I exalt you, LORD , because you pulled me up; you didn’t let my enemies celebrate over me. LORD , my God, I cried out to you for help, and you healed me. (Psalms 30:1-2 CEB)
This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. It’s not Sunday, because the events below required that I take a two day break from blogging just to get home and get stuff taken care of and recollect myself, but I now have thoughts to share.
Saturday morning, I wrote what I thought then was one of the hardest devotional blog posts I had ever written–and it was, at the time!–which was on still trusting God’s provision even while chronically ill and not expecting healing of your physical pain during this lifetime.
And then, Saturday night happened.
I was staying in a hotel in KY on my way back from the conference, doing some spiritual reflection and working on processing it all. I’m not sure how it happened, but when I go to my hotel room and unlock the door, there are two other people in the room, my stuff all sprawled out all over the bed and dug through. it seems perhaps the hotel double booked my room? That part is still blurry. They ended up stealing some money and medication from me; the medication is retrieved by the police, who were very kind and helpful, and it ended up being lot better than it probably could have. I got out of there as fast as I could, and it turns out the people had warrants out on them.
When bad things happen, I have a bad habit of trying to understand God through them by imposing meaning: usually, by assuming that I’m doing something wrong and out of God’s will and that’s why something bad happened.
Reading the Psalms was certainly a comfort. There is so much in the Psalms that can help someone going through a crisis. David was extremely honest in describing his suffering and asking the Lord where he was in the midst of it, while always still returning to God’s grace and mercy. One of our keynote speakers at the conference actually talked about David and things to take from his ministry, so I’m going to blog on that later today on my other blog, rather than on the session I had planned (I will still come back to what I had planned, because everything from was excellent!).
If you ever wonder what David was complaining about, just look at a chronology of his life.
David finds out he is going to be kind as a child, but has a long way to get there, under a murderous current king who hates him. Saul is long jealous of David, and David had to leave his wife Michal, Saul’s daughter, and flee when an evil spirit makes Saul pursue David, aiming to kill him. He spends years fleeing and hiding, and being betrayed multiple times by people he trusts. Saul eventually dies in battle, but so does Jonathan, David’s oldest and dearest friend, and King Saul’s son.
David is human, and clearly makes mistakes. But what I admire most about David, and what I hope to cultivate and emulate in my own life, is David’s constant reliance on the Lord.
One of my recent Psalm readings is Psalm 30, which ends with the line “Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” Now, thankfulness seems like an odd first response to crisis, whether it is David’s life or my own or yours. What is there to be thankful for when an enemy is out for your life, or your best friend dies…or, on a much smaller scale, when someone threatens your safety in your hotel room?
Now, what I’m not at all saying is that we have to be thankful for all of these things, anymore than I’m saying you should be thankful for chronic illness. Bad things happen, and it’s OK–not only OK, but important–to acknowledge that, and deal with them in whatever way you need to.
I’m not thankful for my chronic illness, and wish I could live life without it, but if this is my lot, I’m going to wrestle blessings out of it the best I can. The same goes for what happened Saturday night. It was really scary, and I wish it wouldn’t have happened, and I am sure I will have trauma from it for a long time, but I am still rejoicing and praising God through it: not because the bad happened, but because God is still faithful through it.
Let’s look at all of Psalm 30 in context, with this verse at the end of it.
I exalt you, LORD , because you pulled me up; you didn’t let my enemies celebrate over me. LORD , my God, I cried out to you for help, and you healed me. LORD , you brought me up from the grave, brought me back to life from among those going down to the pit. You who are faithful to the LORD , sing praises to him; give thanks to his holy name! His anger lasts for only a second, but his favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may stay all night, but by morning, joy! When I was comfortable, I said, “I will never stumble.” Because it pleased you, LORD , you made me a strong mountain. But then you hid your presence. I was terrified. I cried out to you, LORD . I begged my Lord for mercy: “What is to be gained by my spilled blood, by my going down into the pit? Does dust thank you? Does it proclaim your faithfulness? LORD , listen and have mercy on me! LORD , be my helper!” You changed my mourning into dancing. You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up in joy so that my whole being might sing praises to you and never stop. LORD , my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
Psalms 30:1-12 CEB
When we look at it this way, it’s clear that praise was not David’s immediate reaction: and that’s OK! It’s good for us to live by David’s example (…in this case, obviously.) I think a lot of times, when we think of the idea that believers should praise continually, we get very discouraged and give up before we even try, because we think praise is at the cost of all other emotions: we can’t praise if we’re scared, or angry, or hurt.
But David runs the whole gamut here: scared, angry, hurt, weeping, hopelessness, some self-insulting. But he still is able to end with praise, because David, through everything, has faith in the Lord. And that’s what I want to have, too: a faith that is honest, that allows itself to run through all the healthy emotions, but that always returns to joy, and to praise, because there is so much more to be joyful about: God is so much bigger than some scary, bad situations.
The biggest reason I have to praise God through all of this, other than God’s innate character of being a God who is good and worthy to be praised, is the beyond-incredible support system God has placed in my life. So many people have helped me through this situation, and both given me safe places to be upset and run through the gamut of emotions, but also helped me: through practical needs, through love, support, understanding, messages, phone calls, rides, babysitting, and a whole host of other stuff. Whether you’re one of the incredible people from my church families, or a family member, or a dear friend, or a ministry colleague, or anyone else who has supported me in any way through this time: thank you. Thank you so dearly. You help keep my faith in God strong with your love and encouragement. So much love to you all.
Because I can run through the gamut of emotions and still return to praise, I know sin does not have the last say. Evil in the world does not have the last say. Satan trying to derail me from the ministry and self-care work I feel called to do has no power compared to the power of the God I praise and the support system that holds me up.
I have two very important things in my life and ministry happening this week, and could use continued prayers regarding them. One is that in addition to my ministry at my church, I am starting a second position as a Before and After School Program Coordinator through the YMCA. I spent a long time praying about this next step, and feel very called to starting this new extension of my call and ministry.
Second, today I have a very important MRI to look at the progress of my Chiari malformation. I have been putting this off for a long time, but finally have the courage and am putting my faith in the Lord to go through with it.
In conversations immediately after the hotel incident with some of the most trusted and valued people in my life, I struggled against my self-defeatism and desire to see what happened this weekend as a sign that I should quit my job before it starts and cancel my MRI. Through their love and wisdom and much prayer, I have decided that is fear talking, not God, and if anything, this is a sign of Satan trying
One of the best compliments I’ve gotten through this, from a dear church member and pillar of the church and community, is that she admired that I was still going through with my plans after all that had happened. But I firmly believe that if they were my plans, I would not have the courage to go through with them. They are God’s plans, and I am just trying to take the next faithful step at a time, and praise God all the way.