A Defender in Difficulty

Do you stand in need of a fortress? Are you in danger? Are you vulnerable? Are you in that high risk group in danger from COVID-19? If you are one of the defenseless and vulnerable, how would you go about entering the fortress of God’s Presence?

O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.  My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 59:9-10 ESV

While looking through some old files, I found a few notes from my personal Bible study. Notes are precious to me. They take me back to moments when God spoke to me. These notes took me back to a time in 2009 when God spoke these words to my heart, showing me three very simple truths from His word.

I would like to share these truths with you and the verses that inspired them. When God speaks to me, He does so in very simple ways. After all, we are very simple people. We are like children. God gives us the basics. Then we take those basics to our everyday life. It is there He helps us live them out in the midst of our circumstances.

You would think that the older we get, that we would be so much wiser, and the deep things of God would enrich us. And yet, I find that the older I get it is the simple, basic, truths that tend to get lost in the forest of some difficulty. I will give you an example out of my practical experience. 

In 2016, after I had a knee replacement, I was having trouble walking. We had two grandchildren, six and seven, living with us at the time. They took care of me with a tenderness that touched my heart. But I was having trouble making the artificial knee work right. I was going to trained therapists who were trying to help me as well as my surgeon.

But then, one day, while holding my little seven-year-old granddaughter’s hand, she looked up at me and said, “Beep” (they all call me Beep) she said, “Beep, you have to pick your leg up like this.” And she showed me. It was the simplest little thing. But it was the thing only she had observed that I was not doing. It was basic. It didn’t take a rocket scientist or a surgeon to understand it. My seven-year-old granddaughter helped me walk again.

Let me help you walk through your time of personal difficulty by offering some precious truths a seven-year-old could share. These truths aren’t profound, but they may help you walk through whatever valley, whatever darkness, whatever forest difficulty you might be facing. You too can trust God to be your defender in difficulty.

First, To Know God as Strength, You Must Stand in a Position of Weakness.

Is that so hard to understand? No. You understand it perfectly. What kind of weakness has invaded your life? To you, the weakness has hindered you. It is holding you back. Yet, have you considered the weakness itself as an opportunity to experience God as your strength? Listen to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 

His power is made perfect in your weakness. His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. We have to get where we don’t know how to walk, before we will let a little seven-year-old girl teach us to walk. We also have to be weak before we are ready to depend on God’s strength.

How then can I access God’s strength?

First, acknowledge your weakness. Is it a physical weakness? Acknowledge that weakness to God. He is not surprised by it, though you might be. Is it a spiritual weakness? Do you not suppose that He also knows that weakness? The promise is the same regardless of the weakness. Simply acknowledge your need.

Second, ask God for strength. Did He not promise to have the supply which you were need? In Isaiah 40:29 God promised: He gives power to the faint,and to him who has no might he increases strength. He gives power to the faint.Are you just about to faint? Are you ready to give in and give up? God waits for you to realize your weakness and to ask for His strength.

Third, once you ask, anticipate the provision of God’s strength. Remember His promise that: they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary; Isaiah 40:31

What God promises, He gives. Would you know His strength? Acknowledge your need. Request His strength. In faith, receive it.

By the way, God’s answer to prayer rarely comes with feeling. It comes by experience, as we walk in faith. David didn’t know God’s strength to face Goliath until He made the journey. Likewise, God’s strength is experienced in your weakness as you continue to walk by faith. When you receive it, against whatever enemy that comes against you, it will be obvious that the victory belonged to God and not you.

The fourth thing I would tell you is to personalize the promise. The words of David must become your words. “O MY strength I will watch for You.”

David also said: for You, O God, are my fortress.

2. To Know God as Your Fortress, You Must Stand Defenseless and Vulnerable.

Only those facing trouble and danger need a fortress. A fortress is not a place from which to fight. It is a place to hide. David also called God his hiding place.

Do you have a hiding place? The other night when our phones rang out a tornado warning, my wife and I went to our hiding place. We closed ourselves in, defenseless and helpless against whatever was coming.

Do you stand in need of a fortress? Are you in danger? Are you vulnerable? Are you in that high risk group in danger from COVID-19? If you are one of the defenseless and vulnerable, how would you go about entering the fortress of God’s Presence?

First, Surrender. Just as I was preparing this, I received a message from one of our members whose granddaughter was being taken to the hospital desperately sick. I know how he feels. He is helpless. Right at this very moment, his family needs God to be their fortress—their hiding place.

What can you do? Nothing! Surrender the battle to the Lord. 

Second, take up the position of prayer. You have heard it said that a man is never taller or stronger than when he is on his knees. But while you are there, let me encourage you to spend less time telling God about the size of your problem, and spend more time considering the greatness and majesty of the God you serve. He is a God who sees. He sees you in your hiding place. He sees you in your need. He sees your little granddaughter whether she is holding your hand or whether a doctor is holding hers. You are helpless. You are weak, but He is strong. Didn’t you sing that as a child. Then practice that on your knees.

Third, while you are there rest and trust. I know the panic of a distressed heart, distraught over weakness and helplessness. Not able to do what needs to be done in your own life or in the life of someone you love. Just today, I read another verse that means much to me. Let it speak to you as you ponder how to respond to your circumstances.  For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,“In repentance and rest you will be saved;in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

As you lay out the situation before the Lord, whatever it is, allow Him to carry it. Don’t try to carry it on your own. You’re not able to fight this battle. Surrender it to the Lord. Take up the position of prayer. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Fourth, personalize the promise. Speak it out to God. You are my fortress. You ae my hiding place in times of trouble and uncertainty.

To know God as strength, you must stand in a position of weakness. To know God as your fortress, you must stand defenseless and vulnerable.

Third, In Order to Experience God as Love, You Must Stand Personally in Need of His Mercy.

David said:My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 59:10

Let me caution you. When you come to God for help, helpless as you are, in your utter and absolute weakness, the enemy will tell you that you have no basis on which to approach Him. You are too sinful. You are not good enough.

In one way, your enemy is right. You are not good enough. But we never come to God on the basis of our goodness. We come to God on the basis of His steadfast love. We come as those in need of Mercy. 

The Bible tells me that God’s mercy is new every morning. It is not like some limited stimulus a government might give. It is not like some human affection that depends on who I am and what I look like in another’s eyes. God’s love is steadfast and unchanging.

So what should I do? First, affirm it, just as you did as a little child. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong! Have you lost sight of God’s love in the forest of some difficulty? God is still your strength in time of weakness. He is your shelter in times of storm. He is your forgiveness in times of failure.

To know God as strength, you must stand in a position of weakness. To know God as your fortress, you must stand defenseless and vulnerable.To experience God as love, you must stand personally in need of His mercy.

There is a song I dearly love because it speaks of God’s greatness and my great need. It is called Made Me Glad. The chorus says this: You are my Shield, my Strength, my Portion, Deliverer, my Shelter, Strong-tower, my Very Present Help in time of need.

May He be all of that and more to you today! May it be your delight to depend on Him! May He shelter you in His fortress and comfort you with His love! May He be your Defender in Difficulty!

Photo by Gustavo Fring@pexels.com

Praying When You Are in Trouble

Do you need the Lord to intervene in your circumstances? Do you need Him to step into the midst of your turmoil and bring order out of the chaos that rages in and around your life? Do you need a second chance?

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary. (Psalm 107:1-2)

Have you ever needed a second chance? You needed it. But maybe you didn’t deserve it.  In this Psalm, the redeemed of the Lord are the saved, the spared, the delivered. The redeemed of the Lord are those who cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He intervened. He gave them a second chance, even though they didn’t always deserve it.  

Do you need the Lord to intervene in your circumstances? Do you need Him to step into the midst of your turmoil and bring order out of the chaos that rages in and around your life?  Do you need a second chance?

You may find yourself in this Psalm.   It will seem as if the Lord took an artist’s brush and painted your life on the canvas of His word.  I want to point out four occasions when God intervened in the life of His people. In each case, God gave them a second chance.

Now, let’s look at these four occasions when others prayed when they were in trouble. Under each major heading, I urge you to pay special attention to the verses that follow. 

First, you should cry out to the Lord when your soul is fainting in the wilderness of discouragement.  

They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; they did not find a way to an inhabited city.  They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted within them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.  He led them also by a straight way, to an inhabited city. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!  For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.  (Psalm 107:4-9)

They wandered. They couldn’t find their way. They were in a wilderness where they experienced hunger and thirst. It was a time of deep physical and spiritual distress.

Could you be at a point like that in your life? You feel you are wandering aimlessly. You don’t know which way to turn. You don’t know what to do. A discouraged person has hundreds of thoughts passing through their mind every minute, but their mind is a confused wilderness in which they find no maps or markers with which to find their way.  That person is lost in the desert of his or her own discouragement.

They found no city to dwell in. In other words, there was no place to rest. There was no immediate resolution to their wandering. Wherever they went, they walked with the burden of their own discouragement weighing them down. It clouded their minds like a fog. The Bible says they walked till their souls fainted. They were overwhelmed by a tidal wave of despair. When you are discouraged, you carry your discouragement with you to work. You eat with it.  You take it to bed with you every night. You come to church with it hanging like an albatross around your neck. What do youdo when yoursoul faints in the wilderness of discouragement?  

They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. (Psalm 107:6) He brought them out of the wilderness of despair, to a place where they could lay their burden down. He will do the same for you.  When your soul faints in the wilderness of discouragement, cry out to the Lord.

Second, you should cry out to the Lord when wrong choices leave you flat on your face.  

There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains because they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.  Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; They stumbled and there was none to help.  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands apart. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has shattered gates of bronze and cut bars of iron asunder.(Psalm 107:10-16)

Have you ever been trapped by the consequences of previous decisions?  These verses paint a picture of a person in a dungeon.  The person is shackled because of rebellion against the word of God and ignoring His counsel. It is easy to become victim of one’s own choices, to be held by the cords of one’s own sin and tormented by the consequences. Is that where you are? Are you trapped in a mess of your own making? Are you there because you didn’t ask for God’s direction or acted against His direction?  If you step outside of God’s will, He will send His discipline into your life until you are ready to be obedient.  Look at how this works out in these verses: Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; they stumbled and there was none to help. (Psalm 107:12)

To humble the heart describes breaking a rebellious spirit.  Just as a man can break a horse, God can break a man.  But that breaking process is no party.  Some frustration has a divine design. When you launch out without God, He will let you fall flat on your face. He will leave you there until you cry out to Him. There are moments when God lowers us into the dungeon of difficulty. He allows us to fall flat on our face. When our hearts are set on departing from Him, He complicates our circumstances until we cry out to Him in our trouble. 

What do you do when wrong choices leave you flat on your face?  Do you live with it?  Must you be a prisoner of your decisions for the rest of your life?  No.  God will shatter the gates of bronze and cut bars of iron asunder. (Psalm 107:16) He will set you free to live in the liberty of His grace and forgiveness. When wrong choices leave you flat on your face, cry out to the Lord.  They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses.(Psalm 107:13)

Third, you should cry out to the Lord when you have followed your sin to the brink of disaster.  

Fools, because of their rebellious way, and because of their iniquities were afflicted.  Their soul abhorred all kinds of food; and they drew near to the gates of death.  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses, He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!  Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful shouting.  (Psalm 107:17-22)

How far from God can you go and still come back? They drew near to the gates of death. (Psalm 107:18b)The Bible says there is a sin unto death. There is a path you can take that will take you to the grave, and God will help you on your way. Their afflictions were from the Lord. God sent severe discipline into their lives in order to bring them to repentance.  They were headed for absolute and total disaster. That may be where you are at this moment. Your sin has you and your family on the brink of disaster. Your world is beginning to fall apart. Will God help you?

Consider the story of the prodigal son. He treated his father as bad as a father can be treated. He went as far away from his father as he could go.  He wasted every blessing his father gave him. He almost wasted his whole life. He came to the end of himself, and he turned his heart toward home. When he arrived, he found his father’s outstretched arms. This is a picture of how God responds to us when we hit rock bottom and there decide to return to Him.  

How far are you from God? How close are you to the brink of disaster?  Is it too late for you?  Listen to God’s promise in Deuteronomy to those who He knew would one day wander from Him, finding themselves in deep trouble. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there theLord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. (Deuteronomy 30:4)

Look how God responded to the people in this Psalm.  They cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses, He sent His word and healed them. (Psalm 107:19-20a) That is exactly what God will do for you!  When you follow your sin to the brink of disaster, cry out to the Lord.

Fourth, you should cry out to the Lord when you are at your wits end and the wind is still blowing.  

Then those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.  For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery.  They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits end.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they were quiet; so He guided them to their desired haven.  Let them give thank to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!  Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him at the seat of the elders. (Psalm 107:23-32)

Is there a storm in your life? Does your soul melt in the face of its ferocity? Storms of life are like weather related storms. They vary greatly in intensity. You might not fret in the face of a thunderstorm, but you might faint in the face of a tornado. What do you do when you are at your wits end dealing with what you thought was only a thunderstorm in your life, and it turns out to be a hurricane?  The sailors mentioned in these verses reached their wits end, and the wind was still blowing.  All hope was lost. What did they do?  

They cried out to the Lord.  When they did, He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. (Psalm 107:28-29) Can Jesus still say, “Peace, be still”  to the storm that rages in your life? He can! But if He chooses not to still the storm, He will guide you safely through it.  

He guided them to their desired haven.(Psalm 107:30)  There may be no safe harbor here. The sea may toss, and the winds may blow, but if you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the ship of your soul is anchored securely in heaven. In ancient times, the reefs would keep the large ships from harbor.  They put the anchor in a smaller ship, a forerunner, and carried it to the harbor. There, they would drop the anchor. When the tide rose, the anchor would pull the ship within the safety of the harbor. This seems to be what the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote these words: The hope we have in Jesus is an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us. (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Do you need the Lord to intervene in your circumstances? Do you need Him to step into the midst of your turmoil and bring order out of the chaos raging in your life?

When your soul faints in the wilderness of discouragement, cry out to the Lord! When wrong choices leave you flat on your face, cry out to the Lord!  When you have followed your sin to the brink of disaster, cry out to the Lord!  When you are at your wits end and the wind is still blowing, cry out to the Lord. He will anchor your soul in a harbor of safety, and in His providence, the tide will rise, and He will draw you safely home!

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp