Holding Out Under God’s Grace

efe-free-photo-bundle-11“Each time, he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Take heart. What was designed to take you out will ultimately make you stronger. Trust how God is bringing you through what you’re going through. (Go ahead and read that again.) God could change things for you in an instant. But if He isn’t working it out that way, be content with knowing that He’s got a reason, and it is good.

God has a reason for taking His time and making you feel every bump and scrape along this leg of your journey. God’s pruning us can seem unfair, tedious, inconvenient, and harsh. You might even think your time of pruning should be over by now. Yet, here you are…here WE are: battle worn, bruised, embarrassed, vulnerable, shaken– and bothered about it.

God gets it. He knows it’s not an easy road. But, he also knows it’s the best road for us because it will lead us to the blessed destination He has reserved for us. God sees what we can’t see. He knows what He has to work out of us so that He can work in us and through us. And He knows how long it will take. There’s a choir song lyric that says, “Lord, help me to hold out…until my change has come.” This is a fitting prayer set to a melody we can have in our hearts as we call on God to help us hold out until our current trial is over.

A Clean Heart

feb-20-lifestyle-pixistock-6-e1588479722804As a young girl, growing up in Dayton, Ohio, God favored me to attend Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Dr. Charles S. Brown and his lovely wife Mrs. Joan S. Brown. I have many beautiful memories at Bethel. Memories that I cherish to this very day. From time to time I will share them here, along with wonderful memories I made while attending Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and even now at Mt. Zion Church of God in Christ in North Carolina.

Bethel was known for singing soaring anthems, peaceful chants, and contemplative hymns, all with a splash of gospel flavor. Among them is a song composed by Margaret J. Douroux, PhD, entitled “Give Me a Clean Heart.” You can learn more about Dr. Douroux, this song, and her tremendous contributions to sacred music by clicking here.

The smoothest and richest alto voice in the choir at Bethel when I was about 10 years old was from the person of Sis. Wanda Bryant. I cannot hear in my mind another voice leading the chorus and singing the verses to “Give Me a Clean Heart.” The verses from this song highlight verses from Psalm 51 and stands among countless compositions that beckon us set ourselves before the Lord in prayer with a request for Him to do what only He can do to purify our hearts and help us persevere in serving Him.

Before I go on, I’ll share a summary of why Psalm 51 was written. This psalm is one of lament and was composed by King David. After David’s unlawful encounter with Bathsheba and after murdering her husband to cover it all up, Nathan the prophet confronted David about it. You can read about it from the Bible here. David came to grips with the error of his ways and repented. Thus, we have Psalm 51.

This time of the year brings a time of retrospection for most people. We celebrate and are thankful for what went well. We also think about what did not go well and what we want to do to make sure we have a better year.  For a person of faith, this retrospection includes our walk with God. Our lives are affected by many outside variables. Changes in our health, work, relationships, unfulfilled dreams, money concerns, general overwhelm, grief, and more can move us out of step with God. We daily run the risk of becoming cynical to the point where we no longer trust God deeply. We only trust Him in theory. We trust Him on the surface so that we can save Christian face with ourselves and others who know we serve and (gasp!)  lead in ministry.

Whether it’s the end of the year or the beginning of the new year, while the pace is a little slower, take this time to sit before the Lord with Psalm 51. It is one of many psalms of lament in the Bible, but somehow over time this one has stood out when we find ourselves needing to seek God’s forgiveness and cleansing from sinful thoughts, deeds, and motivations. Many of us are not enjoying this life that God has blessed us with because we just haven’t come clean with Him. We haven’t stopped to take stock of our individual life’s direction. We’re just going through the motions hoping God is pleased with us. When God cleanses our hearts and minds, we get renewed joy, peace, vision, wisdom, stability, and strength to live our best lives and enjoy what God has blessed us with while we serve Him.

The Lord knows how to search our hearts for what displeases Him and doesn’t serve us well. Let us let King David’s script be our guide in prayer as we enter the new year (the new decade!) and let the Holy Spirit do the work while we trust God and live.