Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guest Post: Forget Not His Benefits

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. 

In Psalm 103 (particularly verse 2), the Psalmist writes about remembering the goodness of God and all He does/has done. He lists just a few of those things, what he refers to as “benefits”--that is, things that signal goodness in the essence of God--and exhorts his soul not to forget them, quite possibly because he, like the rest of us, is but dust and knows he will forget if he does not intentionally make the effort not to.  The more I live the more I see the sin in me that keeps my focus on what I do not have more than what I’ve already been given. And so I find myself very often needing to remind myself of the great things my God has done.

In that spirit, I want to share something that the Lord spoke to my heart almost a year ago. I’m glad that I have a record of such times when I felt especially uplifted, not only for my benefit, but also for the benefit of others. 

This is the exact message I shared with some friends after a particularly hard day last year:  

I feel led to share this testimony of the Living God's goodness and attentiveness in our lives. 

I had a really bad day today. (Which I guess should not have come as a surprise since I was on the mountaintop with the Holy Spirit yesterday.) It was just one of those days where from the time I woke up to the evening everything was just the opposite of what I would have preferred. This evening I was praying with Toni and the Holy Spirit spoke something to me that I had not even considered all this time about our earthly suffering and trials: do I not pray all the time that God would make things on earth the way they are in heaven? It was just a beautiful time where the Lord reminded me that yes, it's His prerogative to do what He wants and that He owes me no explanation of His plans or reasons; yet at the same time, I have asked repeatedly for His will to be done on Earth the way it is in heaven. Am I getting upset at Him for doing what I asked him to do?

So then I was moved to think of how in heaven there is no jealousy, greed, selfishness, bitterness, sinful pride...or any of the other things of our sin-penetrated world that God needs to scrape out if He is to answer the prayer that He bring down to us things from the place where things are perfect. Surely this is why we're told so many times to actually count suffering as joy and believe that good things happen because of trials (like character being built in us and maturity developed). I was reminded in a new way that God doesn't just allow us to suffer for suffering's sake. He's teaching us things that without trials we may not get. He's doing something with the difficulties we face as pilgrims in this land. Among them, he's making sure we don't get too comfortable and that we remember that this is not our home. He's being faithful to answer the very thing we requested of Him. 

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." We read 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 and I felt those words in my heart. I pray that you, too, are encouraged in the midst of trials and let our God strengthen you to press on. There is a reason for suffering. Paul wrote, "we are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body" (my emphasis). I have to trust that God uses every difficulty, and that each is an opportunity for my life to point to His life…and that suffering is far from senseless and worth enduring until I reach the goal.  

Because He lives we can face tomorrow!

May we make it a practice to remind ourselves of His benefits, of His goodness. Because those benefits and that goodness are embedded in every bad day and every valley.

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