My dear friend Carolyn is someone I have tons of respect for. I am very thankful that God brought her into my life several years ago. I have never, ever been in her presence that I did not laugh. Not once that I can remember. She’s just that kind of person. And so are her sisters. One of her sisters, Shirley, gave me a book a few weeks ago. Shirley is one of those people that just shines with God’s grace and love. Her husband has had a number of severe strokes and she barely ever has a chance to get out of the house, though we’re hoping that might change soon. Everyone needs a break from time to time. Anyway, back in September Carolyn, our friend (and pastor’s wife) Mary, and I went up to Cincinnati to a Quilt and Craft Expo. Shirley lives in Cincy and though she could not get away long enough to come to the expo with us, she did come to the convention center to say hi and to give me this book. It is called, “Streams in the Desert” and is a collection of devotions by L. B. Cowman. It has been edited by Jim Reimann, the same man who edited “My Utmost for His Highest.” It is the updated edition, put into modern language for clarity. This blog post title will take you to the Amazon page for the book. You can get access to the original version of the book for free via Crosswalk.com. The original version is by no mean unreadable, it’s just not as easy to digest as the Updated Edition.
Shirley included a very sweet personal message to me on the inside page. It begins with, “This book has spoken to my heart straight from the heart of God.” How powerful is that! I was so blessed just by the book alone. When I got home and opened it and read Shirley’s note, it gave me such a rush of comfort to feel the love and encouragement in her words. I just cannot express how precious both Carolyn and Shirley are to me. They have loved me and been friends to me virtually from the day we first met. They introduce me as a part of their family. They are great gifts from God, and I am profoundly grateful for them.
So, in the post I made yesterday I mentioned how I was struggling with some anxiety over what the future may hold for me. I don’t seem to feel a lot of stress, or at least I don’t always recognize it consciously. But it is having an impact on me. I mentioned my blood pressure, which is not something I’ve ever had an issue with in the past. Yet it is and has been high enough for my oncologist to prescribe medication for it. And while I have had an issue with grinding my teeth in my sleep for years, I now catch myself clenching my jaw even while I am awake. Obviously, I’m feeling more anxiety and stress than I realized. I trust God in this situation I am facing. I have no choice. I KNOW He is in control and that whatever comes, whether the next round of chemo is easy or hard, or whether I have a recurrence or metastases in a few months or a few years, or 17 years (as has just happened to one of the ladies on the Cancer Survivors Network, or if I never have to face cancer again. God is in control of everything “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (KJV) A little bit more modern: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)
That is such a simple thing to read, but sometimes so difficult to put into practical use in our lives. It’s so easy to give in to the human impulse to question God’s motives, to even demand that He change His perfect will and give us what we think is best or what we want. And it is so very easy to lose some of our trust in Him. When we are facing something frightening or potentially devastating, we WANT to have complete trust in God, to utterly rely on what Romans 8:28 tells us. To KNOW, with everything inside us, that WHATEVER happens, God will be there with us and will help us through it and that the end result is and will be exactly what He knows is best. We’re frail creatures, always asking questions when we ought to be listening and trusting. I have often wondered how it was that the Israelites could have so easily lost their faith in God when He was right there in their midst as He led them out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea and fed them with manna from heaven, and so many other things. And how in the world could the disciples have been surprised to find the tomb empty that first Easter morning? They had seen Jesus perform countless miracles, including raising the dead back to life, yet despite the fact that Jesus warned them of what was coming and promised them that He would rise again, they ran and hid in fear after His crucifixion and were shocked when the tomb was empty. Why? How? Because they were just like us, like me. It didn’t matter how many miracles they’d witnessed. (I’ve seen my share.) It didn’t matter how intimate a relationship they had with God or His Son. (I’ve known Jesus for many years, since my early teens, yet I still find myself wanting to go my own way.) They were mere men. Filled with all the same flaws that necessitated Christ’s death on the Cross. Out of the sight and presence of God, they fell back on their flawed human emotions and understanding. There’s a very good reason why we are told over and over again to draw near to God. To stay in His presence. Because outside of it we are too weak to fight our own nature.
So I picked up “Streams in the Desert” today and opened it to October 13th and what do you suppose I saw? This may be copyright infringement, but I’m not making money off this and I’m giving the author and editor credit, so I hope it will be okay. Here is the devotion, as written in the Updated Edition, for October 13. According to the book, all Scripture is taken from the NIV.
Do not be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:6)
Anxiety should never be found in a believer. In spite of the magnitude, quantity, and diversity of our trials, afflictions, and difficulties, anxiety should not exist under any circumstances. This is because we have a Father in heaven who is almighty, who love His children as He loves His “one and only Son” (John 3:16), and whose complete joy and delight is to continually assist them under all circumstances. We should heed His Word which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
“In everything” – not simply when our house is on fire or when our beloved spouse and children are gravely ill, but even in the smallest matters of life. We are to take everything to God – little things, very little things, even what the world calls trivial things. Yes, we are to take everything, living all day long in holy fellowship with our heavenly Father and our precious Lord Jesus. We should develop something of a spiritual instinct, causing us to immediately turn to God when a concern keeps us awake at night. During those sleepless nights, we should speak to Him, bringing our various concerns before Him, no matter how small they may be. Also speak to the Lord about any trial you are facing or any difficulties you may have in your family or professional life.
“By prayer and petition” – earnestly pleading, persevering and enduring, and waiting, waiting, waiting on God.
“With thanksgiving” – always laying a good foundation. Even if we have no possessions, there is one thing for which we can always be thankful – that He has saved us from hell. We can also give thanks that He has given us His Holy Word, His Holy Spirit, and the most precious gift of all – His Son. Therefore when we consider all this, we have abundant reasons for thanksgiving. May this be our goal!
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7) This is such a wonderful, genuine, and precious blessing that to truly know it, you must experience it, for it “transcends all understanding.”
May we take these truths to heart, instinctively walking in them, so the result will be lives that glorify God more abundantly than ever before. George Muller, from Life of Trust
Search your heart several times a day, and if you find something that is disturbing your peace, remember to take the proper steps to restore the calm. Francis de Sales
Tell me God isn’t in charge! He knew how I would be feeling, knew I needed a little encouragement and a reminder of Him. There are those out there who would call it coincidence. But I don’t believe in luck or coincidence or chance. I believe in God, the Creator of the universe and all within it, including me. He knows me like no other. He knows my heart, even when I don’t. And He put these words here for me today, to uplift me and strengthen me as I go through this journey He has called me to.
Honestly, words fail me. Those who know me, know that’s a rare occasion. 🙂 I wish I could describe the flood of joy and comfort I felt as I read this short little devotion. See, like the Children of Israel or the disciples of our Lord, I have felt God’s presence in my life so many times. I have felt Him and known Him over and over and over again, yet I still let my human nature get in the way.
God forgive me for that. And thank You so very much for never giving up on me, for loving me and staying right by my side even when I’m distracted and not paying attention to You, Lord. I am blessed beyond measure. I am so thankful for all You have given me, for all You have done for me. Thank you, Lord, for being Who You are!
Remember that God is always in control. All we ever have to do is LET Him work. As the old saying goes, “Let go and let God.” Perhaps I should have that tattooed on my forehead. (Just kidding.) But it would do us all good, me especially, to strive every moment of every day to actively seek out God’s presence. To hunger for Him with all our heart and soul. As the Bible tells us, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” Mark 12:30 (KJV)
This is often easier said than done. It takes a devout commitment and dedication that I so often lack. But I want it. Like Paul, I do what I don’t want and don’t do what I want to do. “And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”Romans 7:18-25 (NLT) Lord, grant me strength to overcome my sinful nature. Give me peace and understanding, courage and endurance. Forgive me for entertaining doubts, for letting anxiety and fear creep into my thoughts. I love and trust You, Lord. I know You are the Author and Finisher of my faith, that You have embraced me as Your beloved child. Thank You for all the blessings You bestow on me each day. Thank You for loving me even when I was unlovable. Thank You for Your great plan of Salvation. I just want to draw nearer to You, to be so close to You that no doubt can enter into me. And Thank you for the wonderful friends You have given me, women of faith who uplift me without even realizing it. They are such great gifts to me! Bless each and every one of them, Lord, as they bless You through their generosity and love. Amen. Thank you for reading this. I had to post this update because I found God’s way of letting me know He’s still there and still cares too amazing not to share. He is still on the throne. He is still in control. And there are miracles happening every day, all around us. We can see them if we’ll just open our eyes and our hearts to God!