This is the Day

exploring the soul's quest for joy

Tag: god’s goodness

Doing Good

img_4483

Part 1 of a 4-part series on Psalm 37                                                

 

Trust in the Lord and do good.

 

It’s hard to do good when I’m busy fretting. When something is bothering me, all I seem to be able to think about is that thing. Worry has a way of doing that, doesn’t it? Consuming so much mental energy that we hardly have time to think about anything else, let alone have time to actually do good.

 

Instead, when I’m consumed by worry, I’m often more apt to do bad than to do good.

 

Like the bad that comes when I scowl at everyone I come in contact with because my worries have swallowed up my smiles.

 

Or the bad that comes when I lose patience with my husband because in that moment, my concerns and cares have outpaced my love.

 

Or the bad that comes when I yell at my children over the smallest infraction, not because what they did was necessarily so awful, but simply because my need to get my own way has eclipsed my ability to think and act lovingly.

 

It’s just too easy to do bad when I’m not trusting God.

 

img_4482
When I’m overcome by worry it seems all I can think about are my own unmet needs. That’s a sure sign I’m not trusting God! I think it’s actually a reflection of my own desire to control every situation that affects me and the ones I love. Deep down, I know that if I really were in control of every situation that frightens or overwhelms me, then I would never have to face my deepest fears. I would never need to learn to trust in God.

 

Learning to trust begins with learning to be still. It begins with learning to put aside my frantic need for control and waiting to hear from God instead.

 

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

 

It is as I let go of my need to be in control, and as I name my fears and begin to entrust them to God’s love and care for me, that my need to trust in myself can shift to a willingness to trust in God. It is in taking my eyes off myself and gazing on the One who holds me in the palm of his hand, that my mind can center on the beauty of my Savior. It is when I see His character and experience His love that I can grow in trust.

 

And when I’m trusting and fixing my eyes on Him, it’s so much easier to do good.

 

Because He is good.

 

God Has Been Good to Me

IMG_3189

Last year’s joint birthday celebration, Dad turning 94 and Mom a young 38!

Psalm 106:1-5; Psalm 71

I visited my parents today. My mom is 93, my dad 95, and they are both wheelchair-bound and exhausted. To say they have slowed down is a vast understatement. Our times together these days are filled with more quiet spaces than words; it’s hard to have real conversations with those who can’t remember where they were going with a sentence about ten words into it. I feel like I am a little girl again visiting my grandparents and not my once vibrant parents.

 

Just before this visit today, I was with a dear friend as she laid to rest her step-dad, also 95. The refrain I heard several times at his viewing was, “He lived a happy life.” A comforting epithet for his family to remember as they mourn his loss.

 

As I was driving home from these two events, my mind saturated with thoughts of life and death, I realized that my dad has his own constant refrain, one which he repeated several times to me again today. “The Lord has been very good to me. He has blessed me and our family tremendously.”

 

And it struck me afresh that my father never dwells on the adversity he has experienced, but rather, like the psalmist, declares, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to Him for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

 

My parents are no strangers to heartache and adversity. Childhood and adolescence for them was not a carefree time, but a time of poverty as my father’s father endured years of unemployment during the Great Depression and my mother’s immigrant family struggled to provide her with basic necessities like shoes. Both experienced great loss in World War 2—my dad in Patton’s army losing many friends and witnessing atrocities no young man should ever be exposed to, and my mom suffering the death of her younger brother while he was serving in Italy. But by far their greatest loss was the death of their firstborn and only son to type 1 diabetes at age 8.

 

And still, my father’s refrain is, “The Lord has been very good to me.” I want to be more like my father.

 

My father has learned that the goodness of God is not dependent on the condition of his life. And he has learned that God’s blessings don’t always look like “good things” in human eyes.

 

Like the psalmist, my father can declare that God is his rock and his fortress. It’s not that he has been spared his share of troubles and distresses, but through the hard times he has found God to be faithful.

 

Like the psalmist, from the time of his youth, my father has made a practice of continually coming to God for shelter in the storms of life. And so he can declare that God is his hope, his confidence, his rock of refuge. There is no storm so great that God will not be for him a rock of refuge, nor any situation so grave that he will cease to praise the Lord and tell of His righteousness.

 

Oswald Chambers asserts, “Unless we can look the darkest, blackest fact full in the face without damaging God’s character, we do not yet know Him.”

 

If I’m honest with my response to Chambers’ statement, some days I think I barely know God at all. Isn’t it all too easy to tangle up our pain, adversity, and disappointments with what we think about God’s character?

 

My father knows his Father. He has looked many dark, black facts full in the face and lived through many dark, black seasons, and none of it has damaged my father’s view of his Father.

 

Today I visited my parents and my father struggled to put a children’s puzzle together. The man living in the shell of an aging body is brilliant and overwhelmingly kind. Valedictorian of his high school, he was top of his class at Penn’s Wharton School, where he had a full scholarship. He led men in battle, and led organizations to growth and success. He knows full well what his mind has lost and he lives daily with that frustration.

 

And yet, through it all, his constant refrain is this: “God has been so good to me, and has blessed me exceeding abundantly.”

 

Oh how I long to be more like my father; I have so much more to learn from him.

This is the Day

ImagePsalm 118        

I can remember singing a simple little song when I was a child called “This is the Day”. It was one of those catchy tunes with all the echoes and repeats that were so popular in the folk music of the 1970s. We sang it in the round in Sunday School, and it went like this: “This is the day…this is the day, that The Lord has made…that the Lord has made. We will rejoice…we will rejoice, and be glad in it…and be glad in it. Oh this is the day that The Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. This is the day…this is the day, that The Lord has made.” Such a great song to sing when you are young and feeling exuberant. When an entire weekend or summer day is stretched out before you. When life is sweet and all seems right with the world.

 

These words (without all the repeats!) are actually nestled right in the middle of Psalm 118, and these words, as well as the entirety of that psalm, have been read at every Passover celebration dating back to antiquity. The incredible thing is that Jesus would certainly have declared them himself as He concluded His final Passover meal with His disciples. Hours before He would be betrayed and ultimately be led to His crucifixion, He declared unwaveringly, “this is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

 

Isn’t that mind-blowing? That Jesus could rejoice and be glad in the day of His crucifixion? That He would rejoice and be glad in the day of His complete abandonment and separation from His Father God?

 

I am amazed and humbled at the very thought of it. Trials have a way of weighing us down, don’t they? Ultimately, our prayer is that they draw us closer to God, but often, the trial-filled journey toward closer union with God is fraught with seasons of doubt, anger, exhaustion, and despair.

 

How do we live each day with the sure knowledge that “this is the day that the LORD has made”, and how do we then “rejoice and be glad in it”, especially if it seems the world is crashing down around us?

 

The psalmist begins by reminding himself of God’s goodness toward him. He repeats a refrain over and over again in the first 4 verses of Psalm 118: “For His lovingkindness is everlasting!” Lest he forget God’s kindness and His deep love for him, even in the face of adversity, he reminds his soul to trust, to rejoice, and to be strong.

 

The Bible is filled with language just like this. Saint Paul, who certainly was no stranger to hardship and adversity, instructs us, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!” Paul repeats himself in the same breath, lest we disregard the importance of learning how to rejoice in all situations, the good and the bad…or maybe Paul is simply reminding himself to rejoice in all things, just as the psalmist did.

 

The psalmist literally wills himself to rejoice. When our “bad day” becomes more of a crisis, it is crucial that we use our minds to remind ourselves what we know about God from scripture rather than focus on what we are perceiving with our senses to be true in a given situation. This is the only way to rejoice through a crisis.

 

When Jesus read this passage at His Last Supper with His disciples, He certainly knew it was His final hours on earth. This is a Psalm of prophecy in that it foretells the death of the Messiah. Imagine knowing you are the Messiah and reading these words just hours before your death by crucifixion: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone…Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horn of the altar.” I don’t think I would feel very much like rejoicing! In fact I think I might skip dessert and run as fast as I could out of Jerusalem!

 

Jesus knew what was about to happen to Him, and yet, because He stood on the promises of God, He was able to tell His soul to rejoice. In this same psalm we read several such encouraging promises of God: “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? The LORD is for me!” (v 6-7) “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.” (v 15) “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting!” (v 29) Because Jesus knew these promises, He was able to rejoice and be glad in the day…even though it was a particularly difficult day. And we should do likewise.

 

I have been captivated by days that are so beautiful that I have wanted to live in them forever. And I have endured painful days that have tested me beyond what I think I am capable of managing. And perhaps like you, I have even suffered through days that have grown into years so replete with trials and tribulations that all I have wanted to do was to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over me, and not emerge until the storm has passed. It is in those days and in those seasons in particular that I wonder, “How can I embrace this day? How do I live joyfully even when all of my hopes are crumbling?”

 

There is no greater suffering than the separation from God the Father that Jesus endured on our behalf to win us victory over sin and death. This is how Jesus managed to find joy in the day of His greatest suffering: He found His strength in God His Father. In verse 14 the psalmist declares, “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation!” Jesus had to endure that awful separation from God the Father as He suffered death and Hell for our sakes. But God did not leave Jesus in that state; He led Him through death and into resurrection life.

 

Whether in human terms we would define today as “good” or “bad”, every day we have the opportunity to choose to find joy and be glad, because of God’s great love for us, His immeasurable kindness toward us, and because the LORD is for us!

 

© 2018 This is the Day

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑