The Lord’s benefits

Quiet times are usually just that – quiet. But I have had a couple pretty exciting and vibrant quiet times lately.

In my new Quiet Time Companion, I’ve been studying Solomon. For the weekend lesson, it said to read Song of Solomon in one sitting. If you ever really want to know how much God loves you (emphasis on YOU), I challenge you to do just that. I sat and read it out loud. I was so filled by just that, I couldn’t even do the rest of what I usually do for quiet time! The imagery of Christ as the bridegroom and me as His bride has always been a little fuzzy for me. After reading Song of Solomon in this way, it is crystal-clear. If you take this challenge, I’d love to hear how it impacts you.

Last night, I was back to my normal routine of my quiet time. I was reading Psalm 116 and the daily reading from Streams in the Desert. The two blended together perfectly to really get me to thinking again.

Psalm 116:1-2    I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:12, 17     What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord.

Streams in the Desert   “If we are to receive benefit from our captivity, we must accept the situation and turn it to the best possible account. Fretting over that from which we have been removed or which has been taken away from us, will not make things better, but it will prevent us from improving those which remain.

I loved the first two verses of Psalm 116. They are such an assurance that my every prayer is being heard. I have been praying the same prayer every night now for a couple months. It seems like it is falling on deaf ears, yet that is not true. He is hearing every time I come to Him. I have that assurance for as long as I live.

But what really got my juices flowing was the next part. According to Streams in the Desert, there are benefits to be found from captivity – or hardships, tough times, distress. We often equate captivity with complete and total negative consequences – liabilities. But that is not necessarily the case. Sometimes, being removed or having something taken away from us will come hand in hand with benefits we would not otherwise receive.

Then, I went back to Psalm 116:12 – “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” Now, if I use my new concept of benefit from hardship, it would read something like this: What shall I render to the Lord for all His [benefits that come from captivity, distress, hardship]? Are not those benefits equal to the benefits that come without the hardship? 

Just a few verses later, the psalmist answers his own question: “To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of the Lord.” What does a sacrifice of thanksgiving look like? Well, it must be sacrificial. I must admit, it is quite easy for me to say thank you to each person that comes into our lives to help us in so many ways. It’s quite a different matter to say Thank You to God FOR the situation itself. That requires a true sacrifice in my spirit. I don’t want to say thank you for this hardship.

But notice in this verse what comes immediately after this sacrifice of thanksgiving: call upon the name of the Lord. Our hardship, challenge, captivity is not going away just because I say thank you. I still need the presence of the Lord in my life to get through every day. So my prayer may end up sounding something like this:

Lord, even though it is against all of who I am as human, I truly do thank you for where I am today. You are here with me, and I would rather be here with You than anywhere else. Thank you for the benefits toward me that are coming because of this hardship. Lord, I need You here with me every single day. I call upon you for strength, for grace, for companionship through all of what is to come. Knowing that You hear my voice, I can be sure You hear this prayer. I love you, Lord. Amen

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