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
When people let you down, it hurts. But feeling like God isn’t even on your side wounds so much deeper. Especially when you pour your heart out begging him to help and it seems as if He’s light years away.
We have to start from the right perspective. We must realize how small we are and how big God is. How short our time of existence compared to His eternity.
Psalm 90:2 (NLT)2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.
2 Peter 3:8 (NLT)8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.
Psalm 39:4 (NLT)4 “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.
Here is an example of how big God is compared to us. If the Milky Way galaxy were the size of the entire continent of North America, our solar system would fit in a coffee cup. That’s the size of our solar system in the Milky Way galaxy. Now consider that there are perhaps 100 billion galaxies in the universe. It would take 15 billion years to send a lightspeed message (100,000 miles per hour) to the edge of the universe.
Psalm 8:1-9 (NLT)1 O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.2 You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place--4 what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.6 You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority--7 the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals,8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents.9 O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
We must realize how small we are and how big God is, and how short our time of existence compared to eternity.
Psalm 90:2 (NLT)2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.
2 Peter 3:8 (NLT)8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.
Psalm 39:4 (NLT)4 “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.
We tend to rely on our own sufficiency and our own issues but we need to as best we can as humans, look at the relationship from God’s perspective.
Psalm 39:4 (HCSB)4 “LORD, reveal to me the end of my life and the number of my days. Let me know how short-lived I am.
Psalm 90:12 (HCSB)12 Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.
James 4:13-14 (HCSB)13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.”14 You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are ⌊like⌋ smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.
1 Peter 1:24 (HCSB)24 For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,
When Job was having his trouble he questioned some things too and he wanted God to answer him and he got this response;
Job 38:1-11 (HCSB)1 Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind. He said:2 Who is this who obscures ⌊My⌋ counsel with ignorant words?3 Get ready to answer Me like a man; when I question you, you will inform Me.4 Where were you when I established the earth? Tell ⌊Me⌋, if you have understanding.5 Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?6 What supports its foundations? Or who laid its cornerstone7 while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?8 Who enclosed the sea behind doors when it burst from the womb,9 when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its blanket,10 when I determined its boundaries and put ⌊its⌋ bars and doors in place,11 when I declared: “You may come this far, but no farther; your proud waves stop here”?
He got the message
Job 40:3-5 (HCSB)3 Then Job answered the LORD:4 I am so insignificant. How can I answer You? I place my hand over my mouth.5 I have spoken once, and I will not reply; twice, but ⌊now⌋ I can add nothing.
With these things in mind we might want to consider:
Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
We are really not in control of the world God is. We are not really in control of our futures, God is. The only response to our problems or our condition is to be still and turn them over to God.
We have to realize who we really are in comparison to God in our relationship with Him. When we acknowledge that we are so very small we are in our imperfection, when compared to God who is perfect it establishes the right ground rules of how we relate to God. We have to admit that we are helpless. Human beings don’t ordinarily like to admit that we need help,
We have to level with God about bitterness over an unanswered prayer, grief, over loss, guilt over an unforgiving spirit, a baffling sense of God’s absence. If we don’t do that the relationship with God won’t go any further that a shallow relationship that we have with another person where that person is just a casual friend. With a casual friend we engage in small talk and don’t get too personal about our lives. If we do that we will only engage in formal prayers and never break through what Philip calls the intimacy barrier. We have to learn to trust God with what He already knows.
A Prayer for When Things Don’t Go in Your Way
By Lori Freeland
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
It’s easy to blame God when life goes wrong. He can do anything. Stop anything. Change anything. But sometimes He doesn’t. People have free will. The world is full of death and disease and sin. Bad things happen to good people—even good Christian people.
God never promised I’d get what I want, that my days would be easy, that just because I chose to follow Him I wouldn’t suffer, or that He’d let me skip the bad parts of life. And that’s where disappointment comes in, hitting the hardest when I confuse what I think God owes me with what He actually told me:
He said I should give thanks. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).
He said He understands my challenges. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:16)
He said I wouldn’t be crushed. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
He said I’d never be alone. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar… You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me… Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139: 2,3,5,7,8).
When I look at these verses, I remember true peace always finds me when I give thanks in the worst of situations. I remember that I’m still here, still living, not destroyed, even when people and situations have tried to break me. I remember the times He walked me through the darkness of feeling alone and abandoned.
As my perspective changes, so does my disappointment. God’s purpose isn’t to wrap me in that bubble and keep me away from the harsh realities of the world, it’s to walk with me through them. His purpose is to refine my faith.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (I Peter 1:6,7).
If you’re hurting and you feel like God has let you down, don’t lose faith just yet. Not before you take an honest look at your disappointment. Just like it would be unfair of me to blame my boss for not giving me a promotion he never offered, it’s unfair to judge God’s love for us based on what we want Him to give us rather than what He wants to give.
Lord, Your ways aren’t our ways. It sounds so simple. I’ve memorized the verse. But help those words sink in. Show me Your perspective through Your eyes. Help me to see that while I’m a small part of the bigger picture You have planned, you love me and I’m part of Your purpose. Rather than blame You when things go wrong, help me to remember You’re the only one who’s right there beside me as I crawl through the fire. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Editors Note: Continual things come and go, like arguments or rain. Continuous, on the other hand, is nonstop.
I live in Southern California near Thousand Oaks where just a few days ago there was a mass shooting in which twelve people including the shooter (who took his own life) and a Deputy Sheriff were killed. Just a few days later, in this same and adjacent areas in Southern California, and areas of Northern California fires, fanned by high winds. destroyed homes businesses and many people died. Several of these fires continue to burn as I write this post.
Many have and will continue to experience grief over these losses of loved ones, homes, and other things. There is the initial shock and immediate grief of the loss but, that's just the beginning of the process. There will be times, even years after the loss, where you see or hear something that reminds you of that person, place, or thing and you will experience thoughts of joy or sadness. It's all part of the process and it's necessary. One of the toughest parts of grieving a loss is that grief often is layered and continual...it doesn't hit all at once.
When it comes to death of a loved one, a divorce, or a severed relationship with a life long friend, the initial loss is the relationship...then as the weeks go by, they realize it changes many of their other circumstances and relationships...then they realize how the loss is affecting any children, or other relatives and friends, even finances.
The pain is a process it’s very heartbreaking...and frustrating.
God has the ability to bring us deep peace. As we keep our minds on God, He is faithful to give us peace that is unexplainable.
Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
If you know of someone who has recently lost their home and/or other things of sentimental value due to a fire, or other natural disaster, divorce, financial reasons...or if you know of someone who has lost a loved one through death or severed relationship, perhaps a divorce, reach out to them today. Bless them through the love and resources God has blessed you with.
Isaiah 32:17 NKJV The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
Proverbs 11:25 NKJV The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at his feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken,
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that thou art mine.
All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to thee,
Fill me with thy love and power,
Let thy blessing fall on me.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to his name!
The Story Behind I Surrender All
Judson Van DeVenter was born on a farm in Michigan in 1855. Following graduation from Hillsdale College, he became an art teacher and supervisor of art in the public schools of Sharon, Pennsylvania. He was, in addition, an accomplished musician, singer, and composer. Van DeVenter was also an active layman in his Methodist Episcopal Church, involved in the church's evangelistic meetings. Recognizing his talent for the ministry, friends urged him to give up teaching and become an evangelist. Van DeVenter wavered for five years between becoming a recognized artist or devoting himself to ministry. Finally, he surrendered his life to Christian service and wrote the text of the hymn while conducting a meeting at the Ohio home of noted evangelist George Sebring.
Following his decision to surrender his life to the Divine, Van DeVenter traveled throughout the United States, England, and Scotland, doing evangelistic work. Winfield S. Weeden, his associate and singer, assisted him for many years. Toward the end of his life, Van DeVenter moved to Florida and was a professor of hymnology at the Florida Bible Institute for four years in the 1920s. After his retirement, he remained involved in speaking and in religious gatherings. Van DeVenter published more than 60 hymns in his lifetime, but "I Surrender All" is his most famous.
"I Surrender All" was put to music by Weeden, and first published in 1896 in Gospel Songs of Grace and Glory, a collection of old and new hymns by various hymnists, compiled by Weeden, Van DeVenter, and Leonard Weaver, and published by Sebring Publishing Co. Weeden, born in Ohio in 1847, taught in singing schools prior to becoming an evangelist and was a noted song leader and vocalist. His tombstone is inscribed with the title of this hymn, "I Surrender All".
A Prayer Of Surrender
By Dr. James MacDonald
“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27, NASB).
One of the great hymns we sang two or three times a month in the church where I grew up was the old invitation chorus, “I Surrender All.” But despite all the earnest intentions evoked when you’re with your congregation belting those lyrics from your heart, something’s almost deceptively easy about surrendering our “all” to Jesus. Christians are quick to sign up for the comprehensive, no-holds release of a generic, theoretical “all.” Feels good just saying it. Take it all, God, all of it. I surrender everything to You.
The problem comes when “all” becomes specific. We may be up for surrendering “all” to Him, but perhaps not surrendering . . . this.
See? That’s harder . . . when the surrender is specific, when it’s not an abstract all, but a concrete this.
Like when Christ—in the days immediately preceding His arrest, torture, and eventual death on the cross—saw the sun of His suffering begin to rise above the horizon of His thoughts. In seeing it, He could feel the full weight of what His atoning death would cost. No wonder He was “Troubled”—even as the Son of God. Yet what did He do with the anguish, anxiety, and horror of the situation?
He surrendered. He surrendered Himself to the Father’s will and purpose. And in doing so, He left us an example, that we might “Follow In His Steps”
1 Peter 2:21 NIV To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
When everything inside you is saying you can’t do this or get through it—“Please, Lord, get me out of this!”—observe the Second Person of the Trinity silhouetted against the God-darkened sky late on a Friday afternoon, and behold what can be accomplished for God’s glory and purpose through a single individual who not only surrenders everything from a distance, but surrenders one specific thing at close range.
Lord God, Thank You For Showing Us The Ultimate Example Of What Surrender Truly Is, Through The Gift Of Your Son, And Through The Surrender Of His Life For Our Sins. You’ve Called Me To Surrender My All As Well, And You’ve Heard Me Say That’s What I Intend To Do. Help Me Put My Zeal Into Practice—Even When Surrender Has A Name And A Face And A Measurable Cost. I Surrender All, And Especially That One Thing, Trusting In The Name Of The One Who Surrendered All For Me, Amen.
Editor’s Note: Some content taken from the Our Journey Online devotional, Terms of Surrender, written by Dr. James MacDonald.
Editor’s Note: The content in this post is from the Grief Bites:. Finding Treasure In Hardships, YouVersion Reading Plan by Kim Niles and Grief Bites. The plan will tell you how to get your breath back after life knocks it out of you. For more information visit www.griefbites.com
“Life is like a piano: the white keys represent happiness, the black keys show sadness. But as you go through life’s journey, remember that the black keys make music too…”
All of life works together to create the masterpiece that each of us are so brilliantly offered every single day.
The good and the bad in life...both help people to appreciate different facets of life and to live the best life they possibly can.
You can’t only take the good in life and reject the bad because both are tremendous shaping tools to help you live a completely full life…one is the sandpaper of life and the other is the buffer to make it brilliantly shine…both have the powerful ability to refine you. Without BOTH, the melody of life is incomplete…the song isn’t as powerfully sung or played.
When we reject the bad in life, and resent our circumstances, we ultimately reject a higher purpose for our life that can be used to help others. When we attempt to get through a trying time in high speed, we miss out on some life’s most amazing lessons…lessons that can change you. Lessons that can give you a depth you didn’t realize you had. Lessons that can catapult you to a new level of greatness you didn’t even know you had in you to reach.
Lessons during loss, trauma, and disappointments are never fun. They're uncomfortable, often very devastating, and extremely self-revealing.
Not everybody has the opportunity to find out exactly what they’re made of. We all think we know what we believe, think, and understand about God, relationships, and life...but loss tests everything in life to a great level: your relationship (and loyalty) to God, family, and others…as well as all previously held thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about many topics. Loss has the potential to forever change a person...for the better or worse.
Think of the song your life is playing. It most likely is a rich combination of both black and white keys.
The flats and sharps (black keys) are the notes in life that threaten and attempt to discourage you, pierce you, and make you ineffective in living life to the fullest.
The white keys are the notes that encourage you and show you just how incredible and amazing life is and how great life can be.
You may not have the ability to choose what keys are playing right now…you may have many black keys that are bringing intense pain. Realize this though: every key that is playing in your life melody today has incredible value. You need both.
Allow the song and the notes of your life to play. Embrace all that is going on in your life. The songs in life always change because life is just one incredible morphing of notes that are there to teach you to enjoy, appreciate, and learn about every facet of life.
There is so much good in life. We all are so blessed…even on our worst days.
If you don’t like the notes that are playing in your life, take the notes to the feet of Jesus and ask Him to help you grow through your loss. Ask the Great Conductor to change your life to play new music...and a new song...that will glorify Him as He leads you in life.
We all are responsible to make the best music possible that plays out of our life...and leave the writing of our songs in life to Him.
Ephesians 5:19-20 NIV speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Think about this: one of the greatest songs ever created was used from many dark keys. There IS beauty through the black keys in life…but you most likely will have to embrace the tough times and refuse to not allow good to come out of those times.
One of my all time favorite classical piano songs is Fantasie Impromptu Op.66 by Frederic Chopin. It is a challenging piece to play because it uses a difficult four against three in the rhythm. This rhythm makes this song very difficult...but once it is mastered, it is a genius piece.
Listen to this beautiful song on Youtube, and as you listen to…and appreciate…the richness and depth of the notes, make the decision to allow every black and white key in your life to create an unforgettable life song.
Allow the songs your life creates to be an incredible testimony to God.
He can take all the notes in your life and create a true masterpiece!
Zephaniah 3:17 NIV The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Psalms 23:1-6 NLT The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
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.
Jesus didn’t want us to be surprised by difficult times, so just before He died on the cross, He warned us,
John 16:33 NLT “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
“You will have …” means it’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that you can’t plan valleys or schedule them. Trials seem to come in bunches; serious illness, traffic accident, layoff one happening right after the other in a single year.
But be encouraged that valleys are temporary; they do have an end. And valleys have a purpose. God never wastes our pain.
1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
When God assured Moses He would be with him as he led the Israelites to the Promised Land, Moses replied, if You don’t go then don’t ,make us leave.
Exodus 33:12-16 NLT One day Moses said to the Lord , “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.” The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.” Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”
David, the one who wrote Psalm 23, refused to be filled with fear in the dark valleys, because God was with him in a very real and personal way:
Psalms 23:4 NLT Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Earlier in this psalm, David’s comments about God are in the third person — the LORD is my shepherd … He makes me lie down … He leads me… He refreshes my soul … He guides me.
But when David gets to the dark valley, he switches to second person: “for you are with me”. Now that’s personal. It’s as if David sees the darkness ahead, and he reaches out for God’s hand. What a comfort to put our hand in God’s hand, as we take a step into the dark!
Under the Shepherds protection we can say, even when we’re in the valley, “I’m here;
1. By God’s appointment.
2. In His keeping.
3. Under His training.
4. For His time.”
Lord, help me keep my eyes on You, not the painful circumstances I’m facing — not on my problem but on Your power. Thank You that You are with me and will never leave me. Here’s my hand. Please hold it tightly. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Editor's Note: Some content for this post from Going Through Life's Valleys by Darlene Sala
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.