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Last night was my wife’s first night back to work after being out of work for maternity leave. We now have six kids, so I have to confess that I was rather nervous. One would think that after doing this several times it would get easier, but actually it gets more difficult each time. Taking care of an almost 3 month old in addition to 5 other kids is no easy task, so I think my anxiety was somewhat justified.One of the things I was worried about was the thought that the baby probably wouldn’t sleep so well with mama not being around. Our last kid had this very issue up until she was over a year old. I spent many nights up with her while sending my wife not so nice text messages throughout the night. Being tired and needing sleep through the night is one thing, its a whole different animal the next day when you have other little ones needing to be fed, diapered, chased, and loved. Tired daddies are usually grumpy daddies, and unfortunately I am often a good example of this.
Last night though, the baby slept quite well. I on the other hand did not. I’m not quite sure, but perhaps it had to do with that anxiety I just mentioned. I kept listening for every little peep, hoping I wouldn’t hear anything, yet getting nervous when I didn’t. It was a no win for me and sleep last night.
Finally, about 3:30 AM the baby decided to give me something to do and woke up to be fed. As I was sitting there feeding him and wondering if I would be able to make myself sleepy it hit me…”Tonight would’ve been a really good night to spend the night in prayer.”
Usually when I have these sleepless nights I just spend the night doing everything I can think of to make myself sleepy. I suppose there are times where this might be the best course of action. But maybe those sleepless nights, for whatever reason they are sleepless, might be great nights to spend some extra quiet time with God. In our hectic and busy world quiet time isn’t that easy to come by…Maybe those long nights as opposed to being annoyances are actually God’s gracious provision and an invitation into his presence. The Apostle Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing”…I have to confess, I’ve never been very good at this. As one who enjoys and feels called to tell others and preach about Jesus, I’d like to say that my prayer life is an example to others. The fact is, I can’t say that. I sometimes struggle in prayer. Sure I go through seasons of intense prayer…but I also go through times when I get so bogged down in life that prayer gets neglected. I think many of us go through similar periods. Prayer must be a priority in the life of the Christian. A healthy prayer life is a necessity for a healthy Christian. I think this explains my periodic spiritual anemia.
Early this AM however I was given a divine appointment with the Great Physician. I had sweet fellowship with the Lord as I meditated on Psalm 32. As opposed to dragging first thing this morning, being tired and grumpy…My heart is full. It appears my sleepless night was just what my soul needed. I think Jesus knew what He was doing when he himself spent many nights and early mornings alone in prayer while others were sleeping.
Perhaps the next time something is keeping you up, instead of begrudging the sleeplessness, you should see it as an invitation to the throne of grace. Yes, in Christ we have an open invitation…but every now and again, I think we need a reminder. Perhaps that’s what these nights are for. Just a thought.
Now I need a nap.
I was recently involved in a discussion with a rather large group of Christians. I say I was involved, but in actuality I was much more of a listener than I was a speaker, I walked away from this discussion rather discouraged. Don’t get me wrong, there was much talk about God, and Jesus, and his mighty works. We looked to the Scriptures and pondered the goodness of God, especially in what he has done for His people in Christ. These are all wonderful things that should encourage the best of us.
What discouraged me though, was far too frequently, what filled the room wasn’t honest observations about God and the struggle that is faith…but more than that, it was a discussion filled with Christian cliches. One after the other I heard folks talk about how great their faith was, and how confident they were in their walk. A couple of times the conversation touched on how often some of the folks prayed, and what wonderful experiences they had in prayer. I walked away from the discussion feeling as if I’d just been in the room with a group of super-saints.
“Chris, that is awesome!” I can already hear you saying. “What’s wrong with people being confident in their faith? What’s wrong with people being faithful in prayer?”
Nothing is wrong with people being confident in their faith. Nothing is wrong with someone being faithful in prayer. I rejoice that we have folks within the church that can make these claims. But, my issue is all too often this isn’t me, and I think for the majority of us, faith is much more of a struggle than we’d like to admit. My hunch is, that not everyone making these claims are as confident in their walks with God, or in their prayer life as they’d like for the rest of us to think. And the problem is, for someone struggling in their faith, the most discouraging thing I can imagine is getting in a room with a bunch of “Super-Christians” who never have doubts and never struggle.
The truth is I struggle sometimes with prayer. Sometimes I just don’t want to. Yes, I’ve had powerful moments of prayer. Yes, I love conversing with God. But, sometimes life is hard. Sometimes, I get caught up in the everyday. Sometimes, I just simply don’t want to pray. Sometimes, I’m even frustrated with God when things aren’t going my way. Is this wrong? Certainly. But, we also see throughout the Scriptures, especially in the Psalms this is a very real aspect in the lives of the people of God. Struggling with, and in prayer is simply a reality of a life of faith. Perhaps, instead of pretending it doesn’t happen we ought to be honest about it…perhaps this is an area that we could pray for each other about.
Want to hear something else? Sometimes I have doubts. Sometimes I wonder if God actually hears my prayers. Sometimes, I have a hard time believing that God is true to his promises. As opposed to a super-saint “boldly approaching the throne of grace”, I’m much more like the father in Mark 9:24 and the only prayer I can utter is, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” And you know what? I think this is a perfectly reasonable prayer. Actually, I think it’s the most honest prayer most of us can muster many days. I know in my brain that God is real. I know he good and just. I know he has my best interest at heart. I even know that he is able to perform miracles. I know that in him, my eternity is secure. Yet, their are days I struggle to wrap my mind around that. There are days where in my heart of hearts I simply struggle to accept this truth as a reality. And the truth is, I don’t believe I’m alone in this.
While I’m bearing my soul…I’m far from a Super-Saint. I’m actually quite a sinner. Sometimes when the reality of my sins, and the depth of the depravity of my own heart hits me, I get discouraged. These are the times I find myself struggling in prayer, and struggling with doubt. While I know my own heart better than everyone else does, and while I don’t know anyone else’s heart, I still think that I’m not alone in this either. And while we should never grow comfortable in our sin, or the reality of the fact that we will never attain the lived perfection that Christ had as he walked the earth, I do think we should come to grips with our sinfulness on some level. As opposed to pretending we aren’t sinners, and acting as if we have no struggles, we ought to say with the tax collector in Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!”
I believe there are many parallels between the scene in Luke 18:12-14 and my own experience in my recent discussion. As people were talking about the greatness of their faith and the strength of their prayer lives…all I could do was sit there and think about was how far what I was hearing was from what I was experiencing on a regular basis. While everyone else was presenting themselves as super-saints, in my mind I was beating my breast and begging for the mercy of God on a wretched sinner.
I suppose some would read this and say that I’m guilty of exactly what I’m accusing others of. They might even be right. Perhaps I’m attempting to paint the picture that my life of faith is more authentic than someone else’s. Perhaps I’m just jealous that I’m not where these other folks are. Perhaps I’m wrong, and they really aren’t putting forth a facade, and their faith and prayer lives are every bit as vibrant as they say…Who am I to make that call?
The point of this post is simply this. Let’s be honest about our faith. Let’s be honest about our struggles. Let’s not pretend to be something we aren’t. If all unbelievers and even new believers see is a bunch of people who never struggle with life, or sin, or faith, what are they going to do when these things creep up in their own lives? Let’s be honest about our struggles, so that we can help each other out when they are going through those times themselves. Let’s be honest about our doubts and our sins, so that others who have been there can lift us up and pray for us and with us as we go through the trials of life. Certainly we can have confidence in our faith…Certainly we can boldly approach the throne of grace…But this is true even in these struggles and doubts and as our own frailties weigh heavy on our minds.
How’s that for a catchy title?
If you’ve been following me on social media you’ve seen about a bazillion pictures of my newborn son. This is our sixth child, so some would think the excitement would be less…but they’d be wrong. Watching the birth of your sixth child is every bit as magical as the first.
Witnessing the miracle of my children being born, and spending time with those little guys always puts me in a very contemplative mood. I ponder the wonder of childbirth, the meaning of life, the goodness of God, and what the future holds for myself and my family.
So, honestly I don’t have much to say in this blog (hence the title). I’m just in one of those moods and I wanted to share. I will say this…we all need to spend more time pondering the wonder that is life. Special moments spark these feelings, but every day is filled with wonder. Most days we are simply too caught up in life to notice.
That is something that has stood out to me the past couple of days. As my son was being born, as my wife bravely delivered him into this world…nothing seemed to matter except for that moment. All of the silly junk on most days I think is so important…right now it isn’t. All I can do is sit in wonder at how good God is…how amazing that he has blessed me so. He has granted me the unbelievable blessing of an amazing wife and six kids. He has granted me the responsibility and privilege to help them to know Him in a greater way. That is what matters to me right now.
May God help me to be more aware of this, even as the beauty of these days dim in my mind, and everyday life returns. Help me never lose that wonder of the goodness of God and the daily miracles he’s placed in my life…even as blessings sometimes seem like a curse, may God give me eyes to see clearly.
So, I guess this wasn’t a blog about nothing after all…Perhaps it was a blog about everything that matters.
One of the dreams of any writer is to complete a book, and then to see that book published. It’s hard to explain the feeling of seeing a book with your name on the cover. Another dream, is to have someone actually buy your book. For someone to actually want to buy a book you have written, and to actually give you money for your words…that too is an amazing feeling.
Perhaps one of the greatest feelings a writer can experience is to see your book in a real brick and mortar bookstore. Today, that dream became a reality for me. Two of my books are now available locally in a real honest-to-goodness brick and mortar bookstore. Seeing a dream become a reality, even on a small scare is pretty amazing. I’m very thankful.
Just thought I’d share.