I was a newly married young woman, and very inexperienced in running a household when I read my first self-help book. My mom was a wonderful example, but she didn’t require much of me beyond cleaning a bathroom and washing dishes. This new bride was an American city girl, who had married a Canadian Mennonite boy. I must have given my mother-in-law many moments of concern. But, I wanted to learn to be the model wife, homemaker.
That first self-help book was written by Ella-May Miller. I believe it was “A Woman and Her Home.” Several of her books helped me in those first years of marriage. Other self-help books followed; those helping me to organize, live a healthy lifestyle, study God’s Word… and the list continues to grow.
When I read scripture I gravitate toward passages in which I am able to map out steps to live closer to the Lord. I love following maps, seeing progress one mile marker at a time.
I recently read the book “The Sacred Romance… Drawing Closer to the Heart of God” by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge. I was looking forward to reading this book thinking I could glean “steps to success” in my “Romance” with God.
I didn’t find those “steps”. What I did find was affirmation that my Romance with God has more to do with me just “being” with God, than “doing” for God. I need to examine my pursuit of God and ask these questions. Am I substituting activity, (Bible Study, Service) for just spending time with God? Do I really know him, or do I just know about him?
The author has recounted a clear picture of the difference between being with God and learning about Him in this dialogue between a young woman anticipating her upcoming marriage to her betrothed.
She: “I’m so looking forward to our wedding day. I do love you so much. I really wish I could see more of you. There’s so much about you I want to know better.”
He: “Yes, dear, I know. I’m going to send you a book that describes more about my life. I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it.”
She: “I’ll be glad to read it. But I just want to hold your hand. [She continues somewhat mischievously.’ I just want to kiss you.”
He: “I’m sure you do, beloved. Let me send you a tape describing the role of physical affection at different stages of courtship. You’ll find it worthwhile, I’m sure.”
She: (Somewhat disappointed) “That’s wonderful, darling. It’s just that I so look forward to our wedding day. I want to be with you so badly. I think of us being, you know, ‘together’, day and night.”
He: “Yes, intimacy is important. I’d like to send you to a weekend seminar that really should be quite helpful.”
I realized, more clearly, that there are times when God desires me to come into His presence with my full attention just on Him. I don’t need to be constantly trying to study and learn more about Him, I just need to come and spend time with Him.
This is not an easy thing to do, but this scripture verse describes my heart’s desire.
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1 (ESV)
There is a difference between meditation and Bible Study. Both fill a separate need in my spiritual life.
Bible study helps me to understand who, what, when, where, why, and how. God expresses the importance of Bible study throughout His Word, and specifically in 2 Timothy 2:15.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV)
Meditation helps me to “be”. However it’s more than the popular thought of “emptying the mind”. This type of meditation leaves room for Satan to slip in and plant his devious thoughts.
I have found that as I quiet my mind, and prepare my heart to listen to God’s voice, it always helps to read words of His written in scripture. When reading for meditation, I need to be sure not to analyze it, but to just read it as a love letter from God to me. The psalms and proverbs are a great place to start. This helps me clear my mind of all the “stuff” of life, and just lets God speak to me. When my meditations are the Words of God, Satan is not able to infiltrate my mind with lies. Reading God’s Word as a love letter helps me to come into His presence with the same anticipation I would have as a new bride. Meditation helps me to “be”.
The author sums it up this way:
“There are oases along the way. It would be a dreadful mistake to assume that our
Beloved is only waiting for us at the end of the road. Our communion with him sustains us along our path.” Pg. 158
Pain and suffering, heartache and struggles are things none of us enjoy, but are familiar to us all. I have friends in two separate situations who are facing extremely difficult times right now. As far as I know, all involved are following Jesus, and trying to obey Him. My heart breaks for them, and I wish that I could take their pain away, if only for a few hours. What I can do is assure them that God is with them and will stay with them every step of the way.
The Bible reading plan that I am following this year had me reading Psalm 34 a couple of weeks ago. In the margin of my Bible, next to the text, I found a date - August 8, 2009. This date brings back a flood of memories. I see now that the content of these verses, and the truths that the speaker pointed out that day, were just what I had needed to survive the next couple of years. I didn’t go back to these verses and consciously follow their guidance, but today I realize the instruction God gives in those verses became part of who I am, and became the way I thought and behaved.
This Psalm brings direction, hope and promise to all who are facing struggles and situations that seem desperate. The verses in Psalm 34 indicate that there are some things we need to do, and, there are things the scripture promises that God will do. The following are a combination of the truths the speaker mentioned in 2009, and some I identified in my current study.
Accept the Lord’s Plans
1 I will praise the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
Admit the Problem (take the problem to Him)
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Applaud God’s Greatness (Rejoice in Him)
1 I will praise the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad.
3 Proclaim Yahweh’s greatness with me; let us exalt His name together.
Abide in God alone (Take Refuge in Him)
8 Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes
refuge in him.
18 The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.
19 Many adversities come to the one who is righteous, but the LORD delivers
him from them all.
Redeems Us (He buys us back)
22 The Lord redeems the life of His servants,
and all who take refuge in Him will not be punished.
We are all familiar with the concept of praising God during hard times. You may be tempted to be angry that these hard times are part of the Lord’s plans. But I think of Job. It was Satan’s idea to tempt Job and bring devastation to him. God allowed it, because He knew the trials would make Job even stronger.
August 26, 2009 will be ingrained in my memory forever. This was the day our 3 ½ year old grandson was diagnosed with leukemia. We did not like what Jon-Marc had to go through, but God has made each member of our family stronger and better Christians because of it. Jon-Marc’s parents have grown in amazing ways. Yes, they had horrible days, they had times of questioning God, but they never turned from Him; they asked for His help and strength.
Yes, heartache comes to the Christian, but God is there. He WILL deliver! He will redeem. He will make up for all of the struggle you are going through and will reward you for taking refuge in Him.
He wants to be with you today. If you are facing the most difficult time in your life, don’t despair. There is hope, and the future will be brighter. Get to know Psalm 34 well. Make it part of your daily reading and practice its instruction. Then claim the promises God gives to all who will trust in Him.
Debi Snider... more