Encouragement

Wednesday’s Words: Trusting God’s Loving Plans For Us

 Lord, your love is eternal. Complete the work that you have begun. Psalm 138: 8

 

If God’s love is eternal, it’s always with us. If He called us to start on this journey of faith, we can rest assured He will continue to draw us to Him. God will never abandon us. He will guide us and do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. We co-operate by doing the things we can.

 

As we do the footwork, we open ourselves to receive more guidance and we continue to be led, one step at a time. If we could see what the end looked like before we started, why would we need faith? God is to be trusted, because His love is eternal. His loving care cannot disappear. Even when we’ve lost sight of the purpose of our journey—or lost sight of God—He hasn’t lost sight of us. He has a plan for each of us and He will complete it, if we’re willing to let Him.

 

Prayer: Lord, You are with me now. I trust you to complete the work you have begun. Take me where you want me to be.

 

Reflection for sharing:  Is there a “work” within you, some unfinished business that only God can complete? How can you open yourself to His Presence working within you today?

 

 

Wednesday’s Words: Accepting Forgiveness

iStock_000003550839XSmall“I will renew my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord. I will forgive all the wrongs you have done, but you will remember them and be too ashamed to open your mouth.” The Sovereign Lord has spoken. Ezekiel 16: 62-63

 

Why is it so hard for us to accept forgiveness as the gift that it is? We want to deserve forgiveness or earn it. We can’t. If we deserve it, it’s exoneration, not forgiveness.

 

When we try to excuse or deny the hurt we’ve caused others or the damage we’ve done to ourselves or to our relationship with God, it gets us nowhere. When we create alibis to prove what we did wasn’t so bad, it does us no good. When we acknowledge our wrongs and are truly sorry, God forgives us. We’re better off honestly acknowledging our weaknesses. Then we can recognize the truth:  forgiveness is about God’s goodness, generosity, and love, not our worthiness. We don’t have to open our mouths except to say thank you.

 

Once we accept God’s forgiveness as the free and precious gift it truly is, there’s no reason to keep wallowing in our misdeeds and mistakes. We can stop going on and on about it. We don’t need to dwell on our sins once we have honestly laid them at God’s feet. Once forgiven, we are free to move on and do likewise.

 

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your forgiveness.

 

Reflection: Can you trust God’s forgiveness enough to let go of your regrets?

 

Saturday Spotlight: Psalm 6

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Lord, don’t be angry and rebuke me! Don’t punish me in your anger!

I am worn out, O Lord; have pity on me! Give me strength; I am completely exhausted

and my whole being is deeply troubled. How long, O Lord, will you wait to help me?

Come and save me, Lord; in your mercy rescue me from death.

 

I am worn out with grief; every night my bed is damp from my weeping; my pillow is soaked with tears.

I can hardly see; my eyes are so swollen from the weeping caused by my enemies.

 

…The Lord hears my weeping; he listens to my cry for help and will answer my prayer. Psalm 6: 1-4; 6-7; 8b-9

 

David, who wrote this psalm, suffered turmoil and anguish—even though he was a man “after God’s own heart.” Having faith doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings of sadness or fear. We don’t have to pretend otherwise. After all, God gave us all our feelings for a reason. David demonstrates his faith, not by denying or running away from his feelings, but bringing them—in all their brutal honesty—to God.

 

It’s safe to be honest with God. Although David starts out the psalm by asking God not to punish him, David also admits that his weeping is caused by his enemies, not by God. The beauty of this prayer is that David pours out his heart to God—and feels safe in doing so—and in spite of his problems, trusts that God will not only hear his cries, but will answer.

 

On more than one occasion, I’ve felt completely exhausted. Having multiple sclerosis, it doesn’t take much to feel exhausted physically, but the most devastating times have been when I’ve felt worn out emotionally. When emotional and physical exhaustion come at the same time, spiritual depletion follows. At those times, psalms like this one have been my comfort. It was reassuring to know that when I was feeling despair I was in good company. That gave me hope and a template to follow.

 

David kept right on talking to God. He didn’t use his pain as an excuse to decide God didn’t exist, or was out to get him. That encouraged me to keep right on talking to God, even when all I had to offer God were my complaints, exhaustion, and pain. I especially found comfort knowing that David’s pillow was soaked with tears, because my own pillow has gotten pretty damp at times. When I couldn’t see an end in sight, and didn’t have the strength to persevere, I was enabled to put one foot in front of the other anyway. Because I walked through those times of desolation I know God answered my prayers. I came out the other side of those challenges with not one ounce of my own strength. God rescued me from the depths of hopelessness. Praise God!

 

How about you?

 

  • What is the difference between thinking God causes our pain and trouble and thinking that God enables us to get through our pain and trouble?
  • If God is merciful, why do you suppose he allows suffering?
  • When have you felt worn out? What got you through? If you were completely exhausted, could you have gotten through on your own strength?
  • When sorrow overwhelms you, what do you do?
  • Are you comfortable bringing your complaints to God?
  • Do you believe God listens when you cry to him, even if relief doesn’t come instantly? When solutions are slow in coming, what are some ways to remember that God’s timing is perfect?
  • When has God rescued you? What has he saved you from?

 

I invite you to read through the entire Psalm and reflect on whatever phrases speak to your heart.

Saturday Spotlight: The Paralyzed Man

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Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

…But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them… Mark 2: 3-5; 10-12a

 

Here [the paralytic] was, with no possible means of escape—the center of attention, making a circus-type entrance, interrupting whatever wisdom Jesus had been sharing with the crowd…And just when he thought he couldn’t feel any more self-conscious, Jesus said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

 

The man didn’t ask for forgiveness. It was probably pretty obvious to everyone there what kind of healing he and his friends were looking for. It was evident to Jesus, too, that the man wanted to be healed of his paralysis…Of course, when our sins are forgiven, it implies the sense of guilt is removed, but the image of being made upright, of being in “right standing” with God, suggests more. It suggests the freedom to literally stand upright after being relieved of whatever weight had been holding the man down for who knows how long. Jesus seemed to perceive that the burden of guilt was holding the man down more than his physical infirmity. Jesus also perceived that the man and his friends had faith enough to accept God’s grace.

 

Sometimes guilt, remorse, or shame can paralyze us and keep us from living life more fully…Fear of what others might think could keep us from using our talents in situations outside our comfort zone…We’re afraid that what we have to offer might not be good enough…So we remain paralyzed by our own insecurities. Jesus can heal us, too.

 

Prayer: Loving Father, may the guilt, shame, and fear that paralyze me be dissolved in your unconditional love. Empower me to use the abilities you created me to have.

 

Reflection for sharing: When has guilt “paralyzed” you? How did you become free of the paralysis?

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J.

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

Wednesday’s Word: Trustworthy

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Those who know you, Lord, will trust you; you do not abandon anyone who comes to you. Psalm 9:10

 

The God of love will never abandon us when we turn to him. So what keeps us from turning to him? Some likely suspects are: guilt; shame; anger; selfishness. I’m wondering if they might all boil down to fear: Fear that we aren’t good enough or that our past regrets are unforgiveable. Fear that we aren’t getting something that was due us. Fear that our version of justice isn’t being done.  Fear that things won’t turn out the way we want them to.

 

Someone said anger is not getting our way in the present, resentment is not getting our way in the past and fear is not getting our way in the future. But if God is trustworthy, we can trust that everything is under control, whether things go our way or not–even if we can’t see or understand it. We can be confident that when we turn to God, he is waiting to welcome us, no matter what we have done. We can believe, as a friend of mine used to say, that “God brought you this far; he’s not going to drop you on your head now.”

 

I have another friend who says when she is afraid of God or his will for her, she prays to know him better. Because if she knows him better, she will see that he is all good, all loving, and all wise and she will know that there is nothing to fear; whatever he wills is ultimately for the best.  When we know God, we will trust him; when we trust him, we won’t be afraid to come to him; and when we come to him, he will never abandon us. If he isn’t abandoning us, what can keep us from not abandoning him?

 

 

Prayer: Lord, help me know you better.

 

Reflection: What’s blocking you from God?  What might happen if you surrender that obstacle to him?

Saturday Spotlight: The Empty Tomb

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Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed. John 20:8

 

He saw and believed. Why? He didn’t see Jesus resurrected—all he saw was an empty tomb. Well, not completely empty: the burial cloths that Jesus’ body had been wrapped in were still there. The trappings of death weren’t needed any more. Evidently that was enough to fuel the disciple’s faith–that and the promise Jesus made that he would, in fact, be killed, but would rise again three days later. Although the risen Christ did appear to believers several times before ascending to heaven, for this disciple, seeing the empty tomb with the trappings of death behind, was enough.

 

What about us? When our interests, relationships, or careers seem empty and stone cold, can we look into the emptiness and believe that Christ isn’t absent but risen and living in a new way? Can we trust that he’s inviting us to leave behind the trappings of the circumstances we may have put false hope in? Can we trust him to lead us to new life?

 

Christ’s victory over death gives us all hope. We celebrate the Easter joy of salvation based on the testimony of those who encountered the risen Christ. Maybe we’ve had our own encounters, too—times when we’ve heard his voice and felt the joy of his love within our hearts.

 

Easter joy promises new life. What will that new life look like for us in the here and now?

 

Prayer: Praise to the Lord of life, who conquers death in all its forms.

 

Reflection for sharing: Where are the empty spots in your life? Can you trust God to bring you to new life? What do you need to leave behind to accept the new life you’re being offered?

 

Wednesday’s Word: Reassurance

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Lord God Almighty, none is as mighty as you; in all things you are faithful, O Lord. You rule over the powerful sea; you calm its angry waves. Psalm 89: 8-9

 

A stormy sea is vast and powerful. None of us would be foolish enough to think we could control the waves. Still, no matter how violently the breakers crash or how high they tower, eventually the sea calms down again.

 

Lots of things are more powerful than we are. Nothing is more powerful than God is. When we feel small and helpless or weak and vulnerable, we can be grateful for God’s power and might. There’s no question that danger, damage, and destruction are real. It’s challenging to trust God’s faithfulness when the storms of life crash around us, but storms don’t last forever.

 

Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast last year. Despite the devastation, God’s faithful presence remained. It was evident in the courage and love that abounded as neighbor helped neighbor, and as strangers provided hurricane victims with physical necessities and sorely needed comfort and encouragement. A sense of community emerged. Perspective was gained. Light was shed on the difference between inconvenience and true necessity. The storm passed and the rebuilding began.

 

When we are weathering stormy emotions, turbulent relationships or trying to rebuild our lives in the wake of tragedy, we can remember that God’s power is greater and He remains faithful.

 

Prayer:  Lord, help us trust in your power and faithfulness.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How can reflecting on God’s power reassure you when you feel most vulnerable?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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