Harvest House Publishers
Create in me a pure heart, O God, And
renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
PSALM 5:10-12 NIV
When my children (and later my grandchildren) were small, I used to delight in fixing things for them.
What a sense of satisfaction to be able to take a broken toy or a ripped shirt or a skinned knee and “make it all better” with a tube of glue or a spool of thread or a Band-Aid or just a kiss.
I also enjoyed immensely, in the days when I had a little more time and a lot less money, the process of restoring old, beat-up furniture or decorative items. With a little paint or varnish, a yard or two of fabric, and a little creative imagination, almost any worn-out item could be restored to beauty or usefulness.
I used to find such joy in my own small efforts at restoration.
So in the past few years, when I myself have felt so broken and worn, Live wondered if my heavenly Father finds the same kind of joy in restoring me.
For restoration is exactly what he promises us through Scripture.
“He restores my soul,” sings the psalmist.
“The God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore… you,” says Peter.
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly promised his people through the prophets that he would restore the health of their nation.
Jesus, throughout his earthly ministry, restored physical health, spiritual health, even physical life…and passed that restorative power on to his followers through the Holy Spirit.
Even the biblical depictions of the end times are a magnificent epic of restoration, a promise to bring about a new heaven and a new earth—all fixed, redeemed, and shining good as new.
Magnificently “all better.”
And that, of course, is what we all long for, especially in the rainy seasons of our lives.
When illness strikes, when experiences knock us low, when life leaves us wounded, our natural heart-cry to our heavenly Father is the cry of a child: “Please make it all better.”
And he does just that. I believe it with all my heart.
God is using all our circumstances to bring us closer to him (and to each other), teaching us to rely on him for our healing and restoration. And he is teaching me a lot about what it really means to be healed and restored.
I am learning, for instance, that my healing is intended to be a partnership. God does the restoration, but I am not just a passive participant. I am expected to respond and participate in the process.
I participate in the healing of my body, for instance, by following what I believe to be God’s plan for a healthy life: natural nutrition, enough water, adequate exercise, enough rest. I pray for healing, and I gratefully accept the prayers of others (just as I pray for them).
At the same time, I’m trying to participate in the healing of my own soul and spirit by keeping my heart open to God, learning more about how he works, and most of all by offering him my overflowing cup and asking him to purify and restore me.
This is another thing I am learning about the process of restoration. It has a lot to do with coming clean.
My current round of physical restoration began, I believe, with the process of flushing out the toxins from my body through a program of healthy nutrition. I took my body to my nutritional consultant and she helped me begin the process of cleaning and purifying my poisoned system.
I am absolutely convinced that my spiritual restoration, as well, depends on the process of ridding my soul of spiritual toxins: stress, bitterness, resentment, rebellion, unprocessed grief, distrust. In the Bible, healing is always tied in with forgiveness of sins and cleansing of life. And I think that is absolutely true for our lives as well.
In Fill My Cup, Lord, I pictured this process as one of emptying our cups of these dark substances and then surrendering those cups to the Lord to be wiped clean and filled with quietness, encouragement, and forgiveness.
In our seminars we illustrate this process even more graphically, with a huge black ceramic cappuccino cup. I fill the black cup with little slips of black paper to illustrate how our cups become full of dark attitudes and emotions and thoughts and beliefs, desperately in need of a good cleaning. I urge the women to take their cup of darkness to the foot of the cross and dump all the blackness at the feet of Jesus. (At that point I actually turn the black cup over and dump out all those little pieces of black paper.) Then I hold up another big cup, the twin of the first, except that it’s gleaming white. And I ask them to picture looking into their cups and seeing them shine with white purity, unstained and unsullied, beautiful and bright and clean.
It’s a simple but profound illustration. The ongoing and unending process in this life of becoming clean is one of the keys to being made “all better.”
After one seminar, a woman came up to me and said, “You know, I dumped all the blackness out of my cup, and when I looked in I saw there was still something left. And I realized that I was still harboring some resentment in my heart that needs to be emptied. I’m going to go home and get my cup clean by asking forgiveness of someone.”
That’s exactly what we need to do to participate in our own restoration. We need to concentrate on keeping our cups clean, going to the Lord, emptying out our cups of darkness, asking to be purified and refilled. We need to stay close to him: reading the Scriptures, spending time in prayer, listening to his Word about what our part in our own healing will be.
And this is crucially important: We need to obey. Now, more than ever, I am convinced that a vital key to restoration is simply not saying no to God when we hear his voice.
A few years ago, I saw my daughter, Jenny, floundering around, lashing out, confused about who she was and where she fit in her own life. The brokenness in our lives over Jenny’s separation from her husband didn’t begin to be repaired until I managed to hear God’s Word about asking forgiveness and then, as hard as it was, to obey. I didn’t really want to ask Jenny’s forgiveness. I was still convinced she was the one in the wrong. But I didn’t want to say no to God, so I did what he said. Since then I have watched with awe as Jenny has determined to participate in her own healing by obeying God. Today I see her praying with her children, doing what she can to help them in their own pain, reaching out to her friends and the people in her new neighborhood. I’ve seen her obey God when she really didn’t want to, and the result has been phenomenal growth in her life.
So we do participate in our own restoration. Through ongoing surrender and obedience, even when it’s hard, we help in the process of ridding our lives of physical and emotional and spiritual toxins that are poisoning our lives and preventing our healing and growth.
And yet there always comes a point when we reach the limits of our participation. At some point we have to come back to the realization that God, once again, is in charge of how we heal and when we heal and what the end result will be. He alone is the one who can ultimately “make it all better.” But that is wonderful news to me, because only in him does “all better” mean perfect, fully whole, completely redeemed, remade, more beautiful than we ever imagined, with no seams, no scars, no Band-Aids, no patches.
It’s a little like Margery Williams’ beautiful little story of The Velveteen Rabbit. No doubt you have read this beloved children’s book about the little stuffed rabbit who wanted to be real. This toy rabbit was loved by his young owner until his velveteen fur was worn and his face was gone and his stuffing was coming out. But somehow, in the process of being loved to tatters, this little toy bunny was given the gift of becoming “real.”
The point of the story, of course, was that we become real by loving and being loved, but that in the process we get hurt and collect some scars.
But I think the ending of that beautiful little story makes another point as well.
In his first life the velveteen rabbit was a stuffed toy covered with scars.
By the end of the story, though, he was not just repaired. He wasn’t just patched up, glued together, fixed up.
Instead, the velveteen rabbit was transformed, made new, still fully himself but at the same time fully new. He wasn’t a patched-up toy bunny. He was a beautiful, bounding, real rabbit, set free by love to explore an entirely new world.
And that’s the kind of healing I look forward to eventually, when I’m through with this life and ready for my new life in the Lord.
Here on earth, the restoration we experience is an ongoing process, truly miraculous but partial and problematic. Here on earth, the very process of healing leaves us inevitably marked and scarred (not to mention wrinkled and sagging).
In the end, though, the healing we are promised is full and complete. When God is through with us, we will be more real than we ever thought possible as well as unscarred and unwrinkled and energetic and full of life and love.
I don’t know about you, but I just can’t wait!
2 KINGS 20:5
I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you
For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.
But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice (for the LORD your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you.