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Authors: Elyse Fitzpatrick

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A Steadfast Heart: Experiencing God's Comfort in Life's Storms

BOOK: A Steadfast Heart: Experiencing God's Comfort in Life's Storms
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A

Steadfast

HEART

E X P E R I E N C I N G G O D ’ S C O M F O R T I N L I F E ’ S S T O R M S

Elyse

FITZPATRICK

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© 2006 by Elyse Fitzpatrick

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—except for brief quotations for the purpose of review or comment, without the prior permission of the publisher, P&R Publishing Company, P.O. Box 817, Phillipsburg, New Jersey 08865-0817.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD

BIBLE®. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (esv) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copy-right © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.

All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (amp) are from the AMPLIFIED BIBLE. Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

Scripture quotations marked (tlb) are from THE LIVING BIBLE. Copyright © 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL 60189. All rights reserved.

“Christ Shares His People’s Sorrows” by Faith Cook from
Grace in Winter: Rutherford in
Verse
. Copyright © 1989 by Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, Pa. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

“No Scar” by Amy Carmichael from
Toward Jerusalem
. ©1997 by Dohnavur Fellowship, and published by CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

“God Reigns in the Storm” and “Be Still and Know” written by Steve and Vikki Cook. Copyright 2006 by Before the Throne Music (ASCAP). Taken from the CD “Before the Throne” by Steve and Vikki Cook. For more information on this recording or the ministry of Steve and Vikki Cook please visit www.BeforeTheThroneMusic.com. Before the Throne Music was created to provide cross-centered songs for churches and worshipers..

Page design and typesetting by Lakeside Design Plus

Printed in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Fitzpatrick, Elyse, 1950–

A steadfast heart : experiencing God’s comfort in life’s storms / Elyse Fitzpatrick.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN-10: 0-87552-747-7 (paper)

ISBN-13: 978-0-87552-747-5 (paper)

1. Bible. O.T. Psalm LVII—Criticism, interpretation, etc. I. Title BS1450 57th .F58 2006

248.8'6—dc22

2006043287

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Contents

Acknowledgments 7

Before You Read This Book 9

Introduction 15

1. Our Cry in the Storm 25

2. His Forsaken Son 39

3. His Suffering Saints 53

4. He Comforts His Children 69

5. His Purpose Fulfilled 89

6. Our Hearts Grow Strong 105

7. My Whole Heart Sings! 119

8. Be Exalted, O God! 137

Notes 153

5

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Introduction

A Steadfast Heart:

Experiencing God’s Comfort in Life’s Storms

W hat is it about that title that intrigues or interests you?

Do you wonder what it means to have a steadfast heart?

Do you question whether your heart is steadfast or not? Although discovering what a steadfast heart looks like might be your moti-vation in picking up this book, I’m supposing that other readers are vitally interested in how to experience God’s comfort, right here, right now, in the middle of their personal storm. Perhaps you don’t even believe that you can be comforted—it feels like it’s been so long since anything resembling comfort was part of your life that you hope you’ll be able to glimpse God’s face somewhere in this dark and gloomy tempest. Or perhaps you believe that God is comforting you but want to know more about what He’s up to. So, whether you’re looking for a more steadfast heart, trying to find God’s comfort in a storm, or want to spend 15

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Introduction

some time with a sister and Psalm 57 (our primary text for this book), you’ve come to the right place. In the pages that follow we’ll journey together through this divinely inspired prayer, and we’ll see how God consoles us. We’ll even seek to discover why He brings storms our way (Job 37:9–13). We’ll also learn what it means to have a steadfast heart and how a storm surge of joy and worship can burst forth from you in grateful thanks and praise for His steadfast love!

A National Tragedy Becomes Personal

Like most people in America, I spent most of September

11, 2001, glued to the television. I distinctly remember what I felt when I watched those towers come down: confusion, terror, and overwhelming sorrow. I wept.

A little later in the day I received a phone call from a relative informing me that my aged father, who worked in proximity to the World Trade Center, was near the disaster, and, although he was not injured, he was unable to get home. Hours went slowly by, and many prayers were offered until finally, near the end of the day, I heard the good news that he had boarded a tug boat at Battery Park and had been brought uptown to his home. He was well, and though I was filled with grief and sorrow for the thousands of people who had suffered that day, I thought I was safe. I hadn’t really been touched . . . or so I thought. Oh, how wrong I was.

I was wrong because, in response to their losses from the 9/11 tragedy, insurance companies modified the way they pay disaster claims. For most people this wouldn’t present a major problem, but for my husband, Phil, and me, it did. That’s because Phil owned and operated a disaster restoration company that 16

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Introduction

serviced claims from homeowners who had suffered some form of loss: a fire, flood, or vandalism. The lifeblood of our business depended upon insurance companies that were severely affected by the terrorist attacks. In fact, we’re still reeling from the aftershocks of that tragic day.

The way that this and other difficulties played out in our lives is that from day to day, Phil and I didn’t know whether we were going to make it financially. Because we were the owners of our business, if it failed it meant more than just looking for a new job. It meant the loss of everything we owned. This was the new reality for us.

In addition, along about 2003, I began to experience some strange physical symptoms that have never been conclusively diagnosed. The strain of the difficulties we were facing—Were we going to be able to make our payroll? Were we going to have a house to live in? What would happen to our adult children who worked in the business with us? Would our family be torn apart? What would happen to our grandchildren?—took its

toll on my body. I struggled and felt as though a burden had been placed on my back that I couldn’t find any escape from.

The doctors had a neat little Latin label for this condition but couldn’t offer any real help.

As if all this weren’t enough, it was in the summer of 2003

that our beloved pastor, Craig Cabaniss, and a number of much-loved families from our church told us that they believed God was calling them to plant a church in north Dallas and that they would be leaving within the year. Every family in our church spent months crying buckets of tears at the rending of such precious relationships.

From 2002 until around March 2005, it seemed that every

new day brought a new storm front, a pounding that we hadn’t 17

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Introduction

previously known. “You’re not going to believe this . . .” was Phil’s daily refrain as he came home from work. “They did what?” was my frequent response. Then, when occasionally we hoped we’d seen the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, we learned that it wasn’t relief we’d seen, but rather the 5:00 train from Los Angeles heading straight at us. How long would this go on?

At one point Phil and I found ourselves sitting on a cold bench outside a courtroom. “How did we end up here?” I

asked. Until that point, my entire experience with the legal system had included showing up for jury duty and never being selected. As I watched in wonder as a pack of lawyers stood there chatting about our case and laughing among themselves, I said, “You know, every breath they take is costing us a hun-dred dollars.” Were they trustworthy? Did they have our best interests at heart, as they claimed? And then there was the question of how the judge would rule. In one sentence she could ruin us.

In addition to these problems with our business, we suffered in other, more personal ways. A number of our dear relatives and friends died during this time, including a beloved great-aunt who passed away in March 2003 and a cherished uncle, Bob, who succumbed to cancer in May 2004. I know it’s hard to believe, but there was hardly a month that went by when we didn’t have a funeral to go to or condolences to send.

And then, at the end of November 2003, what in some

ways was the deepest wound of all to me, occurred. I had run home between counseling cases for a bite to eat, and I listened with shock and horror to a voicemail message from my dearest friend, Julie’s, mother: “Oh, Elyse,” she cried. “Richard [Julie’s son] is dead. He was killed in a car accident last night.”
What?

I thought.
What did I just hear?
and then, within my heart I 18

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Introduction

sensed a deadly coldness that was transforming itself into rage.

Hasn’t she gone through enough? Isn’t this a little heavy-handed of
you? I understand, Lord, why you’re hammering me, but this? Why
this? Isn’t this over the line?

In the days that followed, as I met with Julie and helped with the funeral arrangements and hosted the family reception at my home, questions about the ultimate goodness of God filled my heart and mind. For the first time in many years I began to question God. I questioned His character—why would He

do this to her? How does this square with what He says about Himself? Is He loving? Is He merciful? I fell headlong into a pit of despair and discouragement.

What I’ve just written may have shocked you. I know, we

Christians aren’t supposed to have these questions. We’re supposed to be strong and filled with faith. But this isn’t the portrait that I see in the lives of brothers and sisters in Scripture, and it isn’t the experience of our brothers and sisters here. This was, for me, midnight of the dark night of my soul.

The Steadfast Heart

During these difficult years the Lord graciously brought

Psalm 57 to me through the preaching of one of our church’s leaders, Steve Shank. Then, on my birthday at the beginning of November 2003, in kindness God gave me a present: He burned this psalm into my consciousness.

Because Phil and I were at a loss about how to pray, we had already been spending much time in the psalms. Psalm 57 was one of those psalms that spoke deeply to me. One verse in particular was meaningful. It read, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!” (esv). Then, 19

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Introduction

for this same birthday a dear friend gave me a beautiful chain with a silver heart. Inscribed on it was my verse: “My heart is steadfast, O God.” What was so remarkable about her gift was that she didn’t know that God had already been speaking that verse to me. A steadfast heart? Was that God’s plan for me? My heart felt anything but steadfast.

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