May 7 2023 What to do even Before You are Overwhelmed
7th May 2023
Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. 9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. 10 "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
We are going to pick up where we were last week -
Psalm 61: Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint (overwhelmed); lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Lead me up to an inaccessible rocky summit!)
God will never give you more than you can bear?
At times, all of us will feel overwhelmed – stressed out – “I can’t take it anymore!” – and when that happens – sometimes, an inspirational quote like the one above – just doesn’t work!
God will never give you more than you can bear?
There are things we can’t bear on our own – we need a Rock that is higher – a resource that is higher – because our own resources and strength get exhausted and fail.
The Bible tells us that something else is God/Jesus.
Here is the problem – sometimes it appears that God is the problem and not the solution. That is what the psalmist is trying to tell us. It APPEARS that God is the problem. The Psalms identify and address those experiences in our lives – and how we should respond.
Paul had a similar experience – we see this in 2 Corinthians – because of all the revelation Paul has been given – and this unbelievable, miraculous conversion – all these things he has seen – he had been given a thorn in the flesh – a messenger of Satan – to buffet him and make him rely on God.
No one knows what this is. A lot of people try to guess. But it is something he cannot bear on his own.
2 Cor. 12:8-9 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
Pleaded – to beg, cry out, implore – psalm language – take this away! I can’t take it anymore – but God…
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
God is saying - Paul – there is only one way to bear it – and it is My grace and strength – you cannot do this on your own.
And so it is with us – we need God’s grace and power – how do we take hold of it?
Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (NLT – because it is helpful to see something different)
In the exact same book of the Bible, it says this:
Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1
So – which is it? Ever-present in trouble? Or far-off in trouble?
These two things seem to contradict! Can both be true?
The Psalms are an expression of an individual’s experience of God at a given moment. Each psalm you read is an expression of an individual’s experience at that moment.
Yes, it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, but written by psalmists.
I have never written a psalm – but God has inspired them to write – and they are writing in relation to what they are going through. So both can be true.
Without Psalm 10:1 in our lives – we never get to Psalm 46:1
Here is another familiar passage:
Psalm 13: 1 How long, O LORD? Wilt Thou forget me forever?
How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Look at me! Answer me, (NLT! – the rest is from NASB)
Like a little kid – look at me! Answer me!
Sound familiar? How long, O Lord?
The only difference between 10:1 and 46:1 is time. And sometimes it is a long time!
This is the way of the Bible -not to go all Mandalorian on us…
Think of Abraham and Sarah – it was a LONG time! 70 years of marriage or more before God answered them!
Moses – at the burning bush – I have heard the cries of My people and seen their suffering (but it had been going on for a hundred years!)
These great missionary biographies – how many went through the ‘Dark night of the soul’?
As Psalm 13 continues – there is a turning point of sorts -
O LORD my God! Revive me, or else I will die! 4 Then my enemy will say, "I have defeated him!" Then my foes will rejoice because I am upended.
He is in complete despair. The current reality feels like it is going to end badly!
Then he says this:
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the LORD's praise, for he has been good to me.
There is this turning point – here is what is important, he is saying – but he is not feeling this – it is a prayer of faith – he just told us – I am dead without You, God – but in his brain – I know You are faithful, and I am going to by faith, say this prayer.
This is not one of those euphoric moments where he is lifted out of this – it is a desperate prayer of faith.
This one is NLT, too – and sometimes it is good to read that – I like this one:
Psalm 35: 17 O Lord, how long are you going to just stand there and watch this?
Everything in life is collapsing! Don’t just stand there, do something!
God wants this kind of raw, real language to come out of us to Him. We must allow ourselves to speak in this way to God because that is what He wants. That is why the Psalms are filled with it – it is a prayer guide – 150 of them – not instructions, but examples that we can use and partake in.
Rescue me from their destructive attacks; guard my life from the young lions!
Walter Brueggemann: Real prayer is being open about the negativities and yielding them to God. What is clear is that they are never yielded unless they are fully expressed. (Walter Brueggemann)
You cannot yield to God if you have not fully expressed the real, raw language of what you are experiencing.
Jesus, in the garden – crying out loud cries in agony, dripping sweat of blood – but not My will, but Yours.
My God, why have You forsaken Me? Into Thy hands I commit My spirit.
Before we can see circumstances change, we must receive God’s grace.
I want to go back to Psalm 46 – and see – learn – how to receive God’s grace in our own lives.
Psalm 46 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Cease striving and know that I am God.
That is how we yield. Stop. Just stop your own ways and trying – and know that I am the only One who can do this!
There is a verse in the Psalms – not exactly in context right – and I am all about context…
Let him pray to Him in the flood of many waters – and they will not find Him.
We wait until the big disasters hit to receive grace. And we train ourselves NOT to receive grace, strength, and live in His grace and power.
We need to learn to receive His grace and power in the daily routine stuff – learn to live those times in God’s grace and strength! SO when we get to when everything comes on top of us – we are ready.
Like the guy who has been on the couch for 20 years and decides to run a marathon. He might get to the end of the block! But we need to train – be formed emotionally and spiritually. We HAVE been formed – and how you have been formed – that is how you respond when the stuff comes.
Family of Origin – we’ve really been formed by our family – we lived with them during our most formative years. Some of that has been helpful – some not – and some harmful. Even if you were raised in a good or the perfect family – some may have been good – but there was always bad.
Maybe you were raised in Mayberry – by Andy and Aunt Bee – and maybe have more percentage of helpful – but you have harmful.
Another impact – initial Christian way of life – and it will form how you respond and react to things.
Let’s say shame and guilt were a big part of your formation – when something goes wrong – failed marriage – loss of job – issues with children – you will respond with guilt, shame, and regret.
That will affect you internally – and externally with the relationships with others – our formation – we enter with these negative responses – only making things worse – if not in your own life – but in others as well
Fear and anxiety are huge – we have been taught to be afraid – and when relationship conflict comes up – we respond with fear and anxiety
Control and manipulation – how you learn things – and what you will do when decisions are going against you.
We could go on forever about that.
How do we relearn, reform how we receive God’s power and strength –
4 simple practical ways to do this:
First – spend much time in the Psalms – it is the most extensive book in the Bible in addressing our spiritual needs and formation.
In my 40+ years of following Christ – most of the time, I am reading a psalm per day.
We are emotional and spiritual beings – and they just keep bringing us back to that. They are so helpful in helping us to respond.
Learn the lesson of Paul: Apart from Christ, I can do nothing! Have a mindset of humility – that weakness is okay – and to enter into partnership with Christ in the things in which we struggle.
HE wants to join us – as a team member
3rd – enter each day looking for grace and strength! Where can I find God’s grace? Be aware – look for His helping presence even when He seems far away.
For anxiety – those kinds of issues – Phil. 4:6-7
What I am learning to do – when anxious moments and thoughts come up – I quote that verse and make my request to God. And the peace of God floods my heart – for how long? About a second! But as we train ourselves daily – like the runner not making it to the neighbor’s house –
Dallas Willard – the Restoration of the Heart
Fourth and finally – take a regular grace exam! Look back over the day, week, month, year – not legalistically – but regularly take times – look back and ask – and do this in relationship with God:
Where did I experience God’s grace and power?
Was there a time I recognized God’s grace in my life?
People have been doing this for thousands of years – take the great Saints of old?
When you are in the midst of it – you might not even know it - but looking back – O wow!
Second question – where did I miss an opportunity to receive God’s grace? Was there something or somewhere He was trying to make His grace available?
What practices can I do to help me be aware and receive God’s grace.
I love the term – Sacred Pauses – that I can take in my routine to turn my attention back to God to look for His grace and strength in those moments.