As a Christian parent, my greatest desire is for my children to trust and follow Jesus. I want good things for them, but the world is full of frightening possibilities that threaten my kids’ faith and future.
Maybe like me, you find yourself overwhelmed with concern for your kids and you just don’t know where to start when it comes to prayer.
For centuries Christians have written prayers and used the prayers of others as a guide. Even the first disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and Jesus gave them what we call The Lord’s Prayer.
Sometimes we need inspiration to know how to pray. That’s why I wrote this. I hope this post will inspire and help you talk to God about your kids and the anxieties you carry for them.
Scriptures to pray over your children
Prayer is a conversation with God. When we use our Bibles to pray, God talks first, we listen and respond. If we make a practice of talking to God about what we read in our Bibles, we’ll have plenty of help with what to pray for our kids.
Here are 8 Bible verses and prayers to use as a starting place.
Prayer for your children’s protection
I am guilty of wishing I could raise my kids in a bubble.
Drugs, alcohol, sexual perversions, greed, love of money, abusive people… the options for destruction surround my kids like a pack of wolves. How should I pray?
The famous bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,” may sound childish, but the truth is, the Lord is the one who keeps our kids’ souls. He is our hope for their protection.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- whom shall I dread? Though an army deploys against me, my heart will not be afraid; though a war breaks out against me, I will still be confident.”
Psalm 27:4 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for a child in crisis
When we get bad news about our child, or they experience trauma or loss, the overwhelming sense of helplessness is paralyzing. We want our kids to be strong and courageous, but when fear breathes down our necks we too need the anchoring truth of who God is to help us pray.
“God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil.” -Psalm 46:1-3 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayer for children’s health
God has not promised our kids health. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.(John 16:33)” But Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy that says, “…he himself bore our sicknesses…” (Isaiah 53:4) Though our children may not be healed of mental or physical maladies, we can pray they will trust the Christ who bore their brokenness in his own body, and can raise them to new life.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will have life even if he dies. And he who lives and believes in me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26
Pray like this:
Praying for a rebellious child or teenager
Next to the death of a child, watching a son or daughter rebel against your guidance, and especially against Christ, is heart-wrenching.
In Psalm 51, David writes a broken-hearted prayer of repentance after his sin was exposed. It was only after recognizing his own sin that he was able to teach others to turn to God. In our prayers for our children we must seek God’s wisdom to discern where our own confession of sin and repentance is needed to help our kids return to obedience.
“Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit. Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.” -Psalm 51:12-13
Pray like this:
Prayer for your child’s future
God knit our children together, weaving their personality, talents and number of days like a master tapestry, before their first cry. We can pray with confidence in the goodness of the God who holds their future in his hands.
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:7,11
Pray like this:
Prayers for your child’s success
Because God’s thoughts are not like ours, the way we and our kids measure success may leave us with an insatiable thirst for more. We want our child’s ideas of success to grow out of God’s thoughts, not their own. Whatever our children set out to do, we want them to be motivated by a desire to glorify God.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for teenage relationships
Next to the “terrible twos,” the teenage years have the most notorious reputation for trouble.
Teens live in a tension between playful childhood and adult expectations. The fact that teenage relationships are between two immature and broken people means there will inevitably be trouble. We can’t keep our kids from this kind of suffering, but we can pray that in their relationships they will learn to love others well.
“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12 CSB
Pray like this:
Prayers for my daughter or son to come home
The goal of parenting is to launch our children out into the world equipped to follow Jesus. We want this to be a deliberate and happy launch. We don’t want anger, shame, and lust for the world to drive our kids away from home. When a child leaves home in rebellion, the desire for them to come home is a desire for reconciled relationships. Like the Father in the prodigal son story, we must look for restoration. Praying is how we watch for the day when God brings our child back to a right relationship with us and him.
“So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. – Luke 15:20 CSB
Pray like this:
Never Stop Praying
As our kids grow through the various stages of life we must never stop praying for them. Using these 8 verses and prayers we can begin praying with confidence in what God says. The Holy Spirit will help us when we’re weak and don’t know what to pray.
“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” (1 Samuel 12:23)
And click here to get free printables of these 8 scriptures and prayers. And here for an editable word document of the same.
Today I got in my car and drove away from my house alone. Again. However many Sundays there are in 28 years, that’s how many Sundays (minus a few Christmas and Easter Sundays) I’ve been going to church alone.
Almost every Sunday I have to fight the numbness that threatens. Going to church every Sunday can become so routine that you forget exactly why you’re going. It’s just what you do. Going to church every Sunday alone, while the man you love stays home to work on his latest project, throws pain at the numbness that won’t let going to church become a routine. It’s like arthritis of the heart flares up every Sunday, but I’ve gotten used to the pain.
My life circumstance lie to me week after week. They tell me God’s not there. And if he is, he’s can’t reach my husband and sons. And if he does, they wouldn’t embrace him. And at times I find myself lost in complaints, bitterness and blaming like the dwarves from The Hobbit did when they lost their way in the Mirkwood forest. I need to remember what God told Ezekiel to tell the people of Israel when they were generations deep and poisoned in their own Mirkwood forest.
“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
– Ezekiel 36:24-28 ESV
God promised to give his people a new heart and new spirit. And he has. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve experienced it myself.
I’m not a Bible scholar, so I won’t go into the when or how the fulfillment of this prophecy happened or will happen for Israel. But I know there was a time in my life that I didn’t care about God. I cared about me. I didn’t want to walk in God’s ways, I wanted God to give me my way. And I don’t know how he did it, really. I mean I know the right theological answer, but I can’t tell you how he made what beats inside of me every day long for Jesus. All I know is, I have a heart I didn’t have sometime before age 16 when I heard Jesus call me to follow him.
And I’ve seen it in my sister’s life. God took out her heart of stone and gave her a tender heart that loves Jesus and people.
I need to remember. I need to believe. I don’t know when or how, but my God is a heart transplantor. He takes out hard hearts like the one I’ve seen resist the gospel for 28 years, and replaces them with hearts that love Jesus.
I remember things that seem to have zero importance. Like the smell of the small stairway that led to the attic-level Children’s Ministry classroom in my childhood church.
I remember the smell. I remember the stairway being narrow. I remember the small window from which I could look down and see the church sanctuary. And I faintly remember dark cabinetry and a flannel board.
But when my son is obsessed with his appearance and I fear that I didn’t do enough to instill God’s word and the hope of the gospel in his life, I seem to have total amnesia to the eternal, historical and experiential truths of God and Christ. I forget what God has done. I forget what he’s promised. I forget how he redeemed and is still redeeming me.
When I am scheduled to teach kids at church on a Sunday, or speak to a group of people on a specific subject, I’ll do the work needed to prepare myself. So I decided to give myself an assignment: a blog series on remembering God. My goal: to write on one eternal, historical or experiential truth of God in an effort to deliberately remember.
Maybe like me, you’re a married mom of kids in the launch-out phase of development, working full time and involved in your local church, trying to balance work, rest and play. Or maybe you’re in a completely different demographic. Whatever your lot, if you’re a Christian, intentionally remembering what God has done and promised has got to be good for you, and me.
To prevent this intentional forgetting our brains do, we have to intentionally remember. According to the researchers, “The more often a memory is recalled, the stronger its neural network becomes. Over time, and through consistent recall, the memory becomes encoded in both the hippocampus and the cortex. Eventually, it exists independently in the cortex, where it is put away for long-term storage.”
God knows this about our brains. (Surprise!) And throughout scripture, he tells his people to intentionally remember what he’s done and said. This is one of the functions of the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25:26 ESV)
So, if you find yourself struggling with the day to day of life, or the crisis that has hit you, join me here every weekend to remember some of the eternal, historical and experiential truths of God.
I’m not a boy who drives a plow. I am a low-energy, struggles-with-depression, mom and wife who drives a Ford Edge with a dent scratched right through the Ford symbol on the back because I closed the garage door while the back hatch was open. Mr. Tyndale’s life was not spent in vain. His work to translate the scriptures into English has reached me. I don’t claim to know my Bible better than the Pope or a Bible scholar, but I have reaped the benefits of growing in my faith as I’ve wrestled with, prayed through, chewed on and shared what the Spirit teaches me as I read my Bible and hear its message proclaimed.
The Bible can be and has been misused. Like a sharp knife, it can be used to heal or kill. Throughout time, the word of God has been wielded to serve the self-exalting interest of the person or people holding it as a weapon of power or self-defense. It can also be ignorantly misused, like a child playing with his daddy’s hunting knife. I think when we pick up our Bibles we should do so with a kind of trembling. We should be aware that when we, prone-to-wander sinners by nature, redeemed though we are, read our Bibles we will tend to see it applying to everyone else, and turn every story into a moral lesson for making our lives more successful. But you don’t have to be skilled in Bible memory sword drills or have a degree in theology to be changed by God’s message in the Bible.
Here I offer these modern-day plow boy (or girl as it were) practices that will help you pick up your Bible with a holy fear and childlike faith that will serve to transform you, keeping you humble and growing in grace.
Look For Jesus
Look and listen for sights and sounds of Jesus. In one of my favorite stories in the Bible, the risen Jesus walks alongside some men who, dejected and disillusioned walked a road processing what had just happened at the crucifixion of the one they thought would be their king. When Jesus, hearing how lost and confused they were spoke to help them, the story says, “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27). The Bible is meant to lead you to one person- Jesus! Looking for him in long genealogies, or poetry, or details about dimensions of a temple is challenging. One practice that helps (some good pastor taught me this), is when reading about kings, priests and prophets, let them speak to you of Jesus both in comparison and contrast. Jesus is the greater of all the kings, priests and prophets. In much of your reading it will take time, like following a long road home, to begin to see how these stories are leading to Jesus. But as you begin, ask yourself, “What does this tell me about God? How did this lead to a need for Jesus to come? What does this tell me about humanity?” Over time, like the men on the road to Emmaus in Luke, you’ll begin to see the things concerning Jesus. And when you do it’s beautiful! It’s so worth it.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)
Study to Teach a Child
Tell your kids, or grand-kids or neighbor kids and kids at your church’s children’s ministry what you see of Jesus in a story or text. One of the most important things the Bible says we’re supposed to do with his message is tell it to the next generation. I have been an attender at many Bible studies over the years. They are good. Don’t get me wrong here. But the best kind of Bible study is not the one done among people just like you- all women, all men, all of a certain affinity- (and study books written by Christian authors does not constitute a Bible study). The best kind of Bible study is the one done in an effort to pass the message of the Bible on to someone else. Taking the rich feast of scripture and making it palatable and digestible for a child is a Christlike posture of humility that is sure to produce gospel fruit.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
Insert Your Name for the Bad Guy
Every time you read about the “bad guy” or cringe at some evil or bad choice someone makes, put your name there. Your first tendency will be think of your spouse, parent, neighbor, president, child… anyone but yourself. When you catch yourself thinking, “I wish so and so would read this, or believe this…” Or, “That’s just like such and such…” stop! Stop in your tracks right there. Put your name in the place of Sarah telling her husband to take another woman and impregnate her, then turning on the same woman abusively. Put your name in place of drunken Noah and his shady son. Put your name in the place of runaway Jonah, and mocking Peter, and money-hungry Judas. And then remember that Jesus died because in your heart and mine dwells the same sin that brought these to such shameful places. Then thank God. Sing. Praise him for saving a wretch like me and you and Noah.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:7-12)
Insert Your Name for the Righteous
Every time you read the word “saint” or “righteous” or “redeemed”, put your name there and get on your knees. In you and I dwells the fallen tendency to feed the sinful, deadly instinct of our flesh. But thanks be to God, Jesus has put the shame and guilt and condemnation of that nature to death and given us a heart tender to his beauty and love. Let what you read about the saint and the righteous and the redeemed inform your identity as a child of God by expensive grace. The work of Jesus has made you and me saints. We are holy ones because Jesus died for us. We are righteous because Jesus has given us his righteousness. We are redeemed because the blood of Jesus paid the price for your life.
“…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:29-31)
Take up your Bible today, even now. Start at the beginning, or start where your church is currently at in the Bible. Use a Bible reading plan. However and wherever you start, start. Let the lives of those before you who suffered so you could have the Bible in your language be honored. Let the life of Jesus who embodied every truth, won every victory, fought every battle, presides as the righteous judge over every judgement and became for us every bit of our sinfulness, bearing the curse of death in our place, making us children of God- let his life be feasted upon and resurrected in you.
Depression, in my family, is inherited along with steely blue eyes, long limbs and a weak chin. It’s something I write about not infrequently. But I’m not always depressed. With the help of medication and intentional acts of setting my mind on things good, true and lovely, as God’s word so wisely instructs, I have lots of good days.
I don’t know if you live with depression or some other hard thing in life, but I hope you can find something lovely to think on today. Here are 5 for you to consider:
#1 The Sunflower
I picked up a bunch at my local grocery store today. A $3.99 pleasure. I grew a red sunflowers one summer here at our place. They were amazing. I can’t help but feel a pinch of brightness and upliftedness when I look at a sunflower. I’m glad God made them.
I can avoid donuts and candy for a long time if there’s a bowl of fresh, ripe blueberries around. This time of year they’re on sale at our local grocer. Their deep blue make nostalgic for a my imaginary country home. Their snap of crisp, tangy sweetness satisfy my need for crunch and sweet. And they’re full of those cancer fighters- antioxidants.
#3 Peaches and Cream- Whole30 Style
My husband and I are 21 days into our Whole30. We’ve done this before and have always felt better afterwards. But the last time we did a Whole30 there were no Nut Pods French Vanilla Creamers! This nut based creamer poured over a freshly cut summer peach is utter delight. Get some. Try it. You’ll agree its wonderful.
#4 Bullet Journal
I discovered the Bullet Journal about a month ago and it’s hands down the best thing that’s happened to me since switching to a French Press (which is another very lovely thing).
I’m almost always thinking of something I want to write down, or need to get, or a person to call, or an email to respond to, etc. And thus far in my life I’ve managed to get those things done and organized without forgetting. But enter my smartphone dependence at age 44- I think my brain has atrophied in the remember-things-for-yourself-and-slow-down department.
There’s a whole following for bullet journals (#BuJo) and people make pretty ones that are basically works of art. Mine’s just your basic bullet journal. And I love it. Need to get more Nut Pods- bullet journal. Remember while your driving that you want to write a letter to your mom on Sunday- use Siri on bluetooth to write a note and put it in your bullet journal when you get home or pull over (don’t write while you drive).
Seriously. If you’re forgetful, do better with lists but keep loosing the little sheets of paper you write on and want to look back and keep current on what’s going on in your life- get a bullet journal!
#5 The Next Right Thing Podcast with Emily P. Freeman
If you have iTunes you can get it here. Or you can go to her website and get it here. But either way, as Emily puts it, if you would call yourself a second-guesser, a chronically hesitant person or one who suffers with decision fatigue, this podcast is a very lovely thing. Emily’s voice is melodic and relaxing. She starts with a reading of scripture and a short meditation and then moves on to the content of her podcast which is very practical and reassuring. You should go listen to her latest “Receive” series episode called “Receive Shadows and Light” now.
May your countenance be lifted by these lovely things. And may you join with other sojourners this weekend to adore the One who makes all things new.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
A Facebook friend recently asked a question after reading my piece about the 8 words. Her question in essence was, “How does God want you to love your husband when he doesn’t share the same love of Christ you have?”
I’m not a seminary graduate, but as my pastor says, I am a theologian. We all are, he says. We may be bad theologians, but we all believe something about who God is or what God does and says, and that’s theology. Of course my nearly 25 year marriage to a man I dearly love, who does not love Christ with me, is a long enough walk down this road to test what I believe about God on this subject.
So from my theological understanding of marriage in the scriptures, the husband and wife relationship, above all relationships speaks of the ultimate purpose of all human beings- to be in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ laid his life down for us (the church) in love so that we could be united with him and say, “My beloved is mine and I am his.” To be in such a bond with Christ is the fulfillment of human existence. When a husband and wife don’t share a love of Christ, the brokenness in that relationship is so apparent that the way you love your unbelieving husband or wife looks more like the way you love any person who doesn’t believe and less like the way Christ and his church love one another. In other words you loose the intimate union and live in a separate but together state. Paul put it this way:
‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”‘ 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
In a marriage where Christ is not the mutual highest object of affection and hope, the couple have no lasting intimate partnership, no fellowship, no accord, no portion together, no agreement. There is a separation where there should be oneness. This doesn’t mean the believer and unbeliever have nothing in common. And it doesn’t mean there isn’t grace for both of them. There is common grace and common ground between the believer and the unbeliever. But there is not partnership or union at the deepest level of identity, hope and joy. They don’t share the same love.
Now, this doesn’t mean we should “go out from their midst and separate from” our spouses. Paul makes that clear:
‘To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. ‘ 1 Corinthians 7:12-17
There is no common love of Christ in a marriage between the unbeliever and the believer. But there is a holiness. The fellowship and oneness intended to grow out of mutual love for Christ is not present. But a set-apartness is.
There is a way in which you “come out from among” a marriage to an unbeliever that doesn’t mean divorcing or leaving them. You are set apart, and so are they, and so are your children. There is a mission, a ministry, like that of the missionary setting his love and life on a people group who do not know Jesus. The aim in a marriage to an unbeliever is not a united front to pour out your mutual love of Christ on others. It is a calling on the believer to not go the way of the unbelieving spouse’s idols and pseudo-saviors. It’s a calling not to join them in loving the world, but to come out from among them and let the love of Christ compel you to lay down your life to win them to Christ.
I know some will say staying in a marriage to an unbeliever to win them to Christ is not a good reason to stay married. I say that is exactly what the scripture says is the reason a believer should stay in the marriage. For, “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:16)
Does that mean if your spouse doesn’t become a believer or wants out of the marriage you’ve failed? No! God may use your faithfulness to save your spouse, or he may not. But if the ubnbeliever is willing to stay married to you it’s a really great possibility that’s totally in God’s hands and worth investing your life in.
Staying in a marriage to an unbeliever with a missional heart to win your husband or wife to Christ is right. And it is not a manipulative or enabling or unhealthy co-dependent emeshment. Loving your husband or wife with a desire to win them to Christ is not self-preserving or sin-enabling. Loving your husband or wife with a desire win them to Christ may be the very thing that causes them to no longer want to be married to you. You have to hold your marriage with an open hand. The goal is not to prevent loosing the marriage. The goal is glorifying God by loving your spouse. You may loose your marriage and win your spouse to Christ. Or not. You don’t stay in the marriage and love your spouse so that you’ll get the outcome you want. You stay in the marriage and love your spouse because the love of Christ compels you. Love of God supersedes love of spouse, even as the reason for your faithfulness and vulnerable love towards your spouse.
Does that mean the believer’s love for the unbeliever is not real because it is not the fantastical romantic love we idolize? No! The love a believer has for his or her unbelieving spouse is very real, very Christ-like, if it is compelled by Christ’s love, not fear of loosing the spouse, not an insatiable need for the spouse to fulfill you. And in this way, loving an unbelieving spouse is a good example for how even believing spouses should love one another. We all, in all marriages, have to bear the pain of the other’s sin. No Christian husband or wife will fulfill you. Only Christ does that. As C.S. Lewis influenced me to say, if I find in myself desires which this marriage can’t satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another “marriage.” That truth applies to all marriages, to believers and unbelievers.
This could really be a long post. Um, it already is a long post. So I’ll try to respond more directly to the question that spurred this on.
Q- How does Christ (my heavenly Husband) ask me to love my husband who doesn’t share my same love?
“My beloved is mine and I am his…” Song of Solomon 2:16
So the people who know these things (at least the ones I’ve heard) say the Song of Solomon is about a husband and his wife. It’s a love story. Others say its about Christ and his Church. A love story. I say yes.
These eight words:
are deep calling to deep for me. Echoing waves of, “So be it!” rise from a cavernous thirst when I read them. I ache deep, longing for the fulfillment of those 8 words.
My marriage isn’t easy. I know, probably you would ask, who’s is? It’s foolish, and evidence of my self-centeredness, but sometimes I feel like my marriage is harder than the average marriage. We don’t share the same love of Christ. We have scars. And walls. And chasms of distance. Sometimes we’re close and enjoy the common grace poured out on us.
Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
And I say, if I find in myself desires which this marriage can’t satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another “marriage.”
While Jesus walked here his observers and critics questioned why his disciples didn’t fast like John the Baptist’s. Jesus answered their skepticism with an allusion to an ethereal marriage:
‘And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. ‘ Matthew 9:15
But it won’t be ethereal. It will be very real.
What Solomon pictures in the love of the woman and her beloved is a oneness even the best marriages here can’t fulfill. There is a oneness, a unity, a belonging one to the other that is to be tasted of in marriage and consummated when we see Jesus- our beloved who has redeemed us and called us his own.
My beloved Jesus is mine. And I am his. And that is a truth beyond capturing in words on a blog.
‘Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. ‘ Revelation 19:6-8
‘”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. ‘ Ephesians 5:31-32
That old familiar fog started setting in yesterday. Fog is the most tangible comparison I know of for what depression feels like. Life is going along just fine and suddenly like a thick fog at ground level, the kind that happened in Oregon where I grew up, depression sets in. You can’t see the hope that compelled you, a day, an hour before. You have to slow down to a snail’s pace and fight the urge to pull over, putting the brakes on life.
I’ve found when that uneasy disdain, sense of hopelessness and vision-choking fatigue creep in, these things help me to pass through the fog of depression and not just stop everything.
Exercise. Even if that means going for a walk, but preferably, hard, heart-pumping exercises. I’m not a fitness guru, but there’s no doubt that exercise helps people with depression. It helps everyone, but when you’re depressed, exercise produces endorphins which act like a built in dose of prozac for the human body. God knew what he was doing when he made us that way. It’s good to exercise, even if all you can muster is a walk down the street. Sometimes just walking outside in my yard makes me feel better. But I’ve found when I make myself go to the gym, and I do some heart-pumping workout, I leave the gym feeling like the fog has cleared, and I might make it through the day.
I talk to myself. And that’s not a crazy thing to do. It’s actually what we all do all the time. We tell ourselves messages without saying them out loud. But when I feel depressed, the voice in my head doesn’t have anything hopeful to say. So I’ve found when I take the Psalms, which are full of struggles with fear, anger, depression, sadness, hopelessness, grief…all the stuff we all deal with, and I open my mouth to say aloud, “Why so downcast oh my soul? Put your hope in God!” some light shines through the fog. The poisonous lies of depression’s hopelessness need to be countered with an out-loud challenge to hope in God. A lot of times when I start feeling depressed it’s because I’ve had hope in someone, or some circumstance, that failed to meet my expectations. The lie of depression is that there is no hope because… fill in the blank. But the truth is God will never abandon me. He will always work all things, even depression, for my good to conform me to the image of his son. I need to preach that message out loud to myself and send Wormwood’s dulling whispers to their place.
Sing or play music. I’m not a good singer and certainly when I’m depressed I don’t feel like singing. But the times when I’ve closed my eyes, squeezed the tears that barely want to fall, and started singing an old hymn such as It Is Well With My Soul, or Great Is Thy Faithfulness, the tears are freed to flow and the lament of my heart wells up into praise of the One who has all things under control and cares very much about me. And when I can’t even open my mouth for the heaviness upon me, sometimes I’ll play the tracks of those hymns on my phone and let the tears fall.
And if you don’t feel like you can do any of those things, maybe reading this you’ll at lease be able to mouth, “Amen.” You’re not a lone.
Lord hear our silence, see our state and visit us with light and hope in Christ.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.’
When I was pregnant I noticed everyone who was pregnant. When I had a 1969 Volkswagen bug, I noticed everyone with a classic Bug. And today, when the fire in my belly is still burning from the issue of abuse and the message Christian leaders like Paige Patterson send women, I’m noticing every message in my morning readings of scripture that speak to God’s love of justice, defense of the oppressed, and promised recompense for those in need who seem to be forgotten.
Psalm 9 is what I’m listening to this morning. Like David, I’m overflowing with thanks to Jesus for how wonderful he is. What he has done, how he lived and set an example for us, how upside-down wonderful he is compared to us who are so messed up. I see Jesus, and then I look at the church in America and Jesus’ men stand out like food lights in a very dark place. Jesus came to the people who claimed to worship God, and the didn’t recognize him as God. Jesus is still coming to the people who claim to worship him and he’s cleaning house!
Jesus is maintaining the just cause of his people who are often oppressed and shushed by people who claim Jesus but live blind to their oppressive ways. He judges his people with righteousness. He doesn’t ignore their sin. And he doesn’t condemn them for it either, he deals with it. He calls them out on it. He exposes it and gives them hope for repentance.
The needy in the American church won’t always be forgotten. And I feel like with the recent exposure of racism in the church, abuse in the church, misogyny in the church, sexual immorality in the church and how we’ve strained out the gnat and swallowed the camel in our religious-right stance, neglecting the weightier things of mercy, faithfulness and justice, Jesus is showing the needy he hasn’t forgotten them.
“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God…” (1 Peter 4:17)
“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons.” (Hebrews 12:7)
Jesus, you are good. And your men and women in this land are those my heart delights in! You have swept my house, exposed my sin, offered me your hand and drawn me to repentance with your kind, just, merciful and faithful dealings with me. Have your way with me Lord. Have your way with us here in the U.S. May your name be exalted in us as it should be!