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"No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs." - Psalm 119:54 (CEV)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

From Death to Life


I hate dry spells,

When my spirit feels like it's in the middle of the desert,

Heart totally apathetic,

Not even hating how apathetic it's become.

My mind doesn't doubt,

My mind knows the truth,

But my heart doesn't.

I don't feel anything

And it drives me nuts

Because I know how apathy kills my soul.

I hate dry spells.

 
I'd been in the middle of one for over a week -

Mentally sick and tired of it,

Heart still not caring,

Still not hating what it'd become,

Not even wanting to want God.

He gave me a song to sing from this place,

Besides the many I'd been writing.

I listened over

And over

And over again.

The first verse was almost exactly where I felt I was:

"I know I need You,
I need to love You,
I love to see You, but it's been so long.
I long to feel You,
And I feel this need for You,
And I need to hear You, is that so wrong?"

Why can't I feel You?

Aren't I supposed to be able to feel You?

I know I need You back.

I just can't do it.

I can't bring myself back to life.


Monday, I listened to a sermon.

John Piper.

I'd found it the week before,

But decided to listen to a different one instead.

God knew what He was doing,

That it wasn't time then,

But Monday it was.

He preached on Psalm 43:

Psalm 43

English Standard Version (ESV)

Send Out Your Light and Your Truth

43  Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.
He spoke about the Psalmist,

Described the spiritual condition,

Described where I was to a "T",

Heart divided,

Part of his soul taking refuge in God,

But somehow unable to see what God was doing,

Unable to feel God's presence.

Oh, I have felt this way,

I have felt this way so many times,

And I hate it,

But I can't avoid it.

I can't keep myself from death.


He said that it was common,

Not a good thing,

But common.

He said that all Christians feel like this at some point,

That the man in Mark 9:24 struggled with it,

That Paul in Romans 7:19 struggled with it,

That the psalmist in Psalm 43,

One whose faith was likely deeper than mine will ever be,

He struggled with this.

It's not good,

But it's common.

Maybe we can't appreciate life if we forget what it is to be dead.


The Psalmist faced it head-on.

Piper walked through exactly how he did it.

In Psalm 43:3-4:

First, he speaks to God,

Prays for spiritual light and truth - that his eyes might be opened to the spiritual truth he's blind to,

Comes to the altar of God - the bloody place, yet the place he know is his only hope for forgiveness, led there by "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:4),

Experiences God as his exceeding joy - "the gladness of [his] rejoicing", in more ways than words can express - in the midst of physical threats and battles, he realizes that the ultimate battle is for God to be his exceeding joy, the gladness at the heart of all of his other joys,

Expresses this joy in God - lets the joy overflow into praise of God, knowing the ultimate goal of life is "to enjoy God with overflowing praise"

He wants "a constant, uninterrupted experience of God as his exceeding joy",

"But in reality there are times when he feels forsaken",

Abandoned.

His head knows God has not forsaken him.

His heart feels like He has.

"His deepest strategy to escape this most dangerous condition is to pray":

Psalm 43:3-4

English Standard Version (ESV)

Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

What he does after that seems so strange to me -

This, what I have always thought a strange quirk,

A bad habit,

This speaking to the self,

This, an essential element for finding joy in God? -

But he did it,

Right there in Psalm 43:5

He spoke to his own soul

Psalm 43:5

English Standard Version (ESV)

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.
He preached to himself: 

Hope in God, O my soul.

Find joy in God, O my soul.

Love God, O my soul,

For I shall praise Him,

My salvation and my God.

"My salvation",

The One who brings the dead to life.
 

Thus began my fight to see God again,

To experience Him as my joy.

I prayed for it,

"God show me Your light and Your truth.",

And I preached it to myself,

"Soul, hope in God.

Soul, love God.

Soul, find joy in God,

For I will praise Him."

It was a struggle,

Wasn't really working

Until the strangest thing happened.

I heard a joke on the radio:
"In my parents' house, we're missing a lot of things.  Our chess set is missing six pieces, so we use figures from their Nativity scene as replacements.  My uncle uses this as an opportunity to cheat.  'Uncle, you can't move that piece there, it's a pawn.  It doesn't go that way.'  'Son, that there is the Son of God.  You can move Him wherever you want.'"
And I laughed,

And my soul filled with joy,

Brought from death to life,

Overflowing with the knowledge that,

Though I can't move Him wherever I want,

He can move wherever He wants,

And in that moment,

In that blessed moment,

He chose to move in my heart

And bring me to life again 

And I smiled so wide it hurt,

And laughed and rejoiced

For His abundant grace

In giving me joy.

Undeserved,

Beautiful,

Life-bringing

Joy.

He really does bring the dead to life.

He really, really does.

Thank You.  

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, God.

"God, my exceeding joy."


Fighting for joy this week, 

Starting to realize just what that means, 

And struggling to remember that it's primarily a fight to see God as He is, 

So here I'm counting, 

My own feeble attempt to see God as He is. 

Numbers 708-793 this week:
  1. He takes people who are caught up in a culture of idolatry and leads them into new lands (Joshua 24:2-3)
  2. He gives descendants (Joshua 24:3)
  3. He gives children (Joshua 24:3-4)
  4. He assigns some lands to some people and other lands to others (Joshua 24:4)
  5. He afflicts peoples by what He does (Joshua 24:5)
  6. He puts darkness between His people and their enemies (Joshua 24:7)
  7. He brings the sea over the enemies of His people, covering them (Joshua 24:7)
  8. He brings His people into lands and gives the people of the lands over into the hands of His people (Joshua 24:8)
  9. He blesses His people again and again (Joshua 24:10)
  10. He blesses His people when others would curse them (Joshua 24:9-10)
  11. He does not listen to those whose plans do not line up with His own (Joshua 24:9-10)
  12. He sends the hornet ahead of His people, driving out other peoples (Joshua 24:11-12)
  13. He gives His people lands on which they did not toil (Joshua 24:13)
  14. He gives His people cities they did not build (Joshua 24:13)
  15. He gives His people vineyards and olive groves to eat from that they did not plant (Joshua 24:13)
  16. He should be feared (Joshua 24:14)
  17. He should be served with all faithfulness (Joshua 24:14)
  18. He brings His people out and performs great signs before their eyes (Joshua 24:17)
  19. He protects His people on their entire journey (Joshua 24:17)
  20. He protects His people among all the nations through which they travel (Joshua 24:17)
  21. He drives out before His people all the nations living in the land He has given to them (Joshua 24:18)
  22. He is so Holy and Jealous that His people are unable to serve Him (Joshua 24:19)
  23. He will not forgive His people's rebellion and sins, because He is Holy and Jealous – His people are unable to serve Him (Joshua 24:19)
  24. He turns and brings disaster on those who forsake Him and serve foreign gods (Joshua 24:20)
  25. He makes an end of those who forsake Him and serve foreign gods (Joshua 24:20)
  26. He tells people when to go up (Judges 1:1-2)
  27. He sends angels to speak His words to His people (Judges 2:1-5)
  28. His anger is aroused when His people forsake Him and serve Baal and the Ashtoreths (Judges 2:12-13)
  29. He gives those He is angry with into the hands of raiders who plunder them (Judges 2:14)
  30. He gives those He is angry with into the hands of their enemies all around (Judges 2:14)
  31. He does not give those he is angry with the power to resist their enemies (Judges 2:14)
  32. His hand is against those who forsake Him (Judges 2:15)
  33. He seeks to defeat those who forsake Him (Judges 2:15)
  34. He raises out judges to save his people from the hands of raiders (Judges 2:16)
  35. He relents because of His people's groaning under those who oppress and afflict them (Judges 2:18)
  36. He becomes very angry with those who refuse to give up their stubborn practices and evil ways (Judges 2:19-20)
  37. He does not drive out nations before His people when they violate His covenant (Judges 2:20-21)
  38. He uses other nations to test His people, to see if they will keep His way and walk in it (Judges 2:21-22)
  39. He allows nations to remain and does not drive them out, that He may use them to test His people (Judges 2:22-23)
  40. He leaves nations to test those of His people who had not experienced wars (Judges 3:1)
  41. He leaves nations only to teach warfare those of His people who had not had previous battle experience (Judges 3:2)
  42. He leaves nations to test His people to see whether they will obey His commands (Judges 3:4)
  43. He sells those who forget Him and serve other gods into the hands of foreign kings (Judges 3:7-8)
  44. He raises up a deliverer for those who cry to Him for help (Judges 3:9)
  45. His Spirit comes upon people, and He uses them to rescue (Judges 3:10-11)
  46. He appoints judges, and His Spirit comes upon them (Judges 3:10)
  47. He gives kingdoms into the hands of his judges (Judges 3:10)
  48. He allows his judges to overpower kings (Judges 3:10)
  49. He brings peace to the land for many years (Judges 3:11)
  50. He gives those who do evil over to foreign kings (Joshua 3:12)
  51. He allows foreign kings to attack and take possession of His people when His people have done evil in His sight (Joshua 3:12-13)
  52. He gives deliverers to those who cry out to Him (Judges 3:15)
  53. He gives enemies into the hands of His people (Judges 3:28)
  54. He allows His people to strike down ten thousand, and not one escapes (Judges 3:29)
  55. He makes other nations subject to His people (Judges 3:30)
  56. He gives people such power that they can kill their enemies with an oxgoad (Judges 3:31)
  57. He gives people the power to save (Judges 3:31)
  58. He raises up women as leaders (Judges 4:4)
  59. He hears His people's cry and gives their enemies into their hands (Judges 4:3-7)
  60. He delivers kings into the hands of women (Judges 4:9)
  61. He goes ahead of His people to give kings and nations into His people's hands (Judges 4:14)
  62. He wills women to kill great kings and secure victory for His people (Judges 4:18-23)
  63. He subdues kings before His people (Judges 4:23)
  64. He allows His people to press harder and harder against kings until they are destroyed (Judges 4:24)
  65. The earth shakes when He marches (Judges 5:4)
  66. The heavens pour when He marches (Judges 5:4)
  67. The clouds pour down water when He marches (Judges 5:4)
  68. The mountains quake before Him (Judges 5:5)
  69. He is the One of Sinai (Judges 5:5)
  70. He chooses new leaders when war comes to the city gates (Judges 5:8)
  71. He protects His people from the horrors of war (Judges 5:8)
  72. All His enemies perish (Judges 5:31)
  73. He makes those who love Him like the sun when it rises in its strength (Judges 5:31)
  74. He sends prophets to those who do not listen (Judges 6:7-10)
  75. He sends His angel to the one He has chosen to rescue His people (Judges 6:11-12)
  76. He is with the one He has chosen, His mighty warrior (Judges 6:12)
  77. He sends the one He has chosen to save His people out of the hands of their enemies (Judges 6:14)
  78. He is with the one He has chosen (Judges 6:16)
  79. He waits at the request of the one He has chosen (Judges 6:17-18)
  80. He gives His angel the power to make fire flare from rock, consuming meat, bread, and broth (Judges 6:20-22)
  81. He tells His people to have peace and not be afraid (Judges 6:23)
  82. He is Peace (Judges 6:24)
  83. He commands that the altars of foreign gods be torn down and a new altar be built for Him (Judges 6:25-26)
  84. His Spirit comes on the one He has chosen, that great victories may be won (Judges 6:34-35)
  85. He sends dew – a bowlful! - upon the fleece yet leaves the ground dry (Judges 6:36-38)
  86. He leaves the fleece dry and covers the ground with dew (Judges 6:39-40)

Counting 10,000 Reasons to worship Him:



<a href="http://maryschieferstein.blogspot.com/search/label/10000%20Reasons" target="_blank"><img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8zkGH23srZ8/T2i3Bun0O9I/AAAAAAAABSw/8giPvnJmCPI/s320/10000ReasonsButton.jpg" /></a>
Counting in community:


And linking up at A Holy Experience today, talking about Resurrection - how He and He alone can breathe life into the dead.



Also, please look at some of the other beautiful posts found at the bottom of this one.  Maybe bless the author with a comment?  It's a blessing to know that God has used your imperfect words to bless another.

Italicized, bolded, quoted words lyrics to "Times" by Tenth Avenue North.  Many thanks to these people for their incredible, inspiring music.

Thank you for visiting!

God bless!

  

16 comments:

Sylvia R said...

Hallelujah! Glad He brought you our of your dusky tunnel. I often have to remind myself not to let my feelings bully me. Someone once gave me this saying, "Feelings aren't facts!" So many things can influence them, from fatigue to illness to life in general on this planet. Holding onto faith despite feelings, that's how the faith grows. God bless you. Prayers.

Court said...

He makes all things new! Spring is ushered in by Easter the newest and bestest of the new!

Melody ________________________________ said...

Thank you so much for sharing. Reassuring words to a girl going through her own dry spell. Thank you for telling me that I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mary, (My little daughter's name too!)
I'm so glad that you stopped over at freedom journal and left me note. It gave me the opportunity to come by your place and say..."Wow...how nice that somebody is out there speaking the truth and being real." Thank you for this post...I posted a while back on "It Is Well With My Soul" because I was feeling just like this. Dry. Without joy. Hopeless. Thank God He is the glory and the lifter of our heads, yes? So grateful for His great faithfulness, and that He is a God who understands. Blessings even in the desert, Mary. I've got you on my radar, and I'll be praying for a season of growth. You are....wonderful. :)
Bernadette www.thefreedomjournal.blogspot.com

Mary said...

Before I say anything else to respond to these wonderful, beautiful comments you've all left me, I first must say WOW. I am totally shocked and humbled. I did NOT expect to get four comments on this post, within just a couple of days. I am absolutely amazed that God would use someone as weak, imperfect, and incapable as me to bless others. May He get all of the glory!!!!!
Second, I must thank all of you for helping me to realize just how important it is to share what I'm going through - however ugly it may be. I've been learning a lot lately through listening to sermons about how important it is for the people of the Body to be open and honest with each other, how the best thing we can do for each other is live openly and confessionally, not try to hide the awful, awful mess we are - but I'd never seen it, never really known it to be true. So thank you, thank you, thank you for showing me that. I'm so glad God used my trials to bring some hint of blessing into your lives - and, again, to Him be all the glory!

Mary said...

Sylvia, yes, I'm so glad He brought me out of that tunnel again! He is so merciful and so gracious, pulling me back on that narrow way when I've wandered off for the thousandth time. And you're so right - it is so, so important to hold onto faith despite feelings, but the thing that gets to me in these times is that it's also important for faith to involve feeling. If God is not my delight, then my faith ultimately means nothing. However, John Piper said in one of his sermons, too, that God often reaches people in the most incredible ways when they're in the midst of the desert - just look at Job! So, you're absolutely right. We must hold on in the desert, while we're searching and begging and praying for a way out. Thank you so, so much for your encouragement and friendship! God bless, sister!

Mary said...

Court, thank you for your enthusiasm! Yes, He really, really does make all things new - even a heart as messed-up as mine! And praise Him for Easter, Spring, and all things new, else I might forget that He really does bring the dead to life. Thank you so, so much for your words!

Mary said...

Oh, Melody, prayers for you. It is so, so hard to be in the middle of those dry spells. I'm so glad that God has used my experience to reach you, tell you you're not alone, because you never are. Everyone goes through these. Everyone. Take heart and know that, so long as you're clinging to Him, striving - begging - to want Him again, He will never, never leave you or forsake you. He is Faithful. He is so, so Faithful. God bless you.

Mary said...

Bernadette, I cannot thank you enough for stopping by. Because of the way comments are set up, yours was the first one I read, and I was so blessed to read it. God moved my soul with the knowledge that He can use even my imperfect words to help others. I do strive to be real, at least here, where it's easier. In real life, too, but I fail there so much more often than I succeed. Oh, and I fail here, too. Thank you, though - oh, thank you for telling me I've blessed - rather, that He's blessed through me. It means so much.
Speaking of blessing, Bernadette, I looked at your post "It Is Well With My Soul" (http://www.thefreedomjournal.blogspot.com/2012/02/it-is-well-with-my-soul.html) - so, so beautiful! And it seems that you may have discovered it before I did - how to preach to yourself. "[B]e well, my soul." Oh, yes. Be well my soul. Never alone. Thank you for this incredible blessing.
Oh, yes, Bernadette, He is the glory and lifter of our heads!!! So grateful. So, so grateful. Blessings for you, too. And, thank you for the compliment, but I am not wonderful. Not at all. He is. Only Him. Growth for both of us, sister.

Mary said...

God bless you all, and thank you so, so much - each and every one of you. I truly am so humbled, so blessed! Praise be to God! Praise be to God!

Christina said...

How beautiful, raw, real. I appreciate you opening your heart and sharing this. So many of us go through times like this. John Piper is always an encouragement--sounds like an amazing sermon. Thanks for visiting my little blog, I enjoyed visiting here!

Mary said...

Oh, thank you, Christina! I'm just glad God used my struggles to touch others. And, yes, John Piper is a great encouragement, and it was an amazing sermon. As much as I understand the need to discover things on my own, the practical advice that John Piper frequently gives has been incredibly helpful to me.
Thank you for visiting my quiet little corner of the Internet! I'm glad you enjoyed it! God is so gracious to allow the rambling thoughts I post here to bless others. I really enjoyed visiting your blog, and I truly appreciated your honesty in sharing about things that all of us struggle with. It was both convicting and encouraging! Thank you so much!

Natasha said...

I can't bring myself back to life... How I need that reminder! It is Him and only Him.

Mary said...

Oh, and I need that reminder, too, Natasha. Every single day. I am so good at forgetting that only He can bring the dead to life. "Him and only Him." Yes! Thank you so much for visiting and commenting! It's such a blessing!

Melody ________________________________ said...

Thank you so much for your sweet comment. You really don't know how much it means to me. What a comfort Christ's body is! He is so gracious to not let us struggle alone, but to place us where brethren can minister to us. You have ministered to me and thank you.

Mary said...

Oh, Melody, I'm so glad that God used my imperfect words to speak to you. I'm so glad that He let whatever I said mean something to you. It really is a comfort, being with His body, for He uses His people to bless each other in amazing ways. He really is so gracious to give us community, not to asks us to struggle through it all alone. Thank you for your beautiful comment. I'm so humbled and blessed that God has ministered to you through me.

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