Practicing Lent: Prayer Journaling

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

Every morning I grab a cup of tea and sit in the comfy chair in my office. I settle in with my Bible for a quiet time with the Lord. I may spend the time working through a book of the Bible or completing the homework for my small group study. I have a small stack of memory verse cards that I review and a prayer list to guide my prayer time.

I love this time with the Lord, but can I be honest here? The thing I most struggle with is prayer. I’m so grateful that God hears my cries to Him. I feel so blessed that through Christ we have the privilege of approaching God in prayer.

But too often, I’m in the middle of interceding for a friend and a stray thought enters my brain asking, “What will you make for dinner tonight?” I berate myself for my lack of concentration and turn back to the prayer at hand, but the next minute my thoughts wander to the heaps of laundry that must be done or the long list of errands for the day.

Because I struggle with attention in prayer, I have found prayer journaling helpful. Putting pen to paper keeps my mind on talking to God instead of my grocery list. The physical act of writing focuses my thoughts.

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Ways to Use a Prayer Journal

There are many ways to use a prayer journal. Here are a few ways that have been helpful for me:

  • Recording an account of your prayer requests and God’s answers. Write down your request and the date you first prayed for that person or concern. When the prayer is answered, write down the date and a prayer of thanksgiving.
  • Pouring out your heart to God. When I’ve been in a particularly difficult season, I have used the pages in my journal to ask God questions, to empty out my anger, or to vent my frustration. King David’s example in the Psalms shows me that God does not seem to mind this. He listens to His children and knows that after I have poured out my problems, I am more ready to receive His peace.
  • Keeping a gratitude journal. For a season, I daily wrote down three things for which I was thankful. By intentionally seeing all that God had already given me, my whiny, discontented attitude was changed.
My Favorite Way to Journal My Prayers

But this is my favorite way to use my prayer journal:

  • Respond to Scripture. By turning what I read in God’s Word into a prayer, my mind is focused and I am able to apply what I have read.

For instance, one day I read Matthew 22 and these words from the Parable of the Wedding Feast struck me:

Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business. Matthew 22:4-5

And I wrote this prayer:

Lord, forgive me when I have ignored Your invitation to spend time with You. When I have gone off to my business–not giving You the time You deserve. Thank You for providing a feast for those You love. You give us all Your richest blessings–too often I ignore them. Thank You for Your love and forgiveness.

You don’t need a formula for your prayers. Just let the Holy Spirit guide you.

But if you would like a starting point, here are some questions to direct your prayers:

  • What in this passage inspires me to praise God?
  • What does this passage prompt me to confess?
  • How does the passage inspire me to pray for myself?
  • How does it inspire me to pray for others?
  • How does this passage spark thanksgiving?
  • What does this passage teach me about God?
  • How does this passage prompt me to pray over my everyday life and decisions?
Through Christ, we have the blessing and privilege of approaching God in prayer. Click To Tweet

Grab a journal or a spiral notebook. Or start a new file on your computer. Open up God’s Word and write out your prayers.

Next step: Find a place to journal your prayers: fancy journal, half-used spiral notebook, computer file. For the next 5 days journal your prayers. Click here to find inspiring Scriptures and prayer prompts.  

Practicing Lent: Palms Down, Palms Up Prayer

 

practicing

This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

In her wildly popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo encourages her readers to get rid of any belongings that no longer spark joy. That cardigan you loved, but is now worn and pilly? Discard it. Those shoes that took you all over town, but are now looking rather sad? Toss ’em. Kondo encourages us to keep only those things that bring joy. (Note: Kondo’s book is helpful, but I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it because she also talks about treating your belongings as if they are living things.)

I admit that I need to sort through my belongings. There are clothes in my closet that I wish I had never purchased and items that are well past their prime. My books outnumber the spaces on my bookshelves and documents spill out of my filing cabinets.

But even though I should tend to my overflowing possessions, this Lenten season I want to tend to my heart. I want to take the time to sit quietly with Jesus and allow Him to point out what needs to be tossed. I want to ask: Lord, is there a sinful attitude that I’ve been hanging onto? Is there some anxiety or fear that I haven’t let go? Am I still grasping onto self-sufficiency? Or an illusion of control over my life?

So I am using Spiritual Disciplines to guide my time in the Word. I’m using these ancient practices to spend time with my Savior. Spiritual Disciplines have been used by faithful Christians for centuries, even millennia. They are a way to focus our attention on our Savior and to receive His gifts.

Palms Down, Palms Up Prayer

One Spiritual Discipline that has helped me in the past is the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. This prayer helps me sort out the stuff in my heart. To release what is sinful, harmful, or crippling. And to receive what is comforting and encouraging.

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Palms Down: I begin this prayer by sitting in a comfortable chair and placing my palms down on my legs to symbolize my desire to release my concerns to God. I ask the Holy Spirit to show me what I need to let go. Is there anything blocking my relationship with Christ? What anxieties have I unconsciously been hanging onto?

My prayer might go something like: Lord, You know that I’m concerned about John’s health and about our kids in China. I confess that I have not trusted You completely in these areas. I’m anxious about my work. I’m stressed out about my long to-do list. But I now release all of these concerns into Your loving hands.

Palms Up: After I have released my worries, confessed my sins, and unloaded my self-sufficiency, I turn my palms up to symbolize my desire to receive from God.

Now my prayer might be something like: Lord, I praise You for Your love for me and all those I care about. I thank You for the peace You so faithfully give–peace that passes understanding.

I invite you to try the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. It’s a simple way to come humbly before God and empty our hearts of our fears and our sins. Turn your palms down and unload the burden of guilt. Let go of anxiety. Give Him whatever is bothering you and whatever is stressing you out. Then turn your palms up to receive God’s forgiveness, peace, love, truth, or rest.

Give God whatever is bothering you and receive His forgiveness, peace, love, and rest. Click To Tweet
Let Go

Maybe, like me, you need to clean out your closets. But even more important than hiring an organizational expert to sort through our closets, is asking the Holy Spirit to sort through our hearts.

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It is so reassuring that God invites us to give Him all our worries, anxieties, doubts, and fears. He is willing to hold them for us and give us His peace and love in return. And the more we allow Him to carry our bag of uncertainties, the more His peace will guard our hearts and minds from Satan’s attacks.

Let go of your concerns and receive God’s peace.

Next step: For the next five days, practice the Palms Down, Palms Up prayer. Click here for a resource list of Scriptures that will guide your prayers. Experience the joy that comes from unloading the burden of your fears and guilt and receiving the Savior’s love.

 

Your Top Five Posts of 2016

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2016 was quite a year! For me, it was time chock-full of family visits, writing, and volunteer work. How about you?

During January I often take time to evaluate the year before. So today I took a few minutes to check out what interested you–my readers–most in 2016. Here are your favorite five posts! Reread and be reinspired!

What to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Pray

Luke 18-13Sometimes I struggle with prayer. How to pray. What to pray. When to find time to pray. And how on earth can I accomplish prayer without ceasing? This post talks about a short prayer that I use when I don’t know what to pray. Check out this prayer that has been used for centuries.

Breathe in your Savior’s name and breathe out a desperate prayer for grace. Click To Tweet
Five Creative Ways to Encourage Someone

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Hebrews 10:24 says, Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out (The Message). I want to be an encourager, but I sometimes struggle with how to be supportive. This post gives a few ideas.

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out. (Hebrews 10:24 MSG) Click To Tweet
7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest

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Soul rest. That’s what we all need. The kind of rest that calms our hearts. The kind of respite that obliterates restlessness in our spirits.The kind of stillness that cancels out the craziness of this world like noise-cancelling headphones wipe out any pandemonium around us.

This post introduces the concept of soul rest and the habits that can lead us into that rest by drawing us into the presence of the Lord.

Soul rest is the rest that calms our hearts. It is the rest that draws us into the presence of the Lord. Click To Tweet
When You’re Feeling Unsettled, Dissatisfied

unsettled soul

When I’m feeling dissatisfied with my life or when I’m feeling unsettled, it is often because I have forgotten one crucial thing. Find out what that is in this post. When we’re facing loss and discouragement, we can realize that God has already given us what we need.

Even when I'm feeling unsettled and dissatisfied, Jesus knows what I need most. Click To Tweet
How to Truly Love Yourself

1 John 4-16

This post was inspired by a devotion I read by a tenth-century monk on the four degrees of love. Click to read about these four degrees of love and how the fourth degree allows us to love ourselves so that we can love others well.

We don’t love ourselves because we deserve love. We love ourselves because we see ourselves through God’s eyes. Click To Tweet

Next step: What do you most need today? Help with prayer, encouragement, soul rest, dissatisfaction, or loving yourself? Read the corresponding article and find hope in God’s Word.

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A Simple Way to Pray When You Don’t Know How to Pray

a simple way to pray

I have to admit. Sometimes I struggle with prayer.

At times the struggle is to simply make time for prayer. Other times the problem is keeping my wandering mind on the prayer.

Sometimes I simply don’t know how to pray. I don’t have the right words to express my chaotic thoughts. Or I’m not sure how to pray about a complex problem. Or I’m feeling defeated in an area of my life.

That’s when I start praying Scripture. Taking my words from God’s Word helps me to focus on His will, His strength, and His care.

A few years ago I discovered a little book that Martin Luther wrote on the subject of prayer. The short volume, titled A Simple Way to Praywas written as in response to his barber’s questions, “How do you pray?” (Interesting topic to be discussing while getting that little bald spot shaved.)

Luther’s “simple way to pray” was to pray Scripture, specifically the Ten Commandments. In the book he told his barber, “I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

This method can be used with any Scripture. For instance, lately I have been struggling with my mouth again. Too many harmful words have been tumbling out of my mouth. And the verse that came to mind was Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

My words have not been gold or silver, but more like ashes and dust.

A simple way to pray PINSo using Luther’s model, I prayed:

Father in heaven. Your word instructs me that my words have value. They can be precious to the people in my life.

I offer thanksgiving for the gift of speech. Of all creation, you gave the ability to speak to humans alone.

I confess that my words are not always like gold and silver. Sometimes they are not something to be cherished and treasured, but something to be thrown out and forgotten.

But I want to change. Lord, give me appropriate words for every situation today—words that are as valuable as gold and silver.

When you are struggling with finding the right words to pray–try drawing your words from the well of God’s Word.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Martin Luther Click To Tweet

Next step: Pick a Scripture (try Psalm 56:3-4 or Psalm 57:1) and use Luther’s simple method to pray through the Scripture.

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Prayer Journaling

in the morning I lay my requests before and wait expectantly.

When my mind is filled with confusion and agitation, when my heart is filled with anxiety or disappointment, there is one habit that I turn to again and again: prayer journaling. Pouring out my soul to God on paper untangles my thoughts and connects with the Father who calms my soul.

Why journal my prayers instead of just voicing them or thinking them? Putting a prayer in a little book does not mean God is more attentive to it. Writing it out does not make it more spiritual. But there are three reasons that prayer journaling is helpful to me:

7 HABITS #6Using a prayer journal keeps me focused. I don’t know about you, but when I try to pray silently, it doesn’t take long for my mind to wander off. I start thinking about what I’m going to make for supper, an odd comment a friend made, or even the strange dream I had the night before. Writing out my prayers helps my mind concentrate.

Using a prayer journal helps me untangle my thoughts. When I put pen to paper, suddenly things seem less confusing. The Lord helps me see solutions and ideas that I never thought of before.

Using a prayer journal gives me a record of my prayers. When confusion starts to creep in again, I reread my prayers and regain peace. I can also use the journal of a written record of my prayers and rejoice in God’s answers.

I encourage you to try prayer journaling. You might be thinking: But where do I start?

Using the book of Psalms for inspiration, I came up with eight journaling prompts especially designed for soul rest.

  • Psalm 5:3:  Listen to my voice in the morning, LordEach morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Lord, today I bring my requests to You and lay them at Your feet. What I need most today is…
  • Psalm 4:1: Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! Father, I thank You that You hear me when I call. What I am distressed about is….
  • Psalm 22:11: Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Oh Lord, trouble is near. I need Your presence now more than ever. Let me tell You about all that is happening…
  • Psalm 25:4: Make me to know your ways, O Lordteach me your paths. Father, I am feeling confused. Right now I need Your guidance about…
  • Psalm 51:1: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Jesus, I messed up. I need Your mercy and unfailing love. Forgive me for…
  • Psalm 56:3: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Spirit, help me put my trust in You. Fear is threatening to take over my emotions. I am afraid…
  • Psalm 31:14-15: But I trust in you, O LordI say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand. O God, things are not looking good. But I’ve decided to leave the matter in Your hands. Today, I give You my concerns about…
  • Psalm 31:19: Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you. Father, I thank you for the many blessings You have given me out of Your abundant goodness! Right now I thank You for…

Give prayer journaling a try. In prayer we give our burdens to the Father and the Spirit gives us peace through God’s Word.

Next step: Find a journal. Grab an empty notebook. Or open up a Word file. Pick a prayer prompt and start writing. Don’t worry about proper grammar or pretty handwriting. Just pour out your soul to a loving Father.

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: One Thing

One Thing

I have long suffered from the syndrome of TTDIA–Trying To Do It All.

My calendar is filled with activities. My planner is stuffed with unmet goals. I try to pack more and more into each day only to realize when it’s time to go to bed that I haven’t accomplished even half of what I set out to do.

My frenetic pace reached a climax a little over a year ago. I knew things had to change, but I didn’t know how to make the shift. I could figure out what action to take.

Then my husband was diagnosed with a disease even more serious than TTDIA. The doctors told him he had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It was a shock for this usually healthy-as-a-horse man. Medical personnel assured us that his prognosis was good, but now our time was spent in doctor’s offices, medical test facilities, and chemotherapy labs.

Obviously, my priorities changed. Activities and goals that seemed so essential became unimportant.

But life went on (thankfully) and certain things still needed to be done. I felt restless and anxious over how I would accomplish everything.

In the midst of the chaos, God gave me a solution. Instead of Trying To Do It All, He invited me to ask Him what needed to be done.

7 HABITS #4So I began a new habit. Each day I would ask my wise Father, “What is the one thing You want me to accomplish?” I focused on completing this task as soon as possible. Then, even if nothing else got crossed off my to-do list, I had the confidence that I had finished what the Lord had asked of me.

Thankfully, my husband is now in remission. (Thank You, Lord!) But I have continued this habit. This simple morning exercise brings me daily soul rest.

TTDIA is exhausting. If you’ve ever suffered from this syndrome you know the symptoms: feelings of anxiety, fear, and dread crowd your heart.

But when we ask the Father what is truly important and fulfill His desire for our day we will find peace, sufficiency, and strength.

When we ask the Father what is truly important and fulfill His desire for our day we find soul rest. Click To Tweet

[By the way, the habit of One Thing is also one of the habits I teach in my eCourse Distracted: 12 Faith-Focus Habits for a Frenzied World. Find out more about this course by clicking here.]

Next step: Every morning this week, ask the Father, “What is the One Thing You want me to do today?” Then whether He points you to an item on your to-do list or asks you to accomplish something you didn’t even think of, focus on that task first. 

 

 

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Perpetual Prayer

each whispered wordof petitionor thanksgivingconnects us tothe Giver of soul rest1

This post is part 4 in my series on 7 Habits that Promote Soul Rest. Click to read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

The first time I read Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians I was incredulous.

I mean, how could you possible pray all the time? Life demands things like paying attention in a class or writing a detailed report for work. If you have little ones running around you need to make sure that they don’t empty the garbage can all over the floor or feed the dog chocolate. How can you be on your knees and still do the everyday stuff of life?

Paul’s words not only inspired skepticism. It also produced…guilt. Just reading the command made me all too aware of my mediocre prayer life–often lacking in frequency and length. (Which is another way of saying, I’m lucky if I get in five minutes of concentrated prayer daily.)

But I know prayer brings rest for my soul and peace for my spirit. In another one of Paul’s letters he wrote:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

So how can we learn to pray without ceasing and find soul rest?

I realized that when Paul wrote that command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 he didn’t mean I had to stay on my knees with my eyes closed and my hands folded all day. Praying without ceasing becomes possible when I pray short prayers throughout the day. 

Here are three ways I use short prayers to connect with God:

7 HABITS #3Turn every worry into a prayer. One day I decided to take these words of Paul literally. I realized that when I’m worried about something, I don’t think about it once in the morning and once again at night. It is on my mind constantly. The concern pops into my brain while I’m driving my car or having a conversation with a friend. So what if I turned every one of my worrisome thoughts into a prayer? 

I would be praying without ceasing.

Pray short prayers of thanks. My worries became the catalyst for my first experience with short prayers. But soon I began to add short prayers of thanksgiving to my repertoire of short prayers. When I saw a beautiful sunset, tasted an exquisite strawberry, or heard the sweet song of a bird, I whispered a quick prayer of gratitude to my awesome Creator. When I found my lost keys or got a string of green lights on my way to an appointment, I said, “Thank You, God.”

Use Scripture prayers. Recently I’ve begun another way to use short prayers throughout the day. I choose a short prayer from Scripture that I whisper back to God whenever the Holy Spirit prompts me. The first prayer I used like this is called the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.” At first, I felt uncomfortable with this prayer. I didn’t like reminding myself that I am a sinner, but every time I spoke this petition, I felt peace. I knew God answered my prayer with His grace. I felt soul rest because that prayer reminded me how much I need my Father and how little my own efforts mattered in the grand scheme of eternity.

Here are a few more short prayers from Scripture that you can use:

Not my will, but Yours be done. Luke 22:42

Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on You. 2 Chronicles 14:11

Show the wonder of Your great love. Psalm 17:7

We find soul rest in perpetual prayer because each whispered word of petition or thanksgiving connects us to Jesus–the Giver of rest, peace, and soul stillness.

Each whispered word of petition or thanksgiving connects us to Jesus--the Giver of soul stillness. Click To Tweet

Next step: Choose a short Scripture to pray throughout the day. Click to get a free resource of 15 more short Scripture prayers. Write the prayer on a card to carry with you. As you pray this prayer in small moments of your busy day, it will become a habit. And this habit will draw you closer to God–the Provider of soul rest.

 

 

One Selfish Reason to Praise God

RewireSoul

I woke too early. My body was still tired, but my internal clock was still on Central Time even though I was in Hawaii. We had arrived the night before, tired from travel, and flopped into bed.

But now I was wide awake. I made my way to the windows and pushed open the curtains. I gasped at the beauty of the sun just peeking out of the gray Pacific. The sky was a spectacular painting of pink, purple, and mauve.

My heart swelled in praise and I couldn’t help singing “10,000 Reasons.” The sun was coming up. A new day was dawning. It was time to praise the Creator.

Sometimes it’s easy to praise God. The beauty of creation inspires thanksgiving. God sends overflowing blessings into our lives and we are grateful. We recognize His power in our lives and we are in awe.

But sometimes praise doesn’t come easy. Life is difficult. Problems sprout like weeds. Instead of having “10,000 Reasons” to praise, we struggle to come up with one.

That’s when we need to remember to praise God for who He is and not simply for what He gives us.

Psalm 95 gives three reasons to praise God:

Because He is the God above all gods. We praise Him for His Kingship. We praise Him for His ruling power.

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:3)

Because everything on earth was made by Him and belongs to Him. We praise Him for His omnipotence and creative power.

In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:4-5)

Because He cares for us. We praise His love, His compassion, His provision, and His protection toward us.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. (Psalm 95:6-7)

SelfishReasonPraiseGod deserves praise. And that should be enough reason to shower Him with honor and adoration.

But praise also brings a side benefit to those who are doing the praising.

In the middle of verse 7 the psalmist takes an abrupt turn from praising God to remind his readers not to harden their hearts.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, (Psalm 95:7b-8)

We all need this reminder. At times we all stubbornly insist on our own way and steel our hearts against God’s gentle nudges. Or we get so busy and preoccupied with life’s little hassles that we don’t even hear His voice.

Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary on this psalm, “Hardness of heart is at the bottom of all our distrusts of God and quarrels with Him.”

But maybe in looking at this psalm we can see that praise can be preventative medicine to a hard heart.

We praise God for His sake, but a wonderful side-effect happens when we do. When we extol God’s mercy and power, God rewires our souls–reminding our stubborn selfish hearts just how wonderful He is. 

When we extol God's mercy and power, He rewires our souls--reminding our selfish hearts how wonderful He is. Click To Tweet

Praise keeps our hearts soft toward God as we praise Him for His goodness.

Next step: Write out your own psalm of praise. Praise God for His Kingship, for His creative power, and for His compassionate care.

 

4 Steps to Take When You’re Discouraged

WHEN I'M IN THE DESERT OF DISAPPOINTMENTI NEED TO REMEMBERONLY GOD CAN QUENCH MY THRIST

Years ago a friend came to our house broken and discouraged. His heart was more than bruised. It had been stomped on, kicked in, and used as a punching bag.

His wife had just asked for a divorce.

My husband is a pastor and this man was not only a friend, but a member of our congregation. He came to my husband for counseling. For support.

That first night all we did was hug him. Cry with him.Sit in shock with him.

He came often to talk with my husband, but one day he arrived when my husband wasn’t home yet. This twenty-something man shuffled in like a person sixty years older. Shoulders slumped, he made his way to the sofa, but didn’t even make it to the seat. Instead he slid down to the floor in a ball of tears and desperation.

My kids were running around the house and I wasn’t sure what to do. So I just slumped down on the floor, leaning against a nearby chair, and sat with him.

As his sadness permeated the room and my own soul, I remembered Psalm 42–the place I always go when my heart is shattered. While we sat on the floor I shared how this psalm encourages me when I’m in a pit of discouragement.

Acknowledge the Feelings

King David must have been in a broken state when he wrote the words:

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad? (Psalm 42:5a)

I love how David talks to his soul. He takes the first step and acknowledges the sadness, the depression, the emptiness.

The first step I take is to recognize all the pain in my heart. I name the emotions no matter how ugly. 

4 STEPS-DISCOURAGEDLook Toward God

But David doesn’t let his heart stay in that desperate place. He immediately encourages his soul:

I will put my hope in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and  my God! (Psalm 42:5b)

The second step to take when I’m heartbroken and discouraged is to stop looking at the problem and remind my heart to look toward God. 

After I acknowledge my discouragement I need to turn to the Source of hope.

Remember God’s Help in the Past

Next I need to remember how God has brought me through all my other deep and desperate places. David wrote:

 Now I am deeply discouraged,
    but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
    from the land of Mount Mizar. (Psalm 42:6)

I need to recall how the Lord has guided me through my valleys and back to the mountaintop. He has brought me through sadness and depression before. He will do it again.

Turn Times of Discouragement Into Times of Intimacy with God.

Finally, I need to realize that times of discouragement can be a time of intimacy with God. 

David wrote:

As the deer longs for streams of water,
    song for you, O God. Psalm 42:1

When the world stomps on my heart there is Someone who can mend it. and satisfy my soul. When I face deserts of disappointment, I need to realize that God is the only One who can truly quench my thirst and satisfy my soul.

When I face deserts of disappointment, I realize God is the only One who can truly quench my thirst. Click To Tweet

I’m not sure my words of encouragement helped my friend going through a divorce more than just sitting with him.

But Psalm 42 is the place I go when discouragement and disappointment visit my life.


Psalm 42 is the first psalm in Book II which includes Psalms 42-75. This book of psalms is sometimes called the “Elohim Psalter Part 1” because Elohim is the name for God used most often. Elohim is the Hebrew name for God that is used in the very first sentence of the Bible. So the name Elohim reminds us that He is the Creator, the One who began it all. Many of the psalms in Book II are written by David, but some are written by the sons of Korah– Levites that David put in charge of music at the tabernacle.


 

Next step: Are you brokenhearted or discouraged? Which of the four steps do you need to take today? Acknowledging your feeling? Looking away from the problem and toward God? Remember God’s help in the past? Realizing this time of disappointment may lead to greater intimacy with God? Journal your response.

Grace for the Overwhelmed

psalm 3-4

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Drowning in despair? Floundering in mountains of tasks, duties, and responsibilities?

Find grace for your life in Psalm 3.

This Lenten season I’m exploring the Psalms–reading a few psalms each day and recording what God is speaking to me. (You can join me if you want. Download a free Lenten reading guide here.)

Today I’m exploring Psalm 3–a psalm for the overwhelmed.

Just a little background about this psalm.

The book of Psalms is divided into five “books” or divisions. Psalm 3 is, of course, part of Book 1 (Psalms 1-41). This first book of Psalms is sometimes called the Yahweh Psalter because Yahweh is the name for God that is used most often in this section. Most of the psalms in the “Yahweh Psalter” were written by David.

Scholars have classified the psalms into several categories including: wisdom psalms, hymns, and laments. Psalm 3 is described at a psalm of individual lament. Characteristics of lament psalms are: they often begin with an invocation such as, “Oh, Lord” and they contain a plea for help.

But what I love about this psalm is that it gives hope to the overwhelmed.

David himself was overwhelmed by his enemies when he wrote the psalm. It was written when almost the whole nation of Israel rose up against him–including his own son Absalom.

grace for theIt’s no wonder he cries out in despair:

O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me, many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. (Psalm 3:1-2)

Don’t you love it that we can call out to God whenever we feel beaten down and crushed by life? Yes, the world may doubt that God can help, but we who know the Lord are confident of His help.

And that is what David says next:

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Psalm 3:3-4)

David doesn’t stay in lament mode for long. He quickly acknowledges God’s protection and blessing. He reminds himself that Yahweh hears his prayers.

David is so confident of the Lord’s help, that he goes to sleep:

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. (Psalm 3:5-6)

God wants us to be so sure of His strength and love that we can rest in Him. Even though thousands of people (or dozens of problems) are against us, we don’t have to be afraid if God is on our side.

Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3:7-8)

In the end, David call out to God again. He reminds himself that God is the one who saves.

I have to admit that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I don’t always turn to God first.

I often try to fix things myself. I read more self-help books about time management. I look up information on getting organized–thinking that will help overcome my problems.

Psalm 3 reminds me that God is the “lifter of my head”–the one who gives victory. He is my shield–a Protector against my troubles. He is my Savior.

Yahweh is always available to listen. He longs for me to come to Him for help. Click To TweetWhen I turn to Him the Lord gives rest even in the midst of the chaos.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Turn to the Lord for help.

Next step: David laments about his many enemies. What or who are the enemies in your life? Difficult people? A multitude of bills? Overwhelming schedule? Write a list and then take it to God. Ask Him for wisdom and power to conquer the foes. Find rest in Him.

Join me in reading through the psalms this Lent. Click here for a free reading guide.

 

 
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