Hello, friends — how have you been? As summer wanes here in my little corner of the world, it’s nice to check-in with each other if only to be reminded through all the seasons of life, we’re not alone; particularly when experiencing the kind of testing everyone’s journey takes them through at some point in time. If there’s something I can come along side with you to pray for, please drop me an email. You’ve heard me say this before but I think it’s worth repeating: one of the most beautiful things about this commonality?
It doesn’t matter how similar
or vastly different our stories
may be in their particulars,
we share the same
fundamentally human need —
to know God is both present
and passionate about everything
that touches our lives.
Especially in times of adversity.
The good news is this: our circumstances may be different but He is always the same.
Here at Readplenish, the past few months have been reading heavy (yeah, not so much writing I’m afraid) with a book list that has included memorable new ones but even more oldies whose content has a way of framing itself like fine art to hang alongside those getting all the buzz at the moment. Often, reading is such a personal discipline, and that’s why re-visiting familiar writers has meant so much. Many of them were new to me several years ago when my family was overwhelmed by pretty deep waters. Their words became a lens through which I gained clarity for what was taking place in our life, seeing a way to walk in the pain and difficulty and daily desiring to live in a settled dependence upon God. They consistently pointed me back to the faithful hands that have always carried us, gently reminding me of this: through and over time stands truth, shining a light into the shadowy corners of all the uncertainty and change we had not asked for. For the most part, these books are dog-eared and scribbled in — a little snapshot to chronicle the heavy doses of encouragement their words provided at a time when little else did. If you’d like a few suggestions for the kinds of books I write about and quote so often, you can find a Readplenish Recommended Reading List here.
This is all fine and good,
but deep and protracted testing
often scatters our thoughts,
making it difficult to lean into
much reading at all.
It can seem as though we’re treading water, doing well just to cover our bases and accomplish everyday demands. Been there, my friend. If this is where you find yourself today, I have just the thing for you! I want to encourage you to look closely at the beautiful benedictions found throughout Scripture. Benedictions are pronouncements of divine blessing, literally meaning to “speak good”. They are short, concise, and filled to overflowing with abundant promise and hope; reminders of our Heavenly Father’s attributes and all the ways He can be trusted to care and provide for us. In just a sentence or two, these nuggets of comfort and assurance are like a breath of fresh air or cup of cool water when circumstances have made everything seem stale and parched. Take a moment to really dissect them. It might be helpful to write them on post-it notes and place them where they’re sure to be seen throughout your day. My daughter has been known to copy them onto large sheets of paper taped to the ceiling just above her bed where she can read them on those days when her health has left her flat on her back. The point being, keep filling your mind and heart with truth, no matter how small it may seem. Book lists are great, but simple one-sentence benedictions can be just as meaningful and encouraging.
In his book “On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature”, C.S. Lewis presents his thoughts about fiction and writing for children. Buried in this book is a powerful observation:
“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise, you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
Similarly, Scripture plainly states: we will encounter various trials; it’s a matter of “when”, not “if” (James 1:2) But right along side this sobering certainty, it also gives us all the hope and promise we need to know that, without a doubt, our Heavenly Father has our back! That’s what these simple benedictions provide. Even as adults, there are bends in the road of life when it’s best to keep things simple; to strip away the excess and allow ourselves to rest in a profoundly uncomplicated trust. This straightforward approach to Scripture is one way to do that as truth is applied to our minds and hearts.
And so, from 2 Thess. 2:15-17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.”
With anticipation for all the benevolent things He has in store for us, a bright and hopeful destiny.
Here are some of my favorite Benedictions:
Numbers 6:24-26 – The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.
Rom. 8:38-39 – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rom. 11:33, 36 – Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Rom. 15:5-6 – May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Cor. 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
2 Cor. 13:11 – Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Cor. 13:14 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Eph. 3:17-19 – (May) Christ dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Eph. 3:20-21 – Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Phil. 4:7 – (May) the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Col. 3:15 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Col. 3:16-17 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
2 Th. 2:16-17 – Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Philem. 25 – The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
2 Pet. 3:18 – (May you) grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
2 John 3 – Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.
Jude 24-25 – Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.