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Relief

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Lamentations 3:38

Like so many moments in life, a movie scene from The Three Amigos comes to mind as I process my current circumstances. Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase are Hollywood actors on a mission in Mexico that they assume is a great acting job but is really because they were sought by people in the town who believed their characters were real. As they are wandering through the desert, the sun beating down on them as they are covered in sweat with dehydrated mouths wide open, Steve Martin finally reaches for his canteen only to receive the faintest trickle of remaining water. Martin Short’s character opens his mouth, tilts his head back, and receives a mouthful of dust. They both turn to Chevy Chase’s character who is just opening his canteen and then pours an endless stream of water into his mouth, so much that he uses some to gargle and spit and then tosses the remaining water onto the desert floor where it drains out with such force that the surrounding area puddles. When he notices their forlorn stares as he is putting on chap stick, realizing his neglectfulness, he enthusiastically offers, “Lip balm?”

I am feeling like Neddy Niederlander, with a mouthful of dust as the response to my thirst for living water today. Complicated circumstances in my life seem to keep getting worse, expenses only doubling and tripling. Trying to “figure out what God is teaching me” doesn’t really work because it assumes I have His omniscience or that He has left me orphaned and on a scavenger hunt for His care. His “blessings” aren’t bargained for by my wit or good works, they are entirely earned by the person and work of Jesus. My poor choices have already been accounted for on the cross. So I am left in this place of exile, the Garden behind and the Promised Land ahead, as He asks me to trust Him, stay near to Him and follow Him each day with no idea when the lush land of milk and honey will be reached.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’ ” Ezek. 37:11-14

I cannot open my own grave. I cannot breathe life into my own bones. I cannot grow His Spirit in me. I cannot settle myself in the Land to which He has called me. Like a drug addict, I want relief from the withdrawal of self-reliance. If this expense could just be eliminated, if this puzzle could just be solved, if this direction could just be made clear…then I would be filled with joy and peace and be free to dance and sing.

I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.” You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” Lamentations 3:55-57

Do I believe that I got myself into this mess, now I better get myself out, or that both calamities and good things come from the Lover of my soul? Do I believe that I have been left to parent myself and survive by my own best efforts and righteous choices, or do I need the person and work of Jesus today, in this, not just for my acceptance after death? Will I trust Him when He says “do not fear”, or arrogantly assume my circumstance is somehow outside of His reign? If it, like everything else in all creation, is part of His good, loving, redemptive plan, can I not sing and dance now as well? Must my circumstances change to feel relief or can it be found in His protective care even now?

You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:5-12

Oh may I know more deeply than just intellectually that He hems me in, that He is not just with me as a bystander but as the One making the darkness light and therefore bringing relief to my soul.

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