Tuesday, May 31, 2016

New Every Morning

If you suffer with a chronically painful condition, you are probably familiar with this routine: The alarm goes off, you instinctively begin to move and stretch, but then are stopped short by pain, either in a muscle or a joint, and you are once again reminded of whatever painful condition you are dealing with. Now fully awake, you gingerly move those painful joints and muscles until you can get your feet onto the floor and make your way to the bathroom or the coffee pot, or whatever your first task of the day may be. Once you get moving it’s a little easier, but those first few movements and steps are rough.

Now, this kind of painful daily wake-up call can be looked at in a couple of different ways. When I first began dealing with it, it really got my day off to a bad start. “Here we go,” I would say to myself. “I don’t even get to have one minute’s break from the pain. I have to deal with it from the second I open my eyes. Poor me.” That, obviously, is not the biblical response. I knew that it needed to change, so I began to search the Scriptures for something that would address this exact issue for me. It needed to be specific to the morning, and it needed to be full of hope.
God is faithful, and He led me to Lamentations 3:21-23.

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

These are the words of the profit Jeremiah, as he suffered in exile with the people of God. I strongly recommend that you read the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, if you haven’t done so lately, so that you can understand the depth of the grief that Jeremiah was feeling. Though I am certain that he was suffering some physical pain when he wrote this, the majority of his grief was brought on by the disobedience of the people to God’s Word.  Yet, even though he knew he was writing about a stubborn and rebellious people who were being judged by the great and powerful Creator God, he still writes beautifully about God’s compassion and mercy toward that same rebellious people!

Now, as I think back to my “poor me” wake-up call, I realize that I was just as stubborn and rebellious as the Israelites. I believed that I was entitled to have a few pain free moments—at least long enough to get my mind awake and ready to deal with the pain all day. So, what was I recalling to mind in that moment? My perceived rights, focus on self, and rebellion against God’s plan to make me more like Himself are a few things that come to mind. What should I have been recalling to my mind? God’s mercy, compassion and faithfulness. I needed heart change in this area!

So, what does this process of heart change look like in practical terms? Well, for a while I had Lamentations 3:21-23 on a 3x5 card next to my bed, so I would read it before I fell asleep, and it would be one of the first things I saw in the morning. After a time, my mind had been trained to think of this verse each evening and morning, so it became easier to get my focus off the pain and onto the Lord. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I begin my day with the assurance of this passage, along with a prayer of thanksgiving to God, for giving this rebellious heart new mercies every morning.

Though certain joints are very stiff and painful to move when I first wake up, that pain has a different effect on my heart these days. Now, instead of that pain acting as a cue to self-pity or complaining, it is a cue to remember God’s mercies, and remind myself that the morning stiffness and pain come right alongside the compassion and mercies that God has provided for me to deal with them biblically. First Corinthians 10:13 says that the way of escape from sinful temptation comes with that very temptation! For me, this passage of Scripture is my way of escape from temptation to feel sorry for myself when my alarm goes off each day.

How about you, my suffering friend? Have you thanked God for His faithfulness and mercy lately? If not, I’d like to challenge you to do so tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, when your alarm goes off, or your children wake you up, or the sunrise interrupts your slumber, even if your first movements bring pain, remember that, with the pain, God’s mercies are new. He is faithful, and will provide that escape from self-pity or despair. Great is His faithfulness. Hallelujah! What an awakening! What a Savior!