DISCLAIMER: This is a lengthy article. Since, we are not having church because of the weather, I thought I would share what was on my heart for our message tonight.
Monday, we drove out to the Buffalo River area and gazed at the beauty of God’s creation. The rising bluffs that create a marvelous backdrop for the Buffalo River. The water was flowing freely, and the rapids were rushing, not turbulently, but at least steadily. I love this area of Arkansas. Truly, it is a gift from our Creator.
Sonya and I have frequented this area many times. In all four seasons, yet it is in winter that you notice the lack of life. The trees look dead. The leaves have fallen, the grass is brown, and apart from a smattering of evergreens, there is little color in the wintertime.
One thing we must remember, however, is that even though it looks lifeless, it doesn’t mean it’s dead. The trees are very much alive even though there are no leaves on their limbs. Winter, in itself, holds its own beauty. But one oft overlooked blessing in the cold season is that you can see things you never saw when the trees were teeming with life. With the tress full of leaves, you cannot see at a distance. The view is blocked. Therefore, the winter season produces a greater vision than the summertime.
In Psalm 42, the Psalmist is walking through a winter season of his life. He is missing the house of worship, being around God’s people, and we even catch a glimpse of his thought that perhaps God is absent during these moments. Things had changed drastically in his life. So much so that he reveals his heart is breaking because he misses the times of singing for joy and relishing the celebration.
The Psalmist then begins to question, “Why am I so discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” Have you been there before? Walked through a winter season of depression?
Our tendency in those seasons is to focus on the gloom of the winter. No sign of life. Things look and feel dead or at least, as if the presence of God has escaped us. This is when the Psalmist changes his perspective. Why am I discouraged and feel so sad? Yet, I will hope in God! I will praise Him again! He is no longer looking at the lifeless winter, but the God who is full of life. When our season feels like a long winter, we have to change the way we see things. We have to look up, rather than around.
In verse 8, the writer gives us the greatest shot of hope while also giving us instruction.
“But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.”
-Psalm 42:8 NLT-
The Psalmist shows us that God is always pouring His unfailing love on us. This gives us a reason for living. But here comes our response to that unfailing love. It should cause us to have a song in our heart. “Through each night I sing His songs.” When we are embraced by the unfailing love of God, we should have a song. It gives us a reason to sing.
Our next instruction tells us that if we are in winter and lack life, we need to pray to God. “Praying to God who gives me life.” Life comes when we are connected to Him in prayer. In Psalm 43:4 it tells us that we should build our altar to God, who is our source of joy. These verses remind us of the power of prayer to get us through the gloomy season.
As I was thinking on these verses, it sparked a way that we need to pray when we need life. I’m not talking about our next breath, but rather life in our soul, spiritual life. If that is what you need, try patterning your prayer this way:
LISTEN TO GOD
Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that He is God…” We must slow down our lives long enough to listen to His voice. Listening for Him to calm us, lead us, and draw us to Him.
In his book, Getting Your Life Back, John Eldredge writes about the One Minute Pause. Taking just 60 seconds to stop, breathe, and listen to Him. During the One Minute Pause, Eldredge says it is a time to release to God whatever is weighing us down. He gives a couple of questions to ask that will help us focus during these 60 seconds. Simply, ask and listen.
1. What do I need to let go of? (What is weighing me down?)
Pause and give it to God. Let it go.
2. What do I need from God today?
Pause and ask Him for it.
Eldredge encourages everyone to do this multiple times throughout the day. I challenge you to make this a part of your daily life.
INTERCEDE FOR OTHERS
Nothing helps us take the focus off of our own situations like praying for others who are in need. The Bible is emphatic about our need to “stand in the gap” for others. (Ezekiel 22:30, I Timothy 2:1-2, Matthew 5:44, Ephesians 6:18)
If you have trouble finding things to pray about, just take this summary from the verses mentioned above.
- The nation and our leaders
- Other believers
- Family and Friends
- People who are going through hardship
- Our enemies
There are needs all around us, and the way to breathe life into your winter season is to focus on the needs of others. If you focus on their needs, it will help you to not be glued to all the troubles you are walking through.
The Bible does tell us that we are to pray for ourselves. It is not unselfish. We are instructed to pray for our own needs.
- “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (I Peter 5:7 NLT)
- “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done.” (Philippians 4:6 NLT)
- “Commit your future to the Lord.” (Psalm 37:5 NET)
The word commit in Psalm 37:5 carries the idea of rolling your burden onto the Lord. It pictures a camel loaded down with cargo, kneeling down, and rolling to its side to unload its weight. This means that we are literally to roll our burdens off on to God. We do this by praying for our own needs.
EXALT THE LORD
Remember, the Psalmist in Psalm 42:8 said that he sang songs throughout the night. We are also told in other places that we are to exalt the Lord. It is during our time of prayer that we should take time to worship the Lord for who He is and give thanks for what He has done. The Apostle Paul connected letting our requests being made known to God and giving thanks. When we are thankful for what He has done, it helps us have faith for things He hasn’t down yet.
Friends, I encourage you to build an altar and pray to the God who gives us life.
Listen to God
Intercede for others
Exalt the Lord.
When you do these things, you will find clarity and spiritual life even in your winter seasons.