Encouragement 06-03-04


June 3, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Climbing Out of the Pit - Part 2
Mary Southerland - Director of Networking, author and speaker
Key Verse:
"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD." (Psalm 40:2-3 NIV)

At some point in life, we all will find ourselves in some kind of pit, the darkness settling around us like a paralyzing blanket of hopelessness.  That deep, dark pit may have many names, but easily becomes a prison from which escape seems impossible.  The journey out is a process of steps uniquely planned by your Father.  He is the Guide for this step-by-step journey.   
Step One:      Wait for God. 
Step Two:      Cry out for help.
Step Three:    Count on God!
In this world, there are few certainties.  God is one.  His promises are true and we can wholly trust Him to keep His Word, to do exactly what He promises to do.  In the key passage today, we find an impressive set of promises.  God promises to free us - direct us - restore us - give us joy and invites us to join Him in Kingdom work.  Wow! 
That is quite an impressive "to do list" when you are sitting at the bottom of an ugly pit, with the shattered pieces of your life scattered around you.  But you see, God's ways are not our ways. 
Romans 11:33 (NLT) "Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his riches, wisdom, and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!"
God is drawn to brokenness.  What an amazing truth, that He turns first to the broken.  Psalm 40:1 says "He turned to me."  Notice that it does not say that David, the author, turned to God.  I don't think that David could turn to God!  Knowing the desire of David's heart and understanding his weakness, God heard his cry and turned to David just like God will hear your cry and turn to you!
During the darkest hours, I questioned God continually.  I flung my anger at Him like a spear.  My heart and soul were filled with fear and confusion instead of faith and trust.  Yet, He never turned away from me.  He knew every tear that I cried.
Out of those tears and brokenness has come the most effective and powerful chapter of my life!  I have discovered that the more we are broken, the more we are used!  You can count on God.  You can credit His grace to your account!
Mercy is when we don't get what we deserve.
Justice is when we get what we do deserve.
Grace is when we get what we do not deserve.
We are trophies of God's grace and we can count on Him!
Step Four:  Be patient.
Psalm 40:1 "I waited patiently for the Lord."
In this verse, "patiently" literally means "without tiring" or "with perseverance".  Be patient with yourself.  Don't give up on you!  No one gets depressed overnight and no one conquers depression overnight.  It is a marathon, not a fifty yard dash!  On my journey, it took 45 years to hit rock bottom.  It has taken me four years to climb out...this far.  I am still climbing!  We must be patient.  We must be willing to persevere!
This poem has helped me to understand the value of patience.
 Two frogs fell into a can of cream
 Or so I've heard it told
 The sides of the can were shiny and steep
 The cream was deep and cold.
 "Oh, what the use?" said No. 1
 "Tis fate - no help's around!
 Good-bye, my friend!
 Good-bye, sad world!"
 And weep still, he drowned.
 But No. 2 of sterner stuff,
 Dog paddled in surprise,
 The while he wiped his creamy face
 And dried his creamy eyes.
 "I'll swim awhile, at least," he said
 Or so it has been said...
 "It wouldn't really help the world
 If one more frog was dead."
 An hour or two he kicked and swam
 Not once, he stopped to mutter
 But kicked and swam and swam and kicked, then hopped out, via butter.
Don't give up!  Just give in and allow God to take control!  He will turn that pit into an altar on which your broken spirit can be laid as a sweet sacrifice of praise!
Step Five:  Don't give up!
God is at work!  The Father has ordered your steps so that you can hear my story.  That may be because you are in a pit and you need help.  Or maybe because someone you love is in that pit and you need to help them.  God wants you to experience restoration and then to be a vessel of restoration for others.
Years ago, in a large southeastern city, the great pianist, Paderewski, was scheduled to perform.  The city was alive with excitement and the day finally came.  In the crowd at the great concert hall that evening was a young mother clutching the hand of her small son.  Hoping to inspire him to practice, she had brought him to hear the master perform.  As they sat and waited for the concert to begin, she turned her head to look at the people as they filled the auditorium. The little boy saw his chance to escape.  He quietly slipped from his seat, walking down the aisle toward the stage.  Just as he reached the orchestra pit, a spotlight hit the grand piano and he gasped at the beauty of the instrument.  No one noticed the little boy as he slipped up the side stairs to the stage and climbed up on the piano stool.  No one noticed him at all, until he began to play "Chopsticks".  The concert hall fell silent.  Then people began to shout,"Get him off the stage!" Backstage, the Master heard the crowd and grabbing his coat, rushed to the little boy's side.  Without a word, he bent down and placing his hands on either side of the boy's, began to compose a beautiful counter melody to "Chopsticks".  As they played together, He whispered in the little boy's ear, "Don't stop! Keep on!  Don't quit!"
Our Father says it this way:
Philippians 1:6  And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.
Right now...right where you are...your Father is standing beside you, with His arms wrapped around you.  Listen...as He gently speaks, "Don't stop!  Keep on!  Don't quit!"
I know that the music of your darkened soul may be filled with chaos and dissonance, but even now, the Master is composing the "rest" of your song.  And one day very soon, it will be a song of beauty and light! One day, you will come out of the dark!

My prayer for today:
Oh God, right now I choose to wait on you, crying out for your hand of mercy and love to deliver me from this pit of darkness.  I abandon myself to you and am counting on you alone to be my Redeemer.  Now, in the presence of my enemies of darkness and depression, I celebrate the victory.  Thank you, Father!  Amen.

Application steps
Memorize Psalm 40:1-3.  Accept it as a gift from God for every pit - past, present and future - in your life. 

Reflection points:
What is the first step I should take in order to climb out of this pit?
What do I need to leave behind or step over in order to take this first step?
Read 2 Samuel 2:29.  What does it mean when it says that God is your lamp?  How does that change your perspective of life? 
Examine the deepest desires of your heart.  Do you really want to escape this pit of darkness?  Does the freedom frighten you?  Why?

Power verses:
Isaiah 42:16 "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."
Psalm 107:13-14 "Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains."
Psalm 56:8 "You have seen me tossing and turning through the night. You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book."

Additional resources:
This material was taken from Coming Out of the Dark by Mary Southerland.
Dreams of a Woman by Sharon Jaynes
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst

Originally published Thursday, 03 June 2004.