One of my favorite passages is "David strengthened himself in the Lord." It is found in 1 Samuel 30:6, and takes place when the women and children of David and his soldiers had been kidnapped by the enemy. While the rest of the men were blaming David, because he was their leader, David turned to the Lord for peace and guidance. He strengthened himself in the Lord his God. I have fallen back on this verse during other times of trouble in the last few years, and have occasion once again to find solace there.
Without breaking any confidences, my world could be on the edge of turning upside down, and no one would blame me for freaking out a little. But, even though my brain says "Panic!", my spirit knows better. I have been intentionally seeking to strengthen my relationship with God over these last couple months, and it is bearing fruit. Galatians 5, in the Fruits of the Spirit verses, tells us that one of the fruits of the spirit is peace. While I am wondering what these next few months might hold, I have peace about it.
Even though my brain would like to go down the road of the "What if's...", my spirit knows better. Self-control is also a fruit of the spirit, and it takes self-control to grab hold of the doubts and what'if's and replace them with truth. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. One of my favorite lines from Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God is that truth is not a concept. Truth is a man, and His name is Jesus, the son of God. When Jesus said "I am the Truth, the Way, and the Life" (John 14:6), He wasn't just making pleasant conversation. He was giving us the tools we would need to stand up to the lies that Satan would like us to believe, those aimless "what-if's" that need to be controlled. When we need to strengthen ourselves in the Lord, we do it through the Truth, which is Jesus.
In John 15, He speaks of being the vine. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit on its own, neither can we if we don't stay connected to the Vine. Without Jesus, there would be no peace or self-control for me right now.
Learning to lean hard on God didn't come naturally or overnight to me. I have done it the hard way way too often, even after knowing the better Way. I have let my thoughts spiral out of control until I had come up with every ugly possibility that could ever befall any one of us. Just like deciding to strengthen your body and get in shape doesn't happen by itself, strengthening your relationship with God takes effort as well. It takes being intentional. When I wanted to get in shape, I didn't sit on the couch and think "Boy I wish my pants fit" while I continued on with the same sedentary lifestyle and mindless eating. When I made a choice to get closer to God, it wasn't done through wishful thinking. Like any relationship, it requires an investment of time.
It means, for me, that I make sure I am up before my kids to get some serious one on one time with God. I listen to some of my favorite praise music to set my fuzzy sleepy brain in the right frame of mind. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praise of His people, and I can tell you that when you are about the business of praising God, He shows up. For me, singing praise music is like a direct connection to the presence of God. Not that I claim to be a good singer, but Psalm 100 says to worship the Lord with gladness and joyful songs, so I do.
I am currently working my way through the One Year Chronological Bible, so I am reading examples of God's faithfulness every morning. Seeing Him at work in the lives of the Israelites reminds me that He is at work in my life, too. I choose something to praise Him for out of what I read, once again inviting the King to abide in me. When I am in need of some serious reminding that God alone is my Rock, Refuge, and Redeemer, I head to the Psalms. Psalm 62 and 63 are particularly special to me. I read the Bible, storing up His promises to draw on when the world starts rocking my boat. when I am afraid, for example, I remember that I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
A key to focusing on God instead of troubling times is very simple. Just do it. I focus on the goodness and majesty of God. If you don't know it, there is a song called "How He Loves" by David Crowder. One of the lines is "I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory." When we intentionally focus on the glory of God, instead of our own troubles, peace and joy are the result. It doesn't mean the troubles go away, but they lose their power to take us down with them. There may still be consequences and fallout to deal with, but the doom and despair recede into the background. I can trust that God only has His best for me and those who love Him, even though we may not recognize it the time. Because I have built a relationship with God, through His son Jesus, who is the Truth, I can line up every event in my life against that.
We joke in life that it doesn't matter what you know, it matters who you know. That is completely correct when we are talking about Jesus. It doesn't matter what I know, because of Who I know.
Author's note: Often when I write, I "know" that God has a plan for it. I wanted to write this earlier, and couldn't do it before my afternoon commitments started, but I prayed that if this was a message God wanted delivered today, He would make the way. Out of the blue, my boys were invited for a playdate for an hour and a half, leaving me an open window of time. God is at work in each of our lives; you can be sure of that. I pray that this post encourages someone to go about the business of strengthening themselves in the Lord, just like King David did.