A typical morning for my wife and me is to have a quiet time on our porch, drinking coffee, listening to the birds singing, waiting for the sun to rise, praying, and reading scripture or devotionals.
This morning, Kim got up before me, made the coffee, and began the ritual. I stayed in bed, waiting for a spark. She came back for me, though, sat down beside me, and told me to come out to the porch and “talk to God.”
But I knew this morning I had nothing sincere to say. I sat in my chair and looked across at my wife, with her eyes pressed closed, clearly speaking to our Lord. Instead of beginning with prayer, though, I picked up my Bible. I needed God to speak to me.
I came to Psalm 77. Not by some random opening of the Bible but because it was next in my routine reading. Here’s what I read:
1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble,
I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his
4 You don’t let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
10 And I said, “This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
11 But then I recall all you have done,
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
13 O God, your ways are holy.
Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
What would we do without the Psalms?
I’m often consumed with the “good old days”, categorizing memories as either BC (before cancer) or WC (with cancer). When this is at its worst, my fondest memories are tainted, the happy thoughts they should evoke subdued. I picture images of my past strewn across a beach, and I watch as the rushing tide either takes them away or buries them in the sand, visions of future events rolling in the waves, debris from the current storm to litter the landscape.
What happened to the good old days? All around my home are memories of the good old days. Must I look away in order to find peace?
But instead of being afraid to ask the difficult questions of God, to express my dismay, the questions I feel in my heart that sometimes keep me from praying and from living this day to the fullest are written in verses 7-9. Has God forgotten to be gracious? Have his promises permanently failed?
Once again, I must remember to remember. But not just the past.
The Psalmist didn’t know this then, but verse 15 has been fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. God has redeemed His people. Oh how blessed we are to have this hope. Rather than my memories of the good old days being tainted or slipping away, they are being preserved in frame by the love of Christ as I learn to cherish every moment and see them as a part of who God is growing me to be. Past, present, future: all our lives are snapshots of eternity. This is what we need to remember.
I’ll close with this. My daughter, Caroline, joined Kim and me on the porch as we were talking. She said, “I can’t pray first thing in the morning because when I wake up, I’m usually just thinking of myself. So I read the Bible first, and then I’m able to pray for others.”
And there it is. Wisdom from my 13 year old. How liberating it is to let go of one’s self.
The sun is now up. My kids are all up. Time for me to wake up too.
2 Comments Add yours
Thanks for your post. I do not read emails closely; yours…. I read several times. I am grateful you share your fears and faith with us. It is truly powerful for your audience that too often live as though we are not ourselves dying.
I have been reading Hebrews the past several weeks. I finished my readings this morning while on vacation here in Florida. I was struck once again of the importance of faith not looking backwards as the flesh looks to the deception of the “good old days” and seeks to suck the life out of the present. But the writer of the Hebrews tells us that faith looks forward to that city whose foundation and maker is God. In so doing, faith is willing to be tempered through the discipline of our Father in heaven.
Perhaps you have heard me tell the story of Spurgeon writing in his journal at the end of a week having sat with several people in the throws of death. He was actually saddened so many are not prepared for what is inevitable— our death. He asked the question, “How does one prepare for that day properly?” He said — you practice. You die every day so when one comes to that day it is like any other day.
With that said, I have no idea what you have been going through, are going through and awaits you tomorrow. Please know, I do ponder this. I cannot imagine the loneliness you must feel sometimes. I think it is gracious that you minister to us knowing at some level we are unable to grasp at the core what you are feeling.
Brother, I love you dearly. I pray for you often. I do wish others could share at this depth without the sickness that proceeds it. Perhaps it is because we fail in Jesus command to deny ourselves, take up our cross “daily” and follow him. Of course, with out faith it is impossible to please God.
I am gone for the next two weeks (vacation and GA). I would love to get together the following week.
May the Lord bless you with his presence this weekend. Please, my love to Kim and your precious children.
Hal you are a great encourager. Brent – we love you!