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Posts tagged ‘despair’

Depression: Trapped in My Own Mind

SOURCE:  Sarah Walton/Desiring God

Three Lies Depression Loves

“I can’t live like this anymore!” I cried through sobs. “I just want to die!”

I sat on my bed and tried to make sense of what was going on inside. I was tired of the chronic pain, the frequent bouts of illness, and the weariness of dealing with my kids’ struggles. But what broke me was the torture of being a prisoner in my own mind. It took everything in me just to keep breathing, while part of me wished my breathing would just stop.

Oh, how I longed to be with Jesus — free from my aching body and broken mind. But I knew deep within me that my life was not my own and that the Lord must have a purpose for these days.

Constant Cloud

Zack Eswine captured my own inner reality — the constant cloud of depression — in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows,

Painful circumstances . . . put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances . . . steal the gifts of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. (18)

Depression can cloud our view of God, weigh down our spirits, distort reality, and tempt us to question all that we’ve known to be true. Sometimes, our depression is due to circumstances that have pounded us, wave upon wave, until we can no longer hold our heads above the water. Other times, it comes as a result of illness, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may be among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul” (“The Saddest Cry from the Cross”).

In Good Company

If you have experienced this kind of darkness, you are in good company. Job, after initially responding with faith in the immediate aftermath of his loss, suddenly found himself walking in the valley of despair as his suffering continued:

“When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (Job 7:13–16)

I thank God that he gives us a glimpse into the darkest days of Job’s life. Job’s story assures us that we aren’t alone in our battle with despair, and it offers us perspective when we struggle to feel God’s presence on our darkest days. Whether we are battling depression or trying to encourage someone who is, we must remember three truths in the face of depression’s lies.

1. Depression does not mean God is punishing you.

It’s easy to believe that our despair is a sign of God’s displeasure. Though at times we may feel the heavy hand of God upon us in order to draw us into repentance (Psalm 32:3–4), depression often fills our minds with lies, tempting us to believe that our feelings are an accurate reflection of our relationship with Christ. If we feel unlovable, we must be unloved. If we feel sadness and hopelessness, we must be hopeless. If we feel lonely, we must be alone. And if we feel shame, we must be unforgiven.

For a time, Job believed that God targeted him out of anger. “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past” (Job 14:13). But in the midst of these bouts with despair, God planted Job’s feet firmly on the truth of salvation. “Though he slay me,” Job confessed, “I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).

Like Job, we must keep the hope of the gospel in front of us in order to fight back against all that bombards us from within. Though we may struggle to digest much Scripture, and though the words of a hopeful person may bounce right off our hardened shell of depression, we anchor our feet firmly in the truth that we are forgiven and loved by God in Christ, not in our ability to feel his love.

2. Depression does not mean God is absent.

Similarly, depression can cause us to feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Not only do we feel as if the world is going on without us, but we can even feel estranged from ourselves — as if we have lost our former identity. This loneliness can also cause us to feel, as Job did, that God has abandoned us. “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him” (Job 23:8). But as Eswine writes,

Depression of spirit is no index of declining grace. It is Christ and not the absence of depression that saves us. So, we declare this truth. Our sense of God’s absence does not mean that he is so. Though our bodily gloom allows us no feeling of his tender touch, he holds on to us still. Our feelings of him do not save us. He does. (Spurgeon’s Sorrows, 38–39)

3. Depression does not make you useless.

Though we may feel useless under the cloud of despair and depression, nothing could be further from the truth. When despondency strips from us our natural ability to see and feel hope, joy, and purpose in our sorrow, we realize that Someone greater is holding us up. And when others witness our dependence on Christ for the endurance to press on in darkness — especially when we have no earthly reason to — we become a picture of Christ’s sustaining grace, flowing from the Father to his children.

Once again, consider Spurgeon. He battled deep depression through the majority of his life, and yet God used his suffering for the good of multitudes that he never met. And then there was Job, whose life became a cosmic display of God’s power and worth for our comfort. If we are God’s children, then even our depression will display his glory and purposes as he holds us secure in his unfailing love.

Suffering brother or sister, lift your heavy heart. As Spurgeon once said, “We need patience under pain and hope under depression of spirit. . . . Our God . . . will either make the burden lighter or the back stronger; he will diminish the need or increase the supply” (“Sword and Trowel,” 15).

Tan: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

SOURCE:  Taken from Disciplines of the Holy Spirit by S.Y. Tan

Occasionally the Lord leads us into a time of isolation and solitude that can only be described, in the words of St. John of the Cross, as a “dark night of the soul.”  We may feel dry, in despair, or lost.  God may seem absent, His voice silent.  The prophet Isaiah declared, “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isa. 50:10).

Such dark times can be pregnant with God’s purpose; they can be times in which we are stripped of our overdependence on the emotional life, on things of this world, and on ourselves.  “The dark night” is one of the ways the Spirit slows our pace, even bringing us to a halt, so that He can work an inner transformation of the heart and soul.

Those who are hungry for God can expect to be drawn or driven into times of dryness or confusion, where faith and dependence on God are tested and deepened.

A. W. Tozer describes this process as the “ministry of the night.”  In these times, God seems to be at work to take away from our hearts everything we love most.  Everything we trust in seems lost to us.  Our most precious treasures turn to piles of ashes.

In times like these, says Tozer:

 

Slowly you will discover God’s love in your suffering.  Your heart will begin to approve the whole thing.  You will learn from yourself what all the schools in the world could not teach you – the healing action of faith without supporting pleasure. You will feel and understand the ministry of the night; its power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death, and what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life.  And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth’s trifles and filling your heart with longing for the peace of heaven.

 

As we seek to draw near to God, we can expect to have times in our lives when we too experience the “ministry of the night.”  Our best response during these seasons is to wait upon God, trust Him, be still, and pray.

 

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Image result for disciplines of the holy spirit tan

15 Subtle Signs Of Depression That Everyone Ignores

SOURCE:  Silouan Green/Lifehack

Depression begins its terror in subtle ways that can go unnoticed to others. I spent years there myself recovering from a terrible jet crash and some other unfortunate events. The perceived isolation and hopelessness can be numbing, the inevitability of a horrible fate as real as the sun rising.

I have spoken hundreds of times on depression and PTSD and I’m always asked something like, “I want to help, but people don’t always tell you when they are suffering and need help.” That is true, but there are still signs, and you can use these signs as a signal to respond.

Reach out to those who seem depressed:

You should never be afraid to engage with someone who is depressed. Your hand might be just what they need to begin the process of coming out of the dark and healing. Remind them that they are not alone. Follow your gut, and to help with that, here are 15 things you can look for if you are concerned someone you know might be depressed.

Look for these signs of depression:

  1. Sadness – An overwhelming mood of sadness. You see it in their faces. Often it is unexplainable. Don’t be afraid to let them know how they look and that you are concerned.
  2. AnxietyMind numbing anxiety. They go to sleep and their head won’t stop spinning. Waking up, they look just as anxious as they did when they went to bed.Be patient with them, just sitting and listening can help to calm them.
  3. Poor Concentration and memory – “Where did I put that list, I forgot that appointment, what was their name?” Let them know you forget things sometimes too! Encourage them to write down and make lists. Writing itself is therapeutic.
  4. Guilt and Bad thoughtsLife seems to come in waves, all the bad things and disappointments in life feel immediate. Talk to them about your own guilt. Guilt is worse when we think we are alone with it.
  5. Emotions of lossThere is a hole in their heart, they are missing something that they don’t know how to fill. Remind them that the best way to make sense of loss is by how we live. Some things can’t be replaced, but we shouldn’t let loss stop us from living which only makes the hole deeper.
  6. InsomniaThey try everything – white noise, the couch, warm milk, – yet all they do is get deeper and deeper into the numbness of Insomnia. Encourage routines, no late night eating or drinking, turn off the TV, phone, etc.
  7. Hopelessness – “Hope, what hope! Life is what it is and will only get worse.”The best way to bring someone hope is to engage with them.
  8. Eating ExtremesFrom starving themselves to gorging, food can become a drug for the depressed. Keep a good eye on this, don’t let them keep this habit in the dark. Confront them.
  9. FatigueThey are tired all the time. Help them with a sleeping and waking routine. Encourage a healthy diet, and a curb in the TV watching and internet browsing.
  10. Pessimism – “You can’t help, I’ve tried everything, this is all I’ll ever be.”Encourage them to get it out, write it down, and see it for what it is.
  11. Suicidal ideations – “Death would be better than this, death would solve my problems, everyone would be better off if I was dead.” One of the best ways to lower the risk of suicide is to encourage someone to tell you when they are thinking of suicide. Don’t be afraid, talking about it lowers the chances it will happen.
  12. IrritabilityThe smallest things can set off a flood of emotion. Again, show patience. A willingness to just sit and listen while the storm passes.
  13. Aches and PainsBack hurts, legs hurt, headaches, and no amount of massages help. Go see a Doctor! Find out if the pain is coming from an acute condition or from the stress of the depression.
  14. RecklessnessDrugs, sex, speed, life without restraints because we don’t really want to be there. Put a mirror to their actions. Ask questions. Help them set limits.
  15. Isolation – “I’d rather be alone, leave me alone.” Find ways to interact with them – coffee, a walk, a movie together – whatever it takes to regularly engage with them so at least they can count on you.

Act Today!

The signs you see may be nothing, or they could be a clue to deeper problems. Regardless, life is better when we look out for each other and remind ourselves that all of us have experienced those moments of despair and hopelessness. Reach out to someone today.

Do You Want To Be Healed

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

38 years in a bed. Next to a pool. Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look.

A Man, followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask. Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man. And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair…

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually. Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”   The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer.

And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

When There Is No Hope, There Is HOPE!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'”

(Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

Dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s problem creates a mounting pressure within us. We want to take charge and fix things – but we can’t. This kind of pressure leads to overload. And what does an electrical circuit do when it is overloaded?

It burns out, creates a hazard, blows a fuse, or starts a fire.

Like circuits, we also burn out with overload. We can’t function. We can even be a danger to ourselves and to others. Our health can suffer.

How about you? Do you see any of these overload signs in yourself? You may be tempted to hold in the pressures, the stress, and the pain – but if you do, the overload can do some serious harm in your life.

The feelings of pressure are real and can seem overwhelming, but never believe the lie that your situation is hopeless. In the middle of the pain and frustration, you need to believe there is hope

We are not talking about the kind of hope that halfheartedly says, “I hope things start looking up,” or “We can only hope for the best.” We are talking about the kind of hope described as confident expectation of something good. Hope based on your knowledge of God and His willingness to meet you right where you are. He loves you. He cares. And He is ready to work in you and in your difficult circumstances.

Meditate on the above scripture. God has a plan for you – a plan for your good. His plan will not harm you. He wants you to have hope and look confidently toward the future.

Are you ready to lean on him? To trust him? With him, you can have real hope.

Father, I haven’t been able to see anything but this problem. It has consumed me and destroyed my hope and my joy. But now I am reminded you are still with me. You want to help, and you are more than able. Help me shift my focus to you. To your power, your love, and your good plan for me . . . and for my loved one. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Do you want to be healed?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

[John 5:1-9]

38 years in a bed.

Next to a pool.

Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look. A Man, followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask.

Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man. And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair…

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually.

Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”

The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer.

And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

Whose “Whisper” Are You Listening To?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

The Sound of a Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. -Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this. Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (1 Kings 18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (1 Kings 19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (1 Kings 19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (1 Kings 19:4ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

Worry brings about a lot (except a solution).

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Living Free

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Worry.

Probably one of the most common traps we fall into. And one of the most useless and damaging. Worry has never solved a problem. But it has caused stress, ulcers, depression, despair, fear, anxiety, and much more.

[S]cripture tells us to replace worry with prayer. Instead of worrying, we are to tell God our needs, remember all he has done for us in the past, and thank him for his faithfulness. As we remember that faithfulness, our faith will grow to trust him now. Then we can experience peace so great that it is beyond our understanding!

And as we live in Christ Jesus and walk in obedience to him, God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds. Instead of worrying, we will be enveloped in his peace.

Are you worried about something? Finances … your job … a failing relationship … a rebellious child … health problems. The list of things we can worry about seems endless, but the answer is always the same.

Talk to God about the problem. Remember his faithfulness in the past. Spend time thinking about all he has done for you. Make a list! Then thank him … and determine to trust him in your current situation. Circumstances may have changed – but he hasn’t.

Father, I have been so worried about this situation. I see no solution… no way out. But I realize that I don’t have to see the answer. I need to trust you to work this out in your way and in your time. Thank you for your faithfulness and all you have done for me in the past. Help me to trust you now and to experience your peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Knowing God My Father: Applying the Names of God to My Personal Life
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

“Bring it here unto ME”

SOURCE:  Octavius Winslow/Deejay O’Flaherty

Take Our Sorrows to Him

“Bring him here to Me.”  Matthew 17:17

In your moment of disappointment and despair, Jesus meets you with the gracious words, “Bring it here unto Me.”

And now your spirit revives, your heart bounds, at the words, and you exclaim, “Behold, Lord, I come!”

Jesus says, “Bring your sorrows to Me!” Never did the soul find so powerful a magnet, attracting to itself affliction in every form, and sorrow in every shade — as Jesus.

Standing as in the center of a world of woe — He invites every [son and] daughter of sorrow, of sin, of grief to repair to Him for support, sympathy, and healing.

As the High Priest of His Church for whom alone He suffered, and wept, and sobbed — He unveils a bosom capacious enough and loving enough, and sympathizing enough — to embrace every sufferer, and to pillow every grief.

Accept, then, His compassionate invitation, and bring your grief to the soothing, sustaining, sanctifying grace of His heart!

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Octavius Winslow (1808-1878), also know as “The Pilgrim’s Companion,” stood out as a one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century.

Raw and Desperate: Prayers From The EDGE Will Be Heard

SOURCE:  Larry Libby/Discipleship Journal

Most visitors to the city of Portland, Oregon, have no idea that 100 to 150 years ago it was known as “the most dangerous port in the world.” When Portland’s working men or visitors stepped out of the rain into a bar, opium den, or brothel, they were in grave danger of never walking out again.

This was because of a practice known as the “Shanghaiing Trade,” a crude but effective method of supplementing the crews of undermanned freighters bound for the Far East. Thugs in league with shady ship captains would drug or knock unconscious able-bodied sailors, loggers, cowboys, sheepherders, ranch hands, and construction workers. Then, through secret basement passageways or trapdoors, they lowered the victims into a maze of tunnels beneath the streets and carried them to ships docked in the harbor. (The tunnels, now known as the Portland Underground, are still there. You can take spooky tours through the musty passages.) Once the men were on the ship, they stayed on board for years, and there wasn’t much they could do about it except grab a mop and start swabbing the decks.

Try to imagine it. One minute you are strolling down Burnside Avenue on your way to a late dinner, and then you wake up…where? In the bilge-filled bowels of some rusty steamship rolling on the Pacific waves, your head splitting, your stomach heaving.

One minute you are sitting on a stool in a warm, smoky tavern, sipping cheap whiskey, and then…your whole world changes.

Shanghaied

Has something similar ever happened to you? Have you ever opened your eyes in an alien land—a place you never, never thought you would be?

• You suddenly realize you’re about 10 minutes from entering a sexual affair and betraying your spouse. How in the world did you end up here?

• Your smooth ride through the Christian life lurches off the familiar rails, plunging you into unbelief. Gone are the calm assurances of childhood. You’re perilously close to abandoning your faith.

• You’ve come from the fresh grave of a spouse or child, and all your plans and dreams have suddenly been wiped off the hard drive. Where there used to be data, digital photos, to-do lists, and full calendar boxes, there is now only a blank screen and a mindless electrical hum, and you don’t know what to do.

• You’re sitting in your car in the parking lot of the medical clinic, staring without seeing at the traffic on the street. The word cancer is still ringing in your ears.

Whatever the cause, you’re standing on the edge of a sinkhole that has opened before you, into which everything dear and familiar slides: your job, your health, your family, your security, your reputation, your career. The entire structure of your life is about to slip into the chasm. And you can’t go back to the way things were. Not ever.

When you pray—if you pray—your prayers are not going to sound the same or feel the same or be the same.

Prayers from the edge know nothing of stained glass reveries or kneeling at the bedside with soft shafts of morning light stealing through slats of half-opened blinds. These prayers do not spring from forest strolls on pine-needled paths or cool twilight walks by the river.

These aren’t the prayers you learned in Sunday school, at your mother’s knee, or in Bible college. These prayers come from different regions. These prayers don’t associate with music or laughter or peace. They tie more closely to anger, rage, despair, raw fear, and nausea.

A prayer from the edge will sound like a sob. An angry challenge. A burst of frustration. A sigh of loneliness. A cry of anguish torn from the marrow of your bones.

Hear my cry!

David had been shanghaied. One minute the young son of Jesse had been a national hero eating royal dainties off platters of beaten gold, a close companion of King Saul, married to the king’s daughter, best buds with Prince Jonathan. And then, such a short time later, he found himself crouching in the dark depths of a limestone cave, hiding from Saul’s death squads. He was on the run—a wanted man and a fugitive—for the next 15 years.

Hungry, thirsty, cold, and gripped with fear, David pleaded, “Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need” (Ps. 142:6). Or as The Message renders it, “Oh listen, please listen; I’ve never been this low.”

David yelled his fears. He made demands. He warned God to act quickly, because he was walking on the ragged edge of sanity, and the dirt under his feet was beginning to crumble.

Most likely in those same terrible days, he scratched graffiti like this on the walls of his cave: “You’d better listen to me and listen to me now. I’m like a match flame in a gust of wind, and if You don’t do something fast I’m done. Get with it, God. Help. Come. Don’t step away from me now. I’m on the edge and I’m losing my balance.”

I know how he felt.

The loss of my wife four years ago brought me to the brink of a similar sinkhole. I’d never been that close to the edge in all of my 51 years. I saw death reach into a sun-filled hospital room and take the dearest and best. With my world reeling, I found I didn’t have the faith I thought I had. I wasn’t the man I thought I was.

And I couldn’t pray the way I used to pray.

I still believed in God. Still believed in His goodness. But I just couldn’t trust Him. I was too wounded. Too hurt that He’d heard my cries for mercy and healing, He’d seen my tears…and He’d taken my wife anyway.

Even so, I kept the phone line open with Him, and He with me. Cutting through the pain and fear and disorientation, I heard the Spirit’s whisper: Trust Me. And I usually replied, “Not yet. I want to, but not yet.” Still, the line stayed open.

An Inch at a Time

Here’s the most important thing about the edge you’re on, whatever it is: You need to inch back toward God. Make some kind of movement in His direction, even if it’s only a glance. A sigh. A tear. A groan. A muffled cry in the night.

Start in your mistrust and disbelief. Start in your dryness. Start in your doubt. Start in your despair. Start in your anger and grief. I remember lying on the floor in the living room, too crushed to lift my head, and having the sense that God was lying there with me listening to the words I couldn’t form or say.

That’s what it can be like on the edge—and you do what you’re able to do. If you can’t raise your hands, you move your little finger one centimeter toward the living Christ. If you can’t speak, you move your lips. If you can’t move your lips, you form the words in your mind. If you can’t form words, you just turn your thoughts toward Jesus, even for a moment.

Don’t wait until you’re in a better mood. Don’t wait until you’ve cleaned up your thoughts. Don’t wait until you’ve escaped the sickening undertow of temptation. Don’t wait until your anger and bitterness abate. Don’t wait until your nerves stop jangling. Don’t wait until you’ve straightened out your theology and banished your doubt.

Why? Because walking on the edge might soon put you over the edge—and you may not have such a Godward inclination again.

Anything at All

In the book of Isaiah, the Lord says, “All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations” (65:2).

What would God have responded to as He stood all day with His hands outstretched? Do you think He required a formal prayer? Do you suppose He waited for a carefully worded confession, a perfectly offered sacrifice, someone bowing low, someone on his knees in a pool of sunshine?

I think God would have responded to the tiniest, most imperceptible movement. I think He watched and watched and waited and waited for the most infinitesimal stirring toward Him. And He would have responded like the father of the prodigal, running down the dirt road to embrace a son slouching home from the far country.

The main thing is this: Get away from the edge. Don’t worry about protocol or formalities. Call, yell, reach, lunge, turn your thoughts and your will even one degree toward heaven. Although your movement is small, God’s mercy is mighty. When He runs toward you, very, very big things can happen.

Do You Want To Be Healed?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

38 years in a bed.

Next to a pool.

Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the [broken] man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look. A Man [Jesus], followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask. Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man.

And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually. Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”

The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer. And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

Spiritual Depression: Who is doing the talking?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Steve Cornell

“I say we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us.

Do you know what that means?

I suggest that the whole trouble of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow ourselves to talk to us instead of talking to our selves. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter.

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you when you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Yourself is talking to you.

Now this man’s (David in Psalm 42:5, 11) treatment is this:  instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself.  ‘Why art thou cast down, oh my soul?’ he asks.  His soul has been depressing him, crushing him.  So he stands up and says:  ‘Self listen for a moment and I will speak to you.’

“The whole art in spiritual living is knowing how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say ‘Why art thou cast down? What business do you have to be disquieted?’ You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself and say to yourself  ‘Put your hope in God!’ – instead of muttering in this depressed and unhappy way.

And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, What God is and What God has done and What God has pledged Himself to do. Then, having done that, end on this great note – defy yourself and defy other people and defy the devil and the whole world and say with this man, ‘I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance and my God.’”   (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Great words to speak to yourself:

Psalm 42:1-6

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him my Savior and my God.”

Out Of The Darkness: How can you pray when your heart is broken?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article in Discipleship Journal/Robert Boardman

Pain!

Sometimes it feels like you’re drowning in it.

No matter how much we try to fight it, suffering is a part of life. It may be in the form of a broken body or a broken heart but, sooner or later, it will come.

Pain can make us or break us; When it hits full force we have two choices: to blame and reject the God who could have prevented it, or to trust that it is part of His perfect plan for our lives. Pain is the crucible in which real faith is formed.

In Psalm 77, Asaph shows us how personal anguish can lead to growth. His pilgrimage shows us four crucial steps that lead from despair to joy.

Asaph had an exceptional ability to be honest about spiritual struggles. His honesty shows in each of the eleven psalms he wrote (73–83), whether he is confessing his own failures (Ps. 73:2–3) or admitting his confusion over God’s strange ways (Ps. 74:1). He knows us. He understands our innermost struggles, our abject hearts. He puts words to our wretched feelings. Yet he perseveres by faith to praise, and from his perseverance we can take hope.

STEP ONE FOCUSING ON OURSELVES

It’s natural, when we suffer difficulty, to think first of ourselves, to pray first about our personal needs. And Asaph was no exception. In Psalm 77 he wrote,

1 I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. 2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. 3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. 4 You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.

Notice Asaph’s focus in these first four verses:   I cried out, I was in distress, I sought the Lord, stretched out untiring hands, my soul refused to be comforted, I remembered you, I groaned, I mused, my spirit grew faint, I was troubled. Some people condemn this kind of preoccupation with one’s own feelings as selfish, yet it can be the first step toward healing—if it leads us to seek help beyond ourselves. After all, God is thinking about us, too. He loves us. He desires our greatest good.

While God cares about our suffering, He is more concerned with molding our lives so that we will bring Him more honor, glory, and praise. But our private pain, at least at first, prevents our understanding that.

It is never easy to turn to God for help. By nature we are proud. We would rather maintain our independence, even as failures, than acknowledge our dependence on God. We will cast all our cares on God only when we are honest enough to admit that we are overwhelmed by them (1 Pet. 5:7). If we try to cover up the pain, or pretend it is not there, we are really relying on our own efforts to deal with it. So looking first within ourselves and becoming aware of the pain that is there is the first step toward growth.

In 1945, I had returned from war in the Pacific with a serious injury and a new hope: life in Christ. In the U.S. Naval Hospital in Farragut, Idaho, my spiritual life was beginning to grow as my body slowly mended. Then I met Jean. Her beauty, her personality, and her godly character captured my heart, and I was in love.

Then one day in 1947 a thick letter came. Even before I opened it, I knew instinctively that it was a “Dear John.” The heart I had given her, Jean had returned smashed, crushed seemingly beyond repair.

I cried out to God in anguish. And as I poured out my pain, confusion, and fear before His throne, over time, He began to collect the broken pieces and painstakingly accomplish His skilled repair work. (Interestingly, when God did finally give me a wife, her name was Jean, too.)

God is our refuge. He waits eagerly to take us in, to listen to our heart’s cry, to care, to comfort, to mend. But first we must admit that we are hurting. The feelings we attempt to hold within will someday burst like the walls of a dam, sending raging waters upon the unsuspecting in the peaceful valleys below and causing inestimable damage.

STEP TWO: ASKING QUESTIONS

Now Asaph shifts focus. No longer does he look only at himself and his troubles. He looks at God. And what he sees, he doesn’t like.

Shaken by what, from all appearances, is a failure of God’s love and faithfulness, he assails God with questions:

7 “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? 8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time?  9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

Asaph is in such turmoil that he questions the very character of God. Yet God does not destroy him. He recognizes the desperate cry of a wounded heart, a confused heart, and sees it as a necessary step toward faith. God is never angry or upset over a person’s honest questions.

In 1970 in Seoul, Korea, God saw best to take to himself the small daughter of our friends Paul and Sukja Yoo. During a severe water shortage in one of Seoul’s steamy, humid summers, the Yoos kept their tile bathtub filled with water in order to have a minimal supply. In an unattended moment, little Hiju, intrigued by the prospect of playing in the water, tumbled in and drowned.

Paul and Sukja asked God, “Why?” God understood and welcomed the question. In His own time and way, He answered their anxious hearts.

The cry of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross echoed Ps. 22:1:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”  He questioned the Father, but trusted Him for the answers.

The glorious resurrection was an answer to His impassioned plea. And in time there came multitudes from every tribe, kindred, tongue, and nation whose sins were washed away in His sacrifice on Calvary.

For every believer, there are times of darkness when we do not have answers to our questions. But during those times we can and should ask God honest questions about ourselves, our circumstances, our ministry, our loved ones, family, enemies, our future . . . end then believe Him for amazing and wonderful assurances. “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God” (Is. 50:10).  He teaches us to wait after asking our questions in order that we might learn to trust Him wholly, even without answers.

STEP THREE: REFLECTING ON THE PAST

Until this point, Asaph has been involved in a great struggle. He has wrestled with the deep problems of his own soul and the hard circumstances around him.

God’s seeming inactivity in response to the psalmist’s prayer brings bewilderment, but it does not prevent him from making a very important decision. He says,

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.

Beginning from verse 10, Asaph begins to come out of the darkness. Now the tempo of his outlook begins to change. Notice the “I will’s” in these three verses. Asaph is choosing to reflect on God despite his suffering, overwhelming circumstances, and the bewilderment of God’s silence. He is no longer carried along by the circumstances of his trial and his questions.

Asaph’s willingness to do this reveals a meek and lowly disposition. He stops fighting against God and opens his heart to His answers. His struggles in prayer begin to cease.

God honors this kind of humility; He responds to one who will think upon His mighty acts. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Is. 66:2).

And as Asaph begins to focus on the power and faithfulness of God throughout history—and perhaps even earlier in his own life—he gains the perspective he needs. He begins to see his own struggles in the context of a longer, larger work of God through history. He begins to anchor himself in the immovable foundation that will counterbalance present appearances.

Surely God brought salvation then, if He showed compassion then, if He fulfilled His promise then—surely He can do so now, for me, in the midst of my torment.  Such might have been Asaph’s thoughts as he clung to the reassuring facts of God’s dealings in history. He may not have had an explanation of his own sufferings yet; he may not have seen their outcome yet. But this he knew: God had delivered His people before; He could deliver him now.

So it is with us. Reflecting on the past faithfulness of God brings spiritual equilibrium to our lives. When we remember what God has done for us in the past, we know that once again, even in the midst of a great test, He could lift us up, bring solutions, and reveal Himself to us. Looking back gives us perspective on the needs of the present and the possibilities of the future.

STEP FOUR: FOCUSING ON GOD

Now, in answer to his own doubts and complaints, Asaph sets forth in praise the specific things God has done that give him hope:

13 Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. 15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.  16 The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed.  17 The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. 18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. 19 Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.  20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Remember how self-centered the first section of this psalm was? Sixteen times in six verses Asaph had spoken of himself—”I,” “me,” “my.” Contrast that with his words in this last section. Not once in eight verses does he refer to himself. His focus is entirely on God: on God’s holiness, power, redemption, faithfulness, and tender mercy. Meditating on these things delivers Asaph from the bondage of depression and self-pity and ushers him into the liberty of exultant praise.

Warren and Ruth Myers say this about praise:

Prayer has been called the slender nerve that moves the mighty hand of God. Any form of sincere, believing prayer channels God’s power into our lives and situations, but the prayer of praise especially releases His power. Praise is “faith in action”—and faith brings victory that changes circumstances or victory in circumstances as they are.

One of the most dramatic stories of the power of praise is found in 2 Chronicles 20. When King Jehoshaphat of Judah learned that Moabite and Ammonite troops were advancing on Jerusalem, he stood before the people and acknowledged his powerlessness before God. God promised that He would deliver them.

So sure was Jehoshaphat of God’s faithfulness that he appointed a group of men to march in front of his army “to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness.” And “as they began to sing and praise,” God caused the enemy armies to turn upon each other. Every soldier of Moab and Ammon was dead before Jehoshaphat’s troops reached the battlefield.

Praise is the ultimate weapon against the forces that would defeat us, as well. If we would only praise God by faith, as Asaph did, it could lead us to amazing victories, both in our personal lives and in our ministries.

Taking our eyes off ourselves and choosing to praise God is the final step toward growth in the midst of suffering. Praise proves we are “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). Our spirits rise, God regains His place at the center of our lives, and we become “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

C. M. Hanson wrote, “Praise is like a plow set to go deep into the soil of believers’ hearts. It lets the glory of God into the details of daily living.” Let us say with the psalmist, “I will praise God’s lame in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs” (Ps. 69:30–31).

FOUR STEPS TO GROWTH

What worked for Asaph can work for us, too. In the midst of our greatest difficulties, we can be transformed from despair to adoration if we will be honest about our own feelings, ask the questions that haunt us, remember how God has worked in the past, and praise His holiness, faithfulness, and love.

We must not bury our feelings. Hiding them merely lets them fester end spread. Instead, we must expose them to the healing air of communion with God.

Neither must we hide our doubt inspired questions, however impertinent they might seem. They’ll be no surprise to God. We might as well get them out in the open where they can be objectified and answered.

But when we’ve asked our questions, we must be honest enough to listen for answers, too. And we will find those answers in the miraculous works of God recorded in Scripture, in history, and in our own past.

Finally, as we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love, let us praise Him. And as we focus our hearts on God’s power to work on our behalf instead of on our own suffering, we will be freed from the bondage of despair.

In our deepest distress, when we cannot see the path down which God leads us, we can be sure that, as our Good Shepherd, He leads us by the hand. The reasons for our trials may not yet be revealed—may never be this side of eternity. But we know who goes before us, and by what He has done we can be sure of what He will yet do.

God’s Silence: What Do I Do With It?

SOURCE: Based on an article from Discipleship Journal/Garrett Deweese

Have you ever gone through a time when it seemed you couldn’t hear God—and couldn’t make yourself heard by Him? Why do these “dark nights of the soul” happen? What can you do about them?

OUR FIRST TERM as missionaries in France was hard, as all first terms are for new missionaries. But we had enjoyed a great furlough, and had been refreshed physically and spiritually, and were eager to return to our adopted home and pick up the vital work we had left. We had packed everything except our last suitcases and were nearing the day when we would board the plane for Paris.

We had everything we needed to return, except our French temporary resident visas. The Lord stepped in and kept our visas from arriving, and we had to cancel our airline reservations. The ensuing days, which turned into weeks and finally into months were filled with frustration as we waited for the French diplomatic courier to make his weekly run, only to be told week after week that our visas were not in that pouch.

Those were days spent waiting, looking for reasons, for answers, for clear guidance from God. The frustration of not being able to do anything to hurry the French Foreign Ministry was coupled with the frustration of trying to find something profitable to fill the time, which still could be dropped at once as soon as we were able to leave.

But as I look back, I’d have to say that in all honesty the most difficult part was not the waiting, but the silence of God while we waited.

Yes, the silence of God.

I’m not sure that I ever acknowledged it in so many words—at least during the day. It was at night that the silence weighed so heavily. I would lie awake at night with questions, thinking about my questions and about lying awake.

But it seemed God was somewhere else. To say He is omnipresent, He is everywhere, sounded hollow: He most certainly was not there —where I could hear, sense, or feel Him.

I think my wife shared much the same feelings I had, but we didn’t talk about it in this way. After all, we were missionaries, therefore spiritual. And how could I, as spiritual leader of the family, admit I wasn’t experiencing the presence of God?

Such an admission would fall on evangelical ears as an open confession of sin. For we all know the doctrine that sins breaks our fellowship with God, but confession restores it. I guess unconsciously I dreaded opening myself to Job’s comforters. Obviously I was in sin, and God was withholding the visas until I got my life straightened out. And as for the “silence of God,” it was really the “stubbornness of Garry,” and if I’d confess, the silence would be broken with words of forgiveness and acceptance.

I did examine my life at that time, and soberly concluded that there was no known unconfessed sin which was responsible for the experience.

EVERY DAY ISN’T SWEETER

At that time I had never heard anyone talk about experiencing the feeling that God was silent. But as I read the Bible—especially the Psalms—I am convinced that it is not uncommon for believers to pass through such experiences.

And I’m equally convinced that many who will read this have experienced the silence of God—or are experiencing it right now. You may not have called it that, but if you’re honest you will identify with what I’m describing.

The Bible is totally honest, but we have created a false standard in our evangelical circles that keeps us from being so. Afraid to admit what we see as a failure, we smile and sing, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before,” and all the while we’re empty, groping, bewildered.

In the last scene of the last act of King Lear, after death, madness, and the storm have swallowed the noble as well as the evil characters, Shakespeare has a broken but surviving Edgar bring down the final curtain with these words: “The weight of this sad time we must obey / Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”

We would probably all be healthier mentally if we made it a habit to speak what we feel, not what we think we ought to say, in sad times, in hard times, in times of heartbreaking grief or stomach-wrenching fear, as well as in times of bubbling joy and richly satisfying peace. We’ve fallen out of the habit of truthfulness and are mired in the fear of other Christians’ reactions. Afraid of saying something we ought not to say, we skirt truthful acknowledgement of our deep feelings when we speak what we think we ought to say.

But in Ps. 13—and in a good many others as well—David candidly revealed his deepest feelings. David, the man after God’s own heart, in a piece of poetry inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself, admits his own experience of the silence of God.

BE HONEST WITH FEELINGS

Just here, I think, is where we must begin in understanding, enduring, and surmounting this experience in our own lives. We need to confront and acknowledge our feelings honestly.

Psychologists and counselors tell us that unacknowledged and therefore unresolved feelings lie at the heart of a vast array of behavioral problems, even among Christians. But the scriptural examples teach us to confront honestly how we feel. We see Elijah crushed in self-pity and despair. We hear Jonah lash out in anger at God. Habakkuk expresses impatience, Jeremiah grieves over his city, and Hosea’s heart breaks over his wife’s unfaithfulness.

Acknowledging how we feel, then, is not wrong. It is the place to start.

“But,” you might object, “what if I am bitter, jealous, angry with God?” Those may be unhelpful feelings leading to wrong behavior, but until we’re willing to admit we feel them, we cannot deal with them and we run the risk that suppressing those feelings will do even more damage, possibly resulting in mental and behavioral dysfunctions.

So the first step in dealing with the experience of the silence of God is to acknowledge it. This David does in Ps. 13:1-2

PSALM 13

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How tong must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I foil.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

The four-time repeated cry, “How long?” shows us the depth of David’s feelings. It seemed God had forgotten—abandoned— him. The experience of God’s presence was far from David’s life. He lay in bed with only his thoughts to wrestle with, and the lack of spiritual victory in his life led David to believe, whether literally or figuratively, that his enemy gloated in his defeat.

This is the experience of God’s silence. Not the self-imposed exile of unconfessed sin. Not simply the feeling of lack of guidance; not even the experience of waiting months or even years before seeing a specific prayer answered. No, this is the feeling that God is totally absent from all areas of your life. Your prayers bounce off the ceiling and fall impotently on the floor. You force yourself to read the Bible, but it is about as meaningful and relevant as a three-month-old issue of Newsweek in the doctor’s waiting room. Christian music seems like insipid platitudes; Christian books like so much pabulum, and Christian fellowship about as helpful as a convention of mannequins.

It feels better during the day, although it seems as though a dusty pall has settled over everything, dulling colors and dimming the sun. At night, wrestling with your thoughts, the silence of God is so real it aches and sleep comes hard. It feels like a vast sorrow with no cause, a deep fear of an unknown threat. And all we can do is cry, “How long?”

C.S. Lewis married late in life, and after just a couple of years his wife Joy died of cancer. Her death plunged Lewis deep into grief, and during those days he kept a brutally honest record of his thoughts and feelings. That journal, published under the title A Grief Observed, records Lewis’s experience of the silence of God:

Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double-bolting on the inside. After that, silence . . .. Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?1

This is the same question reflected in the title of Philip Yancey’s excellent book, Where is God When it Hurts?2 The experience of the silence of God is not unique to us. Others—giants of the faith—have stood here before us. And so the first step to take in dealing with the experience is to acknowledge it.

KEEP ON PRAYING

In verses 3 and 4 we see David making a specific request to God:

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

“Look on me, answer me,” he pleads. In this idiom David asks that God take care of him, and do it in such a way that David can see evidence of that care. David offers two reasons for his request: First, he is so depressed in the silence that he feels sick unto death. Second, David fears his enemy’s exultant claims of victory, the dreaded sound, “I told you so!”

David’s prayer—look on me and answer—is not very specific as prayers go. But in it we can see a second phase of response to the situation. If the first thing we must do to work through the experience of the silence of God is to admit it honestly, the second thing is to keep on praying. Even when it seems futile, even when it seems our prayers hang limp in the stale air around us, never coming close to heaven, even then we must go on, continue to pray. Pray without ceasing, Paul said, not just when you feel like it (1 Thess. 5:17).

We must keep asking God to make Himself real in our experience, to meet us in our need. No need for oratorical excellence in this prayer—anguished honesty is more eloquent. What we need is to feel God Himself really present in our lives, not some sanitized Sunday school-booklet portrait of Him. As Frederick Buechner says in his excellent book Telling the Truth, “It is out of the absence of God that God makes himself present . . .. God himself does not give answers. He gives himself.”3 And so even in the awful silence we must continue to pray.

REASSERT FAITH

The last two verses of the Psalm take us one step further. In these verses David reasserts his faith:

But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,

For he has been good to me.

If the first two stanzas of the Psalm are spoken through clenched teeth and salty tears, in this final stanza the shadow of a smile flickers. Silence isn’t yet turned to symphony; the joy of full fellowship with God isn’t yet restored. But in reasserting his faith David finds the strength to get up and face just one more day.

David’s expression of faith rests on two pillars: God’s unfailing love, and David’s past experience of God’s goodness. He knows God’s love is loyal, always faithful. He would nod agreement to Paul’s conclusion that nothing in all creation “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro. 8:39).

And he can remember many times in the past when the goodness of God was overwhelmingly real. And so David proclaims his joy in God’s salvation—an expression that I believe refers to the deliverance God will yet bring to David. He knows the silence of God won’t last forever, and so answers his own question of verse one. God will deliver him because He loves him and has been good to him in the past. Based on this faith, David will yet sing to the Lord. Not just now, maybe, but someday. Silence will be turned to song.

LOOK TO A HIDDEN REALITY

Now this might easily be dismissed as a shallow appeal to the power of positive thinking. It might be, that is, if it were not true.

Just because David feels abandoned does not mean God is not really there. Just because he cannot hear God’s voice does not mean he will never hear it again, or that he is not even now speaking, or that help is not already on the way. It may be that concentrating on statements of trust in God’s love and goodness is the power of positive thinking, but it will keep us from surrendering to the power of negative thinking.4

In the last stanza of Ps. 13, then, on the basis of his faith, David asserts that what he feels, real though those feelings are to him, is not really the way things are. And we must say the same. Yes, we must confront and acknowledge our feelings. But then we must lay those feelings alongside reality and see how they measure up. You see, if you have made a faith commitment to God, you have faith in His love and have seen His goodness to you in the past. And so in spite of how you feel, you know God will bring deliverance.

Thinking back on my experience of God’s silence while waiting for those visas, I believe the feelings lasted eight to ten weeks. I went that long living, so it felt, in a vacuum. I came to church, smiled, even preached. But one day my wife and I left the children with some friends and drove up in the mountains to talk and pray. And when we returned, God had spoken. I can’t really say He broke His silence; rather, He broke into my silence. By opening our eyes to certain, particular needs of our own family, God made it quite clear that we should not return to France.

Maybe I had not been ready to hear that word two months earlier. Certainly it brought some disappointments and regrets. We had worked hard learning the language and the culture, and now would not use those skills. We had made plans that now we would never see fulfilled. We had developed relationships that now we could never continue. But in that time, God’s grace and peace were real. He was again there for me. And out of the experience we gained a deeper understanding of God.

Right now are you perhaps feeling the silence of God in your life? You might be in circumstances where you deeply need God, but just can’t seem to feel Him in your life. Perhaps you’ve lost a job, or lost a loved one through death. Perhaps the anguish has been brought on by a total inability to communicate with your spouse or your children. It might be caused by physical pain, or doubts, or unjustified personal attacks. And just when you need God the most, He seems most absent from your life.

Don’t yield to despair. Others have been there before you. You need not let that feeling of abandonment lead you down the wrong path. You could, you see, try one of many ways of covering up for the silence of God in our lives. You could try to mask the silence through a frantic pace at work, or a whirlwind social schedule, as if being active and surrounded by people can fill the void left by the absence of God. You might hide behind overeating, or perhaps overexercising. You could seek escape through drinking or drugs, or the enticing finality of the escape offered in a handful of pills.

But that doesn’t have to be your pathway. Keep praying. Even if you feel it’s doing no good, keep it up. And then in faith reflect on God’s unfailing love and all the ways that His goodness has enriched your life in the past. Have confidence based on that faith that He will bring deliverance to you. Remember, it’s out of God’s absence that God makes Himself present.

Wait patiently in faith for that new, deeper experience of God Himself that will be yours when the silence is broken. David’s pathway led not to despair, but back to joy and song.

Yours can, too.

1. C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: Bantam, 1961), pp. 4-5.
2. Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977).
3. Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1977), p.43.
4. See Job 23:8-12 for another clear biblica example of a man who, even while agonizing over the silence of God in his experience, still reaffirmed his faith.  Paul puts this idea of “positive thinking” on a doctrinal level in Phil. 4:4-9.

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