Have you ever been in such a rush to leave out the door that you left your belt at home? I have done it before, and it’s not a pleasant thing. Nine times out of ten, you are constantly pulling up and tucking in for fear of your bottom layer falling down, or your top layer coming out. Wearing a belt helps to prevent this from happening. Let’s say that we decide to put the belt on, but the buckle is broken. Well, then it makes no sense to even wear the belt at all.
There have been times when I’ve been invited somewhere. I was so excited getting ready for “women fellowship” time. Then, upon arrival, the devil started me up with the comparison trap. I started worrying about whether or not I am overdressed or under-dressed, or if my life is such a mess that I shouldn’t even make myself vulnerable enough to talk about it. After having the tape playing in my head like crazy, I have to talk myself down, and then tell myself, “My identity is in Christ. I am free to be who God created me to be.” Sometimes I calm down pretty quickly. Other times, not so much.
We are all broken, and in our brokenness, we need to build each other up in love, and remember to not leave ourselves exposed leaving out the door. God’s belt of truth is a buckler. It shields and protects. It keeps us together.
There are times in our lives when situations come up that are completely out of our control. When things get this intense, we know that it will take the hand of God to literally turn things around. I find myself laying out prostrate praying to God, waiting for him to deliver. A lot of times God would answer right away, almost before I had finished praying or right after. I would call my friends up and say, “You’re not going to believe what just happened!” There have been other times when my physical body was so wrecked with trauma, and I would literally be at the point of passing out from an acute whirlwind trauma panic attack, as I call it, and I would place my hands on myself, and zone in to prayer, and God would deliver instantly. I love these moments.
But then there are the other moments that we all know about. Days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months, and months turn into years, and God still hasn’t answered. Can God Deliver? Yes, he can. Will God deliver? We don’t know. We know God is sovereign, all powerful, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. As he told Moses, he is the great “I AM”. He is a present tense God. What we don’t know is if he will deliver us from our situations here on earth, right now, later, or in heaven.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew God could deliver them, but they didn’t know if they would be delivered from the fiery furnace:
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Will He Deliver?
About three years ago it was time for me to renew my state sticker. I couldn’t renew the state sticker without having an emissions test done. To line up with how things were going at the time, my car didn’t pass the emissions test. We received an extension on the sticker, but to no avail. I was in one of the worst situations of my life financially. The worse. I had no money to get another car. I barely had money to buy food. The next thing we knew, we accumulated six tickets on the car because of the situation. I had it all figured out. God would answer my prayers through a certain situation. He didn’t. The depression from the trauma dropped even lower. God had us to wait ten months and then he came to deliver. Just like he delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace.
God gave me a sneak peak of how he would deliver. The night before he delivered, I had a dream. In the dream my friends handed me about four different turquoise colored gifts. One of these gifts was a sewing machine. I woke up thinking that maybe I would be blessed with a sewing machine for my craft table, and I could finally learn how to use one. I felt God’s Spirit, but I didn’t want to overthink the situation. I also asked God if he was trying to tell me something. I went to my small group that morning, and one of the members handed me an envelope with a note and check attached, saying that the Holy Spirit told her to give it to me to help me get a new, used car. I had my timing of deliverance and God had his timing of deliverance.
My mother loves perfume. She absolutely loves it! The funny thing about it is that ever since I was a little girl, she has been in love with perfume. As a child, we had special days when we would go downtown to look around. I liked window shopping, but my mother took this to a whole different level. To be honest, I wanted to look around for a little bit, and then get to the fun part: going to Beef N’ Brandy on State Street for a lunchtime sandwich and french fry special.
We usually looked around for a good three to four hours before she decided that we would eat lunch and head home. Those four hours entailed several makeup counters, jewelry counters, and finally the perfume and cologne counters, making sure that she had several samples of facial products and cologne by the time we finished shopping. Every blue moon, she had saved up enough money to buy herself the fragrance that she had been smelling for months. My mother has smelled so many fragrances over the years, that believe it or not, she has become a specialist at knowing her colognes. Whenever we are out and about, and she smells a familiar scent, she might strike up a conversation with a person, and then ask them, “Oh, is that such and such? I love that fragrance.” There are very few fragrances that she is unfamiliar with.
“The Christ Fragrance”
As Christians, we are supposed to be a fragrance of Christ. What fragrance are we giving off? Do they ask us what cologne we are wearing? Or, are we giving off any scent at all? Do people stand next to us and want to run because of our attitudes or behaviors, or do they want to stay and “smell” a while, because their noses are filled with the overwhelming fragrance of Christ?
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 2 Corinthians 2:15
Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Today is a dreary, damp day. However, I can look at these pictures and be reminded of how beautiful the last two days were. The weather was perfect for hiking, walking, bicycling, picnicking, you name it. There were about four different times on yesterday in the midst of my crazy, busy day, and long list of things to do, that I kept telling myself that it was time for me to take a walk, stretch my legs, decompress, get some fresh air, and just bask in God’s goodness. It was also a day of struggles with perfectionism trying to reign, and me talking myself down, taking deep breaths, and reminding myself, “Rest in God. His grace is enough. God will give you the grace to get the things done that you need to get done, and then everything else is tomorrow’s grace.” My mind and spirit knew this. However, the trauma started talking, and wanted me giving in to the overall shaky feeling that my body was having.
I took three books to the train station library, and then grabbed one to bring home. My new rule is that if books are coming in, some have to be going out. When I left out of the station, I decided to do what I had been planning for two weeks now: take pictures of the flowers. After taking these pictures, I decided to walk to the beach, and the water was absolutely beautiful. Of course, I couldn’t just enjoy the view. It was so pretty out, that I had to take some more pictures.
As I walked home, eager to do my last thing on the “To Do” list, I heard the screech of a door behind me. I jumped. Someone called my name. It was a friend of mine from my Mom’s group, who happened to see me walking past as she was talking to her children. She invited me to have dinner with them, and then I walked on home afterwards. God’s timing is perfect. If I had gone to the beach any earlier or later, I would have missed this fellowship and blessing of dinner. I also needed the reminder from God to slow down, and take a deep breath, and really, truly smell the flowers. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
I loved watching the Brady Bunch as a kid. I think every kid in the 70s and 80s watched The Brady Bunch. There was always some drama going on. I also used to watch soap operas starting in my teens. It was one of the many ways my grandmother, Mudear, and I connected. Some of the stories had you so caught up, that you couldn’t wait till the next day to see what happened. Praise God that in my 30s, God delivered me from watching those soap operas. The scenes got to be a little too much at times, and I was totally convicted about needing to give them up. It’s funny because when one of the scenes came on, my grandmother would say, “Oh shoot! I wish they would get to the other scene so that I can find out what happened.” Some of the scenes in the bible play out like a soap opera. The story that we are going to discuss today, should be sang to the tune of “The Brady Bunch” theme song: “Here’s the story of a sin called deception……”Strongholds are hard to break and they run through like cancer in our families. Let’s take a closer look at how the stronghold of deception took place in this particular family.
Isaac and Rebekah had twins: Esau and Jacob. Esau was Isaac’s favorite, and Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite. Rebekah decided to pull Jacob into the game of deception so that he could steal Esau’s birthright. Scene 1 plays out with Rebekah helping Jacob setting up the stew and clothing to trick Isaac. Scene 2 shows us a distraught Esau, who has missed his blessing.
Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish.10 Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you before he dies.”
11 “But look,” Jacob replied to Rebekah, “my brother, Esau, is a hairy man, and my skin is smooth.12 What if my father touches me? He’ll see that I’m trying to trick him, and then he’ll curse me instead of blessing me.”
13 But his mother replied, “Then let the curse fall on me, my son! Just do what I tell you. Go out and get the goats for me!”
14 So Jacob went out and got the young goats for his mother. Rebekah took them and prepared a delicious meal, just the way Isaac liked it.15 Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob.16 She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats.17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread. Genesis 27:9-17
As soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and almost before Jacob had left his father, Esau returned from his hunt.31 Esau prepared a delicious meal and brought it to his father. Then he said, “Sit up, my father, and eat my wild game so you can give me your blessing.”
32 But Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”
Esau replied, “It’s your son, your firstborn son, Esau.”
33 Isaac began to tremble uncontrollably and said, “Then who just served me wild game? I have already eaten it, and I blessed him just before you came. And yes, that blessing must stand!”
34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he let out a loud and bitter cry. “Oh my father, what about me? Bless me, too!” he begged.
35 But Isaac said, “Your brother was here, and he tricked me. He has taken away your blessing.”
36 Esau exclaimed, “No wonder his name is Jacob, for now he has cheated me twice. First he took my rights as the firstborn, and now he has stolen my blessing. Oh, haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?” Genesis 27:30-36
Act 2 plays out in that Jacob leaves his homeland, never to see mommie dearest again. Instead, he is heading towards her brother’s home, Good, Old, Uncle Laban. Uncle Laban isn’t as nice as he seems because Jacob makes a deal with him to work seven years for his daughter Rachel. However, like his sister, Laban is filled with deception. At the end of the seven years, Laban gives Jacob Leah instead of Rachel. Leah gets to appear as the passive one, although she fully participated in the scheme, as Jacob did with Rebekah in tricking Isaac. Scene 1 showed the end result of how this played out.
Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”
19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.”20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. “I have fulfilled my agreement,” Jacob said to Laban. “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”
22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast.23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)
25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! “What have you done to me?” Jacob raged at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?”
26 “It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,” Laban replied.27 “But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.”
28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too.29 (Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.)30 So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years. Genesis 29: 18-30
Act 3 plays out in that Jacob’s boys are out and about, and Joseph comes in his coat of colors to tell them about his dream. They decide to do something about daddy’s favorite, but not without deceiving their dad into thinking Joseph is dead.
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him.19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said.20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said.22 “Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.” Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.
23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing.24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime.27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother—our own flesh and blood!” And his brothers agreed.28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty piecesd]”>[d] of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
29 Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the cistern. When he discovered that Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in grief.30 Then he went back to his brothers and lamented, “The boy is gone! What will I do now?”
31 Then the brothers killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood.32 They sent the beautiful robe to their father with this message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”
33 Their father recognized it immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!”34 Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time.35 His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “I will go to my grave mourning for my son,” he would say, and then he would weep. Genesis 37: 18-35, NLT
Scene 2 plays out in that after Joseph is sold as a slave, he is put into high command in Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh’s wife falsely accuses him of assault, and Joseph is placed in prison. Joseph is released from prison after being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. He is promoted just in time to save Egypt from a famine, and wouldn’t you know, his brothers have to come to his town to get food. Instead of Joseph deceiving and punishing his brothers, he chooses to forgive, and redeem the stronghold of deception.
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was.2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.
3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them.4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt.5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. Genesis 45: 1-8, NLT
What does this crazy soap opera of events teach us?
Strongholds are sin.
Sometimes as Christians we feel that calling something a stronghold makes the sin sound better. Once we are able to handle the truth that our strongholds are indeed sin, then we are able to start doing something about the sin before it gets out out control. I struggle with the sin of perfectionism.
2. Strongholds become coping mechanisms.
I was born with an imprint of trauma on my brain due to slavery from my ancestors, a slavery-style caste system in the South that my family had to endure, and the continuing oppression of slavery “wrapped with a bow” in the city of Chicago. Trauma has by-products of criticism and perfectionism. Perfectionism became my coping mechanism. It has been a part of me since I was a little girl. However, it is still sin.
3. Strongholds are passed down when they are not resolved.
The hardest thing for us to realize is that our sin gets passed down when it isn’t addressed. God has spoken gently to my heart recently to deal with the sin head on so that my kids can see me walk in this freedom.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8: 1, KJV
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4
What does the word rejoice mean? Joy is one of the fruit of the spirit. The fruit of the spirit are all independent of our feelings, although when we are going through things, it definitely doesn’t seem like it. When we have joy, it is when we focus on God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and all the things that he has blessed us with. So, when we are rejoicing, it is doing this over and over again until it gets contagious to others. Sometimes when I listen to praise music, and I bask in God, and who he is to get centered, I get so filled, that I am just beside myself, literally having worship service in my kitchen or living room. It’s not that my circumstances have changed at all, but God is using the praise music to steer my heart close to him. So even though nothing has changed, everything has changed.
When we go through trials, and unfortunately, this summer has given me my fair share, we will know beyond a shadow of a doubt what Philippians 4:4 means. It isn’t going to be easy, and it hasn’t been for me. Sometimes I have to air out my feelings and tell God that I know what he says in Romans 8:28, ” And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”, but right now I am just upset by yet another trial. After I get it out, then I can praise him. What I notice is that when I don’t get my feelings out, then there is internal conflict, and when our emotions are split, we can’t be in the present. I also have to remind myself that God already knows my heart, and since he already knows, what better time to air my frustrations, so that I can move on. So that I can get to the rejoicing part.
I have a saying that I like to tell my kids all the time. They laugh, but it is true: Every morning we get to hit the reset button on God’s mercy.
No matter who we are, at some time or another, we are going to experience grief in our lifetime. Some of us will not only experience grief, but we will experience traumatic events as well. There is no way to prepare for trauma. It sneaks upon you out of nowhere, like an ambush. Grief can be this way as well. You are not prepared for either of these happening, and you don’t know when the symptoms will occur. I can remember times that I was in the grocery store, and I felt like grief was going to overtake me in the aisle. The symptoms of grief are different for everyone. Some of them may be:
inability to stop crying
physical pain and eye troubles
Job experienced trauma and grief. He lost everything that he owned in no time: everything and everyone except his wife. For some reason, ever since I was a child, I marveled over how there was always one person who was able to come back and relay the news to Job about the next devastation that hit him. I have been there with Job. When you get to the point of such compounded trauma, you just end up numbing out. Your brain just can’t seem to handle it all. Job’s friends came to support him, and they were fine until they opened their mouth. God ended up reprimanding them for going on and on to Job with wild explanations for his “suffering”: After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” Job 42:7, NLT
Here are six tips to take to heart if we know someone who is suffering from grief or trauma.
1. Words and Physical Touch: Express to your friends or loved ones how much you love them with words or giving them a hug. If you are not sure of what to say, then just sit with them and say nothing. Sometimes we say the wrong things without realizing it, even if they are true. As Christians, we do know that if that person was saved, they will be in heaven with Jesus. However, it is still hard sometimes for this reality to be of comfort to a person. It is also hard for people to wrap their minds around the fact that the person is no longer suffering. It is still a loss to that person. Sometimes it is better to remind a person that you will be praying for them.
2. Meals: Offer to bring meals over, as well as setup a mealtrain with the small groups at church, as well as the neighborhood friends.
3. Calls and Errands: Offer to run errands or make calls to family members, friends, and churches to inform them of the death. Sometimes when we are in such shock, your focus and memory is off. If the person has a phone book or contact list, it would be nice to go through the list and call each person.
4. Babysit: Suggest taking the kids for a few hours so that the person has time to process and grieve what has happened without having to stuff their pain and scare their children. This is especially helpful if the children are young.
5. Pamper: Treat your friend or loved one to something that would make them feel good: getting a facial, mani-pedi, beauty or barber shop appointment, or a nice outfit.
The story of Leah and Rachel is one that we can all relate to in life: the comparison trap. Their trap probably started at a young age, and unfortunately went into adulthood. Sometimes as parents we have to be extra careful not to be the catalyst for this type of thing happening. The sad reality of their family dysfunction showed that they were filled with constant thoughts of “let me see how I can one up you.” Round one began with “I’ll take your man”. Round two began with, ” I can have more kids than you”. This trap affects both men and women alike, and it ruins families, friendships, and work relationships. The comparison trap has several things that lie at the root. The three that God has spoken to me about are rejection, self-worth, and contentment.
When we read the story of Leah and Rachel, there are several things that we can directly and indirectly perceive. The first thing perceived is that beauty and popularity won hearts. People often shy away from us when we don’t fit into their standard for beauty, dress, hairstyle, etc. If this is our area of brokenness, not fitting into someone else’s standards could lead to insecurity and internalization as rejection. There are two sections of verses that tell us that one of Leah’s issues was rejection. Here is the first:
Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Genesis 29:16-17, NIV
The second section of scripture tells us about why Leah became fruitful right away:
30 And he went in also unto Rachel, and he loved also Rachel more than Leah, and served with him yet seven other years.
31 And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. Genesis 29:30-31, NIV
We see that self-worth comes into play because Leah mentions on more than one occasion that her husband would love her now that God had opened her womb. We see how the phrase, “Oh, but he will love me since I’m pregnant with his child” worked out even then. She said nothing about God loving her, and his love for her being enough.
32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.
34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.
Genesis 29: 32, 34, KJV
In verse 35 of Genesis, it seems as though Leah has finally resolved to be content in the state that she was in:
35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing. Genesis 29: 35, KJV
So we thought. Unfortunately this was Leah’s and Rachel’s stronghold. Right after Leah’s place of contentment, her sister Rachel can’t stand the fact that insists that Jacob sleeps with her handmaid so that she could have children, and since Leah had left child bearing, she followed suit in doing the same:
8 Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won!” So she named him Naphtali [My Struggle].
9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her slave Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as his wife.
Genesis 30: 8-9, GW
The vicious cycle of rejection, no self-worth, and discontentment started up again:
13 Leah said, “I’ve been blessed! Women will call me blessed.” So she named him Asher [Blessing]. Genesis 30:13, KJV
20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun. Genesis 30:20, KJV
Strongholds are hard to get rid of. Like Leah, I was born with a weak eye. I had to wear a patch over my other eye in order for my brain to train my weak eye to use itself, and prevent blindness. I remember the whole process as being quite traumatic: siting in doctor’s offices for 5 to 6 hours, eye exams, a patch, more eye exams, and then eye dilation, and leaving the doctor’s office. I felt helpless as I was walking across the street with my mom, while holding her hand to wait for the bus.
Fast forward some years later, like Leah, I dealt with the feelings of rejection due to abandonment by my father, and then feelings of rejection due to the comment that another teenage girl made in response to my physical appearance. I internalized this comment, and it was used as a tool to produce no self-worth, leading to seeking approval through high achievement in school, through others, and my ex-husband. It also led to years of being in an emotionally abusive marriage, where I sought him for a good portion of my self-worth.
Getting caught up in shopping and other things in order to improve my appearance, and feel like I could qualify to compete, only kept the cycle going. There will always be someone who’s prettier, smarter, and dresses better. We have to be safe and secure in who we are in Christ, knowing that this brings true contentment and self-worth, no matter what other people are saying or thinking. We are all broken individuals in need of a Savior, and God loves us much more than anyone else ever could.
We thank you in advance for rescuing us from the comparison trap. We also thank you that only in you, are we enough. Otherwise, we might become filled with self-pride, criticism, and judgment. Please help us to break free of this stronghold.
How many of you have had times like myself, where you’ve carried around a heavy load, done all that you can do in a certain situation, prayed several times over the situation, and yet you still feel like you’re not sure of how to proceed. You end up being stuck in between a rock and a hard place. We know that the bottom line is that God is in control. Even with that, sometimes our hearts still remain heavy.
This was pretty much what Hannah had to go through. Hannah was barren, and every year when she went to give worship and sacrifice to the Lord, her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, would taunt her to the point of fear because of the fact that God had shut up her womb. We all know that fear is from Satan himself.
And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.7 So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.
I Samuel 1: 6-7, ESV
Hannah’s heart was so heavy, that she went before God’s throne of grace, pleading to God to open her womb:
11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.
I Samuel 1: 11-12, ESV
Hannah was so intentional with her prayers, that her mouth moved, but her prayers were submitted to God through her heart and her spirit. She was on a mission. Eli the priest thought that she was drunk:
13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.”15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.16 Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”
I Samuel 1: 13-16, ESV
It was at this point that God gave Hannah a sign through Eli that he had heard her cry, and her prayers would be answered:
Then Eli answered, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.”18 And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
I Samuel 1: 17, ESV
God came through as he had promised, and Hannah followed through with her promise that she had made to the Lord:
24 And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young.25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli.26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord.27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”
And he worshiped the Lord there.
I Samuel 1: 24-28, ESV
About six years ago, when I was at the peak of my valley, everything in my home was in an uproar. I had done everything that I could possibly do, been taken advantage of, and with a heavy heart, I went to the Lord for help in a prostrate position. I felt led to write out the prayer that King Jehoshaphat prayed in 2 Chronicles 20:
12 O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
God laid it upon my heart to pray this prayer for the next forty days. As the days went on, spiritual warfare hit from every corner. I was on a mission, and I continued to pray. My friend and I decided to get together to pray on one accord with this same prayer New Year’s Eve night. Our kids were upstairs hanging out, and we were downstairs praying. The kids came downstairs a few times to grab food, and were looking at us as if we were crazy. But just like Hannah, we kept praying. We prayed this prayer so hard and so long till our mouths dried out, and we could no longer talk. Like Hannah, we needed an answer. We joked around about whose prayer God would answer first. And as in Hannah’s situation, God answered our requests. My prayer was answered thirteen days later. I don’t remember how quickly God answered hers. God split the Red Sea so that I could leave Egypt. Praise God for his word and his promises!
Thank you for your word and your promises. Thank you that when our hearts are heavy with grief, you are still there. You never change. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Please comfort our hearts when we just don’t know what to do, knowing that you are in control, and will give us instructions when the time is right.
About a year ago, I was looking out of the kitchen window, and I thought that what I was witnessing was a bird fight. Instead of it being a fight, it was more like bullying. Bullying among two birds. One robin decided that he wanted the other robin to leave the grass. (Granted there was more than enough room for both of them.) The second robin(victim) tried to stay there.
However, the first robin(victim), continued to peck him. The second robin went over to the bird bath to relax there. And what do you know? Mr. Bully came over there and pecked him until he left that area. Eventually the second robin flew into the happy face tree(someone literally drew a happy face on the tree itself), and stayed there for a while. This made the bully very happy.
Reflection on Enough
Last week, I saw several birds in the backyard after it rained. No one had the bullying and victim title. They were all scavenging for food after it rained. They knew that there was more than enough to go around.
God revealed something to me in that very moment. Sometimes we are like the two birds from a year ago. We feel that we are not satisfied until we are the only star. We feel that there will not be enough of God’s grace, goodness, and mercy to go around. We think we have to fight in order to get the blessings, or there won’t be enough.
Other times, we are like the birds from last week, realizing that there is more than enough, God is the one who owns it all, and is running it all.
The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Psalms 24:1, KJV
Even with whatever talent it is that he has blessed us with, he has to tell the door to open and to close. Some of us will be blessed with a lot, and some of us will be blessed with little.
“O my people, listen as I speak. Here are my charges against you, O Israel: I am God, your God! 8 I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer.
9 But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. 10 For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. 12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.
13 Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? 14 Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. 15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.” Psalms 50:7-15, NLT
However, when we realize that there is more than enough for everybody, then we can look to God, rather than other people to receive the blessing.
Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
Proverbs 15:16-17, KJV
We thank you for the gifts that you have blessed us with. We pray that you will help us to realize that we don’t have to worry about being threatened by anyone else, because you have blessed all of us with different gifts/talents that are unique to us. Please help us not to compete, but to work together for your glory.