Doubt is a difficult, and miserable, place to be...and it slowly destroys our fellowship with God.
Spiritually, it is a "silent killer" of our soul.
Mark 9:23-24 NIV “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Doubt has many origins. It can be a coping mechanism due to not understanding how to handle a tough situation...a desperate silent cry for help after a terrible experience has happened in life...or an arrogant attitude of pride that believes God owes us more.
We may doubt that God would ever want to truly work in our lives or through a tough situation we are going through...after all, who are we compared to God?
And what about the times we contribute to the tough situation we are facing due to unwise past decisions we have made? Does God just leave us stuck with our consequences with no mercy or forgiveness in sight? Not at all.
It is understandable to have feelings of doubt after a terrible loss has taken place. It takes time to come to terms with a situation that has broken your heart or impacted your life.
What about tough times where an unfair loss takes place through no fault of our own?
God works in..and through..every situation we face. Nothing takes God by surprise. He can redeem any circumstance by causing good to come from it.
Many times, He shows His mercy as He allows us to help others who later go through a similar grief experience or loss. He never wastes a trial, heartache, or hurt...as long as we submit our heartaches and doubts to Him.
In circumstances where something bad happens...God is so patient with us. He knows it is going to take a toll on us...and He is the answer to restoring our hope and faith.
When you take refuge in Him, He is faithful to guide you through the doubt(s) you have so you can come back to a place of complete trust.
In times when we are self-saturated and upset that God didn't do exactly what we thought was best, I believe that is directly challenging God.
We want what we want...and are upset that God doesn't bend to our plans. This kind of doubt is eventually lethal to our relationship with God...and many times, it can affect our other relationships too. In these times, we must quickly humble ourselves and repent.
It is imperative to understand that God has a plan for each and every situation or heartache we experience or go through.
If God allows us to go through a trying situation that attempts to make us doubt, or a situation that stretches us, we can trust that He has plans to increase the flexibility of ways He can use us for His glory in the future.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
It is never fun to go through tough life events, and they can truly attempt to knock us out. Life challenges can tempt us to be bitter towards God.
We must realize and embrace the truth that God genuinely wants what is best for us, and doubt attempts to lead us away from God's best.
God sees the "big picture" when we cannot. When tempted to doubt, use that as a signal to have a genuine heart-to-heart talk with God. He truly works out every situation we face for the greater good.
Romans 8:28 NIV And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Today, ask God to take total control of your life. Completely give Him "you". Pour your heart out to Him...share with Him all your doubts, hurts, worries, frustrations, disappointments, fears, and failures. Ask Him to grant you wisdom and to help you to see the greater purpose for your doubt and circumstances.
James 1:2-5 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Ask Him to resolve any bitterness in your heart towards Him, others, or any situation.
Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Tell Him you would like to repent of your doubt and begin trusting Him today.
He has a heart filled with love and mercy for you!
James 1:12 NIV Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
The Inexhaustible Masterpiece
They say that students and lovers of art will spend weeks sitting before a single masterpiece by one of the great artists. Some repeat this process year after year. To fully enjoy such a masterful work of art they need to immerse themselves in it for hour and hours. There was a man who said that he spent years studying a painting and that he was able to “discover some new beauty and a new joy” every time.
I enjoy a great painting or sculpture but it seems impossible to me that a person, even an expert or enthusiast, could spend weeks and weeks pouring over a piece of art and continue discovering something new, a “new beauty or joy.” They say that they can find some new part of the painting, a certain stroke of the brush, a use of color or some other fine detail that others never see.
If there is that much beauty and intricate detail in a painting, a creation of man, how much truer of God’s creation. A creation so vast we haven't discovered its full splendor much less study and observe it. Which brings up the question; if the creation is so expansive and magnificent, what does that say about the one who created it? We can sometimes become so familiar that we don’t look beyond the creation to the Creator.
God Almighty, the Creator, is much bigger than we could ever imagine.
Job 11:7-8 NIV “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?
God is far higher than you can imagine, far deeper than you can comprehend, Stretching farther than earth’s horizons, far wider than the endless ocean.”
There is a depth to the nature of God that we have yet to see and enjoy. If we had ten thousand years we would have only scratched the surface of the immensity of His glory. God is an inexhaustible masterpiece.
Can our little minds comprehend how big God is? Of course not but that’s the very reason we keep coming back. There is a newness and a freshness to God, not because there is something new about God but because we see Him and experience Him in a way we have not done so before. It’s as if we have discovered some new beauty and joy each time.
Sometimes the joy comes in the rediscovery of a beauty that we have all but forgotten, one that God has framed in a new setting providing an even greater appreciation. As we grow so does our capacity for understanding and enjoying the person and work of our God.
What Is God’s Greatest Masterpiece?
God is the inexhaustible masterpiece, but what would you say is the greatest of His masterpieces?
You could give many different answers to that question. Many would say that God’s greatest masterpiece is the sunset that paints the evening sky or the millions of stars that twinkle so beautifully each night. Others might point to the majestic mountain ranges or the mighty, rushing rivers. And some might say the flowers that bloom in the spring or the many amazing creatures that populate our planet.
You Are God’s Greatest Masterpiece
All of those masterpieces are impressive, but none of them are the greatest that God has created. If you are a Christian you probably saw one of these works of art already today . . . that is, if you looked in a mirror. Yes, YOU are the greatest of God’s masterpieces.
Actually God’s greatest masterpieces have been created twice.
Genesis 1:26-27 NASB Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
You "are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus "
Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
God views you as His treasured possession.
Deuteronomy 14:2 NIV for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.
To Him, you are a rare jewel in His hand.
Isaiah 62:3 NIV You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
Maybe you don’t feel treasured, cared for, valuable, or worthy. What would change about your life if you saw yourself as you truly are—as precious and treasured by God?
What if on this very day, God were to reveal to you all the ways He treasures you? Imagine how you treat your most precious, treasured possession. You protect it carefully; you position in it the best light; you refresh any parts of it that seem worn or fading. If we care for our earthly valuables in this way, consider how much more God will protect us, position us, and refresh us.
When God chose you to belong to Him, He never meant to leave you on your own to suffer and wander alone as a disregarded, worthless person. Instead, He carefully cares for you.
Scripture makes the astonishing claim that God will “never stop doing good” to His people;
Jeremiah 32:40 NIV I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. (emphasis mine)
He “richly blesses all who call on him”;
Romans 10:12 NIV For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, ( emphasis mine)
He “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment”;
1 Timothy 6:17 NIV Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (emphasis mine)
He “satisfies [our]desires with good things”
Psalm 103:2-5 NIV Praise the Lord , my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (emphasis mine)
This is a God who delights in your well-being and seeks to love and care for you as His treasured possession.
Consider the gentle care of God in Psalm 23. He makes you lie down to rest; He leads you to peaceful waters; He restores your soul; He guides you. God is a Good Shepherd caring for you tenderly.
Psalm 23:1-6 MSG God , my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
As you trust in God’s care for your life, remember He arranges the circumstances of your day to ultimately bless you and restore your soul. But just like a rare jewel might need some shining and sculpting to reveal its true beauty, God may put you in situations designed to refine you and rub off anything that obscures your beauty. The whole time, though, He’s treasuring you and showing you His care and love. On this day, look for evidence that God chose you as His treasured possession.
What Happens When God Turns You Into His Masterpiece?
You are Forgiven
Do not let your past mistakes keep you from living the joyful life God wants you to have. His love and grace is bigger than any sin.
2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
1 John 1:9 NASB So If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
You Show Other People How Great God Is
You are a living, breathing testimony of God’s grace and love through Jesus Christ. God says He picked you to be part of a new family, meant to show the difference He can make in a life.
1 Peter 2:9 NASB But you are A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession , so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Your life is like a beautiful painting that gives recognition to its painter. As God’s masterpiece,
Matthew 5:14-16 NASB "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
You Become the Light of the World
Jesus sets you free from the slavery of sin when you accept Christ. Sin won’t control you anymore. God gives you the Holy Spirit, who is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
Romans 8:11 NASB But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
When you have the Holy Spirit, you will reflect God’s love, peace and patience through the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
God has created you to be a masterpiece so that He could show you off! He has a plan and purpose for you. He wants you to be that showpiece everyone talks about. The next time you look in the mirror say it out loud for your brain to capture. “I am God’s masterpiece!”
Editor's Note: Some content is from the YouVersion Reading Plan “What Is God's Plan For Me? 7 InvitationsTo Life You’ve Been Missing”, published by Moody Publishing. Scriptural content added by the blog publisher. Additional content from the sermon God’s Masterpiece.
Deuteronomy chapter 8 gives us thirteen reasons that God allows us to go through trials, especially long ones:
Deuteronomy 8:1-11 NIV Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord . Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. (Emphasis mine)
Trials are difficult but they really show us what we are made of. They reveal the true condition of our hearts, what we think, and what we believe. They ultimately reveal what we truly think about God.
We are running a race and the goal is to condition our spiritual hearts. It's easy to fall down...and the enemy stops at nothing to trip you up.
What if we are going through a life challenge right now...and we have failed miserably so far to love God and be loyal to Him?
Talk to Him about it right now and ask Him for His forgiveness. His mercies are new every morning and He is so faithful!
Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
The Bible says if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:8-9 NIV If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Life may be very tough today but you serve a God who is in full control of all of your tomorrows. Go through this necessary journey with God to become better suited to love and serve Him...and in the process, He will bring you to a better place. There is a great prize at the end of the race of life, press forward with all your might!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Revelation 21:1-4 NIV Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Editor's Note: Some content from YouVerson Reading Plan “Grief Bites:Finding Treasure in Hardship” by Kim Niles. All scripture references added by blog publisher.
In life, we all certainly like mountaintop experiences better than valleys — the air is clean, the sun is shining, and the view is amazing. But the truth is, we’re going to go through valleys. It’s inevitable
There is a familiar feeling that many who are going through grief (or loss) may feel...yet many do not have the ability to label it.
It is a feeling that envelops a grieving heart, but is so subtle that many do not even realize how it is planting itself deeply down into the roots of their soul.
When I went through a tough grief experience, I couldn't figure out why I was able to still have a strong hunger for God, His Will, and His ways...yet I couldn't fully enjoy God or His Word.
I felt distracted every time I prayed or read my Bible.
As I prayed to God, seeking to conquer the distracting and stagnant apathy I felt, He revealed to me that my root problem wasn't distraction...and it wasn't apathy. It wasn't a lack of focus...or the inability to sit still either.
My root problem was doubt.
I didn't doubt God's goodness. I knew in my heart that He IS good. Even though I have been through a lot of loss, He has always given me so much grace to help me to see His goodness every single day.
Nahum 1:7 (NLT2)7 The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.
I didn't doubt God's love...I know He IS love and all love comes from Him.
Anyone at anytime can look around and see amazing evidences of His astounding great love.
1 John 4:7-8 (NLT2)7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God revealed to my heart that I doubted not His ABILITY to work in my life...but His WILLINGNESS to act and work in my circumstances.
I doubted not what God COULD do...but what He WOULD do.
Mark 9:24 (NLT2)24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
We cannot afford to trust our hearts, our mere thoughts, or our feelings during times of doubt...we must test our thoughts and feelings, and train our hearts to trust God to overcome doubt.
1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 (NLT2)20 Do not scoff at prophecies,21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.
Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT2)9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
Doubt is a very unpopular word in the Christian community. Most Christians would be afraid to admit any form of doubt they may have due to feeling guilty for having thoughts of doubt, or due to the judgment of others.
When doubt surfaces, many consider it as a lack of faith...or a lack of believing God and His Word...so many struggle silently. Through their silent struggle, they can become stagnant in their walk with God.
It is imperative to know how to handle our doubt(s) so we can experience the rich relationship with God we are fully capable of having.
Truly think about the doubts you have today.
Are you doubting that God can:
I have doubted God in some situations...and not even have known or realized it at the time.
There are many reasons we doubt.
Many doubt God cares. But did you know that God actually bends down from Heaven to hear our prayers, heartaches, concerns, and even our questions?
Psalm 17:6 (NLT2)6 I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.
Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT2)7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
He's so good! He doesn't have to bend down to hear us, but out of His great love, He willingly chooses to. Did you know that God has collected every tear you've ever cried and written every heartache you've ever experienced in a ledger?
Psalm 56:8 (NLT2)8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.
God truly cares about each and every heartache and heartfelt question or request we have. He cares about each of us and every situation we face...past, present, and future.
If you feel stale in your relationship with God, doubt may be the culprit.
Do you wonder how God handles doubters? In scripture, God shows a loving example of mercy to the most famous doubter, Thomas.
John 20:24-29 (NLT2)24 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came.25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said.27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Today, truly think about and label your doubt. Ask God to reveal any doubt(s) you hold in your heart. Be completely honest and transparent. The answer(s) revealed just might surprise you.
Choose today, like Thomas, to take your doubts to God and place your doubts in His hands. He already knows what is in your heart so be honest. The reward truly is a closer relationship with Him!
Editor’s Note: Content from YouVersion Reading Plan Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed by K.B.H. Niles. Visit Grief Bites website here
Psalm 61:1-5 NIV Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you, God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
When You’re Overwhelmed There’s A Rock That Is Higher
I once preached a sermon “Giving Thanks When It’s Tough Doesn’t Mean To Fake It”. In that sermon I said “While we can thank God in all things we shouldn't be faking our thanks, acting like we aren't affected by or bothered by our troubles. We are human beings and we have emotions. If we try to hide those emotions we aren't being honest with ourselves and more importantly, we are not being honest with God. We should let our real emotions show in our conversations, or prayer time with Him. After all He has emotions and He doesn’t deny them, or hide them from us.”
You can be real with God. Tell Him your struggles and what’s concerning you. He already knows, but He longs for that relationship with us, as we sit in His presence, as we pray, and read His words of truth. Ask Him for His peace to cover you, even if you find yourself in circumstances that are anything but peace-filled. He alone has the power to help us rise above the chaos and mess of our days. Let’s choose to fix our eyes on Him and believe that He is with us.
For the times when you feel overwhelmed, there's a Rock that is higher. Stable, sure, faithful, true...a place you can trust, a place you can rest.
We often long for a more simplified life, free of mess or clutter, and struggles. Yet most days we strive just to keep our heads above the demands of work, family responsibilities, and all that calls our name. It’s hard sometimes, feeling like we can never get it all done. Our minds are in a constant mode of “go” from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning. This is life. Real life.
And God longs to be right there in the center of it all. In the mess. In the full days. In the craziness and times when we feel overwhelmed. Because the truth is, the reality that we can ever get everything done we feel like we need to do, is not even reality for most of us. And that’s not where true success is found anyway. It’s found in spending time with Him.
Our Rock. Our stability. Our hope. Our peace.
Maybe today is the day to rise above. Maybe we’ve been stuck down too long. Maybe we’ve been drowning or fighting the “overwhelm.” All the struggles and stuff won’t ever go away, but they don’t have to defeat us.
He is the One who brings hope in the chaos, the clutter, and demands. Because most days don't look like a Pinterest post or page fresh out of a magazine for Simple Living. Sometimes they're messy and full, and we can hardly keep up. The to-do list doesn't get done, again, and we might be feeling a few steps behind. Pressures cling. We feel hurried and stressed. Battling defeat and discouragement, wondering why we can't just get it together.
Yet still His Truth shines through.
For though there's a lot that may be left undone at the end of every day, if we're living close to the One who created the day and cares more about us than we could ever imagine, that's where true life is found.
That's where real peace is. - From For the Days You Feel Overwhelmed: There's a Rock that Is Higher By Debbie McDaniel
Heavenly Father thank you for caring about all my problems and pains. Help me to always cry out to you first and leave my concerns at your feet. You know how difficult and how painful this life can be. When I am discouraged, please comfort me with your love and remind me of what’s important: which is my future with you. In the name of Jesus and in His authority I pray Amen
Psalm 18:1-50 (NIV) I will love You, O Lord , my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord , who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. The pangs of death surrounded me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord , And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, The foundations of the world were uncovered At Your rebuke, O Lord , At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, For they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me. The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord , And have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me, And I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also blameless before Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks. For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord ? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, So my feet did not slip. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed. I have wounded them, So that they could not rise; They have fallen under my feet. For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. You have also given me the necks of my enemies, So that I destroyed those who hated me. They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the Lord , but He did not answer them. Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets. You have delivered me from the strivings of the people; You have made me the head of the nations; A people I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me they obey me; The foreigners submit to me. The foreigners fade away, And come frightened from their hideouts. The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted. It is God who avenges me, And subdues the peoples under me; He delivers me from my enemies. You also lift me up above those who rise against me; You have delivered me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord , among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name. Great deliverance He gives to His king, And shows mercy to His anointed, To David and his descendants forevermore.
The Victor’s Gratitude
David sang this song to the Lord when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, including Saul. This psalm is written after Saul’s death in the period just before David, at long last, ascends the throne to become Israel’s king. Since the moment God declared David would be the future king of Israel, he faced nothing but trouble and hardship. In fact, he spent twenty years on the run as a fugitive and lost everything. He spent his youth running, fighting, and hiding in caves. He lost all his comforts, his family, and his connection and relationships with his own people.
At times, he even lost his close relationship with God. Now Saul was dead and David was about to be king. He sat down, looked back, and wrote a love letter to God. He not only thanked God for rescuing him, but also for all God had done for him while in the midst of his many adversities. In the end, he was thankful for his difficult journey thus far, for it had made him the man he had become. He knew the years of trouble had done something good and necessary in his life and prepared him for what was to come.
In grateful retrospect, he knew his faith had been tested because what he used to know and believe by faith, he now knew God had brought David to the throne and given him light to rule. After twenty years fighting through darkness, he wasn’t overcome or exhausted, but supernaturally strengthened. David spoke of the great things he could do empowered by God, but marveled at God’s perfect plan and perfect way.
God had proven His character and the character of His Word. God had never failed David.
David passed every test and every word was proven true. David cried out and asked the question, who else but this God of his could be Lord? No others had proven themselves to be true.
The God who came through for David is the same God who can and will come through for you, if you allow yourself to be put in situations where God must prove Himself true to His Word. He is your Rock, where you can find shade from the merciless heat of the desert and shelter in its cracks and crevices. He is your Rock, where you can find a firm footing, an immovable foundation on which to stand and fight.
Editor's Note: Content from 10 Minutes in the Word:Psalms published by Zondervan.
One question that I get a lot is; “Pastor do I really have to forgive everything, every time”? I have an answer but before I give it let’s see what the bible says about it? Whenever someone asks me a question dealing with relationships I always defer to the bible because it’s the manual that God gave to guide us on how to forgive.
First let’s define forgive. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
· to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)
· to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)
· to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)
To forgive is to stop feeling anger toward someone or about something, to pardon them.
The Bible commands us to forgive each other. Here are two examples:
Matthew 6:14 (HCSB) “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.
Ephesians 4:32 (HCSB) And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Jesus’ comment to Peter when he asked how many times we should forgive implies constant forgiveness without holding it against the one we forgive.
Matthew 18:21-22 (HCSB) 21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.
Why should we give anybody a clean slate who has wronged us? Because God, who is our example for how to forgive, does. Through Jesus He forgives and overlooks everything that we have done and do against Him, so that we can have eternal life and an eternal inheritance.
Micah 7:18 (HCSB) Who is a God like You, removing iniquity and passing over rebellion for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not hold on to His anger forever, because He delights in faithful love.
Forgiveness is an act of the will and since God commands us to forgive we must make that choice. We must forgive even if the person who offended us doesn’t ask for or doesn’t even want forgiveness.
Matthew 5:44-45 (HCSB) 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Faith and Forgiveness: Louis Zamperini
by Will Graham, excerpted from Redeemed
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. — Ephesians 4:31-32
Louis Zamperini was an Olympic runner destined for greatness as he prepared for the 1940 Summer Games in Tokyo, only to have them cancelled as World War II enveloped the globe.
Rather than winning gold, Louis joined the military to serve his country aboard a B-24, taking part in several successful bombing missions in the Pacific Theater. One fateful day, while on a search and rescue mission in an old dilapidated airplane, Louis’s crew crashed in the ocean. Everybody on board was killed except Louis, his pilot Allen “Phil” Phillips, and tail gunner Francis “Mac” McNamara. The men floated in a life raft for forty-seven days (a record for the longest time adrift without rescue), living off the rare bird or fish they could catch with their bare hands — and all while dodging sharks and the occasional strafing run by Japanese warplanes. Mac didn’t survive, dying along the way.
Eventually Louis and Phil reached shore, but it was by way of an enemy Japanese ship that pulled them from the sea. From there, a bad dream became an utter nightmare. Months of starvation, disease, psychological trauma, unimaginable living conditions, and daily abuse at the hands of sadistically brutal prison guards reduced Louis to a shell of the once-great athlete. The list of regular and ongoing assaults that Louis endured would shock and nauseate you.
One of the few things that kept Louis alive during his horrifying ordeal was the dream of murdering his captors. In fact, one of the men was so cruel that Louis and the other prisoners hatched a plan to kill him, even if the punishment would be their own executions.
Amazingly, Louis survived and made it home to California, only to find himself living in a new prison — one of post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, and alcoholism. He was a broken man in a downward spiral.
Why do I share this story? Because something amazing happened. At his wife’s urging, he attended my grandfather’s historic 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, and there he placed his faith in Christ. Miraculously, his nightmares and need for alcohol were gone. He fully and completely forgave his captors, the very people he had dreamt of killing. He even traveled back to Japan to meet with some of them face-to-face so he could share the hope and love of Jesus with them.
“In one bold stroke, forgiveness obliterates the past and permits us to enter the land of new beginnings.” — Billy Graham
The story of Louis Zamperini is one of the greatest examples of forgiveness that I’ve found outside of the Bible.
Nobody could have expected to survive the torture that Louis endured, let alone recover from it. And most people would understand completely if Louis had held a grudge against his tormentors until the day he died. After all, he was treated subhumanly, beaten, and starved within an inch of his life.
It took time and the intervention of Jesus Christ and the gospel in Louis’s life before he was able to fully move forward beyond the suffering he had endured.
I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you that even as a believer and an evangelist, I still struggle with forgiveness even though the injustices that affect me are a far cry from the terror endured by Louis Zamperini.
However, let’s draw inspiration from Louis’s story and seek the freedom that comes with forgiving those who have hurt us. Louis’s life is proof that it can be done, and it’s worth doing.
Are you holding on to anger or pain? What’s stopping you from offering forgiveness?
Lord Jesus, You know the pains and struggles in my life. You know the hurt in my heart left there by others. Help me to forgive them as You have forgiven me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Excerpted with permission from Redeemed by Will Graham, copyright William F. Graham, Jr.
Last Thanksgiving I published “This Thanksgiving Stop Faking Fine”. In it I included a devotion written by Esther Fleece, author of No More Faking Fine. This Thanksgiving I am sharing another devotion from Esther with the same story line of not faking our real feelings and trying to hide from God. He knows them anyway so why not be real and open with Him. When we’re open with God, in prayer, about our feelings of sadness, or frustration, even anger our prayer is one of lament. Lament is an expression of grief or sorrow. In other words, as she says in her devotion “God Wants Our Sad”, lament is simply expressing honest emotions to God when life is not going as planned.
God Wants Our Sad
By Esther Fleece
I’ll bet you can remember some of the pivotal moments that taught you to fake fine to one degree or another. Maybe you grew up being told that boys don’t cry, so you stuffed your pain deep inside. Maybe you had all the right clothes and all the right friends and all the right grades, but you never invited friends over — because then they’d know the mess you lived with at home. Maybe you were told that if you just did certain things and clicked your heels, you’d have the good life you’ve always wanted — you know, the one the prosperity gospel is always promising — but you haven’t even glimpsed it on the horizon.
The story our culture tells us — and even some misguided churches — is that health, wealth, and prosperity can and should be ours. As Americans, we are often led to believe we are entitled to these things. We are led to believe life should be easy, and we should be happy.
So, of course, when life crashes hard, we believe something must be wrong with us. And that’s exactly what I began to believe.
I was always wanting more, wanting to do more, and wanting to make a bigger impact for the Kingdom. But suddenly I felt my efforts were as useless as banging my head against a brick wall. I didn’t go to a university to be unemployed, and I certainly hadn’t built a home for myself only to be living with family again at the age of thirty. I was taught I could be anyone and do anything. I had been taught to take what was mine and fight to the top, but I had not been taught what to do when all you do is not enough.
Somewhere along the way, I missed out on learning a theology of suffering.
Prayer was a significant part of my life, yet I had never been taught about the prayer called lament.
Lament is one of those words we don’t use very much today. It’s not a regular entry in our vocabulary, even with us church people. I was in my late twenties before I really even knew what this word meant, despite growing up in church and staying connected to a Christian community in my early adult years. When everything hit rock bottom, it was my counselor who was the one to first explain it to me.
Lament, he said, is simply expressing honest emotions to God when life is not going as planned. Whether we’re hurt, frustrated, confused, betrayed, overwhelmed, sad, or disappointed, lament is the language God has given us to talk to Him right in the middle of life’s messes. It’s real talk with God when you’re hurting, when all you can do is cry out for His help. It’s a prayer that says, God, I’m hurting — will You meet me here? And as such, it is a prayer to which God always responds.
This is not a prayer for the super-spiritual. Lament is a prayer for all of us.
Not everyone experiences prosperity, but everyone we know will know loss and grief. Each and every one of us will experience setbacks, letdowns, failures, and betrayals. Every one of us will encounter change that is hard, lose loved ones before their time, and see relationships fail with people we counted on.
So what do we do when everything is not fine? Why are we shooting for the easy-street, pain-free life anyway? Where did we come up with the idea that we should be happy all the time?
We all need do-over days, and sometimes we will wake up, eat a bowl of ice cream for breakfast, and head straight back to bed. This should not surprise us because Scripture tells us that we will go through different seasons — not all of them pleasant.
Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, the only home they’d ever known.
The Israelites wandered the wilderness for forty years before they entered the Promised Land.
The prophets ripped their clothing, grieved in the streets, and warned God’s people to repent and return.
Jesus died the most gruesome death the Romans could come up with. And the early church faced persecution of all kinds.
I don’t see many easy-street lives in the Bible. And I certainly don’t see God demanding that we keep a stiff upper lip through hard times.
In fact, D. A. Carson, a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, writes, “There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering. They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God. Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust it wrestles with God.”1
So where do all the clichés and false hopes we use to explain suffering come from? Not the Bible, and certainly not from God Himself.
My insistence that I have a nice, easy, “fine” life was not only unbiblical; it was also an unrealistic expectation that ended up making me feel disengaged from God and disappointed in Him. I thought I was suffering because I had done something wrong. I had fallen for clichés, which only increased my pain.
The majority of us have said or heard predictable clichés in times of suffering.
“If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.”
“It could have been worse.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
This is not a biblical way of thinking, nor is it a biblical way of dealing. We say these things because, somewhere along the way, we lost the biblical language of lament. We have not discovered the beauty in sorrow, so we try to get out of pain as quickly as possible — and we expect others to do so as well. But life will let all of us down, and we need a way to talk about it — a way we have lost along the way.
I have learned through the years that God does not want just our happy; He also really wants our sad.
Everything is not fine, and God wants to hear about it. He is drawn to us when we’re mourning and blesses us in a special way. God is not up there minimizing our pain and comparing it to others who have it worse than we do. God wants all pain to be surrendered to Him, and He has the capacity to respond to it all with infinite compassion.
What’s more, lament is a pathway. Honest expression to God makes way for God to come and work His real healing. Lament is a channel for powerful transformation. It is exactly the kind of song we need for hope and healing.
For so much of my life, I thought sucking it up and faking away the pain showed true strength. But real strength is identifying a wound and asking God to enter it. We are robbing ourselves of a divine mystery and a divine intimacy when we pretend to have it all together. In fact, we lose an entire vocabulary from our prayers when we silence the reality of our pain.
If questions and cries and laments are not cleaned up throughout Scripture, then why are we cleaning them up or removing them completely from our language?
Nobody likes dealing with pain, but we lose so much by wishing it away. What has silencing laments cost us? It has cost us far more than church attendance; it has prevented people from feeling comfortable enough to even enter our church doors. Many have walked away from Christian community because of how they were treated when they were in pain. And some have even left the faith entirely because they weren’t receiving the “prosperity” they were told they were entitled to as believers.
Maybe the reason the church has gained a reputation of being inauthentic and superficial is because we have not let our laments be heard — by each other or even by ourselves.
How often have you tried not to cry your own tears? Maybe you’re like me, and you weren’t prepared for life to be shockingly painful at times. Or maybe you believe, as I did, that you have to fake fine because God wants strong, un-anxious Christians. I know I am not the only one who minimizes my pain, works hard to get out of it, or just pretends that everything is okay. But I have found that if we minimize our suffering to a 3 on the pain scale, then we only heal at a 3 as well.
Has your pain ever been silenced or carelessly addressed? Have you ever been met with a “suck it up” when your pain has been exposed? How about someone wrongly diagnosing your pain and giving advice when you never asked for it? Or someone offering a fix-it-overnight formula not found anywhere in Scripture? I have yet to meet a person who truly has everything together. Think of the people who say everything is “fine” all the time. How many times is “how are you?” asked in our church hallways and coffee times only to be responded with an automatic “good!” — even if it’s not true? The church is supposed to be the safest place to share our pain. It should be a sanctuary for our healing. And yet the epidemic of faking fine has reached into its walls as well.
We are a wounded people, but in a prosperous and entitled culture, we have not learned enough about the holy and healing power of grieving our losses honestly. We are not kind to ourselves when it comes to processing grief and heartache. Many of us expect ourselves to simply move on after trauma or loss — when life is not that simple at all.
Scripture doesn’t tell us to pretend we’re peaceful when we’re not, act like everything is fine when it’s not, and do everything we can to suppress our sorrow. God doesn’t insist that we go to our “happy place” and ignore our sad, yet so many of our churches preach that we will have peace and prosperity just by virtue of being Christians. Scripture, in contrast, tells us that as followers of Christ, we are called to serve a “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3 NASB) who died a gruesome death. Until we identify ourselves with our Savior and acknowledge, as He did, just how painful life can be, we won’t be able to lament or to overcome. And if we silence our own cries, then we will inevitably silence the cries of those around us. We cannot carefully address the wounds of others if we are carelessly addressing our own.
The fact is, God does not expect us to have it all together, so it is a real disservice when our Christian communities create this expectation. We will be unsuccessful at sitting with hurting people if we have not allowed ourselves to grieve and wail and mourn and go through the lament process ourselves. God understands that life is full of pressures, hurts, stings. He took on flesh so He could relate to us in both our joy and pain. He wants us to feel and express every emotion before Him and not minimize a thing. There is no “fake it till you make it” in Scripture. When we fake fine, we fake our way out of authentic relationship with God, others, and ourselves.
If you’ve ever been given empty clichés during challenging times, you know how painful it can feel to be misunderstood by well-meaning people. Far too often, it seems the response we get to our hurt and disappointment is to suck it up, or pray it away. But Scripture reveals a God who meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be. No More Faking Fine is your invitation to get gut-level honest with God through the life-giving language of lament. Lament, a practice woven throughout Scripture, is a prayer that God never ignores, never silences, and never wastes. As author Esther Fleece says, “Lament is the unexpected pathway to true intimacy with God, and with those around us.” Esther learned this the hard way, by believing she could shut down painful emotions that haunted her from a broken past she tried to forget on her fast track to success. But in silencing her pain, she robbed herself of the opportunity to be healed. Maybe you’ve done the same. No More Faking Fine is your permission to lament—to give voice to the hurt, frustration, and disappointment you’ve kept inside and silenced for too long. Drawing from careful biblical study and hard-won insight, Esther reveals how to use God’s own language to draw closer to Him as He leads us through any darkness into His marvelous light. No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending Regular price $16.99
If you have followed my blog posts over the past six months you know that I have published post after post on Christians and depression, anxiety, worry, and suicide. It’s my belief that there is an epidemic of behavioral, and mental health issues in the church that we a not addressing as I believe God would have us to do. The church has not treated behavioral and mental health as it has other illness. For some reason the church considers it okay to talk about and to seek professional help, along with prayer, for cancer, diabetes, hypertension, pneumonia, flu, and even the common cold. We almost never say that the reason for these illnesses is a lack of faith or trust in God.
At the same time when someone comes to us saying that they are anxious, stressed, depressed, or “God forbid” feeling suicidal, we point them to scripture and telling them that if “you really, really, believe you will not or can’t be anxious, or depressed, or considering suicide, so just pray and claim the promises of God.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
I Corinthians 10:13 NKJV No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
The church has a problem talking about depression because we somehow believe that Christians should not get depressed and talking about it can be uncomfortable because we don’t know a lot about it.
Because there has been a prohibition of talking about certain things or not expressing our feelings when we are hurting in certain areas is like “putting lipstick on a pi”, so to speak. We are masking how we sometimes hurt so we don’t get help. Some old time preachers and old time mothers talked about the church being a hospital... well if you can’t talk about your sickness what kind of hospital is it. Is it only one that deals with the common cold or a stubbed toe and not anxiety, depression, or suicide?
If you can’t bring your deepest problems to the church because you are afraid of what others may say where people have to pretend that “..there lives are picture-perfect”. There are two problems that result. 1) the issues or problems will sooner or later come out and either they will result ns gossip or the leadership will tell them not to come back until the problem is handled or 2) then can’t take the pressure of trying to put up a false face for the church so they drop out.
“When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin --whether that’s our own sin of other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in. Church is the place where we need to go for healing not the place to pretend that we’re perfect. It shouldn’t be the place we run from when we feel overwhelmed it should be the place we run to. That is where Jesus will meet us and change us.,
It is true that prayer and reading and claiming the promises of God can help in relieving anxiety, or easing thoughts of suicide but to make those statements without listening to the anxious or the suicidal can cause them, if the symptoms don’t ease right away, to believe that they somehow don’t have the right kind of relationship with God and if the church can’t help why bother. The result can be desperation causing people to leave the church and in the worst cases suicide.
The following is an article from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention website.
Depression, anxiety, and the church: A pastor’s wife tells her story of hope
By Tiffany Marshall Leigh Ann Marshall
Since the garden, our world has been thoroughly and profoundly broken from the introduction of sin. This brokenness affects every part of our lives, from who we are, how we act, how we work, and how we relate to one another, to natural disasters and physical illness. As evangelicals, we are quick to see this universal bodily brokenness in cancer and heart disease, but when we approach mental illness, often our first response is to assume a lack of faith or inward transformation of the gospel. Why is this?
My family is no stranger to mental illness. Genetics have certainly played a huge role as three generations of my family, including myself, have been affected by depression and anxiety. Out of all of us affected, my mom's depression and anxiety has certainly been the most severe, particularly in the past few years. What has made this particularly hard is that she is a pastor's wife.
More than 18 percent of Americans struggle with depression and anxiety, but the stigma and shame still holds strong in the church and even stronger for those who hold roles in ministry. I recently sent her a few questions in hopes her story will encourage you or someone you know walking a similar journey.
Tiffany Marshall: When did you first start struggling with depression and anxiety?
Leigh Ann Marshall: I have struggled with diagnosed clinical depression for almost 30 years. The first time I sought professional help was in the early 1990s.
TM: What have been some of the factors that have amplified your depression and anxiety in different seasons of your life?
LAM: I was sexually abused by an older teenage boy when I was a child. I suppressed the abuse until I was a young adult. I believe this was the root of my anxiety and depression. My depression was managed for many years on low dose depression medications under the supervision of doctors. Over the past few years, there was an accumulation of factors that caused my anxiety and depression to resurface more severe than ever. We moved twice to two different states in a period of 13 months. My husband’s pastoral job changed twice in that period of time. In addition to that, I began to lose a large business that I had built from the ground up for over 19 years thinking it would be part of our retirement plan. I also went through a very severe physical illness during that 13-month period of time.
TM: How was this most recent season of depression and anxiety unique? What brought it about?
LAM: In November 2014, I spent 19 days in an ICU for sepsis, a very severe illness that more times than not, causes one to lose their life. Almost every major system in my body was shutting down due to an infection from a minor surgery for kidney stones. I ended up being on a ventilator for eight of the 19 days. Rehabilitation, including learning to walk again, took several months.
Just as I was getting physically stronger, my husband was called to another church, and we moved once again. My business began to decline even more rapidly as I was not able to work to keep things moving in a positive direction. I started to feel like a failure and was not sure how to handle the rapid decline of something I had put blood, sweat, and tears into for 19 years. I also felt like a failure as a pastor’s wife. I have always known the importance of being a helpmate for my husband, but it was all I could do to get to church, and then once I was there, I found it very difficult to engage with people.
Very soon, I began to slide into a deep depression that ultimately led to my decision in early 2017 that it would be better for everyone if I simply took my life. By God’s grace, I was in counseling and revealed this plan to my counselor. Thankfully my husband took this seriously and checked me into a facility for a week to get the help I needed. It was while I was in this facility that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The doctor informed me an illness as severe as my sepsis, coupled with a lengthy stay in ICU, could produce PTSD. I slowly began recovering as my doctor discovered my medications were out of balance and found the right medications for me.
TM: What has helped you out of this most recent bout of serious depression?
LAM: As someone who has battled anxiety and depression for almost all of my adult life, anxiety and depression are things I will most likely always battle with at some level. The factors that contribute to my illness are several. There are chemical imbalances (physical), as well as emotional and spiritual factors. I know, therefore, that I must battle the struggle on several fronts.
As I have mentioned, getting my medications balanced and accurate was a big step in the right direction. I am grateful God directed my steps to get me to the doctor who is right for me. He does an amazing job of listening to me and keeping my medications where they need to be.
I also continue to see a Christian counselor. I believe this is important because over a lifetime of handling stress in an unhealthy way, he has helped me see other ways of dealing with difficult situations in a healthy way.
My family (especially my husband) have been supportive of me as I have walked through this. It is important for those you love to see clinical anxiety and depression as an illness. If I had any other chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, people would understand it has to be treated. In the same way, people must understand mental illness is a very real disease. My family has supported me in that way.
I would certainly not want to leave out the spiritual aspect of this battle. Satan wants to destroy us. He will use any and all tactics to see us taken down. This certainly includes the battle of the mind. It has been important for me to continue to press in to God and my walk with him. I have Scripture and words to some of my favorite worship songs around my home. I see them everywhere I go. They remind me of where my real strength lies. When I am weak, I know God is shown to be strong.
TM: How did your role as a pastor's wife make this recent season harder? Why do you think that is?
LAM: When you are a pastor’s wife, you want to be strong around others. Expectations on pastors can be unrealistic. I was afraid if people in our church found out what I was really going through, they might think I was not a strong Christian or my faith was weak. We had not been at our current church long before the severe season of anxiety and depression set in. “What would others think if they knew their pastor’s wife was contemplating suicide?” I felt trapped with no place to turn for help.
TM: What can the church do to help church members affected by mental illness? (Personally or a loved one)
LAM: We must get past the stigma that somehow mental illness is a taboo subject. There are people sitting in our pews every week that are hurting and afraid to admit it or seek help. If we can bring mental illness into the light in our congregations, this will go a long way toward helping those who think they are the only ones or that other Christians will not understand.
We must educate our people. Our church has a strong partnership with a counseling ministry in our area. We lean on the professionals in this ministry to help educate our people on the real causes of mental illness as well as giving them help.
My husband recently preached a series of messages on discouragement and depression. With God’s leading, I shared my story on a Sunday morning as he completed the series. As hard as this was, it has opened healthy dialogue among our people. Many have reached out to me for help. They now know if the pastor’s wife can publicly share about her struggle, this is a safe place to go with their struggles.
We encouraged people to not ignore symptoms in the lives of those they love. They may just need someone who cares to reach out to them and keep gently nudging them until they get the help they need.
Because of the overwhelming response to my story, we are looking at ways to further educate our people and keep this conversation alive in our church. We want to be seen as a safe place that offers the real hope only found in Jesus Christ.
This has been such a hard season for my family, but we have also seen God’s grace so clearly. The Lord has used this to bring our family closer together, and it has made each one of us more thankful for the time we have together. We have a common faith in Christ that has helped us through this season, recognizing the broken, giving grace to each other when needed, and ultimately trusting in his sovereign and good purposes on the hard days. I know there are many other families out there that are walking through similar seasons without the hope of the gospel, and I pray the church rises up to meet them with good news in their moments of need.
Editor's Note: The following prayer is from the "Suicidal Thoughts" presentation to the Church of Divine Guidance Thursday Night Prayer Line.
“Father, in the name of Jesus, I come before You, confessing my need for You, and crying out to you from the bottom of my heart. Lord, You’ve said that you are near to those whose hearts are breaking and that you give grace to the humble. I humble myself before you now…I cast down any pride or self-justification that I would hide behind, and I present myself to you as I truly am–weak and helpless and despairing of my very life. I know there is no other Rock but You, and I turn to You with all of my heart. Father, please forgive my sin! I open myself up to receive Your cleansing, Your healing, Your forgiveness, and Your faith, hope and love into my being. I receive your love as a river, washing over the dry wasteland of my emotions. I see that in Your river there is life, and that every place your river touches in me is revived. I cast all my cares, my sorrows, my disappointments into that river and I let the current of Your spirit carry them far away. I believe You, when You say that You think good thoughts about me, and that Your plans are to give me a future and a hope. I believe You when You say that You knew who I was even before my mother conceived me–and that You wanted me to be alive on the earth right now. Thank you for giving me life! Thank you for working all things in my life for good! Thank you that I can call on your Name and You will be near me. Thank you for bearing all my weaknesses and diseases on the cross, and healing me, spirit, soul and body.”
Note - If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, please get help. Don’t try to face this on your own. There is hope and healing, and there are many who will journey through this trial with you. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time day or night 24/7, to talk to someone who understands. Or go online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for more information and help.
Here are three prayers you can pray before your meal this Thanksgiving. I know that at some of our gatherings with friends and family there may be a range of beliefs from the devout Christian to other beliefs to the atheist. These prayers are filled with thanksgiving and gratitude, and should be comfortable to all.
They will also help you and your family and friends pause long enough to thank God for all He’s done in your lives over the past year.
A Prayer of Thanks for Food and Family
Thank You, Lord God, for this food we are about to eat. Thank You for the hands that have prepared it, for those sitting around the table who are here to share it, and for the ability to be here together under one roof, and enjoy these blessings at Your hand. We realize that everything we have comes from You and for that we are eternally grateful. We also thank You for what we don’t have this year, for we trust that You have withheld in Your goodness and out of Your protection for us. Thank You that Scripture says You are a Good Father who loves to give gifts to Your children. We sit here as evidence of Your goodness. Thank You for the gift of today and all who are here to share it with us. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen
A Prayer of Thanks for Blessings Past and Present
Lord God, we gather around this table to humbly thank You for all that You have given us this past year – not just what is on this table, but who is sitting around this table. Thank you for life and laughter, for health and happiness, for relationships and memories. Thank you, too, for the lessons learned and the tears we’ve cried because of Your ability to grow us through them. Thank You for Your comfort and Your presence, in light of good days and bad. Thank You for what we have now, for what we had yesterday, and for what You will continue to give tomorrow. Let us never take that for granted, but to always be grateful for every good and perfect gift that comes from You. May we have hearts full of thanksgiving not only today but every day of our lives. We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, Amen.
A Prayer of Thanks for Who God is and What He has Given
Heavenly Father, it is with sincere hearts that we thank You for Who You are and all You have given to us, by Your grace. Thank You not just for this food, but for your Son, whom Scripture calls the Bread of Life. Thank You, God, for the greatest gift you could ever give us: forgiveness through the death of Your Perfect Son, Jesus, on the cross for us. Thank You for the righteousness You credited toward us, through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thank You for the hope we have, through Jesus, that we will never die, but live forever in Your presence, when we trust in Him alone for our salvation. Thank You, God, for all that You have allowed and not allowed in our lives this past year so we could rely on You more. Thank You for answered prayer, as well as unanswered prayer. We acknowledge Your goodness in what You have decided to allow and what You have determined to withhold. We commit our lives anew to You this day and ask that You would continue to remind us, throughout this next year, that You are God, You are on the throne, and You are eternally good. Thank You, finally, that we can pray in the name of Jesus, who made our access to You – and a personal relationship with You – possible. Amen.
Editor’s Note: Prayers from 3 Short Thanksgiving Prayers and Blessings to Say before Your Meal by Cindi McMenamin
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.