How did your day start?
I hope it began better than my day did on Wednesday, April 24. When I arrived at my office at Columbia International University, I plopped down on the couch and muttered, “My life is a mess!”
Due to a succession of sleep-deprived nights, I felt like a zombie. Though I’m told my recovery from knee replacement is on target, that morning the knee throbbed like a toothache on steroids. Complementing the physical discomforts, I was feeling threatened by my upcoming retirement from CIU. Will I receive enough speaking and writing opportunities to provide the necessary part-time income I’ll need? Without a class to teach, will I be as motivated to get up in the morning? Will my depression worsen due to a lack of structure in my daily schedule?
I also lamented where I was (or wasn’t) spiritually. My times of unhurried, heartfelt prayer, as well as the habit of delving into God’s Word for soul food, had declined in recent weeks. Oh, I could blame it on the physical pain and sleeplessness stemming from the surgery, but that would be dishonest. The fact is, being sidelined physically for weeks had given me more than the usual time to spend with the Lord. If I couldn’t get my spiritual act together by age 69, would it ever happen?
It is so much easier to teach and to write on faith than it is to trust God in the crucible of life’s experiences.
Then, out of the blue, I heard the inaudible but distinct voice of the Holy Spirit whisper, “Terry, I do My best work with messes!”
That’s when a parade of uninvited guests crashed my pity party. Verse after verse from God’s Word, ones I had memorized years ago, bubbled up in my head. Every verse amounted to a command or invitation to take my uncertainties, worries, and weaknesses to the Lord. Many of them contained promises as well. I was prostrate on the couch by the time these verses scrolled across the marquee of my mind:
*”Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness. You have relieved me in my distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1).
*”Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, and He will do it” (Psalm 37:4-5).
*”Call on Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Psalm 50:15).
*”Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
*”Trust in the Lord at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8).
*Concerning the person who trusts Him, God said, “He will call upon Me, and I will answer Him; I will be with Him in trouble, I will rescue him, and honor him” (Psalm 91:15).
“On the day I called, You did answer me; You made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3).
*”Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
*”‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me, and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart'” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
*”Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
*”Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
*”Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
*”Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Instead of pouting, doubting, and fretting, the Holy Spirit who inspired these verses nudged me to heed them by voicing my needs in prayer. So I sat up on the couch and started praying, resulting in the most meaningful round of prayer I’d had in quite a while.
I’m glad that the Word of God teems with invitations and commands to appeal to the Lord in prayer. There’s always a need for praise and thanksgiving, too. Yet I must never hesitate to make appeals to Him when I’m feeling like a mess. Asking is not a lower form of prayer on the spiritual totem pole, it is just a different type of approach than praise. To think that once I mature in the Lord, the need to ask Him for help will dissipate, and all I will do is praise Him, is a false spirituality.
God’s Word assumes that I (and you!) will always be needy, and human experience verifies that fact. When I ask Him for help, I am obeying His Word, and I am giving Him a grand opportunity to accomplish something in a weak, needy vessel such as myself. His intervention on my behalf gives Him more glory, for I know, and those who know me best can see, that He has done something in and for me that only He could do.
The next time you feel like a mess, remember the One who delights in cleaning up messes.