Beer or Prayer

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 1 Samuel 1:15-16

Hannah wanted a baby; a precious child to care for and to raise up in the Lord. But year after year she could not conceive. She was depressed.

It’s not uncommon to suffer through a phase of depression at some point in life. What do we do or use to “get through it?” Beer or wine? That’s what Eli the prophet thought. Hannah looked so distraught that he assumed she was drunk. Hannah was doing something much better than blurring her pain with drink, though. Her way of “getting through it” was to cry out to her Lord in prayer, to manifest her complete raw and depressed nature.

Try prayer next time. Be real with God; he already knows your deepest woes and struggles. He hears you, every time. He loves you. He will answer.

A Good Life on Earth

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when life seems to be going really well I wonder if all the good things are distracting me from keeping life’s focus on Jesus and furthering his mission. You know, things like a birth in the family, a new house, better pay, nice car, succeeding at your job, and so on… can these blessings also be distractions?

I suppose they could be, at some point. When life’s “good things” start taking so much precedence in life that Jesus and church and thinking of others and prayer get pushed in the old dusty closet or even forgotten, it may be time to reflect on things.

But Ecclesiastes 5 reminded me today that it’s ok for life to be going well. This is a gift from God! Praise him and rejoice in the blessings. Thank him; he is caring and helpful. When life is going swell, just say “thank you” and enjoy it!

Salvation out of Sorrow

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Corinthians 7:10

We all feel bad at times. Guilt can envelop all other thoughts. “I shouldn’t have done that; I was supposed to do this.”

God has given each of us a conscience. It’s the reason we know when we’re doing something wrong and it reminds us that we are far from perfect. When we fall short, we feel bad. We are sorrowful.

But guilt isn’t the end. It drives a repentant heart to confess before God all wrongdoing, and to ask for forgiveness. God will forgive us; he always does. And he promises salvation to all his children. It’s kind of an interesting thought: sorrow leads to salvation! Praise God!

Like Arrows

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Psalm 127:3-4

For the parents who are struggling with some aspect of child raising, who are beyond exhausted, who are concerned about an upcoming birth, or who are just outright frustrated, Psalm 127 offers encouraging words.

Solomon, the author of this Psalm, knew the value of children. He had many kids. He also knew the value of a well-equipped, talented warrior. He was a great king and the leader of vast armies. He was wealthy. And when he wrote this Psalm, he compared children to arrows.

A warrior with a supply of arrows, whether handfuls or just one, feels safe. He can protect himself. He has, as long as he is supplied, a sense of thankfulness and peace. The arrows are a blessing for him. Each child is a blessing to each parent. Whether a couple’s quiver holds ten or just one arrow, each child is a gift from God and it is a blessing that their quiver is not empty.

So no matter if you’re battling the terrible twos, arguing with your teenager, or awaiting the birth of your first babe, remember that every child is a gift from our God.

You are Mine

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

Aren’t these words beautiful? The Lord was labeling his precious child Israel loved and important. “Let all fear leave you, Jacob. I created you; I made you. I redeemed you. I called you by name. You are mine.”

These comforting promises remind me of my baptismal banner. I don’t remember the actual event of my baptism since I was only two weeks old. But as a child, I frequently read the words of Isaiah 43:1 that were lovingly crafted onto a felt banner that hung in my bedroom. “You are mine.”

We belong to someone. Isn’t that something we all crave so deeply? In a world where identity is often associated with our work group, our friends, and our social circles but where that longing is never completely satisfied, God promises us that we belong to him. “You are mine.” That is our true and ultimate identity: a child of God!

The Reality of False Gods

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips. Psalm 16:4

King David knew the uselessness of seeking meaning, security, and identity in anything other than the Lord God. We too know that the Lord is our strength and our salvation and in him alone is found our true meaning and value. Unfortunately, at some point or another, we have all failed to remember this.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan performs a clever skit about guilty pleasures that he simply labels “McDonalds.” Whether we delight too much in a certain TV show or become enveloped in celebrity gossip or go for our favorite café latte umpteen times a week, “it’s all McDonalds.” It’s all stuff that feels good going in but leaves us empty and dissatisfied.

David understood this. He knew that false gods only bring about suffering. Money and alcohol and Netflix will never be enough to satisfy our souls and give our life true meaning, identity, and security. Only Jesus can do that. He has done it, when he defeated sin, death, and the devil on the cross. When you need something, go to Jesus. He’ll never let you down.

Sweet Words

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

Words can go a long way. A fine compliment, an earnest thank you, a sincere apology, a thoughtful encouragement… these gracious words can do a world of wonder for someone’s wellbeing.

King Solomon reminds us of that through the simple words of his wise proverb. Speaking is easy, and sharing some kind words doesn’t take long at all. It brings sweet joy to the recipient.

We all need encouragement. Since none of us are perfect, it helps to have a good chunk of grace thrown our way as we do our best to work, live, and have relationships. Know that polite comments and kind compliments are very helpful. And remember that Jesus offers the best grace of all. It’s sweet!