‘Survival Scriptures’

I’m not feeling very well today. Sometimes you just have to muddle by the best you can.

Yesterday at church, the scripture readings included Psalm 118, which is funny because Psalm 118:17 was one of the ‘survival scriptures’ that I used back when things were at their bleakest.

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I shall not die, but I shall live,
and recount the deeds of the Lord.

Even when you feel like you’re going to die from heartbreak or emotional pain, or you just want to end it all, it’s surprising what a little scripture like this can do to get you through. When I felt like I would die from all the pain, I would shout this inside my head and it would help give me the determination to keep going.

Philippians 1:6:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God will never, ever give up on you. He began the relationship, he will keep it going. Over the years, I have had to develop confidence in his ability to keep me, even when I felt like I was forsaken and all would slip away.

2 Timothy 2:13:

if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.

I am pretty sure that this scripture is taken out of context, according to a commentary I read one time, but I happened upon it one day and it stuck in my spirit. If our faith is at a complete end, he still remains faithful. Knowing that my relationship with God is not one-sided–it’s not entirely dependent upon me, but on the one who began it in the first place–this helps me keep going when I am hurting so hard that it’s difficult to even believe he is there.

I’ve never been good at memorizing scripture using sheer mental power. Most of the scripture I know from memory is because I needed it at one point or another. I would ‘just happen’ to read a devotional or a sermon I was listening to would include the scripture and it just stuck for some reason.

Sometimes I have so much grace in operation in my life that I feel virtually invincible. Other times, like today, I am astonished at how weak I really am, and I do good just to get by. Paul had something to say about weakness. I don’t pretend to understand the full import of what he’s saying here, but it seems useful to me. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

‘My power is made perfect in weakness’ seems to me saying that when I am at my lowest, my worst, when I am struggling just to get along, and I still manage to get out of bed, or, even better, manage to get through an entire work day without collapsing in despair, then God’s grace somehow got me through.

I think of 1 Corinthians 1:25-31 as a ‘theme passage’ for my life:

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I can’t always do ‘strong’. Some days I’m stronger than others. But I can do ‘weak’. I never finished my college education, and often I am astonished at how ignorant I really am. So I can do ‘foolish’. If I’m feeling strong one day, that’s great. That means God’s grace is at work in my life. If I’m feeling bad like today, that’s fine. It means God’s grace is still at work in my life. It’s a win-win situation. And that makes me feel better.

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