Posts Tagged ‘pain’

1 Samuel 2:1-11 (Part 3 of 3)
Hannah’s Prayer of Praise

In the deep dark days of our lives, we wonder if we are going to make it through it, whatever that may be. Each of our valleys are unique to us. We all have them. If you don’t have those deep, dark valleys in life, then, most likely you are not really living. We all encounter low points in our lives where we find it difficult to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, we have multiple bad things to happen to us in succession. Sometimes, we have multiple bad things going on at the same time. It is at these times that we wonder if we are going to make it. It is at these times that we may just want to stay in bed for days on end with the lights off the drapes drawn and the bedroom door closed. Those times where you just want to sleep so you don’t have to think about the dark hour of life that you find yourself in. There are days in life where the darkness, the trouble, the hurt, the loss that you can sometimes feel makes it difficult for you to even talk to people. There are those times where you feel less than everybody else because you have this loss, this hurt, this pain in your life that won’t go away. There are times where you feel like you have a horn sticking out of your head and everybody is looking at you as if you are freak or something. There are times in our lives where you are so painfully aware of your loneliness you feel like people can see inside you and see how worthless that you feel. It is like that dream where your dream starts and you are walking from the parking lot to the office and you don’t realize til you are walking to your desk that you are in your pajamas still and people are making fun of you. Or your dream starts and you are walking somewhere in public and all you have on is your underwear and everybody is gawking and pointing at you. That’s how you feel sometimes when you are going through a rough patch in your life.

Although I am living on the mountaintop or at least a mesa in my life right now where things are generally as good as they have ever been in my life, there were times in my life where I can identify with the above paragraph. It was not written fancifully. It was not written from imagination. It was written from real feelings that I have had in my life. There have been stretches in my life where I have had to literally force myself out of bed in the mornings and go to work. There were times in my life where I hated the end of the work day because I no longer had something to divert my emotional attention away from the dark, deep pain of loneliness and hurt. I have had times in my life where I would not leave my apartment from the time that I got home from work on Friday until it was time to go back to work on Monday and in between that Friday and Monday all I wanted to do was sleep but couldn’t. Or I would sleep all day and then could not sleep at night. Therefore, if you are going through a dark pit right now, please know that I can identify with what you are going through. These descriptions are real. I can still feel the pain of those times in my life right now as I write these words. I can taste, smell, see and sense the hardness of those times as I sit here and remember. Those memories are vivid and when I write about them. I can drift back and see and remember those times as if I was back in them. I know your pain of loneliness, of hurt, of pain, of worthlessness, of wondering what the point of it all is, of wandering why I was born, of wondering who the hell cares, of wondering when is this pain going to end, of wondering when I am going to again be like the normal people outside the doors of my apartment, of feeling like I had two heads anytime I walked out my door. You know those feelings right now. I knew them on more than one occasion in my life. I have often written about them here. I know your pain.

I know that it sounds trite and non-soothing at this moment where you are at your darkest hour but I will say it because it is true, “This too shall pass!” Thank God, God saw fit to see me through those dark times even when I thought he hated me or was out to get me or that He was punishing me somehow. Even in the darkest hours of my life, there was always that sliver of hope however tiny it was – that things would get better. That kept my eyes blinking. That kept my heart beating. That kept my feet going one in front of the other. That kept me moving even when I didn’t feel like moving. That sliver of hope however faint is the Holy Spirit telling us to hang in there. It is in these dark times, where that sliver of hope is the only thing that we have to hold on to is the very thing that pulls us through. It is the very thing that makes us appreciate that God is sovereign. It is the very thing that makes us realize just who God is. We may not realize it until we start emerging from the pit of darkness and pain that it was God that was there. It was God that was the sliver of hope. It was God that was actually helping you breathe in the worst moment of your life. It was Him. He loves you. He is keeping you alive right now. Keep breathing. Keep breathing. Keep breathing.

With that idea in mind let us 1 Samuel 2:1-11 now for the last time before we move on to the next passage:

2 Then Hannah prayed:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord!
The Lord has made me strong.[a]
Now I have an answer for my enemies;
I rejoice because you rescued me.
No one is holy like the Lord!
There is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

“Stop acting so proud and haughty!
Don’t speak with such arrogance!
For the Lord is a God who knows what you have done;
he will judge your actions.
The bow of the mighty is now broken,
and those who stumbled are now strong.
Those who were well fed are now starving,
and those who were starving are now full.
The childless woman now has seven children,
and the woman with many children wastes away.
The Lord gives both death and life;
he brings some down to the grave[b] but raises others up.
The Lord makes some poor and others rich;
he brings some down and lifts others up.
He lifts the poor from the dust
and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
placing them in seats of honor.
For all the earth is the Lord’s,
and he has set the world in order.

“He will protect his faithful ones,
but the wicked will disappear in darkness.
No one will succeed by strength alone.
Those who fight against the Lord will be shattered.
He thunders against them from heaven;
the Lord judges throughout the earth.
He gives power to his king;
he increases the strength[c] of his anointed one.”

11 Then Elkanah returned home to Ramah without Samuel. And the boy served the Lord by assisting Eli the priest.

In this passage, we see that it is easy for us sometimes to forget that God is in control. We may wonder if He is at all. For others, it is the darkest hour of their lives and and the darkest hour seems to be lasting forever. For some, and Hannah can identify with it, and I can identify with it, it is just hard to even breathe right now because the pain of life is so real that you can physically taste it. For some, whatever is going on in your life, you are just having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. You are wondering what the purpose of life is. You are wondering why you are so lonely, so depressed, so in pain, and so wanting to be with people but yet feeling alone and scared in a crowd. You are wondering if this dark night will ever end. I know. I have been there. I cry tears for you right now.

However, in this passage, Hannah reminds us that no matter how remote God may seem at times to the point that you cry from you innermost being, He is still there. Hold on to that small sliver of hope that your time of pain and loneliness and hurt will end. It will. I promise you. It was the same for Hannah. But she saw God as a solid rock, the One who knows what we do, sovereign over the affairs of all people, and the Supreme Judge who administers the Perfect and Final Justice. Remembering God’s sovereign control helps us remember that He is our sliver of hope in desperate times. Keep breathing. Keep stepping. Keep getting out of bed. He is there. He is the thing that is keeping you alive. He is keeping you alive for a purpose.

It is from our darkest times, that we learn to cling to hope and faith in the sovereignty of God. Hold on to it. Let it help you breath. He will bring you through the valley of darkness. I promise you. It may not look like what you wanted it to look like before the valley. But your survival of the dark times will be your testimony to the faithfulness of God. It will also make your truly, truly appreciate the mesas and the mountaintop periods of your life. Hang on. Hold on. Breathe. God is still there. He wants you to cling to His hand and draw close unto Him. He will bring you out of the pit and set up upon solid ground. That’s the sliver of hope. That’s what gets us through. God is there. He is with you. I promise. I know!

Amen and Amen.

Personal Reflection as We Begin Joshua

Have you ever been through some of the roughest times in your life only to find that you have more rough times ahead? When I think of the overarching view of the Book of Joshua, I think of my friends, Randy and Missy. Their marriage several years ago seemed OK to the outside world. They had the nice house. They had the nice cars. They had the good jobs. They had a beautiful daughter who is a pageant-worthy beauty of young lady (who is way too fond of the word, “like”) and handsome son who has a heart of gold. They seemingly had the perfect life on the outside. However, even though it seemed to blow up one day, there were marital secrets brewing for years and lack of communication about things that mattered. All the things not dealt with in the marriage over the years caused it to blow up one day. They separated. Friends were shocked and did not know what to do. We all loved them both and thought they had this perfect life and were stunned as what to do. We did the smart thing. Not shut either one out of our lives.  We loved them both.


There were many dark days in their separation. There was talk of divorce. They were lawyers. It was an heart wrenching thing to watch the tears, the anger, the bewilderment of how it all came to this. It could have gotten real ugly as some separations that lead to divorce can become. I know from experience how ugly separation and divorce can be. It can leave permanent scars on you, your former spouse and your children. The pain of the dissolving of a long-term marriage can lead to pain and anger that is so raw and real and it dominates your life and your every thought. Somehow, by the grace of God and His working through our circle of friends around Missy and Randy, they decided to go to marital counseling. Through many months of counseling, pain and heartache, they finally got back together. My experiences with getting back together with your spouse after a separation were ultimately failed adventures both times so I was not hopeful. But they stuck it out, continued counseling even after they got back together, and today we find that they are stronger than ever. Closer to the Lord than ever.


The saving of their marriage was a miraculous work of God but that’s not the end of the story. Not long after they had gotten to a good place in their reconstructed marriage, wham! They get hit with the news. Missy has breast cancer. Now, they had been the wilderness already in reclaiming their marriage. It was a long hard road. They have fought to save their marriage. It was the right thing to do. It was tough work. It was blood, sweat and tears. But they did it! Guess what though, Randy and Missy? You’ve got more work to do as a couple. You’ve got to survive cancer. You have got to love your wife, Randy, through the roughest road there is, chemotherapy, constant doctor’s appointments, the pain, the nights without sleep, the fear of leaving this life too soon, the anger of saving their marriage and now this! But, wow, through it all, what was once a weak marriage with all the right appearances was now this solid rock of a marriage that was fighting hand in hand in love against the ugly, vicious enemy of cancer. Missy said recently that if they had not gone through the wilderness of their marital troubles that their marriage would not have been strong enough to survive the journey they have been on for the last 18 months or so with the cancer diagnosis.


They had survived the wilderness of near-divorce and it made them appreciate each other. They had learned not to sweat the small stuff. They had learned that love can forgive and move on. They had become strong in their belief in each other. They had learned to communicate. Without the wilderness wandering they would not have been up to the challenge that the Big C, cancer, can bring to a marriage. Just because they had been through the wilderness and the pain and suffering caused by it did not mean that there were not going to be new challenges ahead.

That’s the thing that came to mind when I was researching the various summaries of the Book of Joshua as we begin it today. That idea that there will always be constant challenges to us as Christ followers. Just because we have pain and suffering once does not mean that we will not have it again. We do not get a “skate through the rest of life without pain” card. They are always challenges. There will always be challenges to our faith. There will be defeats and victories. There will be times when we think we can’t take anymore but yet more gets piled on top of us. Be strong and courageous, my friends. God did not promise that our lives would be pain free when we became Christ followers. There may well be one set of strife-ridden days followed by another set of strife-ridden days that come at us from different directions and for different reasons.


Be strong and courageous. No matter that one set of challenges are followed immediately by another set, we must remember that God is with us in the storms and challenges of life. He will never forsake us. God never moves. It is often that we move away from Him and wonder what happened to Him. We must remember that God is the Creator of the Universe. He can handle our problems. He can carry us through the rough patch that is followed by the rougher patch that is followed by the roughest patch. God will deliver those who are faithful to Him. From our trials, we learn dependence on the Lord. As we depend on God in greater and greater faith, we trust that He will see us through even the toughest times. He is God. He is Creator. He’s got this. He will see you through. Depend on our Abba Father.


Amen and Amen.


Now, let’s take a look at a high level about what we are going to see develop as we walk through the book of Joshua. The following summary is courtesy of


Overview of the Book of Joshua

Author: The Book of Joshua does not explicitly name its author. More than likely Joshua, the son of Nun, the successor of Moses as leader over Israel, penned much of this book. The latter part of the book was written by at least one other person after the death of Joshua. It is also possible that several sections were edited / compiled following Joshua’s death.


Date of Writing: The Book of Joshua was likely written between 1400 and 1370 B.C.


Purpose of Writing: The Book of Joshua provides an overview of the military campaigns to conquer the land area that God had promised. Following the exodus from Egypt and the subsequent forty years of the wilderness wanderings, the newly-formed nation is now poised to enter the Promised Land, conquer the inhabitants, and occupy the territory. The overview that we have here gives abbreviated and selective details of many of the battles and the manner in which the land was not only conquered, but how it was divided into tribal areas.


Key Verses: Joshua 1:6-9, “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”


Joshua 24:14-15, “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”


Brief Summary: The Book of Joshua continues the story of the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt. The book chronicles the approximately 20 years of Joshua’s leadership of the people after Moses anointed him at the end of Deuteronomy. The twenty-four chapter divisions of the Book of Joshua can be summarized as follows:


Chapters 1-12: Entering and conquering the Promised Land.

Chapters 13-22: Instructions for distributing the portions of the Promised Land.

Chapters 23-24: Joshua’s farewell address


Themes & Foreshadowing: The story of Rahab the harlot and her great faith in the God of the Israelites gives her a place with those honored for their faith in Hebrews 11:31. Hers is a story of God’s grace to sinners and salvation by faith alone. Most importantly, by God’s grace she was in the Messianic line (Matthew 1:5).


One of the ceremonial rituals of Joshua 5 finds its perfect fulfillment in the New Testament. Verses 1-9 describe God’s commandment that those who were born in the wilderness were to be circumcised when they came into the Promised Land. By so doing, God “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” from them, meaning that He cleansed them from the sins of their former life. Colossians 2:10-12 describes believers as having been circumcised in their hearts by Christ Himself, by whom we have put off the sinful nature of our former lives without Christ.


God established cities of refuge so that those who accidentally killed someone could live there without fear of retribution. Christ is our refuge to whom we “have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us” (Hebrews 6:18).


The Book of Joshua has an overriding theological theme of rest. The Israelites, after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, finally entered the rest God had prepared for them in the land of Canaan. The writer of Hebrews uses this incident as a warning to us not to let unbelief keep us from entering into God’s rest in Christ (Hebrews 3:7-12).


Practical Application: One of the key verses of the Book of Joshua is 1:8 “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” The Old Testament is replete with stories of how the people “forgot” God and His Word and suffered terrible consequences. For the Christian, the Word of God is our lifeblood. If we neglect it, our lives will suffer accordingly. But if we take to heart the principle of verse 1:8, we will be complete and able to be of use in God’s kingdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and we will find that God’s promises in Joshua 1:8-9 will be ours as well.


Joshua is a prime example of the benefits of a worthy mentor. For years, he remained close to Moses. He watched Moses as he followed God in an almost flawless manner. He learned to pray in a personal way from Moses. He learned how to obey through the example of Moses. Joshua apparently also learned from the negative example that cost Moses the joy of actually entering the Promised Land. If you are alive, you are a mentor. Someone, somewhere, is watching you. Some younger person or someone that you are influencing is seeing how you live and how you react. Someone is learning from you. Someone will follow your example. Mentoring is far more than the words that are spoken by the mentor. His or her entire life is on display.


Luke 10:1-16 — As we continue our look at Luke 10:1-16, today we are going to concentrate on Luke 10:3. Jesus says, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” Wow, that’s sound pretty inviting!

It reminds me of the football practice through the years. Football practice is where you spend most of your time on a football team. It is not fun. It is painful at times. Guys, you remember the exercise called “six inches” when you were laying flat on your back and had to hold your legs up off the ground but only at six inches off the ground. The coaches would make us hold our legs like that for about 20-30 seconds at a time. It was ok for the first two or three times you did it but we would have to do it like twenty times. By the time you got past the first two or three sets, the pain would set in and you thought you were going to die or at least puke. Either one would be acceptable! We would be put through some tough, tough exercises during football practice particularly at the beginning of the season. It was to get us in to playing shape. It was to teach us discipline. If we did not have practice, we would not have games. Playing the games each week was a welcome relief from the grueling grind of daily practice. Each year, there would be those who would quit because the daily grind was too tough. They weren’t willing to pay the cost of being on the football team. What stood between you at the beginning of each week and the glory of the lights on game night was a lot of hard work that nobody saw except your teammates. Some just were not willing to go through the gauntlet of practice. It was too tough of a calling for some. This is true whether its pee wee, junior, high school, college or pro football. Those who have the love and the passion for the game are willing to pay any cost to be able to play the game. As the stakes get higher at each level, those who are willing to pay the cost are fewer and fewer.

That point, the willing few, is kind of the point of Jesus’ statement here. Yesterday’s devotional was about the fact that the harvest was plentiful but the workers were few. The workers are few we learn today because the work is hard. Jesus says “Go!” He says that a lot. He has an expectation that we are not to simply sit still. We are not to rest on our laurels. We are to go forth and make disciples. He also says that He is sending us out like lambs among wolves. Lambs as you know are gentle creatures and just not well equipped by their mental nature or by their physical abilities to defend themselves against attack. They are easy pickings for a pack of wolves – they always hunt together. They surround their prey on all sides and slowly decrease the circle and then pounce on their prey. Jesus is saying that our work will be hard. There will be rejection, persecution, ridicule and sometimes even death in spreading the gospel message. In modern day America, where we are all about luxury and satisfying ourselves, this just doesn’t sound all that appealing. That’s why the workers are few. Jesus says if you are really my disciple, if you really love me, you will be willing to pay the price. We are lambs. We go in peace. We do not spread the gospel by war, with guns, terrorist attacks, exploding roadside bombs, by beheading people, or any other warring means. We spread the gospel in peace. We teach people of the love of God as expressed through His Son Jesus Christ in whom and through whom we find salvation and eternal reconciliation with God. The job is not fancy. The job is not to make headlines but rather quietly, softly spread the gospel message. If we are in it to be seen, it is like a football player only wanting to play on game night and not wanting to be there at practice during the week.

Jesus tells us to go where the wolves are. He tells us to go into the world and be Jesus to a world that is trying to tear Him down every day. Jesus tells us to stand up and be counted. We are to in the culture and not of it. We are to lovingly share the gospel with the world but we are not to compromise the message. We must be willing to address the hard issues out there that stand squarely against the Bible and not shy away from them. We must not avoid these issues just to fit in. We must not avoid these issues to be culturally relevant. God’s Word is timeless and so are its standards. Culture’s standard are lowered with each generation. So, what culture used to reject it now accepts. What was once considered wrong is now acceptable. It is shifting sand while God’s Word is a solid rock that will never be moved. This will bring us into conflict with culture at times. We stand not with fists raised or with guns in our hands. We stand like lambs. We are His lambs.

Jesus tells us to go where the wolves are. He tells us to take the gospel to the places that it will be attacked. We take the Bible to the hard places. We take the Bible to the places that are difficult, both here at home and abroad. We take the Bible to the homeless shanty towns in the Upstate. We take the Bible to China. We take the Bible to North Korea. We take the Bible to Hindu nations. We take the Bible to Buddhist nations. We take the Bible to Islamic nations. It is similar to Kennedy’s space program speech at Rice University in September 1962, where he said,

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win”

The harvest is plentiful but the number of workers willing to put forth the effort are few. How many of us are willing to let souls pass into eternity without hearing of the Word of God that is encapsulated in Jesus Christ? How willing are you to spread the gospel? How many of us are willing to put ourselves out to spread the gospel? How many of us are willing to do the unseen work of the gospel in the places where we live, work, and play much less spreading the gospel in ways and/or in places that make us uncomfortable? How many of us are going to put ourselves out to serve the Lord? How many of us have the attitude that I will do these things later? How many of us have the attitude that sharing the gospel in that way is just not my cup of tea? How many are the few. How many of us are willing to go through the pain of the long days of practice to get to the 3 hours of game time on Friday night? How many are the few?

Father in heaven, awaken our souls that you never said that serving you was just when it was convenient and painless. Awaken our souls to the tough work of spreading the gospel. Give us the passion to do what is necessary regardless of the cost, regardless of how inconvenient it is, regardless of how difficult it is, regardless of whether we get praise of men for it or not, regardless of whether anyone is looking or not, regardless of what we have to give up or not, regardless, regardless. Give us the passion for the hard work because we love the game, the game of seeing lost souls out there, and there are too many, come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Savior. That’s game night. That’s what all the hard work, pain and suffering are for, Lord. People coming to know you through Your Son!

Romans 8:18-30 — Yesterday we talked about our present confidence that we have in the Lord. Today, we talk about our future glory. Paul tells us plain out that there will be suffering, but it is nothing compared to our future glory.

Man, this week, in what I call God’s synchronicity, He is driving home a point to me. In this synchronicity, He drives home a point to me in various different ways and from various different sources. The idea that He is making to me is that there is a price to be paid to be identified with Jesus and how far, how deeply, am I willing to take my faith. How far am I willing to follow. Am I content to sit back while there are billions of people who have not yet come to know Jesus? Do I have the faith of Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia who are dying rather than denounce the name of Jesus. Yes, they are dying today in the 21st century for Christ. Do you have that kind of faith, Mark? How far are you willing to take this thing? God is speaking this synchronously to me – in the chapter of the book, Radical, that I am reading now (which, bam, is using Romans as the source for the discussion in the chapter), in mailing I have received about suffering Christians in Africa and the Middle East, and in my current passage under study, the Book of Romans.

Along with being heirs of God’s glory, Paul, in this passage, mentions suffering. What kinds of suffering are we willing to endure? For first century believers and for many around the world today that are Christ followers, there is economic and social prices to be paid for being Christian. Some face physical torture. Some face death. Even in countries where Christ is still tolerated or is encouraged, we must not become complacent. To live as Jesus did – serving others without expectation of payback, resisting the temptation to conform to the ways of the world, and heeding the call to call out what is evil and against God’s Word, and to love others so much that you are willing to die for them – exacts a price. How far are you willing to go? Being a Christian involves making small choices that separate us from the crowd and sometimes it involves making big ones. Are you content with your American dream lifestyle of me, me, me and gathering all the toys you can? Are you willing to chuck it all and follow where God leads you. Are you willing to say yes to Jesus? or do you say yes to the American dream of stuff, stuff and more stuff.

Comfort. cushiness. Complacency. Just because we go the most up to date current cool church with over the top service to the community and the latest Christian music doesn’t mean anything if we do not answer the call as Christians. If we just sit in a pew on Sunday and that’s the comfy Christian life we want, we are missing the point. It doesn’t matter that you attend a cutting edge church if you don’t heed God’s call, if you do not put your yes on the table. Are you willing to follow God’s call? It may involve selling your house and all your possessions and moving to Nigeria to help Christians being persecuted there? It might involve chucking it all and teaching in an inner city school? Christ did not promise us the American dream. He promised us suffering in His name. How far are you willing to take your faith? This is the question that I am struggling with now. The deeper you go with your faith, the more you are convicted of the inadequacy of it. Jesus went to the cross for us. How far are willing to go to make his name known?

Paul says what we suffer here is nothing compared to the glory that we will be rewarded with in Heaven. Do we really, really believe that? Christians in Nigeria believe it. Christians in Sudan believe it. Christians in Iraq believe it. Nothing that we go through here compares to the glory that we will receive in Heaven. Even dying in the name of Jesus is temporary pain compared to the glory of heaven. Even though we don’t often die in the name of Jesus here, we do still have our personal trials and tribulations, divorce, death of loved ones, job loss, and so on. We suffer in those ways here but the suffering we as humans endure is nothing compared to our future glory in heaven. Nothing we endure here is so nasty and ugly that it can trump our reward in Heaven as Christ followers. Many of us are so worrried out this life and being happy and content that we sell out our souls to chase after these worldly things. Paul says our future glory is what we should be chasing. All this, this is just temporary. Its seasonal fashion. Here today. Gone tomorrow. When we are chasing after Jesus, none of this temporary stuff matters. We have our eyes on the eternal prize. How far your faith? How much in love with this life are you? How deep are you willing to go? Are you all in?