“You May Not Know How, You May Not Know When”

(Psalm 126: 4-6, The Message) And now, God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Summer, 1988…I was 7 years old, just out of second grade.  We lived in South Carolina and we were in the midst of a typical southern summer…muggy, scorching hot, and days so long you might find yourself praying for the sun to set.  At 7 years old, I didn’t understand what drought meant.  I heard about it on Good Morning America while I munched on my PopTarts and sipped my Tang from a crazy straw, but I didn’t experience it…other than being asked not to leave the hose turned on in the yard.  At 7 years old, I saw TIME magazine in the dentist’s office, and I knew there were farmers in trouble…fires burning in California…but I didn’t experience that.  My daddy was a preacher…I didn’t depend on the rain to ensure my livelihood.  To me, rain meant mud and thunder and a cool-down from the summer heat.  I never considered it a source of LIFE.  I didn’t know, because I hadn’t lived without it.

A drought sort of creeps up on you.  It’s not like a tornado, which is sudden and quick.  It’s not like a hurricane or flood, which is expected and passes soon.  A drought starts slowly, so slowly that maybe you don’t really notice how dry it’s been until things around you start to wilt and die, and when it’s in full swing, a drought devastates every component of our domain.  It is a genuine hell on earth. 

Just like the land becomes dry and thirsty, our souls go through times that seem like a dusty hell on earth.  However, in seasons when it seems useless to even try, we cannot lie down in the dirt and give up.  Instead we must continue on, in faith, and we must proclaim, “And now, God, do it again.”  He’s done it before…and that word “again” implies our faith in Him.  So what is a drought to us?   It’s a trial.  And what does the Word tell us about trials?  “7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”  (1 Peter 1:7 NLT)

So welcome the drought, and continue to plant your crops…even in despair…because it is through being forced to go without the things we’d never just give up on our own that our faith is perfected.  No trial lasts forever…no devastation is beyond repair…and when God allows drought we must keep moving in faith with arms open wide in expectation of the harvest and blessing ahead.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  (James 1: 2-4, The Message)

The drought of 1988 lasted well into 1989 and impacted our entire nation.  It was the worst natural disaster to take place since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s and was so until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2004.  To the people directly affected, it must have seemed like eons passed before the rains finally fell and rejuvenated the earth.  Yet in the larger scope of time, it was but an instant.  It is a part of history, from which we are able to learn and use that knowledge to face similar difficulties in the future.  Experiences give us wisdom, and they are the foundation of our faith.

Prayer:  Father God, I trust You in all things.  Thank you for teaching me what it is to be without, and for helping me to understand that YOU are my source of life.  Amen.

Oh, Save Me From Them All!

Turn to me and have mercy,
For I am alone and in deep distress.
My problems go from bad to worse.
Oh, save me from them all!

Feel my pain and see my trouble.
Forgive all my sins.
See how many enemies I have
and how viciously they hate me!
Protect me! Rescue my life from them!

Do not let me be disgraced, for in you
I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in you.
(Psalm 25:16-21)

Whenever someone in my family is down in the dumps and complaining about their circumstances, we refer to it as having a “pity party.” It’s a gentle way of poking fun at the person and reminding them to not wallow in their misery. Most of the time, that nudge is enough to snap us out of our self-indulgence and make us reconsider just how petty some of our complaints can be.

However, occasionally things come along that are legitimately devastating…the loss of a job, the betrayal of a confidence, a family member struggling with addiction, a negative report from the doctor, the death of a loved one, etc. When this type of situation comes along it can knock the breath out of us, figuratively and literally. I remember a time in my own life where I was so overwhelmed by a situation that it manifested in physiological symptoms. I couldn’t breathe and I felt like the world was spinning out of control.

As I struggled to come to grips with the situation that was before me, a wise person instructed me to read through the Psalms again. Growing up in a Christian home, I had read through the Psalms several times in my life, but it wasn’t until I read them in a time of anguish and desperation that I truly appreciated them. As I read through the book it was as if all of the hurt and pain that I couldn’t articulate was poured out on the pages in front of me. There were times when I would try to pray, and not knowing what to say, I would simply pray the lines that had been written thousands of years before I was ever born.

The Psalmists, and David in particular, provided a road map to lead me out of the despair that I was feeling. In these verses, you can find the totality of human experience, the highs and lows, from jubilation to misery. But the thread that ties them all together is the consistent acknowledgement of the might, justice, grace, mercy and sovereignty of God.

When the sun is shining and things are grand, we can thank God for His blessings on our life. But when we are crushed by the weight of circumstance or reeling from the attack of enemies, we can turn to God as our refuge and strength. He is the source of help and hope that will never fail us. This knowledge is our anchor. It is a fixed point that we can use to orient ourselves and begin to make sense of all that we are going through.

We all face adversity in our lives; it is as certain as death and taxes. While some of those situations can be overcome with grit and determination, others are simply beyond anything that we can handle on our own. When you face these circumstances, I encourage you to do as David did…turn to the Lord. Put your hope in Him, and He WILL save you from them all!

Prayer: Father, You are our refuge and strength, the hope of our salvation. When we are faced with situations that are beyond our ability to handle, let us rest in the knowledge that You are Sovereign and Your love for us is never-ending. With You on our side, we don’t have to worry or be afraid of anything. We thank You for all that You do on our behalf. Amen.

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