I have found myself staring out the window a lot this past year… I was often hardly able to write and wondered why life had come to this point. I found myself watching for the good in my circumstances. I saw many exciting things transpiring amongst the hurt; our children were all thriving, I loved serving with my church family, hearing the laughter of my grandchildren always brings joy, and then there is my wife’s smile… It hasn’t changed since the day we first met. These are all ‘good’ things. But when your heart aches and you can’t breathe, life just seems upside down, words don’t come easily, and you find yourself staring out the window with more questions than answers.
Amidst this discontent, an enormous question arose in my thoughts, “Where to begin, where do I start to pray?” Prayer was becoming sluggish; it was definitely easier to pray for others than myself. I was settling for the notion that this illness was all God had left for me. The problem with that was it didn’t square with what I knew about God. God is good and desires vibrant lives for His children, even while suffering, ill, and in pain. I knew God uses these circumstances to bring the most glory to His name; He also takes us to places through the hardships that we could never reach any other way. In God’s providence, when I am the weakest, I am strong and most effective. In my humble state, I depend on Him and not my cunning, desires, or energy, and it is at our lowest moments we enjoy a heightened awareness of God’s presence and peace. My perspective was changing; prayer became not about what I wanted but who God is… I found the starting point.
God is Holy and perfect. Amidst David’s struggles, he writes, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection.” (Psalms 18:30 NLT). God is good. Nahum points out that even with God’s prophecy against His people, “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7 NLT) Examples of God’s “good” character are endless because God is infinite; He is perfectly just, long-suffering, and love. He is our Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Lord, just to name a few. Can you even imagine Isaiah’s ‘fear of the Lord’ as he stood in the presence of God, overwhelmed in His Holiness? Talk about not being able to breathe.
This is where we begin, ‘hallowing the name of our Father.’ With this imagery now churning through my mind, I am moved to sing a hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” When we enter into God’s presence through prayer, all the problems we are burdened with and think are most important grow strangely dim when overcome by His perfect goodness and loving-kindness. It’s this scenario that the peace offering displayed when the priests consumed the breast meat and right thigh of the sacrifice; the breast symbolizing the love and affection of Jesus, the thigh, His power. When we take Jesus up on His offer, to “come to Him, weary and burdened, and receive His rest,” we can engage in rest from trying to figure life out on our own and struggling to live by our own insufficient strength. (Matthew 11:28 NLT) Through Christ’s perfect sacrifice, we can be certain, God is Good.
The place to start is in the goodness of God; the place to stay is in the understanding that God is Good. It is this truth Asaph acquired on the anvil of affliction; no matter the heartache, struggle, confusion, or opposition, “it is good to be near God! It is good to make the Sovereign Lord your shelter, from this secure peace, we can tell everyone about the wonderful things He does.” (Psalms 73:28 NLT)
Don’t give up, don’t ever give in; there is hope, and His name is Jesus!
Written by David Brown: David Brown is a husband, father, grandfather, Pastor with a Masters of Religious Studies and a Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religions. Dave is the Associate Pastor of Pemberton’s First Baptist Church.