and Comforter. Thanks to Him, I no longer let tomorrow’s worries steal from my today. “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Indeed, the Lord receives my prayer EVERY SINGLE DAY. Thank you, Jehovah-Rophe (God our Healer)!