Part 7: Chapter 7 – Day 6: The Gift of Christ’s Intercession

Welcome to Day 6 of Chapter 7 from Arise & Shine’s Part 7. Today, Anna is bringing forward our sixth free will offering of The New Covenant of Love.

I am reading through my old Compel writing coach’s book Loving Your Friend Through Cancer to help me love my friends and family well, as they and their loved ones walk through cancer. But last night in my reading of Marissa Henley’s words, I was so struck by what she is describing being in so many ways what I too have been walking through in my own diagnosis. 

The uncertainty, the fear of leaving my girls without a Mama, the fear of possibly having to say goodbye to my husband and my girls much sooner than expected, the wondering about what the future will involve (women with my condition have ended up in a wheelchair). 

I have read medical articles that appear to give earthly hope. But in others and in the stories women have shared themselves, there’s a common thread of not knowing, experimentation and deterioration. Many (women) have also had their plight minimized (“oh but you have no calcium blockages, so it’s nothing to be worried about”), leading in some cases to them dying within a few short years. 

Terribly, some have even been through the usual mill of heart testing, only to be told there is nothing wrong with their heart, because these usual first diagnostic tools, originally tested on and designed for men’s hearts, do not show up this female-dominant condition. And so, they have continued to deteriorate, and in some cases even died before help arrived.

Praise God that Jesus is so clearly fighting in me and for me. Also through my husband and my friends, like Bettie, who know the pain and uncertainty of chronic illness personally and in their inner circles and the need to advocate for our own health.

Have you too found fears, concerns and grief rising in your own difficult diagnoses? And a longing to somehow make sense of it all? Have you too found yourself yo-yoing between lethargy (weary of the struggle) and stoic denial of the pain that keeps bubbling to the surface? Or in the diagnoses of loved ones? Do you too wake up with your heart aching or troubled some days, or perhaps even every day?

My verse to pray through today is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And that mourning is described in these words (HELPS Word Studies):

3996 /penthéō (“mourn over a death”) refers to “manifested grief” (WS, 360) – so severe it takes possession of a person and cannot be hid. (This is the same meaning of 3996 /penthéō throughout antiquity, cf. LS, R. Trench, Synonyms.)

Isn’t it interesting to see that bit: “and cannot be hid”? A few days ago, I sat on my eldest daughter’s bed telling her about my little (adopted) brother and his and our parent’s struggle with the fight and flight of his trauma, as I spontaneously began praying for her friend in foster care. I couldn’t stop crying and crying and crying as I prayed in such deep guttural longing for that little girl to know the love of Jesus, but also for God to bring more restoration in my own little (now adult) brother’s life.

It so moved my girl – God’s girl – and she said something like: “Mum, I never knew that [name of my brother, her Uncle] went through all that. That is so awful.” as she began to share more about her friend’s suffering. And oh how I prayed even more, with the tears pouring out of me. I couldn’t hide the grief – God’s tears pouring out of me for that little girl and for my little brother.

We so often brush ourselves off and continue on, with each hard awakening. As we hit up against our own frailty and our inability to give each other, what only Jesus can. But Jesus calls us to STOP! Not to press down our pain and in so doing, push others in their pain to do the same. Not to fight hard to “do better” and “be stronger”. Nor to wallow in self-pity, resigning ourselves to the status quo. But to bring our hardened and weary and discouraged hearts to Him.

Rather than chastise us in our need, our Jesus grieves with us and for us – openly and without shame. Not as one who does not know our pain, but as one who has walked in human flesh with all its angst and pain, and yet in His sovereign power sinned not, as He wore His heart on His sleeve. 

And oh how He longs to free us – again and again – to shed those tears openly too, just as He did walking this earth. To lament that He might draw near to comfort us just as His – and our – heavenly Father comforted and sustained Him on this earth. 

Because it is that open grieving that gives us and those around us eyes to see the deep, deep love and compassion of Jesus. Just as it did, when Jesus wept with Mary upon the death of Lazarus (even knowing He would resurrect him). And when He wept for His very own people, who turned against Him and cried out to crucify Him, because He knew the piercing they were walking toward in doing so. And in the Garden of Gethsemane, where an angel strengthened our LORD to lay down His life for us, after He had asked His Father if there was not any other way for us to be saved than for Him to be separated from His beloved Father.

And yet, how deeply our Savior understands our human hearts that so easily become locked up in all the pain: in the pain that feels just too immense or too complex or too bound up to even begin to put into words before the throne of grace. But praise Jesus this is exactly why He gave us the Holy Spirit: one of the many gifts of the new covenant we can live in and walk in today:

Romans 8:26 (Berean Study Bible) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.

Now, when we give our hearts and lives to Jesus, Christ takes up residence in us through the Holy Spirit, to daily and moment-by-moment lead us into His intercession. Our God’s beautiful soft and open heart has the power to break open our hardened, pain and anger-struck hearts, to reveal His compassion not just to us personally and intimately, but to the world around us too. YES, our LORD and Savior now lives in us to break open our hardened human hearts daily, to comfort and strengthen us to lay down our lives for each other, so that we and others never ever have to face that same horrific separation He did – for us.

If it was up to me, my grief would have stayed beneath the surface with my daughter that night. And in its place would remain a brooding anger at the injustice of it all and my own inability to comfort others in the comfort God longs to give me personally. 

For, in the flesh I naturally gravitate toward recalling and getting angry about all the ways we as a church (myself included) and the world have condemned, punished, tried to “fix”, malign, push away and abandon those walking through trauma. This is something I have since not just experienced from the sidelines, with my little brother as an older sister and sister in Christ speaking up for someone who could not speak up for himself, but in my own adult walk through Complex Post-Traumatic Stress, in the wake of burying my Mum, after her five-month battle with glioblastoma multiforme and walking through repeated spiritual abuse thereafter.

But praise God we serve a mighty Savior, who has given us the gift of a new covenant of love and the precious gift of His powerful intercession at work in us. He has not, and will not, abandon us to our pain, to our trauma and our fears, nor to our anger and our sinful desires to “do” life without Him, as we selfishly cling to our pain and shut our ears, eyes and hearts to His love and care. 

For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. In all of my angst and grief and pain, God is continually reminding me that (Jeremiah 10:23, NLT) “our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.” And that His will is even to “teach us to number our days,That we may cultivate and bring to [Him] a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, AMP). He is encouraging me, just like the Psalmist, not to lie down in my pain or to trudge through it stoically, but to draw near to Him, that He might become my intercession, my heart-beat and my life-breath, more and more. 

Praised be God, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, compassionate Father, God of all encouragement and comfort; who encourages us in all our trials, so that we can encourage others in whatever trials they may be undergoing with the encouragement we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians (2 Co) 1:3‭-‬4 CJB).

Will you join me in prayer?

Oh Papa, you see the hard awakenings you are taking us through and have taken us through in years past. You see the hard awakenings you are taking and have already taken our friends and loved ones through, as they too have hit and are hitting up against their own frailty and mortality too. 

LORD, let your tears be seen in our eyes. Let the grief locked up in our hearts begin to flow freely and become a blessing for each other. Let Your compassion be seen and Your comfort meet us, as the tears fill our eyes in recognizing all the ways we cannot give each other what we so long to give.

Help us to bow our knees in humility before You, to release the pain we are clinging to, to receive Your open arms and to rise clothed in the fresh faith of Your sovereign completion and wholeness. Thank You that You are so near to us, closer than our very breath. 

Oh open our eyes to see that glass wall now set alight and turned into a sea of glass mingled with fire—to see ourselves and our loved ones as those who have conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside that sea of glass with Your harps in our hands and singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,

    O Lord God the Almighty!

Just and true are your ways,

    O King of the nations!

Who will not fear, O Lord,

    and glorify your name?

For you alone are holy.

    All nations will come

    and worship you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

O satisfy us with Your lovingkindness in the morning [now, before we grow older], That we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad in proportion to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have suffered evil. Let Your work [the signs of Your power] be revealed to Your servants And Your [glorious] majesty to their children. And let the [gracious] favor of the Lord our God be on us; Confirm for us the work of our hands— Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

(Prayer taken in part from Revelation 15:2-4 ESV and Psalm 90 verses 14 to 17 AMP).

Part 7: Chapter 7 – Day 4: A New Heart

Welcome to Day 4 of Chapter 7 from Arise & Shine’s Part 7. Today, Anna is bringing forward our fourth free will offering of The New Covenant of Love, with Bettie’s help.

Interestingly we see in the life of Jesus a seemingly contradictory and yet beautifully woven together new covenant of truth kissing grace. He wields His power in force to defend the vulnerable, and yet also, at times, chooses to show longsuffering and patient restraint toward those living in sin.

  • Jesus overturned tables in the synagogue, declaring that the house of God had been turned into a den of robbers.
  • And yet, He compelled every last accusing soul to drop their stones, when He stood before a woman who had clearly broken the law of God in committing adultery, forcing those present to acknowledge their own weakness and sin, and to recognize their own desperate need for the grace of God.
  • Jesus gave preference to His heavenly Father above His earthly parents, going about His Abba Father’s business as a 12 year-old, facing his earthly parents’ rebuke in doing so.
  • And yet, He is also the Word fulfilled, a Word that commands us to obey our parents. 
  • He called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs, uncovering their outward self-righteousness and their inwardly perishing souls.
  • And yet, He invited Himself over for dinner, to the house of the sinful tax collector, who was fleecing those around him and had no single friend, calling little Zacchaeus down from the tree he had climbed up in, so he could see Him, the Messiah he so longed to know.

All this makes me think of the microvessels of the heart that both contract (restraint) and expand (power wielded) to function well. If the microvessels contract too often – going into spasm – insufficient oxygen is carried to the heart, causing chest pain, breathlessness and lethargy. This is incidentally the chronic heart condition – microvascular coronary spasms – I suffer from. 

Spiritually speaking, this illness of the heart would look like me perpetually showing restraint, not opening my mouth nor overturning tables, when this is in fact needed. Interestingly, both positions (restraint and wielding power) require deep humility and rootedness in the Father’s love. 

For, to wield our mouth, hands and feet to defend the vulnerable, comes with the threat of being rejected, condemned and persecuted, even by our very own brothers and sisters. And to show restraint, to allow God’s grace to do its work patiently and graciously, comes with the threat of being misunderstood. Of being seen as one who condones sin, rather than as a follower of Jesus, who is living out the justice of the Cross, by walking in the footsteps of our humble King. 

This humble King sees inside the heart of each one of us. Darkness (the obscurity caused by our sin) is as light (divine illumination in the light of His love) to Him. For, He sees our longing to be fully known and perfectly loved. And so, our Messiah willingly humbled and still humbles Himself for all of us, who long to know Him.

He bent down as He walked this earth, and still bends down toward us today in our hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God. And He overturned the tables in anger, that had become a stumbling block to His children, keeping them from His Presence. And He is still doing so today, so that we might come to know His compassion for us all, and His perfecting love and holy power in our weakness and imperfection.

Interestingly, Bettie recently shared a passage of a book with me, that we are both currently reading. In that passage, this bit, in particular, stood out to me (Fearfully and Wonderfully, by Dr Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Kindle location 3093):

The defence mechanism itself becomes the disease.

Besides my heart condition, I was also diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2015. Interestingly, in therapy, we could trace the origin of this disorder back to a moment as a child I had spoken up (wielded power) and was shut down in response, the shutting down being done in the name of God. 

Since then, not opening my mouth to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, has triggered waves of trauma, as my body – a Temple of the Holy Spirit – has been longing to wake me up to the truth of this mighty God speaking in me. 

You see, over the years I learnt to hide the weapon of truth living inside of me, as I allowed my fear of man’s condemnation and rejection (seeing this as God’s condemnation and rejection) to cripple me. The defence mechanism itself became my disease, as I learnt how to hide the light of Christ and blend into the background to avoid any and all confrontation, as I tried to still the heart of Jesus beating inside of me that had led to those I trusted the most turning me aside and deeming the truth I spoke not of God .

But when God brought me home to Him, He began to wake me up to the beauty of wielding this sword of truth with my mouth. Since my Prodigal return, He has repeatedly compelled me to become visible again: to speak up, when all I have wanted to do is run and hide. And only then, after I have spoken up in His prompting and empowering, has He led me to become silent again, to hide myself in HIS protection and defence.

Ironically, my silence here in the past few days has in fact been God compelling me to yet again live out the words I am sharing with you here. I have been learning, in the Holy Spirit’s prompting, how to become an advocate for my own health. How to speak up to receive the medical help I need, when I would much rather lie down, and accept the status quo: even though that status quo is literally killing me. 

I now have a referral to a hospital that has expert knowledge of and experience with others who have my heart condition. I am leaving the hospital, where I was told my condition is very difficult to treat (which is true) and that there isn’t much more that can be done for me medically, other than upping the dosage of one of my meds, which has caused awful side effects (which is not true).

Yes, every single time I have spoken up, both for the spiritual health of the Body of Christ, and for the physical health of my physical body (which belongs to Jesus) in the Holy Spirit’s prompting, I have faced exactly what I have been so afraid of: minimizing, and/or belittling, and/or a door shutting on my face. But through every attack – on the inside of me (self-condemnation) and on the outside – God is becoming my defence: my portion and the strength of my heart, as He leads me away from the shut door to the open door of His blood that was shed – not so I could lie down and die, but wake up to His lifeblood and breath in me.

He has not only been causing me to arise in the truth, but to stand firm in the truth of His love and grace for me. Through every attack, He has walked me into His protection, leading, timing and completion. To achieve this, He has repeatedly had to separate me from those who have condemned me, also to prevent me from becoming bound in a perpetual fight and flight mode – and doing harm not just to my own body, but to the Body of Christ also. The dividing sword has given me back my lifeblood and breath in Christ Jesus, as I have surrendered what is not mine to understand or bring to completion.

Beautifully, in each leading away from a closed door (of accusation and condemnation) before me, God has surrounded me by people, who have built me up in truth and grace, as He has led me to see and walk through the open door set before me. These are people who have encouraged and still are encouraging me to both open my mouth, and to walk into and rest in the hope that is mine in Christ Jesus, through each obstacle I face along the way. 

In all of these sustained, ongoing relationships, the other person and I have been empowered to love each other, even when what we see and believe is not the same. But in that place of friction and confrontation, God is repeatedly compelling truth to kiss grace, as He is slowly but surely shedding the lies each of us believe, to lift up the truth of His whole and united heart. A new heart that is drawing us closer and closer together and deeper and deeper into His love that surpasses knowledge

I am not only becoming Christ’s work of sanctification to the other person, but he/she is becoming His sanctification to me, as my own spiritual blindness is also being lifted away, piece by piece, in both our speaking up and our silence. I see God strengthening each of us through the power of His new heart at work in us.

That new, healthy heart, is contracting (restraint) and releasing (wielding power) the microvessels, in step with the Holy Spirit, to transport the lifeblood and breath of Jesus to the whole Body. God is bringing such a sweet and inexplicable union in Christ, even as we each only see in part, what we will one day see in full.

Bettie too, is seeing the parallels between her physical illness – of rheumatoid arthritis – and the spiritual affliction plaguing Christ’s Body:

Oh! How often I have thought of the ways He asked us to lay down our own dignity and position for the sake of our brothers. It was the spiritual picture of what He is asking me to bear physically now. My inflamed joints ask those other joints not affected, to also bear with them, to bear up under the trial for the sake of the injured one. My old physical way would want to “push through” the pain & ignore it. But God’s pacing here asks me to rest, to pause, for the sake of the wounded area.

And both of us are now recognizing how God has been healing our hearts and our bodies, through the thorn in our side. Through our physical affliction that is humbling us and opening our eyes to truth kissing grace: not just in our present circumstances, but also as we look back upon our past, and even as we look toward the future and a hope we have in Christ Jesus. 

In this place of physical weakness, our God has been teaching us both to walk in step with the Holy Spirit. To lean upon our Jesus, so that His heart becomes more and more visible in and through us. So that His perfecting power and His compassionate restraint might arise and shine in and through us and for us.

As Bettie shared with me:

Every breath, every beat of our heart, is God’s fresh start. He is so very full of mercy towards us, His Fearfully and Wonderfully Made body/Body. Thank You dear Jesus for opening Your Word in our hearts. Thank You for uncovering those areas of hidden wounds and scars, so that the mercy of Your New Covenant can wash us afresh. Oh amazing grace how sweet YOUR sound!!