My Tears in God’s Bottle

I recently read an article which reminded me crying is not something to be ashamed of. Crying shows sorrow, and we definitely have many things we need to sorrow over. In Psalm 38:17-18, the psalmist says: “My sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” We sorrow over sin, and we also sorrow in the trials God handpicks for us. Crying over these sorrows results in many, many tears. Tears running and running and running. Tears that are silent. Tears that we try to hide from others. Tears angry, bitter, burning. Tears that only show themselves once in a while. Tears appearing day after day. Tears that convey our sorrow.

Shedding these tears often takes a physical toll on us, and sometimes we wish we didn’t have to cry about things. But this is our plea to God: “Put Thou my tears into Thy bottle!”

This was the plea of David in Psalm 56. He was being oppressed by the Philistines in Gath, and it must have brought him to tears because he says in verses 8 and 9: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.” The Psalter puts it this way in the fourth stanza of number 15: “Thou knowest all my woes, O treasure Thou my tears; are they not in Thy book, where all my life appears?” We ask God to collect our tears, to keep track of how many times we cry. And He does! Our Lord hears and sees every single tear that slides down our cheeks. He even sees the silent tears that never come out of our eyes, the ones that we try to keep in. God knows our sorrow.

How deep that is! God knows my sorrow. He collects my tears. My heavenly Father cares for me so much that He saves my tears in His bottle. He knows what I go through—the loss of loved ones, the everyday stress, the heartbreaks, the moments where it seems nothing goes right, the days when I know I can’t do it on my own, the sins I keep going back to—He knows it all. Because I am His creature, God knows every part of me that He has made. He put all of my tears in me in the first place, and so He knows when each tear escapes from my eyes.

Because God is so powerful and sovereign in everything He does, He designed our tears for a very special purpose: to allow us to show our sorrow. Our Father requires of us that we confess our sins, repent of them, and show our sorrow for them. Therefore, when our tears spill over in sorrow, God knows we are truly sorry for those sins. He treasures those tears because they show Him that we are His weak children who need Him every moment of every day. He keeps our tears in His bottle to remember that we have repented and been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Psalm 9:12 says this plainly— “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” God does not forget our tears…He treasures them forever.

The next time you find yourself shedding tears, remember God collects every one of those tears and finds them precious in His eyes. What a comfort!

Grace Medema

 

Fighting Fearfulness

Terrorists attack, politicians say outrageous things, and the world sells sex. Isn’t this world terrifying for a Christian? I mean that rhetorically, of course it is! God, speaking through Paul, in II Timothy 1:7 says “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind.” I love this verse; it is one of my favorites. I often have used this verse to help me get by in trying and difficult circumstances. Today, I’d like to break down this verse and talk about how it can help combat the anxiety and fear that often plagues the Christian.

First off, I think it’s worth noting that this verse doesn’t say that we don’t have a spirit of fear. It doesn’t tell us that spirit of fear doesn’t exist in our hearts. What it tells us is that God hasn’t given us that spirit. I think it’s fair to say, then, that we do often experience fearfulness, but we must keep in mind that it is not given from God. Although God is the Author and Creator of our whole lives, He is not the one who feeds into our minds anxiety and worry. Instead He gives us spirits of power, love, and a sound mind in order to fight fear.

Power.  Power is something that everyone lusts after in one form or another. A businessman chases after power in the workplace, an athlete drives towards physical power, and a young woman desires power in her emotional life. We all want power. God gives the most important power to us, the power of doctrine and spirituality. It would not be possible to combat or overcome the spirit of fear if we were not given the spirit of power by God. With this spirit we have the strength to obtain victory over the fear that we often want to despair in. We have the power to resist the urge of sexual sins in our youth, young men are given the power to balance work and home life, and young women are given the power to raise children in this fallen world. All of these things can strike fear in our hearts if it weren’t for the power of God!

Love. Love also helps us fight fear. I don’t mean love in the sense that the world uses it. Love doesn’t mean that we sit back and let our friends and family do whatever they want, regardless of right or wrong. Love means that we care about one another enough to help them follow the laws of God, and to do our best to follow those laws ourselves as well. If we really understand love, it becomes clear why love drives out fear. If we love God first and foremost, and therefore love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we have nothing to fear! Our love for God teaches us that he holds us in His hand, and in His hand no fear can lay hold on us. With the spirit of love, we can also conquer fear.

A sound mind. Fears of this life often cause us to feel anxious or even depressed. When we focus on God, we receive from Him soundness of mind; a peace that quiets our souls and drives worries from our hearts. If you or someone you know has struggled with anxiety or depression, you probably understand what an unsettled mind looks like, and the fear that plagues it. With our focus on things heavenly, our minds become clear or sound. Often anxiety and depression causes us to ask the whys: “Why me,” “Why now,” “Why this?” But a sound mind throws fearfulness to the curb and looks with an uplifted face saying “God has not given me this spirit of fear! He has instead given me a sound mind!” And that is an incredible and beautiful feeling.

In the context surrounding this verse, Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel, since that is what fear does to us- it makes us ashamed to be children of God. With the power, love and soundness of mind that God gives us to fight the spirit of fear, we can boldly and bravely face this terrifying world in all its danger, immorality and impurity. With this power, love and soundness of mind we walk through this life without fear, but with courage to be Christians living lives of antithesis to the world around us.

Suzie Kuiper

Praying for Guidance (3)

In the first few verses of Ezekiel 14, we read of a group of Israelite elders who came to Ezekiel. God tells Ezekiel that he will not hear their requests in verse 3, when He says, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?” In verses 7 and 8 God says,

“For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself: And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”

What a harsh word from the Lord! He certainly does not tolerate idol worship. And this isn’t just talking about physical idols, the ones made from silver and gold, but any idols that we set up in our hearts – anything that we place our trust in besides God.

In my last few posts, I’ve been writing about a few of the traps that we can easily fall into when we pray.  In my first post, I wrote about the trap of putting self first, and in my second post I wrote about the trap of expecting God to make some special revelation of His eternal decrees. That brings me to my third trap: neglecting heart idols.

The events of Ezekiel 14 show that this is a very serious matter.  When God saw that the elders of Israel had idolatry in their hearts, he refused to hear their prayer! So certainly, when we consider how we are to pray, it is important for us to examine our hearts and make sure we are not neglecting to root out any idolatry that has taken hold inside of us.

Heart idols are anything we place our trust in, anything we worship or serve instead of God. Why are they so harmful?  We find the answer to this in Ezekiel 14:5, where God says, “They are all estranged from me through their idols.” Heart idols get in the way of our relationship with God and separate us from Him.  Matthew 6:24 says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  If we have idols in our hearts, if there are things that we are trusting in and worshiping instead of God, our relationship with Him will certainly suffer. And if we are not in a proper relationship with God, then our prayer lives are going to be affected as well.

What heart idols do you often find sneaking into your heart, taking God’s place and distracting you from wholeheartedly serving Him? Maybe it’s wealth or earthly comforts and pleasures, or entertainment. Maybe it’s pride or self, or the need to be accepted by others. It could be fear or worry, or feeling the need to be in control of the things that happen in your life instead of trusting in God to carry out His perfect plan. Heart idols aren’t necessarily even things that are bad of themselves – they could be anything, from sports to fashion to music to books – things that aren’t necessarily wrong in themselves but cause you to be distracted from your relationship with God.  Even things that are important and necessary in life, such as work or school, can become heart idols if they get in the way of worshiping God.

When we pray, it is important that we first root out these heart idols, place God on the throne of hearts, and focus our hearts on Him alone. This is especially true when we pray for guidance or direction in our lives. If we neglect heart idols and allow them to linger in our hearts, it is easy for us to use prayer as a way to try to gratify our own desires instead of submitting our will to His. Instead of making our decisions based on what God commands us to do in His Word, we choose to take the path that lines up the most with our own desires, often without even realizing it.

If you are struggling with making decisions in your life and are looking for direction, pray! But make sure to do so in the right mindset. Don’t put yourself first and forget to submit to God’s will. Don’t expect God to give some supernatural revelation about His plan for your life. And don’t forget to root out heart idols that are interfering with a proper relationship with God.

That’s a lot of negatives – now let’s look at this positively. When you pray, put God first! Humble yourself before Him, acknowledging Him as the sovereign Lord who controls and directs all things according to His perfect plan.  Remember that He is a loving Father, that He planned and determined all things with your good in mind and will carry them out to this end. Realize that following His ways and commandments is far better than seeking to fulfill your own desires and that no earthly happiness compares to the unspeakable joy of walking with the Lord. Devote all that you have to Him. Love, worship, and serve Him with your whole heart.  Follow in the way that He guides by His Word and Spirit, trusting His sovereign plan with a thankful heart wherever He leads.

Amy Kaiser