The Third Watch

Courtesy Flickr - hosullivanIn the scriptures, there are references to the third watch. Most scholars believe this is the time between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. The time most of us are asleep. That is unless we happen to be wide awake. Sometimes sleep is evasive.

I used to have trouble sleeping. I’d wake in the night and the silence in my usually noisy household would be overwhelming. As I lay there trying to do all the things that are supposed to help sleep ( I never actually resorted to counting sheep) I would become more and more anxious and the quiet would become heavier and heavier. I’d think of all sorts of things that only increased the anxiety.

And if I had one long sleepless night, I would find myself dreading the next night. What if it’s the same? What if I am awake again for hours, all alone? The more I would dread it the more likely it was to happen again.

I tried reading, I tried watching a movie, I tried writing. Those things were all fine activities, that I should have been doing in the daytime, not when the rest of the household was in pleasant slumber while I counted the minutes until sunrise. And none of those things helped me sleep.

Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place. I went to God’s Word. I laid my anxiety before Him and asked him for wisdom and for peace.

Here is what he gave me.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.” – Psalm 4:8

“When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:24

Do I still have sleepless nights sometimes? Yes. But now I know that if I am awake, God knows it. He has promised me sweet sleep so eventually, I will sleep. In the meantime, I read my Bible and thank the Lord for His promises. I also pray for others who might be awake and anxious as I used to be. Now I believe that if I am awake, I might as well put that time to good use. I use it to pray not only for those who might also have anxious nights but also for anyone God brings to mind. I am not distracted in those moments and I can pray with purpose.

If you are troubled by sleeplessness, spend some time meditating on the verses above. Maybe even commit them to memory. And join me in praying for others who sometimes struggle in the third watch.

Reminder: You Are Not God and Neither Am I

Sometimes I forget that I’m not God. Sometimes when someone I care about is going through a struggle I get frustrated because I can’t help them fix it.  I want them to have peace in their life, I want them to…be happy!  But it’s not my job to fix their problems.

This is especially difficult when the one with the problem is a family member.  And many times more difficult when it is your child.  What mother or father ever wants to see their child suffer?

But each of us has to learn our own lessons and God is the one doing the teaching. He’s the one who knows what the goal of the lesson is. He is the one who can tell when the lesson has been learned.

From our limited human perspective, we can get a twisted view of what’s happening.  We can’t know all the important details and if we try to do too much to help we end up muddling the whole thing.  We can do more harm than good even with the greatest of intentions. But it’s still hard. Hard to see someone you love suffer. Hard to see them broken and discouraged.

There are some things you can do without taking over God’s job.  You can pray. Pray scripture over their lives.  Some great verses to pray are:

“Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him…He shall call upon Me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him.” – Psalm 91:14-16

“Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9

” (I)do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” Ephesians 1:16-19

Above all, keep loving them. Keep listening. Keep believing that God can do what you cannot.

A Promise in the Pouring Rain

Pop-up showers. That’s what they call the drenching downpours that come out of nowhere during the rainy season in Florida.  You can be sitting at a stoplight and it can be raining on one side of the road and not on the other.

Recently, I had taken my husband to work and went to a park by the water. This has become a sort of mini-retreat for me once a week.  It’s a great place to think. As it turns out, it’s also a great place to hear from God.

This time I sat on a bench watching across the bay as one of those pop-up storms formed in front of me.  I watched it gathering strength.  The wind began to blow and the water began to stir.  As I watched it move toward me, I could see that it was raining between me and the other shore that I faced.  Just to the right of the rain, it was clear and sunny.   Just like life, I thought.  Sometimes you can see a storm approaching and you know you are in its path but you look around and see other people completely unaffected.  Not even getting sprinkled on.  How is that even fair?

Then, as I was thinking I should probably head toward shelter, I looked at the clouds in front of me and right in the middle of the darkest cloud was a splash of color. A hint of a rainbow.  As I continued to watch, I saw small patches of color elsewhere in the cloud. None of the patches seemed connected. They were just small spots in the middle of this cloud.

God spoke to my heart just then.  Even though that storm was headed my way, even though the sun was shining on other people, God was still with me.  God painted a piece of a rainbow just for me.  It was a reminder that even when the storms come, there is the promise of something good right in the middle of all the struggles.

I quickly headed for shelter and the rain poured from the sky for a time.  And then… you know what happened?

The sun came out again.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” Nahum1:7 (ESV)

This was a Hard One to Write

Sometimes things come to a screeching halt until you make a decision. Sometimes the decision is hard. You avoid it. You deny it. You even try to trick yourself into believing it isn’t a big deal.

I’ve come to that place in the past ten days.  I’ve faced a hard decision.  But I believe I am on the right track. The sermon at church yesterday confirmed it.  Again. How does God do that?

You know those charts that list all the things that cause stress and you are supposed to tally up your score to see how vulnerable you are to stress-related illness?  I looked at one of those online the other day and actually laughed out loud.  The number of items I could check off, that have occurred over the past two years, is off the charts.

Many years ago I struggled with depression and after ten years on medication I was well and went my merry way.  I’ve been doing just fine until the long line of challenges began over a year ago and haven’t let up. I’m sure some of you know exactly what I mean. Sometimes it looks like it will never end. If you’ve been reading my blog posts over the past few months, you can see that I’ve cried out to God for some relief. Asking if we could be done now.  But we aren’t done.

In the sermon yesterday, Pastor Willy spoke directly to where I am. It felt like he’d been reading my journal. He talked about how even Elijah struggled with discouragement and even depression. King  David certainly did.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Especially when you can trace the list of stressful events that eventually cross the line of what any person could handle.  Pastor Willy encouraged us to deal with the physical issues first. I was glad to realize that I had already taken that step by visiting my doctor last week. That was hard. It felt like I was moving backward instead of forward.

Then we were told to address the spiritual issues.  Visits with doctors, medication, counselors, those are all good. But the bottom line is that God is the One who can make all the difference.  He is the final authority about your life and has all the answers you will ever need.

I am glad that I have a support system that helps me deal with the challenges I’m facing right now. I’m glad for skilled medical professionals who offer input and options. But mostly, I’m glad I serve a God who knows my deepest thoughts and knows exactly what I need.

If you are struggling with discouragement or anything else, please be encouraged that God knows where you are. He will guide you to the answers you need. And if His answer includes help from a doctor or counselor, please don’t feel condemned for taking that step.

If you’ve been down a difficult road and have found victory, look for those you can encourage. If we all keep our struggles private, what we go through doesn’t help anyone else. I am praying God will continue to give me the boldness to be transparent. It’s the best way to undo the plans of the enemy by encouraging others to find victory through my own life lessons.

“The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” – (Psalm 34:17-19) NASB