Feeling Weak and Overwhelmed: A Prayer

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When I’m feeble and overwhelmed by life,
guide me into your glory, where I am safe and sheltered.

I’ve been feeling frustrated with my attempts to love people who act in an unloving, disingenuous manner – especially those who make skewed assumptions or condemn on the basis of association. I feel weak, overwhelmed – and, at times, I respond in an unloving, disingenuous manner myself.

Last evening my friend shared a song written by King David. Psalm 61. With tears in her eyes, she said that after reading it she felt loved. She has a beautiful heart and when she shares, I listen. I read the psalm again today.

It looked like King David had all the advantages — looks, charm, talent, connections, physical strength, intelligence, wealth, authority. He had seen God act in mighty and miraculous ways to set him on the throne, yet he still felt feeble and overwhelmed at times.

The greatest advantage David held was his ability to recognize that God was God and he was not. Being able to acknowledge his weakness kept him clinging to the Source of his provision. When he forgot from whence he came, and gave into the temptation to use his authority for self-aggrandizement, (like the time he resorted to betraying his faithful warrior, Uriah, on the battlefield, as cover-up for his own self-indulgence, for example) things went very badly for him. It broke him, but never cut him off from God. Repentence is re-alignment.

Paul wrote about his own intimate relationship with the greatest power in the Universe. A messenger of satan hung around even after the apostle prayed three times to have it removed:

“But he answered me, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.’ So I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. So I’m not defeated by my weakness, but delighted! For when I feel my weakness and endure mistreatment—when I’m surrounded with troubles on every side and face persecution because of my love for Christ—I am made yet stronger. For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 TPT)

History demonstrates that power, unaligned with the Source of light, corrupts. Only the weak and the humble whose strength lies in submission to God can be trusted not to use it to worship themselves. Self-worship is also known as pride or entitlement. “I deserve the best on the basis of my superior attributes.”

The concept of humility is almost completely foreign to today’s public relations schemes and media manipulation. I’ve known Christian leaders who have been told that if they want to build a big church they should not to be open about their own weaknesses.

“People want a strong leader who sets an example,” a seminary prof said, “They want someone with a reputation they can trust without question.”

In other words, people want a god, or at the very least – a self-made man or woman worthy of emulation.

Alas, when leaders who follow this advice find themselves feeling weak and overwhelmed, they don’t always recognize the circumstances that threaten to drown them as a gift to prod them back into right relationship with the One who truly made them. Often they double down and resort to offensive defensiveness instead of humble prayer. A self-made man or woman has only the illusion of self-made resources to fall back on.

When King Herod accepted the adulation of the people, “The words of a god!” things did not go well for him either. (Story in Acts 12)

Those who work with light or fire or electricity or explosives know they themselves are never equal to either its creative or its destructive power. They also know, that with respect, yes, even fear, they can become a part of something greater than themselves, something greater than they ever imagined.

Power and authority in the Kingdom of God comes from knowing one is loved simply because God loves, and not as reward for any superior endowment of attribute or accomplishment. It is God’s infinitely powerful love, the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit flowing through one that allows a person to love powerfully. When we dwell in the shadow of the Lord, we are safe and sheltered. In him, we can love as he loves.

Lord, in weakness be our strength. May our feebleness be a portal to your power. Keep us in Your glory.

O God, hear my prayer. Listen to my heart’s cry.
 
For no matter where I am, even when I’m far from home,
I will cry out to you for a father’s help.
When I’m feeble and overwhelmed by life,
guide me into your glory, where I am safe and sheltered.
 
Lord, you are a paradise of protection to me.
You lift me high above the fray.
None of my foes can touch me
when I’m held firmly in your wrap-around presence!
 
Keep me in this glory.
Let me live continually under your splendor-shadow,
hiding my life in you forever.
Pause in his presence
 
You have heard my sweet resolutions
to love and serve you, for I am your beloved.
And you have given me an inheritance of rich treasures,
which you give to all your lovers.
 
You treat me like a king, giving me a full and abundant life,
years and years of reigning,
like many generations rolled into one.
 
I will live enthroned with you forever!
Guard me, God, with your unending, unfailing love.
Let me live my days walking in grace and truth before you.
 
And my praises will fill the heavens forever,
fulfilling my vow to make every day a love gift to you!

Psalm 61 TPT

 

In Black and White

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I like black and white photos because I am easily distracted. Images without a myriad of colour lack the yeah-but variations that take me in multiple directions, but monochrome states basic value.

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Sometimes I need to get back to basic values — basic values like this one:

“… O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8 NLT

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And Some Have Humility Thrust Upon Them

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I almost walked past these little blooms on a low brown shrub. I don’t like brown. I spent years trying to rid my house of the brown walls, flooring and trim that was so trendy when we bought it. The experience left me with a dislike for brown décor and an aversion to popular fashion trends.

I wondered why anyone in a country prone to vegetation-killing frost almost three-quarters of the year would intentionally decorate their garden with a bush that looked so, well, humble compared to the colourful alternatives. When I slowed down to pay attention, I noticed the beautiful little intricate blossoms.

In dreams, the colour brown often represents humility. (Not always, of course. When God chooses to communicate through symbolic language he customizes it to take into consideration the connotations for the one receiving the dream as well as their willingness to follow clues.) In a culture that honours the right, even need of the individual to be “the winner,” the humble person who puts others’ needs before their own seems to exert little influence.

And yet God says over and over he is attracted to the humble.

We’ve heard Shakespeare quoted: “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.

I wonder if, in the upside-down arrangement of the Kingdom of God, where the proud stumble regularly and last shall come first, it might be accurate to say: Don’t be afraid of humility. Some are born humble, some humble themselves, and some have humility thrust upon them.

I can tell you from experience it is better to humble oneself than to have humility thrust upon one, but a loving Fathers chastises when necessary if we continue to ignore his advice. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.” He’s serious about your character development.

The humble are not victims, or grovelling worms unworthy of attention, or door mats willing to be trampled underfoot by the ‘entitled,’ nor are they sympathy addicts who use their challenging circumstances to attract people who will take responsibility for them.

Truly humble people have the advantage of knowing who they are in God’s sight. They know they are loved and secure and have no need to push other people out of the way in the race to admiration and acceptance. They are accepted already. They can appreciate help and correction, but they don’t need the approval of people who compete.

The humble know that God is God and they are not. Their confidence (which may be mistaken for pride) is a result of their trust in their Creator. They can afford to lift another person up to become all they are meant to be. They can afford it because they have access to all the riches in their heavenly Father’s house. The truly humble have prosperous souls.

Jesus-followers follow his example of humility.

So I’m asking you, my friends, that you be joined together in perfect unity—with one heart, one passion, and united in one love. Walk together with one harmonious purpose and you will fill my heart with unbounded joy.

Be free from pride-filled opinions, for they will only harm your cherished unity. Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves.

Abandon every display of selfishness.

Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests. And consider the example that Jesus, the Anointed One, has set before us. Let his mindset become your motivation.

He [Jesus] existed in the form of God, yet he gave no thought to seizing equality with God as his supreme prize. Instead he emptied himself of his outward glory by reducing himself to the form of a lowly servant. He became human! He humbled himself and became vulnerable, choosing to be revealed as a man and was obedient. He was a perfect example, even in his death—a criminal’s death by crucifixion!

Because of that obedience, God exalted him and multiplied his greatness! He has now been given the greatest of all names!

(Philippians 2:3-9 TPT)

Thank you, little brown shrub. I see you.

She Said Yes

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Only the humble – those who know and are honest about who they are and who they are not – can be trusted in the presence of great power. The temptation to usurp it for self-aggrandisement is too great otherwise.

This quote came to my attention again today: “It is easier to be an excessive fanatic than it is to be consistently faithful, because God causes an amazing humbling of our religious conceit when we are faithful to Him.”
– Oswald Chambers

Of all the millions of women alive at that time, why did God choose Mary from Nazareth to carry and deliver the most important Word ever given to people – the Word Himself?

The angelic messenger greeted a person on the cusp of adult life with the acknowledgment that God saw her as a woman who was full of grace. In spite of the fact that being pregnant outside of marriage was a demotion reputation-wise and would probably set her up for the heart-breaking loneliness of being misunderstood, she recognized purposes of her Lord. She trusted him.

The most profound expression of faith ever spoken may be found in her response to an angelic encounter:

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

There is not a drop of religious conceit in her powerful yes.

 

And We Beheld His Glory

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I prayed that God would show me his glory. I prayed and prayed for both an intellectual and experiential understanding of glory. “Show me!” I cried.

He did. He showed me a child, a child born to parents who were told they could not conceive a child. Shortly after that I read an explanation of God’s glory. It is however he chooses to express himself (I believe it was Paul Manwaring who wrote this.)

I wonder sometimes if God is setting us up when we continuously look for the grand and he responds with the simple. He has done it over and over again. Through his prophets he said, “Expect something really, really big. Your Anointed One is coming!”

What could fit our image of a mighty delivering King less than a helpless newborn baby? The book of John explains to us in the first chapter who he was.

So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 Phillips)

This baby was The Word, the Voice that spoke all into being.

But not everyone recognized this marvelous gift to the world, even when he grew up and told them.

That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world—the world he had created—and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. (John 1:9,10)

Mary caught a glimpse of the Kingdom and the way God works when she exalted him with her prophetic song of praise which said, in part:

He has shown the strength of his arm, he has swept away the high and mighty. He has set kings down from their thrones and lifted up the humble. He has satisfied the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands. (Luke 1:51-53)

God’s ways have often been to do the unexpected, to choose to work through the humble, the broken, the underdog, the less-than-mighty. Jesus himself danced with joy when he saw how his Father chose to express his glory through the seventy ordinary folk Jesus ordained to go ahead of him, healing the sick and casting out demons.

At that moment Jesus himself was inspired with joy, and exclaimed, “O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, I thank you for hiding these things from the clever and the intelligent and for showing them to mere children! Yes, I thank you, Father, that this was your will.” Luke 10:21-22

I read a prophecy the other day which said, essentially, “Expect great things in the coming year. Prepare to be surprised!” My tendency (after overcoming some skepticism) is to say whoo-hoo and prepare to look for the grand, the spectacular, the really big show. The surprise could be a a mass choir of shining angels, but I need to remember it could just as easily be a scruffy child with a lunch of buns and fish – or a baby born to a couple who were told they could not have a baby.

I don’t know what the Lord’s provisions for us in the coming year will look like. This I do know, they will be full of grace and truth, because that’s who he is.

And, if we pay attention and stay humble, we will see his glory. Expect the unexpected.

But Jesus, knowing what they were arguing about, took a little child and made him stand by his side. And then he said to them, “Anyone who accepts a little child in my name is really accepting me, and the man who accepts me is really accepting the one who sent me. It is the humblest among you all who is really the greatest.” Luke 9:46-48

May we become like little children. May we never lose our wonder.