Prayer prompt for Wednesday, Jan. 13

Jesus reassured his disciples that their mourning over his impending death would turn into joy, like a mother with her newborn (John 16).

When Life Feels Like a Punishment (Prayer Devotional for the week of October 18, 2015)

Since we began these weekly posts nearly five years ago, I have been pretty transparent about grief and mourning, but I have tried not to dwell too much on my own personal life. However, the truth is that sometimes I have crummy days. I had a particularly rough day recently, and I whined and cried my frustrations to the Lord. I confessed something that had been on my heart for a long time, but I never mustered to courage to say it aloud until then: It feels like I’m being punished.

 

I’ll spare you the whole pity party, but suffice it to say that sometimes I feel like I have given everything I could possibly give, and then I’m expected to give even more. I go through periods where I feel unappreciated, taken advantage of, and excluded – sometimes simultaneously. It’s as if my life is not my own, but I’m responsible for damage control. That’s when I came across this passage from 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 (NLT):

“Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world—to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash—right up to the present moment.”

 

Whew, it’s like Paul was reading my mind! Jesus never promised that following him would be a bed of roses, and if you’ve read a feel-good book or heard a televangelist say otherwise, then I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

 

Why, then, would anyone want to follow Christ? I think Paul sums it up well later in the passage quoted above. In verse 20, he writes: “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” My life is not my own; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that Jesus paid an expensive price for me. Though some days are hard, I stand firm in God’s power that is living in me, and that’s worth the rough times.

A Time for Everything (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 9, 2014)

I have a confession to make: There have been a couple of years in the not-so-distant past when I didn’t feel like decorating for the holidays. I didn’t really want to do anything for Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t bring myself to start thinking about Christmas. In fact, if I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t have even bothered to put up a Christmas tree. It’s not that I dislike Christmas (although, the older I get, the more frustrated I feel about how ridiculously we’ve commercialized it), but I just didn’t feel like celebrating anything. Christmas break 2008 was the last time I saw my brother alive, and the holiday season always makes me feel melancholy.

 

One reason I like the book of Ecclesiastes is because it was written by the wisest man alive (King Solomon), which might make you assume that he had it all together, but apparently he had days just like the rest of us when he was at his wits’ end. In Ch. 3, verses 1-8, Solomon lists several opposites as a way of explaining the balancing act of life. Verse 4 (NIV), for example, says that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

 

Solomon went on to explain in verse 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Those years when I didn’t feel like celebrating? There was a time and a reason for that. I still mourn, of course, but this year feels like a new beginning. Perhaps it’s the chill in the air and the prospect of snow on Christmas, but I’m eager to decorate this year. I’m actually looking forward to the holidays and the turning of the calendar.

 

God is at work, exchanging our ashes of mourning into lovely crowns (Isaiah 61) and making the darkest day beautiful again. We need only look around us to see his masterpiece.