For This Thing is From Me

Tapestry: Front and Back

 “Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’ So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.”  

 1 Kings 12:24, KJV

You can never accuse the Lord of being cold and distant and aloof.  He doesn’t detach Himself from the needs of His people.  He doesn’t ever disconnect and isolate Himself from you.  On the contrary, He is constantly thinking and acting on your behalf.  He is a proactive God, and that’s impressive.

The God of the Bible is always intensively involved in the affairs and concerns of His covenant people.

What we see as a muddled-up mess is actually His work. Perhaps in eternity we’ll see and understand. We see the backside of the tapestry now but (I assure you) we’ll know the beauty of His handiwork.

“For this thing is from Me.” 

God directs a confused king who has significant issues.  (Sound familiar?) God decides that the civil war between Judah and Israel is wrong.  In 1 Kings 12, He sends His prophet Shemaiah to stand before the king of Judah, and speak out a word to the nation.  The Lord is involved, and it is He who is actively enmeshed in this issue.

“For this thing is from Me.” 

There is something here that can mystify and perplex the best of us.  He begins to weave and guide His active presence into the confusing issues of that time.  He is not a “landlord God,”  but He is intensely involved in our affairs.  He initiates and directs the very things that concern us.

“For this thing is from Me.” 

The text clearly opens up this ugly situation.  In the midst of this bizarre issue, God has assumed control.  His prophet Shemaiah carries this a Word of power into a room of possibly explosive personalities.  Now the arrogance of the king can be a strong and strange thing.  But God decides and moves wherever He wills. Kings are never an issue when God enters in. They must serve now, like anyone else.

Dear one, He is incredibly involved in your affairs. 

He draws you and He has engaged to be intricately focused on your situation.  “For this thing is from Me.”  and that truth opens up His purposes to our desperate poverty.  We may try very hard to try to maintain control and direction.  But God directs and superintends. 

He is big enough to touch and direct my small heart.  We will come into confusion if we try to sidestep His lordship.

 “The Lord can control a king’s mind as he controls a river;  he can direct it as he pleases.” 

Proverbs 21:1

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To Pray without Ceasing

Brother Lawrence once wrote: “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.” That’s easy for a monk to say. What did Brother Lawrence have to do all day but be in “continual conversation with God.” But how does one do that with a full time job, a family, and numerous other commitments, not to mention the struggles of illness and other trials this world throws at us?

In our never-slow-down world, the idea of continually conversing with God seems radical.

And yet, scripture calls us to do what Brother Lawrence suggests. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray continually,” “pray without ceasing,” or “Never stop praying,” depending on the translation you choose. I love this verse, but I used to have a hard time figuring out how to put it into practice.

Do you think of prayer as the time during which you stop to ask God for all the things you need or want, and tell Him about your family and friends who are sick or in trouble, and plead with Him to fix all your problems? Is this but a brief time after which you get up and go about your day? If so, then you may struggle with the concept of continual conversation with God.

One day it occurred to me that this is the wrong way to think about prayer. Instead, I began to equate prayer to spending time with my best friend. When I spend time with a good friend, we can both be in the same room doing different things and not even talking. But I always know that if I have something to say then my friend will listen. And if my friend says something to me, I will be there to hear.

God’s Word tells me that He is always there for me; He is everywhere and wherever I am. If I always remember that, then I can easily “pray without ceasing.” Wherever I am, if I need someone to talk to He will listen because He is my friend. I also need to be aware that He may have something to say to me, so I should be ready to listen to that “small still voice.” Continual prayer doesn’t require constant words; it requires only continual awareness of the presence of God. In this way, even the busiest life can be sweet and delightful.

Upgrading to Joy

by Julie Anne Fidler, BB Weekly Contributor

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling ill – particularly with depression – I don’t want to do anything. Getting out of bed is a chore, tackling business or housework is excruciating, and when it’s all over we are twice as exhausted as we were when we started. Church seems out of the question. Reading the Bible seems impossible. Joy is a far-away star hurtling through the cosmos that you can’t grasp and reign in. Your world shuts down and you have no desire to grant access to anyone or anything. Sadness is a great isolator.

One of my favorite websites is www.dictionary.com (a writer’s best friend!) It defines joy as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” The primary words here are “caused by.”  We don’t always feel joy. Heck, nobody does. But if you battle mental illness, that statement is especially true. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy and he uses our brain chemistry to do so. He’s so, so good at stealing our joy. But knowing that joy is caused by something should give us a lot of hope!

Maybe the Enemy can snatch our joy, but we can snatch it back. How do we do that? We decide to go against our feelings of despair and exhaustion and pursue it. Job’s suffering makes ours seem almost laughable by comparison and yet even he was able to find the cause of joy and run to it.

“let their flesh be renewed like a child’s;
   let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—
26 then that person can pray to God and find favor with him,
   they will see God’s face and shout for joy;
   he will restore them to full well-being.
27 And they will go to others and say,
   ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right,
   but I did not get what I deserved.”

-Job 33:25-27

Job, a man who lost everything and was abandoned by everyone he ever cared for, understood what unlocks joy, and that was God himself.  Jesus, of course, understood the same concept.

“Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” –John 16:24

 

During a very dark period in my life, I started visiting my current church with friends who were already members there. My church is a rather Pentecostal church (no snake-handling or anything crazy like that, I promise) and at the time I was visiting, I was a member of a much more subdued church. I was in so much emotional pain that I opted out of worship altogether. I sat in my seat and cried as others raised their hands and shouted praise and I wondered how they could be so happy when we live in a world that is so cold.

But a funny thing happened as I sat there in tears – the little layer of ice around my heart began to melt. I wasn’t on my feet dancing, but I felt warm peace seep into the frigid hopelessness. I had found a tiny bit of joy, CAUSED by getting out of bed, getting dressed, and sitting in that church pew.

Say the word “joy” and two different pictures come to mind. In the first image, I see someone jumping up and down, pumping their fist in the air, shouting praise to God. In the second image, I see someone quiet and reserved, eyes closed, a tiny, peaceful smile on their lips. I believe that both of these images apply to us. Sometimes joy is all-consuming and we can’t help but shout. Other times, joy is a quiet whisper of hope in our ear, a flicker of happiness that says “take heart, God loves you.”

And I am learning that if we have no joy, whether it’s because we’re suffering a rough bout with our disease or because life is just hard in general, it’s because we’re not close enough to the cause of joy. Often, our minds say there is no hope or joy in this world, so we have to make a decision – are we going to listen to our messed-up emotions, or live by fact, which translates into walking by faith? If we want joy, we have find it.

One of the associate pastors at my church once said something that stuck with me. He said, “I want to be under the spout where the stuff of Heaven comes out.” It may be a little bit cheesy but it’s true. Corporate worship, quiet time alone with God, reading the Word, private worship and surrounding ourselves with people who compliment and encourage our faith are all “the stuff of Heaven” that cause joy. We have to get to the spout.

If you feel the walls closing in around you today, deny your pain, get up, and go find joy.  The joy of the Lord is so powerful that a tiny drop is more than enough, I challenge you today to believe for an outpouring of it. Get up and get under that spout.

 *** 

Julie Anne Fidler is a contributing writer for Brokenbelievers.com.  She comes with a humble and understanding heart for those with a mental illness.  Her writing gift is valued greatly.  Look for her post weekly, on this blog.
She keeps a personal ministry blog at www.mymentalhealthday.blogspot.com.  Read more there.
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