Several years ago, Max Lucado wrote a book entitled HE STILL MOVES STONES. Within that book, he mentioned Matthew 12:20, “ … a bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not quench …” In that text Matthew is quoting the prophet Isaiah who is speaking of the Messiah, Jesus. The essence of that verse is simple: Jesus redeems and restores those who are bruised, battered, and bewildered by the trials of life, and breathes fresh wind to fan the dimming flame of those whose hearts are barely ignited and on the verge of losing hope, passion, and the joy of life.
Max Lucado writes, “And the smoldering wick on the candle. Is there anything closer to death than a smoldering wick? Once aflame, now flickering and failing. Still warm from yesterday’s passion, but no fire. Not yet cold but far from hot. Was it that long ago you blazed with faith? Remember how you illuminated the path? Then came the wind … the cold wind, the harsh wind. They said your ideas were foolish. They told you your dreams were too lofty. The scolded you for challenging the time-tested. The constant wind wore down upon you. Oh, you stood strong for a moment (or maybe a lifetime), but the endless blast whipped your flickering flame, leaving you one pinch away from darkness.” (He Still Moves Stones, p.16-17)
Maybe you are reading this and you’re saying to yourself, perhaps even screaming inside, “That’s me! That’s exactly how I feel.” Yet you wonder how you don’t become the wick that no longer burns. You want the flickering light at the end of a smoldering wick to be fanned into a strong and vibrant flame again.
The great news is that God loves to breath new life into that which is fading. He is the one who gives dreams and ignites vision in the heart of one who trusts Him and is willing to be used by Him. One thing that I’ve learned is that a smoldering wick can either be the result of the “cold, harsh wind” that Max writes about, or it could be due to a lack of oxygen that feeds the flame. It may just be that you’ve not been allowing God to breath new life into your dying dreams, or passions, or vision. Only in His presence will your smoldering wick be fueled by the oxygen of His grace; the grace you need to dream again and believe that He has something more for you that will burn for His glory and your good.
So to those of you who feel as though you are a smoldering wick, God is not done with you. Quite the contrary. You are in the perfect place for God to breath new life into you because “a smoldering wick He will not quench.”
“Therefore, He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:17-18
I needed to be reminded of this daily, and perhaps it might be a good reminder for you as well.
Jesus wasn’t made to become like us for His benefit but rather for ours. He did not need to take on flesh so that He could understand our struggles and weaknesses. He did not need to experience first-hand that day to day difficulties and trials that we go through in order for Him to say, “Oh, now I get it.” He has perfect understanding. He knows the power of sin and the slavery it brings. He knows the destruction that sin’s wake leaves. It is because He understands this that He came. His coming displayed His mercy and faithfulness to a sin-separated humanity who could not satisfy the wrath of a just and holy God. Jesus took on flesh and became like us, so that He might become the perfect, sinless sacrifice who, by laying down His life, might make all who trust in Him for the forgiveness of sin, fully alive and righteous before God.
The writer of Romans, the apostle Paul, sums it up well regarding our condition and desperate need of a Savior when he said, “For while we were still weak (helpless and without hope), at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
Although His coming wasn’t for His benefit but ours, He did suffer what we suffer daily. He experienced the fight and the struggle of temptation, yet without giving in to sin. That’s the difference that made an eternal difference, and qualified Him as the acceptable sacrifice for our sin.
When we struggle with temptation, we don’t have a God who doesn’t understand what we’re going through. He’s not a distant or disconnected God. He knows. As a matter of fact, the writer of Hebrews says this: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
The very fact that there is a God who understands and does not abandon us in our daily fight and struggle against the temptations we face, numerous and vast as they are, is beyond comforting. The God of all heaven knows. He gets it. He knows your struggle with self-worth. He knows your battle with loneliness, depression, anxiety, shame, anger, bitterness, lust, self-righteousness, greed, materialism, apathy . . . and you can list more, here: _________________. But just as encouraging is knowing He provides us with all we need to not give in, and choose as Jesus did. We can live like Christ, but not on our own strength. Even Jesus, when tempted in the wilderness, was strengthened by the words of Scripture and the presence of the Holy Spirit (you can check that out in the gospel account of Luke 4). In the same way, the promise God has given to all who place their faith in Christ is the indwelling of His Spirit, who leads us into all truth; strengthens us in our weakness; comforts us in affliction; provides a way of escape when tempted; convicts us of sin when we fall; and renews with rescuing and restoring grace.
I pray you are encouraged today knowing that God understands where you are in your struggles, and He is more than able to help.
“I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
A few months ago, while packing boxes, I was standing in a room full of books and items trying to determine what I needed to keep, and what could be given away or trashed. There were things which, at one time, had been necessary for the moment but were no longer worth keeping. I was trying to be very discerning as to what was most important; what was of great value to me; and what was of utmost importance to store. If you’re like me, boxes of things you’ve forgotten about tend to follow you from one move to another. It wasn’t an easy process, and at times it was emotional, but it was necessary in order not to waste storage space with things that I really didn’t need.
Recently I was unpacking a box, and came across something my mom had kept and given to me years ago. It was a sweatshirt from when I was in Kindergarten at Carnell Elementary; the Carnell Colts. For those who know me, I can hear you joking about how I could probably still wear it. Maybe I can, and maybe I can’t. Nonetheless, I didn’t need it and it was just another thing to store somewhere that would continue to follow me, in a box, from one place to another. Don’t get me wrong, just looking at it brought up some great memories. It was the sweatshirt that made me run faster when I wore it, and gave me special skills when I was playing football at recess. But it was time to part with the sweatshirt. “Kenny, give me the woobie.” (Those who know great lines from great classic movies will get that reference.)
Here’s the point: It is hard to store what is most valuable, necessary, and important when there are lesser things taking up space. I’m speaking of something of much greater worth and significance than the things of this world that get lost, are stolen, fade away, become destroyed, or rust.
The Psalmist writes,“I have stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11
To “store” something means that I not only keep it, but in this context in the Hebrew writings it means to “hide away,” because it is like treasure. In other words, the writer of this psalm is saying that God’s word is of such great value in showing me how to navigate life so that I take steps in the right direction, that its counsel, comfort, and truths are worth treasuring in the place where my emotions are stirred. God’s word is of great worth because it becomes guardrails to my affections and emotions, pointing them in a Godward direction. As well, it speaks truth to the thoughts in my mind that so often can become conflicting.
CLEAN OUT THE CLUTTER . . .
There was a popular show a few years ago, Hoarders, that shed light on compulsive behavior revealed to hoarding items within a home: food, trash, books, toys, clothes, and other things piled up to the ceiling, blocking the hallways, filling up rooms, thus making it impossible for healthy and safe living conditions. There were some episodes that were hard to watch. To see what some people had become trapped in due to trauma or a tragedy in their lives was heartbreaking to say the least. The purpose of the show was to bring in help by way of therapists and professional organizers to assist in the physical clean up, as well as ongoing counseling for those suffering from compulsive hoarding disorder. Some were success stories; others were not.
When I think about what I’ve stored in my heart, and what I still have a tendency to hoard, they are certainly not things that keeping me from sinning against God, but rather keep me in sin against God: anger, jealousy, envy, pride, unforgiveness, and the list could go on. Some of these are blatantly obvious; you can see them clearly. But there are, perhaps, those feelings and thoughts that have been tucked away deep in the recesses of your heart and mind, that you have kept so long, yet give no thought to, that are negatively affecting your life in ways you haven’t really considered. All of these take up space that crowds out our heart, and leaves no room for the true treasure we need to store. When God shows me what I need to rid my heart of, as I confess those things as sin, I begin to experience and enjoy the freedom found in treasuring Him.
King David, prayed this in Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” In other words, David was acknowledging, “God you know my heart. You know what hurts me, and grieves You! Show me and lead me in how to really live life well!”
I’ve found that asking God to show me what is in me, that I’m not even aware of, is a healthy spiritual discipline that eliminates the clutter and creates space for the true treasure God has for me. It believe it will be for you, as it is for me, a daily discipline that will help you take steps in the right direction.
KEEP THE TREASURE . . .
There is a state park not too far from where I live that is known for digging for diamonds. People will come from all over the country to explore the 900-plus acres in hopes of unearthing diamonds. Just a few years ago, there was an 8-carat diamond found that was worth close to $500,000. That’s crazy. I really do need to get a shovel.
Can you imagine digging up a diamond that’s worth half a million dollars? Talk about finding treasure. But there’s a different kind of treasure in God’s word that is lasting; it’s eternal; and it is much more valuable than an 8-carat diamond. I can hear some saying I’ll take the $500K . . . in cash, please. Money isn’t evil, but the love of it sure is. I don’t have time to tell you the countless stories of people who thought they had true treasure after winning a lottery, only to later declare for bankruptcy.
When your soul lives lavishly on the riches of God’s word you have stored in your heart, you recognize more clearly the worthless trinkets the world seeks to sell you as treasure. I’ve come to realize that when a heart is void of the authentic treasure of God’s word, it will easily pursue what deceptively sparkles like diamonds.
To begin a day without storing up the life-sustaining and life-protecting treasure of God’s word, is like waking up and deciding to walk across the Sahara Desert with no water or food. You will not make it far. So, I strive to begin each day digging into the Scriptures. And daily, I always come away with treasure that enriches my life, and helps me take one more step in the right direction.
As you think on this, ask yourself, What do I need to rid my heart of that is keeping me from storing up true treasure and taking one more step in the right direction?
As long as you are breathing, you are a candidate for being hurt and hurting. I know because I have been hurt deeply, and I have hurt deeply. There are moments where the hurt you bear, both what you’ve received and given, seems unbearable. It is like a crushing weight that is suffocating, and a searing pain that doesn’t subside.
Hurting expresses itself in anger. It makes you tentative. It causes you to be untrusting. It can lead to isolation. And hurting, unattended and not cared for well, will be wholly detrimental.
So what do you do when you are hurting?
1. Admit it. Hiding the fact that you are hurt doesn’t help heal the hurt. You will never find healing in isolation. Admit it to God. Admit it to yourself. But what I have found to be true is that there needs to be great caution with whom you share your hurt. Brené Brown, in her book Imperfect Gifts, says there are those who can become “flying debris,” and do more harm than good. I’ve found that to be true in my life. But I’ve also found two or three men with whom I can share my hurts; those who have my best interest at heart and aren’t looking for something to gossip about. They aren’t interested in the details of who has hurt me, or who I’ve hurt for that matter, but they are invested in my healing. Healing doesn’t begin until you admit that you are hurting.
2. Examine it. It is important to identify why you are hurting and where you are hurting. Ask God show you the places in your heart you may even be unaware of where hurt is hiding and growing. It may be pain from a wound someone has caused you, or you have caused someone else, and have suppressed it deeply within the recesses of your heart. A great book that has been extremely helpful to me is Emotionally Health Spirituality, by Peter Scazzerro. Personally, I believe that every person should read this book. It’s one I wish had been written 30 years earlier. As well as reading, and working through the wisdom and practical help offered in that book, another helpful discipline I have established in my life is praying what David praying in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” God is a much better examiner of my heart, and much more gracious in His findings, than I am. And He knows exactly how to shepherd us through the valley of the shadow of death and into green pastures beside quiet waters.
3. Care for it. I can’t heal my hurt, but I know who can. The Psalmist reminds us that God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 There is no greater care giver than God. His heart is compassionate towards us, and His hands are skillful in bringing healing to our pain. Charles Spurgeon said, “There are many sorts of broken hearts, and Christ is good at healing them all.” I’m finding that to be true.
4. Release it. Hurt that is held on to, is hurt that never heals. There is a great quote that is often attributed to C.S. Lewis, although it is not certain that he said it. Nonetheless, it is a great quote in which the words are absolutely true. “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars–you have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” Moving forward doesn’t mean that you don’t feel. But what it does mean is that you don’t allow the hurt to be a weight that pulls you down to the depths. Forgiving those who have hurt you deeply, and asking forgiveness of those whom you have deeply hurt, is what frees you to move forward in healing and sustaining grace.