God restores my soul
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month - what do you turn to ? Chocolate ? Alcohol ? When you are overwhelmed or exhausted by life, what helps you to relax and chill out ? Perhaps a night on the town, a good book, or a long walk, are more your style ? We probably all have several things we turn to, to help us unwind or get back onto an even keel. Because, if one thing doesn't work, maybe the next one will. But do they always help ? Do you always feel better afterwards ? Or sometimes, does nothing seem to help
I wonder where God is on our list of things we turn to ? Or do we keep God in reserve, for emergency use only ? Do we have to be in a crisis before we ask God for help ?
The Psalmist says "God restores my soul", because he recognises that he cannot restore himself - and neither can we ! However hard we try, however reluctant we may be to admit it, there are some things we cannot do ourselves. Although we may temporarily hide from problems, deaden pain, or ignore a situation, for lasting help, for true restoration and renewal, we need God, because only God can restore us.
In our reading from the book of Isaiah, the Israelites have been defeated, and are living in exile, far from home. They feel lost, disconnected, overwhelmed. They believe God has abandoned them. Isaiah's words to them from God, are challenging, soul-stirring, uplifting.
God reminds the Israelites that he created the world and everything in it. He knows what's going on. He is in charge. He hears their prayers. He is with them. And, in his time, he will renew and restore them.
God knew and loved the Israelites, as he knows and loves each one of us.
There will be times in all our lives, when we are the weak and the wobbly sheep that the shepherd lovingly carries. Sometimes, when we are despairing, lost, disconnected, God comforts us, wiping away our tears. But that isn't always what we need. When we feel so overwhelmed or crushed beneath our problems that we can't see beyond them, can't see anything else, then we too may need to be reminded of who God is. Reminded that God is bigger, stronger, and more powerful, than anything we will ever face.
Asking God for help, is not 'wishing on a star', it's asking for help from the one who created the stars ! . . . and the universe ! . . . and everything that it contains ! But more than that, we are asking for help from God who delights in us ! Who stands ready to help us. Who wants to support us, to strengthen us, to guide us.
When we talk to God in prayer, we can be confident that he always hears us. He is never too tired to listen. Never too busy for us. Never distracted. God is always there. Listening. Patient. Loving. Wanting to help. Waiting to be asked. Probably wishing we'd turned to him sooner, instead of struggling alone, reluctant to ask for help.
So often, we are determined to be independent, to prove that we don't need anyone else, that we don't turn to God for help. So our problems increase, our burdens grow heavier. We become more overwhelmed, more fragile, more exhausted, more lost, more disconnected, and ever more in need of God's restoration.
You may be interested to know that in the dictionary, the word 'restore' has several slightly different meanings
Restore can mean to give back something that has been lost or stolen. God promises us his peace and joy, but too often, we are guilty of allowing his gifts to be stolen from us, squeezed out of us by life, and the things around us. But God can restore these to us, if we ask him.
Restore can also mean to return something to its former condition. When we think of God restoring us, it's probably when we are overwhelmed, damaged, hurting or broken. Then, God puts our broken pieces back together, repairing us, and restoring us to our former condition.
Fortunately for us, this is not a one-time deal, because we repeatedly need this sort of restoration. So this becomes an ongoing process - God has restored us, God does restore us, and God will restore us - throughout this life, whatever difficulties or demands, traumas or tensions we face.
But to restore something, can also mean to return it to its original condition. Completely renewing it, so that it becomes what it was originally created to be. Our relationship with God was damaged by sin, and needs this sort of restoration. Our relationship with God needs to be completely renewed and transformed - before it can be as God originally intended.
During this season of Advent, we look forward to the birth of the babe of Bethlehem - who was a first step in God's salvation plan for the world. But we also look far beyond that, in anticipation and expectation, as we await Christ's return at the end of time. Only then, will our relationship with God be fully restored to its original condition. Only then, will we finally come know God in the way he originally intended. Only then, will our restoration be complete, perfect, and last for the whole of eternity !
Of course, as with all prayer, when we ask God for restoration, that does not compel him to do what we asked. God always hears and answers our prayers, but he may answer 'yes', or 'no', or 'not yet' to our requests.
And beware ! Because when God does say 'yes' to us, the way he chooses to act, may not be what we were expecting. There are as many ways for God to restore us, as there are ways for us to need his restoring touch.
For instance, when we ask God for help, although he may not make a problem vanish, he will always help us through it. Strengthening, supporting, and guiding, as he walks in step with us. Enabling us to face the situation, or cope with the problem. Until one day, we realise that we have not only faced, but also survived, something we may have feared would destroy us.
Isaiah told the Israelites 'God strengthens the weary and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care. Those who trust in the Eternal God will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles.'
Centuries later, Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.'
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, God says 'I'll be there for you'. So don't wait until you are in a crisis, clinging on by your fingertips, flattened under your burdens, take God at his word, and ask for his help - you may be amazed by what he does for you !
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