33: When All Around My Soul Gives Way
This phrase is taken from the third stanza of “Solid Rock”:
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
Several times this year that phrase has resonated in my heart. Even though it wasn’t really true, there have been times when I felt that “all around my soul was giving way”. I was speaking with a friend and trying to describe how I felt in times like these. The best explanation was like being in a boat on rough water, in a misty fog, not having any direction, and simply paddling to stay afloat. My only motivation was to make it through the day and survive.
One afternoon when I was as low as I have ever been, I got in my car and in desperation looked up and whispered “Oh God, help me”. And as I desperately gazed upward, I saw God looking at me. Simultaneously this scripture went through my mind: “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2. I wept with joy as I experienced the presence of God. The circumstances didn’t change, but all was different for God was near.
For several weeks I reveled in this revelation of God, and still am amazed as I am typing. Not only was I changed by the experience of His presence and nearness, I was learning about the nature of God. I began to muse on the description of Jesus in Isaiah.
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53: 2-3
He was and is, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Jesus wept. Our God is at home in sorrow and grief. This is His nature.
And then other scriptures were illuminated to me, including the beatitudes, which I will confess I had not been enamored with in the past. I have not aspired to being poor in spirit and a mourner. But as I pondered these passages anew, they became attractive to me, because they conveyed Jesus. And my heart was alive with love and appreciation for my savior.
Matthew 5:3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
I thought of other passages in Isaiah and the Psalms about God drawing near to those who are needy as He had drawn near to me.
Psalm 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalms 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
The reality is that life is tough, and we will have experiences when it seems as if all around our soul is giving way. The good news is that when are living in the valleys of brokenness, we find that God lives also in the valley.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Psalm 23:4
Looking back over this difficult period in my life, I would not have chosen to be in the valley. I am not a martyr and certainly don’t enjoy pain. But I do love God in a new and profound way and would not change anything that has transpired because of the incredible experience of drawing close to Jesus and tasting of His presence. I am beginning to recognize that I am never so close to Him as when I am poor in spirit, humble, broken, and mourning.
Now why I am I sending this out two days before Thanksgiving? As an American believer I have been guilty of measuring God’s love for me and His blessings by the things that He has given me. I consider myself “blessed” when all is well on the inside and outside. This morning I awoke with this scripture resonating in my heart.
Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; 24 but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the LORD.”
On this Thanksgiving Day, I am still going to enumerate the many ways He has been gracious to me and my family this past year. I am going to “count my blessings and name them one by one” for this is right since every good and perfect gift comes from above.
But this year I will be especially thankful that I am growing in my understanding of Him and learning to know Him. For even if I were to lose everything, and if “all around my soul really does give way”, He will always be my hope and stay for I will never lose Him.
May our God, who promises to never leave or forsake us, bless us each with His presence, particularly those in a valley,