Once again, there’s another “evangelistic” campaign floating around which emphasizes God’s love at the expense of mentioning topics like sin, wrath and judgment. I choose not to name this latest movement primarily because it will most likely fade away quickly and be replaced by a repackaged version of the same basic error. Frankly, this emphasis is nothing new; in my over 50 years as a Christian, I’ve seen it crop up numberless times. (I also prefer not to give this campaign publicity.)
Scripture gives us good reason to trust that Jesus understands everything we experience as human beings, and therefore sympathizes with our struggles. A wonderful passage in Hebrews assures us of His ability to empathize with our suffering.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~~Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB95)
This passage fills us with comfort, as well it should! We all have times — often protracted times, actually — when troubles lead us into the temptations of anxiety, self-pity and despair. In such times, we crave assurance that Jesus stands beside us, giving us far more empathy than our friends and family ever could. So we rejoice that we have such a faithful and understanding Friend Who willingly goes through our trials with us. And if we don’t rejoice in His empathy, we should! Dear sisters in Christ, please never forget how deeply He cares, even when it seems as if nothing will ever be right again.
At the same time, focusing too much on the Lord’s compassion has a serious drawback that causes a skewed perception of Him. Speaking from both personal experience and observations of some of the ways my friends have dealt with struggles, I firmly believe that we often emphasize His compassion so much that we forget His holiness.
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“That’s it — I’m done!”
John has lost count of the times I’ve declared those words out of frustration and hopelessness. Maybe you’ve also thrown up your hands and made similar pronouncements. Indeed, life can feel overwhelming, especially with all the horrible things happening lately. Sometimes we feel like crawling into a cave with a quart of chocolate double fudge ice cream while we pray for the Rapture. We get tired of trying to maintain godly attitudes when everything around us is falling apart. Believe me, ladies: I understand the desire to just give up!
As Christians, however, we know that the Lord calls us to persevere when life gets tough. Titus 2:2, as a matter of fact, instructs older men to set the example of being sound in doctrine, love and perseverance for the rest of the Church. As women, we have the responsibility to follow this example. We must keep most of that ice cream in the freezer and trust the Lord to take us through the difficulties and sufferings that surround us.
But what exactly is perseverance, and why should Christians persevere through trials? That cave with the ice cream seems a whole lot more comforting, and we really get sick of pushing through one trial after another. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to urge Christians to persevere?
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A year ago, we all breathed a sigh of relief. 2020, with its lockdowns, social distancing and masks, was finally receding into the rear view mirror. Two vaccines had been approved, and a third was pending. We heard vague promises that schools would reopen and we’d be eating indoors at our favorite restaurants again. My doctor assured me that, once people got their shots, mask mandates would end and I could use para-transit and public transportation without anyone questioning her note exempting me from wearing a mask. We greeted New Year’s Day 2021 enthusiastically. This year would be better!
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The lights on the tree had always heralded the joyous news that Jesus, the Light of the world, had come. But on December 25, 1989, they seemed intrusive, and I stared at them resentfully. That year, I just wanted Christmas to go away.
Only a week earlier, my beloved friend Bob had lost his battle with AIDS. Oh, I understood that he had gone to heaven, having repented of his homosexuality and placed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In the best way possible, God actually had given him the ultimate healing by taking him. It just wasn’t the healing I had demanded in my prayers. It wasn’t the Christmas miracle I so wanted God to perform. While everyone around me was having a holly jolly Christmas, I felt empty.
Some of you reading this post may experience such feelings this Christmas. Maybe Covid took a loved one from you this past year, and your dinner table won’t seem full. Perhaps you’ve suffered a broken engagement — or worse, a broken marriage. Maybe one of your children has turned away from Christ. Many tragic things can make the Christmas season anything but merry and bright, so that the tinsel garnishing your tree becomes nothing more than shredded aluminum foil. As much as you love Christ, this year all joy is gone.
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Depression can cripple the emotions, sometimes so severely that everyday functioning becomes overwhelming. In the worst cases, a Christian suffering from depression could require Biblical Counseling with an ACBC certified counselor. We mustn’t minimize the fact that circumstances can often engender feelings of hopelessness.
In most situations, however, the average Christian has the resources to combat depression in Scripture and fellowship with other believers. She can receive Biblical counseling by reading the Word and talking with mature sisters who know how to correctly apply the Word. Scripture provides a treasure trove of passages to assist us in working through a wide range of emotional problems, but depression is especially prevalent due to the many ramifications of Covid as well as the approaching holidays. With those factors in mind, it seems appropriate to focus on how the Bible addresses this emotional battle.
To demonstrate how you can utilize the Bible during times of depression, let’s look at Psalm 42. (Click this link to read the entire psalm.)
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First of all, we shouldn’t wonder whether or not persecution will come to the United States. In that respect, I guess I’ve slightly mistitled this article. It’s already started in Europe, Africa, Asia and Canada, aided and abetted by governmental reactions to COVID, Islamic terrorism and LBGTQ demands. It seems to be slowly creeping into America — I noticed this week that all my Kindle books on homosexuality have disappeared. Well, I’ve expected it for years. Only a matter of time before this blog vanishes.
Let’s go with the premise that persecution is definitely coming, and indeed that most of the world has suffered persecution since Jesus hung on the cross. My pastor once remarked that America has been an anomaly in regards to the relative acceptance Christians have enjoyed during its first four centuries. I believe that such acceptance, while it has blessed us with wonderful opportunities to proclaim the Gospel freely, may have lulled us into an attitude of entitlement. For instance, I felt cheated because Amazon pulled those books from my Kindle app, even though I knew the licensing agreement clearly states that I never actually owned them. American Christians have lost sight of the truth that persecution is the norm for true believers.
With all this in mind, we must accept persecution as an inevitable fact of life. No, we don’t have to like it, and we shouldn’t set ourselves up for it. But we should remember that Jesus warned us that persecution would come to those who follow Him.
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18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. ~~John 15:18-20 (NASB95)
Not only do I type with a headstick, but I drive my power wheelchair with my face. Having a strong neck is crucial to my daily function, particularly as a blogger.
So you can probably guess that the severe neck pain that I’v been feeling since a week ago yesterday has alarmed me and John considerably.
We got Blue Emu last night. I tried my first application this morning, and so far I haven’t had any significant relief. Some reviews said it works immediately, while others said it takes a few days. Still others said it was a complete waste of money. So I’m asking the Lord to let it work for me. So that I can keep working for Him.
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Writing about suffering takes me out of my comfort zone. To be blunt, I don’t really think I’ve actually suffered.
It may strike you as strange that I would make such a statement. Ironically, as I’ve tried to type this paragraph, my body locked itself in a muscle spasm, preventing me from repositioning my wheelchair so that I could reach my keyboard’s space bar without straining my back. People who have watched me go through migraines, endure folks who assume I’m intellectually disabled or know how frustrated I am with my speech defect would probably insist that I suffer quite a bit.
They forget that I Read More »
Later this week I plan to write a couple articles celebrating Mother’s Day. More accurately, I plan to write about the ways women can glorify God through motherhood. As our culture shames women who stay at home to nurture their children, such ladies need encouragement and reassurance that they please the Lord by their devotion to their children.
Ain’t nothing wrong with that!
At the same time, Christians can get so wrapped up in extolling motherhood that we forget the ladies who feel acute pain on the second Sunday of May each year. Often, those hurting women avoid attending church services that week. Hearing sermons about the joys of raising godly children or the importance of honoring mothers who may not be all that virtuous can sting. Mother’s Day has Read More »
Yesterday our pastor preached the second sermon in a three-part series on the Lord’s Prayer. As he expounded on the clause, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he made the distinction between needs and wants that most preachers make when preaching on this clause. I expected no less from him.
I got more than I expected, however.
He commented that God, because He is sovereign, gets to Read More »