Immanuel means…

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; 
He leads me beside quiet waters. 
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. 
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; 
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; 
You have anointed my head with oil; 
My cup overflows. 
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

My husband and I have, this past month, walked through a valley. It was not in the shadow of death, though. The shadow that hung over us was a little shy of that. It was of possible diagnoses, brought on by sudden and severe health problems for my husband. We learned just how dark and challenging that valley can get, how fast you can be plunged into it, and how relentless the devil attacks can be… and we learned some more of how endless God’s faithfulness is.

God has now led us out of the darkest of those shadows.  The worst possibilities seem to have been crossed off the list of possible causes, and the worst of the strange symptoms have left. (Though his health is still not what it was, and we still don’t know what happened.)

And yet… God is always faithful. Always. If I was not convinced before that He does all things well, I would be even more convinced now.

You see, right in the midst of the deepest darkness, God moved.

Right there, with fears and weariness surrounding us, God began breaking strongholds that I’ve been praying against for 10+ years.  

God is powerful… all powerful… yet He allows Himself to be limited by the freedom of choice that He gave us. And sometimes, He has to let us get into some pretty tight places before we give Him the freedom to release that power in our lives.

That is what He did inside my husband. God has broken chains. He’s opened eyes that were blind to things they wanted to see but just couldn’t. God has done and is doing what He is always doing… all things well.

As for me…

I blogged about the strength to use the armor less than two months ago. Little did I know how soon those words would have a chance to get tested on an even deeper left. And God’s word held true.

The darkest parts of that valley have become something treasured in my heart, for I experienced God’s strength and power and peace on a level that blew way past everything I’ve ever experienced. You know how Paul said that when he was weak, God was strong? It is sooo true! I knew it before, but there’s nothing like experiencing something on a deeper level to make your “knowing” even more complete.

How can I describe the reality of what I experienced? Three days in particular were some of the most wearisome of my life. Never before have I experienced such weariness… weariness that seemed to have invaded every cell of my body.

My body remembers how that weariness hit me less than half an hour after waking up. Weariness that exceeded what I would normally feel after 18+ hours of working and doing. But my spirit remembers the unbelievable strength and power that flooded me even then as I began praising my Savior.

How can you go from barely having the strength to stand and keep your eyes open, to literally dancing and singing with a heart full of life?  These words that I shared: “You stay the same, through the ages… Your love never changes. There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” …how is it that when my mouth and heart sung them, now became my morning?

Only the presence of God can allow a person as weak as myself to stare the possible prospect of death and lonliness in the face… and still feel the peace of God wrapping me completely.

I can now understand how Paul could say he rejoiced in his weaknesses. I don’t get to experience those things on a daily basis. But I did then! I experienced the reality of Jesus.

“…and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:20-21

He truly was with me.

And lest we forget what He said He came to bring, Luke records:

And He came to (P)Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, (Q)He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and (R)stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,(S)The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,And recovery of sight to the blind,To set free those who are oppressed,(T)To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”And He (U)closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and (V)sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

 He was quoting Isaiah 61, which continues:

To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.

Jesus is with us. 
And He didn’t come empty-handed. He came to release the captives, give sight to the blind, set free the oppressed, comfort those who mourn, and give the mantle of praise and strength to those who are fainting of weariness.

Here, once more, are the words to His song… the one He gave me last Christmas:

All He Was
© 2011 Kathleen Peters (since US copyright law doesn’t recognize God’s right to it)

Once outside of time began a story    (John 1:1)
It’s been told a thousand times and ways, or more
A virgin birthed and angels sang    (Is. 7:14Luke 1:342:13-14)
The wise men saw and shepherds came  (Matt. 2Luke 2:15-16)
But the hero who lay within her arms 
Had already made a sacrifice of love:     

He was the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
Before foundations of the world were laid      (Rev. 13:8)
Beyond the veil of time     (Ps. 90:2)
He knew the world would need a Savior’s touch      (Is. 9:2)
So He surrendered all He was.      (Phil 2:7)

He said that He revealed the face of God    (John 14:9)
That’s why the crowds responded to His power and love    (Matt. 4:25)
The sick were healed and blind could see   (Matt. 4:23Matt. 15:31)
The lame made whole, possessed set free (Matt. 21:14Mark 1:32)
Yet they took Him and nailed Him to a cross   (Matt. 27:22-31)
But He prevailed over death and conquered all!    (2 Tim. 1:10)

‘Cause He’s the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
Since the foundations of the world were laid 
Beyond the bounds of time
He rules as everlasting Lord of all      (Phil. 2:9-10)
Yet He surrendered all He was…  (Luke 4:17-21)

         To bring good news to the afflicted     (Is. 61:1)
         And peace for the broken    (Is. 61:1)
         There’s freedom for captives     (Is. 61:1)
         The favor of God    (Is. 61:2)
         There’s joy now for mourning      (Is. 61:3)
         And strength for the weary      (Is. 61:340:31)
         He’s made us the righteousness of God   (2 Cor. 5:21)

He’s still the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
When the foundations of the world were laid     (Rev. 13:8)
The Father looked through time     (Is. 9:2-7)
He saw that you would need a Savior’s love…     (Rom. 7:24-25Gal. 2:20)
         So Jesus came to be the Perfect One      (2 Cor. 5:21)
         What He did for you will always be enough…  (Rom. 8:1-4)
         Because He gave you all He was.     (1 Cor. 1:30)

Merry Christmas!

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