Praise the Lord, O my soul. And all that is within me, praise His holy name. 2 Praise the Lord, O my soul. And forget none of His acts of kindness.
3 He forgives all my sins.
He heals all my diseases.
4 He saves my life from the grave.
He crowns me with loving-kindness and pity.
5 He fills my years with good things and I am made young again like the eagle.
6 The Lord does what is right and fair for all who suffer under a bad power.
7 He made His ways known to Moses and His acts to the people of Israel… 11 For His loving-kindness for those who fear Him is as great as the heavens are high above the earth. 12 He has taken our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. 13 The Lord has loving-pity on those who fear Him, as a father has loving-pity on his children. 14 For He knows what we are made of. He remembers that we are dust….Psalm 103:1-14 NLV
The theme for our week at Joni & Friends camp this year was Psalm 23. As often occurs, different words or phrases jump off the page at different seasons of life. The one that the Spirit has been highlighting in this season has been the ‘withness’ of the Lord in everyday life. In the sunny serene times, in the dark or stormy narrow passages, and everything in between, the most precious treasure I hold in my heart is that “You, O Lord, are with me.” During times of correction, times of danger and threat of presence of enemies, I have nothing to fear for He is WITH me. I am not alone on my own, I am never without all that He brings with His presence – provision, protection, comfort, assurance, guidance. And, oh, so much more.
I just passed a mile-marker birthday (no, it’s not 30!) which has brought with it deeper introspection. I was impacted by a quote by DL Moody, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” So questions emerge like what fruit does my life show, how have I used/spent/demonstrated what God has given me, what ways should I adjust for the future years if He grants them to me regarding investment of time, energy, resources, talent, etc? Combine these questions with the ongoing prayer, “Lord, show me how to have ‘whatever-state-we-are-in’ contentment in this season of Don’s health, while praying forward-movement in seeking healing and other graces of God.”
So when things continued to spiral in a downward direction with one thing after the other healthwise (and otherwise), I had been asking the Lord, “Is this the way it is going to be from here on out?” “Are You hearing me?” and better yet, “Am I hearing from You?” I had been feeling the ‘silence’ of the Lord, and though I know the answers by faith, I deeply desired to experience His presence at a deeper level, to rest assured (my definition of faith) that He was indeed, still with us, faithfully presiding over the circumstances no matter how dismal they may look. I have been fairly quiet on social media, waiting and listening, not wanting to speak until I hear from Him. I don’t know that I would classify it as a ‘dark night of the soul’, but I do know that there were enemies and battles that I faced that I hadn’t 5 years ago. The longer the trial, the deeper levels of doubt vs faith we faced.
“Yes, Cindy. Your questions reflect the need for assurance of My presence. I AM and have been with you all along the pathway of your life. Before looking ahead, look back. Not at what you have done, but at Me, and what I have done. The more you look, the more you will see Me. Do not forget a single instance. They are all gifts of My grace for you.”
And so, around Easter, I began to list instances where I was acutely aware of God’s hand in my life, times where He left expressly unmistakable imprints upon my life, God-moments where if it weren’t for Him, the outcome would be disastrous.
I began filling pages and pages of God revealing time after time where He literally rescued my life from the pit of death (like being caught in a riptide and have no idea how I escaped those ruthless waves, or when as a pedestrian, I was hit by a car at a busy intersection and tossed into the air like a ragdoll); times where He intervened in the lives of my family (micro-detailing travel for a doctor from India to come to OUR house to examine Don, or significantly manifesting His protection from physical harm individually over each of our children during separate occasions); times where He sustained us while we had no paycheck, (receiving anonymous gifts, or opportunities arriving out of nowhere); multiple instances of healing (when the mystified doctors could only scratch their heads as they knew when we walked out the door it was not due to their ‘doctoring’; times of emotional and spiritual healing); times of assurance and whispers of hope in the darkness (literally His voice telling me to ‘Turn around, Cindy!’ when I was alone, lost, and about to drive into what I later discovered was the roughest part of the city, or giving me verses and songs during sleepless nights), and so many, many more – I was undone. I wish I could share them all with you. I don’t want to forget a single one of His benefits – truly graces – but to journal and keep a record of His words and works. Of His unmistakable presence. For me. With me.
God has always used many physical markers in the history of His people as reminders, commanding that physical stones to be gathered and piled upon the other, or prescribed festivals that celebrated His hand in their lives because He knows we are a forgetful people. He warns us to not forget the ways He has led, reminding us to recount them and draw forth renewed faith as we do when we, like David, journal and remind our cast-down souls to trust in the faithfulness of God that has been revealed. It is like gathering each one as a pearl and stringing them into a priceless necklace that brings glory to its Designer. It not only raises our level of faith, but it also encourages the faith of others when we share and declare the wonderful works of God, in season and out of season.
I would definitely recommend this ‘rearview mirror journaling’ to anyone, in order to “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:18-19)
Only, not as an ‘exercise’ or project, but as an offering of praise.
In the last couple of weeks, I have seen some encouraging signs in Don’s health, a slow turning away from continuing decline and movement towards health. I can’t even describe how thrilled I am to see it! How thankful for God’s intervening in our lives! I am also glad to have gone through this re-winding, re-viewing and re-minding BEFORE this turn-around, fortifying my spirit and giving me fresh eyes to see the faithfulness and goodness of God revealed in so many numerous ways. I wonder if I would have done it otherwise. This ‘necklace of pearls’ is such a treasure. May these pearls ever shimmer for God’s glory alone.