"When I first fell in love with Jesus,
I gave Him all my heart.
I thought I could not love him more
Than I did right at the start.
But now I look back over the mountains and the valleys where I've been...
It makes me know I love Him so much more than I did then.
"And I keep falling in love with him
Over and over, and over and over again..."
* * *
It's been a rough week. Heck, it's been a rough decade. But this past week, rougher than usual. By Sunday morning, my ship was dragging bottom.
Sunday morning during worship, a friend preached about the plagues God inflicted on the people in Egypt. A couple of points from James's message that really stood out for me:
- Through the plagues, God displayed his omnipotence, providence, mercy and judgment. God created and rules over all of creation: God is sovereign, even in the midst of terrible circumstances.
- In the plagues, God had a purpose for the Egyptians (including hardhearted Pharoah), AND God had a purpose for his people. While the Hebrews were exempt from some of the plagues, they were not exempt from all of them: God's people suffered under the plagues, too. While God was displaying his power to the Egyptians, He was also transforming the faith of his chosen people. One group ended up broken, wanting the presence and power of God to depart far from them; the other group was moved to worship and was empowered to embark on an arduous journey that demanded they live out their faith in the terrifying but life-giving presence of God.
I felt like Sunday's sermon was written just for me, like God used James (who knew nothing of my heartache) as a mouthpiece to speak to me the very words I needed to hear. Life is hard, people. It is hard for all of us, whether we are redeemed or lost. The good news is: as a child of God, I can be confident that my heavenly Father rules my life and He uses everything - even terrible things, even painful consequences of another's sin and hardheartedness - for my good and for his glory.
Sunday evening, while I was still weary and my heart still sore, a young friend shared her own grief and broken-heartedness, and then she shared how encouraged she had been by the words of another song, "Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken." Together, I sang with sisters in Christ:
Man may trouble and distress me,
Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, tis not in grief to harm me,
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, were not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.
Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor loss is gain.
I have called Thee "Abba, Father;"
I have stayed my heart on Thee;
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.
Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o'er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee;
Think what Father's smiles are thine;
Think that Jesus died to win thee;
Child of heaven, canst thou repine?
Could these words have been more timely balm for my sore heart?! I think not!
Yesterday - Monday - my brother David had a heart attack. I received the news yesterday evening...he and my sister-in-law Tracy were at the hospital...still awaiting test results...messages flying back and forth between family members eager for the latest update, fervent prayers, a restless night...
This morning, a phone call. It was David. Yes, he had had a heart attack, but all is well. From the hospital, David called this morning to tell me, "I have a policy that when I'm feeling down on my luck, when I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself or to think 'Woe is me,' I think of someone else and then I focus my attention and prayers on that other person. I just wanted to call you this morning and tell you that I love you and to let you know I was praying for you yesterday."
David knew nothing of my personal grief, yet - while he was waiting in the emergency room for test results and then undergoing treatment for a heart attack - while I was praying for him - he was praying for me. I wept and laughed at the same time as I told my brother that God knew how much I needed those prayers yesterday!
These past few days, God has been telling me over and over how very much He loves me. He is such an attentive and persistent lover of my soul!
I have written before about The Incredible Sweetness of God's Love. People, this love keeps growing sweeter and sweeter. God is so good. He meets me in my need. I cannot help falling in love with him, over and over, over and over again.
* * *
Are you weary? Is your heart sore today? Perhaps these words will encourage you as they encouraged me and my young friend: