“Restore to me the joy of your salvation…” (Psalm 51.12a)
The importance of a happy soul can’t be seen any more clearly than here. David, the man after God’s heart (see 1 Sam. 13:14), has lost his way. He’s done things that tabloids rant about. Why? It appears to me David lost his joy.
When you read the account in 2 Samuel 11 there’s a number of things one should note:
11:1- David’s disengaged. When your soul is weary you naturally pull away. Energy, focus, and passion are necessary for our engagement, so when they drop down- we drop out! If you are disengaging from your work, family, church and friends…WATCH OUT!
11:2- David’s wandering. He’s not with his men. He’s not able to sleep. He’s anxious and feeling “dead” in his soul. He goes to the roof…but where’s his harp? Where is his journal to write poems? Where is his focus? It’s off. If someone were watching your life from a distance (like we can look at David’s now) would they say you have a clear focus and aim in life? Don’t wander…ask God for focus.
11.3- When our soul’s are starving for life…we are suckers for the counterfeit life. David engages his temptation. He’s done. James writes: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; (14) but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. (15) Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15). If your quiet times are a little too quiet these days it’s time to rethink what you are doing. Is your soul weary? Are you lacking energy because of stress, etc.? What do you need to get back to a more focused happy soul? Also take a look at the counterfeit offers of “life”; they actually drain us…where are these leeches taking life from you? Think about the best ways you connect with God (for example, in worship, quiet, etc) and get busy!
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The pursuit of a “happy heart” keeps this verse in mind constantly. Jesus wants us to have the fullest life possible. Of course this doesn’t mean lavish homes, big cars and Swiss bank accounts. No, Christ’s aim is MUCH higher. His wants His life reproduced in us. A big-hearted, radical life that gets regularly described by its recipients as patient, kind, humble, enduring, peaceful, and gentle. Those kinds of people whose life and love transcends the bonds of earth. They simply live above the fray. That, my friends, is real life! But to experience that kind of freedom requires a “happy heart”.
There are two questions that help us figure out how to get there. They are:
- What experiences make you feel most alive? (Keeping in mind we are questing towards a Christ-life. I have a friend who jokes by answering “when I eat excessive amounts of chocolate chip cookies!)
- What experiences make you feel most “like you”?
I realize these questions sound similar, so let me provide an example of my answers for each question. Question #1 is an expansive look at what pours life into you. For me, a walk in the woods is incredibly life charging. I love the surroundings and the quiet. Question #2 reflects more on your purpose. Your work life and career. The reason(s) you are here on earth. For me, #2 is answered by, “encouraging others”. When I’ve been able to encourage someone I feel like I am “me”. The person God created me to be. It is my sincerest hope that my tombstone would read, “He encouraged us.”
I encourage you to take a few days to ponder these questions. The will provide you with valuable answers to how you can best help you heart to be happy!
“Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me.”
Listening to Pastor Sharon last Sunday reminded me of how very important storytelling is to all of us.
In a recent study, 89 adult participants were asked to tell their life stories to a team of researchers who then assessed their mental and physical health once a year for four years.
After analyzing the themes found in each participant’s personal narrative, researchers determined that highlighting happy endings (i.e the good and God!) can be linked to reduced risk of depression and higher psychological and social well-being.
The study called attention to agency (feeling hopeful), communion (feeling connected to others) and redemption (feeling that even terrible events can lead to good developments) as key themes associated with better mental health.
Furthermore, when you tell your story and I listen we both experience similar benefits! So whether you are the storyteller, or listener; it’s going to encourage you!
Grab hold of an opportunity today to either share a God-story with someone, or invite them to tell you “what He has done for them”. Either way you’ll find encouragement for your heart and help to your brain!
“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”
One summer I worked in the inner-city of Miami. Got to know a lot of good people there, but the one I learned the most from was Big Joe. He had a tough life…very tough. No dad. Most his family was in prison or dead. But what I remember most about Big Joe was his BIG smile and unshakable joy. One day we sat down to talk. I was really discouraged about my ministry there. Big Joe flashed that huge smile and exhorted me, “brother…now’s the time you gotta get your praise on!” He was right. There’s two times to praise the Lord; when you feel like and when you don’t.
Our pastor, Brendon Fairley; talked about Psalm 150 last Sunday urging us to “get our praise on”. Here’s 4 keys to helping you get there:
- OPEN UP: Hard times tend to close us up and shut us down. If you stay there you will drown! The Psalmist was always found stretching himself to open up to his God.
- ‘FESS UP: Psalm 66:18 says, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Unconfessed stuff crowds our hearts and is like a spiritual sock stuffed in our mouth.
- LOOK UP: Like the Psalmist (in 123) we need to lift up our eyes. When tough times hit we need God’s perspective. Our help comes from the One who is enthroned in heaven!
- LIFT UP: Lift up your voice! There is something about singing. Just something about it. People sing when they’re happy, sad, confused, blue, in love and just about every scenario we find ourselves in. Why ? I think it’s because singing is the language of the soul. It expresses the depth of our sorrow and the heights of our joy in ways that just words can’t.
That day, as I walked away from my conversation with Big Joe, I started to open up to God about my discouragement. Immediately a familiar song about overcoming came to mind. I began humming it at first (I wasn’t quite ready to sing out) but my heart was feeling freer. By the time I got back to the office my perspective had shifted and hope returned!
“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 25.1)
One of my hero’s is George Mueller. A remarkable man, in 1834 (when he was 28) he founded The Scripture Knowledge Institute for Home and Abroad. The Institute was comprised of five branches:
1) Schools for children and adults to teach Bible knowledge,
2) Bible distribution,
3) missionary support,
4) tract and book distribution, and
5) “to board, clothe and scriptural educate orphans who have lost both parents by death.”
All five branches had great impact, but the one he is best known for is the orphan ministry. George built 5 large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his lifetime. When he started in 1834 there were only accommodations for 3,600 orphans in all of England and twice that many children under eight were in prison. One of the incredible marks of Mueller’s ministry was, “fifty years after Mr. Mueller began his work, at least one hundred thousand orphans were cared for in England alone.”
He did all this while he was pastoring and preaching three times a week from 1830 to 1898. When he turned 70 he fulfilled a life-long dream of missionary work laboring abroad for the next 17 years! (until he was 87!). During His mission work he traveled to 42 countries, preaching at least once a day, and addressing better than 3 million people along the way!
Mueller read his Bible from cover to cover over 200 times during his life. He prayed in millions of dollars (in today’s currency) for the Orphans and never asked anyone directly for money. He himself never took a salary in the last 68 years of his ministry!
Indeed a remarkable man…who was incredibly busy. His secret? In his own words, “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Now stop there and read that again. EVERY day his first and PRIMARY business was to get his soul happy in the Lord.
So my question is: do you know how to get your soul happy in the Lord?
I’m learning…slowly! But I’d like to take the next few posts to get you thinking.
I heard Paul Harvey tell a story about a driver who fried their car. Apparently the person thought the oil light flashing meant everything was OK. Not so. You know “the rest of the story”.
We desperately need to pay attention to the signals that our coming our way…especially those on our soul’s “dashboard”. As I mentioned in the previous post, our bodies are the dashboard of our soul. When we are worried, that emotion “flashes” through our bodies. It can be a strained look, tense shoulders, or a migraine. But somehow the soul is signaling it’s distress and hoping for some attention please!
Now if someone would have explained to that driver about the oil light coming on, they would still have a car. In like fashion Jesus cries out, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) Is your dashboard flashing weary and burdened? Do you know the signs to look for? Pause for a moment right now and look at your “dash”. Is your body tense anywhere? Jaw tight? Heart racing? Do you know what your body does when stressed? Most don’t. So they keep driving until finally the motor burns up. Learn to be a master at reading your dashboard…it just may save your soul.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Psalm 62:5)
Remember the Beatle’s song, “I’m So Tired”? John Lennon sounds pretty tired until the refrain where he screams:
“You know I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind!!!”
Even if you don’t know the song…you can relate to the scream right?! So what do you do when your soul screams, “I’d give you everything I got…for a little peace of mind!” I’d suggest giving some ancient spiritual practices a try. Now these practices aren’t the goal. The aim of the practice is to connect us with the Living God in a manner that deeply settles our inner being (soul). Keep that in mind.
Here’s some practices that help our bodies get in line with the Spirit (we will talk later about specific exercises for the will and mind as well):
- Practice stillness. How often do you take a long deliberate space to just sit still? I’d suggest taking 5 minutes at the start or close of your day, to sit somewhere quiet with God. Let your body slow down. This takes practice! “Be still …and know He is God.” (Ps. 46:10)
- Fasting. I hear the groans. Skipping some meals doesn’t sound all that fun, however there can be great spiritual gain as we do…just ask Daniel (see Dan. 1:12).
- Sabbath: Taking a deliberate break from work so you can rest in God’s presence is critical to our life’s rhythm. We tend to run around as if the world depends on us…when in fact He’s got the whole world in His hands. Take a break this week.
If you are like John Lennon and need a little “peace of mind (or body!)” step into one of these practices for a season. They are tried and true helps to restoring our soul!