“I am pressed but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. I am blessed beyond the curse that His promise will endure. And His joy’s gonna be my strength. I’m trading my sorrows. I am trading my shame. I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.”
So, I suspect most of you know this worship song, “Trading My Sorrows.” Been around for some long time.
I haven’t heard it in years, but the lyrics keep going through my head today. We used to sing it and jump around. The song is very upbeat. It would be a declaration.
Here’s the thing. I do declare these words and truths. But, the joy of the Lord I feel and know at the moment is not one of jumping around. It is simply the joy, the security, of knowing that He is with me and for me. That in all things, God remains faithful. It is a settled joy, yet with the realities of life.
Last month I did a teaching and used Ps. 22 as the basis. David is struggling. As you read, you see that he does a lot of getting quite real with God. He lays it all out. Then, He will suddenly remember that God is God, and He will begin to praise God, via acknowledging who God is and who He is in God. Finally, it’s like David’s strength and resolve starts rising up, and he says how he will then be telling others about God and his power.
I found it to be relevant and relatable. Life is hard. Life following Jesus is hard (even Jesus says it will be), but God is God and good and holy and powerful and with us and all this. And as we let that soak in, it empowers us.
This is a bit of my experience at the moment…
Here in Uganda this last year or so, I have had a series of disappointing things with the work and with people and friends I’ve known and trusted. Even today, we had to let one of our FTW team go. Joel, the young man who has been part of our things since the beginning. I love this kid. He and his family have held a special place in my heart. Relationship will remain, but we had to release him due to some serious issues.
Anyway, there has just been a lot to be discouraged about. I end up tired. Weary, really.
Sure, I could share all the nice things. The feel good things.
But, in reality, when investing in people, it is generally messy. People’s stories take twists and turns that are seldom smooth. The enemy will do all he can to steal, kill, and destroy. People’s traumas, cultures, addictions, and so on get in the way of living fully the life God intends for us all.
Plus, we have our own personal things – grief over losing someone, loneliness, wondering if God isn’t coming through, unforeseen challenges, tiredness, etc., etc., etc.
And sometimes, honestly, I want to shut down. I think I can’t take anymore.
I mean, is any of this really worth it? Really?
I want to stay living Ps. 22:1-2, 6-8, 12-18. Sure seems easier.
But see, then I had a reminder last month of God’s true faithfulness and power. A reminder to me that I must remember. Remember what God has done.
You see, God blessed me and gave me the honor to be able to see His work in progress in a tangible way.
There was a gathering in the name of Jesus of at least 2500 women and men who met in the heart of the Navajo reservation. This may not sound like a big number by western standards, but trust me, it was a big number in this setting. Native people gathered from at least 12 tribes.
What took place, essentially, was God and His forces taking back ground in the Spirit. I don’t want that to sound funny. But, in this spiritual war, the one among Native people and those who serve among them, this was like a D-Day in the spirit – a significant moment of moving on ground the enemy had taken and reclaiming it for Christ.
As one who has been both a casualty and a victor in battles on the rez leading up to this time, I cannot express how meaningful this day was. (and no, not just the one day – this taking of ground has been as people have prayed, come together in unity, will continue to have influence,etc.)
It was grace to be able to spend the weekend with the Follow the Word family (for those who only really know me from Uganda things, this FTW makes up the house church I led for some years before going to Uganda).
One big thing God showed me was how how faithful He has been among people’s stories.
None of us in this group has had a perfect journey. None have avoided going through the fire and into the valleys and via the dark places. There have been many tears crying out to God to help for various reasons.
YET, GOD IS HOLY. YET, WE REMAIN HIS CHILDREN. YET, HE WILL TOUCH THE NATIONS.
I sat at breakfast with this whole group as God allowed me to see what He has done. Lives changed. Families changed. His Kingdom expanding.
Victory remains. Hope endures.
Ps. 22: 3-4, 9-11, 19-31 wins the day.
So, in the midst of the challenges right now in Uganda, where the battles rage on for people’s souls, I must remember that people’s stories are not finished. God promised here to do miraculous things in impossible situations. The impossible here through the years has been less about seeing people fed, educated, and having clean water, and more about thinking the deep affects of trauma could ever be transformed into new life – God’s culture winning out.
But you know what, I saw miracles happen last month in Chinle. Miracles in individual lives. Miracles in the spirit. Allied forces in the spirit pushing back the powers of darkness and shining light that cannot be snuffed out.
Ps. 23 moments.
God’s also been reminding me a lot about GRACE. Before this day in Chinle, I told a friend that I just didn’t think I had it in me anymore to give grace to people. I was just so done with being misunderstood, betrayed, disappointed, not supported, wrongly blamed, and more. And, I just didn’t think I could give grace anymore.
And you know what? I couldn’t. I can’t. I shouldn’t bother trying. None of us can or should.
We are human. That’s it. We are not people of grace by nature.
It is God’s grace. We can be a conduit of that.
And the way that happens in large part is by remembering how much grace we have received and need. Man. I need it constantly. I will sometimes say, “may I breathe You Lord, Your Spirit be my every breath.” Why? Because in every moment, my nature wants to not be God’s.
Good intentions do not equal letting God control us. Trying to give grace on my own strength – with good intentions – is exhausting. Trust me. And at some point, we will snap.
God help. Come and work through me.
Then, there is peace. There is that joy that brings strength. Our souls will have rest.
I may finish writing this and still have a crappy night struggling with being hurt or lonely or frustrated. But somehow, I can remember what God has done in so many things, the grace He gives me so undeservedly, and give the things of today to Him – like David – cry out to Him. Then, let Him do the rest.
I don’t think the fruit of the Spirit, patience, is just about not losing our temper when traffic is bad or our flight is delayed; I think it is also being patient to see how God is going to come through for us and in situations. It’s waiting and trusting and letting His strength get us through the next day, or hour, or 8 minutes.
So, maybe I’ll just put on “Trading My Sorrows” and jump around a bit. Hope you can too.