(Below are Nicole's thoughts on Day 13 & 14 of Rick Warren's A Purpose Drive Life. Please know that what we all learn from a study is usually different. Therefore, we encourage you to share your thoughts and what you've learned in the comment section below each post. We're sure you'll lift someone's spirit.)
Day 13 opens up with the following Bible verse:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. - Mark 12:30
Read that verse again and then ask yourself this....am I truly giving God all of me or just my leftovers? In the past few weeks, we've learned how to worship and how to become friends with God. Now, we want to make sure our worship is pleasing to God. Rick Warren gives us the four characteristics of worship that is pleasing to God. They are as follows:
* Worship is accurate. In other words, we don't make God out to be who we want him to be. He's exactly who he is in the Bible.
* Authentic worship. This is when we truly feel it. We're not just going through the motions at church. We're actually connecting with God. For me, this happens when I think of how truly awesome God is and all of the incredible things he's done in my life.
* Thoughtful worship. I really like how Rick Warren encourages us on page 104 to use another word besides praise, amen, hallelujah, or thanks. He also tells us to be specific. Thank God for the actual things he's done or doing in your life.
* Practical worship. My absolute favorite thing he wrote for Day 13 was on page 105. "We sing, "Onward Christian Soldiers" on Sunday, then go AWOL on Monday." So unfortunately true. He then continues on with "when you praise God even when you don't feel like it, when you get out of bed to worship when you're tired, or when you help others when you are worn out, you are offering a sacrifice of worship to God. That pleases God."
By now, we have a pretty strong understanding of how to worship God beyond just singing. But what about when the going gets tough? Do we still praise him in the midst of our heartaches? Do we still thank him for our blessings when our prayers are not being answered? It's a heck of a lot harder to worship in the midst of a storm. So how do we do it? How do we get up out of bed every morning and thank him for the day ahead when we know how tough our "autism" days can be? How do we thank him for our blessings when our one prayer request is not being answered? How do we still lift his name up higher than anything else on this earth when he seems so far away?
In Day 14 of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren shares with us four things to do during these dark times. On page 107, Rick writes "The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, trusting him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant." So hard, but so true. We all have learned from this chapter that God hides from us intentionally to help us grow. We learn to trust him. The first thing we must remember to do during our storms is to tell God how we're feeling. Tell him we're mad that our children still have autism, we're scared that no one seems to agree on what we can do to help our precious children, that it's a financial struggle, it's impacting our marriages, our health and by golly our sanity! He already knows how we're feeling but he wants to hear it from us. I believe it's because it breaks down that wall we put up between us and him. The more we open up to him, the more we rely on him and trust in him. Think about your group of friends. The ones you are the closest to are the ones you share more with how you feel about things. That's what God wants. The second thing Day 14 tells us to remember during the dark times is to focus on who God is, his unchanging nature. On page 111, it says "Remind yourself what you know to be eternally true about God: He is good, he loves me , he is with me, he knows what I'm going through, he cares and he has a good plan for my life." We have to remember these things during our most trying days. The third thing we need to remember is that we need to trust God to keep his promises. On page 112, Rick says "When you feel abandoned by God yet continue to trust him tin spite of your feelings, you worship him in the deepest way." The last thing and most important thing that Rick encourages us to remember during these dark times is what God has already done for you. God sent his only Son, Jesus, to die for us on the cross. For this reason, we should desire to worship God through all of eternity.
So let's take it all back to autism. Let's say that today has been a really tough day. Maybe a tough week. Usually your child is connected, playing, language is pretty great. Sure he has autism but he's making some great milestones. You're going to church. Reading your Bible. Participating in this really cool online Bible study. Everything is falling into place. Then...BAM! The storm hits you. Your child is in his own world again. He's scripting, humming, not playing, behaviors are through the roof. You haven't done anything different. You pray. You pray for healing. You pray for wisdom. Nothing. You don't understand what's going on. You start to wonder did he eat something he shouldn't? Is he catching a bad virus? Is this the toxins inside of him? Did someone do something to him at school? Is he regressing again? You pray. No answer. At this point, we panic. We grasp for straws. We forget about the four things that Rick Warren encourages us to remember. We are in the midst of the storm and it's a big one. At this point our child needs us to be strong. They need us to stand firm against these winds and draw near to God. How do we find him? Through worship. Know that God is with us. Believe that he is with us. Remember everything that he's done for us in the past. Including Jesus dieing on the cross. We will get through this. Even if we can't feel God near us, he's there. Just keep pressing forward and know that God has our very best interest in heart. And remember our Verse to Remember for Day 14...
"For God has said "I will never leave you; I will never abandon you." Hebrews 13:5
I know we all have our tough days. I know that if I am having a great day today, there's another mom of a child with autism who is having a tough day. I believe what Rick Warren wants us to learn from Day 14 is that worshipping God during the tough days is the best worship of all. I'd like to do something different this week. I'd like for us all to write in the comment section below this post something wonderful that God has done for your family as far as autism is concerned. Maybe it's a milestone your child reached, a new outlook on life that you have gained or even a prayer that's been answered. This way, when you have that tough day or I have a tough day, we can all go back and read the good things that are happening for all of us and for our children. I believe this will help us all to worship God when we need to the most!
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. -Romans 8:28
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14
"Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." -Mark 12:30
The Lord has hidden himself from his people, but I trust him and place my hope in him. -Isaiah 8:17
"For God has said, "I will never leave you; I will never abandon you." -Hebrews 13:5