The Parable of the Outhouse

Every time I passed the outhouse door, I would think of how its only purpose was to hide the entrance to a dark, dirty hole. I knew that because, as a boy, I would sneak into the outhouse with a few matches. While inside, I would light some paper and throw it down into the hole to see what was there.

My grandfather died in 1987. Since then I’ve helped maintain the yard. No one lives in the house. Everything, for the most part, is just the way my grandfather left it. The house is beginning to decay. His old truck is about rusted down. But the family outhouse is, by far, in the worst shape of all.

As a boy, it was an experience to go into that dark outhouse and be able to peer out at the world. I watched the chickens passing in the yard, the people on the back porch, and yet no one could see you inside the dark outhouse, or so you hoped.

The outhouse stood until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged South Mississippi and laid the old outhouse on its side. For years, it lay there continuing to decay. As the days passed, I began to have an interest in the old outhouse. Every time I saw it, I would ponder how much the old outhouse and I had in common.

The wood covering the outhouse did not start out as an outhouse. Originally, it had a higher, nobler purpose. It was used in a factory and served its purpose for many years until, riddled with holes, it needed to be replaced. Once laid aside, it was retrieved by my grandfather for a less noble use. It became the family outhouse.

The same thing happens to people. We wake up one morning doing something we thought we’d never do, or in a place we thought we’d never be. God’s original purpose was ruined by some trial or some sin that took its toll on your own soul. Now, like the wood of the old outhouse, your soul is riddled with holes. No longer worthy to serve the purpose for which God created you, you became something less. You are what you are, but you know in your heart you are not what God intended you to be. If so, then like me, you have something in common with that old outhouse.

Every time I passed the outhouse door, I would think of how its only purpose was to hide the entrance to a dark, dirty hole. I knew that because, as a boy, I would sneak into the outhouse with a few matches. While inside, I would light some paper and throw it down into the hole to see what was there. Boys never ponder the possibility of methane explosions. Curiosity killed the cat, and I am sure more than a few boys. From then on, I knew what was in that hole, and I was never quite so comfortable in that outhouse. That hole was dark and dirty and swarmed by creatures that few of us would want inching toward our backside.

Circling the old outhouse while cutting grass, the Lord reminded me of things my that it and my heart shared in common. There were times when my heart was nothing more than a dark, dirty hole. When the Lord shined the Light of His presence into my heart, He exposed things that made me more than a little uncomfortable about who I was.

Perhaps, you would admit that the same thing is true about you. There are things in your heart and life that are displeasing to the Lord. If we could see what God sees, we would discover our hearts darker and dirtier than we dreamed possible.

When Hurricane Katrina came along, and blew the outhouse over, the dark dirty hole was exposed for the world to see. After that terrible storm, the outhouse was nothing more than a pile of rubble.

As I would pass by that outhouse, the Lord reminded me of how people’s lives become just like this old outhouse. God has a purpose for them. They become unfit for that purpose and become something less. At the center of their life is a dark, dirty hole. One day some storm comes into along and turns things upside down, exposing a weak, vulnerable, sin riddled, dark-hearted soul.

Maybe that happened to you. Some storm came into your life and shattered your dreams. As you look at your life, you realize you can no longer serve the purpose God intended.

The more I passed it, the more these things came to mind. I thought about people whose sin-riddled, storm-ravaged lives have been left in shambles. Many feel forgotten and abandoned by God.

That is where this story takes a turn. Because as I began to ponder those things, it seemed  God was giving me an affection for the old outhouse door. I longed to have it to make it my own. I wanted to redeem it. I wanted to take what once served a more noble purpose in a factory—that had come to serve a lesser purpose—and I wanted to take it home and tell its story. So that’s what I did! I brought it to church one Sunday and stood it right in front of the communion table as an illustration of God’s desire to redeem people whose lives were left in ruin by some sin or some storm.

Are you one of those people? God can lift you from the rubble of where you are and redeem you for a new and higher purpose. Everything that is true about that old outhouse is true about you. Nevertheless, God still loves you and wants to make something beautiful out of your life!

I never passed that outhouse rubble that one single verse didn’t come over and over again to my heart. It is with that verse that I won’t to conclude today. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 NASB)

The Lord, who prompted me to see potential in an old outhouse door, sees potential in you. Though your life is sin-riddled and storm ravaged, perhaps even in shambles, He can raise you up from ruin and redeem you for a wonderful purpose all His own!

Photo by Amy Reed

In the Day of Trouble

Your day of trouble is a day marked on God’s calendar. God is not surprised by the arrival of trouble into our lives or by its intensity.

Who do you call in a crisis? We teach our children from an early age to dial 911. Maybe you have a friend you would call. You might call your pastor or your church. But who do you call when the lines are down and the electricity is out and the roads are impassible? Who do you call when everything and everyone you depend on is out of reach? Who do you call when you are alone in the face of overwhelming difficulty? Consider the following invitation from God.

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me. (Psalm 50:15 NASB)

Did you know that your day of trouble is a day marked on God’s calendar? God is not surprised by the arrival of trouble into our lives or by its intensity. Jesus said, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NASB)

The God who gives us our daily bread—the God who is our provider in times that appear to be good—will not fail to be our provider in times that are bad. He foresees calamity and has made preparation in our behalf in advance of its arrival.

The day of trouble will make you feel distant from God. Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1 NASB)

Is it true that God hides Himself in a time of trouble? That is the way trouble makes us feel. But our feelings offer no truth about God. He is not distant or distracted. Once, Jesus’ disciples were battling a storm on the sea of Galilee. They were alone. In the early morning darkness, Jesus came walking across the water. Peter saw Him and said, “Lord, if it is you, call me to come to you across the water.” Jesus extended the invitation to Peter, and Peter began to walk on the surface of the water toward Jesus. In the midst of the storm, Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. But Jesus never took His eyes off Peter, and he didn’t sink. Trouble may convince me to take my eyes off my Lord, but He will never take His eyes off me.

The day of trouble may last for more than one day and will test your faith to the limit. When trouble is right in front of your face, that is one thing. But there are times when trouble is in front of me and behind me, it is on my left and on my right, it is hangs over my head and lies under my feet. David knew what it was to walk in the midst of trouble, and so do I. Is that where you are walking?

Thankfully, I might be walking in the midst of trouble—but I’m still walking. I may be worn out and worried out, yet I have faith that God will bring me out! It was when Elijah ran from Jezebel and was so tried by his trouble that he felt he couldn’t take another step or live another day—that God sent an angel to revive his wearied spirit. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, God will revive me just as He revived men like David and Elijah.

The day of trouble is a day to call upon the Lord. I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.  pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before
 Him. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path. (Psalm 142:1-3 NASB)

The day of trouble is a day to pray. When you call 911, the rescue squad comes with siren sounding. You can tell God about your trouble. Like the Psalmist, you can pour out your complaint before His throne.

Why turn to God when trouble overwhelms your spirit? Because He knows the road you travel. He knows what you had, He knows what you lost, and He knows what you need!

He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. (Psalm 91:15 NASB)

Where is God when you are in trouble? God promises that if you call Him, He will answer and will be with you in trouble. He will be the fourth man in your fire, your present help in time of trouble, your portion, your deliverer, your shelter from the storm, your refuge and your strength, your shepherd, and the sustainer of your soul!

For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b-6 NASB)

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. (Psalm 27:5 NASB)

The day of trouble is a day that will bring glory to God. How? I don’t know how, I only know WHO! The God who works all things after the counsel of His will—the God who works all things together good for those who love Him—He is the ONE who will bring Himself Glory in the midst of your trouble.

When we call to God in our trouble, God promises our journey through trouble will bring honor to Him (Psalm 50:15). The word translated honor in that verse is the Hebrew word for glory. When does our trouble bring God glory? It brings Him glory every time we trust our trouble into His hand! It brings Him glory every time we call upon Him in our trouble!

The disciples found a man who was born blind, and they asked Jesus, “Who has sinned this man or his parents that he should be born blind?” And Jesus said, “neither—but that the works of God should be displayed in Him.” In other words, his trouble was an opportunity for God to display His glory.

In the New Testament, a man named Lazarus was sick. He was sick to the point of death. He was so sick he would die. But Jesus saw his trouble from the perspective of Heaven and He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

Imagine how Lazarus would have felt as he walked in the mist of his trouble, if
 Jesus had said, “Lazarus, you are going to face a time of terrible trouble like you have never known. You are going to sink so low in that trouble that neither you nor anyone around you will see any hope for the future. But Lazarus, your sisters are going to call upon Me in your day of trouble, and I am going to rescue you. When I rescue you from that pit of a predicament, you will honor me from that day on! From here to eternity, people will be talking about your trouble, and your trouble will never cease to honor Me!”

What if God is doing the same thing with the trouble you face? To you, it may seem like the end of the world. But from Heaven’s perspective, it is an opportunity for you to claim and prove and proclaim the promise of God! Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me. (Psalm 50:15 NASB)

Photo by Kat J

Crossing the Bridges of Fear

I know what it is to stand at the foot of a bridge and be frozen in my tracks. It first happened to me when I was a small boy. For me, that experience has become a life lesson in how to cross the bridges of fear.

There are people in our world who suffer from a malady. called Gephyrophobia! It means the fear of crossing bridges.  Sometimes the fear is associated with the height of the bridge. At other times, it might be associated with the water spanned by the bridge. With others, it is just the bridge itself that strikes terror into their hearts. When those people approach a bridge, they experience panic attacks or are overcome by feelings of dread. Like all fears and phobias, the fear of bridges is created by the unconscious mind as a protective mechanism. At some point in the person’s past, there was an event linking crossing bridges and emotional trauma. It is not the bridge itself that is the barrier. It is the underlying emotional issue.

I am not making fun of those people. In fact, I am one of them! I know what it is to be afraid. I know what it is to stand at the foot of a bridge and be frozen in my tracks. It first happened to me when I was a small boy. For me, that experience has become a life lesson in how to cross the bridges of fear.

Let me take you back to that little foot-bridge that stood between me and God. It did, because on the other side of that bridge, was the church I attended. I had to cross that bridge to get to the Sunday night service. At that little bridge, I had to make a decision about who was bigger—my God or my fear.

The bridge is still there. Although it looks much less ominous to me now than it did when I was a small boy, I still remember the feeling that I had as I stood there weighing my decision. The bridge was old and rickety. Undergrowth grew all around the edges and draped itself across the wooden handrails. All the creatures that a little boy’s mind could imagine lived under that bridge. Compounding the problem, was that it had to be crossed at night.

Maybe that is a small problem to you, but it was a big problem for a little boy. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was making a decision that would shape the rest of my life. Standing at the foot of that bridge, I mustered up everything I knew about God. It rested in one verse of Scripture. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”  Psalm 56:3

There were two things I knew as I stood at the foot of that bridge. I knew fear, and I knew God. I had a decision to make about which was stronger. On that particular night, I chose God. I began repeating my Bible verse over and over. I backed up a few steps—enough to get a running start–and then I bolted across that bridge repeating the verse as fast as I could. I made it across by acknowledging my fear and my trust in God.

Since then, I have learned fear is not only faced by small boys. It is faced by all boys, and all girls, all men and all women. Some fears we outgrow—like my fear of the bridge. But new fears take their place, and sooner or later, those fears have to be faced. During those times, the decision that I made as a small boy has to be made all over again. Which is stronger—my God or my fear?

There are people who have a fear of crossing bridges. But there are bridges of fear in every person’s life. The root of all fear is sin. Fear reflects a lack of trust in God. The first mention of fear in the Bible comes from the third chapter of Genesis. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. God came to the garden and called Adam, but Adam hid himself. He hid himself because he was afraid. He never knew fear until he knew sin. Fear springs from a disconnectedness to God—a distance between us and God. That distance is unnatural. It is something God never intended. Perfect love casts out fear. But where that love relationship is broken, fear abounds.

The next time God speaks to fear is when it surfaces in the life of Abram. He addressed a fundamental fear residing in every person because of sin. It is the fear of following God. Maybe you are standing at the foot of that bridge right now. Listen to what God said to Abram: After these things, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” Genesis 15:1

Sin leaves us with a fear of the God who loves us. We are afraid to be obedient. We are afraid to follow where He leads. Some people have a phobia about crossing bridges. It sends them into a panic attack. Others have a phobia about following God. When God speaks, many of the same physical reactions result. Fear consumes them and freezes them in their journey.

Back in the early 90’s, I took my wife and girls whitewater rafting for the first time. It was one of our most memorable events as a family. But we almost missed it. Do you know why? I was afraid to drive over the mountains. I wasn’t afraid of the mountains. I was afraid that our vehicle would break down on the way. We had a good car, but I had a fear that it would run hot climbing the mountain, and I almost backed out of the trip. I was tentative all the way. I sat on pins and needles afraid that something would happen to the car. That fear almost us from a tremendous experience on the other side of the mountain.

What does God have on the other side of the mountain for you? How will you know if you don’t follow Him when He speaks to you? You will be frozen in your tracks, and you will miss what God wants to teach you and show you. You have to find a way to deal with your fear of following God.

God invited Abram to walk with Him, and promised, “I will be a shield to you. I will watch over you and take care of you.” God makes that same promise to you today. As you stand at the foot of your bridge of fear, you have a decision to make. Which is stronger—your God or your fear? What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee. Psalm 56:3

There is yet another bridge of fear in my life that I face from time to time. It is the fear of the sudden fear spoken of in Proverbs. Be not afraid of sudden fear or of the desolation of the wicked when it comes. (Proverbs 3:25) Sudden fear is the unexpected phone call in the middle of the night. Sudden fear is that calamity that rolls into your life like an unexpected tsunami. Sudden fear is finding yourself riding in the ambulance on the way to the emergency room. Sudden fear is anything that happens that is absolutely beyond your control.

I have been in some of those places. My heart has been ravaged by sudden fear. I have had the ambulance come to my home and carry away one of my children. I have carried one of them limp and lifeless into the emergency room. I have stood outside the door of another emergency room as the doctors raced to save a daughter’s life. When those things happen, all at once, I am a little boy again, and I find myself standing at the foot of that bridge. My fears, like a flood of great waters, begin to flow over my soul. In those moments, I have to decide which is stronger—my God or my fear. In those moments, I find myself going back to that one verse that serves as a rock to my soul. What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. Psalm 56:3

Do you know what the Lord said through Isaiah? “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isaiah 43:2-3a)

There is another bridge of fear I have identified in my life. It is the fear of the future. What is going to happen tomorrow? You don’t know. I don’t know. Will it be something bad? It might be? How does a person live from day to day in dread of what the future might hold? I live from day to day by faith in the One who holds the future.

Does that mean I am never afraid? No! In fact, I am often afraid. There are still many bridges of fear in my life. However, I have learned to face those bridges of fear with faith. Sometimes I have to get a running start and say my verse over and over all over again like I did when I was a boy. But I find that if I live my life with faith in God, He will help me to cross my bridges of fear. May God also comfort your heart as He takes you to the other side!

Photo by Jake Melara

The Prayer of the Sorrow Maker

Words out of the mouth of a mother shape a child or break a child. She can build self-esteem in the heart of her children, or she can rip it to shreds. Words can build. Words can destroy.

What is the impact or your influence? Have you been a help or a hindrance, a blessing or a burden, a bringer of joy or a bringer of sorrow into the lives of others.

We find a man in the Bible who, for no fault of his own, was known by all who knew him as the sorrow maker. That was the label he carried all his life. That was his reputation in his family and among his friends. In fact, that was all his mother ever called him—a little sorrow maker.

Perhaps she said it lovingly, or perhaps there were other occasions when she said it in one of those hurtful tones only a mother can use in her anger. She called him Sorrow Maker.

Words out of the mouth of a mother shape a child or break a child. She can build self-esteem in the heart of her children, or she can rip it to shreds. Words can build. Words can destroy. Whatever this mother meant when she poured out her frustration on this little boy and named him Sorrow Maker, it followed him through the rest of his life. It shaped his self-esteem, and a day came when it even shaped his conversation with God.

Sorrow Maker would have been his English name. His name in his native tongue was Jabez.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying, “Because I bore him with pain.” Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested. (I Chronicles 4:9-10 NASB)

She bore him with pain. His birth caused her grief, and she would never allow him to forget it. Sorrow Maker. That’s what the whole family called him—affectionately or not—in anger or not—it became the way he viewed himself for the rest of his life.

I remember my mom and dad would arguing when I was growing up. Somehow, I felt it was always my fault. I don’t know how I drew that conclusion, but I did.

It’s easy for a child to feel the burden of problems in the home. Little heart’s assume blame for the parent’s problems, the financial difficulties, as well as the friction in the parental relationship.

Children feel that keenly. So here was Jabez—little Sorrow Maker. Whatever he saw in the life of his family—whatever difficulty they endured during his early years—he may have sensed he was the one who had caused it all.

He was the Sorrow Maker.

If you have been the victim of verbal abuse, you know the devastating impact in can have on your personality. Those words are repeated over and over in your mind, even as you come to adulthood. The devil can take those words and project them as God’s own words about you when you fall or when you fail. Remember that name your mom or dad called you in anger? When it happened, you heard it as if they were saying, “That is what you are, and that is how I feel about you.” Now, you still hear that voice in your head and in your heart, because that is the way you feel about yourself.

We don’t know the specific circumstances in the life of Jabez. The only insight we have into his home life is this name his mother called him. But a closer look at his brothers suggests brokenness in their own lives. The little we know about them simply says that Jabez—the sorrow maker—was more honorable than his brothers.

The difficulties these children endured growing up sent them in different directions. Jabez grew up to turn to God. His brothers turned elsewhere. I believe it is against such a background that Jabez pours his heart out to God. Jabez—
the sorrow maker—wanted something better for his life and family.

Can God redeem the life and circumstances of a sorrow maker? Maybe that is not your name, but maybe it is true about you. Maybe things you said or did brought sorrow into the life of your family. Maybe you broke someone’s heart.

Will God hear the prayer of a sorrow maker? Will God help a person who has lived a hurtful life? Is it possible for God to love a sorrow maker? If it is possible for
a sorrow maker to pray, it is possible for God to hear and answer.

We assume Jabez’ self-esteem was damaged by this name his mother had given him. By calling out to God, he is praying he will not live up to this reputation that had followed him all the days of his life.

As he prayed, he sought the blessings chosen for him by God. Literally the verse reads, “that blessing, you would bless me.” In other words, “in the process of blessing others Lord, please include me. As you go on Your way to work good in the lives of others, please work good in my life.”

His problems from the past moved him to prayer. Hardship humbled his heart, bowed his head, and bent his knees before the Lord. While his brothers looked elsewhere for hope and help, Jabez, the sorrow maker, looked to God.

Where are you looking for help in your problems as sorrow reigns supreme in your life?

The Devil is the real Sorrow Maker. He sows the seeds of sorrow into marriage relationships. He sows the seeds of sorrow into the hearts and lives of children— because that is what he wants them to know—sorrow and calamity. The Devil is the real Sorrow Maker. But the Lord Jesus is the Sorrow Breaker, and He can break the cycle of sorrow in your home and in your life.

Jabez, the sorrow maker, simply sought the blessing of God—the Sorrow
Breaker. He wanted the touch of God upon his life. “Oh, that THOU would’st bless me indeed!” He was content to allow God to choose the blessings He sent. He trusted God’s wisdom, and he trusted God’s heart.

All of us have been sorrow makers to the heart of God through our sin and disobedience. As a result, we also brought sorrow to the hearts and lives of others. Maybe you’ve been a sorrow maker in your own home. Now, you can to ask God to reverse that. Ask Him to help you live a life pleasing to God. Ask God to open doors of opportunity where you might be an agent of blessing in the lives of those to whom you have brought sorrow. You should also consider asking God to help you forgive those who brought sorrow to you.

Jabez was not a sorrow maker. The family sorrow had been shifted upon him. It was a burden of responsibility he need never have carried. But still, Jabez,
the sorrow maker, asked God to make him a sorrow breaker in the life of his own family. What would that look like in your life?

Jabez asked for God’s hand to be upon his life. In so doing, he is asking for the presence of God, the blessing of God, the power of God, and the guidance of God to rest upon His life.

After graduating from college, I began to seek God’s guidance about attending seminary. I reluctantly prayed “God, if you want me to go to seminary, have someone I respect greatly come and lay his hand on me and tell me I should
go.” One night as I sat with my family at a restaurant, my Jr. High football coach, Robert Pepper, came and stood behind me. He laid his hand on my shoulder and simply said, “Isn’t it about time you went to seminary?” I know that was from the Lord. His hand was the Lord’s hand on my life.

God’s hand of affirmation gives you comfort. It gives you courage. It gives you direction. The sorrow maker needed the hand of the Sorrow Breaker to give direction to his life.

Isn’t that what you need? You need the hand of the Sorrow Breaker to wipe away the pain of the past, the tears of today, and give you hope for the future. Lord, bless me according to Your desire. Open doors of opportunity for me to live apart from the sorrow that has shaped my life. Place Your hand upon me. Lead me, and guide me!

There are two ways to read the last part of verse 10. In the NASB Jabez prays that he will not know the pain of the past. “That it may not pain me.” But in the HCSB it reads, “That I may not cause pain.”

The sorrow maker no longer wanted pain in his life. He was ready for the painful days to be past. But neither did to be a source of pain in the lives of others. He asked for deliverance. And who did He ask? The sorrow maker turned to the Sorrow Breaker. And what happened? God granted him what he requested. God answered His prayer!

Is there hurt in your life? Have you been the source of hurt in the life of someone else? Who can fix the pain of the sorrow maker? Only the Sorrow Breaker. He understands our sorrow. In fact, he carried it. Consider the description of the Sorrow Breaker from the New Living Translation of Isaiah 53:3-6

He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment

for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:3-6 NLT

Would you, the sorrow maker, consider allowing the Lord Jesus to be your Sorrow Breaker?

Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg

Where Can I Carry My Shame?

Shame is something we all carry. Because we do, it impacts our lives. It impacts our self-esteem. It impacts our relationships with others. It limits our relationship with God.

David’s son Amnon was attracted to his half-sister, Tamar. He and a friend came up with a scheme for how he could be alone with her. In that vulnerable moment an awful thing happened.

He took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”  She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing.  As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.”  But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.  Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!”  But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her.  He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.”  Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her.  And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went. 2 Samuel 13:11-19 (NASB)

One haunting question shadowed her steps. Where can I carry my shame?

Shame can come as a result of something done to us—as it did for Tamar. Or it can come as a result of something we did that dishonored God and caused us to dishonor ourselves.

Where can I carry shame? Is that a question that troubles you? Shame occurs when something happens that causes us to be dishonored in our own eyes. It causes us to think less of ourselves—and whether it is known or unknown—we believe it would cause others to think less of us.

Where can I carry my shame? Shame is something we all carry. Because we do, it impacts our lives. It impacts our self-esteem. It impacts our relationships with others. It limits our relationship with God. We hold ourselves at a distance because of shame.

Tamar was a princess. Once she was violated, she felt she could never be that again. She lost so much because of what was done to her. It could never be recovered. Her purity was gone. Her position was gone. Her hope was gone.

Do you find yourself in a similar position? Is it because of something you did that dishonored God and dishonored your own soul? Or is it because of something done to you? You still carry the shame of that moment. Where can you carry your shame?

The Hebrew word here translated shame means to be despised. Of course, shame causes us to despise ourselves and sense that we are despised in the eyes of others—including in the eyes of God. We know we have done things to dishonor Him. Tamar knew such an act would not only bring dishonor to her—it would bring dishonor to her father Sin is an insult to God. It is also an insult to our own soul. What was done to Tamar was a reproach to God that brought shame to her own soul.

Perhaps you wear a robe of shame today. Don’t you wish you had an answer to the question of Tamar? Where can I carry my shame?

There was no answer to Tamar’s question. In the Old Testament world of Tamar’s day, there was no remedy. She could never regain what she lost. I suppose Tamar carried her shame to her grave. But you don’t have to!

There is an interesting verse in Psalms. Paul tells us in Romans 15 that this verse is a direct reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. John also relates it as a direct reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.

For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. Psalm 69:9

The word reproach, in each occasion of its use, is the exact word used in 2 Samuel 13:13 for the word shame. God planned a way to deal with Tamar’s shame, my shame and your shame before it ever happened. All of us carry the shame of something we did that dishonored God and caused us to be dishonored in your own eyes and perhaps in the eyes of others. Where can I carry my shame?

Allow me to replace the word reproach in Psalm 69 with the word shame. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the shame of those who shamed You have fallen on me. Psalm 69:9

Where can I carry my shame? Where can you carry yours? Dear brother, dear sister, the Lord Jesus carried your shame on the cross. The dishonor you brought to yourself, and the dishonor you brought to God-all your shame and sin was laid upon Him. Jesus Christ bore your shame on that cross. He saw that hurtful thing long before it happened, and through the suffering and shame of the cross, He took your sin and shame.

David, struggling with guilt and shame in his own life, wrote these words. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:5 (NLT)

Where can you carry your shame? Go to the cross. By faith, turn your eyes upon Jesus. God laid all your sin and shame on Jesus, and He nailed it to His cross. Carry your shame to the cross of Jesus and there find release from the shame and guilt of whatever you might have done–or even the shame you carry for something that was done to you!

Photo by Ashton Bingham

 

When the Journey is too Great for You

What giant or what Jezebel has you doubting God’s strength?

Discouragement has never been a stranger to the people of God. The greatest men in the Bible faced times of crippling discouragement—times when they couldn’t take another step or cry another tear.

Elijah may be the supreme example of discouragement in all of the Bible. Many find his discouragement to be out of place—irrational—in light of the victory so recently won. But often, on the heels of some great accomplishment, comes great discouragement. At the end of our energies, we encounter the beginning of depression. Watch how this takes place in the life of Elijah

Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And he was afraid and arose and ran for his £life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” 1 Kings 19:1-4 (NASB)

Some of you are walking in Elijah’s shoes. Like him, you are empty—bogged down in the muck and mire of discouragement—unable to face today—and living in constant dread of tomorrow.

Faced with this challenge from his enemy Jezebel, Elijah arose and ran for his life. Was there cause for him to run? Didn’t running exhaust him as much or perhaps more than simply resting in and trusting in God’s presence and protection?

But he did run!

What are you running from? Are you running from God and His plan for your life? Are you running in an effort to do God’s work, that He would do Himself, if you could rest your soul in Him?

And so, many of us find ourselves in a state of spiritual exhaustion. Worn out from worry—worn out from service—worn out from sin—worn out from life—we find ourselves walking in the shoes of Elijah.

Elijah was one day beyond Beersheba. Beersheba was the last outpost of the southern most border of the Promised Land. He was at the end of his rope. There he sat down, gave up, and went to sleep. It was there he began to pray for things that were outside the will of God. He even prayed that he could die. Have you ever prayed such a prayer? Elijah reacted to his circumstances rather than waiting for a word from God. Fear, not faith was ruling his heart. Stepping outside the will of God didn’t eliminate his exhaustion and discouragement. Instead, it magnified it! The same is true for you. You won’t eliminate your discouragement by stepping outside the will of God. You will multiply it.

Elijah was not resting in the Lord. He was running. He was trying to work things out on his own. In a crisis, we have a tendency to turn our faces away from what God can do for us to what we can do four ourselves. Discouragement causes us to lose our trust in God’s perfect knowledge of where we are and what we need. We begin to hew out our own cisterns, and they are always broken cisterns.

Thankfully, we serve a God who will not leave us to our own devices. He will seek us. He will take action to bring us back into a right relationship with Him, and He will seek to speak peace to our troubled hearts. So it was with Elijah.

He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 1 Kings 19:5-7 (NASB)

Here is a principle we need always remember. Whatever road God has for us to travel—wherever He may send us—whatever circumstances that may be ours to face—we need to hear Him say, “The journey is too great for you.”

Elijah looked at his circumstances and measured them against his own

strength. He knew he couldn’t handle it. That’s why he ran. But he should have run to God.

Henry F. Lyte had been a servant of God for many years. At the pinnacle of his career he suddenly found Himself confronted with news that he had only weeks to live. He had walked many roads and faced many challenges, but this was the highest hill he would ever climb. On September 4, 1847 after preaching his final sermon to his congregation, he placed the following poem in the hands of a family member. As expected, a short time later, he went home to be with His Lord. The words make it plain that Henry knew the journey would be too great for Him.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide;

When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me!

Elijah couldn’t depend on his own strength to make the journey. He needed the strength God alone could impart.

The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. I Kings 19:7-8 (NASB)

What journey lies in your future? Is it a journey that has your heart overcome with fear? Is it a journey that you began, but then ran away because of exhaustion or discouragement? Have you stepped away from the will of God or outside the will of God because you were afraid? What giant or what Jezebel has you doubting God’s strength?

God was working to bring Elijah into the center of His will? Where is the center of God’s will for you? It might be in some distant land, or in the midst of a particular set of circumstances, or it may be right where you are. The center of God’s will for you will always be the place of His presence.

When your heart comes to a place of repentance and rest, of quietness and
trust, there amidst the noise of your circumstances, you will hear from God. There, God will probe you just as He did Elijah.

Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” I Kings 19:9 (NASB)

Are you where God wants you to be, or are you, like Elijah, in some place of your own choosing?

When God brings you into His presence He will cause you to examine your priorities in light of His call upon Your life. Why are you here Elijah? Why have I brought you to this place? Have I brought you here to hide or to hear from Me?

What do you suppose God is doing in your life? Some of you honestly have no idea. All you can hear in your mind is the noise of your circumstances. You’ve heard from your circumstances. Now you need to hear from God.

He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:10-13 (NASB)

When God spoke in that gentle whisper—that still small voice—look at what He said. It was that same question–a question only God could answer. Why are you here? Why has God brought you to this place? For what purpose have you come to the kingdom? Does God have a word for you? Does He have a mission for your life?

Whatever journey lies in your future—whatever God’s plan—you must remember the journey is too great for you. You need His strength. You need His gentle whisper to carry you from the wilderness of your discouragement back to the resting place of His presence.

Photo by Maksym Zakharyak