Encouraging Devotions Blog

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“God is Still Here.”

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Amid all the psalms that sing of God’s majesty in creation or that speak of His salvation in the middle of troubles, we find the 88th psalm to stand out among the rest. The beginning stanza seems to set the stage for praise and comfort, but as we continue reading, we find that the rest of the psalm only sings of a heart that is in despair.

The author, Heman the Ezrahite, was a very blessed and extremely talented priest from the sons of Korah yet, this very wise and blessed man found himself struggling and crying out in desperation. Throughout this psalm, however, there is the comfort given to us. This comfort does not come directly through the words, “Heman sings,” but he models for us through the practice. Heman shows us that in the middle of despair, God is still here. The only glimmer of hope that is found is in the first two verses:

Psalm 88:1–2
O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry!

Although these are the only words of hope in a psalm replete with pain and despair, they define the anchor that holds Heman secure in the middle of the raging storm. This anchor is the God of his salvation. This surety in God is the reason why Heman sings at all. He knows that his prayers do not fall on deaf ears because he is crying out to the God of promises.

Deuteronomy 4:7 says, “For what great nation is there that has a god near to us as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to Him?”

He can sing, “listen to my cry,” and know with certainty that God will hear.
I know many of us can relate to the struggle of Heman. He is tired from all of his troubles, “like a man without strength.” Overwhelmed with all that God has allowed in his life, like a man in the middle of the sea overwhelmed by waves. Perhaps verses eight and nine ring the truest for us in this time saying,

Psalm 88:8–9
You have removed my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an object of loathing to them; I am shut up and cannot go out.
My eye has wasted away because of affliction; I have called upon You every day, O Lord; I have spread out my hands to You.

Notice what it says of the end of verse nine, “Lord, I cry out to You all day long.” Why does he continue to cry out to God except that he knows that, as bad as his circumstances may be, God is still there. So he says, “I spread out my hands to you.” His posture and his practice proved he knew God was still there.

Maybe today, you find yourself in a darker and more challenging time than you have ever known. Christian, God is still here, and He wants to assure you of that again and again. We have a God that is faithful; He gives peace, He gives comfort. Our hope in him is not like a kite, tossed about in the middle of a storm that we must struggle to hold tight. It is an anchor that holds us down through the storm. When we find ourselves in times of despair, we must go to Him for our comfort and seek Him earnestly for peace because that is precisely where we find it. With absolute certainty, I can tell you God is still here.

"Learning to Farm the Valleys."

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In Psalm 77, we find the psalmist in a place familiar to us all, in a "day of trouble." Certainly, we frequent this place more often than any of us would like, but I believe we can see these "days of trouble" as opportunities to cultivate fruit in unexpected places, just as the psalmist did. The call upon our lives to honor God in every season and circumstance is real, perhaps more real than ever, as we experience quarantine and uncertainty. Speaking of a famous world leader who sought to honor God as he led a nation, Stephen Mansfield said that "he learned to farm the valleys of his life and later found the fruit of his labors sweet and sustaining against the press of battle." When we find ourselves in valleys, we are tempted to look up at the mountain top and pine for the days of comfort and ease, yet there is work to be done in the valleys that we must not neglect.

In the middle of his trouble, the psalmist begins to ponder questions that we all struggle with from time to time. Verses 7-9 say,

"Will the Lord reject forever
and never again show favor?
Has His faithful love ceased forever?
Is His promise at an end
For all generations?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger
withheld his compassion?"

He ends his thought by saying, "I am grieved that the right hand of the Most High has changed." This is serious pain and hurting, which I am sure we can relate to on some level. We have all wrestled with thoughts of wondering if God has changed or left us. We wonder if we did something to deserve this or maybe not enough to deserve better. We wonder if God's promises have stopped, or perhaps we did not hear Him properly. Certainly if I had done more or done better I would not be in this situation. In these times, we must do as the psalmist did. We must farm the valley for the fruit that is promised to come from our struggles. With his mind racing, Asaph chooses to remember and reflect on God's past blessings. In verses 11-12 he writes,

"I will remember the Lord's works;
yes, I will remember
Your ancient wonders.
I will reflect on all you have done
and meditate on your actions."

This is how we farm the valley. We remember and reflect. Be careful not to bring the thought back to your mind and let it leave so quickly as not to have time to reflect upon it. We must spend time pondering upon His blessings and goodness.

As we learn to farm the valleys of our lives, we find that the seed we plant is remembrance. We plant seeds of remembrance so that we will harvest hope. Romans 5:3-4 says, "But we also rejoice in our afflictions because we know the affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character provides hope. As we plant remembrance, often watered by our tears, we are promised the fruit of hope. And this hope does not disappoint. Let us learn to farm the valleys so that we can see our God can produce fruit in every season of our lives.

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