Dry Bones

After being prayerful about what God would have me discuss in this blog post, I was lost. I had no ideas and felt that no topic was “the one” He was leading me to write about. Then I was peeling boiled eggs, talking to God (don’t act like you don’t talk to God while you peel your eggs!), and explaining that I was really trying but coming up empty. I said to Him, “God, I am trying to hear from you about this blog, but I’ve got nothing. My idea tank is bone dry.” And God replied, “How about you start there, with dry bones?” Can you believe that mess? He’s amazing. So I got out my Bible, turned to Ezekiel, and guess what? God led me straight toward what I felt He needed me to say in this post.

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Ezekiel and the dry bones, I highly recommend that you take a minute or two to read it for yourself. It’s a quick chapter but speaks volumes about the power God bestows in us when we speak His Word over our circumstances. The portion of the Bible we’ll focus on today is from Ezekiel 37, and before we start talking about what it means for you and me in today’s world and in everyday life, let’s look at the first few verses:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. (2) And He caused me to pass around among them, and behold, there were very many [human bones] in the open valley or plain, and behold, they were very dry. (3) And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know! (4) Again He said to me, Prophesy to these bones and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. (5) Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath and spirit to enter you, and you shall live.”

Clearly, our friend Ezekiel was in a bad spot. You’ll notice in verse two that the bones surrounding him were very dry. I think it’s fully worth noting that God takes time out to specifically address the condition of these bones. These are not the bones from recent deaths. These are bones that have long been without skin and sinew, bones that are no longer in the process of drying out but that are very, very dry. We, too, find ourselves at times within our lives surrounded by our own “very dry bones.” What “dry bones” do you have in your life right now? What elements of your life have you essentially given up on, deeming them unable to be revived:

  • your love for your spouse?
  • your attraction to your spouse?
  • your marriage?
  • your health?
  • a friendship?
  • a relationship with a family member?
  • your finances?
  • your job?
  • your future?
  • your compassion?
  • your attitude?
  • your personal relationship with Jesus?
  • your gratitude?
  • your belief?
  • your trust?
  • your hope?
  • your belief in yourself?
  • your purpose?

You know what, no matter which of these areas you find that have dried up in your life (or some other area not even listed), Ezekiel teaches us exactly what to do. It’s time to quit living in the desert and start using God’s Word and His promises to bring life back to our circumstances. Let’s learn from Ezekiel, shall we?

Take a look back at verse one. No doubt that being surrounded by all of this death and dryness and barren landscape was a scary place. We’ve all been there–and maybe you’re there right now. It’s lonely. It’s isolating. It’s even terrifying at times. But notice what Ezekiel says from the very start: “The hand of the Lord was upon me.” Guess what…the hand of the Lord is upon you, too! He’s right there, waiting to guide you through your own personal desert, just like He was for Ezekiel. I know it might not feel like it, and I know it probably doesn’t look like it, but God is in the midst of this with you. Ezekiel didn’t see signs of life, either. He didn’t stand face-to-face with God, but he knew to trust God despite his circumstances, to believe that God was present despite the disparity of the situation. So on our mission to bring life back to our dead areas, it seems to me that a good first step is to choose to believe that God is right here with us.

Next, let’s think about our attitudes toward whatever it is that seems dead in our life, our feelings toward our spouse, our jobs, or our marriage, etc. Are we approaching God, asking and expecting Him to revive us? Are we trusting that He can breathe new life into our troubled areas? Or are we grumbling to anyone and everyone who’ll listen, complaining about our spouse or our finances or our coworkers? In verse three, God refers to Ezekiel as “Son of man,” and when we let our doubt and our discouragement and our resentment take hold and dry out various areas of our lives, that’s exactly what we are: sons of man. Plain ole powerless humans, with no ties to the power and supernatural ability of a God who can fix anything that needs fixing. In this verse, God asks Ezekiel a question, and Ezekiel replies by saying, essentially, “I don’t know, God. You’re the one who knows everything. Why don’t you just tell me?” I’ve been there…haven’t you? I’ve been hopeless, convinced of all those lies that the devil has told me, sure of the fact that I’m alone and that there’s nothing that will get me past my set of circumstances. Determined to wallow in my distress and make sure everyone knows just how hard I have it…just how dry my bones are. (Makes me cringe just thinking about my attitude and my serious lack of gratitude during these times.)

Look at what God tells Ezekiel to do: “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” (vs. 4). Y’all, nothing is going to change in our lives, no life is going to reenter these dead areas, until we tell these areas about the might and promises of our God! We must be active; we must speak the Word of God over these problems. Grumbling and complaining removes our power, keeping our hopes and our lives dry. But as we can see in the Word, we’ve been given the power to speak life back into our hollow hearts and/or circumstances. Use it! Don’t let Satan fill your head and your heart so full of lies that God’s promises turn to dust. Fuss right back at him. Declare the power of Jesus and the might of His blood over your desert! Remind that devil and those dry bones in your life what the Bible says. With our faith and our decision NOT to give in the those feelings of death and hopelessness, we are promised that God will be there, that His presence will reinvigorate our lives: “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath and spirit to enter you, and you shall live” (vs. 5). So that attraction for your spouse that you swear is gone and will never get back? Nonsense. God can and will breathe life back into that relationship. That job that you feel is going nowhere, that you dread going to every morning? God can rectify that dryness, too. Have a health concern that you’ve been dealing with for months or years without any relief? Speak those promises of God over yourself and your condition. Believe in the presence of the Lord and His ability to make those dry bones stand up and walk.

Friends, there is nary a situation, no matter how destitute it might appear, that God can’t breathe life back into when we ask and truly believe. However, we can’t ask God to work while also holding tight to a “woe is me” attitude, full of grumbling and complaining. Take a lesson from the Israelites in the desert with Moses: their journey was one that should’ve taken 11 days, but because of their poor attitudes full of ingratitude and their choice to focus on their problems instead of their God, they spent FORTY YEARS in their wilderness. Thankfully, you and I do not have to do the same. We don’t have to passively wait around for our situation to change. We don’t have to spend our time trying to figure out why it’s happened or what we did wrong or which aspects we can blame on someone else. If we are surrounded by dry bones in any area of our life, it’s OUR job to breathe new life into it. It’s OUR job to read the Scriptures and learn what God says about His promises for our lives, and it’s OUR job to speak those promises out loud over these desert-like conditions we’re facing. It’s very, very hard to hear God, to sense His mighty presence, when our heads are so full of the noise of our own complaints. You are better than that. You deserve better than that. And you serve a God who provides blessings so much better than the dry, brittle bones of our lives that we’ve allowed to remain for far too long. Let’s decide that this stops now: our poor attitudes, our hardened hearts, our hopelessness. Speak life over those dry bones, and watch God bring life anew back into these previously dead areas. Go ahead. Do it. I dare you.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for the promises that are in Your Word. Thank you, God, that when I call on You, I get answers and solutions and new life breathed into situations that seem dry and barren. Lord, help me to trust that You are with me, even when I look around at all the dry bones and feel despair. I no longer want to complain and grumble, Lord, for I am grateful for my life and all that is in it. Thank you for breathing life and spirit into every single aspect of my life, and help others glorify You when they see big, wonderful changes happening in my life and my attitude. You are great and You are powerful, and I choose to believe that You are currently working supernaturally on my behalf. I believe, Lord, that Your blessings for my “dry bones” of life are right around the corner. Thank you for hearing me, Father, and for guiding me with Your Word. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

“If you had been the only person on the earth, Jesus would have gone through all His suffering just for you.” –Joyce Meyer

This Means War

The topic of marriage has been on my mind lately for a couple of reasons, one exciting, one disheartening. First, on Wednesday, June 21st, Nathan and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage (hopefully it’s clear this reason isn’t the disheartening one!). This is a milestone we almost didn’t reach (more on that in a minute), so each anniversary is super special. The other reason I’ve had marriage on my mind lately is due to the startling announcement made last week by Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, that she and her husband of almost 25 years are divorcing because of his continued unfaithfulness and substance abuse. When something like this happens to people like them, it demands that we sit up, take notice, and reevaluate our own marriages (or our future marriages, for those who are unmarried).

It’s no secret that a solid, God-filled marriage gets targeted by Satan and his schemes more than anything else, because it’s marriages like these that are the biggest threats to him. So much goodness and kingdom building comes from a strong, God-centered marriage, and Satan–coward that he is–gets scared of the power that that kind of marriage holds. If your marriage is anything like mine, then at some point during it, you’ve likely discovered this fact for yourself. And I don’t mean this in a negative way at all, but if you haven’t discovered this yet, you will.

Despite the horror stories we’d heard about the transition into the first year of marriage, that was NOT our story. Our first year was full of excitement, newness, and fun. Lots of fun. And, maybe more importantly, it was naturally easy. Between getting our first apartment and then home, decorating for and celebrating each of the holidays for the first time as a newly married couple, and all the life in between, we were having a blast. By year two some of the newness and ease had worn off, but things were still going really well…mostly. Then, year three struck, its newness and the ease both having completely evaporated. Even to us it was almost surprising, because up to this point, our relationship had always been so easy, so effortless. We had never had to purposefully love and communicate with each other. Unfortunately, for us, it was through this unguarded door of poor communication and unintentional neglect of our relationship’s foundation that Satan found his way in. John 10:10 warned us, but apparently, we needed to learn this lesson for ourselves: “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.”

And destroy is exactly what he did…almost. Just a few months after our third wedding anniversary, Nathan and I separated. Shortly thereafter, we decided (with me leading the charge) that our marriage was too broken to repair. Here’s the nitty-gritty truth about Satan: he’s not just a thief, he’s a “replacer.” He had slithered his way into our once super-happy marriage, and instead of just stealing our joy, he replaced it. In place of joy, we got sadness, insecurity, and isolation. In place of the contentment that we once owned, we got discontentment, avoidance, and blame. In place of the love, we got Satan’s lies and hearts filled with resentment. So, after a couple of mid-separation talks, we planned one more face-to-face meeting, its purpose being to divide up our stuff prior to legally filing for divorce, a last-ditch effort to help ease the other’s hurt.

I’m sure that you currently have lots of questions floating around in your head:

Why didn’t you try counseling?–Oh we did. We went before separating and during our separation. We went to joint counseling sessions and individual sessions.

What went so wrong?–Everything and nothing. There was no affair, no substance abuse problems, no monumental event that broke us. So my answer to what went so wrong? Satan. Plain and simple. He kept us withdrawn from each other, constantly resentful of the other’s distance and increasing solitude. He stole our intimacy and eroded our friendship. It never got ugly, and we always sincerely cared about the other’s happiness (in your nasty face, Satan!), but our marriage was in pieces.

What changed?–The person to whom we looked for answers and healing. Nathan and I both believe that those therapy sessions helped us tremendously. Those of you who know me personally won’t be shocked by my confession that I’m a talker (I know…jaw-dropping!). Nathan, however, not so much. I’ve heard him tell others, though, that because he knew he was expected to talk and share during our hour-long therapy sessions, he found himself beginning to open up about all sorts of things. There were things he mentioned in our sessions that I’d never heard before, feelings I didn’t even know he had. Thankfully, he’s kept this up in the years since; he talks to me about his thoughts and feelings and is an active contributor to the dialogue in our house. Even with all that good stuff happening at therapy, though, it wasn’t enough to save us. Why? We were trusting a human being, a flawed human being, and expecting him to say or do something magical that would heal us. Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen. It wasn’t until we stopped expecting our therapist to have the answers, stopped expecting the other person in this marriage to fix us, and started putting all our trust in God’s divine intervention that things turned around. I can literally remember saying to God, “Ok, fine. This is yours. I’m tapped out. I have no more solutions, no more avenues of cure. If this is going to get fixed, You’re going to have to do it.” And in that moment, God answered, “No problem. I’ll not only fix it, but I’ll heal you both completely and make it better than it’s ever been.”

And guess what–that is EXACTLY what He did. With the past 11 years, each one has brought us closer together. We’ve gone through some tough stuff (how’s six years of infertility struggles for tough?! But we’ll save that for another post). Throughout each year, though, God’s promise remained true: every single potential pothole has been smoothed over so that our marriage has grown stronger and our love deeper. God is good, y’all!!!

Now, having said all that, let me say this: since this near-divorce, we have not offered our marriage up to chance. As he always does, from the moment when we got our relationship back on track, Nathan has led by example. Because of that, we began and continue to live our relationship with purpose and on purpose. WE DO NOT EVER WANT TO GO DOWN THAT ROAD AGAIN, but we aren’t stupid enough to think we can’t/won’t. Want this same thing for yourself but not sure where to turn? Ephesians is a wonderful book that instructs Christians how to have the correct mental and spiritual attitudes; it even contains great scriptures full of proven marital advice. But of all the goodness you’ll find in it, chapter 4, verse 27 just might be the best. Want to know how to divorce-proof your marriage? Start here: “Leave no room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].” Man! So much easier said than done, but so VERY worth the time to make an effort to do.

Good marriages don’t happen by chance; they are intentional. They contain two people (and frequently just one really unwavering spouse) who are determined to wage war against Satan together, starting with their individual attitudes. So, ladies, you know that silent treatment you give your husband when he’s ticked you off and you WANT to be mad? Think that’s what earns blessings from God and strengthens your relationship? Nope. You know that bad-mouthing of him you do to all your friends and your mom and your sister and the mailman? Think that’s “just venting” and really isn’t a big deal? Still nope.

And, fellas, think that bottling up all your thoughts and feelings is “just how guys do it,” and won’t really cause you any relationship problems? Wrong. What about that lady at the office who’s just sooooo much easier to get along with than your wife, who thinks you’re smart and can do things right the first time? Think it’s ok if you just let your mind consider what it might be like to be married to her instead? Wrong again.

We are all failures–at relationships, at marriages, at life–without God. (Hopefully) We know this. While it’s admirable to ask God into your marriage and rely on Him to help you to be for your spouse the kind of support He designed you to be, we are foolish to stop there. We need to get angry at Satan’s infiltration into our marriages! We need to get fed up with his lies and destruction! We need to be DETERMINED not to let Satan’s schemes ruin our relationships! THIS MEANS WAR, SATAN!! And with God planted firmly in the center of our lives, individually and jointly, WE. WILL. WIN. Don’t wait for your spouse to get on board. Start it yourself. I feel pretty confident that God can take care of him/her if you’ll just take care of your heart, your mind, and your actions.

“Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise [people]…” —Ephesians 5:15

“Therefore, be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example]…and walk in love…”–Ephesians 5:1-2

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Please pray this with me:

Dear Lord, thank you so much for your blessings and for the gift of marriage in my life. Thank you for all the ways You continually bless me through my marriage and my spouse. Lord, I come to you today asking for Your guidance and protection. Help me to love my spouse in the way in which You so knowingly designed. Help me to be the vehicle through which Your love is best shown to him/her. Protect us, Lord, from every single scheme which Satan uses against us. Let each one fall uselessly to the floor, under our feet. I love you, God, and I expect blessings within my marriage because we choose to make you an integral part of it. Thank you for hearing me and for protecting, also, the marriages of all of my friends and family. It’s in Your Son’s name that I pray. Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourself.”