The Gain of Contentment

The Gain of Contentment

“Now nearly thirteen years later, the small chamber was not so comfortable. With all five girls in the room, space was non-existent. The chests of drawers were shared: Jess and Elizabeth using one, Mary and Joy splitting the other. Gretel’s few items resided neatly in a small wooden crate, which Mary had carefully placed beside her dresser and lovingly dubbed “The Annex.” Beside the original straw mattress, two more had sprung up, so that the room was all mattress and no floor. But for the most part the quintet was content. They loved one another and did their best to avoid squabbles, though it wasn’t always possible.”

Winter’s Prey – page 56

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When I set out to write Winter’s Prey, it wasn’t intended to be a book about contentment, and yet from start to finish that thread has woven itself throughout the book. From the tight conditions of their small home to the overwhelming conditions of their rugged lives, the characters are constantly faced with that choice either to be happy where they are or to miserable. Some of them choose well, for others it is a great struggle.

The same can be said for us. We live in a world that is constantly offering us more. Even as I type this, an advertisement is flashing in the bottom corner of my browser window. It’s telling me about all the great tools and products I can buy to make my home what it ought to be. Not to mention the awesome office products I can purchase to make my home and business more successful. It’s promising me more. But what about what I already have?

It’s easy for us to look at others and say, “Wow, they’ve got it made. I wish my situation was like theirs.” I’m currently on a 4,000 mile trek across the US sharing about the ministry of Forbid Them Not and speaking in ladies’ conferences. Early on in my trip, someone said to me, “I bet you live in a big, beautiful house.”

I almost laughed out loud, but the Lord helped me keep my demeanor. “No,” I replied, “I live in a mobile home—that leaks.” It wasn’t a complaint. It was just the truth.

“Well,” she said, “but at least you have a mobile home. I have a mobile home too.” And she was right. Even though my house was showing its age in the form of a leaky roof and windows, I have a home. Some do not.

As I have driven across Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Missouri, I have often seen what appear to be ancient homesteads. I can’t help but think of the difficulty of the life their people led. Today people live off the land by preference; the homesteaders and pioneers did it by necessity. I have stood in homes in Africa where the primary building materials are mud, cow dung, straw, cardboard, and newspaper. And yet the people living there are some of the happiest, most content people I have ever met.

Scripture tells us that, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6) The gain of contentment isn’t something you can buy off a shelf or earn on the stock market. Contentment, while not putting something extra in our hand, is both laying up a treasure in heaven and lifting a weight from our lives. When we walk through life contentedly, the pressure to be or do or have is removed. We can look to Christ and say, “Help me to be who You want me to be and to do as You want me to do. I trust You to supply my needs.”

Contentment isn’t easy. I used to think it was some magical state that eluded my every move. Why couldn’t I just be content? I cannot begin to tell you the joy I experienced the day that I discovered the secret the Apostle Paul makes so clear in Philippians. He said, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

I have LEARNED! Contentment will never be a sudden or spontaneous achievement. Contentment is a growing process. It is a discipline. It takes practice! It also requires the choice to intentionally be happy with what I have, where I have it.

I’m happy to report that, even though it is raining in Montana as I write, my house is dry. The leaks seem to have been fixed. But even when our house is leaking, or our car is making its age known, or our clothes are wearing thin, we can learn to be content. And one of the best ways to make that process easier is by choosing gratitude.

Are you content where God has put you? What has He given you that you can be thankful for? I’d love to hear what He has taught you about contentment!

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About Rachel Miller

I am the author of four books, including my newest release, Winter’s Prey. I am also the Executive Director of Forbid Them Not Ministries, the happy aunt of ten nieces and nephews, and slightly addicted to life in Montana.

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Out of Sight—Lessons from a Storm, Part 2

Part 2 of 2

As I clutched the steering wheel, straining to see into that storm, I wasn’t really thinking much about the spiritual benefits of the situation. I was thinking about getting down that mountain alive! Whiteouts, however, provide some good lessons for those moments when our path is obscured. Here are just a few:

 

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1. Follow the leader.

Have you ever navigated a storm by following taillights? It’s frightening. What if the taillights disappear in the snow? What if the other driver stops abruptly, and you run into the back of him? What if he turns and you miss it? At that point, the tension level in the car is directly related to how much you trust the other driver.

When our path is obscured by the constant storm of activity and responsibilities around us, it’s easy to start gripping the wheel, pumping the brakes, and squinting into the fog in an effort to get ourselves through it. But, we’re putting out needless effort. We have a steady light to follow—one we can trust implicitly.

If we’re following God, we have no need to worry. He will guide us past the dangers along the edge of the road and lead us through any sudden turns. We can trust Him because, as Job said, “…He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10) God is the One who set the path in front of us in the first place. He knows where it is leading. It may lead through storms and fires, but as a result we will come out as purified gold—a treasure in God’s hand.

This fact, however, does us no good if we don’t acknowledge Him. We can say, “Yep, God knows where I’m headed,” and at the same time be plowing our way blindly through the storm because we’re not willing to follow His lead. We act on our own instincts because we’re not willing to trust the taillights in front of us.

Proverbs 3:5-7 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” We have to let it all go: Give up our understanding of things, commit our works to God, and allow Him to establish our thoughts (Proverbs 16:3). When we let go of the things we’re holding onto then we can take hold of His hand, and let Him lead us through the storm.

 

2. Don’t get off the path.

I knew that icy road was lined with steep drop-offs—whether I could see them or not. I wouldn’t have had to worry about my car spinning out of control and going over the edge if I had pulled over, gotten out of my car, and attempted to walk down the highway. But, more likely than not I would have blindly stumbled over the edge. I might have been struck by another vehicle. Chances are I would have wandered off the road and gotten lost. Who knows how long it would have taken me to get back to the road or to be found once the storm cleared. People die that way.

Sometimes God puts curves in our path. Sometimes they are sharp and sudden. But, unless He is telling us to make a turn, switching directions in a storm can be dangerous. We panic when we can’t see the road, and we start looking for a new, safer path. All the while God is saying, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” Instinct tells us to find shelter, but we often forget that God is our shelter in the time of storm. (Ps 61:3)

Once we’re off the path, we’re headed in the wrong direction. That icy highway was still leading to Great Falls, neither the destination nor the road itself had changed. They had simply been obscured. The same is true in life. Don’t leave the path just because you can’t see it; you’ll be headed the wrong way. Keep going in the direction God has given you.

If we’re listening, we’ll know when God is leading us into something different. He promised in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” What a precious promise in a storm that blocks the path from our view! He doesn’t leave us to blunder about, He asks us to trust His direction—to keep following the taillights. In Isaiah 30:21 God said, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” When it’s time to turn, God will let you know; until then stay on the path.

 

3. Slow down.

As the rear end of my car tried to overtake the front end, I knew immediately what I needed to do. It makes so much sense when we’re driving. You can’t see anything, you don’t know what’s coming or what’s around you, your car is about to do a 360, so—slow down.

Somehow in life we get it all mixed up. The storms come, the responsibilities, the constant pressure and activities, so what’s our solution? We try to do it faster. We add more things in, thinking they will eventually lighten the rest of the load. We rush things. We rush people. We become distant, distracted, irritable, and impossible to be around. All because we’re trying to barrel our way down a path we cannot see in hopes of getting through the storm sooner.

I don’t remember Jesus rushing around very often. His day was filled with busyness, still the only time the word “haste” is ever linked to Him is when He was telling Zacchaeus to get out of the tree. I don’t remember Jesus running everywhere like a crazy man trying to pack all He could into those 3 ½ years. But, I do remember Him walking from one place to the next, teaching and healing as he went. I remember Him slowing down at the end of a long day to spend time with his Father in prayer.

God did not intended for us to heap massive weights upon ourselves and carry them alone into the storm. Nor did He intend for us to rush through the storm. God wants us to slow down, but we must learn how.

Had I slammed on my brakes as I was coming down that mountainside, I would have spun out. In my mind, I can still see the exact trajectory the car would have taken. I had to first lift and steer. Then I could ease into the brakes.

Slowing down on icy roads takes practice, fortunately, as Christians, we have a good Teacher. God longs to spend time with us. Just as the bridegroom in Song of Solomon sought to be with His bride, God knocks at our door in the still moments of the day. He waits there and whispers, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

The question is “Are any quiet moments left?” Do we fill them all up, so we have no time remaining for Him? The rest we long for is found in those moments of learning from Him. The desire to rush through the storm diminishes as we take His hand and find comfort in Him. But, if we rush through the day and lock the door of our heart as we slip beneath the covers, then, like the bride, we may finally drag ourselves from our beds to answer his knocking, only to discover that He has withdrawn himself. (SOS 5:1-6)

 

4. Stop.

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This is where I find myself.

That day on the highway, the storm never got so bad that I couldn’t keep creeping along. By the time I reached the bottom of that horrid sheet of ice, I had nearly driven out of the worst of it. But, sometimes, the storm comes against you so hard that you have no other choice. You have to stop.

We each go through different kinds of storms: Storms of sickness, of financial pressures, of job difficulties, of relationship problems, of time pressures, of loss. Sometimes more than one storm strikes at once. We’re tempted to do all the wrong things to navigate the fury around us. We start spinning like a whirling dervish (or a car on ice), trying to manage everything…It doesn’t have to be that way.

Sometimes we just need to stop.

We may compare our lives to someone else and say, “I have no excuse. If they can do that, then I can handle this.” It’s good to be encouraged by what others are doing, unless in attempting to do likewise we take our eyes off of our Leader.

It doesn’t matter if your storm is no more than a sprinkle and a breeze—if it has distracted you from Christ and made it impossible for you to clearly see the path He has laid out before you: Stop. Find a quiet place. Step away from the storm. The place of greatest peace is in His presence. Wait on Him. Let Him take all the elements of the storm, whatever they may be, and say, “Peace be still.”

Does this mean we disengage from life? No. The disciples’ ship didn’t stop sailing because they left their posts and went to Jesus, but it would have sunk if they hadn’t gone to him. The few moments they took to seek help from the Savior was the step that eventually saved them and the ship.

Stopping is a choice. Occasionally, God stops us. He says, “Okay, if you’re not going to stop yourself then I’m going to help.” Usually, the circumstances are not too pleasant. Most of the time, however, stopping is up to us. God doesn’t force us to pull away from the mayhem around us. He waits. He drops hints and clues. The Holy Spirit prompts us that we have lost sight of things and need to step back, but He doesn’t usually force us to stop. He wants us to choose to seek Him.

Some of God’s greatest works were done while His people were standing still. (Check out Exodus 14:13.) Ruth’s redemption came as she sat still. (Ruth 3:18) We try to force our way through the storm, thinking once we’re on the other side we’ll be able to figure everything out. It rarely occurs to us in those moments that perhaps God wants us to quietly sort through things with Him, so once the fog lifts we’ll already be headed in the right direction.

I’ve recently taken time to slow down. To reflect on where things are and where God is leading. But, I can clearly see I also need to take time to stop. Sometimes, stopping has to be orchestrated, and I’ve begun looking for places in my “score” where I can put a several measure rest. I don’t know exactly how or when or where, but I’m looking forward to those extra moments with the Lord!

How about you? Where are you right now? Do you just need to keep following the taillights? Have you gotten off the path? Is it time to slow down?

 

Where is your favorite place to spend time alone with the Lord? I’d love to hear about it!

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the In All Thy Ways Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.

Out of Sight – Lessons from a Storm, Part 1

Part 1 of 2

My fingers gripped the steering wheel with a tenacity they had never known before. I was late, but that was the least of my problems. I took a deep breath and held it in, feeling the tires slipping beneath me once more.

A heavy, white fog had settled over the mountain and seemed to meld into the snow-covered world. Everything was white: The ice and packed snow under the car, the mountainside, the cement barriers between the highway lanes, the air. I knew the long, descending grade in front of me curved off to the right at its end, but that end was nowhere to be seen. I swallowed hard, wondering when the world would come back into view.

 

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“What am I supposed to do?” seems to be a question running through my mind often these days. “How do I balance everything?” follows right after it, dragging along, “What is really important?”

I love what I do—all of it. (Well, except for financial reports. I’m not a fan of those.) But, even with all the juggling skills I’ve learned over the years things are still falling to the wayside—important things.

I’ve always believed that investing in people is one of the most important things in life; but what if, in trying to make sure I’m always putting the needs of others first, I’m neglecting the responsibilities God has given me? Is that possible? Do they sort of equal each other out? Do the needs of others trump the long-term work God has called me to? Or do I need to be saying “no” to immediate needs more often until some of the long-term has been brought to an end?

And, how do I balance all of that with work and writing?

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that some of these questions are always there. We’re always looking for ways to bring more balance, be more circumspect, and do exactly what God has called us to. Life’s interruptions, challenges, and the unexpected tend to cloud our vision, so we cannot see the path for the circumstances.

I’ve been thinking about that path from many different angles lately, but the memory of that snow and fog obscured road between Helena and Great Falls, MT seemed to best depict the past few months. I know the road twists and turns ahead, I know the general direction it’s supposed to take—but I can’t see it.

Every time I turn around some new circumstance is clouding the view. Life has begun to feel fragmented; a few moments spent here, a few there, but no concentrated effort anywhere. The edges are beginning to fray. I find myself praying, “Lord, something has to change,” but not even knowing specifically which area to pray about changing.

What do you let go of when everything you do involves people? You can’t say, “Well, this person is more important than that person”…because that just isn’t true.

Then I was reminded…It isn’t what you let go of, it’s WHO you take hold of that matters.

If you’ve known me very long, you’ve probably heard this story before, but I’m going to tell it anyway. Many years ago, some friends and I were traveling to church in Russia by train. When we reached our stop the doors didn’t open. We were unable to get out. We hurried to the next car, hoping to get to a working door in time, but our hurry was unnecessary. The train skipped the next stop and took us a full half hour past our destination. Incredibly late, we finally disembarked in a little place called Odintsova.

While the rest of us meandered down the platform, one of the guys in our group jumped down to the ground, crossed the tracks, scaled the other platform, and checked the schedule. We had barely made it half way to the bridge (the proper way to cross) when we heard him yell, “It’s coming! Get over here! It’s coming right now!”

In a panic, we followed our leader’s example, jumping down to the ground and crossing the tracks to the other platform. We all looked over our shoulders to see the train rounding the bend behind us. From that quick glance we surmised the train would come to the inside of the platform, so my friends and I lined up on the outside edge and began our single-file ascent.

Now, you must understand that the platform was at least chest high on most of us, and most of us were young women wearing long dress coats and skirts, not to mention our heavy winter boots. The climb up was awkward and cumbersome.

Just as I tossed my backpack ahead of me and reached for the platform, I heard someone say, “It’s coming to this side!” Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone being pulled back from the tracks behind me. I pulled myself up, one shin resting against the platform’s rough edge and the fingers of my right hand curled around its outermost corner. Then I felt the rush of wind. I could not see the train at first, but I could hear it. I was not about to let go of that platform. It was steady. It would not move. I heard its whistle, but still I clung to the platform. The train flashed by, just inches from my head and fingers. Not until it had raced by did I draw myself up, get to my feet, and run for the rest of the group.

I could not have clung to that platform if I hadn’t first freed my hands of the backpack. If I’d been grappling with it, I would have fallen—most likely I would be dead. But, because my hands were free of everything else I could cling to that cement platform for all I was worth.

When we let go of things it enables us to take better hold on Christ. Just like that platform, Christ is steady, He will not move. He also possesses a beauty the platform could never boast: No matter how strong our grip on Christ, His grip on us is always stronger.

Balance is never easy to maintain. Even as I clung to that platform, I could feel myself tottering. It was that same head-swimming feeling I get when I stand on the edge of a cliff. But, I knew that as long as I kept myself centered over the platform, I would be safe from the oncoming train. The same is true with our relationship to Christ. We may not be able to see what is coming. We may feel like we’re about to teeter into the path of the storm, but so long as we keep our focus on Him we will have peace and assurance.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” – Isaiah 26:3,4

In Part 2, we’ll look at some “whiteout lessons”, things we can learn from those moments when our path is out of sight. But for today here’s a question: Has life ever led you through a whiteout? What did God teach you about letting go and taking hold of Him? Please, share in the comments—it’s how we help each other grow!

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Presence Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.

 

Focus (not resolutions) for 2014

I was the kind of kid who spent a lot of time observing. I watched what people did and waited to see the results. When it came to New Year’s resolutions, the results were overwhelmingly bad. So, I made up my mind I would not fall into that cyclical trap. But, like everyone else, I sensed the importance of that day. It was the end of one season and the beginning of another. That made it noteworthy. I wanted to start the new year in the right direction. But, I knew if I made a whole bunch of resolutions, or even one for that matter, I would fail.

I watched how others met the day. Some friends traditionally got together with their friends and family. They always seemed to have a good time. Some people started diets. Others joined gyms. Some people set work or study goals. On New Year’s Eve our church usually had a game night, followed by preaching and “praying in” the new year. That was nice, but it wasn’t personal.

When I was fifteen, I started my own New Year’s tradition. I don’t really remember where the idea came from, or what made me so determined to do it. I’m just glad I did. That year, I decided I would spend time with the Lord on New Year’s Eve, asking Him for direction for the year ahead. That’s hard to accomplish with everything else going on!

I still remember slipping off into a side room at church and squeezing in just a few minutes. I didn’t have long, but I was able to read some scripture and spend time asking Him what He wanted me to focus on over the next year. I don’t remember now what the answer was, what I ended up working towards in the twelve months that followed. But, I remember that night as if it were yesterday (and believe me, it wasn’t!) Those few moments were so precious that I’ve kept the tradition up every year since.

Some years, the Lord has already shown me what He wants me to focus on before New Year’s Eve arrives. Sometimes it comes in those quiet moments as the world outside my window erupts in cheers and fireworks. Some years, it comes in the first few days of the fledgling year.

As we approached the end of 2013, I was feeling more than a bit overwhelmed. My best friend called me for my birthday and, I am ashamed to say, got an earful of all my troubles. (Thank you for being so patient!) Every direction I looked, I saw more things that needed to be done and no means, energy or time to do them. I honestly couldn’t see how I would ever sort through my thoughts enough to figure out what I was going to focus on in 2014. What aspects of ministry needed more attention? What writing should I be focusing on? Which projects did I need to let go and which did I need to expand?

When we decided to take a trip to Ohio for my cousin’s (beautiful!) wedding, I thought this might be the first year since I was fifteen that I didn’t get those special moments with the Lord. And, to be completely open and honest, I felt if I did somehow get a few moments with Him, I would just completely mess it up because my thoughts concerning the new year were so tangled. But, God is gracious. In the end, I had an entire hour—just me and God. (I have five pages of journal notes to prove it!) The time was sweet and refreshing and profitable; but as I came away from it, I still didn’t know for sure what the Lord wanted me to focus on in 2014. That bothered me, so I kept praying.

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Sunday night was the night it all came together. We had an unusual church service. Instead of the usual song or two followed by preaching. We sang a couple of songs, and then had a praise and testimony time. Then each person shared a verse and two reasons why it was special to them.

My thoughts immediately went to Isaiah 26:3,4:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

This passage has been a favorite of mine for more years than I can count.

Peace has always been important to me, not necessarily quiet, just peace. If our hearts are not at peace, how can we ever hope to hear God? If our relationships are not at peace, how can we glorify God through them? How can we minister together if we are warring against one another?

But peace is not always easy to maintain because we are all full of that dreadful little thing called pride.

Pride, which relies on self to fix everything, worries.

Pride, which is always right, causes contention.

Pride, which wants its own way, destroys our ability to put others first.

Isaiah 26 gives the secret to peace. It isn’t seeing the problems solved, the relationships mended, or the strife melted away. Those are only the results. The true secret to peace is our gaze; not of our eyes, but of our hearts.

Peace comes from having our thoughts completely fixed on God. The word here translated “mind” is beautiful. Specific to this verse it carries the meaning of thoughts and, more importantly, meditations. A thought can be fleeting, here one second gone the next—believe me, I experience that problem on a daily basis! But, meditation is a process. It begins with a thought, but that thought is never let go. It is developed and expanded and internalized. It becomes a root of our thinking process.

Recently, someone said something that hurt me deeply. Their words revealed that a gulf I hoped would somehow be spanned probably never will be. Over the next twenty-four hours, thoughts came about that person, their family, and our relationship. Each time, I had to make a specific choice not to let my mind camp there because I love that person, and I don’t want that to be destroyed. It could have been, quickly and easily. I had to (not so simply) let it go and turn my heart back to where it needed to be centered—back to Christ.

The word translated “mind” also refers to our “frame and formation”. The frame of a house is what establishes its shape and boundaries. It determines both its appearance and its functionality. This also refers to our shaping as vessels in a potter’s hands. Will we say, “Hey, you don’t know what you’re doing!” Or will we allow God to shape us?

Our thoughts and meditations, our frame and formation are all to be “stayed”—to rest—upon God. They’re just supposed to lay right there and not move. He is to be the underlying support. If I meditate on Christ, how will I have room to think of the ways others have wronged me? If my mind is fixed on His power to deliver from any situation, how can I worry about things I cannot control?

God promises peace to the person who keeps their mind fixed on Him. But, it isn’t just any peace it is “perfect peace.” Literally, it’s “peace, peace” or shalom, shalom. The word covers nearly every aspect of the idea of peace. It refers to relationships, health, prosperity, our welfare, freedom from wars, and most importantly our relationship with the Lord. God doesn’t just promise us a little peace. He promises a double dose of perfect peace. And the best part is that WE do not have to keep it.

Notice the verse says, “THOU wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” It is God’s job to keep us in perfect peace, our job is simply to keep our eyes on Him.

As I was reading these verses in Sunday night’s service, I couldn’t help but think of a similar passage in Philippians:

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

God never changes. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, He is there waiting, ready to not only give us peace but also to keep us in it.

My heart was soaring by the time I had finished reading those verses. I knew immediately this was what I had been praying for. This was what God wanted me to focus on in 2014:

Him.

But God didn’t stop there. When our sharing time was over. We sang one last hymn. It goes like this:

There is never a day so dreary,

There is never a night so long,

But the soul that is trusting Jesus

Will somewhere find a song.

There is never a cross so heavy,

There is never a weight of woe,

But that Jesus will help to carry

Because He loveth so.

There is never a guilty sinner,

There is never a wand’ring one,

But that God can in mercy pardon

Through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Chorus –

Wonderful, wonderful Jesus,

In the heart He implanteth a song:

A song of deliverance, of courage of strength;

In the heart He implanteth a song.

-Anna B. Russell

I know there will be dreary days and long nights in 2014. There will be heavy crosses and weights of woe. I know there will be a need for deliverance, for courage, and for strength. And, I know the same wonderful, wonderful Jesus who pardoned this guilty wandering sinner, will be in the midst of each one.

As we sang that hymn, my thoughts ran to another song, one of my favorite Russian hymns, which declares not just that Jesus will implant a song in my heart, but that HE is that song. (You can listen to it here! Don’t worry. It’s in English!)

As if all this wasn’t enough, God still wasn’t done. When the song was over, the message began. The text verses were these:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Hebrews 12:1-3

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It goes right back to our gaze and right back to our minds. It also goes back to the idea of the path set before us in this new year. If we forget to consider Christ and what he suffered, we will faint. But in light of all He did for us to obtain our salvation and victory over the grave, how can we be wearied in our daily trials? Yes, sometimes they are many and overwhelming. Often they are undeniably and unbelievably painful. But, He took upon Him the sins and the punishment of the whole world.

The service closed with communion. And I realized we were doing exactly what the verses had said: Considering Christ. I couldn’t even imagine a better way to end the service, nor to solidify in my mind what my focus is to be this year. And not only this year, but always.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”

– Helen H. Lemmel

May each of you have a blessed and peaceful new year!

What has God given you to focus on this year? Please share in the comments.

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ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including the Walking in His Promises Devotional Journal. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.