Susannah Baker

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Video: Encouragement for Moms

Happy Mother’s Day! While we are so thankful for the children God has given us, parenting can be hard on the heart. If you or your children are walking through a season of loneliness, don’t despair. Know God is using it for great good in their lives and in yours as well.

For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.

While You Were Sleeping

On May 4, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Encouragement, With 5 Comments

Last week I shared the struggle I was having in sleeping through the night (click here to read). Through the words of Psalm 63, God reminded me to make a meal of His presence in the middle of the night instead of my worry. He also reminded me that when seasons of sleeplessness come (and they will – it’s part of being human), I am to remember His faithfulness and meditate on His word. Those two things provide comfort in the midst of despair, stability in the midst of uncertainty, and courage in the midst of fear.

Over the past week, through remembering and meditating on God’s word, my sleep has been much more sound, something for which I am deeply grateful. (If you want access to the questions and guide I use at night to help settle my heart and mind, it is attached to this blog post as well.)

But I’ve noticed when I wake up from a night of sleeping more soundly, I have to brush off a sense of despair the next morning. If I wasn’t awake worrying about my problems, was God actually and actively doing anything about them? Or did He need me to be awake in the middle of the night to keep things moving along in the direction I want them to go?

(I know this sounds ridiculous, but if I’m being honest and paying attention to the narrative of my heart, this is what I’m hearing.)

So one morning this weekend, after waking up from a night of sound sleep and actually feeling rested, I paused to ask God if He had been doing anything while I was sleeping. Because everything around me still looked the same. Same kitchen sink. Same view out my window. Same birds still chirping. Same people around me waking up with the same daily needs.

In the stillness, He invited me to take another look through another lens at the view outside my window.

And instead of seeing the same, I saw different. I saw a God who had been working, and I saw a world that had been renewed all while I had been sleeping.

I saw fields wet with dew that God had watered. I saw birds building nests with twigs and feeding babies with worms God had provided. I saw green grass sprouting up beside the withered brown, carpeting the world with newness. I saw a sky that had been painted with the dawn and a sun that had been summoned peeking up over the edge of the horizon ready to light up a dark world.

I saw the evidence of a God who had been working all the night through while I was sleeping re-painting, re-newing, re-telling the world and all who live in it the narrative of our lives: at the end of every night, there is a morning. At the edge of all darkness, there is a coming light. In every death and all that is withered, there is the promise of all that is new.

A dawn that breaks with hope. A morning that comes with healing in its wings, telling those of us who will stop long enough to listen that we have a God who never stops faithfully working, watering, feeding, clearing, harvesting, and renewing.

I can sleep as deeply and as soundly as I want. He does not need my worry. He cannot help but work to renew – that is just the kind of God He is. So don’t despair. You can trust the canvas of your life to the God who paints dawn onto darkness, all while you were sleeping.

“But for you who fear My Name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” Malachi 4:2

For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah.

When You Find It Hard to Sleep

On April 29, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Encouragement, With No Comments

I’ve been awake at night quite a lot lately. Tossing, turning, eyes wide open, thoughts racing.

The last time this happened with this much regularity was when we brought our youngest daughter home from China four and a half years ago. I spent the first six months she was home wide awake from about midnight until my alarm went off at 6am. It led to a season of anxiety and depression on a level I haven’t experienced since.

So entering into seasons of sleeplessness can freak me out a little. I grow anxious that I am headed for another season marked by anxiety and depressions. (Sounds counter-productive, I know.)

But I learned a few things during that season of sleeplessness that I dusted off and pulled back out to try to help me sleep in the current season we are in.

Because there are a lot of things to wake up in the middle of the night about right now – things like a global pandemic, people I love who are in the high-risk category of catching the virus, a crashed national economy, closed stores and restaurants, joblessness, finances – or the lack thereof, and family dynamics with everyone home seven days out of the week.

While I might not be aware during the waking hours that I am overtly anxious about anything, what I am discovering is a low-level constant thrum of anxiety that underscores everything in my day and wakes me up when I am fast asleep at night.

My body has responded to this low-level thrum with headaches as well as sleeplessness, and after my fifth headache in ten days, I realized I had to get serious about dealing with the anxiety that was settling in on my soul.

Sometimes I can beat myself up for things like sleeplessness or headaches or weariness when I know I should be sleeping soundly and trusting the Lord instead of fretting and worrying underneath the surface.

So I was comforted and surprised to open my Bible to Psalm 63 this weekend and read these words:

(5) “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips,
(6) when I remember You upon my bed,
and meditate on You in the watches of the night;
(7) for You have been my help,
and in the shadow of Your wings
I will sing for joy.
(8) My soul clings to You;
Your Right Hand upholds me.”
Psalm 63:5-8

I was comforted to read that inserted into the Psalm 63 is the assumption that we will be up in the watches of the night. In other words, God knows there will be times, like times when there is a global pandemic, that His people will struggle to sleep.

He doesn’t berate us or beat us up for that, rather, He instructs us what to do and where to go when we find our thoughts racing at 3am. In verses five and six, David, the psalmist, implies that he is feasting on a meal in the middle of the night. But instead of feeding on worry, the psalmist implies he is feasting on God, so much so that his soul is “satisfied as with fat and rich food.” He isn’t making a meal of his worry; he is making a meal of His God. And he does that in two different ways:

He remembers.

He meditates.

Earlier on in the psalm in verses 2-3, he writes, “So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You.” In these verses, David is choosing to remember three specific things about God: His power – God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do, His glory – who He is is more satisfying than anything else this world could offer, and His steadfast love – in a world where the only thing certain is uncertainty, God’s love never fails.

These are the things that hold David’s thoughts and feed David’s soul in the middle of the night.

Throughout Scripture, God’s people are commanded to remember who God is and what God does – His saving acts in history and His personal saving acts towards us.

And we are commanded to remember because we are a people prone to forget. I forget what we ate for dinner last night and the activities we did two days much less the countless ways God was faithful in my life a decade ago.

But when I wake up in the middle of the night, I have a choice: I can feed my worry by rehearsing all the ways I could fail the next day, all of the things that could go, and probably will go, wrong, or I can remember God’s power, glory, and steadfast love to His people throughout the centuries and in my very own life.

I’ll take the latter.

But it’s so very hard to do.

That’s why the second way David makes a meal of God’s character is so very helpful. Not only does he remember God’s character and God’s works, but he also meditates. He takes a passage, a verse, a phrase, or even a word or two from the Word of God and thinks through all of its implications for life (for a more complete definition of “meditate,” see Tim Keller’s book, The Songs of Jesus, January 1st). In other words, he slowly, deliberately, and methodically takes tiny morsels from the Word of God and feeds on them, chews them, and digests them by applying them to the very real needs and potential trouble spots or worries in his life.

While this sounds like a great practice, I don’t know about you, but this is very hard to do at 3:13am when my eyes pop wide open, my heart starts pounding, and my thoughts start racing. It feels like I have absolutely no control over my thoughts that are spiraling out of control.

But I have found that with God’s Word, I do. Sometimes this requires getting out of bed, taking my Bible in hand, and finding a quiet spot in the house to read and pray through Scripture until I am to fall back asleep.

But more often than that, remembering and meditating begins with the last thing I do before I fall asleep. I keep a Bible on the nightstand beside my bed, and right before I am about to turn out the light, I turn to one of a handful of psalms that speak to me about the faithfulness and goodness of God. I slowly read through the Psalm and choose one or two phrases to “meditate on,” or think specifically and deliberately about for three to five minutes.

To help me do this, I sometimes even take deep breaths – four counts in and eight counts out – and then I pray, committing my night’s sleep to the Lord, and turn out my light.

This exercise does not ensure I will sleep through the night – but what it does ensure that when my eyes pop open, my heart starts beating out of my chest, and my mind starts racing, I am more easily able to reign it in by remembering phrases from the psalm I read before I turned out my light.

I will often lie there in the dark taking deep breaths – four counts in, eight counts out – and rehearse Psalm 37:3 – “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.”

Or I will slowly chew on the words from Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Or I will meditate on the character of God from Psalm 19:14 – “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

I have found the faster I can reign in my thoughts and focus on God, the faster I can slow down my heart, close my eyes, and reign my swirling thoughts back in. I don’t always fall back into a sound sleep, but when I make a meal out of God’s power, glory, and steadfast love rather than gorge myself on fretful thoughts about the next day, next month, or the next year, I wake up rested and able to enter into the duties of the day instead of feeling like I wrestled all night with an unseen enemy.

If you are struggling with sleeplessness during this season like me, consider putting a Bible, journal, and pen by your bed. Before turning off the light, consider picking one portion of Scripture to read, and then meditate on one or two phrases from that portion for 3-5 minutes. Take deep breaths – four counts in, eight counts out – and to close your time, write down one way God has been faithful in the past, either to you or to His people throughout history, and then write down one of His characteristics you can feed on during the night if your mind jolts you awake.

If you are not sure where to begin reading in your Bible at night, consider starting with some of my favorite places to turn: Psalm 4, Psalm 16, Psalm 23, Psalm 37, Psalm 63, Psalm 131, and Psalm 143. You can spend a whole week reading slowly and deliberately though one, or rotate through all seven, assigning a different one for each day of the week.

You can print off the image below and use it to help you create a bedtime routine, or follow the prompts and write them down in your own journal. But whatever you do, don’t feed on worry. It makes for a terrible meal and leaves you without energy for the responsibilities of the following day. But feed on God’s faithfulness. He has been there in the past and He will continue to be with us in the present and future, through every wakeful night and day.





For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah.


Video: Listening to the Voice of the Heart

Learning to find comfort and peace when our normal comforts are gone requires listening to the heart and allowing God to meet our needs. But God’s Word tells us it is possible to have abundance even in seasons of leanness when we trust in Him.

To order your copy of Chip Dodd’s book The Voice of the Heart, click here.

For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah

When It’s Hard to Have Closer Family Relationships

On April 20, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Encouragement, With 9 Comments

School is cancelled. Let me say that again – school is officially cancelled. And while that may bring shouts of joy and cheer to our children, it could also bring sobs of deep anguish from parents. While stay-at-home restrictions are gradually being lifted, we still have a long road of close quarters ahead of us.

My pastor, Gregg Matte, preached a great sermon yesterday. His text was Philippians 4:1-5, and while he drew many great points from the passage, one point in particular keeps rolling around in my heart and head: during this time of corona quarantine, the number one goal isn’t knocking it out of the park on your kid’s algebra homework, and it isn’t making sure they have all A’s by the end of the semester in just a few short weeks. The number one goal by the end of this stay-at-home time, however long it lasts, is to have closer relationships – first with God, and then with one another.

Four weeks ago, closer family relationships sounded really nice. It sounded comfortable and cozy and fun. Like we would all just sit around and play board games, take bike rides, and eat dinner around the table together every night. But now, closer family relationships sound downright exhausting. Can I be frank for just one moment? I don’t want to be closer to people in my family right now. I want to have a stay-at-home week by myself. With no people in it. And that’s because, at this point, we have all been in close quarters for so long, all the cozy, comfortable, niceness has worn off. We are now relating to each other out of the frayed edges of weariness and boredom with no end in sight.

Close relationship with my family members is going to require more than a board game or a nice meal around the table together. It’s going to require repentance and forgiveness.

And that’s because, in the words of my pastor, “A different set of social circumstances can both reveal and heal problems.” (To listen to his full sermon, click here.)

Many things have been healed over the past few weeks. Slowing down and staying home together has taken the edge of hurry out of my voice and enabled me to speak kindly and tenderly to my children instead of impatiently and angrily. It’s allowed me to enjoy my children instead of just managing my children and getting them out the door for the next activity.

But this time has also revealed things in me, my marriage, my children, and my extended family relationships. It’s revealed the true dynamic of our relationships, not just the pretend dynamic it’s easy to put on when you only have a few hours to be around someone. A few weeks? Now that’s a different story.

So what now? If you, like me, find yourself more argumentative and irritable than you were a few weeks ago, hit the pause button on relationships that seem to be pressing on a particular nerve. Take the advice of 17th century British pastor and poet George Herbert and “Take some time to be alone; see what thy soul doth wear.”

Maybe taking some time alone means getting up earlier than anyone else in your house. Maybe it means taking a walk by yourself where you can out think and pray. Or maybe it means escaping to a quiet corner of the driveway or backyard while everyone else is inside watching a movie (this is what movies for children are for – to help moms regain their sanity).

But whatever you do, be quiet and still enough to allow God do some searching of you instead of you doing all the searching and talking to God.

Only God has both the power and the goodness to see into the human heart and not only show us what is there but help us walk out of the habits and patterns that hinder relational intimacy with the people we love most and then lead us in a way that is everlasting and true (Psalm 139:23-24)/LINK.

What this requires from us is enough humility to sit still and listen. It requires us be willing to admit we don’t have all the answers and it requires us being willing to admit whenever there is an argument, rub, or misunderstanding, it takes two to tango. The problem usually never lies completely with the other person – we have to own our part as well.

This past week, it took me a full week to be willing to admit my part. It took a lot of wrestling, soul searching, and prayer.

But finally, once I was able to admit I had far more pride than I had dared to believe, I was able to repent, not just to the Lord but to the person I had wronged.

This stay-at-home time God has given us is to build closer relationships. But we are naive to think that closeness will come without conflict and without repentance. At some point, somebody’s going to have to give. Somebody’s going to have to say, “I’m sorry.” Somebody is going to have to take ownership for their part in a disagreement or a relational dynamic that seems entirely the other person’s fault. And then, and only then, will healing come.

Your conflict could be with your spouse or with your teenager or with your toddler. It could be with your roommate or your co-worker or your boss or your parents or your extended family.

But the fact of the matter is: this closeness is a gift and these people aren’t going away. Not for a while at least. So take the time to deal with the rut in your heart and the rut in the relationship, own your part, seek forgiveness, and move on. Or the rub can continue into the days and weeks ahead and instead of emerging from this time closer to the people you love, you will walk away with deeper ruts and higher walls. What it will cost you is your pride. But take it from a fellow traveller – pride isn’t worth holding onto. It makes for a terrible quarantine companion.

But humility lays the ground for real relationships and healed relationships instead of drawn battle lines and rifts in relationships.

So lay down your defenses, get alone with God, and get real about your pride. Pick up repentance and draw close to God and others in humility. Real, restored relationship is waiting.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.

Philippians 4:1-5

For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on instagram @baker.susannah

An Interview with Jason Baker: Steady Hope in Unsteady Times

On April 17, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Encouragement, Video Weekly Words, With 12 Comments

At the end of the week with mounting pressure and growing weariness, I interviewed my husband, Jason, a business owner here in Houston. We talk openly and honestly about the challenges and necessity of depending on God and His Word and what this looks like from a practical standpoint each and every day.

For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah

Learning How to Pray the Real Me to the Real God

On April 13, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Prayer, With 4 Comments

We all wear so many masks. In order to survive and safeguard our hearts, we pretend to be people we are not in order to gain acceptance as the people we think we ought to be.

Prayer is the one place on earth my masks can completely come off. Prayer is the one place on earth I can go, shut the door, leave behind all the masks, roles, and responsibilities and show my real self to a very real and waiting God.

But this un-masking of myself has been a long and painful process. It has taken a long time to learn that I can trust the God who is really there and really listening. My un-masking has come gradually; it has been a slow stripping of my outer layers of self-protection, layers that include performance, fear, anger, unforgiveness, envy, self-pity, and of course, pride.

This is why my favorite quote about prayer comes from C.S. Lewis: “The prayer that precedes all prayers is may the real me meet the real you.”

Otherwise, what’s the point? What’s the point of praying to God as a dressed up version of ourselves? Doesn’t He know the depths of the hurt and wickedness and sadness and hopes and dreams and loneliness of our hearts anyway?

So if prayer isn’t about being honest, then what’s it about? It’s more like hypocrisy than true spirituality. And this world doesn’t need anymore hypocrites. What it needs, perhaps now more than ever, is very real sinners praying in very real humility, need, and grace, before a very real God.

But as strange as it sounds, praying honestly and transparently before God is really hard work. More times than not, I find myself dressing up my words and phrases before God, trying to make myself sound good, right, holy, acceptable, or at least phrase my prayers in something that sounds like “Christianese.” Many times, I have to stop, scratch out the pretense I have been praying, pause, expose my heart, and pray the emotions, feelings, and words that make up real praying. And that’s when the real relationship and heart change with God really begins. He can’t do anything with a heart that’s dressed up, playing pretend. But He can do incredible things with a heart that comes raw, naked, vulnerable, real, hurting, sad, angry, transparent, but ready and waiting to let Him in.

So how do we get there? How do we get to the place where we are consistently praying real words and not just pretend ones?

Like I said, it’s not something I’ve mastered or that’s easy to do. But here are a few things I do to help my real words come out instead of the pretend ones:

  1. Set a timer and spend the first five minutes of your prayer time putting pen to paper and letting all the words come out. Don’t start your prayer time saying the things you think God wants to hear. Say the things you want Him to hear; say the things you really need to say. I’ve found the best way to do this is I set a timer for five minutes, I pick up my pen and my journal, and I just start writing. I tell Him exactly where I am in those moments. Sometimes I don’t even pick up my pen from the paper. I just write a long stream of thoughts and words and let it all flow out: “LordIamtiredthismorningandwanttogobacktobedIdon’tknowifIcandothisdayornotandIamgoingtoneedYourhelpPleasehelpmeGod.” Or, “I’mreallytickedoffatmychildrenandIdontwantanyonetotouchmetodaypleasehelpmewanttobearoundthemOGod.” If I’m angry, I tell Him I’m angry. If I’m sad, I tell Him I’m sad. If I’m thankful and content and excited to face the day, I tell Him I’m thankful. But I start those first five minutes by telling Him exactly where I am, not where I think I ought to be. If I don’t do this, I find the rest of my prayer time I am distracted, angry, worried, unable to focus on the task at hand. But if I can show up to God and tell Him where I really am, then I am able to fully present to the real Him and His very real Word for the rest of our time together.
  2. Write a Lament. A lament is simply this: a complaint. And this might sound strange, but many times the best way to put your trust in God is to complain to God. Sixty-seven of the psalms are laments, more than any other type of psalm. God knows that while we are on this earth, we will have trouble. We will experience great heartache. And our complaints and suffering are not off-limits to God; in fact, they are welcomed. Far better to complain and pour out your heart to God than to anyone else about your spouse, child, neighbor, friend, or co-worker, for He is the only one who can actually do anything about it. He alone holds access to all human hearts and has the power not only change them but to change you. So pour out your words to Him, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and then once you do, leave them there. I find that when I lament and complain to God, by the end, I have left the whole matter in His good, capable Hands. I am not only reminded of my troubles but of the power and capabilities of the One I am complaining to. But if I do not take the time or effort to put my lament into words, I end up processing it to other people or letting it affect my mood the rest of the day. So when you go to God, lament. Complain. And then leave it in God’s capable hands. And if you need an example of a lament to follow, Psalm 42, 43, or 143 are all great places to start.
  3. Confess your sin. Real prayer to a real God is hindered by our very real sin. If you lack the desire to pray or be in God’s presence, perhaps it is because there is sin in your life you need to confess. If you have sin that you know is wrong, but you don’t want to confess it as wrong – unforgiveness, envy, self-pity, discontentment – then start by saying, “Lord, I know it’s wrong to not forgive my friend, but to be honest, I hate him in my heart. He’s really hard to love. Forgive me for not wanting to forgive, and help my unbelief.” Many times with sin that I know is wrong but I have no desire to let go of, I start with the prayer, “Lord, I want to believe, I want to confess; help my unbelief” (see Mark 9:24). And the amazing thing is, He always does. He gets my heart to the place He knows it needs to be. But it starts with me being honest about where I really am, not where I think I should be, and being willing to ask for help.
  4. Pray your real desires, not the pretend ones. So many times, I have found I hold back from praying my real desires to God because they seem foolish or vain. Or, if I am really honest, instead of praying my desires, I bury my desires. Better to have a desire that is dead, buried underground, than to have it on the surface with God, vulnerable, naked, exposed, at risk to His “No” or “Not right now.” One of the most painful parts of prayer for me has been unearthing the desires of my heart I have kept buried for years and bringing them up and out into the light, holding them before God, asking Him to do something about them. But what I have discovered is that while God rarely answers my requests in the way I was hoping or wanting Him to, He answers in a way that gives me more of Himself – more trust, more faith, more hope, more awe, more wonder, more dependency on my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
  5. If you don’t know where to start or what to pray, use the Psalms as your template. God knew we would need a template to follow, a song book sung through the ages by His people, including His very own Son, to give us words when we needed them the most. He knew we would need permission to know it is ok to cry, to complain, to grieve, to question, to wonder, to doubt, and to sit in the dark. When life happens and we don’t know what to say or how to pray, turn to the psalms. Let their words shape your own, and use them to not only be encouraged by the stories of the people of God, but learn to insert your own stories into their phrases as well.

Perhaps more than any other time in our lives, we need to be people of prayer. God is not looking for perfect prayers, but He is looking for real people who are willing to be honest about where they really are, what they really need, and the God they are expecting to really show up and move. Let’s commit to learning how to pray to this very real and good God together.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:5-8

To listen to more on the importance of prayer and why we pray, you can listen here on YouTube.

For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah

Reason to Praise

On April 10, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Easter, Video Weekly Words, With 2 Comments

To prepare our hearts for Easter this weekend, let’s look at Psalm 47 together to find reason to praise no matter what season we are in.

For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah

The Coronavirus and the Prince of Peace

On April 6, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Easter, With 4 Comments

I’m going to be honest – this week, I’m tired in a way I haven’t been.  We are going on week three of stay-at-home orders, and while everything in our world has changed, absolutely nothing in my world changes on a day-to-day basis. 

I get up, spend prayerful time in God’s Word, make breakfast, do dishes, start household chores, make sure all the people do all the things required for homeschool, make lunch, do dishes, finish up homeschool, squeeze in some writing, touch base with family members or friends via a call, text, wave, or conversation on the street six feet apart, make dinner, do dishes (have I mentioned that I wash a lot of dishes?), and then go to bed only to wake up and do it all over again.

It’s like Groundhog Day but with the world falling apart on your doorstep. 

But this week, in the midst of all that is the same, one thing is radically different: Easter is coming.  We remember the cross on Friday and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday.  And while everything in our lives is the same and shut down, one thing remains consistently open – the empty tomb.  Our hearts have access to its promise and its power every single moment of every single day.

This is a hope and truth I am looking forward to drawing courage and strength from every single day this week.

I know we’d all like to be delivered from our locked houses this week.  We would all love to go outside and watch our kids hunt Easter eggs with cousins and neighbors.  We would all love to run up to the grocery store, glove-free, and buy candy elbow-to-elbow with the person standing in line next to us.  We would all love to attend a big family brunch or dinner and see the faces and hug the necks of the people we know and love so well. We would all love to put on our Easter clothes and drive to church on Sunday morning and enter a packed building with the people of God and celebrate His power and goodness together.

But while we cannot do any of those things this Easter, while we cannot exit the locked doors of our houses, we can ask Jesus to help us exit from the locked doors of our hearts.

In Luke 5:17-26, an account is given of Jesus healing a man who is a paralytic.  His friends lower him through the roof in order to gain access to Jesus, and as the man lays in front of Him, Jesus says, “’Man, your sins are forgiven you’” (Luke 5:20).  The scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, are infuriated by such a statement.  They “began to question, saying, ‘Who is this who speaks blasphemies?  Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Luke 5:21)

Exactly.  Great question.  Actually, that’s the question: who can forgive sins except God?  To say to a man with locked legs on a mat, “Get up,” is one thing.  But to say to a man with a locked heart, full of sin, sorrow, pain, and death, “Get up,” is quite another.  The first requires a man under the influence of God; prophets from the past like Elijah had performed miracles of healing before.  But the second requires a man who is God.  Only God can wipe the slate of a person’s past free and hand them the key to exit the prison of sin, hell, and death. 

But that’s exactly what Jesus did.

“When Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts?  Which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Rise and walk”?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – He said to the man who was paralyzed – ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’  And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God” (Luke 5:22-25).

Jesus’ message was this: God can use anyone He chooses to heal lame legs.  But God Himself is the only one who can heal lame hearts. 

God Himself is the only one who can go behind the locked doors of our sin, shame, guilt, mistakes from our past, and fears for our present and future, and say to our hearts, “Get up, and walk.  You are a slave to sin no more.”

That’s the message I am dwelling on this week.  And that’s the message that is giving me hope.  In a way, I am so thankful for all of the locked doors in our land.  The locked doors are forcing each and every one of us to get quiet, be still, and take a good, long look at the locked doors of our own hearts. 

Because we all have them.  We have all been infected by this virus of sin, even if we have not been infected by corona.  Any human doctor God so chooses can give us a cure to the corona virus.  But only one person can give us the cure to the virus of sin.  And that’s the virus we all need healing from.

If you feel locked down by the sin in your past or by the fear in present and future, then hear this today: there is no locked door in your past, present, or future, that Jesus cannot unlock.  When Jesus rose from the dead, His disciples were huddled together in a locked room, full of fear.  They were so afraid the authorities were going to do to them what they had done to Jesus – torture, crucifixion, and death.

But Jesus appears among them and goes right through the locked door in their hiding place. His first message to His disciples post-resurrection is this: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).  Not peace from their circumstances – the threat of persecution and death from the authorities was still very real.  But peace in their circumstances – peace with God, peace from their sin, and peace in their relationships with one another.

Would it have been easy for Jesus to circumvent the cross and conquer the Roman rulers of His day, placing Himself on Jerusalem’s throne as king over the whole world, instituting world-wide “peace”?  Absolutely.  But people still would have been ravaged by the disease of sin.

It was far more difficult to do what Jesus did.  In order to give His people peace from their sin in and through every circumstance, He offered Himself as their sacrificial lamb on the cross.  And because of that, we have peace that can never be taken away. 

It ‘s a peace that goes behind every locked door and provides the key to unlock every heart.  Jesus’ peace rules over every virus, every fear, every circumstance, even death itself.  Because of the peace He gives, death no longer has the final say over us.  The peace of Christ does.  And when we take our final breath, He will take us home to be with Him. 

That, my friends, is peace. 

As strange as it sounds, this corona virus is a gift.  It’s a gift that locks the doors to our homes so that we can get real about the doors of our hearts.

If you have never given your life to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, today is the day.  Jesus has come to deliver you from the consequences of your sin and death to give you peace with God, eternal life, and relationship with Him. 

If you have already surrendered your life to Christ, then take the time to let Jesus in to every locked door in your heart.  What is keeping you from experiencing real, intimate joy and peace?  Are you numbing out to responding to His voice and receiving His peace by watching the news, looking at screens, monitoring your bank account, reaching for food or alcohol, searching for toilet paper and paper towels, and being consumed by the worries and cares of this world (see Luke 21:34-36)?

This week, do the hard but necessary work of letting Jesus in.  Take your eyes off of your circumstances and turn them onto the Prince of Peace.  Receive His Holy Spirit that walks through every wall, forgives every sin, calms every fear, and heals every heart for those who are willing to humble themselves and seek His Face (John 20:22; Psalm 24:3-6).

So while each and every day is the same, with Jesus in our midst, each day has the hope of being different.  Each day offers the hope of the One who did the hard work of achieving peace with God so that we could have eternal relationship with Him.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you….Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:18-20, 27

For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah

Standing Strong

On April 2, 2020, Posted by , in Coronavirus, Video Weekly Words, With 3 Comments

In the midst of uncertain times, it is easy to become paralyzed with fear or fix our hope on uncertain things. But none of the events taking place in our world are taking God by surprise. He foretold them centuries ago and tells us how to walk through them with our gaze firmly fixed on Him. Take a moment to look with me at Luke 21 to see how.