Psalm 36 – Your faithfulness stretches to the skies

Please read and reflect on these beautiful truths from Psalm 36:5-8, then enjoy the worship song the follows.

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;

your judgments are like the great deep;

man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house,

and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light do we see light.

Psalms 30-36 — The Lord is my hiding place

This morning I came to the Lord with a heavy heart. Last night we went to visit a family we hadn’t seen in several months. It was a lovely time, except that the moment I walked in the door the mother and sisters were asking if I was surely not pregnant yet. And of course, I’m not. And to add to it, one of them had her first baby a couple months ago, and another is 9 months pregnant. So it was the talk of the night. I’m kind of used to it by now, but it inflamed the longing of my heart some. So this morning I came to the Lord in my quiet time with that weighing on me. And in His faithfulness, He spoke to me in His word.

I mentioned recently that I’ve been reading a Psalm or two at random each morning. Today I just sort of opened to Psalm 30, and read on for a few pages. When I can, I like to take the time to read the Psalms aloud. It really enhances my understanding and brings the word more to life. Also, if I have time (today was my day off, so I did), I like to reread scripture that speaks to me, a few times in a row.

I was so touched by Psalms 30-36 this morning, I had to come and recommend them to you all. Several times I had to stop to cry. I want to share a few of the verses that stood out to me, but please don’t let this substitute for your own reading of the full scripture.

One note I will add for guidance is that David wrote these Psalms to the Lord one of his personal great life trials. As king, he was being targeted by the opposition, hunted and hated. So there are many references to that in these Psalms (see Psalm 35, which is pretty much all about that). Instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater (or trying to poetically apply his trial to yours by calling infertility “my enemy” or something), I recommend taking those lines and briefly filling in, mentally, a relevant part of your trial. I’m not saying to rewrite scripture, but to take the idea behind David’s words, many of which were particular to his situation, and apply them to your situation. I tried that this morning, and it really made the passage more alive than just throwing out verses all together, like I’d normally do.

Here are some verses that really stood out to me today. I’m going to post from Psalm 36 tomorrow, with a song. After you read for yourself, please comment with other verses that touched you!

Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name.

For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning. [30:4-5]

 

Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, faithful God.

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD.

I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction;

You have known the distress of my soul […]

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;

my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.

For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing […]

Love the LORD, you His saints!

The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD! [31:5-7;9-10;23-24]

Please check on my previous post on Psalm 33.

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Click for Psalm 3234
Click for Psalm 34

 

Sermon – How have You loved us? (Mark Driscoll)

My husband and I watched this sermon today and it was SO perfect! It’s not really supposed to be about infertility, though he mentions it. I could go on forever (ask my husband — I went on forever after we finished it) about all the applications in my life right now. A need for a legacy (blog post to follow!); a need to hear that God HAS been gracious and loving to us, even without a baby (What a line! “God is greater than you feel, you are worse than you fear.”); having a right attitude for circumstances, even if they don’t change.

Anyway, please take the time to listen to or watch it soon! Click the link below!

http://marshill.com/media/malachi-living-for-a-legacy/how-have-you-loved-us

The All-Good (Prayer)

Here is another gem from The Valley of Vision, a book compiled of old Puritan prayers. My husband and I have been reading though it, praying with and reflecting on one prayer a day. I already have a feeling I’ll be sharing a lot from this lovely little book!

This is the second half of the prayer entitled “The All-Good”…

Help me to see how good thy will is in all,

and even when it crosses mine

teach me to be pleased with it.

Grant me to feel thee in fire, and food and every providence,

and to see that thy many gifts and creatures

are thy hands and fingers taking hold of me.

Thou bottomless fountain of all good,

I give myself to thee out of love,

for all I have or own is thine,

my goods, family, church, self,

to do with as thou wilt,

to honor thyself by me, and by all mine.

If it be consistent with thy eternal counsels,

the purpose of thy grace,

and the great ends of thy glory,

then bestow upon me the blessings of thy comforts;

If not, let me resign myself to thy wiser determinations.

If you loved that as much as I did, you’ll love the one we read yesterday. It’s posted on this blog: The Great God.

Bless the Lord, O my soul

Lately in my Bible time I’ve been reading my “regularly scheduled” passage (I happen to be in Galatians), then I’ll flip to Psalms and choose one or two at random to read and think about. Today’s was Psalm 103, and it was just perfect. Of course it brought to mind Matt Redman’s new-ish song, “10,000 Reasons,” which is based on this Psalm. My husband and I have found this worship song to be very special to our hearts in our infertility. It’s one of our go-to songs. We love the biblical-ness, of course, and it’s so valuable to sing truth to yourself in this time. We also appreciate the reminder to be overflowing with praise and gratitude for all the Lord has done in our lives, as it can be such a temptation to “forget His benefits” when waiting for Him to answer this one request.

Please join me in reading Psalm 103 aloud, then meditate on the beautiful worship song.

Psalm 103 (ESV)

Of David.

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

blesstheLord6 The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

 

If God wants me happy, why do I suffer? (Piper)

I really appreciated Pastor John Piper’s response to this question:

As you seek to grow in Christ, I want to share with you this YouTube playlist from Desiring God. It is Ask John Piper, and includes hundreds of short (usually 1-3 minutes) biblical answers from Piper to a wide variety of questions about the Bible, theology, Christian life, and current events and issues. I highly recommend surfing through it!

 

10 Things I Wish Someone had Told me about Infertility

This might seem kind of ironic for me to post, because I’m still in the midst of infertility. I guess a better title would be “Things I wish someone had told me from the beginning of my infertility so I didn’t have to learn them the hard way” … but that’s kind of long, so it is what it is. Plus, I know you people (I’m one of you), and if I had a baby you’d spend the whole post thinking, “That’s easy for her to say, she has her baby.” So no excuses now, my friends! 

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1. A lot of people have struggled with infertility.

Once you tell people about your struggle, women left and right begin to tell you about their previous struggles with trying to conceive. This is actually a big reason why you should tell people (see #8) – there is great comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. When we told my in-laws, my husband and I were both surprised to hear that his own mother struggled with infertility for 5 years between her third and fourth child. Besides gaining wisdom from people like this, it refreshes your hope to hear someone say, “I never thought I would finally get pregnant,” while her wild kids run around you.

2. It gets better.

As my months started to add up to a year, I began to sink. Specifically, from months 11-14, I was in a black pit of despair. I cried all the time and didn’t want to do anything. I was depressed and felt hopeless, in anguish at the reality that this fear was really coming true. I never could have imagined that the months ahead would hold light and peace, but they did. I wish so much I could go back, A-Christmas-Carol-style, and tell myself, crawled up and weeping, unable to pray, that it will be better. Of course, I can’t do that, so I’m telling you, dear weeper, instead: it will be better. Hang in there.

3. Bitterness, jealousy, anger, and fear are your biggest enemies, and they don’t get you anywhere.

When you enter infertility world (even if you enter kicking and screaming, like I did), you instantly discover that most people in this world are bitter. I hate to say it, but you can’t avoid it. Most people feel entitled to complain and are dead-set on being miserable until this is over. You need to rise above, or it’ll eat you alive and convince you (unbiblically) that you deserve that attitude as well.

4. It’s one step at a time.

You can’t plan from month 12 (or month 1, or month anything) every step you’re going to take in this. It’s one cycle at a time, one test at a time, one treatment at a time, one doctor’s visit at a time, maybe even one adoption application at a time. You will just fall apart if you try to think and plan much past that. Trust me.

5. It’s not a one-girl show.

One thing that really bugs me is when women retreat inward in their trial with barrenness. What about your husband? Yes, I know he probably doesn’t grieve like you, but he’s not a woman. He is human, so unless you were trying to force this baby without his agreement (which I sincerely hope you weren’t), he’s grieving too. This isn’t your trial alone, and you can’t push him out because his side of the trial looks different.

6. There are a million things to learn.

This is practical thing. I knew nothing about the world of trying to conceive, infertility, treatments, adoption, etc. I still don’t know a lot. When you get past the “denial” stage of this grief, the first thing you need to do is pray, then research and educate yourself. And following #5, don’t do it all alone – share what you learn with your husband. Make sure he’s at your appointments and consultations. Make decisions together. This isn’t 1952, girl; you aren’t trying to have your baby, you guys are in this together!

7. It’s complicated.

I guess this follows #4 and #6… if you’re at month 12, this isn’t a cut-and-dry, just do such-and-such and bam! you get a baby. If it was, you’d be pregnant already. Some people have success with the first treatment, but I wish from the start I was out of denial enough to accept that it probably wouldn’t be a let’s-just-do-this-and-get-it-other-with kind of thing. And enough of it not being fair because some people have it so easy. Everyone is on their own journey.

8. You should tell people.

It took a long time for my husband and me to start telling friends and family that we were having trouble getting pregnant. It was part denial, part pride, and part just being private people. But after we told some people – wow, what a relief! The Bible is spot on when it says to “bear one another’s burdens.” I can’t believe we tried to do all the praying ourselves! It made such a difference to have people pray, cry, hope, and wait with us. You don’t have to make a personal blog or status every step on Facebook, if that’s not your thing (it’s not ours); we’ve basically kept to sharing details with our closest friends and family, and when others take the time to ask about our situation, we say something simple like, “We haven’t been able to have children yet, but you can pray that we do soon.” Find what works for you, but don’t go it alone.

9. It’s worth it.

I know you don’t want to hear it, but you have to. This is worth it, my friend. Oh dear myself a year ago, this unending nightmare is worth far more than a child. “This light and momentary affliction” – that I know does not feel at all light or momentary – is “producing in us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all.” The sanctification that will come from this would never have been obtained in any other way. The glory that God will get from this will far exceed the glory He would’ve gotten in any other scenario. Don’t forget that. Don’t lose sight of that. Tell yourself every day, every period, every miscarriage, every dollar sent to an adoption agency. This is worth it. This is the better plan.

10. There is always hope.

It’s weird for me to be saying this, because I haven’t been pregnant yet. However, I’ve gradually become convinced of this, and I wish I could tell it to every broken, barren woman. There is always hope! You serve The Omnipotent God, Who loves you so much and has a great plan for your life! There is always hope for real peace and joy – and, I have to say it – there is always hope for a baby!  I don’t care what the doctors or tests say, or how long the adoption is taking. If you really believe God made a virgin pregnant, surely He can leap over the fact that you guys accidently got your days messed up and “did it” a day after ovulation. Surely He can work around your “advanced age.” Surely He can use your husband’s low sperm count. If you believe the Bible is true (and it is!), you must believe that what He did for Sarah, and Hannah, and Elizabeth, He is able to do for you. I just want you, in your hopelessness, to join me in repeating as much as you need – There is always hope. There is always hope. There is always hope.

The Valley of Vision (aka: This will make you cry)

A little while back I was chatting with my husband’s family on the question of the best book we ever read besides the Bible. Agreeing it was hard to really choose one, we all shared about a book that highly impacted us. My mother-in-law mentioned The Valley of Vision, and others concurred that it was really excellent. I made a mental note to read it sometime. A couple weeks later I was randomly gifted a copy, so I took that as a sign that “sometime” is now.

This morning I started reading it — it’s a book of old Puritan prayers. My husband and I decided to read one a day together before bed. I’m not typically a fan of recited prayers, as Jesus warns against praying the same words over and over like the Pharisees do (see Matthew 6). But I appreciate the poetic nature and sentiment of these very biblical, deep prayers, and the value they add to my own praying.

All that to say, the very first one in the book is the one the title comes from, and it made me tear up immediately. It is so perfect for this trial. I called my husband in for a second reading, and he too got teary. We both expressed an interest in maybe framing it to be reminded of its deep truths, which we have been learning in our trial of infertility.

Here it is (go get the tissues!)…

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

valleypic
I found this beautiful drawing someone did using this prayer. Click to see enlarge and visit the artist’s page.

Encouragement from all over (Various Resources)

In the last several days I’ve encountered all sorts of encouragement on the web. I feel like I keep posting the same pastors and writers over and over, but it’s because I really respect them, and they’re biblical, and maybe a little because I live overseas and don’t have easy access to new people. But definitely more the first two.

Lately, I’ve been trying to cultivate the habit of replacing thoughts-of-the-flesh with thoughts-of-the-Spirit (ahem, I’ve also been reading Galatians, if you can’t tell). This means, as a chronic worrier, when the “what ifs” move in and the anxiety starts to mount, instead of letting it build, I try to immediately put something else in my mind (“Whatever is true … think on these things”). For years my first line of combat has been prayer (“God, please stop these thoughts/calm my heart/make me sleep”); then reading or reciting scripture (“At times I am afraid, I trust in You)”. I’ve had to build up my arsenal in these really tough times, though, and one way I’m doing that is to always be reading at least one book of encouragement (though I may be reading a book for fun on the side, because sometimes reading books about suffering, etc. can bring me down, if I’m not in the right place for them). Anyway, it’s really been working, guys. I’ll be lying in bed, starting to worry, and will just get up and read my book until I’ve replaced the thoughts with truth.

Anyway, let me share with you some places I’ve found encouragement lately, and you can take your pick.

1.) Yup, you guessed it, I’m going to say it again… Tim Keller’s Walking with God though Pain and Suffering (specifically parts 2 +3). I actually just finished it tonight, and I practically highlighted the whole book. I’m glad I did, too, because now I can go back and reread some highlights when I need encouragement again (which will probably be in the next 10 minutes… or 30 seconds).

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2.) Tonight I found John Piper’s small book (under 100 pages) When the Darkness will not Lift for free (pdf) on the Desiring God website. It sounds like the perfect thing for right now, and I’ll probably finish it in one sitting. It’s about how to have joy while waiting for the Lord. Perfect, right?

darkness

3.) My husband and I watched this encouraging 9-minute video the other night before bed. Sometimes a brief encouragement, as opposed to an hour-long sermon or a 300-page book, is just what you need for that moment. It’s a casual conversation between Pastors John Piper, David Platt, and Matt Chandler on trials and suffering. It made me cry, of course. I was the most touched by Matt Chandler’s words on being “perplexed, but not in despair.” And I learned that David Platt has faced infertility in the past, which led to my next encouragement…

4.) This short interview with Heather Platt was used by God to speak to one of my biggest fears right now — how to rejoice (and not wilt) when my close friend, who is pregnant, gets back to town in a couple months. Sometimes (not all the time, I know), it’s also nice to hear a good post-infertility, God-came-through story, which the Platts have.

5.) I also want to read Charles Spurgeon’s Beside Still Waters, which has great reviews. I heard CJ Mahaney read it daily to his daughter when she was in the hospital with childbirth complications. It sort of looks like you can get the pdf for free here, but so far I haven’t gotten it to work. Let me know if you do, because there isn’t a Kindle version for sale that I can find, unfortunately.

stillwaters

6.) I read that factoid about Mahaney in this little list of resources I randomly came across. It’s meant for pastors to prepare their congregations for suffering, but I breached the system and am bringing it straight to you, no middle man. It has a few more books you may want to look into.

What are some places you’ve found truth-filled encouragement (big or small) recently? Perhaps a video clip, a sermon, a book, an article, a devotional or a song? Please add to my list! 

Songs for Psalm 115

When I was writing yesterday’s post on Psalm 115, I couldn’t help but think of these two Christian rap songs. Since I’m sure not everyone who reads this is strictly a contemporary Christian music or classic hymns fan, I decided to treat you to them.

If you’re from the group who didn’t read the passage when I said to, or didn’t talk out loud to yourselves (you know who you are!), I don’t give you permission to enjoy these songs. 😉

Shai Linne – “Not to Us”

Shai Linne – “Our God is in the Heavens”

Ok, if these were out of your music-preference zone, here is a non-rap song based on Psalm 115.

Chris Tomlin – “Not to Us”