Recently I received an e-mail from a very dear friend. This is what she said:
I woke up hurting and aching about the adoption this morning, and the feeling never left. Seeking HIM and seeking the peace and clarity that only HE can give.
Could you please pray for me to find my comfort in Christ? And to trust HIM. If you have time, could you please send me a Scripture that brings you comfort in times of loss? I will meditate on it. Amy
Amy had good reason to wake up feeling sad. Her family had just found out that an adoption they had longed for and prayed for was not going to happen. They were in the midst of grieving the loss of this little one they had hoped would be theirs to raise.
We have all had feelings to deal with that we haven’t wanted to experience. It might be grief like my friend, but it could be depression, loneliness, anxiety, or anger. What we would prefer is to have the peace, joy, contentment, and comfort that comes from Jesus Christ. That sounds a great deal like the fruit of the Spirit to me. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
We want that fruit of the Spirit controlling our feelings, but how does that happen? “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).
My friend started in the right place in her desire to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh—by praying and asking for prayer support. What biblical basis do we have for this first step? “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Be careful for nothing means that we aren’t to be anxious, worried, sad, or upset about anything, whether it is an adoption that doesn’t come through, a child who is rebelling, a health obstacle, financial difficulties—the list is endless. Our directive is that we are not to entertain the negative feelings, but rather we are to pray and let God know our requests.
Not only did Amy pray herself, but she asked others to pray for her as well. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:18). We humble ourselves as we admit our weaknesses and ask for prayer. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). We all need more of God’s grace. It is in our weakness that He is shown to be strong.
Paul was often seen in the New Testament asking for prayer. Here is one example: “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25). Of all Christians, Paul’s spiritual maturity would have indicated that he could have gotten along without prayer. Paul knew, though, that his strength was not his own but his Lord’s. He depended on prayer just like we must.
These powerful verses give us another clue as to how His strength is available in our weakness. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
There is another aspect to our praying, and that is to pray with thanksgiving. We enable great power through gratitude. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is almost impossible to be sad, angry, depressed, or worried when you are being thankful. We recently hosted a young missionary who had just returned from a two-year mission trip to Ghana. He talked about how the Christians in Ghana thank God for things most American Christians never do—things like the air we breath, the sun shining, or the bed they sleep on. He challenged us to do something he had begun doing if he felt discouraged and that was to thank the Lord for five things he had never before thanked the Lord for.
When the challenge was presented, I thought it would be tough to come up with five things for which I hadn’t already thanked the Lord. The very next day I had the opportunity to try it out. Steve and I were both seeing a chiropractor, and I looked forward to our rides to and from the chiropractor together. On this day, Steve had a dental appointment before the chiropractic appointment so we met at the office and drove home separately. On the way home, I was feeling sorry for myself because I was alone without Steve’s company. So I thought, “Okay, Lord, what are five things I can thank You for that I never thanked You for before? Thank You for this street I am driving on right now. Thank You for those who made the road, and thank You for those who maintain it.” Wow, driving home was developing a thankfulness theme in my mind. “Thank You, Lord, for the engineers who designed this car that I can use to move around. Thank You, Lord, for the speed with which a car allows me to accomplish what I need to do away from home. Thank You, Lord, that we have gasoline to power this car.”
Since we will all experience unwanted, negative feelings controlling our thoughts, attitudes, or actions, as Christian women we look to the Word for direction on how to deal with those kinds of feelings. The starting place is going to be prayer. It is the foundation for the fruit of the Spirit that we desire to have ruling in our lives. Not only will we be crying out to the Lord, but we can also ask others to pray for us. Through prayer our weakness is His strength. As we turn our hearts to being thankful, that gratitude will be the bedrock of the peace the Lord Jesus brings to overcome the bad feelings from which we want to be freed. There is more I would like us to consider in overcoming unwanted feelings, so we will continue the discussion next month. P.S. I would really encourage you to read the book, Sweet Journey. It extensively addresses prayer and gives practical ideas to develop this important area of your walk with the Lord Jesus.