Life is hard, no doubt about it. Last time I shared what I had learned about renewal and my experience with it. This past week I have been thinking about how to abide in the Lord and what that even means. The Lord brought me to a deeper realization amid the chaos in my home. Part of my desperation for renewal came because I have been finding myself with tears in my eyes more than I’d like to admit. Once again, I fell for the devil’s schemes and was beginning to focus inward. My thoughts swirled around how unfair things were, why everything was so hard, and why were my kids were being so miserable.
He gently reminded me that this isn’t about me. I’m not supposed to abide under the weight of my circumstances. I’m supposed to abide in the Lord, in the shadow of the Almighty, as Psalm 91 says. It doesn’t change how hard the circumstances are but putting my focus on Christ takes the tears and that crushing despair away.
As I was struggling with renewal, the Lord brought 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10 to mind.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
2 Corinthians 4: 8-10
That mirrors what Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:21:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
At the time, I wrestled with the passage in 2 Corinthians 4. Seriously, I was hard-pressed and it was going to crush me. In times like that, when the pain is super sharp, it truly is where the rubber meets the road in terms of faith. I had to trust God that He would sustain me through it and that those words were true. Today, I was reading a little in The Rest of God By Mark Buchanan (affiliate) and I came across this verse:
In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, “No, we will flee on horses.” Therefore you will flee!
Isaiah 30: 15–16
It hit me square between the eyes. In repentance and rest is your salvation. Well, yeah. Repentance brings renewal and rest right along with salvation. Exactly the reminder I needed. And it reminded me of the other things the Lord has been showing me through my study of 1 and 2 Peter. All these verses are explaining and weaving a beautiful tapestry of understanding that can only come through wrestling with the things of the Lord.
If we choose to leave the shadow of the Almighty and strive to forge our own way, we will find ourselves outside of the Lord’s protection and as the psalmist writes- fleeing! When we choose to focus inward on ourselves, we will be crushed, forsaken and driven to despair. I’ve been there more times than I care to admit, again. It’s beginning to become a little clearer that abiding in the Lord means keeping our eyes on Jesus and focusing on what His heavenly plan is with the circumstances we find ourselves in. It means running to Him first and seeking his will in whatever situation we find ourselves in. When we choose to abide in the Lord the pain really does feel less intense. Perspective truly does change everything.
Focusing on the Lord allows us to rest and it brings quietness as we meditate on His word. We find a strength to endure that we didn’t know we had within us. The gift of renewal is given to us and we find ourselves with the perspective that we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. The purpose is way beyond us and God will give us that perspective if we just turn our eyes upon Jesus. As the beautiful hymn reminds us again:
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.
All those trails? All of life’s pain? God will use it to weave a beautiful tapestry of understanding and knowledge of Him that’s just not possible any other way. Honestly, I count it all joy, as the Apostle Paul says, because the opportunity to get to know the Lord in a deeper, more personal way is such a gift, even though the wrapping is not so pretty!
God has brought the word abide to me many times over the last few weeks. This morning I found myself reading Psalm 91 about abiding in the shadow of the Almighty. I know that fits in here somewhere amid the trials, suffering, renewal and rest. I’m thinking this is part 1 in a series of learning how to abide in the Lord, so I’ll keep you posted!
If you’re in a rough spot, I pray these verses and my testimony encourages you. Keep the faith, lean into the Lord even more, and watch Him renew and restore you. Sometimes these trials are His invitation to you for a deeper relationship with Him. Say yes! Lean in. You won’t regret it. 😊