Amazing Grace

Is there anything in your life that you have been asking God to take away? Is it a problem to you? Does it hinder you spiritually? Is it a trial? Is it a temptation? Is it a weakness? Is it a worry? Is it a sorrow you can no longer carry or a sickness that can’t be healed?

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

These are the words of Jesus. If you are a student of the New Testament, they seem almost out of place. Words of Jesus normally appear in the gospels, but here they appear in one of the letters of Paul. This was a personal promise Paul received from Jesus in a period of his life which was unexpectedly difficult and overwhelming. Paul found himself so overwhelmed, that three different times he asked for the difficulty to be removed. The Lord refused. Instead, He offered Paul His Grace. It is also what He offers to me in my difficulty and to you in yours. 

Jesus wasn’t telling Paul that his own strength was enough. It was not enough. He was not able. The problem was too big. The thorn was to deep. But what the Lord did say is that He would give Paul His Grace, and His Grace would be enough.

Grace enough. My Grace for you. Grace enough for every circumstance! Grace enough for every trial! Grace enough for every temptation! Grace enough to live! Grace enough to die! My Grace for you!

First, what is Grace?

It is God’s favor. It is undeserved. It can’t be earned. It can’t be bought. It is the fullness of God’s favor expressed most fully in Christ. It is such an important word that Paul could say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”   (Ephesians 2:8)

In Paul’s weakness, Jesus didn’t say, “Paul, try as hard as you can to endure, and when you have done all you can, My Grace will do the rest.” Jesus didn’t say, “Paul, work with Me here. You do part, and My Grace will do part.” He said, “Paul, you can’t. You are weak. But set against your weakness is My Grace, and My Grace alone is sufficient. My Grace alone is everything you need.”

When Christ offers us His Grace, He is not offering us a substance. He is not offering us His sympathy or compassion. He is offering us Himself and all that He is and all that He has. My Grace for you! Me and all that I am and  have for you! My presence, My power, My provision, My providence, My protection. My Grace for you! 

My Grace in your weakness. My Grace in your worry.  My Grace in your weariness. My Grace in your wandering. My Grace in your woe. My Grace for you in your present circumstances, whatever those circumstances may be!

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

That is what He offered Paul. That is what He offers me. That is what He offers you. My Grace for you!

Second, what is unique about Grace?

Paul noted that this was a personal promise from the Lord Jesus.  “He has said to me…” And in saying it, He was not saying His Grace would be barely enough. He said, “My Grace is sufficient.” How sufficient is Grace? 

When it comes to my sin, how sufficient is Grace? Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more! (Romans 5:20b) It is more than enough.  It is enough with Grace to spare. When Jesus Christ offers me His Grace, He offers me Himself. In the New Testament, He was never insufficient for any need. When there were five thousand to be fed, He took five loaves and two fishes and fed them with food left over. His Grace was sufficient.  He was never at a loss to meet a need whether it was  a man in bondage to a legion of demons, or the need of a man wrapped for four days in the windings of death inside a dark tomb. He could have stood outside the tomb of Lazarus, and said the same thing to him in his deadness that he said to Paul in his weakness. “My Grace is sufficient for you!”

His Grace is sufficient for salvation! It is sufficient in temptation! It is sufficient for sanctification! It is sufficient right now amidst any situation you face in your life!

Third, who can be a recipient of this Grace?

This was a personal promise to Paul. But it is also a personal promise to you. My Grace for you in your particular circumstances. My Grace for your bondage, for your deadness, for your depravity, for your darkness, however dark it may be. Can you sin past the point of forgiveness? My Grace for you sinner, regardless of how sinful you may be!

Paul talked to God about this thing, this thorn, this problem that overwhelmed him, that overcame him, that was too much for him personally. It was a problem for him spiritually. He asked God to take it away. Is there anything in your life that you have been asking God to take away? Is it a problem to you? Does it hinder you spiritually? Is it a trial? Is it a temptation? Is it a weakness? Is it a worry? Is it a sorrow you can no longer carry or a sickness that can’t be healed?

Three times Paul asked God to take that thorn away. And HE didn’t. HE wouldn’t! Instead, He offered Paul something to go along with his thorn. He has said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you!” Sufficient for the thorn. Sufficient for the trouble. Sufficient for the tragedy. Sufficient for the trial. Sufficient for whatever it is in your life that overcomes you and overwhelms you!

Fourth, where should I expect to experience this Grace?

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

What is the weakness that Paul was facing? We don’t really know. But whatever it was, against that weakness, in the face of that weakness, the Lord Jesus offered Paul His Grace. He was not offering Paul His sympathy. He was not offering Paul His compassion. He was offering Paul Himself!

Power is perfected in weakness! What does that mean? It means there is no better place to experience Christ, no better place to know His presence, His strength, His deliverance than in weakness. Paul said, “Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9b)

Christ in my weakness. Christ in my worry. Christ in my weariness. Christ in my wandering. Christ in my woe. Christ in my trial. Christ in my tragedy. Christ in my temptation. When Jesus Christ offers me His Grace, He offers me Himself, His strength, His presence, His power, His protection, His provision. My Grace for you! Where? In your weakness—whatever it is.

Finally, when can I expect to experience that Grace?

There is one word in this verse that I want you to see. That one word may come to mean more to you than all the rest of the words in this verse. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you… (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

This is a promise. It was a promise made to Paul. But it is also a promise made to you. In the original Greek, the first part of this verse is written in he perfect tense. Written in the perfect tense, it comes with a sense of finality and absolute authority. It is unquestionably true. My Grace is sufficient!

But we still have not answered the question of when. When will I know this grace? When can I know this grace? How long will I have to bear under the weight of my trial? How long will I have to struggle against my temptation? How long will I have to face my weakness before I know that Grace? When will I know it? When can I claim it?

The promise was made in the past as Paul reflects upon it. However, the promise itself is written in an abiding present. Jesus didn’t say, “My grace will be sufficient.”Paul didn’t say, “His grace has been sufficient.” Paul wrote the words exactly as Jesus said them because the truth remains. “My Grace IS sufficient!”

That little word “IS” should mean all the world to you, because it means right now! Whatever your circumstances. Whatever your weakness. Whatever your worry. Whatever your weariness. Whatever your sorrow. Whatever your struggle. Whatever your suffering. The promise of the Lord Jesus is: My Grace for you!

“My Grace is sufficient. My Grace is power perfected in weakness.” When Christ offers you His grace, He doesn’t offer you His sympathy or His compassion. He offers you Himself. To know the Grace of Christ, is to know the power of Christ dwelling in you. When can you know that? When can you experience that Grace all sufficient? Right now! My Grace for you IS! His Grace is sufficient for anything you might be facing in your life!

His grace IS right now! Right now Christ offers you Himself, His  presence, His power, His protection, His provision. Do you need His help? Do you need His strength? Do you need the deliverance that only He can give?

What must you do? Let me take you to one more verse of Scripture that may drive home the point to your heart. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe thatHe is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

HE IS! HIS Grace IS! His Power IS perfected in weakness! If you seek Him in your weakness, you can experience the power of Christ dwelling in you right now! When Jesus offers you His grace, He offers you Himself! It is my sincere prayer that the Lord will reveal Himself and His Grace to you in your personal journey!

Between the Little Whiles

Are you facing some uncertainty, some suffering, some sorrow? In the space between the little whiles, we don’t know what God is doing. But it is good to know God is doing something. He says so in His word.

Some of you are passing through difficult circumstances. Your night of difficulty is long. You, like me, know the Lord Jesus. You are a believer. But you are in one of those “in between” moments of life. You are in between the Lord’s promise, and the realization of His promise. You are in between crying out to God for deliverance, and waiting for that deliverance to come. You are in between the dark night of trial, and the glorious morning of being on the other side of that trial, where you can see how God worked all things together for good.

Some years ago, I grappled with a set of verses that left me wondering what they might mean. As a matter of fact, as I read them, I realized that even the Lord’s own disciples were having hard time understanding what He meant. He was talking to them about some “in between” moments in their lives.

16 “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.” 17 Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. John 16:16-22

Seven times in four verses, we meet this phrase a little while. There are two distinct little whiles in this conversation between Jesus and His disciples. There is the little while before His departure, (that is between that moment and the cross) and there is the little while between His departure and His resurrection. He speaks of what will happen to them in between the little whiles and at the end of the little while.

The disciples were clearly confused by the little whiles and just what Jesus might be saying. But what was He saying, and is He still saying it to us? Is He telling us what to expect and how to live between the little whiles?

I will let you draw your own conclusion. But the matter peaked my interest some years ago. So I began to investigate. Here are the questions I asked as I began my investigation.

  •  How Long is a Little While?

I don’t think there is an answer to that, but on the other hand, we have several illustrations of periods the Bible refers to as a little while.

First, Jesus own life on the earth was referred to as a little while.

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9

In light of eternity, the thirty-three-year life-span of Jesus, was just a little while. In fact, so is your life and mine.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14

Of course, your age will determine how you relate to that verse. If you are a younger person, say in your teens to your thirties, you can’t see how life could be short. You have so much ahead of you. Yet, if you are older, you know how fast time passes, and how it seems to go by faster and faster. So you understand how an entire lifetime could be characterized as just a little while.

You might like to know that in each case the Greek word is the word from which we get our word Microscopic. It means very small. And yet, a little while, from the perspective of heaven, can cover many generations.

For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. Hebrews 10:37

How long has it been since those words were written? Well, in light of the verse itself, just a little while. But chronologically, it has been almost 2000 years. I share these things to show you how impossible it is to put a time on a little while. So what was Jesus trying to tell his disciples? He was preparing them for what was going to happen between the little whiles.

  • What Happens Between the Little Whiles?

He compared what happens between the little whiles to what happens to a woman in labor. There is pain between the little whiles. There is sorrow between the little whiles. There is weeping between the little whiles. Life happens between the little whiles.

For someone passing through one of these little whiles of sorrow or suffering, it can seem overwhelming. …even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials… 1 Peter 1:6

You might find yourself in the little while of suffering or sorrow. How long will it last? There is no way to know. God governs the days and hours between the little whiles. God has a purpose in these little whiles. That is what Jesus was telling his disciples. Life between the little whiles was going to be difficult. But God was working His purpose.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

The suffering, sorrow, pain, and weeping of the little while, falls under God’s sovereignty. Jesus was alerting His disciples to these things, that they might not lose faith between the little whiles.

  •  How Should I Live Between the Little Whiles?

In the Old Testament, we are told of the time the nation of Israel experienced a three and a half year drought. From the perspective of the people who endured it, it was agonizing. All through that little while, Elijah lived under the protection of God, who engaged the ravens to feed him until the brook ran dry, and then chose to provide for him at the home of a destitute widow. The widow was destitute because there was a famine in the land during the little while. Eventually, Elijah emerges from his God imposed hiding place and finds himself atop Mt. Carmel praying for rain.

But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. 44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’” 45 In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower.  1 Kings 18: 42b-45a

I refer to this passage because I want you to see that Elijah endured the little while on Mt. Carmel the same way he endured the years of famine. He exhibited an absolute dependence upon God during that little while of waiting for answer to prayer. Between the little whiles, we wait in patient faith in God, who is sovereign over the little whiles.

In Isaiah, God’s people are in crisis. It is a crisis that Isaiah compares to the crisis of a woman in labor who can’t bring her child to birth. Listen to Isaiah describe it, and then listen as God instructs His people how to endure the little while.

16 O Lord, they sought You in distress; They could only whisper a prayer, Your chastening was upon them. 17 As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, She writhes and cries out in her labor pains, Thus were we before You, O Lord…. 20 Come, my people, enter into your rooms And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while Until indignation runs its course. Isaiah 26:16-17; 20

Here again, we see God calling for patient faith in the life of His people during the difficult days of the little while. Do you find yourself between the little whiles? Are you facing some uncertainty, some suffering, some sorrow? In the space between the little whiles, we don’t know what God is doing. But it is good to know God is doing something. He says so in His word. God showed me, just this week, how He was working during the little while of this COVID-19 crisis. Do you also need to see how God is at work during your little while?

Did you know that even the saints in heaven endure the little whiles?

10 And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. Revelation 6:10-11

How do the saints in heaven endure the little while? They rest themselves in God’s sovereignty. How long is the little while? Only God knows. God governs the days and hours in the little while. The little whiles serve His purposes in ways known only to Him.

  •  Finally, What Can We Expect on the Other Side of the Little Whiles?

…you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. John 16:20-22a

What can you expect on the other side of the little while?  There is a joy there—a joy that only be fully appreciated by those who have endured the little while. In the midst of the little while, those of us who keep our trust in God are…  protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:5-7

What is on the other side of the little while? A tested and approved faith, having passed through the fiery testing of the little while, and found to result in praise and honor and glory at the coming of Jesus. God has something for you on the other side of your little while. There is always something on the other side of the little while!

Life should not be measured by the little while of suffering. We look beyond the present life, which is, at its best, a vapor, only a little while. And instead we look to things eternal, although we see them only through the eyes of faith.

Between the little whiles we live by faith and not by sight. We rest in the knowledge of God’s unseen presence and in the comfort of His love. Meanwhile, God is sovereign over the little whiles, working His purpose for our good and His glory. God will bring an end to this present crisis. He will do it in His own time and in His own way. For this little while, let’s keep encouraging one another to put our trust in Him.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

Comfort in Crisis

Some of you have lost loved ones over the course of the last year. It makes things very hard. It brings a loneliness and an emptiness that makes it even harder to pass through this particular time of difficulty.

I think all of us are experiencing a general gloom in this climate of uncertainty. And that is all it is. It is uncertainty. It is uncertainty no different than that we face every day. The present situation just brings our uncertainty to the surface. I told someone the other day I felt a little like Pig-Pen, the character off Charlie Brown, who walks around with the dust cloud hovering all around him. I feel like I have a cloud of gloom following me through these days of contagion and economic calamity. But just the other day, I read back through the 27th Psalm. I hope it will help you like it helped me. Let me walk you through it, giving you the outline I penciled for myself on a notepad.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? (Psalm 27:1)

The Lord is My Light in My Darkness.

His presence alone can banish my gloom. That is not only true for me, it is true for all of us as we pass through this season of uncertainty. Remember, there is no uncertainty with God! He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

When I was a small boy, I came to know Jesus as my personal Savior. From that moment, many of the things that made me afraid, caused me fear no longer. The Lord was my light in whatever darkness that surrounded me. Still today, I have to remind myself of verses like these when darkness threatens to close in around me.  The Lord is my light in my darkness.

The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?   When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.( Psalm 27:1b-2)

The Lord is My Defender in Difficulty

This present crisis is causing difficulty for many people. But that may not be your only difficulty. As a result, your situation might be compounded by what is happening in our world. For many of you, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. But here it is. Difficulty added to difficulty. 

Do you think God is surprised by what is happening? Did He know your situation before COVID-19? Does He know your deadlines and the despair they bring to your life? I am convinced that God knows everything about my life! I have experienced His defense and His deliverance in difficulty. The word, defense, or strength, as it is is written in some translations, means a place of safety. In other words, there is no safer place to be amid the COVID-19 outbreak than simply trusting God for His protection. That is true in the midst of any other problemThe Lord is my defender in difficulty. 

Though a host encamp against me,My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me,In spite of this I shall be confident.  (Psalm 27:3)

The Lord is my Confidence in Calamity. 

Some years ago, Jeremiah 29:11 became a precious verse to me. I want to assure you that verses become precious to you when you read them for yourself from the pages of Scripture and God speaks them to your heart. This one became so special to me that I had it affixed to my office door where I worked for almost twenty years.  For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.That has always been God’s plans for His people. Yes, calamity does come. We face it from time to time. But in that calamity, the Lord remains our confidence.

David looked at his calamity and said: In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,To behold the beauty of the LordAnd to meditate in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)

As more and more time passes off the calendar of a person’s life, it becomes clear that we are very frail creatures. Our strength is so limited. But here, David reminds us: 

The Lord is My Focus in My Frailty.

I choose to keep my eyes on Him. When I see how Strong He is and how Glorious He is, it helps me not to focus so much on me and my weakness.

I realize that some of you are more afraid than others during this crisis. Try to keep your focus on the Lord and not on the news, and not on the slender thread of life itself. Life is fragile when we are at the zenith of our strength. Go back to that previous verse where David said: The Lord is the strength of my life. He has always been, and He will always be.

This is so because of this next verse:

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;He will lift me up on a rock. Psalm 27:5

The Lord is My Shelter in the Storm. 

This is true because He is Lord of the Storm. In the New Testament Jesus proved to be able to calm the storm on the sea of Galilee and the storm in the hearts of His disciples. He got out of the boat that day and met a man filled with a legion of demons. He conquered the storm that raged in Him. He got back in the boat and crossed a calm sea to the other side, finding a man whose daughter was at the point of death. On his way to that man’s house, he was stopped by a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years and no one could help her. He healed her, calming the storm of sickness. In the meantime, the little girl died. But Jesus went to her room and raised her up, displaying his power over the storm of death. What, do you think He is not Lord over Covid-19 and whatever other storm might enter our lives? He is our Shelter in the Storm because He is Lord of every storm.

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. (Psalm 27:6)

What circumstances join Covid-19 in becoming the enemy of your life. David said: 

The Lord is My Praise in the Press of My Circumstances

I don’t fear any enemy because my Lord is greater than any enemy who can come against me. I love to tell the story of my friend Greg Hardin, a deacon at a previous church, who one day made a discovery about God that shaped my life from that day to this. It is something you also need to remember. Greg said: “Now I know that God is not God. Almost. He is God Almighty.” That is the God we serve. He is our praise in the press of our circumstances.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,And be gracious to me and answer me.  When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” (Psalm 27:7b-8)

Because the Lord is my light in my darkness, my defense in my difficulty, my confidence in calamity, my focus in frailty, my shelter in the storm, my praise in the press of my circumstances, 

The Lord Will Also Be My Passion in My Peril.

Now is the time to seek His face. If you have needs, seek God. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given unto you, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Ask the Lord, seek the Lord, and knock on the door of heaven. He should be your passion in your peril.

Some of you have lost loved ones over the course of the last year. It makes things very hard. It brings a loneliness and an emptiness that makes it even harder to pass through this particular time of difficulty. David even had something to say about that in this Psalm.

Do not hide Your face from me,Do not turn Your servant away in anger;You have been my help;Do not abandon me nor forsake me,O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me,But the Lord will take me up. (Psalm 27:9-10)

We lose people we love. But we do not lose the Lord. He will never leave us or forsake us. That is His promise. Therefore, David said, 

He Is My Lord in My Lonliness

The Lord will be present with you in your home tonight. Invite Him to sit at your table. As you drink your coffee, open your Bible. Talk to Him and let Him talk to you. He will be with you in trouble, now and always.

Finally, down in the last part of this psalm David said: 

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LordIn the land of the living.Wait for the Lord;Be strong and let your heart take courage;Yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:13-14)

In other words, there were times when he would have just given up had it not been for the knowledge of God’s Presence and love. Therefore, I want to leave you with one final point that David makes about God. In doing so, I use a word that has become very special to me over the course of the last couple of months: It is the word HOPE.

The Lord Is My Hope in My Hopelessness.

The Bible says that those who put their hope in the Lord will never be disappointed. Waiting on the Lord is an expression of Hope. Because of the Lord, we should never be hopeless. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. He is with you right now in the midst of this present crisis. Who does David say the Lord is to Him through the words of this Psalm?

The Lord is my light in my darkness, my defense in my difficulty, my confidence in calamity, my focus in frailty, my shelter in the storm, my praise in the press of my circumstances, my passion in my peril, my Lord in my loneliness, and my hope in my hopelessness. He is not God Almost. He is God Almighty! I will trust and not be afraid!

Photo by Brian McGowan

The Vaccine for Fear

In the face of this present crisis, you may be thinking, “My resources are not enough.” Looking at your health situation, you tremble, worried that your strength is not sufficient to withstand such an illness. You are not sure if you will be able to cope with the trials the crisis brings.

The world is looking for a vaccine for the coronavirus. Until one is found, nations, economies, and the lives of individuals, grind to a halt. While there is not at present a cure or a vaccine for the coronavirus, there is a vaccine for the fear that spreads in its wake. Even if you are not in one of those “at risk” groups, you suffer fear related to the economy or some other calamity waiting in the wings.

Fear usually results more from what we don’t know than what we do know. Fear can freeze your faith. It can stop you dead in your tracks, hindering your obedience. It can keep you awake at night as you toss and turn, imagining the worst. Fear can cast the shadow of gloom over your life.Is there an answer—a solution to fear. Is there a medicine that you can take that will soothe your troubled mind? 

The answer to fear is not in a pill or a potion but in a Presence.

Allow me to introduce you to a single verse from the book of Isaiah. Personally, I don’t believe it is accidental or incidental when we encounter a word from the Lord. For that reason, I hope you will be alert to what God might be saying to you. In this single verse, you will discover God’s Promise, His Peace, His Power and His Presence.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)

In this present crisis, we need to look for God. We need to seek Him. Our one great longing should be to be in His presence. He is the answer to this present crisis that exists in our world as well as the crisis bells that ring inside our hearts. I believe being in God’s presence is the safest place that I can be, the richest place that I can be, as well as the happiest place that I can be. If I am with Him, I have all I need. Our greatest need is Him. We need His presence. 

In this verse, we have the Promise of His Presence.

Do not fear, for I am with you… Isn’t it strange how the presence of another person in the house at night diminishes fear? Alone, we imagine any creak of the house or rumble of the refrigerator as an intruder. But with someone in the house with us, those sounds don’t seem to bother us or unsettle us. The awareness of God’s Presence brings an end to fear. 

But have you ever wondered: “Is God really with me?  Does He care?  Does He know what I face?” God promises never to leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) By faith, we accept the simple promise of God’s Presence, and in so doing we find great comfort.

Is that not what the Lord says to you as you look down the road that you travel?  “I am with you. I will go with you.” When Moses responded in fear at the assignment that God gave him, God assured by saying, “My Presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

But this is not just an Old Testament promise. In Matthew 28:20 it is recorded as the last promise of Jesus to His disciples: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

His Presence Brings Peace

In Isaiah 41:10 God whispers: Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. God knows the road ahead of you. Any journey you take at His command, will be a journey overshadowed by His Presence. Any step you take in Obedience to Him, will only serve to bring you nearer His Presence and deeper into His Peace and Rest. 

Our troubled minds grope for peace, finding only misery until they rest in Him. Claim the promise of His Presence, and you will know His Peace. The peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds. He will surround you with His peace.

David, who himself knew what it was to experience His comforting presence wrote, “He will cover you with His pinions and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark. (Psalm 91:4)

We have the promise of His Presence. The awareness of His Presence brings a sense of peace.

Third, When You Have His Presence You Also Have His Power.

In the face of this present crisis, you may be thinking, “My resources are not enough.” Looking at your health situation, you tremble, worried that your strength is not sufficient to withstand such an illness. You are not sure if you will be able to cope with the trials the crisis brings. Is God able? Is this God of the Bible able to see you through the darkest night or carry you through the deepest valley?What is it that God offers you in the face of your fears and in the face of your need? He offers you Himself!

I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Whose hand is it that promises your deliverance? Who will cover you with His pinions, and whose very Presence is a shield and a bulwark? It is God Himself! When God is with you, you have access to His Power. You have the assurance of His Peace, and you have the great Promise of His Presence.

What is the vaccine for fear? It is God Himself.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)

When God says “fear not” He always gives a reason to back up why we shouldn’t be afraid? “Don’t be afraid because I am with you!” Is that the assurance God is giving you? 

You are worried to the point of exhaustion. The news changes faster than you can change the channels to watch it. What is going to happen? What will we do? Those are all hand wringing, gut wrenching questions. You’ve worn holes in your sheets as you toss back and forth trying to figure out how.  But the answer will not be found in asking how but in asking WHO. Amidst your alarm, God whispers, “Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God.” God promises supernatural activity in your behalf. “I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

For those who are a little older or whose health situation makes them a higher risk as we pass through the eye of this storm, I offer this extra word of comfort from the book of Isaiah. I cling to this verse personally. 

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb;Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you!” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

The vaccine for fear is God Himself. You may access this vaccine by faith, asking God to help you, to hold you, and to carry you. I am praying that you will trust God’s Promise, experience His Presence, and discover His Peace.

Photo by Piron Guillaume

Out of the Depths: Surviving the Dungeon of the Soul

The lowest spot on earth is the Dead Sea.  Geologists tell us that it sinks a little lower every day.  Some estimates say it is sinking at a rate of thirteen inches per year. But in the ocean is a place even darker and deeper. No light has ever penetrated its darkness.  The deepest part of the ocean is called the Mariana Trench.  If you dropped Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on the surface of the earth, into this part of the ocean, the top of Everest would be more than a mile below the surface.  The pressure at that depth is eight tons per square inch. That is like trying to hold sixteen thousand pounds with just two fingers, while an equivalent amount of weight is bearing down upon every square inch of your body.

Have you ever felt like you were living in the lowest spot on earth? Like the Dead Sea, you sink a little more every day.  Like being in the depths of the Marianna Trench, the pressures are almost more than you can bear. Is that what life is like for you? Do you find yourself so far down, that you feel like you have to reach up to touch bottom? If so, you can understand the feelings of David when he wrote these words.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.  If You, O Lord should mark iniquities, O Lord who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.  Psalm 130:1-41    Out of the depths I have cried… Psalm 130:1

David Was In The Depths

Was it the depths of sin?  Was it the depths of despair? Was it the depths of danger? Was it the depths of poverty? Was it the depths of sorrow? The depths have been described as that point in your life where: “Earth is hollow,  heaven empty, the air heavy, every form a deformity, every sound a discord, the past a gloom the present a puzzle, the future a horror.” C. H. Spurgeon:  The Treasuries of David

The depths describes the very bottom of your circumstances, the very bottom of life.  It is as low as a person can go. That’s where David was. He was in the depths!

What Can You Do in the Depths?

You can cry. And most people do. The depths is the lowest of all places in life. But it is more than a place. It is an attitude—an outlook—one of the most intense hopelessness and despair.  It is the dungeon of the soul.  How does a person survive such a place, such a period, such a season of life?

Even strong men cry in the depths, for in the depths, a man realizes that he has come to the end of his own resources—that he has nowhere to turn. So in the depths you cry.  You weep secretly, sometimes silently, sometimes invisibly to those around you. David was in the depths, and there in the depths he cried.

To Whom Do You Cry in the Depths?

In the depths, that deep, dark, depressing dungeon of the soul, one can conclude that all is utterly hopeless. A person might decide that there is nowhere to turn, that there is no place to cry, that there is no ear that will hear. We can even decide that God’s shoulder is not available to cry on. But David said, Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Psalm 130:1

Not only so, but in the depths, a person might detest himself or herself, and so, feel that even God loathes them and their condition. But listen to what Paul said when he asked, “What shall separate us from the love of God?” 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

The depths can’t separate us from our Lord’s love or His presence. David was in the depths.  And there he cried, but not just into his pillow. He cried to the Lord! C.H. Spurgeon said, “Prayer is never more real and acceptable than when it rises out of the worst places.  Deep places beget deep devotion.  Depths of earnestness are stirred by depths of tribulation.” 

It was out of the depths of slavery in Egypt that the children of Israel began to groan earnestly.  “They sighed by reason of their bondage, and they cried out..” Exodus 2:23b  But while their souls were chained in the dungeon of the depths, their prayers took flight. Their cry for help rose up to God, and God took action to initiate their deliverance!

Out of some pit of life, whether despair, or sin or sorrow—out of those depths, David cried to the Lord. Could it be that you are the person in the depths—that deep, dark, depressing, dungeon of the soul?  Are your eyes weak from sorrow?  Is your pillow wet with your tears?  Then turn those cries heavenward.  Your situation may be desperate, but God’s love, compassion and salvation reach even into the depths.  

How Does a Person Come to Be in the Depths?

When I find myself in the depths, I usually get there as a result of my own folly.  In my own personal experience, I have found that sin will take you to the depths! It will take you deeper in the depths  than you want to go. It will keep you longer in the depths  than you want to stay. The depths of sin will cost you more than you ever wanted to pay.

When I find myself in the depths, I am never there alone.  Satan is always there to assault me and to remind me of my faults and failures.  He is there heaping sorrow upon sorrow and discouraging me from calling on my God who is mighty to save. The same is true of all of God’s people. The enemy not only accuses us of being unworthy to call on God, He accuses God as either weak or unwilling to save us from our despair. He reads in our hearing the record of our sins. The devil keeps a detailed record of our sins against God so that he can accuse us, and dishearten us, and accuse us before God, pointing at our sin list with his crooked finger. The devil keeps a list. But listen to what David said about God.

David said, “If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,  O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You,  That You may be feared.”

If God held a grudge—if my sins were kept in His heart all would be hopeless. Make no mistake, there is a record, but against that record stands the promise of full and free forgiveness. Peter preached, “Repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out.” And Paul wrote in Colossians 2:13-14 that he has “forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

Yes—there is a record!  But there is also a Redeemer!! So, when in the depths, it is not necessary to plead your merit when pleading for God’s forgiveness.  You have no merit.  The ground on which to stand is the ground of God’s mercy and grace.  The ground on which to stand is the ground of the Cross! No dungeon is so dark or deep that the Savior can’t see and save!  David was in the depths.   He cried to the Lord—daring not to stand on his own character—but on the grace and mercy of the Lord.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Where Does One Wait While in the Depths?

David waited in the depths.  Bombarded by his doubts—bludgeoned by his fears—there he cried out to God—hanging on precariously as he waited for God’s deliverance and hoped for God’s help. There in the depths, he cried for God’s mercy, while clinging to God’s word.

Sometimes, that is all that we have in the depths. We have just one precious promise, just one verse to cling to.  Tell me what else is there—when your money is gone—when your health is gone—when your wife has told you that tomorrow she’ll be gone—when your hope is gone—what is there to hold on to?  David held on to the promises of God!

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,  and in his word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

Can Anything Good Come Out of the Depths?

Can any lesson be learned in the depths of distance from God, in the depths of disobedience, in the depths of discouragement? Remember Jonah. How deep did Jonah sink in the depths? Jonah described his circumstances as having sunk to the belly of Hell. He prayed, The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains.nI went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.When my life was fainting away,  I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. JONAH 2:5-7

God delivered even Jonah from the depths. In the throes of the desperation that you now experience, you may be wondering if any good could come from it.  It seems right now that it will destroy you emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But in the depths, David learned to call on God. He was forced to look to God.  He was forced to pray. And he was forced to wait. Listen to his testimony:

O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love  and with Him is full redemption.  He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. 130:7-8

What David might never have known in life’s noon, he discovered in life’s midnight.  The depths is a place where a person can meet God!What secret is God teaching you as you travel through the tremendous soul-crushing pressures of the depths?  Do you feel as if you are living through the lowest spot of life? Like the dead sea, do you feel like you sink a little more every day? Like being in the depths Marianna Trench. do the pressures seem almost more than you can bear? Do you find yourself so far down, that you feel like you have to reach up to touch bottom? Then cry out to the Lord. He plumbs the depths and the darkness. Neither height nor depth can separate you from his love.  

Photo by Alice Alinari

When Your Soul Has Had Enough

My soul has had enough! I have had all I can take and just about more than I can stand! I’ve had enough trouble, enough heartache, enough sickness, enough grief. My soul has had enough!

The book of Psalms is a study of the highs and lows of life. Many of those moments occurred in the life of David. We are privileged to know about them because David laid them before the Lord in prayer. Apparently, he often went to some quiet spot, where he could be alone with his harp and pour out his heart to the Lord. An old guitar has been therapy for me. Sometimes I sit down with one of David’s Psalms or with some other passage of Scripture and bare my own heart before the Lord. (In a spot where no one can hear me but Him, of course.)

But Psalm 88, is not written by David. This is one of the Psalms of the Sons of Korah, the singers of the Old Testament. I think it is normal that those assigned to sing might write a Psalm. But this Psalm is unique out of all 150. It is believed to be the saddest. Now does this mean that the guys who wrote it lost their faith or lost hope in God? If you had a chance to read my journal, you would find that there are some days that I seem deeply discouraged. I expect this is one of those times for these men—or perhaps just for the one man who retreated to some lonely place and wrote it. There is a sense of frustration. 

It seems whoever wrote it had been praying for some time, apparently in the midst of difficulties that left him spent both physically and spiritually. He is overwhelmed. His prayer is a cry of desperation, and an urgent plea for God’s intervention.

O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry! For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol. Psalm 88:1-3 (The last word is variously translated, grave, death, and in The Message,the edge of hell.”)

Do the words of this Psalm meet you where you are?

My soul has had enough! I have had all I can take and just about more than I can stand! I’ve had enough trouble, enough heartache, enough sickness, enough grief. My soul has had enough!

That statement started me on a search through the Bible looking for similar expressions.  In Psalm 119:28 ,the psalmist said “My soul weeps because of grief.” It just reminds me that there are times when trouble goes soul deep.  Is some present crisis having an impact on your soul?

In Isaiah 38:15, as Hezekiah dealt with a life-threatening illness, he related his own bitterness of soul.  Experiences that sour the life can also sour your spiritual life.  Later,  in that same chapter, Hezekiah came to the realization God was Sovereign over his circumstances. So he prayed, “Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; It is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.  Isaiah 38:17

In Lamentations 3:17, in the rubble of what was left of war-torn Jerusalem, Jeremiah cried, “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.”

Sometimes trouble sweeps into the life of a family, leaving them physically and financially devastated. Like a raging tornado, it took just a matter of seconds for their whole life to be in shambles. The emotional and spiritual trauma that follows leaves them feeling as if the storm is still raging.

Job describes what life is like for the person in bitterness of soul.  It is a continual misery.  It is one calamity right on the heels of another. I sigh when food is put before me, and my groans pour out like water. 25 For the thing I feared has overtaken me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. 26 I cannot relax or be still;I have no rest, for trouble comes. Job 3:24-26 HCSB

There are periods of life when trouble seems relentless.  It won’t stop coming.  Are you in one of those periods?  Has the strain taken a toll on your relationship with God? Five times, in the book that bears his name, Job describes himself as being in bitterness of soul.  

Psalm 88 is the cry of a man who has gone about as far as he can go under the weight of difficulty and discouragement. At the point of absolute despair, he cries: O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before Thee.  Let my prayer come before Thee, Incline Thine ear to my cry!  For my soul has had enough troubles…  Psalm 88:1-3

Mary was told that a time would come that she would endure a sorrow so deep that it would be like a sword that pierced her soul. Have you had a sorrow like that in your life?  Do you have one now? Have you experienced some soul piercing sorrow?

As we near Mother’s Day, I think about a woman in the Bible named Hannah. She was childless.  She prayed and prayed for a child, but no answer came. An adversary ridiculed her constantly because she was barren. Finallly, when she could stand it no longer, she cried out God. When Eli the priest saw her praying, he thought she was drunk. She replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.  1 Samuel 1:15 She was praying out of her great anguish and sorrow. Her soul had had enough.

Peter said that we should be alert to all the different passions and desires within us because they can wage war against the soul. Spiritual defeat can lead to spiritual despair.  When Jesus was in the garden, He prayed saying that His soul was very sorrowful, even to death.  Mark 14:34

If something can bring sorrow to the soul of Jesus, who am I to think that there are not times when my own soul will be overwhelmed. It is clear that the Lord understands when my soul has had all it can stand and teeters on the edge of collapse.

Two expressions in Psalm 107 describe the plight of a person overwhelmed by difficulty. Their soul fainted within them, then they cried to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.  Psalm 107: 5b-6

Their soul melted away in their misery.  They reeled and staggered like a drunken man. They were at their wits end.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he brought them out of their distresses.  He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:26b-29

Is that where you are?  Is your soul about ready to melt and faint away? Are you at your wits end? The Psalmist cried out in Psalm 88:3  “My soul has had enough troubles.”  He was at his wits end.  He desperately needed the Lord’s intervention in his circumstances.

The Psalmist said in Psalm 31:7 I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul.  

God said to the prophet Jeremiah, who often found himself spiritually exhausted, 25For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”  Jeremiah 31:25  (ESV) In The Message, that verse reads:  I refresh tired bodies; I restore tired souls.  

Is that what you need God to do for you? Your soul has had enough!  You’ve gone about as far as you can go and carried about all you can carry.  Now you just need God to carry you.  

I was two feet tall when I was born. Well, I was 24 inches long. In other words, I was a rather large baby. Before I reached elementary school, I was nearly five feet tall. I remember the day my dad told me that I had was just too big for him to carry. That hurt. I was a little boy on the inside. When life overwhelms me, I get that feeling all over again that I and my problems might be a little much for God to carry. After all, I am a grown man now! Doesn’t God expect me to be able to carry myself and my own problems?

Thankfully, I and my problems never get too big for God to carry. I love the promise God gave to Isaiah, “Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you. Isaiah 46:4

If you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted, find a quiet spot. Relax your body, and rest your soul into the arms of God. He knows when your soul has had enough before you do. He is willing and able to carry you.

Photo by Ali Yahya

Praying When You Are in Trouble

Do you need the Lord to intervene in your circumstances? Do you need Him to step into the midst of your turmoil and bring order out of the chaos that rages in and around your life? Do you need a second chance?

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary. (Psalm 107:1-2)

Have you ever needed a second chance? You needed it. But maybe you didn’t deserve it.  In this Psalm, the redeemed of the Lord are the saved, the spared, the delivered. The redeemed of the Lord are those who cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He intervened. He gave them a second chance, even though they didn’t always deserve it.  

Do you need the Lord to intervene in your circumstances? Do you need Him to step into the midst of your turmoil and bring order out of the chaos that rages in and around your life?  Do you need a second chance?

You may find yourself in this Psalm.   It will seem as if the Lord took an artist’s brush and painted your life on the canvas of His word.  I want to point out four occasions when God intervened in the life of His people. In each case, God gave them a second chance.

Now, let’s look at these four occasions when others prayed when they were in trouble. Under each major heading, I urge you to pay special attention to the verses that follow. 

First, you should cry out to the Lord when your soul is fainting in the wilderness of discouragement.  

They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; they did not find a way to an inhabited city.  They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted within them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.  He led them also by a straight way, to an inhabited city. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!  For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.  (Psalm 107:4-9)

They wandered. They couldn’t find their way. They were in a wilderness where they experienced hunger and thirst. It was a time of deep physical and spiritual distress.

Could you be at a point like that in your life? You feel you are wandering aimlessly. You don’t know which way to turn. You don’t know what to do. A discouraged person has hundreds of thoughts passing through their mind every minute, but their mind is a confused wilderness in which they find no maps or markers with which to find their way.  That person is lost in the desert of his or her own discouragement.

They found no city to dwell in. In other words, there was no place to rest. There was no immediate resolution to their wandering. Wherever they went, they walked with the burden of their own discouragement weighing them down. It clouded their minds like a fog. The Bible says they walked till their souls fainted. They were overwhelmed by a tidal wave of despair. When you are discouraged, you carry your discouragement with you to work. You eat with it.  You take it to bed with you every night. You come to church with it hanging like an albatross around your neck. What do youdo when yoursoul faints in the wilderness of discouragement?  

They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. (Psalm 107:6) He brought them out of the wilderness of despair, to a place where they could lay their burden down. He will do the same for you.  When your soul faints in the wilderness of discouragement, cry out to the Lord.

Second, you should cry out to the Lord when wrong choices leave you flat on your face.  

There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains because they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.  Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; They stumbled and there was none to help.  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands apart. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has shattered gates of bronze and cut bars of iron asunder.(Psalm 107:10-16)

Have you ever been trapped by the consequences of previous decisions?  These verses paint a picture of a person in a dungeon.  The person is shackled because of rebellion against the word of God and ignoring His counsel. It is easy to become victim of one’s own choices, to be held by the cords of one’s own sin and tormented by the consequences. Is that where you are? Are you trapped in a mess of your own making? Are you there because you didn’t ask for God’s direction or acted against His direction?  If you step outside of God’s will, He will send His discipline into your life until you are ready to be obedient.  Look at how this works out in these verses: Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; they stumbled and there was none to help. (Psalm 107:12)

To humble the heart describes breaking a rebellious spirit.  Just as a man can break a horse, God can break a man.  But that breaking process is no party.  Some frustration has a divine design. When you launch out without God, He will let you fall flat on your face. He will leave you there until you cry out to Him. There are moments when God lowers us into the dungeon of difficulty. He allows us to fall flat on our face. When our hearts are set on departing from Him, He complicates our circumstances until we cry out to Him in our trouble. 

What do you do when wrong choices leave you flat on your face?  Do you live with it?  Must you be a prisoner of your decisions for the rest of your life?  No.  God will shatter the gates of bronze and cut bars of iron asunder. (Psalm 107:16) He will set you free to live in the liberty of His grace and forgiveness. When wrong choices leave you flat on your face, cry out to the Lord.  They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses.(Psalm 107:13)

Third, you should cry out to the Lord when you have followed your sin to the brink of disaster.  

Fools, because of their rebellious way, and because of their iniquities were afflicted.  Their soul abhorred all kinds of food; and they drew near to the gates of death.  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses, He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!  Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful shouting.  (Psalm 107:17-22)

How far from God can you go and still come back? They drew near to the gates of death. (Psalm 107:18b)The Bible says there is a sin unto death. There is a path you can take that will take you to the grave, and God will help you on your way. Their afflictions were from the Lord. God sent severe discipline into their lives in order to bring them to repentance.  They were headed for absolute and total disaster. That may be where you are at this moment. Your sin has you and your family on the brink of disaster. Your world is beginning to fall apart. Will God help you?

Consider the story of the prodigal son. He treated his father as bad as a father can be treated. He went as far away from his father as he could go.  He wasted every blessing his father gave him. He almost wasted his whole life. He came to the end of himself, and he turned his heart toward home. When he arrived, he found his father’s outstretched arms. This is a picture of how God responds to us when we hit rock bottom and there decide to return to Him.  

How far are you from God? How close are you to the brink of disaster?  Is it too late for you?  Listen to God’s promise in Deuteronomy to those who He knew would one day wander from Him, finding themselves in deep trouble. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there theLord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. (Deuteronomy 30:4)

Look how God responded to the people in this Psalm.  They cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses, He sent His word and healed them. (Psalm 107:19-20a) That is exactly what God will do for you!  When you follow your sin to the brink of disaster, cry out to the Lord.

Fourth, you should cry out to the Lord when you are at your wits end and the wind is still blowing.  

Then those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters; they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep.  For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery.  They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits end.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they were quiet; so He guided them to their desired haven.  Let them give thank to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!  Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him at the seat of the elders. (Psalm 107:23-32)

Is there a storm in your life? Does your soul melt in the face of its ferocity? Storms of life are like weather related storms. They vary greatly in intensity. You might not fret in the face of a thunderstorm, but you might faint in the face of a tornado. What do you do when you are at your wits end dealing with what you thought was only a thunderstorm in your life, and it turns out to be a hurricane?  The sailors mentioned in these verses reached their wits end, and the wind was still blowing.  All hope was lost. What did they do?  

They cried out to the Lord.  When they did, He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. (Psalm 107:28-29) Can Jesus still say, “Peace, be still”  to the storm that rages in your life? He can! But if He chooses not to still the storm, He will guide you safely through it.  

He guided them to their desired haven.(Psalm 107:30)  There may be no safe harbor here. The sea may toss, and the winds may blow, but if you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the ship of your soul is anchored securely in heaven. In ancient times, the reefs would keep the large ships from harbor.  They put the anchor in a smaller ship, a forerunner, and carried it to the harbor. There, they would drop the anchor. When the tide rose, the anchor would pull the ship within the safety of the harbor. This seems to be what the writer of Hebrews meant when he wrote these words: The hope we have in Jesus is an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us. (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Do you need the Lord to intervene in your circumstances? Do you need Him to step into the midst of your turmoil and bring order out of the chaos raging in your life?

When your soul faints in the wilderness of discouragement, cry out to the Lord! When wrong choices leave you flat on your face, cry out to the Lord!  When you have followed your sin to the brink of disaster, cry out to the Lord!  When you are at your wits end and the wind is still blowing, cry out to the Lord. He will anchor your soul in a harbor of safety, and in His providence, the tide will rise, and He will draw you safely home!

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp 

Seasons of Discouragment

Depression is a serious illness. It isn’t a spiritual problem, although it can result from spiritual problems or any kind of discouragement.  Depression is not a sin.  It is a disease and there is a way out. 

The days are getting cooler and shorter. Some people love it. Some people dread it, and they do for good reason. They suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The drop in the amount of sunlight causes mood changes. For some, it brings the onset of depression that may not go away without treatment. I don’t like the change in seasons. Some years ago, I began to notice that I got depressed in the fall. I know why it happens now, and I can handle it better. I look forward to the winter solstice when the days start getting longer. I dread the summer solstice when the days start getting shorter. That’s just the way I am made.

Discouragement is not always connected to the season of the year. Sometimes discouragement is connected to the seasons of life. We all begin life with a great deal of optimism. We have dreams and plans. Those can be shattered by some season of disappointment.

Disappointments can bring discouragement.

The writer of Proverbs once said: Hope deferred makes the heart sick. We all face disappointment. Our plans fail. Dreams fail to materialize, causing us to face the fact that they never will. Our hopes crumble in disappointment, leaving us heartsick and forlorn. Unfortunately, that is life. People let us down. Circumstances don’t always work out. Yet, the Bible tells us that those who believe in Jesus will never be disappointed.

What does that mean? Is it true? Life is full of disappointments. The key to battling discouragement in the wake of those moments is to keep your hope in Christ.

The Life Path you travel can bring discouragement.

Have there been events along the way of your life that brought discouragement to you.

Did discouragement invade your life when you lost your spouse? Did discouragement descend like a cloud after you lost a child? Did discouragement sap your vitality after you or someone you loved was diagnosed with a serious illness? Did discouragement embitter your life after you went through a divorce? Each of us encounter circumstances across life’s journey that can leave us deeply depressed.

The Bible tells about the journey of God’s people through the wilderness. One sentence summed up the collective feeling of the entire body. The soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. Numbers 21:4 The path they travelled led them into a season of discouragement.

In the January of 1990, our thirteen-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. One day our lives were normal. The next we were sitting in a hospital being told our daughter could never go barefooted again because a foot infection could cause her to lose a leg. We were told that in in the years to come she would have complications that could claim her vision, her kidneys, her legs or her life.  From that day forward, she would take three shots a day to just to stay alive. When I walked out of that hospital, the whole world had turned grey.  There were no colors.  Life lost its luster.  I cried every night for weeks and on and off for the next years, until a kind doctor invited us to his home and lovingly told me I was wasting her days with my grief. He told me that I should take each day as it came and not ruin today with tomorrows trouble.  Only then did my perspective change, and some of the gloom departed.  But neither my life nor my daughter’s will ever be the same as it was before January of 1990.

What event changed your life? What caused a tidal wave of despair  to come crashing into your life? Sometimes I have to be reminded that my Lord will take care of tomorrow.  My tomorrows, although beyond my control, are all under His Sovereignty. Trusting Jesus from day to day will help you in your personal season of discouragement. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

There are times when the source of discouragement is our own separation from God.

I tell you these things by experience. I know what it is to know God’s peace. I also know what it is to be absolutely miserable because I am out of step with God. God warns us what will happen to our peace of heart when we walk distant from Him. See if the following words describe the present state of your heart. “…there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of the eyes, and despair of soul.  So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life.  In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall see.  Deuteronomy 28:65-67

Some of the most dismal moments I have ever experienced were during days when I was walking distant from God. Is that why you are discouraged? Is it because you have strayed from your Lord, and He has turned His face away?  There is no pill that will chase away that kind of discouragement. The only way to cure it is to come home to the Lord.

Discouragement can come when we get life out of focus.

Elijah was a mighty man of God, but a moment came when he walked out into the wilderness, lay down under a tree and prayed that he might die. Why was Elijah discouraged?  It was because Elijah had his eyes on his enemies—on his problems—and not on the Lord.

Looking to the Lord does not always make your problems go away.  However, as we keep our eyes on Him, He will give us strength to take another step forward. During days of discouragement, don’t ask to mount up with wings as eagles or to run and not be weary. Pray that God will just help you walk and not faint!

Sometimes, discouragement seems not to have a reason or a season. There are days when you know you shouldn’t be discouraged– but you are!  You know God is on your side and you shouldn’t be discouraged—but you are! You know God can help and you shouldn’t be discouraged—but you are!

Such was the situation in David’s life when he wrote Psalm 42: For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Psalm 42:4-5

David knew how he ought to feel—but he just couldn’t seem to get out from under the cloud of discouragement that had cast a shadow across his soul.

 What do you do when your discouragement won’t go away?

 It is estimated that one in ten people in the United States suffers from some form of depression. I don’t know what the statistics might be where you live. I am told that the number of people diagnosed with depression increases by 20% every year.  Discouragement can push a person over the edge into depression.   Depression is not a sin—it is a treatable illness that needs medical attention.

Rachel was one of the most godly women I have ever known.  She was the best Sunday School Teacher we had at our church.  Her husband was the author of God, If You’re Real, Let The Cow Be In The Pen When I Get Home.  She was the subject of many of his stories, and she worked tirelessly to help him market that book along with his second, Divine Appointments in the Master’s Vineyard.

Disappointment crushed her when her husband was stricken with cancer and died.  Not many months later, she lost her mother.  Rachel’s vibrant faith was rattled.  The couple lived about six miles out of town in a wooded area.  The nearest neighbor was almost a mile away.  Rachel was afraid to be alone.

Her growing discouragement gave way to depression.  She quit teaching her Sunday School Class.  This neatly dressed lady began to look unkempt.   All of these changes took place within a year of her husband’s death.  The weekend before the anniversary of her husband’s death, Rachel called her son and daughter and asked them to come home.  She prepared a meal in advance of  their arrival.  Shortly before the time they were to be home, she called a neighbor to come over to house.  She hung up the phone, took a gun, went out in her back yard to a place her neighbor would be sure to find her, and took her life.”

One year to the day after she buried her husband who died of cancer, Rachel died of depression.  Depression is a serious illness. It isn’t a spiritual problem, although it can result from spiritual problems or any kind of discouragement.  Depression is not a sin.  It is a disease and there is a way out.

In July of 2011 a dear pastor’s wife took her life. Depression is no respecter or persons or positions. It strikes the young and old. After suffering from more than one severe bout of depression, and nearing her 80th birthday, it overwhelmed her. Her husband was a godly pastor, and a strong leader. He weathered the storm outwardly, but after nearly a year of struggling with repressed guilt and the discouragement he suffered from losing his wife, depression pushed him to end his life. What did these godly people lose sight of that sent them over the edge? Maybe they forgot the one thing that kept David from falling completely apart.

 David believed that God was aware of his discouragement. 

How deep can discouragement go?  You know how deep! It can go deeper than bone and cut to the very depth of a person’s soul!  David’s did.  Maybe yours does too.  David’s hope was that God knew.  Does He know how you feel?  Yes!

If you are discouraged or depressed, it is important for you to understand that God knows.  He cares. He will act in response to your prayers. But as you pray, make sure and talk to somebody you trust. Tell them how you feel.  Ask for their prayers.  Keep your hope in God, and if discouragement comes and stays in spite of your faith and in spite of your efforts to shake it, it may be more than discouragement, it may be depression.  Remember, depression is not a sin.  It is a disease just like high blood pressure or diabetes or cancer. People die of those diseases if they don’t get medical treatment.   When discouragement pushes you over the edge into depression, you need to do more than just talk to your pastor, you need to talk to your doctor! Remember, this is a season. Hope is on the horizon. Help is on the way.

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me.  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. Psalm 42:11

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