Life doesn’t always go the way we plan, does it?
Or should I say, life never seems to go the way we plan it.
You could have made plans to restore this summer – to go on a vacation with your family or a fun getaway weekend with friends. To read certain books or to spend a certain amount of time in prayer. To connect in a special way with people you don’t normally see.
But then life happens. Someone gets sick. You get sick. Someone needs you unexpectedly. A work project takes longer than it was supposed to. A relationship flares that zaps you of needed mental and emotional energy.
And out the window go all your plans for restoration.
But can I gently remind you (and me) of something? It isn’t our perfectly made plans that restore us.
It’s relationship with our perfect God.
And when it comes to relationship with God, it’s never too late to restore. In fact, it’s essential.
Augustine says it this way in his book, Confessions:
You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.
Augustine’s words stand as true today as they were when he wrote them almost 1800 years ago. Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.
Our home and ultimate haven and source of security and stability, refreshment and rest, isn’t our vacation plans, or our reading list, or our health, or our kids’ health, or our load at work.
It’s God Himself. It’s how our hearts take active rest, delight, enjoyment, pleasure, and trust in the One who made us for Himself.
Even if the summer season didn’t go the way you planned it to, and even if it’s early August and your heart is still restless and worried, stressed and harried, it’s not too late to draw near to God and find in Him the restoration your soul needs.
Can I tell you where I’ve found that restoration this summer?
In the words of Psalm 119.
In his commentary on the Psalms, Derek Kidner writes, “Every reference [in Psalm 119] to Scripture, without exception, relates it explicitly to its Author; every verse is a prayer or affirmation addressed to Him. This is true piety: a love of God not desiccated by study but refreshed, informed, and nourished by it. It is on God’s account that we love the writings that reveal Him.”
Psalm 119 has helped me fall in love with its Author all over again. It’s words have restored my soul because they have pointed me in the direction of the Restorer Himself and the life that is found in His words.
Earlier this spring, I heard Tim Keller, one of my favorite pastors and authors, suggest that to study Psalm 119 is to help eliminate “low level hypocrisy” in our lives. A hypocrisy that goes to church, reads Christian books, talks about spiritual things, even gives financially towards spiritual matters, but keeps our own hearts far from God. While we acknowledge the Bible needs to have its way with other people, we refuse to let it have its way in us.
To guard against this low-level hypocrisy and find the true rest and restoration we all need, he suggested reading Psalm 119 and answering these three questions as you go:
- What is the Bible?
- What does the Bible do?
- What does the Bible say I should do?
So this summer, each morning I took one stanza of Psalm 119 (there are 22 in all, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet), and slowly read it over, highlighting in a different color the answers to each of Keller’s questions.
Then I used Tim Keller’s devotional book on the psalms, The Songs of Jesus, to read that stanza’s corresponding devotional thought and prayer.
Finally, I prayed through the stanza of the psalm myself, using Keller’s questions as prompts and guides:
- Lord, thank you that Your Word is…
- Thank You that Your Word does…
- Please help me obey and do what Your Word says.
Once I went through each stanza once, I went through them all again, this time with Derek Kidner’s commentary. I found my mind and heart were able to focus and understand the psalm in fresh and new ways reading Psalm 119 the second time through.
Friends, I am telling you, I entered this summer weary and dry, dreading the load ahead that waits for me this fall.
But I am entering this new season refreshed and restored. Not because all of my plans went so perfectly this summer (see last month’s blog post), but because I found rest in the sacred Scriptures that reveal the person of my God.
I do not know what your plans look like for the rest of the summer or fall, or if you are entering this new season as refreshed and restored as you thought you would be.
But if not, don’t despair. Restoration can always be found in the presence of our God who loves to water the dry ground of our hearts with HIs Word, no matter what our circumstances have been.
Who then are you, my God?…Most high, utterly good, utterly powerful, most omnipotent, most merciful and most just, deeply hidden yet most intimately present, perfection of both beauty and strength, stable and incomprehensible, immutable and yet changing all things, never new, never old, making everything new…always active, always in repose, gathering to yourself but not in need, supporting and filling and protecting, creating and nurturing and bringing to maturity, searching even though to you nothing is lacking…You recover what you find, yet have never lost. Never in any need, you rejoice in your gains (Luke 15:7)…You pay off debts, though owing nothing to anyone; you cancel debts and incur no loss…..Our heart is restless until it rests in you. ~Saint Augustine
It’s not too late to think through restorative rhythms for the remainder of your summer or how they will carry you into fall. To help you with this process, I created a new tool called How to Restore. So if you haven’t used it yet, click here to download, and prepare your heart to enter the season of this new school year.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.