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December 12 Devotional

Come to Stillness: Take a few minutes to allow your mind and heart to be still before God.

Opening Prayer: To the God who pursues. Our world is groaning around me and my heart groans with it. So many tears and questions, so many stillborn children, so much cancer and divorce, so many orphans and so much poverty. Closing my eyes doesn’t make the wailing stop; doesn’t turn the grief into joy. I hear your Spirit groaning with me, taking the cry of my heart to your throne. Hear our groans. Have mercy on us. (A Heart Exposed by Steven James)

Scripture Reading for the Day: Psalm 66:8-12

Reading for Reflection: You let it happen, this riding over our heads, whoever or whatever it may have been. You didn’t cause it, but you could have stopped it. I know it doesn’t happen every day, but I have seen you spring into action and miraculously come to someone’s aid or defense. I have seen you come to protect or deliver. And yet, for some reason, in this case, you didn’t. You allowed it. Does that mean you sat idly by and watched? Or does it mean that - although the brokenness of this world is its cause - you are big enough to bring beauty out of the tragedy? You saw it coming, and let it stand, because of what you knew it would do within us. You knew that the groaning it would produce would have an effect on us like nothing else could or would.

So where exactly were you when we were going through the fire, being consumed by the agonizing flames of grief or sadness or mourning or pain? What were you doing while the mighty waters rushed over us and swept us away, as we struggled and fought to survive and keep our heads above water? Were you with us in some mysteriously hidden way that we were not able to completely comprehend at the time? Were you in the midst of the fire with us, shielding us from the fury of the flames? Were you in the middle of the raging currents beside us, holding and sustaining us - keeping us afloat? After all, you know what the groaning is like; in fact, you know it like no other. Did it break your heart to have to watch this riding over us unfold; to know the depths of the pain we were going through, and not intervene? How hard that must have been for you.

When we are in the midst of the groan it is hellish. It is hard to believe, or even consent to the fact, that something good might possibly result from the chaos and brokenness. Much less to think that it could be some strange path to a place called abundance. That is almost unimaginable. Yet all of us, on the backside of this riding over, usually have to admit that something took place within us - or among us - that could have happened no other way. We would never have chosen the path in a million years - not then, and most likely not again - but we can’t deny the beauty of the new place at which we eventually arrived. How in the world did we get there? Who would’ve imagined that the groans and cries and tears and struggle would have brought us to that place; that place where our hearts were both broken and expanded, where our souls were both crushed and deepened beyond measure. Who could’ve dreamt that the effect of the fire and the water would have been to make us more like Jesus - he who suffers with and delivers, he who weeps over and heals?

There has been a lot of groaning going around lately. It seems to be coming from every direction. I guess it is true that “each one of us sits beside a pool of tears.” And it is so hard to watch the groaners groan and the mourners mourn and the strugglers struggle and not be able to do anything to help. It is so tempting to try and come to the rescue, but rescue is not really possible, or even preferable. Because something much deeper is going on. In the words of Gerald May, “There is no way out, only through.” Something deep and wonderful happens in the going through. So we must resist the urge to provide an escape - if that were even possible - because the struggle, or the groaning, or the grief, or the pain is the very thing that is able to do a beautiful work within us. All there is for us to do is trust. Trust that God really is in control. Trust that God really is up to something, in spite of all appearances. Trust that God really is big enough to sustain, to comfort, to deliver, to heal, and ultimately to transform. Trust that through the fire and through the water lies a place of abundance.

Reflection and Listening: silent and written

Hymn for the Day

Prayer: for the church, for others, for myself

Mike and Stephanie are working with a project called LEARN (Leadership Education and Resource Network) based in Beirut, Lebanon. The project’s aim is to provide high quality, interactive Biblical training via the Internet to Arabic-speakers wherever they are found. Their primary target audience is the developing church in North Africa. Pray today for God’s blessing and anointing on Mike and Stephanie as they travel and share with churches and small groups in the U.S. Specifically pray that some will take to heart to partner with them prayerfully and financially.

Christian Leadership Concepts (CLC) is an organization that seeks to find and deploy the natural male disciple-makers in our city, asking them to pour into other men via a two-year disciple-making process. Pray today for the men currently in the two-year discipleship groups.

Closing Prayer: Lord, I was ever greedy of life, my attention always straining toward the parts of it that had not yet come…toward what was about to be, or might be, or hopefully would be, and especially toward those things that, by Your mercy, might turn out not to be after all.

I panted with longing to suck each segment of life dry of its pleasures. I plotted, with myself but despite myself, about tomorrow…about the “later” that was constantly morphing into now. You know how I worked, Lord, recklessly but prayerfully, to set time’s courses and, in Your name, to sculpt them to my intention, to my definition of good.

But I am old now, Lord, and my prayers grown old as well. So it is that daily I am drawn, as here, to pray, “Deliver me, My Lord, from this my great sin, and take me, free of doubt and other longings, into Your good plan.” (Prayer by Phyllis Tickle, Weavings, Volume XXV, Number 4)