Choose Life

 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

 The Christmas season has always been my favorite time of year since I was small. Not so much for the presents (though as a kid it was a plus!), but because of the joy it brought to me. It meant family gatherings, school winter activities, class parties, decorating our home in a festive manner, etc. The smells of cookies baking brought joy along with the thoughts of eating them! I enjoyed going to Christmas service and when I was older, I enjoyed midnight Mass. But most of all, I enjoyed watching the people. They were different this time of year. They seemed to be more giving, generous and kind. I was blessed to have a loving family that produced wonderful memories.

Sadly, not everyone has experienced that same joy. While Christmas can represent joy and peace for many, it can also represent a time of turmoil, sadness and depression for others because of their situation. Some grew up in abusive homes and the memory hasn’t faded. Others are currently in abusive homes and relationships and feel trapped. Many have lost loved ones from illness, addiction, violence, and suicide and they feel as though they will never truly have joy in their lives again. Others have experienced tragedies and heartache during the holidays that produce nothing but sadness and depression each time the Christmas season comes around. And yet, some find it hard to have joy because they’ve lost their job and can barely provide for their families which include giving gifts to them.

The hard reality of what many of us do not like to think about is that although many will get through their sadness and difficulties and continue on, there are many more that will not. There are those who have battled with their situations for so long that they cannot bear to live another day. They are tired, frustrated, anxious and depressed. For many, grief has overtaken them and they are unable to see anything else. The thought is that the only way they will find peace is to take their own life. There are even those who pray for the Lord to take their life in order to end their turmoil and receive peace.

This should not be.

There have been several in the Bible who have either cursed the day they were born or prayed for God to end their lives in order to get them out of their situation. Though God does hear our prayers, He won’t always answer them according to what we think is right. His will isn’t for us to end our lives ourselves nor for Him to do it if it’s not our time to go. Satan wants us to cut our lives short, knowing we will be out of the will of God by doing so. He may apply more pressure and negative thoughts to just give us enough temptation to do it.

So how do we cope with our situations when we just want them to end? How do we go one more day, one more minute or even one more step when we feel we have nothing to live for?

We first have to realize that God calls us to choose life as we see in Deuteronomy 30:19-20. God always gives us choices but He encourages us to make the right choice. He wants us to live, to prosper and to grow yet He realizes there are those who have made it difficult for us to do so in some way. Still, He wants us to reach out to Him and continue praying because He will send help. He never wastes a moment. Though we may have been told or made to feel all of our life that we are not important, God saw us as important enough to create us:

13For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well (Psalm 139:13-14).

God has a plan and a purpose for us. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

We must realize that we are part of God’s plan and we are important in His eyes. You may wonder how when you have received nothing but problems, strife and pain on this earth. It is out of those very problems, strife and pain that God will grow you and use you to help others. You have been down a road that many are going through and need help with. A very effective tactic of the enemy is to isolate people and to make them feel as if they are all alone in their situation but they really aren’t. God is with them. The first example we will learn about is Elijah.

In 1 Kings 19, after Elijah had victory killing all of Jezebel’s false prophets with the sword, Jezebel sent a message to Elijah that he would be dead by the next day over what he had done to her prophets. This scared Elijah so much that he ran for his life. After running a day or so and running into the wilderness, He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

Elijah had done what God had told him to do but after having victory, people were after him to kill him. Elijah thought he was alone and the only one left who truly followed God.

God’s answer: God did not answer Elijah’s prayer to take his life. Instead, God sent the angel of the Lord twice to give Elijah food and drink to strengthen him. The second time he came, he told Elijah to eat and drink to receive strength for the journey to Horeb, the mountain of God. Elijah traveled 40 days and 40 nights and once there, he spent the night in a cave. There, the Lord ministered to Elijah and told him how he was going to help Elijah. God provided 3 ways of help to Elijah:

God told him to go back the way he came and go to Damascus. He was told to anoint 3 people to help him:

– Anoint Hazael as king over Aram whose army would kill many of those who were doing wrong and were after Elijah.

– Anoint Jehu as king of Israel to replace the evil King Ahab and Jezebel. He would kill those who escaped the sword of Hazael’s armies and kill Jezebel who threatened Elijah’s life

– Anoint Elisha to take Elijah’s place as prophet. God gave Elijah a friend to help him and to take his place as Prophet which would give Elijah rest. Elijah needed a friend because he felt alone and God provided a friend for Elijah to learn from him and be his companion and help him.

Elijah thought he was alone and the only one left who was truly devoted to God, but God informed Elijah that was not true and that there were others. God informed Elijah that He had 7,000 people in Israel who were truly devoted to Him (1 Kings 19).

To know we are not alone and that there are others who are or have gone through the same thing we have can be very comforting because they can understand our fear and pain.

Another man that God helped was Moses. In Numbers 11:11-15, we see that Moses had asked God to take his life due to the burden of having to care for a multitude of people in the desert after their exodus out of Egypt. That multitude of people was somewhere between 1 million – 2 million people! This was a heavy burden for Moses because 1. It was a lot of people for one man to have to be in charge of. 2. It wearied Moses and he no doubt became burned out some as he had to face complaints, jealousies, and people challenging his leadership.

God’s answer: In Numbers 11:16-17 we find that God did not take Moses life as Moses suggested. Instead, God brought Moses other people to help him. God asked Moses to bring Him 70 of Israel’s elders and He would take some of the power of the Spirit that is on Moses and put it on the elders. They would share the burden of the people with Moses so that he would not have to carry it alone.

There are others who struggled with things such as bitterness, depression, fear, etc and thought death was better than life or felt they should have never been born. Jonah would have rather died than see the evil Ninevites repent and be shown mercy by God (Jonah 4:3). Job and Jeremiah both cursed the day of their birth, desiring that they had never been born because of the difficulties and sufferings they were experiencing (Job 3:1-16; Jeremiah 20:14-18).

Yet, God did not take the lives of these people when they asked Him to due to their difficulties, fears and worries. Instead, God ministered to them, brought others to help them, restored what they lost (Job), or removed the people out of their lives who were causing the problems.

It’s not God’s will to take our life before our time. It’s not God’s will that we take our own life. It is God’s will that we live and persevere until we have done the will of God…what God has called us to do in this life…so we can receive what He has promised. It is His will that we endure until the end, when He calls us home with Him. We must trust and have faith in His promises, be patient for Him to help us, and never stop praying. He brings us people along side us to help us in our time of need. Think of those God has brought into your life to help you, to talk to you, to pray for you. God has seen your need and has heard your prayers and is answering according to His will for you.

Hebrews 10:36: You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

 James 1:12 – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 James 5:10-11 – 10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 2 Timothy 4:6-8 – 6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing.

God calls us to choose life, not death (spiritual and physical) – I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live…

We are to endure to the end – But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

Though we may go through many difficulties, the Lord will deliver us from them. He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:17-18). He will give us the patient endurance to endure our problems patiently. He will calm our fears and bring others alongside us to help us and guide us so we are not alone. Though we don’t always understand why we go through so many problems and trials, we can take comfort in knowing that Christ went through them as well and when we have faith and trust in Him, He will get us through our problems as well.

2 Corinthians 1:6 – If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.

James 1:2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

1 Peter 1:6 – In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

2 Peter 2:7-9 – and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

Jesus never promised us an easy life if we follow Him, but He did promise to be with us. He kept His promise to send the Holy Spirit to help us and comfort us. Sometimes when we follow Christ and do what He calls us to do, we will go through troubled times. Each time we stay the course, keep focused on Christ, and trust Him, He will get us through each situation. When we get through those situations, this strengthens our spirit because we are exercising our faith in Christ. The more we exercise our faith in Christ and do what He tells us to do in His Word, the stronger spiritually we become and the more we can overcome each difficulty.

I’m not sure where you are at in your life right now. Maybe you grew up in an abusive home and are now in an abusive relationship. Maybe you are facing an illness, the death of a loved one, or a job loss and you feel as though you can’t go another step. Or maybe depression and anxiety is heavy upon you and the thought of getting up and facing another day seems too much to bear. Wherever you’re at, I want you to do two things:

          1. Get on your knees and pray for Jesus to help you. This is something you can’t face alone. Tell Him your burdens and ask Him to help you. The power of praying consistently while on our knees is tremendous. Pour everything out to Him and ask Him to lead you to someone who can help you.

          2. Next, call someone and tell them you need help. You need support. It may be a friend, a relative, an   agency, a church or a support group. You must allow yourself to receive help.

Do not give up! God created you for a reason and you’ve come this far. Sometimes we need support from others whom God has placed around us to help us along.

If you are unsure of what to pray, don’t worry, just pray what’s in your heart and then trust that God will hear your prayers and help you.

“Lord, I am tired, I am frustrated and I feel as though I can’t go another step. My situation is too much for me to bear and I feel as though I am sinking into the pit of despair. I cry out to you, Oh God, to pull me out of this pit. I not only pray for your help, but I pray for you to send me someone who can walk through this with me. Who can lift me up in prayer when I am to weak. Lord, I have faith that you will answer my prayer according to your will. I praise you and thank you Jesus. In Jesus name…amen.”