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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The Process of Hearing From God

So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.  I Kings 19:8 (NASB)

There are moments when God re-directs our journey. Some sudden, shocking, change shifts us in an unexpected direction. From our perspective, it may seem chaotic or hurtful. But from God’s perspective it is a Divine Appointment. Such a moment came in the life of Elijah, when from the spiritual high of Mount Carmel, he found himself on spiritual rock bottom at Mount Horeb. God, who was sovereign over the life of Elijah, was using circumstances, which included Elijah’s discouragement, to guide him to the place of His presence. However, although Mount Horeb had been the place where Moses experienced God at the burning bush, when Elijah arrived, there was no indication that God was present.

Hearing from God is not automatic. Just because you find yourself in a place where others testify of their own experience with God, does not guarantee you will encounter God in that place or in the same way. God is also sovereign over your journey. He will use your circumstances, including distress, discouragement, and disappointment, to guide you to the place of His presence. The timing of an encounter with God is according to His calendar and planning and not our own.

The Old Testament Temple was built on Mount Horeb, where Moses experienced God.  Horeb is where Moses received the Ten Commandments. That was also the very place God led Abraham to offer up his son, Isaac. David watched fire fall from heaven in response to his worship there, and when the foundation of the was laid on Mount Horeb and the Temple dedicated, Solomon experienced the glory of God filling the house.

During the time of Jesus, there were many things happening there, but men were not hearing from God.  Mount Horeb had been a place of God’s presence. Earthquake, fire, smoke, as well as the sound of thunder and the blast of a loud trumpet all signaled the presence of God. But when Elijah arrived at Mount Horeb, even though others experienced God there, Elijah struggled to make sense of what God was saying.

God gave Elijah no bush that burned. There was fire, but God was not in the fire. There was a mighty wind, but God was not in the wind. There was even an earthquake, but God was not in it. Initially, he had no sense of God’s guidance, direction, or even His presence.

The way of God will be unique with you. He will speak to you in His time and in His way.

First, you must make the journey into God’s presence. It took Elijah forty days and nights to get there. It will also be a journey for you. That journey might not be one of physical travel, but rather a spiritual process, by which He brings you to an awareness of His presence and guidance.

The process of hearing from God will be a process of self-examination. 

Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:9-10 (NASB)

 He will cause you to examine your priorities in light of His call upon Your life.  Elijah’s focus became centered on Himself and not on God.   Though this question, God was calling Elijah to consider the real reasons for his downward spiritual spiral. “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The first step in Elijah hearing from God was to realize his problem. What is your problem? What took you from where and what God wanted you to be, to this place and this point in your life? Elijah’s first sense of God’s voice came by way of conviction.

Elijah’s first answer to God’s examination was an excuse. It was self-pity and presumption. It was a failure to consider the providential protection God provided through his years of service.  He presumed that he alone had been through difficulty and that he alone was left a servant of God.

Make no mistake, it was not Elijah’s commitment and faith that brought him to this place. That was not the reason he was hiding in a cave. For more than forty-days, this great man of faith had been a man of doubt. This great man of courage, at least for a season, became a coward. His journey began outside the will of God, and had it not been intercepted and interrupted, it would have led to ruin.

If you expect to hear from God clearly and powerfully, you must first answer the probing question God sends to your heart concerning your own personal disobedience, your sin, and backslidden condition.  What are you doing there? Why have you come to that place in your life? Why have you done those things? Why have you deserted the assignment, the great work God gave you, and descended into bitterness and self-pity? Before I can clearly hear from God, I must answer this probing question.

The process of hearing from God will require time in God’s presence.

 That is a simplistic statement, but it is anything but simple. Many people want instant answers. If you are looking for a microwavable devotional moment in which you can pop in a question and have an answer in three minutes or less, you will be greatly disappointed. God seldom gives instant answers. It didn’t happen for Elijah, and it won’t happen for you.

11 So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind.         And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  12 After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 1 Kings 19:11-12 (NASB)

 Elijah was there on the mountain where many others experienced God. But Elijah had trouble making sense of what was happening and what God was saying. Although wind, fire, earthquake and shattered rocks left him impressed, they also left him bewildered. First, Elijah had to endure the terror of uncertainty. He had to wait it out. He had to pray it through.

Life is like that. You start seeking God, and the first thing you know there will be some tumult in your life you don’t understand. There will be events that shake you and frighten you—that leave you more bewildered than you were when your journey started. God’s word, God’s will, God’s way, will not be immediately clear. You must wait in uncertainty, until God sees fit to speak.

In all of this, the Lord was passing by, but His servant had no sense of what God was saying or doing. All of us, at one time or another, will be faced with the challenge of the mysterious. We sought out the presence of God and found instead the presence of trouble and trial. Elijah listened for God’s direction in those things, but God was in none of those things. Had he discerned them as a series of signs that affirmed his journey away from his assignment, he would have been wrong.

God had a word for Elijah, but receiving that word required him to wait through the storm. It will be the same for you. You must wait through the trial. You must wait through the long night of uncertainty, until you clearly and powerfully hear from God.

The process of hearing from God will be a time of self-examination. The process of hearing from God will also require time in God’s presence.

 The process of hearing from God will bring you to rediscover your life purpose.

 …and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19: 12b-13 (NASB)

 Our tendency is to look for the spectacular. That is the temptation of our enemy who would tell us that we should expect to jump from the pinnacle of the temple and have God catch us. He would deceive us and make us believe that God has not spoken unless there has been an accompanying spectacular event like fire or earthquake. But there in that place known for these things, God chose to speak in a different way. Instead, Elijah heard from God in a still, small, voice. My Bible reads “a gentle blowing.” Other translations read, “A gentle whisper.”

One of the ways we know we are hearing from God is that it will be consistent with what He said to us in the past. What was it Elijah heard when he arrived at Horeb?  He heard the question of self-examination: “What are you doing here Elijah?”  And what was it he heard in that voice of gentle whisper? He heard that same question again! God asked him the same thing. “What are you doing here Elijah?” This time, God was prompting Elijah to grapple with his life purpose.

“Why was it I called you?  What was it I sent you to do?”  Is God asking you those same questions? You too have a place in God’s purpose. The still, small voice of God will not allow you to forget what He called you to do.

Not only was the question repeated—but Elijah’s answer is repeated in verse 14, this time in a humbler way as Elijah recalls his passion.

14 Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:14 (NASB)

 The process of hearing from God will be a time of self-examination. The process of hearing from God will also require time in God’s presence. The process of hearing from God will bring you to rediscover your life purpose.

Finally, the process of hearing from God will demand a return to your former passion.

In giving his answer to God, Elijah recounts his passion. He reminds God, as well as himself of the man he had been. He remembers the man of faith and courage he once was. He was at Mount Horeb because he abandoned that mission and would rather die than return to it. But God intercepted and interrupted his journey outside the will of God, bringing him to the place of His presence, and causing him to grapple with the sin of his departure in order to bring him back in touch with the true song of his soul.

With two words God sent him back to his role as a prophet. They come in verse 15.  The Lord said to him, “Go return.”With those words came a new mission and a reminder that however alone he felt in this sinful world, he was not alone. It was not Elijah’s job to salvage the Jewish faith. It is not our job to salvage the Christian faith from the jaws of paganism. God preserves a people committed to Himself. You will never be alone.

If Elijah was faithful to his mission, God would be faithful to provide others to stand with him in his journey. It was through this journey, that God gave him a new disciple, Elisha, who loved him more than he loved his own parents, and so looked up to him that he prayed for a double portion of the spirit that God had placed on Elijah.

The same God who was sovereign over Elijah’s downward spiral, engineering his return will work in a similar fashion in your life. Has chosen to use this message as His gentle whisper to your heart? Perhaps reading this is part of the spiritual process by which He is bringing you to an awareness of His presence and guidance.

What are you doing here Elijah?

Photo by Nastya Maxymova

From the End of the Earth

Where is God when you are in one of those end of the earth moments? Can He hear you? Can He see you? Does He know? Does He care?

Have you ever been away from your own country—on the other side of the world—distant from friends and family, with no way to call home? In 1981, I travelled to the jungle of Ecuador. There were no phones. Finally, we found a ham radio operator who was able to help us connect with home. That was such a lonely feeling. In a place like that, it is easy to get overcome with a feeling of homesickness and an overwhelming uncertainty about those you left behind. You can be surrounded by people and at the same time feel as if you are at the end of the earth.

You don’t have to be far from home to have a sense of being at the end of the earth. We often use that expression to describe how we feel when pressed by some crisis or difficulty. While reading Psalm 61, I found that David used that very expression to describe his feelings to God.

Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.   For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.   Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Psalm 61:1-4 (NASB)

It is easy to tell from David’s words that He is praying. Prayer can be a very spiritual thing. You can go on a prayer retreat. You can go to a prayer meeting. Or you can just bow your head wherever you are and ask for God’s blessing or guidance.

David was praying, but he was not at a prayer meeting. . David was praying. He was not praying because he had the opportunity. David was praying out of necessity.

There is an earnestness and an intensity about the way David approached God.. But it was when I read the words, “From the end of the earth I call to You” that I identified with David. I was facing circumstances of my own that left me feeling as if I was at the end of the earth.

David is not giving God his location. He is crying out to God concerning some problem or difficulty. Maybe you know what it is like to feel that you are at the end of the earth emotionally or spiritually.

To be sure, “the end of the earth” describes a place that is far away. But David means more than that. He is not pinpointing his location physically. He is not talking about geography. He is talking about something else.

Geography is not a problem with God. You don’t need a cell phone or a ham radio to contact Him. He is never so far away that He is not able to hear your prayer, even if you are at the end of the earth.  But David is not talking about his location.

For David, the End of the Earth was a Place of Deep Desperation.

He was in some kind of trouble. He had some kind of problem. Perhaps he was dealing with discouragement.  Whatever it was, it left him feeling like he was at the end of the earth.

I will never forget receiving word that a man’s daughter had been in a serious accident. Her two boys were in the car with her. She and the youngest boy were killed instantly. The oldest boy received head injuries so severe, he would never be the same. What I remember most about that day is going to her sister’s home. I was in my early twenties and really didn’t have the skills that I needed to know what to say in a time like that. I don’t know that I do now decades later. I did my best to comfort her, but I said the worst thing I could have said in the horror of the moment. I said, “It’s not the end of the world.” And then she said, “Oh, but it is… oh but it is!” And  it was. She was at the end of the earth. It was a place of helplessness, hopelessness and loneliness. Grief leaves us feeling at the end of the earth, or as she said that day, “the end of the world.”

That is the way David uses this expression. David was praying. But he was praying from the end of the earth—from some set of extreme circumstances that made him feel like it was the end of the world. Is that where you are today? Has something happened, or is something going on that makes you feel like it is the end of your world? Then you can identify with David when he cried, “From the end of the earth I call to You!”

I did a little research to see how many times this same expression is used in the Bible. One of the things that became clear to me as I researched that phrase, is that God is concerned about all the ends of the earth, whether that be a geographical location and a people group that lives there, or a place of personal distress.

For David, the End of the Earth was a Place of  Deep Personal Weakness

He said, “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint…

Have you ever wanted to give up? Have you ever wanted to go to sleep and not wake up? Have you ever been so tired and so discouraged you thought you couldn’t make it through another day? Then you understand the heart of David. David described his heart as faint. It means to be overwhelmed. Have you ever received a phone call with bad news? Do you know what it is to have your heart sink or to feel weak from grief or shock? This is the feeling David describes. It was the end of the world. He was overwhelmed. Is that where you are?

Where is God when you are in one of those end of the earth moments? Can He hear you? Can He see you? Does He know? Does He care? Yes! David also believed that! From the end of the earth, he called out to God when all his strength was gone!

Perhaps you know the story of what happened to the Biblical character Jonah. Jonah disobeyed God. As a result of his disobedience, Jonah found himself in one of those end of the world moments.  He ran from God’s will for his life. He was determined to get as far away from God as he could. He boarded a ship that was bound for the edge of the known world of that day. He wound up a little farther away from God than he expected. He was tossed from the ship and swallowed by a giant fish who took him on a trip to the bottom of the ocean. What David, in his prayer, called the end of the earth, Jonah called the Belly of Sheol or the Belly of Hell.

 Then Jonah prayed to the Lordhis God from the stomach of the fish,and he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. “For You had cast me into the deep, Into the heart of the seas, And the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. “So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head. “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars wasaround me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lordmy God. “While I was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, And my prayer came to You, Into Your holy temple. Jonah 2:1-7 (NASB)

This was one of those end of the earth moments for Jonah. It was the end of the world. The end of the earth can be the most far away place I can think of. It can and often does refer to geography. It can be a place of deep desperation—an end of the world moment. It can be a place of deep personal weakness—when a person has had about all they can stand and is ready to give in and give up.

In the Case of Jonah, the End of the Earth Was a Place of Great Distance from God.

 Jonah was about as far away from God as a man can be and live to tell about it. Because of his disobedience he was in a place of God appointed difficulty. Has that ever happened to you? In fact, aren’t some of you at an end of the earth place in your life because of your sin? Isn’t it true that God has brought difficulty into your life because of your sin and you know it. You are not just at the end of the earth—not just at wits end—like Jonah you feel as if you are in the Belly of Hell with no escape.

David and Jonah have one thing in common. That place of dark despair became a place from which each of them took opportunity to seek God. They prayed. David prayed from his predicament and Jonah prayed from His. The good news is that God was listening. Do you suppose He will listen to you?

If you look back at David’s prayer in Psalm 61:2 you will find that he made one simple request. He prayed: Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I!

This is a very simple prayer, but it is full of dependence on God. David asked God to lead him to the Rock. It was obviously a place David couldn’t find on his own. He needed to someone to lead him. Would you be willing to admit your personal need for God’s guidance in the midst of your circumstances?

Both David and Jonah realized that they were in circumstances they couldn’t escape on their own. They needed God’s help. One of the greatest moments of a person’s life is the moment the person begins to realize he or she needs God. As David prayed, he was acknowledging, “God, my only way out is You.” Can you admit that to God today?.

The Rock, to which David prayed to be led was a place of safety and security David could not provide for Himself. He needed the help and protection of God. He needed to be saved. David needed to be saved from his circumstances. Jonah needed to be saved from his sin.  Both David and Jonah found themselves sinking. They were in desperate need of the solid security of God’s own saving presence. It was God Himself that Both David and Jonah Needed.  Jonah said, “I have been expelled from Your sight, Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.  Jonah 2:4  (NASB)

That is repentance. That is turning to God from the end of the earth. David said, “From the end of the earth I call to You.”

The end of the earth is the most far-away place I can think of. It can be a place of deep despair. It can be a place of deep personal weakness–a place where a person is ready to give in and give up. It can also be a place of distance from God or even a place of difficulty designed by God because of our sin.

I assume if you are still reading, you also identify with David’s words. You are at some end of the earth place feeling out of God’s reach yet desperate for God’s help. What is God saying to you?

Allow me to share with  who are at the end of the earth  the following words from the book of Deuteronomy.

If..you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. Deuteronomy 30:2-4 (NASB)

Now pray, and prepare to be delivered!

 

Photo by Frederik Löwe

 

The Prayer of the Sorrow Maker

Words out of the mouth of a mother shape a child or break a child. She can build self-esteem in the heart of her children, or she can rip it to shreds. Words can build. Words can destroy.

What is the impact or your influence? Have you been a help or a hindrance, a blessing or a burden, a bringer of joy or a bringer of sorrow into the lives of others.

We find a man in the Bible who, for no fault of his own, was known by all who knew him as the sorrow maker. That was the label he carried all his life. That was his reputation in his family and among his friends. In fact, that was all his mother ever called him—a little sorrow maker.

Perhaps she said it lovingly, or perhaps there were other occasions when she said it in one of those hurtful tones only a mother can use in her anger. She called him Sorrow Maker.

Words out of the mouth of a mother shape a child or break a child. She can build self-esteem in the heart of her children, or she can rip it to shreds. Words can build. Words can destroy. Whatever this mother meant when she poured out her frustration on this little boy and named him Sorrow Maker, it followed him through the rest of his life. It shaped his self-esteem, and a day came when it even shaped his conversation with God.

Sorrow Maker would have been his English name. His name in his native tongue was Jabez.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying, “Because I bore him with pain.” Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested. (I Chronicles 4:9-10 NASB)

She bore him with pain. His birth caused her grief, and she would never allow him to forget it. Sorrow Maker. That’s what the whole family called him—affectionately or not—in anger or not—it became the way he viewed himself for the rest of his life.

I remember my mom and dad would arguing when I was growing up. Somehow, I felt it was always my fault. I don’t know how I drew that conclusion, but I did.

It’s easy for a child to feel the burden of problems in the home. Little heart’s assume blame for the parent’s problems, the financial difficulties, as well as the friction in the parental relationship.

Children feel that keenly. So here was Jabez—little Sorrow Maker. Whatever he saw in the life of his family—whatever difficulty they endured during his early years—he may have sensed he was the one who had caused it all.

He was the Sorrow Maker.

If you have been the victim of verbal abuse, you know the devastating impact in can have on your personality. Those words are repeated over and over in your mind, even as you come to adulthood. The devil can take those words and project them as God’s own words about you when you fall or when you fail. Remember that name your mom or dad called you in anger? When it happened, you heard it as if they were saying, “That is what you are, and that is how I feel about you.” Now, you still hear that voice in your head and in your heart, because that is the way you feel about yourself.

We don’t know the specific circumstances in the life of Jabez. The only insight we have into his home life is this name his mother called him. But a closer look at his brothers suggests brokenness in their own lives. The little we know about them simply says that Jabez—the sorrow maker—was more honorable than his brothers.

The difficulties these children endured growing up sent them in different directions. Jabez grew up to turn to God. His brothers turned elsewhere. I believe it is against such a background that Jabez pours his heart out to God. Jabez—
the sorrow maker—wanted something better for his life and family.

Can God redeem the life and circumstances of a sorrow maker? Maybe that is not your name, but maybe it is true about you. Maybe things you said or did brought sorrow into the life of your family. Maybe you broke someone’s heart.

Will God hear the prayer of a sorrow maker? Will God help a person who has lived a hurtful life? Is it possible for God to love a sorrow maker? If it is possible for
a sorrow maker to pray, it is possible for God to hear and answer.

We assume Jabez’ self-esteem was damaged by this name his mother had given him. By calling out to God, he is praying he will not live up to this reputation that had followed him all the days of his life.

As he prayed, he sought the blessings chosen for him by God. Literally the verse reads, “that blessing, you would bless me.” In other words, “in the process of blessing others Lord, please include me. As you go on Your way to work good in the lives of others, please work good in my life.”

His problems from the past moved him to prayer. Hardship humbled his heart, bowed his head, and bent his knees before the Lord. While his brothers looked elsewhere for hope and help, Jabez, the sorrow maker, looked to God.

Where are you looking for help in your problems as sorrow reigns supreme in your life?

The Devil is the real Sorrow Maker. He sows the seeds of sorrow into marriage relationships. He sows the seeds of sorrow into the hearts and lives of children— because that is what he wants them to know—sorrow and calamity. The Devil is the real Sorrow Maker. But the Lord Jesus is the Sorrow Breaker, and He can break the cycle of sorrow in your home and in your life.

Jabez, the sorrow maker, simply sought the blessing of God—the Sorrow
Breaker. He wanted the touch of God upon his life. “Oh, that THOU would’st bless me indeed!” He was content to allow God to choose the blessings He sent. He trusted God’s wisdom, and he trusted God’s heart.

All of us have been sorrow makers to the heart of God through our sin and disobedience. As a result, we also brought sorrow to the hearts and lives of others. Maybe you’ve been a sorrow maker in your own home. Now, you can to ask God to reverse that. Ask Him to help you live a life pleasing to God. Ask God to open doors of opportunity where you might be an agent of blessing in the lives of those to whom you have brought sorrow. You should also consider asking God to help you forgive those who brought sorrow to you.

Jabez was not a sorrow maker. The family sorrow had been shifted upon him. It was a burden of responsibility he need never have carried. But still, Jabez,
the sorrow maker, asked God to make him a sorrow breaker in the life of his own family. What would that look like in your life?

Jabez asked for God’s hand to be upon his life. In so doing, he is asking for the presence of God, the blessing of God, the power of God, and the guidance of God to rest upon His life.

After graduating from college, I began to seek God’s guidance about attending seminary. I reluctantly prayed “God, if you want me to go to seminary, have someone I respect greatly come and lay his hand on me and tell me I should
go.” One night as I sat with my family at a restaurant, my Jr. High football coach, Robert Pepper, came and stood behind me. He laid his hand on my shoulder and simply said, “Isn’t it about time you went to seminary?” I know that was from the Lord. His hand was the Lord’s hand on my life.

God’s hand of affirmation gives you comfort. It gives you courage. It gives you direction. The sorrow maker needed the hand of the Sorrow Breaker to give direction to his life.

Isn’t that what you need? You need the hand of the Sorrow Breaker to wipe away the pain of the past, the tears of today, and give you hope for the future. Lord, bless me according to Your desire. Open doors of opportunity for me to live apart from the sorrow that has shaped my life. Place Your hand upon me. Lead me, and guide me!

There are two ways to read the last part of verse 10. In the NASB Jabez prays that he will not know the pain of the past. “That it may not pain me.” But in the HCSB it reads, “That I may not cause pain.”

The sorrow maker no longer wanted pain in his life. He was ready for the painful days to be past. But neither did to be a source of pain in the lives of others. He asked for deliverance. And who did He ask? The sorrow maker turned to the Sorrow Breaker. And what happened? God granted him what he requested. God answered His prayer!

Is there hurt in your life? Have you been the source of hurt in the life of someone else? Who can fix the pain of the sorrow maker? Only the Sorrow Breaker. He understands our sorrow. In fact, he carried it. Consider the description of the Sorrow Breaker from the New Living Translation of Isaiah 53:3-6

He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment

for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:3-6 NLT

Would you, the sorrow maker, consider allowing the Lord Jesus to be your Sorrow Breaker?

Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg

Where Can I Carry My Shame?

Shame is something we all carry. Because we do, it impacts our lives. It impacts our self-esteem. It impacts our relationships with others. It limits our relationship with God.

David’s son Amnon was attracted to his half-sister, Tamar. He and a friend came up with a scheme for how he could be alone with her. In that vulnerable moment an awful thing happened.

He took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”  She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing.  As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.”  But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.  Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!”  But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her.  He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.”  Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her.  And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went. 2 Samuel 13:11-19 (NASB)

One haunting question shadowed her steps. Where can I carry my shame?

Shame can come as a result of something done to us—as it did for Tamar. Or it can come as a result of something we did that dishonored God and caused us to dishonor ourselves.

Where can I carry shame? Is that a question that troubles you? Shame occurs when something happens that causes us to be dishonored in our own eyes. It causes us to think less of ourselves—and whether it is known or unknown—we believe it would cause others to think less of us.

Where can I carry my shame? Shame is something we all carry. Because we do, it impacts our lives. It impacts our self-esteem. It impacts our relationships with others. It limits our relationship with God. We hold ourselves at a distance because of shame.

Tamar was a princess. Once she was violated, she felt she could never be that again. She lost so much because of what was done to her. It could never be recovered. Her purity was gone. Her position was gone. Her hope was gone.

Do you find yourself in a similar position? Is it because of something you did that dishonored God and dishonored your own soul? Or is it because of something done to you? You still carry the shame of that moment. Where can you carry your shame?

The Hebrew word here translated shame means to be despised. Of course, shame causes us to despise ourselves and sense that we are despised in the eyes of others—including in the eyes of God. We know we have done things to dishonor Him. Tamar knew such an act would not only bring dishonor to her—it would bring dishonor to her father Sin is an insult to God. It is also an insult to our own soul. What was done to Tamar was a reproach to God that brought shame to her own soul.

Perhaps you wear a robe of shame today. Don’t you wish you had an answer to the question of Tamar? Where can I carry my shame?

There was no answer to Tamar’s question. In the Old Testament world of Tamar’s day, there was no remedy. She could never regain what she lost. I suppose Tamar carried her shame to her grave. But you don’t have to!

There is an interesting verse in Psalms. Paul tells us in Romans 15 that this verse is a direct reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. John also relates it as a direct reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.

For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. Psalm 69:9

The word reproach, in each occasion of its use, is the exact word used in 2 Samuel 13:13 for the word shame. God planned a way to deal with Tamar’s shame, my shame and your shame before it ever happened. All of us carry the shame of something we did that dishonored God and caused us to be dishonored in your own eyes and perhaps in the eyes of others. Where can I carry my shame?

Allow me to replace the word reproach in Psalm 69 with the word shame. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, and the shame of those who shamed You have fallen on me. Psalm 69:9

Where can I carry my shame? Where can you carry yours? Dear brother, dear sister, the Lord Jesus carried your shame on the cross. The dishonor you brought to yourself, and the dishonor you brought to God-all your shame and sin was laid upon Him. Jesus Christ bore your shame on that cross. He saw that hurtful thing long before it happened, and through the suffering and shame of the cross, He took your sin and shame.

David, struggling with guilt and shame in his own life, wrote these words. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Psalm 32:5 (NLT)

Where can you carry your shame? Go to the cross. By faith, turn your eyes upon Jesus. God laid all your sin and shame on Jesus, and He nailed it to His cross. Carry your shame to the cross of Jesus and there find release from the shame and guilt of whatever you might have done–or even the shame you carry for something that was done to you!

Photo by Ashton Bingham