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All I Ever See is this Manna

24 Jan

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”  Numbers 11:4-6

Most Judeo-Christian believers know the story of the manna and the quail.  While the Israelites were wandering in the desert for 40 years, nourishment was scarce.  Conditions made it impossible for them to cultivate anything for themselves. God, in order to prove to them that he sees and sustains, fed them every morning with a miraculous wafer-like substance they called “manna.” The whole thing exhibited His limitless power over nature, all while repetitively nourishing them.

And in just a few paragraphs, they are over it.  This wasn’t a quiet objection, either.  It was a complete uproar: “Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents.”  Wailing.  “We never see anything but this manna!”  Paraphrased, they thought: miracle or not, this food is so boring and monotonous that we would rather regress.

This story has always stumped me!  They had come out of Egypt via spectacular, supernatural, showstopping miracles.  On top of that, God performed a DAILY feeding miracle for them.  And here they are objecting?  His sustenance was delivered to them without a drop of individual or collective effort, and they are not impressed at all.  This is preposterous!

What a picture of humanity.  What a picture of me.


The physical story of the manna represents a spiritual reality.  Manna each morning sounds familiar… sounds like our daily bread, from the bread of life, Christ, who taught that man does not live on bread alone but from every word that comes from the mouth of God.  In a great mystery, He himself is the Word become fleshChrist even calls himself the Manna.   

HERE IS WHERE I AM THE ISRAELITE.

When I wake up in the morning, I look at my Bible and my prayer journal and think, “Meh.  Blah.  This again? I know all about it.  The Word, your love, and the security of salvation?  Bo-ring.  Yawn.  You know what would be interesting?  Fixing the thing.  Getting me out of this dang desert even if it means going backwards.  I am totally fine with backwards in this case. 

I have been in a dreadfully long season of pain and disappointment in a certain area.*  Emotional desert.  I have years of built-up head knowledge to rationalize every emotion that I experience in this wilderness…but all the knowledge and striving in the world doesn’t extinguish even one drop of the heartache.

I know everything I need to know to overcome all of this.  I know God works everything for the good for those whom he has called.  I know he uses the pain to shape us into His creation.  I know He will be faithful to complete his good work in me.  I know that in this world we will have trouble, and that these fiery trials come to prove our faith to be genuine.

I know all these things; I have the manna in my hand.  But I crave other things…glory, prosperity, significance…elusive stuff I had in the past and stuff I see all the other people enjoying.  I have to move through my day in these disappointing circumstances…and THAT’S IT.  No change in events.  New day, same feelings, same Lord. 

This manna is boring!  I want more.  I want the thing.  

The Israelites decided they were bored with the manna, but they could not have gone long without eating it.  Even though it was boring, it physically sustained them so they ate it anyway.  In my own desert, I can willingly go for ages without taking my daily bread portion, but at what cost to my spiritual health? 

There is a sermon in that.  Eat it anyway.


So, this is an impasse.  What do we do with this?  What do I do with this same ol manna? 


Humble yourself.  Who the heck do I think I am?  Look at the words spoken to Job: Brace yourself.  Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Does the shorebreak of the ocean obey you?  Can you trace the path of light all the way back to its source?  You wouldn’t dream of approaching the nest of a simple cobra in the wild—but you sure seem to have enough courage to question its Maker.  Do you think you are going to get out of the consequences of living in a sin-shattered world?

Bad things happen.  Yes, even to you.  Not exactly a devotional Sarah Young would include in Jesus Calling, yet helpful to maintain correct perspective on dreadful circumstances.

Acceptance.  Acceptance isn’t natural.  It’s equated with quitting/giving up, but it’s not.  Americans in particular have a hard time with the concept of “there is nothing we can do about this.”  Acceptance is hard, it’s a personal journey, and some arrive sooner than others.  Still, try.  Go through the motions of saying you accept it.  Be willing to say, “I can’t fix this, but HE can.  I am willing to step out of the way and let Him work.”  Improved feelings will eventually arrive.

Ask this question: If Jesus comes back tomorrow, does any of this matter?  We are so bad about living in the future, and getting so bummed out about that notional hypothetical possibility.  (I am 100% stuck on this right now.)  Let’s keep our head down and eyes on today.  Is His bread of love and salvation enough for you if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow?  If He comes back tomorrow, His bread feels a lot more significant and valuable right now.

ID what is not boring, and thank Him for it, because all those things are from Him too.  They are part of the daily bread.  This goes back to mindful thankfulness, healthy distractions, exercising your creativity, and the myriad of other things that He puts in front of us day after day.   

Then abideEat it anyway.  Sometimes the Word is exhilarating and we come away supernaturally recharged.  Other times we open and close it with no change in feelings…but it never goes down without taking root.  Lysa TerKeurst said it best just this week: Scripture, like rain, brings us immediate nourishment and refreshment for our present circumstances (Psalm 19:7-10), but it also plants seeds to sustain us in the future (Isaiah 55:10).


It is okay to admit the manna is boring, we are human. But just because something is boring, doesn’t make it irrelevant.  Just like bread, we can’t go long without it.  Take and eat.

 

**Don’t worry your pretty little head about me.  It’s not any of the big four D’s: death, divorce, depression, disease. 

A Broken Spirit is not Despised

6 Jun

So there we were, my two littlest girls and I, creating another batch of playdoh cookies.  The girls were happily mashing discs of colorless playdoh together to make “oreos” while blissfully singing another round of Baby Shark, Space Unicorn. and Spaghetti Cat;  I sat across from them.  Sobbing. 

I am not talking about a loud boo-hooing, ugly cry.  This was an ominous, reckless torrent of silent tears.  They continually brimmed, poured over my eyelids, ran down my face, collected under my chin and pooled onto the plastic craft table.  Brimmed and poured.  Brimmed and poured.  I had to use a kitchen towel to sop it all up.  This was for about the fifth day in a row.

Crying while playing playdoh just means that I am a high-functioning malcontent. 

–Or–maybe it signifies the return of my malady.


Is there a healthy way to battle depression?

How do I get through this tunnel?  It seems so so long.  I don’t know.  But when I am in it, I am sick.  Truly ill, and recognizing that makes me feel a little more free.  I know I have done everything in my power not to feel this way, for it not to be true, to reason my way out of it, to ensure I have the right nutrition and chemical balance. 

But it just is.

Do you see how everything starts with the word “I”?  I this, I that.  What a shamefully selfish place to be.  I am so self-involved.  Jarrod Jones wrote about this in his Ten Ways to Support Someone with Mental Illness.  This is an inherently selfish disease, but what disease is not?  You can break your pinkie toe, and the pain will take over everything in your day, become all you can think about. 

Depression is much the same way.  I can’t think about anything else, I just want it to stop.  And so I have to wait.  I must wait well. 

I wake up in the morning and think–am I going to be better today?
Let me get my coffee and hopefully this fog will vanish.

It’s still here.
Is this real?–Is this in my head?–Am I making a choice?

I have found some freedom in resignation, akin to moving on in the stages of grief.  I don’t like this about myself, and I scratch to get away from it all.  But it festers like a nasty emotional infection.  I can’t undo any of this with all the positive thinking in the world.  So I wait.  I am not going to try to hash it out anymore.  I am going to just settle.  Just be.

I do everything I can to wait with my dignity and grace intact:

I talk less.  I do less.  Plenty of good comes from doing and saying less.  I take comfort in that.  I relish the quiet time with my husband.  There’s nothing more to discuss about all this.  If I can’t change myself, he certainly can’t change me.  So we sit quietly.  He sits next to me shoulder to shoulder.  Holds my hand.  We enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.  A funny episode of TV.

I fall asleep earlier.  The storm in my head makes me tired.  I crave silence and wear earplugs to block everything out.

Am I being mean to my family?
They deserve an upbeat mother who throws parties and is a cheerleader.

They are getting quiet-me.

I am still functioning.  Doing laundry, making all meals, making sure they are all bathed and fed.  I make lunches and make sure everyone gets hugs and kisses even if I feel like an empty ghost.  I get up and take the little ones for an outing.  That’s worth something.  They have quiet-me to take them around. 

That has to be better than couch-me.

I still attend my bible study groups.  I still host my brown bag lunch group.  Even though I feel utterly disconnected, I go through the motions, and the motions matter.  I won’t stop trying.  I keep putting one foot in front of the other.  That is what I am doing for my family.  They have to know that I am doing everything I can.

I say “I love you” to everyone.
That’s everything I can do, regardless of how I feel


What will people think? 

There are recognizable triggers for my crashes but I don’t need to unpack them here.  

My mindchaos makes no sense to people who see my happy marriage, five healthy children, an “adventurous” life, my health, and the myriad of other blessings I enjoy daily.  People in my closest circles, with whom I have privately shared my struggle, have literally recoiled before me.  It’s bewildering when someone reacts to me that way.  

Yet one of my darkest seasons taught me that there just are people who can not handle pain.  I have to forgive them for that.  

I have begged my family not to share my situation with anyone…because I don’t want to be labeled “a negative person” and then written off entirely.  I don’t want my cyclical melancholy weirdness to interfere in friendships or cause someone to feel rejected.  So, in a rather desperate bid to be understood, I’ve started selectively telling my friends about my struggle with this.

But what if they don’t believe in depression?
Transparency is risky. 

The most crushing reality of all this mess is how I feel untied from my husband.  I see the look of helplessness on his face and another layer of guilt grows.  I can see how my hurting hurts him.  I best get myself together, and quickly before the tide turns, and *he* just can’t anymore. 


A broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise.  

This scripture I’ve read 100 times before, but it came freshly alive in the midst of all the quiet and fear and darkness.  It was sheer light breaking through.

  • Am I broken?
    Yes.  A thousand times yes. 
  • Am I contrite?
    I wake up and empty out my pockets to God every day.

I know the twofold root of my mess:
1.  A messed up (sinful/selfish) heart.
2.  Not being exempt from the disappointments and maladies of our broken world.

Still, brokenness overcomes me and whittles me down to the bone.

But all this: the feelings, the anguish, the spirit of confusion, the quietness…
NONE OF IT IS DESPISED by God.  

What breath that is for me when I feel like I can’t find air.   

I’ll continually pursue healing, and

  • He
  • won’t
  • despise
  • me
  • like this.

He can when everyone else can’tSome people have no grace for this, but His grace is sufficient for me: I don’t need validation from outsiders.

God is here–He is near to the brokenhearted, saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18)

He won’t recoil.  

pc: Hannah Daroczy

How to See Light when Walking Through Nothing but Darkness

27 Jan

Leaves use light to make food to nourish the tree.

I had an “aha” moment this morning after a group-chat with my friend who recently lost two pregnancies and her fertility due to complications.  Understandably, she is grieving deeply.  I have had losses myself and know acutely how deep the pain can sear.

Our group was reading John 8:12, focusing on the concept of light.  In that passage Christ instructs, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  We all kicked the idea back and forth when finally, she posed a very good question:

How can this be true when I’ve been walking through lingering darkness, despair, and disappointment?  And, I know many other earnest believers suffering overwhelming, relentless depression.  This verse doesn’t seem to be true.

I was sitting there simply dumbfounded and slightly panicked.  She was right.  Come to think of it, everyone I know has walked through seasons of utter despondency, grief and long spells of darkness.

Suddenly, it dawned on me.  Maybe we were defining the word “light” incorrectly.   Maybe we attached false expectations onto that one word.

Light is a tool.  A guide.  Illumination.  Enlightenment.



Not absence of pain.


“Darkness” is the typical language we use to describe the experience of pain.   It feels gloomy, foggy, oppressive, disappointing, and sometimes endless.   We await a “light” at the end of the tunnel.  But some tunnels do not have a light at the end (here on Earth.)  Some dark things are only resolved by God who will make everything sad come untrue in the fullness of time.

💡Light is knowing that.


Without the Light, we trudge alone through the storms of pain by “using.”  We use.  Not just alcohol and drugs…we use anything that covers over pain for a short time.  Food, exercise, friends, shopping, reading, sleeping are all good things, but they are not good permanent relievers of pain.  In spite of long periods of pain, we don’t need to rummage for fix after fix after fix.  

💡Light points out false remedies.


In the pit of pain, the darkness makes you panic.  It is common to exclaim, “I don’t know what to do or where to turn!”  With this light of Christ in hand, we can know.  We don’t get a view of the entire path of healing.  However, we can determine what to do today.  We advance incrementally, and in hindsight we look back to see our custom-built path for healing well. 

💡Light illuminates the next step.


Carrying the burden of pain increases internal stamina and fortitude.  We develop a core strength only developed through the struggle.  There is another personal reward: a sense of validity, legitimacy, community, solidarity with the other members of the long line of human suffering.

💡Light showcases the sinews of strength the sad journey amassed in you.


Darkness makes it feel like the joy of others is shallow and nearsighted.  If I am in pain, then I want other people to understand and I want them to feel my pain.  A “no-one-gets-me” air proliferates until you are rendered powerless and unmotivated to contribute to anything or anyone.  Only gratitude can push back this clouded thinking.      

💡Light spotlights your blessings, drives out pain-pride.


Not everyone knows where to get this light.  If we have it, we have to share it.  This does not mean just talk about the light.  Light is spread by meeting needs.  Someone is always in need.  An act of kindness or generosity will instantly break through someone’s darkness.  Keep scanning for hardship, and then be an action-taker.

💡Light blazes like a fire.  If someone is cold, build one for them.    


It is going to be increasingly important to be able to identify all sources, facets and conduits of light in a world of viral abject darkness.  I will be all over John 8:12 from now on.  Following Him empowers me with the light for illuminated life.  

Thanks for musing over these thoughts with me.

Leigh


 

These same trees during the dark season are thriving on strength that came from light of days gone by.  They have all they need today to make new buds for tomorrow. 


Read More:

How to Wait Well


Clean Eating versus Heart Satiety

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