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If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19

Several years ago I had to take some classes at a university about 100 miles from home. A friend of a friend of mine had parents that lived just outside the city the university was in. They lived in a large house in the country and, through a weird set of circumstances, offered to let me rent a room for the couple of weeks that I’d be there.

The couple lived on a hobby farm in the country. They were very kind to me, and fed me every day. They charged me very little for a great room. It was a great situation for me except for one thing. I was miserable the whole time I was there. My mindset had absolutely nothing to do with the host family or the accommodations or the food. They did everything they needed to do to make me comfortable.

The problem was all on my part. I never felt at ease in their home so even though they told me to make myself at home it felt strange to be walking around in someone else’s home. Also, I was lonely. I missed familiar faces. I missed my family. I couldn’t get over the feeling that I just didn’t belong.

I think of that time in my life every once in awhile. I think about how there are many things in this world that make us, as Christ-followers, feel lonely. People can make us feel lonely when they have expectations for us that we can’t live up to. Try as we might to please them, to fit in or to build a relationship with them, it’s not going to happen.

Tragedy can make us feel lonely too. We struggle to cope with illness or the death of a loved one or the reality that old-age has set in. We see our children struggle and can’t reach out to them like we’d once hoped. We watch our love relationships grow cool or even die. Religion can make us feel lonely too, even though it’s the one thing that should comfort us. Sometimes we can feel lonely and not even really know why. It can just be a longing for comfort and a search for a place to find it. Loneliness comes when we feel like we don’t belong.

Jesus knew we’d be lonely. He warned us about that. As long as we are in this world we’ll be lonely. We’ll feel out of place. We’ll be misunderstood, judged, criticized and feel the pain of life’s struggles. The reason for that is that we aren’t home.

When I was staying with that family I had every reason to be comfortable, but I wasn’t home. It wasn’t going to happen. In the same way, as long as we are here on earth we will always have a sense of longing for ‘home’. Jesus promises us that while we are here in this foreign land he will comfort us. He promises there will be rough spots along the road but all of it will be worth it when we finally come home to him.

PRAYER: Father God. There are so many times I feel out of place in this world. People judge me for my beliefs. They question the way I live. They don’t seem to understand how I feel. There are times I just don’t feel like I belong. Even when things are going well I have a longing for home. Comfort me with your Spirit during the rough spots in the journey. Strengthen me for the road ahead until I’m able to join you in my real home. In Jesus name, Amen.


He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. Mark 14:33

Jesus knew pain. Throughout Jesus’ time on earth he was used to dealing with pain. Not his own as much as the pain of others. He identified with the pain of the parents whose son was demon possessed. He felt the pain of loneliness the lepers felt as social outcasts. He saw the embarrassed humiliation of the prostitute and the woman caught in adultery. He saw the hopelessness of the paralytic and the fear in the blank stare of the blind man.

They came from a variety of backgrounds and bore a huge amount of pain and despair. Jesus hurt right along side them and offered compassion in their darkest hour like no one else ever had. His hand of compassion and understanding lifted many a soul from the deepest darkest night so that they could see the light and hope of tomorrow.

All the pain Jesus dealt with, nothing could prepare him for that night in the garden. Son of God? Yes. Surrounded by angels ready to rescue him at any moment? Certainly. But none of that kept him from feeling extreme agony that night in the garden. He needed to be alone, but not without some companionship. He took his three very closest friends with him. He was in utter despair. Fear gripped him. This was Jesus in humanity. Alone. Scared. Full of anxiety.

When we come to those times we think no one cares. When the darkness of the night surrounds us. When we look for answers but find none, remember this time in Jesus life. He understands like none other what is ahead. He knows what it’s like to be so full of despair and anxiety that his very guts seem to be tied in knots. He knows what it’s like to seek comfort from God and not get it. He knows what it’s like to pray and feel unheard.

Jesus knows your pain. The next time the road ahead is hidden in a bank of fog, remember this night in the garden. The next time you feel completely abandoned by friends and even God, remember the agony of his loneliness when every one of his friends abandoned him. The next time you wonder if God even cares, remember the great drops of blood he sweat  as he looked into an uncertain future.

Jesus, like none other offers you the hope to carry on, the companionship I the midst of loneliness, the strength when the battle makes you to weary to want to go on. There is no night too dark, no fog too thick, no despair so deep that he can’t comfort you. He’s only a prayer away.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I can’t imagine the pain you endured that night in the garden. The loneliness, the anxiety, the feeling of separation from God and the ones you loved must have been excruciating. Thank you for doing that all for me. Empower me with the presence of your Holy Spirit to press on. Remind me daily of your love and understanding of my turmoil. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. Psalm 142:1

Ever felt so completely alone and on you own you thought no one was there? Ever been in a crowd of people and felt all alone or lay on your bed at night thinking no one really understands how you feel, not even God? Those times when the people you care about the most don’t seem to care in the least about you?

If you have found yourself in that situation then you have some very good company. Before David became king he spent years running from the man who was supposed to be his mentor. As he ran for his life it seemed God’s promises would never come true. What good is being king if you are dead before you take the throne?

In David’s distress, during those times of confusion, loneliness and disappointment, David knew where to turn. He turned his eyes towards heaven, to the God of Mercy, grace and truth. To the one who loved him more than mere humans can imagine. David turned his heart towards heaven because he knew God would turn his ear towards David.

What a wonderful promise. The God of the universe turns to listen to us. It’s as though all heavenly activity stops when you call. Angels stop playing their harps and wait as the creator turns all of his attention towards you.

When we walk with God we are never truly alone. He sees our every step. He understands our every emotion. He feels every painful bruise we suffer from physical or emotional abuse or illness. He walks with us through our addictions and disappointments. He’s always there, always ready to listen.

When life seems confusing and you feel all alone, speak to your heavenly Father. Find a place where you can even lift your voice out loud as David did. Tell him exactly how you feel. Take time to meditate on what he has to tell you through his word. When you speak, He listens.

PRAYER: Father God, there are so many times I try to tell people about my struggles and seem to get nothing but blank stares and polite attention. I praise you for the promise that you hear me in my deepest distress and my biggest victories. As I go through the toughest times of my life I ask that you empower me with your Spirit to know your presence in my life. Protect me from my enemies as I learn to walk with you. Amen.


You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. Psalm 139:1-2

With the popularity of the internet and various networking sites, like FaceBook and Twitter, the concept of ‘knowing someone’ has become somewhat clouded. We can ‘know’ someone from other countries who we have never met anywhere but in cyberspace.

In Psalm 139, King David makes the statement “You know me” concerning God. The knowledge God has of us is so much more intimate than we can imagine. I can choose what information I let you know about me. I can tone down the bad stuff about me and put a nice coat of frosting on the good stuff to make it even better.

I can choose to hide the things I don’t want you to know, those hidden thoughts, dreams and fantasies or those opinions of you (and others) that contradict the smile on my face. I can try to hide the pain, shame and embarrassment of how I really feel about me as well. In fact, most times, people we see as happy-go-lucky and conceited are really insecure and looking for something good to grasp onto about themselves.

God knows me. Think on that for a minute. The Creator/Sustainer of the universe, not just my world, not just the galaxy we live in, THE universe, knows me. He and He alone, sees clearly behind the mask we use to show people the person we’d like to be. The walls we build to protect ourselves and keep others at a distance do nothing to keep Him from entering in and looking around.

Every thought, every emotion, every hurt and pain, every time you’ve been emotionally or physically abused has been seen by Him and He feels your pain. He hears your unspoken prayers, sees your unseen tears and walks with you through the fearful times when everyone else thinks you are strong.

Remember one more thing. King David was not a pleasant person. He was a murderer. He slept with a married woman and got her pregnant. He ignored the time one of his sons raped one of his daughters. He lied. He cheated. Yet in all this God calls Him a man after His own heart. God saw through all David’s weaknesses and failures and loved him anyway. He does the same for you.

PRAYER: Once again I am in awe of Your love O God my Father. There is no hiding with you. You know my deepest longings and pain. You cry with me and celebrate with me. I praise you for who you are and ask that you would help me, as I go through my day, to sense Your love and presence during the dark times of my life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11

During the ‘drought-times’ of our lives it is sometimes hard to sense God’s presence. Those times of dryness, when we desperately seek some relief from the stress of life. A little shade would be nice to shield us from the harsh sunlight of the struggle we face. Some refreshing rain, the soft gentle kind that slowly nourishes the soil of our soul would be welcome.

The prophet Isaiah promises us that our God is always there. He promises to satisfy our needs, not our wants. He promises us strength to endure those wilderness times. We are likened to a well watered garden, a garden that gets its refreshment from deep inside our soul as a hidden spring softens the soil in the midst of the hardened wilderness.

So why is it that during those wilderness times we lose sight of God’s guidance? What is it that keeps us from experiencing the refreshment of that inner spring? Why do we seem to wander for days seeking some sign of comfort only to find more stress, more hardness?

First of all we need to remember that Isaiah says the Lord God will guide us always. That’s a statement of faith. He is there always, even when we can’t sense His presence. But His guidance is our choice. He doesn’t force us to follow his way. He doesn’t demand our obedience, He asks for it. The freedom to choose comes with a responsibility to choose according to the things we learn from His word.

Secondly, His promise is to satisfy our needs, not our wants. If we are brutally honest with ourselves we must admit that we are driven by want. What are the things we NEED? The answers will vary from place to place, but in reality we need clothing, shelter and physical nourishment. That’s it. No cell phones on the list. No new cars or fancy homes. No Christmas tree with gifts piled high under the tree. No TV. No video games.

Will God provide those things? Sometimes, but not always. God’s desire is more for our commitment to Him and our desire to show others the way to His Kingdom than He is our comfort. Our place on earth is to show love and forgiveness more than it is to have a healthy retirement account.

Lastly, Isaiah tells us we will go through the sun-scorched wilderness of life. It doesn’t appear that wilderness wanderings are an option. We will not be immune from those places of shade-less, sun-hardened soil. We will be refreshed in the midst of them. The refreshment doesn’t come from the outside (rain, shade, cooler temperatures). The refreshment comes from within. Jesus says He is the living water, water that refreshes, that wells up from deep within. Water that soothes, heals, strengthens us to press on when the going gets tough.

PRAYER: Father God. Right now I’m in a wilderness of stress, anger, and frustration. I confess to you that all too often I’m driven by the God of want and not enjoying the refreshing spring of your provision. Empower me by your Spirit to focus on the things that are truly important such as healthy relationships with you and those around me. Help me to desire you more than anything else. In Jesus name, Amen.

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