The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18 (NIV). He heals up the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, Psalm 147:3. The intimate comfort and heartfelt truth of these verses revived me one cold winter night many years ago.
My husband and I had traveled back home to South Dakota and were gathering with family. It was the first time we had seen this group of family since our baby died six months earlier. It felt like a normal gathering with laughter and food and wine. The loss of our baby was not brought up. It was safer to keep the conversations lighter and I understood that. As the evening went on though, I started feeling suffocated with sadness and loneliness. I didn’t want to spoil everyone else’s night so I quietly stepped outside for a while to be alone. There was no blanket of clouds that night so the stars were so bright and beautiful. I will always remember looking up at that brilliantly lit sky and pleading for Jesus to help me with the pain and loss and void in my heart. Despite the sub zero temperatures that night (plus not taking time to dig through a pile of coats to find mine), a warmth and comfort came over me that was indescribable. Nothing had ever calmed and brought me peace like this. It was like this big hug that enveloped me. My grief lifted more in that moment than it had in any other.
What was it about this night that was different than any other time I had prayed for relief from my sadness? I think it was that I was alone and vulnerable and completely dependent upon Jesus. What I needed most in my grief was God Himself. He met me there and He filled the void that others and the words of others couldn’t fill. He lifted a wound that at times I thought I could not keep bearing. As 2 Corinthians 3:17 states, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Jesus did help break me free and provided an escape from my heavy burdened heart into a sweet fellowship with His Spirit. Just as John 14:16 states, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” I had a new understanding of how the Holy Spirit helper, comforter, intercessor lives in us and walks in our journey with us.
My love for Jesus grew and my desire to know Him and call on His strength grew. I don’t know if I would have gone on a quest for a deeper relationship with Jesus had I not called on Him at such a low point in my life. With gratitude, I know now that we aren't left alone to handle our suffering. Even when we don’t have the words, Romans 8:26 reminds us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
My prayer for the new year for all is that we make space for the Holy Spirit to breathe new life and hope and truth into whatever challenges and trials we may be facing.
Not long ago we were anticipating the end of the twentieth century! People were anxious about Y2K and what it might bring. Those days passed without incident. That was an incredible century! More inventions and technological advances than in all the rest of history combined. At the same time, moral values degenerated on a scale never before witnessed.
Where will the world be at the close of this century? Where will our church, and we as individuals, be at the end of this year? Nobody imagined what the past year would hold. While we can’t know what to expect, it is a relief to know that our times are in the Lord's hand (Ps. 31:15). We can trust Him, no matter how frightening events seem.
There has been no shortage of people with ideas about what to expect during our lifetime. Prophecies have come and gone without incident. I have a long list of “prophecies” concerning catastrophic events and the Lord’s coming. Many of God’s people have suffered disillusionment when prophecies didn’t happen as predicted.
That shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus told His followers, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). Evidence abounds that our Lord could come at any time. It’s appropriate for us to expect what God has announced, but God hasn’t announced the schedule of coming events. What God has announced is His purpose for His church: that we should be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).
In the light of that purpose, we should be setting goals for ourselves. While I do not like New Years "resolutions," two thoughts impress me. Hopefully these personal goals mark my life. 2 Chronicles 16:9 affirms: "The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." Israel's leaders displayed less than total commitment to the Lord. That's a danger for all of us. I want Him to look at my life and find a heart totally committed to Him.
A similar purpose is expressed in song: "May all who come behind us find us faithful." 1 Corinthians 4:2 asserts that our priority as God's stewards is to be found faithful. May those who come behind us find us faithful.
Finally, I have some goals for our church. Most obvious is identifying the person God has chosen to become our next pastor. My spiritual "wish list" starts with the desire to see each person growing spiritually and thirsty to know Him better. Finally, I want to see each participant committed to ministry, using the gifts God has given us.
Total commitment. Faithfulness. A new pastor. Individual spiritual growth, thirst for the Lord, and
participation in ministry. That’s plenty to work on during the coming year, or a lifetime! If the Lord chooses not to return during the coming year, I pray these traits will mark each of our lives and authenticate God's work in us. If He does come, it's all the more urgent! "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"