Getting a Grip on Boredom

Monotony can easily become an issue for many. I had been told to be on alert for it, but it seems like I’ve got to learn for myself.

With any chronic illness, there can be something tedious and routine about life. To have a physical or mental illness is acutely painful in many different ways. Afflicted people understand what I’m talking about. Pain can be intense and intrusive. Sometimes these things can become really depressing.

The sheer boredom of my illness can strangle my walk. It seems every day is the same and the foreseeable future holds little hope of it changing. Now I’m a reasonably sedate person. I don’t need a lot of excitement. (I like a good book and a cup of tea.) I’m not after adventure, but I don’t care too much for monotony either.

Brain-numbing existence is quite common for the afflicted.

Many people don’t understand this. Others do. And it’s not limited to us who struggle with illness. It’s seen in other people too. This brain-numbing life happens to many as well. Consider–

  • the single mom working as a secretary
  • the man mopping floors
  • the college grad frying burgers
  • the resident at the old folks’ home, every day is the same

These situations seem inescapable. We see ourselves locked into a situation where escape is not possible. We are consigned to do whatever our circumstances dictate. We’re all trapped. Pure and simple. We can find no meaning in our lives; we start to despair, “Will it ever be different?”

I believe the drabness of our lives can often be attributed to a lack of intimacy with the Lord Jesus. We are built for fellowship with God, and anything else is just “treading water.” Nothing satisfies, except Him present. I need Him desperately.

When I’m filled with hopelessness, I often find myself filling the emptiness with anything I can find. This usually leads to even more sadness and deadness inside. It’s a vicious cycle that destroys as easily as more gross and obvious sin.

When I ponder my hopelessness I feel like giving up. I simply don’t want to take another step into the doldrums of what my life has become. I despair that life will continue its suffering grind.

I must have joy in order to survive.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). I don’t have to dwell in the grey drabness of hopelessness. My heart can find a reason to “sing to the Lord.”

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart celebrates, and I give thanks to him with my song.”

Psalm 28:7, CSB

The Psalms repeatedly tell me the incredible power of a life that sings.

The Holy Spirit understands our brokenness. Jesus is interceding for us at this very moment, and I can rise above this tedious mess I have made for myself. This is the only way out for me. Depression is a form of suffering.

I give it to Him. I take the strength and joy He gives.

God Keeps Your Tears in a Bottle

I have cried many tears in my life.

If you have never cried, you can stop reading right now. But if you have shed tears for yourself or for others, or if like me you have shed some without even knowing why or where they came from, take heart. God knows the tears you have shed. Psalm 56:8 says so. Here are several translations of that wonderful verse:

Record my lament;
       list my tears on your scroll —
       are they not in your record? (NIV)

You have taken account of my wanderings;
         Put my tears in Your bottle
         Are they not in Your book? (NASB)

You keep track of all my sorrows.
      You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
      You have recorded each one in your book. (NLT)

Write down my poem of sadness.
      List my tears on your scroll.
      Aren’t you making a record of them? (NIRV)

I love the image of God keeping all my tears in a bottle. I can envision shelves filled with bottles in Heaven, each with a name on it, and an accompanying scroll documenting every tear and lament. Or maybe it is just one huge bottle with all of our tears mingled together.

Today tears are being shed in dark rooms where children are being held as sex slaves, in Africa as people remain homeless and without food and water, in the United States as many remain jobless, in hospitals and on the streets where the mentally ill are forgotten, in homes around the world where people are spiritually lost and have no hope.

We live in a fallen world.

Tragedies happen and humans are not always kind to one another. And so tears are shed. It is hard to fathom God collecting every single one, but He does. He notices and He records each tear and each lament.

The more I think about it, I like the idea that God has mingled all our tears together. The Psalm does refer to God’s “bottle” in the singular. And if He has collected every tear in that bottle, then mingled with our own are the tears of Jesus. In John 11, the apostle records this event: “Jesus wept.” John 11:35.

In this passage, Jesus weeps when He learns of the death of Lazarus.

When they see Him weeping, the people say “See how he loved him!” John 11:36. But I don’t think Jesus was weeping because Lazarus was dead – He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Rather, I think He wept because of the compassion He felt for humanity as we weep over our own tragedies and losses. It is us that He loved so much that it brought Him to tears.

So if you weep today, remember that God is collecting your tears in His bottle, and mixing them with the tears of our dear Savior. Not only that, but God will deliver you from the final trial that lead to tears by redeeming your soul.

For you, O LORD, have delivered 
   my soul from death,
   my eyes from tears,
   my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the LORD
   in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:8-9 (NIV).

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Melancholy Me and My God

In early November, I went to California for a writers retreat. There were only four students and the woman leading the retreat. I learned so much and hung out with a few other wonderful writers. And yet, the poem below is what I wrote the first night after our opening session.

The next day I read it to one of my new writer friends, a woman who has been on this writing journey for a lot less time than I have. She was touched because she had been feeling inadequate and that the rest of us were so much more accomplished than she was.

I do love when God allows me to remember the dark night of the soul in a way that brings cheer and blessing to others.

Why so downcast, Oh my soul?
I understand the psalmist's plea.
Here I am with new friends of gold
But feelings of sadness needle me.
Am I just a fraud pretending to be
One who has something worthwhile to say?
When truth be told, or a lie of old,
Never will I point to God's way.
How I feel runs hot and cold;
Now I am weak when once I was bold.
Powerless and useless are words I hear
Echoing deep in my mind as fear.
Wounds that run deep still bleed
I know they're not true, never were.
But still, still these words Oh Lord.
You are the truth, the life, the way.

I Love Your House! Psalm 84:1-4

Related image
painting: Pieter Neefs

1-2 What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
    I’ve always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
    where I could sing for joy to God-alive!

3-4 Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
    sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
    singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God!
    How blessed they are to live and sing there!

 Psalm 84:1-4, Message

There are some things that leave an indelible mark, and they go very deep down into our souls.  For me, one instance I remember staying at Simpson College on Silver Ave. in San Francisco in June 1986.  The dorms were empty and I had a whole floor to myself.  The campus was gorgeous; the roses were in full bloom.

I found a little “mom and pop” corner market nearby which had an awesome deli. Here I could buy cold cuts, some excellent braunschweiger, and freshly baked sourdough bread. I returned to my room to build my sandwich, and feast.

I remember that the windows were open and there was a beautiful breeze.   Food, warm sun, flowers in bloom and the Holy Spirit was about to ‘plow’ into my life. It would be a holy collision.

It was simply a moment that I captured and savored.  Everything seemed to coincide, it was magical in the best and holiest sense of the word.  It was beautiful, that is all I can say.  That time in that dorm room has become a crystalline moment that I will never forget.  Right there, it seemed I fell in love, not with a girl, but with a moment in time and place. I knew I was on holy ground.

That nostalgia lays thick on the shoulders of the writer of Psalm 84.  He remembers and savors those powerful memories of his visit to the temple.  He was given something at that particular moment that would follow him for the rest of his life.

The beauty of that experience was inviolable and true and could never be duplicated.  This treasure was his. As he aged he could tell his grandchildren, “I walked with God.” And really mean it.

I personally believe God gives us these holy moments, wrapped in wonder and awe.  When the Holy Spirit deeply touches in this way you will never, ever be the same. 

The psalmist has the same hunger for God. 

These moments in the temple which are so blessed have also ‘ruined’ him.   Often special times of God’s presence will result in a ‘sanctified’ dissatisfaction with the present status quo. Brennan Manning once said, “Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured.” You can easily apply it to these verses.  God’s presence “ruins” us forever.

But when we finally make our way to Jesus, life takes on a special and curious wonder.  When the rain finally comes to the barren desert, an explosion of life bursts out.  In much the same way, our lives are ‘watered’ by Jesus. Things get very green and lush as we live in the Spirit.  All of this is in contrast to our dry and desperate life without His presence.

I want to become hungry for His presence. 

I so want to be in the center of wherever He is at.  I admit that His grace and love has spoiled me.  But the love of Jesus does this.  Normal life seems to be nothing more than a boring journey into ‘black & white’, but somehow He turns it all into stunning color.

The psalmist practically begs to be returned to the temple.  He wants to be there, more than anything else. It is now his true home. He will not be satisfied with anything less.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord.
    Apart from you, I have nothing good.”

Psalm 16:2

 

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