My dear friend Josh Schram relaunched our summertime series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. “Selah” (or “Interlude” in some Bible translations) can mean either a time of reflection, a deep breath to go into something stronger, or a time to weigh the contrasts.
Psalm 44 is a classic example of a Selah calling us to weigh the contrasts! The first 8 verses of this psalm celebrate the recollections of God’s past victories, declarations of God being our King, and crescendoing to a note of continual praise—O God, we give glory to You all day long and constantly praise Your name!
Then comes the Selah—pause.
And after the pause, the scene turns dark. The psalmist now recounts how bad his situation is, descending to the low note of “we collapse in the dust, lying face down in the dirt” (v. 25).
Josh reminded us how our preferences change over time. Consider the telephone—we’ve gone from push-button corded phones, to phones with longer cords, to cordless phones, to bulk bag phones, to smaller cell phones, to smartphones. It’s very human for our preferences to want more and better.
But God’s preference never changes. God’s preference is YOU!
He can never love you any more than He already does. Nor can He love you any less.
The apostle Paul quotes Psalm 44:22—yet for Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered—when he explains that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love (see Romans 8:31-39).
In marriage vows, we usually promise to love our spouse “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health.” True love goes through it all!
God’s love goes through it all with us. That’s why the psalmist’s last words are so hopeful: Rise up and help us; rescue us because of Your unfailing love. His unfailing love is our assurance of His presence and His ultimate rescue. Paul also reminds us “indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Romans 8:17).
Josh said, “I want you to remember one thing: Nothing!” Nothing can separate you from God’s love. Ever!
Hillsong United has some memorable words in their song Highlands—“I will praise You on the mountain, and I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way. … You’re the heaven where my heart is, in the highlands and the heartache all the same.”
No matter what you’re facing, God’s preference is you. He loves you, and He wants you to grow closer to Him through this trial. Praise Him for His unfailing love on the mountain and in the valley, and then wait in eager expectation for Him to come to rescue you.
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“Taste and see that I am good. The more intimately you experience Me, the more convinced you become of My goodness.”
“Follow Me one step at a time. … Keep your mind on the present journey, enjoying My Presence. Walk by faith, not by sight, trusting Me to open up the way before you. … I set the pace in keeping with your needs and My purposes.”
“Walking in the light of My presence blesses you in many ways. Good things are better and bad things are more bearable when you share them with Me. As you bask in My Love-Light, you are better able to love others and enjoy fellowship with them. You are less likely to stumble or fall because sins are garishly obvious in My holy Light. As you walk in this Light with Me, I encourage you to exult in My righteousness.”
“Although your new self is being conformed to My image, this process does not erase the essence of who you are. On the contrary, the more you become like Me, the more you develop into the unique person I designed you to be.”
“Holiness is letting Me live through you. Since I dwell in you, you are fully equipped to be holy. Pause before responding to people or situations, giving My Spirit space to act through you. Hasty words and actions leave no room for Me; this is atheistic living. I want to inhabit all your moments—gracing your thoughts, words, and behavior.”
“Talk with Me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with Me. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.”
“Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life. Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment.”
“Exceeding Joy is for both you and Me. I delight in you now, but this Joy will be astronomically magnified when you join Me in Glory. The Joy you will experience in heaven is so far beyond anything you have known on earth that it is indescribable. Nothing can rob you of this glorious inheritance which is imperishable and will not fade away.”
“Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately with Me.”
It may sound like an oxymoron—defiant joy—but it’s a powerful combination that Stasi Eldredge unpacks in her book. Check out my full review of Defiant Joy by clicking here.
“Times of testing can also be times of refining and growth. The counterintuitive truth is that suffering can deepen our hope. It enlarges our hearts so that we can know the love and presence of Jesus in ways that we would not if we did not go through the stretching the process.”
“The waiting can be hard when you are hungry, but when you know a feast is coming, you know that the waiting won’t last forever. Dear ones, the waiting is not going to last. But there is no shame in being hungry while you wait. … In our waiting God often deepens our hunger as well.”
“We are alive. And to be alive means that we will feel. We don’t need to deny it, and we don’t need to have it rule us. We dare not marry it to cynicism, and we must not fuel it with fatalism. It is not the end of our reality. It is instead a clue that we are strangers in a strange land. And we are passing through. Sadness touches us all, but God can use it to enhance the beauty and joy of the lives we are living. Sadness can fuel our hope. It can arouse our expectancy.”
“God displayed His fierce, constant love for us once and for all on the Cross of Calvary. The essence of His heart is no longer up for question. Because of all that Jesus won for us and our choice to receive it, God promises that we actually have nothing to fear.”
“satan comes to rob us of our joy, our peace, and our connection to and faith in God. He whispers lies to us when we are vulnerable and does his best to warp our perception of our lives with his depressing and evil spin. His endless attacks can wear a person down if they are aware that the perceptions being suggested are coming straight from hell.
“satan is very good at stealing. He’s devoted all his malice to separating us from intimacy with our good Father and the experience of deep joy that comes straight from Jesus’ heart. The evil one uses the circumstances of our lives and of the world to bring discouragement and despair. That is why we must remember that though happiness is rooted in our circumstances, joy is rooted in eternity.”
“Depth of character doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t come at all to those who refuse to admit the difficulties in their lives are painful. It comes when we fix our gaze on Jesus and the reality that this life is only part of the grand scheme of things.”
“There is something forged in all of us that can only be forged through fire. Perhaps intense periods of struggle, pain, betrayal, persecution, and rejection are the times when the baptism by fire that Jesus talks about occurs. When we cling to Jesus and proclaim He is good in the midst of the licking flames, our spirits rise in a strength that is proven unshakable, and God is glorified beyond reckoning. Our pain becomes the terrain of God. It becomes sacred.”
Check out some more quotes I shared from Defiant Joy here.
Normally on Tuesdays, I post book reviews here, but I’ve been reading a couple of YouVersion reading plans with my wife this summer that I felt I must share with you. Both of them are by Jimmy Evans—One: A Marriage Devotional and Strengths-Based Marriage.
If you are unfamiliar with YouVersion Bible, there is both a web-based site and a mobile app that you really should check out. I spend a lot of quality time in the Scripture using the app on my iPhone each day. One of the cool features YouVersion has recently introduced is the ability to read devotional plans with friends. This offers:
Strengths-Based Marriage focuses on exactly what the title leads you to expect—the strengths in you and your spouse. Instead of trying to “fix” something in your spouse, Jimmy Evans turns your attention toward the God-implanted strengths in your spouse, and then gives you some practical counsel for calling out those strengths.
For example, in one of the devotions he wrote, “Each of us is remarkably unique, and to minimize that irreplaceable uniqueness is to rob the world of a contribution that cannot come any other way.” And in another devotional he says, “You cannot separate your treasures from your passions. In other words, you will always be most passionate about the people, pursuits, and places where you are investing the best of your life. Your passions will always follow the investments of your time, energy, and strengths.”
One: A Marriage Devotional is a much more daily nuts-and-bolts approach to our marriages. In this devotional he shares relationships principles, and then gives us a “Talk It Out” and a “Walk It Out” assignment to put into practice.
In one of these devotionals he writes, “God created marriage to operate as the most important human relationship in our lives, and it only succeeds on that level. … Priority must be proven daily in real terms and not just in words. Good intentions mean very little in marriage. The only thing that matters is what you do and continue to do consistently. For your marriage to work, you must establish it as the first priority and be willing to protect it against good or bad things that try to distract you.”
Whether your marriage is in need of urgent attention, it could use some minor improvements, or it’s already pretty great, both of these devotionals will give you practical tips, time with your spouse in God’s Word, great conversation-starting questions, and some highly practical tips you can use right now.
“Let me not stay my heart till I have discovered Thee in all Thy fullness.”
“Manifest Thy grace and wisdom in my life today as a witness to those around me.”
“O Lord God, Thy wisdom has been poured into my heart, creating such a longing for Thee that nothing in this world can satisfy.”
“Heavenly Father, open my eyes to recognize Thy hand in my life. … May I be aware of my surroundings in light of what Thou art doing.”
“Let me penetrate the cloud of unknowing and see Thy face and allow it to transform every aspect of my being.”
“I praise Thee for Thy faithfulness in pursuing me and going to the ultimate end to rescue me from myself.”
“My heart, O God, needs Thy most sacred protection. Keep me from the infiltration of sin into my life so that I may glorify Thee in everything I do.”
“I praise Thee, O God, for the restlessness of my spirit has driven me forward to discover my rest completely in Thee.”
“Dear heavenly Father, may I sent before me only that which will glorify Thee in all the beauty of Thy purity and holiness. I pray Thy wisdom will guide me throughout my life in making the choices that will bless me and honor Thee.”
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“Honestly, it’s impossible to be a good listener without developing a humble spirit. Think about it. When you’re listening and fully engaged, you allow the other person to have all the attention. Listening forces you to lay aside your agenda. It challenges you to let go of your need to share your opinions, theories, and assumptions in favor of listening to another’s feelings, thoughts, and sentiments. That decision can only come from a heart of humility.”
“Resist the urge to dive in with your own story. … Whenever you dive in with your own story, you are stealing the microphone from the person who is telling their story. … The best advice is to remember to let someone be the star of their own show. Keep the focus on the person talking.”
“How is it that we who have problems ourselves are so quick to try to fix someone else’s problem? James was spot on when he wrote, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak’ (James 1:19). I’d like to suggest that a great paraphrase for this verse is, ‘Let everyone be quick to listen and slow to give advice!’”
“Don’t tell people what to do; ask them questions. … You gain greater insight, they gain greater self-awareness, and the two of you grow closer. … When we dare to ask someone what they want, we give them the opportunity to verbalize their need. … The best questions allow people to explore what’s in their hearts.”
“When you validate another person’s feelings, you’re basically saying, ‘Your feelings make sense.’ You compassionately acknowledge that the person’s feelings are important and that those feelings are understandable. You don’t correct feelings or instruct a person on how to feel. You simply offer understanding. … Validating someone’s feelings doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with the actions of the other person. … Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They’re just feelings. It’s what we do with those feelings that determines whether or not we sin. … Validate feelings, but only validate actions that line up with Scripture.”
“In your relationships, what does it look like for you to mimic Jesus and show others how valuable they are? How does your face send the signal, ‘I want to hear what you have to say’? Your nonverbal signals act as a green light, inviting others to share their feelings.”
“Conflict can be transformational. In the chaos of an argument, if you will listen to understand and focus on meeting the others need, you’ll be more able to work as a team, coming up with a solution that satisfies both. In the end, your relationship will emerge stronger and more resilient.”
“People are dying to feel heard, and unless we’ve purpose in our hearts to offer our full presence to others, we’ll drift through life distracted and dishonor those who matter to us in the process.”