I love being a girl with all that is in me. I nurture my surroundings. I bring beauty to my environs. I have grown life within me. I am a girl.
BUT- I am emotional. I take things personally. I carry guilt over items that are not all my fault. I want my husband to know what I think without telling him. I want my kids to call without being prompted. I am a girl.
As a female who supposedly grew up, I now call myself a woman. The younger, girlish me assumed that by now I would have matured past where my emotions were so unwieldy. I thought by the age I am now (53!), I would have a stately, controlled, almost ethereal demeanor.
Ummmm....... not so much.
I struggle to retain a rejoicing heart and a cheerful attitude. Through five decades of life, my heart has been broken, damaged, disappointed, and confronted with the reality that life didn't really turn out like my dreams. I haven't accomplished half of what I wanted. I have fallen in ways I couldn't have imagined. Remaining joyful through it all is harder than it has ever been.
The challenge is to not allow the disappointments of life to rule my responses. When they do, I live in bitterness, and bitterness is a poison which hardens me and destroys others. The fruit of bitterness is complaints. The ailment of bitterness is blindness to all my blessings.
But the fruit of life in the Vine is joy and love. The response to Jesus is gratefulness and hope. Jesus calls me to live in faith, not discouragement and despair.
This Christmas I am looking to the Manager to find my answer to a heart, that without constant supervision, wanders into the dark hinterland. I want to continually dwell in light and peace and thankfulness, so I look to the rejoicing of the angels on a cold hillside near Bethlehem.
First, there is one angel, who appears and proclaims that his words will be "good tidings of great joy" (Luke 2:10). After explaining the miracle of Emmanuel- God with us- there is suddenly a multitude of angels. I don't know how many constitute a multitude, but I bet it is more than are usually represented in our manager scenes.
This heavenly host, which I imagine filling the sky, praises God, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:14, NASB)
There is another place in Scripture where a host brings forth praise. "The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host." (Psalm 68:11, NASB, emphasis added)
You hear that women? We are supposed to be a great host which proclaims (a verb also translated as announces, brings, spreads, publishes) the good tidings of the Lord. Just like the sky filled with the host of angels, the world needs to be filled with women who abandon their sorrow and spread the Gospel of Jesus to a world starving for Good News.
Being a Proclaimer, Not a Complainer
But how do I become a proclaimer instead of a complainer? Here is a Scripture with the cure.
Let's look at Psalm 9:1-2:
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:1-2 ESV)
Give Thanks and Tell of Wonders:
The first step to being a proclaimer is be a thanker. When I stop and THANK the Lord for His salvation, provision, protection, sufficiency, etc, the "don't have" aspects of my life fade away. My eyes stop focusing on self, and turn to gaze on Jesus. I recount the millions of small grace moments in my life. The NASB translates Psalm 9:1b as, "I will tell of all Your wonders." How could I not tell of my Savior's wonders? They are too magnificent to keep to myself.
Telling others of the wonders of the Most High proclaims His name.
Be Glad and Sing Praises:
"I will be glad and exult in you" (Psalm 9:2a, NASB). Instead of a feeling, this Scripture states gladness is a decision.
I. Will. Be. Glad. I decide to be glad as I rejoice in God. He is my source of joy, not my circumstances. The decision of gladness is self-evident after I give thanks. How could I be anything but happy as I gaze on Jesus? He loves me, He died for me, and He carries me through the crashing waves of this world. So I sing! I sing praises to His name. Just as the angels who were heard on high in Bethlehem, I also proclaim the holy wonder of God.
When It Is Too Hard
What about when I am too weak with sadness to whisper His name, much less proclaim His might? Or too sad to lift my head? Or too mad to open my mouth?
What about when I have LEGITIMATE reasons to complain?
Life happens, and sometimes the difficulties threaten to overwhelm and drown me. I worry about our kids, I work for my marriage, I fight for my family, I struggle with daily needs. I am not enough- not strong enough, not patient enough, not neat enough, not pretty enough, not happy enough. Where do I get the strength to go on?
Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us. ... Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel--he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God! (Psalm 68:28, 35 ESV, emphasis added)
Trust in Him Who works for me with power:
In the American, can-do, individualistic spirit with which I was raised (and which in many cases serves me well) I can forget how weak and needy I am. Because I think I should be capable to do all, handle all, muscle through all, figure out all- my initial response to every situation is to do, do, do. When I fail, I wallow in despair, and then the complaints flow like a torrent from my soul.
Truth: I cannot do it all. I cannot figure it all out. I am not enough. But, He doesn't expect me to be. He IS enough; He gives me the strength I need.
When I stop and rest in His power, I proclaim His sufficiency and ability to the world around me.
Rest in The Power He Gives:
There is so much good news with Jesus- but one piece that I am particularly fond of is that HE gives the strength and power I need to walk this life: "The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people." (Psalm 68:35b, NASB, emphasis added)
I think every time I complain about my weariness or my circumstances, My Lord must shake His head in wonder- why don't I turn to Him to receive the strength I need? He doesn't expect me to be powerful enough to navigate the rapids on my own. He is ready to give me the needed resources.
A complaining, bitter spirit proclaims the inability of God to meet my needs and carry me through.
But the strength and power of the Lord operating in my life powerfully proclaims His love and sufficiency.
Don't misunderstand me- there is room during trials for sorrow, tears, grief, anger, and confusion. God is not afraid of our disappointments, He can handle them and wants us to bring them to Him. As sisters in Christ, we should be able to be transparent and honest. We should pray for each other's needs and sorrows.
HOWEVER..... and this is a BIG however...
WE. CAN'T. STAY. THERE.
The complainer remains angry and sad about the negative circumstances.
In contrast, the Proclaimer rests in her Lord until He strengthens her enough to believe He can work even this out. She can't. He can.
A Great Host of Praising Women
"The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host." (Psalm 68:11, NASB)
To lay aside complaining, and actively take up proclaiming is a decision I must make every day. But it is the best, life-giving decision I can make.
Who wants to join me? Who wants to shout the good news of the Gospel of Jesus to a world desperately in need of good news?
Who wants give thanks, be glad, and sing praises?
Who wants to trust and rest in His power?
Come on women- let us be a great host of Proclaimers for our Jesus!