… always holding somebody up … (part 4)

Jamie and Heidi Lake 1985

Throughout this series, we’ve met kindred souls surviving terrifying, horrific, and lonely losses throughout history. Their ingenuity, humility, courage, and driving love continue to speak of the mysterious rest & wrestle of vulnerably sharing hope in troubled times.

In … always holding somebody up … (part 1), I shared my Dad’s words at Jamie’s funeral that included the story of Dawson Trotman. In … always holding somebody up … (part 2), I shared a compelling story of a Hero of Hope of mine from World War II, Friedl Dicker- Brandeis.  Similar to steadying Lifeboat 12 on the sinking Benares (… always holding somebody up … (part 3) ), we relate to the sincere souls struggle to steady.  Each inspiring story strikes hope and courage despite death’s dark and dank pursuit.

Slipping back into history a bit further, we see how this persistence plays out (in parts 4 & 5) … Listen, as the songs swell…

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD… As for you O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love will forever preserve me!”

Psalm 40:1-3, 11 (David) ESV

A staggering steadiness can arise as a sinking exhausts.

… exhilarating fears, depleting losses… sorrow… stillness… aching sustaining… yearning… past … savors shrink … then slumps… sulks and strives … to sip a savor… only to sink … {a guttural gasp}

Then.. sings…

heart songs erratic with lament,

joy, angst,

release, rest, tension, and time…

and then… stands again.

But sometimes, we sabotage the standing.  Anger, impatience, arrogance.  Rather than wrestling through, we choose to starve our souls by perpetually hiding, cowering from the very One bent, bruised and broken to preserve and nourish us with steadfast love.  We refuse Him even as He offers to sustain us.  We refuse those He sends with a message of conviction, correction and comfort.

Consider Jonah.  When God, out of His Holy Compassion for a city under sin’s siege, called Jonah to go to Nineveh, he recoiled and fled to Tarshish to avoid obedience.  God “hurled a great wind upon the sea…so that the ship threatened to break up”.  (Jonah 1:4)  The turbulent crew eventually tosses Jonah overboard.  You know, the big fish swallowed him.  For three dark, dank & stinky days, Jonah barreled around the sea.  Then Jonah prayed.  (His prayer is recorded in Jonah 2.  A worthy read, indeed.  However, I’m just going to share a few verses here.)

When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.  Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.  But I with voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.  Salvation belongs to the LORD.”

Jonah 2:7-10 ESV

The fish obediently spewed Jonah out on dry ground where again God called Jonah to go to Nineveh to deliver a daunting, damning message to this city.  The message:  in a matter of 40 days, their city would be destroyed.  The city believed the message.  They responded.   Immediately, the people called for fasting and mourning among themselves.  Their king, in utter devestation of this news, decreed a fast and pleading to God to spare them.:

  “Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows?  God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”  (Jonah 3:8)

God’s response?  In His Great Mercy, God saw their repentance and relented of the disaster doomed upon them by their own consequence.  (Jonah 3:10)  He’s always holding somebody up.

Interestingly, Jonah’s response this time… Anger… at the Lord’s Compassion and Consistent Character.  “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country?  This is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Again, Jonah pulls away to pout.  Even so, God grew a plant to shade Jonah- “to save him from his discomfort.”  (Jonah 4:6)  Jonah responds with gladness.  But in the morning, God sends a worm to devour the plant.  And again, Jonah asks to die.

The LORD’s response, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in the night and perished in a night.  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left?”  (Jonah 4:10-11)

How many countless times has my heart echoed Jonah’s first prayer of submission followed by God’s response – resounding Power & Presence…

only for me to berate impending disaster and His Grace?

Another Old Testament example includes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  These appointed Jewish leaders in Babylon, (Daniel 3:12) refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.  As a result, they faced trial and punishment.  A flaming furnace.

Their response under trial?  “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

How did the trio hold up in the furnace?  Truly, brilliant bright hope in the center of devouring circumstances… for a full read, check out Daniel 2:46-4:3.

Similarly, Daniel (a distinguished official among officials) faced King Darius’ distressful scrutiny (bc King D respected Daniel) as Daniel remained faithful to set petitions before God alone and refuse to worship the king. Although the king desired to protect Daniel from the consequence, the edict dictated -even the king. (Daniel 6)   Daniel’s obedience sentenced him to the Lion’s Den.

The next morning, the king rushed to the den.  He called out, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually, been able to deliver from the lions?”

Daniel’s response to King Darius?  “ O king, live forever!  My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me because I was found blameless before Him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”  (Daniel 6:21)

Even in a dire den, we see the absence of attack as a creative and powerfully uplifting.

The king responds… so … kingly.  And He hands down a decree demanding all:

“…tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever;          His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and His dominion shall be to the end.                               He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth,                              He who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”  

Daniel 6:26-27 ESV

Until Heaven is home, the tensions remain… real.  The pit pulls.  Allegiances align with allies.  And opposing sides wield opposing swords – one weak and bent on convincing lies and the other “sharper than a double edged sword” lifted high declaring the veracity of God and His steadfast love.

When I feel and face danger, death, and destruction, I’m tempted to try to hold myself up.  “Let me show you how tough I am.”  (My sons run faster, jump higher, my daughter dances divine-r, and my husband lifts more… Yet, You can ask my family… who out-planks everybody… um by minutes?)  I want to outwit… or run and hide.  I’m tempted to even think I don’t need help or hospitality… even hugs.

However, the truth is blaring and obvious.  We’re granted a gift to be needed.  And to need.  Do we share the gift only as it polishes pride?

Hope comes humbly, but decisively.

Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed an Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:4-11 ESV

Recognizing a cosmic conflict wages on, we rejoice in the LORD – Jesus is indeed The Christ.  And He calls out His People – Citizens of Heaven to pulse with an ever-increasing awareness that:

Christ’s Resurrection ~ reaches out to others … authentically, naturally…

humbly, sacrificially…

Yet, Endures, Overcomes, Redeems.

Reconciles, Renews, Refreshes.

Gathers.  Relaxes.  Relishes.  Savors.

Shares.  And Remembers.

How do we respond?  If we accept His Grace Gift, we receive the Power & Purity therein.  And we’re His extensions of Hope & Joy & Peace to those around us- not because we can sing the loudest, smile the brightest, or even stand the straightest… no, even in our own brokenness, He is our Living Hope… not to hide or hoard, but to share.

Our righteousness is His transforming work in and among us.  He grants us historic examples in His Word of soul struggles we’ll face, but He also grants us responsive examples who relate to our struggles to fully trust Him when waves chide and crash all around.  Our lives beat, moan and sing our responses to Him.  A fellowship in suffering… and in song.

Epic Endurance.  Witnesses waving us home…We’ll may never know how all the prayers, sacrificial acts, and encouragement from saints of old buoyed… and steady us still.

More to come… Living Hope.

Heidi L. Paulec

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2 thoughts on “… always holding somebody up … (part 4)

  1. Pingback: … always holding somebody up … (part 5) | Shadows Presence

  2. Pingback: Uncle Tim… Heaven Draws Near (part 5) | Shadows Presence

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