How many times my thoughts stray from focus during the day! I find myself going over and over conversations or actions, thinking about what I should or shouldn’t have said or done. Or sometimes I’m planning what I’ll do if such and such happens or if so and so does this or that.
But I have hope. Since I’m in Christ, old things have passed away (died), and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). I have received the Holy Spirit who gives me power to put off the old and put on the new. When I catch myself thinking the old way, I can say to myself,
“No, self. Focus on the task at hand. If it doesn’t take much thought (comb hair, vacuum), think about the Scripture you meditated on this morning or heaven or Jesus or God’s attributes or other wonderful things.”
Then as I begin to focus on the good things and let go of the scattered thoughts, I will be obeying God’s Word by renewing my mind. (See Romans 12:2 and James 1:22.)
(Photo by Paula Satijn, “Mirror.” Found in Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulasatijn/79850464800/)
God gave us good gifts on Good Friday, such as the forgiveness of our sins through the death of Jesus on the cross, direct access to God when the temple curtain in front of the Most Holy Place was torn in two, and most important, the proof of His astounding love for us.
Today I want to remember what it cost the Triune God to give these gifts to us. Jesus laid aside His glory, honor, and equality with God to become a lowly human baby and experience temptation, rejection and other struggles as a man. Finally He suffered the agony of Gethsemane and the humiliation and excruciating pain of betrayal, abandonment, mockery, beating, the torturous death of the cross, and the separation of the “Tri-unity” when our sin was laid on Him. The Almighty Father could have said, “These humans aren’t worth letting my beloved Son go through all this,” and then sent His angels to the rescue. But He didn’t. He watched it all.
And God did it all for us when we were still sinners, rebellious and determined to go our own way (Romans 5:8). Incredible love! Yet true. I’m reminded of an old hymn that includes the lines, “Why should my Savior to Calvary go? Why should He love me so?” (“Why Should He Love Me So?”—words and music by Robert Harkness.) I also think of the chorus of another hymn, “Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony, lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.” (“Lead Me to Calvary”—words by Jennie E. Hussey.)
Yes, God gave us wonderful things on Good Friday. May I never forget or take for granted the great love He showed at such great cost.
I don’t have to be perfect because Jesus Christ died for me and exchanged His righteousness and perfection for my sin and failure, and He rose again leaving sin and failure at the cross, and He lives forever at the Father’s right hand. He intercedes for us (me), and His Holy Spirit lives in me to work out Christ’s righteousness in my life.
My trying to be perfect and pretending to myself that I am–these prevent me from receiving the mercy and forgiveness Jesus went through so much to provide for me. “If we say we have no sin, we are calling God a liar” (1 John 1:10), and we can’t partake of the pardon and cleansing offered in 1 John 1:9.
I’m through trying to hide my sin, failure, and mistakes (from others and myself) behind a façade of personal goodness. I choose instead to hide them in the blood of Jesus where they are dissolved and carried away.
Let me cease from trying so I can rest in trusting.
Pearls develop in an oyster or mussel as a substance called nacre coats an irritant in layers. A grain of sand or bit of shell can act as a pearl starter. As I receive God’s grace in the troubles of life, it can become like the nacre to coat the sorrow and hurt, one layer at a time, creating pearls.
Making pains into pearls in my life takes both Jesus and me. Jesus’ part is to lead, guide, and give grace (wisdom and power) for dealing with life His way. My part is to follow Him step by step, day by day, living for Him and not for myself.
I could choose to go back to my old ways—running from difficulties, wallowing in self-pity, or blaming others. Those and similar actions lead to more trouble, not pearl creation. Or I can determine to humble myself and pray to God, believing the truth that He will hear and help. He will give me more and more grace (James 4:6).
One reason I can count it all joy when I encounter various trials (James 1:2) is that they may be pearl “seeds.” The patience they work in me may be the first layer of “nacre” (grace). The very problem I’m facing may be the irritant that begins a beautiful and valuable pearl.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 New Living Translation)
The old me was touchy, irritable, grumpy, and rude. She sought only self and her way. She spent time with gossip, deception, unfaithfulness, anger, greed, quarreling, and jealousy. (See Galatians 5:19-21.)
The new me is patient, loving, pure in heart, and hardly even notices a wrong done to her (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). She fellowships with peace, kindness, joy, forgiveness, honest and loving speech, generosity, courtesy, and other such companions.
O Lord, please grant me grace to take off and dispose of the rags of the old me and put on the clothing of the new me which is renewed in the likeness of Christ. Holy Spirit, please help me do that more! (See Colossians 3:5-10.)
Psalm 42:11 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (New King James Version)
This is what I need to tell myself when I get disappointed or discouraged: “Self, hope in God. Let the disappointment go and trust God to work it for my good and His glory. O my soul, don’t look to others nor hope in satisfactory solutions. Let God satisfy you. Trust His wisdom, not your own. Remember, soul, that you find rest in God alone (Psalm 62:1). Hope and trust in Jesus our Lord.
“Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.” (from the hymn “I must tell Jesus”)
O Lord our God, the God who hears,
The only God who loves and cares,
The holy One who answers prayers,
You hear our cries, for You are near.
Omniscient God, God all wise
Your love extends beyond the skies.
Let us see truth with open eyes,
Believe Your Word, reject the lies.
We praise You, Lord. In You we hope.
We trust in You because we know
You deliver us from every foe
And comfort, heal, and make us whole.
According to forestry experts, small fires that clear the forest floor but don’t destroy the trees are beneficial. They leave nutrient-rich ash perfect for seeds to sprout and grow.
Like those purifying forest fires, the disappointments and difficulties of my life help me grow. They burn up my thorny pride and my tendency to look to self or others to make my life work (weeds). As I seek God amid the ashes in my heart, He grows seeds of humility and of love for Him and others. Fragrant flowers and fruitful shrubs develop from these seeds to replace the weeds and thorns.
Hebrews 12:11 “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Isaiah 61:1, 3 “’The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me…to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes….’” (Both New King James Version)