Comfort In Tragedy

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I am grateful for my spiritual upbringing. Going to church was a consistent part of my life and I loved going. I never had the desire to quit. Part of my spiritual life included being in a girls’ group within the church that emphasized scripture memory. Some of those verses were the 23rd Psalm. That Psalm must have embedded itself in me during those years between 10 and 12 because at age 12 tragedy came into my life. My sister and I were spending the weekend at my grandparent’s home. We adored them and loved going to their house that was in a rural area. The Friday evening after we arrived, my grandparents took us into town to visit other family members. One the way home a fence was down and black angus cows were in the middle of the road. Because it was dark it was difficult for my grandfather who was driving to see them so we ran into them. My grandfather, grandmother, and 5 year old sister were thrown out of the front seat. The car then spun many times and Grandmother was killed almost instantly. There were no scratches on the other two. I was in the back seat and those doors did not fling open, like the front ones, so I was physically safe.

The ambulance came. We all went to the hospital. There in the waiting room was a Gideon Bible. I knew exactly where to turn since Psalm 23 had been one of the portions of scripture I had memorized. There in those scriptures I found comfort in my sorrow. There was a peace that flooded my soul and stayed with me for years to come even when awful images popped into my mind. You see, the car ran over Grandmother. I saw her in her last moments struggling as she took her last breath. I know severe emotional trauma could have followed, but God’s presence and the presence of His Word in my life was what helped sustain me in the days that followed. There was also a peace that passes all understanding that came because I knew Grandmother had put her faith and trust in Jesus Christ and that she was home in heaven with Him. That accident happened 47 years ago. I continue being amazed at the rewards and benefits that come from having God’s Word embedded in my heart. Storms still come into my life. One of the ways I’m able to walk through them without drowning in despair is spending time reading God’s Word and meditating on those verses that bring comfort and hope. The Word of God over and over lets me know how much God loves me and cares for me. That’s the foundation that keeps me strong and lets me know I’m safe  no matter what comes my way.

Thirsting For God

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This morning as I was reading Psalm 42 I remembered hearing a great sermon 10 years ago while attending a conference in the beautiful mountains of New Mexico. I was at a spiritually dry time in my life. I can’t remember the reasons, but I knew something was missing in my love and passion for Christ. I knew something was lacking when I worshipped. I could see passionate worship in others, but it wasn’t in me. It was through the words of this servant of God and this particular Psalm that God spoke to me. The Psalmist wrote: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” I was thirsty and I was desperate and I wanted to be filled.

In that sermon, the pastor told a powerful story of a young man who was going into the ministry. Like most young ministers, he wanted to know the key to a powerful ministry. He knew of a godly older minister whose ministry had been amazingly powerful and fruitful. He sought him out to seek his wisdom. He had to find out the secret! The older minister asked, “Are you sure you want to know?” “Yes, I do,” the young man proclaimed! The older man then took the younger one to a horse tank full of murky slimy water. Without warning, he grabbed and plunged  the young man’s head down into the murky water. He held it there even though the young man struggled mightily. He finally released his vice-grip hold and raised him out of the water. The young man took in a huge gasp of air. It was a wonderful, deep freeing breath. The older man said, “When you’re as desperate for God as you were for that next breath, you will have the power of God.”

That night we sang a song that will always be one of my favorites that is taken from Psalm 42.

As the deer panteth for the water

So my soul longeth after thee

You alone are my heart’s desire

And I long to worship thee

You alone are my strength, my shield

To you alone may my spirit yield

You alone are my heart’s desire

And I long to worship thee.

I want you more than gold or silver,

Only You can satisfy.

You alone are the real joygiver

And the apple of my eye.

I know joy in worship returned for me that night. I was grieved that my love and worship for God had become lukewarm. I asked God to forgive me and I know He did. I expressed to Him how much I loved Him and that I wanted joy restored more than I wanted anything else. He knew my heart. He heard my cry. He responded. That’s the kind of God I know, I’ve experienced, and want to live for. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. And give me a willing spirit to obey you. Psalm 51:12