“In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Luke 5:12, NLT
The Bible text reveals that this man is desperate. His leprosy has advanced; he is covered with it from ‘head-to-toe.’ He’s an outcast now, completely infected by something he never asked for; he is ‘unclean’ and completely without hope. There is no treatment, the doctors can do nothing.
The leper knows that without the touch of Jesus, he will never be healed.
He knows it; he doesn’t need to be convinced by anyone over the hopelessness of his condition. But somehow he has heard that Jesus can do real miracles. Could it be that Jesus can heal his sickness?
The leper comes and falls on his knees before the Lord, with his face in the dirt. This man is completely broken; he has no hope, except for Jesus. What else can he do? He is with any real hope.
Our diseases differ, but our lives have been completely changed by our pain. We all have this in common.
Our pain and darkness vary. Some hurt more, some less. But we’ve all come to the place where we no longer have illusions of somehow being made whole. I sometimes think there should be a secret handshake or a password. We all share a comradeship— we’re all part of the same community.
We’re a broken club of tired and decidedly unclean misfits.
We belong to the fellowship of pain.
Lying in the dirt, we start to believe the unbelievable. Our faith doesn’t activate our healing, as much as it simply guides us to Jesus. We can kneel, and perhaps that’s all we need to do. His presence drives away the fear, the doubt, and the pain. He’s come, and somehow we begin to hope for mercy.
Only He can carry us through this.
I have struggled with deep dark depression. I’ve had to take meds. But when I come into Jesus’ presence, all my melancholy is driven out. He comes and I start to hope again. Am I a stellar example of perfect discipleship? I think not. But isn’t about us becoming “angels,” perhaps it’s more about us learning how to kneel, and to allow Jesus to touch our hearts.
You must do this. Repeatedly. Over and over and over.
“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws.”
“The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
James 1:2-3, ESV
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.
Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.
This reveals their brilliance and value. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.
God’s special nearness is available to each believer, especially those in the heat of the furnace. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father. Your faith must be purified, and this is never optional.
Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.
Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you. He delights to see your faith becoming solid and real.
“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”
Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability.
They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.
For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.
But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time?
We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.
But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of only ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.
After over 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.)
I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)
“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.”
His love is completely undeserved.
It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly lost and fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.
It is a relationship and not a religion.
We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).
We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy.
We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.
All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.
I must tell you that God loves you far more than you ever dreamed.
He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.
You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship. You display God’s love and grace so others can see it.
We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken.
We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.
There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.
“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “
“They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”
“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.”
2 Timothy 2:13, NLT
There are often times of great despair; when sin or sickness is definitely in the spotlight. Losing hope is an easy response for mere mortals like us. There can be a place where the darkness won’t lift; and it’s at that point you realize that you’re simply in over your head.
I know that feeling quite well.
I have depressive bipolar disorder and because of that I tend to camp out at the margins where it seems like the grace of God evaporates. Whether it is my sin or circumstances, I occasionally feel pretty much abandoned, and it usually is something self-inflicted. (Or is it? I’m not always sure.)
We have this glaring tendency to put ourselves in where we should not have been. And condemnation means no comfort can get through to us.
We wonder if God has finally given up on us, throwing us in the trash heap of lost souls. We might feel that’s what we deserve.
“Many are saying about me, “God won’t rescue him.”
In Psalm 3, David has come to the realization that his sins have “tainted” him. He talks of many enemies that have suddenly gathered, and they are claiming that David had now gone outside of God’s grace and favor. Forever.
The theology of this seemed logical. David had sinned greatly. And just perhaps he had. David’s sin of adultery and murder was heinous and depraved. His enemies suggested that God would now abandon him.
Our own sin may be excessive, but God’s faithfulness is even more extreme.
”Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies.’‘
The grace of God is limitless. It is beyond human comprehension or reasoning. When He committed Himself it was for forever. King David understood this, and would survive the devastating fall-out from his sins. Indeed he would reap all that he sowed (Gal. 6:7-8).
You see, Jesus has taken every ounce of your sin upon Himself.
That includes your faithlessness. He has done this astonishing thing out of the deep depths of His love and mercy. We don’t deserve it and we can’t pretend it is something else. A heart welded to His knows this. We are “saved by grace through faith.”
Do you still feel God has abandoned you forever?
Dear one, there is an unholy war on the saints that Satan is waging. He hates your simple trust in God and will shake it anyway he can. He blisters believers hoping to discourage them. And he doesn’t ever fight fair.
“The Lord appeared to us in the past,saying:“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
A few weeks ago, my morning routine had taken me outside on our deck. I just sat and was soaking up the first rays and drinking a cup of coffee. My mind usually flits about; and I think about many different things. I’d like to say that at least some are engaged with challenging issues. But most though are a bit strange and out of bounds. It seems at times to be like trying to put a leash on a wild dog.
Sitting there on a deck chair, I thought about the shoes I was wearing. They were black clogs and I wore them everywhere. I’ve had them for four or five years. They had liners, so I could even wear them during winter. As I sat there, it occurred to me that I have always bought and worn either black, or brown shoes. Always. As I considered this preference, it struck me as odd. Why did I always buy dull and ordinary shoes?
I knew right then that I must buy red shoes!
Out back in the recesses of my mind, a thought burst into my thinking, it was like fireworks just went off. I would buy red shoes! I would retire my faithful sandals and wear red ones instead. I set down my coffee cup and headed for my laptop. I ordered a comfortable pair of Crocs, in crimson red.
I waited for the postman like a child waits for Christmas.
I was energized by the thought of having red shoes. I do a lot of things spontaneously. I can be far too impulsive, and it usually gets me in trouble. But when they arrived, they were even better then I expected. I put them on and started to prance around the house. And to see a 62 year old man acting like a ten year old must have been a sight. I didn’t want to take them off, and later I even flitted with the idea of even wearing them to bed.
Wearing my new red shoes was a profound experience which I didn’t anticipate. It may seem weird but when I wear them the feeling is somewhat like falling in love, or at least a reasonable facsimile. Perhaps if its nothing, I’m willing to accept that.
I think of God’s grace and how extraordinary it is.
We can reside in a barren wasteland of a tedious existence where joy is seldom found. I know this is true. But there can be an infusion of mercy in such places. A grace that meets with us and alters us. I believe we are to be “grace blasted” believers living with a sense of wonder over the kindness of God. He has chosen us to be His own sons and daughters.
“And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
I believe that this poem is relevant to all who struggle to keep depression at bay. It was originally posted at my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog.
There are people in this world who seem to always be upbeat and to think positively about things. Darkness seems far from them. But for some of us, that is not the case, and darkness hover ever closer. The armor of God holds for us the essential weapons of Light as the darkness hovers ever closer to our doors.
Darkness hovers at the door eye out for an entrance an opening in my armor a reason to steal my joy
The joy of the Lord is my strength and my armor the Light that keeps darkness at bay
Despair lurks in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to pull me back into darkness with hopes of keeping me evermore
Vigilance is crucial I never can forget Darkness desires to consume me and take my joy away
I must stand firm in the armor of my Lord His belt of truth reminding me He is my Light
Flaming arrows of sorrow guilt, shame, and despair fly from the darkness my heart and soul their target
With the shield of faith darkness is thwarted unless I grow careless even for a moment
I grow weary and tired pain overwhelms me My shield falls to the ground darkness overcomes
Yet my Savior never forsakes this despair will not last Though I am in darkness I will pray in the Spirit
Light returns to my soul I set my armor to the ready once again standing vigilant as darkness hovers at my door
“The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
“I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
Psalm 102:7, ESV
“At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them!”
2 Timothy 4:1
The Bible is very sensitive and its aware of the difficulties of loneliness.
We discover that the sense of being all alone is quite common. We’ll encounter this awful thing before our day is done. To be alone, isolated, and separated brings us a ‘solitary confinement‘ of our hearts. That difficult confinement will never be easy.
There’s a place where the Lord orders us to be quarantined.
Sometimes, in order to deal with certain sins, our Father will purposefully isolate us from others. Believe it or not, your sinful attitudes can spread to others. Sin is often compared to spiritual leprosy. I have seen this and have experienced it for myself.
But loneliness doesn’t have to be a sin issue. (Although it often is.) Being lonely can be a season in your life; like winter is waiting for spring. This is a hard time to be sure. The field seems dead, fallow, and waits for planting seed. Ministry is not really easy during this season. It seems like a time of preparation.
Both David and Paul were often lonely.
King David looked around and found nobody that he could be with. He felt like a solitary bird when all had flown away, and the apostle Paul knew true abandonment. Everyone had left him by himself in this difficult spot. The reality is, we need others. And often, too often, this is when this is withheld from us, and we’re somewhat vulnerable.
Jesus knew what it was like to be terribly lonely.
“You will leave me alone, but I am never really alone because the Father is with me” (read John 16). I often think He spent all that time in prayer, to somehow connect with His Father was because of loneliness. It seems Jesus had a deep need to be understood.
Your loneliness can be redeemed and used by God.
It very often can spur us into a deeper awareness of the Spirit’s work. The only way I can describe it as a point of abandonment or isolation, but it also brings us to a sense of His deep love for us.
Loneliness is one of our Lord’s favorite tools in restoring our hard hearts. It has a wonderful capacity to do things in us, that none of His other ways would work. It can be the perfect mechanism for Him to deeply touch us. And He will not hesitate to use it.
Often there can be a definite loneliness as we move toward Him.
This is acquired loneliness that comes when we start separating ourselves from the world. Few or any will understand you, or why you are doing this. To follow Jesus, is to become like Him. If He struggled at times with loneliness, so will you.
I have nothing at all to say to those who want to escape this bitter misery.
I can say no ‘magic words’ that will lift you out of this pain. Sometimes you just might have to plow it through it on your own. But I can tell you that He is wildly and passionately in love with you. You are never alone. Never.
If everyone forsakes you and leaves you standing alone in a tight spot, He will be there.
“For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”
3″He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”
Psalms 40:1-3, NLT
Psalm 40 is jam packed with great and wonderful truth. It contains freedom for the Christian– a way out for the broken believer. We do well when we use it, and that’s what it’s there for. The deep pit has been used over many centuries as the way God teaches us to sing certain songs. But that doesn’t make it easier, does it?
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.
Waiting is a critical word, it should not be regarded as perfunctory or a trivial word. In our daily walk we must be patiently seeking the Lord, that comes first. Admitting you need help is the first step. And guess what? You need help. :-)
The word ‘wait’ is special, it’s kawvah in Hebrew. It can mean ‘to bind together by twisting.‘ It can be used with the idea of braiding strands of rope together. It is never a passive act that just happens. Waiting on God is to be done with intentional purpose.
Remember that the Lord is not some distant deity on a hill far away.
He is closer to you than you think. He is responsive and aware. He hears your cries and wants to act; He is not deaf, but our patience is critical. Waiting on Him is crucial to being free. We must bind and twist our hearts and live our life to His desires.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.
The seeable terrain can be awful. There are muddy paths and mucky pits. Things that pull you down and suck you in. They’ll trap the traveler. But the Holy Spirit is quite able to lift us out. He picks us up and secures us. He uses the rope of God’s Word.
He is way more willing to save us, than we are to being saved.
Solid ground is where we are meant to be. It’s become a place of firm standing and secure footing. He makes us steady and He keeps us safe. The Holy Spirit now has intimate care over your soul.
“He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
“Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.“
Some of the greatest songs are the ones that come from those just delivered from the pit. These ‘pit songs’ are offered to God from sincere and true hearts that have once been trapped. There’s something solid heard from the hearts of those redeemed from disaster.
These songs no longer sound religious or contrived.
“YOU CAN SEE GOD FROM ANYWHERE IF YOUR MIND IS SET TO LOVE AND OBEY HIM.”
From our deepest pits come our greatest praises.
There is a passionate quality that saturates these ‘pit praises’ that is highly treasured by God, and esteemed and valued by the Church– a sense of authenticity starts to be finally heard. We can finally start to see that our pits become ‘launching pads’ of true songs of deliverance.
“But among you, it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” Luke 22:26, NLT Jesus Christ turned everything upside down. I know of no other teaching that might disturb his disciples as “humility.” I’m sure that they shook their […]
Jesus Christ turned everything upside down. I know of no other teaching that might disturb his disciples as “humility.” I’m sure that they shook their heads and replayed what Jesus had said.
(Maybe they were looking for a loophole?)
This is not something you just “click into place,” and move on to the next thing. Rather it’s a complete overhaul of living as a disciple. Humility is a process, not an event. We will never move beyond it.
“So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
We may think children are wonderful, but honestly, they’re hardly the stuff of the Spirit. And then Jesus shows up and we’re suddenly schooled even further. Generally, the attitude of a child can be seen as innocent, simple, kind, eager, curious, relying on others, and enjoying simple things.
As a bonafide broken believer, I find I’m quite consumed with “me.” Life can revolve around me. The awful nature of my depression, my mental illness is I get absorbed with it, and it is all I think about. And I hate this. It isn’t right. It isn’t healthy. It doesn’t honor God.
“If thou wouldst find much favor and peace with God and man, be very low in thine own eyes. Forgive thyself little and others much.”
“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?'”
It seems that pain is the best teacher. I suppose as we navigate through life we find the ‘capacity’ of our hearts expanding. We learn the hard way to come under God’s direction, and we finally learn to love others. Maybe this is how God changes us? After all, isn’t the crushed grape that yields the wine?
C.S. Lewis once made the comment, (and it’s worth thinking about,) that “experience is the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” We face many obstacles, run into quite a few dead ends, and along the way we learn that when we really hurt, we really start to learn some things.
I look over my life and it seems chock full of challenge. I’ve lost the use of my right arm, I have struggled with depression. I had a brain tumor removed, and must walk with a cane. I struggle with intense fatigue. (I no longer can pastor a church or teach in a Bible college.)
My wife and I have lost a child. I have prayed earnestly for a complete healing and had others pray for me. It’s funny, but all of this has happened after I became a Christian disciple! I often ask myself why?
What did I do to deserve all of this?
Paul and Barnabas came into an interesting place (we can read about it in Acts 14.)
“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Some of our Bible teachers we listen to minimize suffering, and we adopt a lot of our own theology to factor out pain and difficulty. But is this what the Bible teaches? If we read Hebrews 11, we find that life could be pretty grim for those with faith in God.
“Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”
Why does it have to be so hard for believers in Jesus?
Common sense suggests that things should get easier for those who believe. We somehow think that God rewards faith with instant glory. I painfully discover that my discipleship, my faith, doesn’t mean some wonderful existence on this planet. It seems that pain becomes the way we grow up and mature in Him. I honestly believe, after over 40 years of following Jesus, that suffering is part of God’s plan for me.
It has never been easy. I wish it was.
No matter what you are going through, remember that God always loves you. He has chosen us to navigate us through much difficulty. We must however, convert these painful things by our faith in Him. “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.” (Romans 8:28).
“We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.”
Mark 6:30, ESV
You couldn’t find a more amazed group of disciples on the green hills of Galilee. Coming from the four points of a compass they gathered at the predetermined time around Jesus. They excitedly told Him of wonders and miracles beyond.
It’s good to share with Him all that we see and experience.
I believe that the Lord desires that we come to Him and share the details of our day. The things that happened–in His name, and in our heart. We should tell Him all that we did, how we endured temptations or failed.
Jesus will not condemn or judge you for any sins or mistakes–that is a given. But as we tell Him about these things, He can transform these things so good will come from them. Difficulties encountered also are to be communicated. He is fully absorbed with our sharing, and He devotes Himself to you during these times. I believe thatHe even understands when we come back carrying nothing.
This “inventory” needs you to be honest, and completely forthright. Jesus is wonderfully attentive; as we share and release things to Him (and in His name), we become more like Him.
What God is bringing you through will be your testimony that just might bring someone else to Him. Without your witness of Jesus’ love they may never find Him. That is tragic.
Your story is the key that can unlock someone else’s prison. Touch others with your testimony.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Genesis 3:6-10, ESV
There is a good chance that some of your memories are pretty awful.
When we get looking back we can see shameful, dark things. Some of us carry things that are profoundly evil, and they go with us wherever we go. It’s no secret that guilt and mental illness travel hand in hand, for they are brothers. They have tormented us for a terribly long time. They are like playground bullies who have no fear– they only have hatred for us.
I’m quite convinced that the only way to move on is to have Jesus Christ fully cleanse you, and that includes your dark humiliations. The human tendency is for concealment. We take considerable effort to conceal and cloak our past lives. (Both Adam and Eve understood personal shame.)
I remember back when my dad discovered that one of our dogs had killed a chicken. He took that dead chicken and wired it around that dog’s neck. That dog wore that chicken for weeks. It was awful, and it began to putrefy. The smell was terrible. I can still see that dog, staggering and tongue lolling out and slobbering. My dad said it was the only cure for a “chicken killer.” The dog would get very sick, attached to this rotting carcass. It was a sobering lesson for a boy to see.
Somehow, that is what our past disgrace has done to us.
Sure we have moments when we can almost forget. But, for the most part, it is just a temporary reprieve. We slide back and rediscover the pain; it’s just waiting for us. The cost of our mental health is staggering.
Many of us are driven by a mad movement toward drugs and alcohol. We are compelled to escape the pain, and for a little while it seems to work. (This is called “co-morbidity.” Which is ‘fancy talk’ for a dual problem.)
It’s like filling a bucket with corrosive acid. It will eat its way out.
Most of us would quickly trade this mental pain, this misery; for a physical one. Something shameful that was done 20 or 30 or 50 years ago continues its destructive work. Our conscience will not allow us to dispose of our self-disgust in this easy, cavalier manner. We need a ‘hazmat’ crew to help us clean up mentally and spiritually.
You have to forgive yourself.
You must, or you will destroy yourself and those closest to you as well!
Often we believe these things are simply moldy walls; they seem to just need a coat of paint. Our problem is that it will only cover for a short time. After 20-30 layers are applied, we realize this isn’t really the answer. Nothing we can do is ever enough. We must have Jesus– we must!
“God doesn’t want us to punish ourselves to erase our guilt. He punished his Son to cancel our guilt. God will not build His kingdom on our pain because He is building it on His mercy.”
Full repentance is critical. Don’t scuff off this first step. The blood of Jesus isn’t some nicety. It is foundational for salvation. We are to, by faith, start the obedience. Our blistering sin and guilt are absorbed in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”
We need the Bible. It’s our portal, our clear window, our direct line into knowing the King. These are our promises.
A dear and wise friend of mine once told me that I should never go by what I feel, but by what I know. Feelings can be fickle and reactionary, and oftentimes they do not reveal the truth about the situation they are a reaction to.
There are times when my feelings have been all of these things. I’m sometimes sad or angry or depressed or disillusioned. My feelings are often a reaction to what has been going on in my life, or to things that have been said to me as well as about me and others whom I care deeply about. I’ve had times of feeling hopeless and been in disbelief of the things that have transpired in my life. I had days when I feel completely lost and alone.
On those days I listen to my dear friend and turn to the things I know to help me get through how I am feeling, to get to the truth of the matter. Here is what I know:
”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.” Romans 8:28. The important word in this verse for me is “all.” It is not just in some things, but in all things, that God works for the good of those who love Him. I may not see the good that will come from my present circumstances, but God does.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11. God has planned my days, now and for eternity, and His plan is one of hope.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31. Even though my own strength may be insufficient to get me through difficult times, the strength of the Lord is always there for me to lean on.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” Peter 5:7. God loves me and will take my burdens and anxiety if I will only let go.
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3. Eternal life starts now by knowing Jesus, not just when this body dies.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38. This is one I have proven to myself. As I am a blessing to others I receive a blessing in return much greater than I gave.
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. There is a joy to be found when I trust in the Lord.
“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:16-17. Grace and truth go hand in hand, and they are the great blessing that we all have from Jesus.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. Jesus came that we might live an abundant life, the best life that God could possibly want for us, something much better than we can ever imagine. Satan is the thief who promises pleasure and great ideas but means us only harm.
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6. This is a promise and a truth that can get me through any day.
These are just some of the things I know. God’s Word is full of promises of hope, love, joy, and redemption. It is full of stories of how those who had faith in God, who trusted in His promises, were blessed beyond measure.
God is far, far greater than my feelings.
I may feel hopeless, but that does not negate the hope He offers. I may feel lost, but that does not change the fact that He has found me and will never leave me. For all these promises I am grateful.
Sometimes it seems like bruises are part of life’s gift package to us.
Dancers are some of the most talented people I know. Their gracefulness can be seen both on and off the stage. A dancer’s training is far from easy. But by choosing to become dancers they have made a decision to absorb pain.
Their toes and feet are blistered and bruised; they take constant abuse. Some live with chronic tendonitis. Their feet bleed sometimes, and pain is their constant companion, but they still choose to dance.
Two things to consider.
They choose to dance. Dancers must operate with an iron will and an elegant grace. I suppose that is why they can dance the way they do. They have painfully blended the two.
The scars and bruises often become “badges of honor.” They would rather dance in pain, than not dance at all.
I once heard someone describe depression as having a mental bruise. I understand this.
As one prone to depression, I know what it is like to bury myself in my bed for weeks at a time. My own mental bruise was simply more than I could take. There was a sensation of sinking into blackness, a sense of total and complete despair. I felt lost and completely alone.
I prayed. I groaned, and I prayed again.
My sense of being totally lost in sad, dark thoughts was beyond comprehension. Dear reader, this was something quite real, and you must become aware of these things. Some of your friends are suffering, and it is often a hellish and desperate depression.
We would never say that diabetics are that way because of the enemy. The dark one will surely exploit it, but I think you give him far too much credit if you suggest he was able to initiate it. I don’t think Satan has the spiritual “voltage.”
I refuse to hide my mental bruises from those who share my pain. I will make the choice to dance. I’m bruised, but I will try to ignore the pain. I would exult in my God, walk in His love, and “leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2.)
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”
The great pastor/evangelist Charles Spurgeon once spoke about his own personal battle with depression:
“I find myself frequently depressed – perhaps more so than any other person here. And I find no better cure for that depression than to trust in the Lord with all my heart, and seek to realize afresh the power of the peace-speaking blood of Jesus, and His infinite love in dying upon the cross to put away all my transgressions.”
A.W. Tozer seems to have gotten a hold on something here. Those who step into discipleship or ministry will inevitably be hurt in some significant way. I wouldn’t say it was a ‘given’, but it seems to be the common path we must take. We must be aware–but often we can’t or won’t understand. That is hard.
God really isn’t the problem.
He loves us and saves us and He really does want to bless us. He is all goodness and grace. He has no evil intentions concerning you, and certainly has no desire to see you suffer in a crisis of suffering or trial. Even in times of temptation, He simply views it as a step to strengthen us–He never is out to trip us up.
I really think that the issue is us.
Our old nature–the sinner inside, delights in things like pride and selfishness (even in religious matters). Some of the most difficult people I have ever had to work with were in places of oversight within the Church! May I suggest something?
Could it be that the problem isn’t that we are too weak, rather, it is because we are too strong?
God’s intention is ‘to bless greatly.’ But my pride and self-will must be left at the door (repeatedly). My old nature cannot truly work in the Kingdom. Only when these issues are dealt with (repeatedly) will humility and brokenness transform us. Quite simply, there is no way around this. God uses broken things. We must be broken as well.
“It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.”
“It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”
Becoming broken often takes years of trial, temptation, and affliction. But God is patient.
You will ‘log-in’ many hours in the desert. Many of His best soldiers have been recruited from that barren place. The Holy Spirit is our best guide through the difficult loneliness and aridity of this place. He will guide you, and comfort you.
I get to teach at a local Bible college–I love Song of Solomon. Here’s a verse that has encouraged me over and over:
“Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?”
Songs 8:5, ESV
“Before God could bring me to this place He has broken me a thousand times.”
Healing doesn’t happen all at once. Sexual trauma runs too deep, is much too complex for simple remedies.
We have no Star Trek sickbay or magic tricorder to bind up the wounds, erase the battle scars.
And would we want to if we could? Would we walk away, pretend it never happened, we were never assaulted violated… hated… berated… made to feel shame and doubt?
Could we ignore the very truth of what we know was wrong… evil… the vilest of all? Could we simply walk away and cease to bear witness for those who come after? Or maybe for those violated before our own innocence was vanquished but are yet to heal at all?
If we could be healed completely in an instant, in the blink of a selfish, knowing eye…
But to do so meant leaving our sisters, our friends, our daughters, even strangers, without the hope of their presence?
Could we? Should we?
Because to heal 100 percent I think is to forget every ounce, every moment, of the pain and struggle.
And to forget is to lose compassion. So perhaps it is worth the ups and downs of scars that appear healed but sometimes, more often than we’d like, bleed tears of understanding helping others feel not so alone.
Often I pray for complete healing. For years I prayed to forget. But then I remember that without my wound I am not me.
Without my wound the scarring of my heart and soul, I am powerless.
“The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!”
Words of David, 1 Samuel 17:37
I wrote this post 21 years ago. To look back has been very helpful.
“In recent weeks I’ve gone through a time of profound confusion. My grip on reality has been tenuous at best. I’ve had a struggle with a depersonalizing sense, I seem not to “see” reality as I used to. Everything seems increasingly odd, and disjointed. I see myself outside myself. Everything is knotted up.”
“I have had bouts with this before. And yet every time the Father has “fathered” me. I have been led through each bout. In many ways, the clinical depression has changed, now it slams. It used to be kind of low grade—a grey fog, a steady and tedious despair, but now its more like a black lightning bolt.”
“I have had suicidal urges and thinking. I hate handling a kitchen knife, as I get the urge to plunge it into my chest. It’s funny like that, I call out to Jesus and He truly does find me. He straightens out my knotted life has only He can.”
“This blog initially started off in September 2009 following the idea of “broken believers.” Perhaps it was overly ambitious. But my heart’s desire is to be transparent and very honest. I still want to see this happen, and it does, sometimes.
I know I am no super saint with just the right answer for everyone. If I ever made this impression, please forgive me.
You see, I am the broken believer behind this blog.
In the doctrine of biblical hermeneutics, the ‘Law of First Mention’ exists. Essentially it means that the first time a word or a concept is mentioned should go on to determine the way it needs to be understood throughout scripture. It is a guiding principle more than anything, but a good one at that. The Book of Genesis, being the first book, is a blessed repository for many of these ‘first mentions.’
In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah.
Abraham has tied up his son on an altar to offer him as a sacrifice in obedience to God’s direction (v. 2). This is faith being tested to the ultimate extreme. And Abraham shows us how to enter in.
“Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”
This is the first time that the word “worship” is used in the Bible.
It sets the singular tone for all the scriptures on this subject. I guess what is interesting is there wereno musical instruments involved. There was just these needful things:
and Isaac, (the would-be ‘lamb.’)
When the Hebrew word for ‘worship’ was used for the first time; it is interlaced with the idea of an incredible sacrifice. Abraham is the first ‘worship leader’ and he has no guitar. No piano, or drums either. No musical instruments whatsoever. No overhead lyrics to speak of.
Just a handmade altar, and a knife.
In the end, Abraham raises his knife, and then suddenly, to the relief of us all, he is stopped. His faith has withstood the test, and he has truly ‘worshiped.’
“But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Principle One: There really can’t be worship without sacrifice.
Recovering this truth concerning worship would be beneficial. It seems we delegate ‘worship’ to a select few who are talented and gifted. We probably don’t do this deliberately, but sometimes we feel it makes a better presentation. We all want to look good, even Christians. (Perhaps this is more substantial than we know.)
Principle Two: The first worshiper didn’t use a guitar, but a knife.
This difference keeps the idea of sacrifice in its definition. There isn’t worship without sacrifice. The knife thrust that he was ready to wield wasn’t backed up by drums or piano. Yet Abraham understood worship every step to Moriah with the knife in his belt.
“The Scriptures include or allude to just about every approach to worship there is: organized, spontaneous, public, private, simple, complex, ornate or plain. Yet there is no comment anywhere about any one way being preferred over another. Rather, it is the spiritual condition of the worshiper that determines whether or not God is at work.”
“So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.”
Ultimately, we must realize our sacrifice is the Lamb of God. It’s His blood on God’s altar for our sins. As believers, our faith firmly rests in this spiritual fact.
“As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”
Psalm 84:6 (NIV).
In Hebrew, the word “baka” means tears.
In Psalm 84, the sons of Korah write their praises of God and note that those whose strength is in the Lord will travel through the Valley of Baka and find His peace there. For some of us that Valley of Tears seems never-ending, but we must remember we are not alone in it. I wrote this poem to remind myself of that truth. I hope it blesses you as you pass through the valley of tears, too.
The Valley of Tears
My Savior will dry all my tears The Lord God knows all my fears As I trudge onward many years I pass through the Valley of Baka
Great pain and agony oppress I feel heavy weights of duress Praying for dear Jesus to bless I pass through the Valley of Baka
I see that this valley is long I need You to make my faith strong That Lord I might sing a praise song As I pass through the Valley of Baka
I am without question the world’s worst and the clumsiest of all. And since my brain surgery, it has gotten even worse. I need to use a cane now. (And if you look up “klutz” in the dictionary you’ll see my picture, lol.) 😃
When I start to dance,you had better head for higher ground!
Even so, I do love the idea of dancing, but I’m like Bozo, the circus clown, only wearing roller skates. I lurch from side-to-side and I’m always on the verge of falling on someone’s lap, which is a real hoot!
But there is just one dance that I am waiting for.
It’s the dance I’ll have with my Savior. There will be a day, in a place and time where He will call me home and I will learn to dance. I know it’ll be incredible, and it’s a day that I anticipate and honestly, I hope it comes soon.
To dance is to liberate your heart.
You must cancel out all self-consciousness. If you are self-aware, you will never enter into the joy and wonder of the dance. You will be a perpetual wallflower, living only on the edges. And, you will be very sad.
It seems you must dance in your heart before you can ever dance with your feet.
I desperately would like to dance. And I see Him clearly on that day when I have no cane and am as graceful as I hope to be, and to be perfectly honest I won’t be watching you, (I’m sorry), but I will see only Jesus. I believe that my heart will beat exclusively for Him.
Jesus shed His blood for me. I belong to Him. He forgave all my sin and has given me eternal life. Knowing this fills me with such joy that my feet won’t stand still. He redeems me, and is this not a cause for a dance?
Some of you have been crippled—smashed up in the grinding gears of life. It’s hard to dance. I understand.
But I know that your life can be astonishingly full of grace also– you have endured so much, and yet Jesus intends to occupy your thoughts and vision. As His disciple, you’ll discover your special dance. And when you finally see Him, your heart will finally be free to spin and twirl.
He is the God of the Dance.
“Young women and young men, together with the elderly, will celebrate and dance because I will comfort them and turn their sorrow into happiness.”
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.“
2 Timothy 1:7
When you’re profoundly depressed issues like taking a hot shower and eating something besides top ramen seem impossible. I’m embarrassed to say I once went 34 days with a shower. I laid in bed pretty much unable to function.
I suppose that is the insidious truth about chronic depression, I know it well. God seems far, far away. Life doesn’t matter anymore. I am way beyond ‘salvageable.’ I obviously don’t say it, but I feel deep-down like I’m destined for destruction.
Just a word here about Satan’s battle for our souls.
He is evil far beyond human comprehension. His schemes and plots are his attempt to destroy me and to extend his darkness. He’s a boxer who almost always attacks our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, repeatedly. He finds an open cut, and pounds it over and over.
Scripture tells us that the devil is conquered. Using God’s weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18) we can protect ourselves from his evil intentions. But that war is still demanding and it’s a real challenge at times. Especially for us. Our faith isn’t always what it should be.
But there is much I can do.
Yes, it’s true–life does seem impossible at times. Clinical depression, if not confronted biblically, will slowly devour us. It deceives and cripples. There is nothing quite like it; some people tell you it will pass, and that you’ll see the sun again, but they don’t get it. Sometimes it seems to be the worst advice ever given.
We need to understand that afflicted souls are special to God.
And that alone truly comforts me. It seems like there is an invisible tether that holds from completely dropping off the edge. When I pray–it is often desperate and brief. (More like a quiet scream for help.) There are no frills and no eloquence, but I know I’m being heard by Him who guards my soul.
People, for the most part, don’t always understand and are of little help. I must admit that my attitude about this can be less than stellar. I want to shout, “unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell yourself, perhaps it’s best if you just shut up.” (I don’t really say this mind you, but I’m terribly tempted to.)
Once when I was very sick I woke up to find a pastor lying on my bedroom floor praying for me. He didn’t have to do or say anything else. He was very quiet. He left without saying some ‘pious’ word to me, yet what he did was wonderfully done. God used Him.
“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”
John Henry Newman
Speak with the Lord Jesus as often as you can, and learn to listen to His voice. I read the Psalms–they give me a spiritual ears so that I can hear Him. I find a voice that can speak to God. Reading the Psalms imparts things that I can’t have any other way.
That “sound mind” promised in 2 Timothy 1:7 needs to be believed. You must activate it by faith. (Even a faith that falters.)
The apostle Paul once wrote, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV).
The troubles we face don’t seem light or momentary. They feel heavy and often permanent. Especially when one struggles with troubles like mental illness, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes, physical disabilities, and cancer. Surely Paul was mistaken when he described our troubles as light and momentary. Perhaps his life was a different experience?
No, Paul knew what he was talking about; he knew about all about troubles.
He was flogged and beaten, threatened with stoning, and thrown in jail multiple times for proclaiming Christ. He was shipwrecked not once, not twice, but three times. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us how Paul died, other historical documents suggest that he was beheaded.
Once he chose to follow Christ and proclaim His name, Paul’s life was anything but easy, his troubles anything but light and momentary. And yet, compared to the eternal glory his passion for Christ was earning for him, he could truthfully call them light and momentary.
Our burdens become light when we give them to Jesus.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV). He will carry the load if only we are willing to give it up. Sometimes he brings fellow believers alongside to help with this.
Our troubles become momentary when we see them from an eternal perspective. “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8 (NIV). In our earthly bodies we are bound by time and can be easily fooled by it.
In God’s kingdom, time becomes somewhat irrelevant.
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
John 6:66-68, ESV
To be an authentic follower of Jesus can be really hard sometimes. There doesn’t seem to be any contingency plan for anyone who is looking to escape. Jesus either is, or He isn’t our Lord. The question is posed daily, “Do you also want to leave?”
That’s a question that will be asked to every disciple–I will hear it every morning for the rest of my life.
These are moments when I must make a decision. Will I take up my cross and go with Him? I’ve looked around and there doesn’t seem to be any room in Jesus’ band for ‘almost’ disciples. But Jesus loves Peter, and Jesus loves me. I believe this.
“And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself],
And take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].“
Luke 9:23, Amplified Bible
Being obedient to Jesus is far from easy these days. Today’s cross is waiting for me as my feet hit the floor each morning. I’m afraid at times that I won’t be able to take the next step as a true follower. Am I just fooling myself? Will Jesus keep helping and holding me? (Matthew 11:28-30.)
All of heaven seems to stand on tiptoe to watch and see what I’m going to do next.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.”
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”
2 Corinthians 1:9
To be chronically ill often means living with awful frustration. We can’t do what we want, we are ‘trapped’ by a disease we never asked for, and we’re held hostage by our minds and bodies. We once had a job– a career… and our time was occupied by that. Suddenly our lives are turned upside down.
We were accustomed to something, anything more than being very sick.
I once was a pastor of a small church. I also taught Gospels for several years in a local Bible Institute. I loved ministry very much. They defined my identity and gave me purpose. I enjoyed helping people and teaching the Word. I endeavored to be faithful in the ministry. I hope I did.
With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of severe depression, my life more or less exploded. I had extensive memory loss. I knew I had to step out of the ministry. I simply could not function. It was a hard thing to leave it behind. (I still miss it).
My depression grew even more profound with the stillborn death of our third child just 3 days before her delivery, Things suddenly ground to a standstill as my wife and I tried to process all of this. I guess I just couldn’t understand and more or less just shut down. I was angry at God. I spent months in bed, unable to function.
Some people were true jewels.
Others were mean and uncaring. (I had to learn to take the good with the bad.) I suppose I should have understood, but things were so tangled up inside me that I couldn’t verbalize a thing. But God knew all about me.
The post-op recovery following the tumor was an ordeal, as I had to learn many things all over again. A few years later I ended up on disability; I was unable to work, and my symptoms were so unpredictable. I dealt with profound depression and a solid dose of paranoia and fear.
I learned that meds can help, but they can’t fix the problem.
The isolation of being ill seems worse than the pain. We wonder why this is happening to us, and we hear lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. Our value to others seems to be scuttled by our illness. We can feel cursed, forgotten, crippled by God, or even worse. (Maybe even irrevocably lost.)
Satan craves our spiritual destruction, and he snares unsteady souls.
I admit I have been slow to learn this– but God brings good things out of the dark. I’m embarrassed by my personal lack of acquiring all of this. Now I’m starting to learn finally, and I want His words to reflect these truths.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
2 Corinthians 4:7
This light will shine. The treasure is found in clay vessels. Brokenness only means the treasure is now seen clearly. It’s important to note–treasure loses none of its value by being surrounded by broken clay. Our weaknesses are being turned into goodness, understanding, and love for our brothers and sisters.
Troubles of many varieties will visit us.Count on it.
No matter what their nature, God holds his people in place while everything else is falling apart. But for the broken believer, there is another dimension; we will indeed triumph. The tragedies we’ve had to endure only supplement our faith. We will stand– because He makes us stand.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”
When I was a kid I learned no one wanted to hear me cry.
When I was little, I had a temper like a small hurricane. I didn’t like to be teased and would become angry and cry if anyone teased me. I was always told, “Go to your room and cry. No one wants to hear you crying.” So I did.
But my temper tantrum just didn’t end there.
You see, the way our house was designed, my bedroom was, I think, supposed to be a family room. It had two doors opposite one another so that it functioned as a hallway between the dining room and the back hallway where the bathroom and other bedrooms were. When I was sent to my room, I would run into the room and slam one of these two doors.
Because of some principle of physics that I don’t even remotely understand, the door would not completely close and the slamming would cause the other door to fly open and hit the closet. So then I would run over and slam that door, with the same result, until my mom yelled, “Quit slamming those G** damned doors!”
The belief that no one wanted to hear me cry or witness my temper tantrums stuck with me for a long time. The way I always interpreted that statement was that no one cares how I feel. When bad things happened to me later in life, I told no one because I didn’t think they would care. When I was the most depressed, I kept it a secret because I was ashamed of feeling so bad and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.
It turns out that many of the things we learn as kids just aren’t true. This is one of those things. Okay, so maybe there are people who don’t care. A lot of them. But there are also people who do care. People, like me, who when they ask “How are you?” they really want to know, even if how you are is horrible. The world is full of loving, compassionate people who have struggled just like you and me, and want to help us find a way through the temper tantrum of the day.
And even if you can’t find anyone in your life who cares, Jesus cares.
John 11:35 records that “Jesus wept.” Why was He weeping? Not because Lazarus was dead, for He knew death was not the end of Lazarus. Jesus wept out of compassion for those who mourned the death of Lazarus.
In 1 Peter 5:7, the apostle wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” He really does, you know. And so do His followers, though sometimes they don’t know how to show it.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:7, NIV
At first glance it seems that the Old Testament is a collection of extremely bloody books. So many sacrifices were made that the levitical priesthood had to sacrifice lambs 24 hours a day. People had this desperate need to cover their sins with an offering. This was instilled in them by the Law and their conscience. The guilt emanating from their sins must be covered by a lamb’s blood.
As our sins mount up (and they will) we have an innate need to cover them up.
Sin is almost never hidden, and never, ever exalted as a virtue. And yet we try to skate though our accumulation of many sins. We forget many, and try to excuse the more heinous. Our guilt condemns us, and we have no choice but to hide it, from ourselves, others, and from God. We can no longer pretend we’re without sin.
“Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.”
The Jewish people no longer sacrifice lambs, and it seems the Gentiles have never caught on. But sin has never gone out-of-style. But yet there is still a way for God to forgive our sin. The New Testament teaches clearly that Jesus has offered His blood as the payment of every sin ever committed. His death wiped our slates clean, forever.
The New Testament is crystal clear on this. I’m not making this up.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ had enough sufficiency to cover everyone, once, and for all. It seems astonishing, beyond belief and possibility. The blood it seems, has never lost its power. This may be why Christians can’t seem to ‘shut-up’ about their faith.
They ‘see’ something!
At long last, the tremendous guilt is lifted from the believer, and they want others to know about it.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.”
Simply put, you now have the confidence–sort of like ‘backstage passes,’ into God’s presence, all because of His death. The cross is far, far beyond a gold religious medallion worn around the neck. The cross of Christ, and more precisely His blood, is now regarded as complete righteousness for anyone (who by faith) receives it as his/her own. A brand-new confidence takes hold. “God loves me, and He really has forgiven me.”
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)
Our sins and our weaknesses, whether they be from our fallenness, whether they be genetic or environmental, are now smothered in the blood of Jesus. That red blood makes us ‘white as snow’ in God’s analysis. ‘Brokenbelievers’ everywhere are cheering.
We know we aren’t quite right, and we understand our sin, but we have become fans of Jesus Christ. After all, His death has brought us eternal life.
Trigger Warning: This post involves rape. If you are sensitive, please tread lightly. It is not my intention to cause more pain, but to show how God can use even our worst trauma for good.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)
We moved from my childhood home in sunny Southern California to a one-traffic-light town on the outskirts of a Washington rainforest right before I started eighth grade. I made new friends, quite different from my old friends. And I met my first boyfriend.
When you’re fourteen, they call it puppy love. I thought it was real because he claimed he loved me, too. He was older and cute in a rugged sort of way, with shaggy long brown hair and a scruff of facial hair, not quite a beard and mustache.
One day he asked me to go for a walk, just to talk. The biting cold drove us indoors to his house. In my naiveté, I never saw it coming. At the tender age of 14, my 105-pound frame was overpowered and violated. Without a second thought, he crushed my spirit and devoured an innocence I can never redeem.
It can sound like a platitude, or worse, this oft repeated verse:
“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.”
Romans 8:28, NIV
Surely, Paul didn’t mean all things? He couldn’t have meant the rape I suffered? God certainly can’t bring any good from the suffering, shame, and depression that followed me for decades after?
Or can He?
Even now—as a powerless, frightened little girl lives in me and I sometimes struggle with deep despair, doubting God’s blessings—God reminds me I am His beloved. He has empowered me to survive any trial. I may feel powerless and frightened, but the truth is He will not allow me to be utterly destroyed.
Trauma and loss are inevitable for all of us. I’m not alone even in this dreadful experience of sexual assault.
When I consider my experiences in the light of God’s purposes for my life, I see the blessing. His bigger plan becomes less fuzzy, if not clear. I see how my troubles drew me closer to Jesus as my only refuge.
The path my life may have taken—had there been no pain, no loss of innocence—is one in which I may have never understood my need for a Savior. When all is well, what does one need saving from? But I did need to be saved from a darkness that grew deeper with each successive trauma I experienced. I desperately needed rescuing so I could live this wonderful, light-filled life He gave me.
I like the woman God has shaped me into, even if suffering was required for the Potter to mold this piece of clay. God did not plan or desire my suffering, but He certainly used it to develop in me the compassion, mercy, and humility that have become my hallmark. In all my experiences, He worked for my good because He loves me. He has called me to use my experience to give hope to others.
Do you need this hope today?
It’s just a story away. I’d love if you would share your story so that God can begin to use it for good, too. If you don’t know how to even start writing your story, check out my guided poetry journal, which you can request here: https://anotherfearlessyear.net/i-believe-you.
“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”
Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters.
I believe God loves you (it’s not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you. Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally or physically ill).
Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, and you can rest in His arms.
Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness. Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)
Some of us have physical disabilities. We come to worship from our wheelchairs and walkers. Some of us are deaf, and others are blind. But we come still. Our hope is in the coming King who promises us a new and fully redeemed Kingdom. There will be no more pain.
I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimer’s who understands little of what is happening to her, but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before dementia, she was a spiritual marvel. Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met.
Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe.
I just realized this–the angels understand worship, they really do. Praise seems to be their specialty. Each angel that surrounds the throne has a PhD in “worshipology.”
But you know what? They angels really don’t understand our worship out of our pain, weakness, and brokenness.
Let’s worship God with our cracks and brokenness. In John 12:1-7, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus’ feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain.
But always remember this dear one–it’s only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.
Desiderata (Latin: “desired things”, plural of desideratum) is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945).
It exhorts the reader to “be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be”, and to “keep peace with your soul”. “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,” wrote Ehrmann, “it is still a beautiful world.”—Wikipedia
Unquestionably, some of this prose-poem may be a bit pretentious, it revolves around concepts, at times which are not entirely sound, especially for the Christian believer.
We note these things and look for what we need. My old pastor liked to observe, “Swallow the meat, and spit out the bones.” That seems fitting, especially now. But no matter what we say, this particular work has very much wisdom for each of us. It is worthwhile I think.
This world that we’re immersed in needs hope and peace. Especially now.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
“Loving Father God, my heart is filled upon rethinking the greatness of your love and the completeness of your plan. I want to please you, but how often my flesh folds under the pressure of temptation. I thank you that you know my frame, and you remember that I am but dust. And I thank you for the abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness that you have made available to me through the cross of your son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for receiving me back, my gracious Lord. Amen. ”
When my children do wrong I ache inside. As a father I so want to hear their confession and see their repentance. But I cannot imagine disowning them. Never, ever! How much more is our Heavenly Father ready to receive us back, and hold us close to his heart.
This profound love turns us back to Himself. The very fact you feel the Holy Spirit’s tug is evidence enough that you haven’t been permanently forsaken and ‘cast aside.’ You’ll need to take a step of faith however. Always remember— proximity to Jesus is always a good thing. Stay close, and watch the enemy flee. He will, but only if you stand.
Become brutally real with yourself, but never despairingly.
Confess your sin to the real God who loves you unconditionally. Let Him fill you with His Spirit again. Sin is not the ultimate place or condition of the true believer in Jesus–his love has the incredible power to bust through all of our disobedience and rebellion. And he is the only one who can do it–you can’t.
66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.
Who else would take us?
Jesus loves each one of us as if there were only one of us. Sink into that love, and have the assurance that He alone has the power to save us- We’re his; even when we’re rascals. And he has decided that we are now his friends. Isn’t that wild!
Some time ago I came across a story that connected. A visiting speaker stood in front of a congregation and shared a painful incident from his childhood. He wanted to bring healing. After he spoke, an elder came and spoke to him–
“You have learned how to become a proper steward of your pain.”
The visiting speaker was profoundly touched by this. Finally, something came together in his heart and soul. Yes, he did learn how to deal scripturally with those ugly things from his past. He was becoming a proper steward of his pain.
The word for steward in the original Greek is oikonomos. It literally means “a keeper of a home.” It describes a manager, a superintendent to whom the head of the house or proprietor has entrusted the management of his affairs, the diligent care of receipts and expenditures.
The issue for us is managing these awful things for the Kingdom of God.
No question about it, we live in a world of darkness. Each of us has been touched by hard things. Scars are part of our lives. When we come to Christ they come with us. All of these grim things are a real piece of us, we have been hurt (or maybe we’ve wounded others?)
Are you a good steward of who you are? Whether it’s a trauma, a physical, sexual, or perhaps a mental illness. It’s a scar you carry from your past, and no one is immune from them it seems. You’ll find freedom if you can use these things for Him and his Kingdom.
We must see and understand that Jesus has taken everything and redeems it all for His glory.
He understands us fully–our past, present, and future. He ‘knows’ us–the real and hidden us. The challenge I suppose is to take these sad events to the throne. He alone can heal and then use that which has devastated us.
Satan has afflicted you in his dark attempt to destroy you.
Jesus intervenes to save. As we grow to accept this, the Holy Spirit comes as our comforter and guide. He starts to teach us true redemption, and the incredible healing that he brings with him. It really is his work, not ours. We finally understand. It’s then we become broken healers that God can use.
The light has truly overcome the dark.
We’re being taught (sometimes very slowly) to carry all of these things and plead the blood of Jesus over our past. He covers us completely. He has redeemed us. Luke 1:68 explains much clearer than I can:
“Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel because he has visited and provided redemption for his people.”
Becoming a steward of our pain is his doing. We’re able to touch others with these things that would cripple and destroy others. He has made us “managers” of these things, and we are taught to teach others, declaring that God has completely saved us. He works miracles!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
We’ll sovereignly meet those who need to hear our story.
We’re being transformed into authentic witnesses. Yes, at times these awful things still hurt, and I suppose that’s to be expected. But we’re learning to manage them. We’ve become real-life stewards of our pain.
“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”
You really start to gather them when you’re middle-aged. I’m 62 now and am surprised (and somewhat disturbed) by my memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of getting old. But that’s the deal.
I guess what really bothers me the most are all the missed opportunities.
I wonder what life could have been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away.
I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of a 70-year-old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,”
The solution to our regret is to focus on God’s total forgiveness. Past, Present, Future.
Paul clearly saw what lay ahead of him. Heaven was his destination, and, it’s our calling as well; it’s where we truly belong, made righteous in the loving presence of Jesus.
Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time for me to lay aside all my foolishness and rebellion and instead live for God. Enough is enough.
“You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”
1 Peter 4:3
Thinking about my past keeps me humble and broken (which is no small thing)! But it also cements me into the joy of His marvelous amazing grace. I now know Jesus’ love.
Oh the joy I have of being forgiven!
David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness. He wanted us to believe in it as well:
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
“We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear-and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy.”
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
“Little children, let us not love in words or talk but in deeds and in truth.”
1 John 3:17-18, ESV
Love is a noble idea, it’s admired and extolled by practically everyone–we see it in our music and poetry, ethics and religion. For the most part it’s a word for something decent and virtuous and honorable. It’s a good thing, but I’m afraid it’s not always scriptural.
You see, Bible love wears work gloves.
It labors and sweats. Bible love has chores to do, and it actively looks and sees what needs to be done. 1 John 3 tells us that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves and only see the world’s definition. That love that a believer has is to be different.
Love, in John’s eyes, is most assuredly “doing.” It burns spiritual calories as it labors to serve our brothers and sisters. Love finds things it can do–it doesn’t just talk but it gets busy. Love sees the need and then gets down to serve.
“You must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”
1 Peter 1:22
Working (serving) has nothing to do with our salvation, that is a free gift. We’re saved by grace through the blood of Jesus–that’s a given. And this love isn’t drudgery, as a matter of fact, working and serving each other is a joy. The deepest kind of joy there is.
Our words, although important, are really an insufficient way of proving our authenticity. The love we serve another with isn’t “pretty poetry” kind of love. It’s so easy to just shout out truth and never ever show a working, serving kind of love.
That disconnect is a bit disturbing.
When do we suppose we figure out that His love is actually a verb?
Our prayer and intercession really begins when we go to work for someone else. (Our lunch box is our Bible.) We read it and it energizes us to work for one another. When we pray we truly are loving another brother or sister. Work that they can’t or won’t do for themselves. At least not yet. So we pray.
John is calling believers to a much more real kind of love. Love that sweats.
“The church is made up of individuals. It can do nothing except as its members work, and work together.”
How you handle these fragile moments is key to the remainder of your life. It’s ok to feel abandoned or alone. It’s ok to be depressed.
But let God know about where you’re at. I’m convinced He really wants to teach you to walk in the truth. And dear one, nothing will be as challenging as that.
I really hope that these thoughts might help. We face challenges and difficulties. Just maybe this post will strengthen your walk? I chose each thought purposefully and every one contains something helpful (I hope).
These each speak wisdom as we try to understand what’s happening to us.
Quotes to Guide You Through Your Trial:
“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He’s hurt him deeply.” (Roots of Righteousness, Chapter 39)
“Hurt is the essential ingredient of ultimate Christ-likeness.” (Quoted in Christianity Today, July 2007, p41)
“Brokenness isn’t so much about how bad you’ve been hurt but how you’ve sinned in handling it.” (Christianity Today, A Shrink Gets Stretched, May 1, 2003)
“Shattered dreams are never random. They are always a piece of a piece in a larger story. The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream. They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit to first awaken, then to satisfy our highest dream.” (Shattered Dreams, 2001)
“When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible person and crushes him.” (Quoted by Gary Preston, Character Forged from Conflict: Staying Connected to God During Controversy. The pastor’s soul series, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1999)
“Are you praying for God’s superabundant blessings and pleading that He will make you more like His Son? If so, then you are asking for the shears.” (Secrets of the Vine, 60.)
“Someone put it this way, ‘Whoever desires to walk with God, walks right into the crucible.’ All who choose godliness live in a crucible. The tests will come.” (Moses, Great Lives from God’s Word, 285.)
“Being stripped of all substitutes is the most painful experience on earth.” (David, p70)
“The surrender of our heart’s deepest longing is perhaps as close as we come to an understanding of the cross… our own experience of crucifixion, though immeasurably less than our Saviour’s nonetheless furnishes us with a chance to begin to know Him in the fellowship of His suffering. In every form of our own suffering, He calls us into that fellowship.” (Elisabeth Elliot, Quest For Love, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1996), 182.)
“No words can express how much our world ‘owes’ to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were conceived in a wilderness. Most of the New Testament was written in a prison. The greatest words of God’s Scriptures have all passed through great trials. The greatest prophets have “learned in suffering what they wrote in their books.” So take comfort afflicted Christian! When our God is about to make use of a person, He allows them to go through a crucible of fire.”
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” (Quoted in Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.)
“God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.” (Chambers, O. (1993, c1935). My utmost for his highest : Selections for the year (September 30). Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers.)
“No-one enters into the experience of entire sanctification without going through a ‘white funeral’ — the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crisis of death, sanctification is nothing more than a vision… Have you come to your last days really? You have come to them often in sentiment, but have you come to them really?… We skirt around the cemetery and all the time refuse to go to death… Have you had your ‘white funeral’, or are you sacredly playing the fool with your soul? Is there a place in your life marked as the last day, a place to which the memory goes back with a chastened and extraordinary grateful remembrance–’yes, it was then, at that ‘white funeral’ that I made an agreement with God.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, January 15, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1963).)
“Jesus Christ had no tenderness whatsoever toward anything that was ultimately going to ruin a person in his service to God…. If the Spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that hurts you, you can be sure that there is something in you that He wants to hurt to the point of its death.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 27, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1963.)
Does God purposefully allow suffering? “The comfortable, but theologically incorrect, answer is no. You will find many people preaching and teaching that God never sends an ill wind into a person’s life, but that position can’t be justified by Scripture. The Bible teaches that God does send adversity – but within certain parameters and always for a reason that relates to our growth, perfection, and eternal good.” (*Stanley, C. F. 1997, c1996. Advancing through adversity (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN.)
This post and poem were originally written for a ‘Thankful Thursday’ post on my blog,Linda Kruschke’s Blog. It was written while I waited in my doctor’s waiting room to talk to her about my pain medication prescription. When I told her I was writing a thankfulness poem titled “Pain and Suffering” she was skeptical, until I told her the perspective from which it was written.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James 1:2-4 (NIV).
Although I would love to live a life in which I experienced no pain or suffering, that is not my lot. (I’ve never actually met anyone who did live a life with absolutely no pain or suffering.) I know that those who find their way here to Broken Believers have often had more than their fair share.
But I have come to a place in my life where I can find the good in all my pain and suffering – the “silver lining” if you will – in that it has taught me perseverance and compassion.
For that I am very thankful.
I am also thankful for God’s promise that my perseverance will finish its work so that I will be mature and complete.
Pain and Suffering
I will pray because I care as the pain drags you down Exhausting endless pain
I understand how you feel I’m exhausted just like you
I have no power to eliminate the pain Yours or mine
Will you let compassion blossom from the compost of your pain?
Or will bitterness engulf your soul as pain ravages your body and mind?
Because I care I will pray that we persevere that the pain will be eased
I will remind you this, too, shall pass someday
It might not be until Jesus returns or calls us home
But we’ll make it We’ll persevere and become mature and complete I will pray because I care
Will you pray for me, too?
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
Buried in the Old Testament is the idea of the Cities of Refuge.
They speak profoundly to our situation and bring real hope to those who struggle. Six places of safety were given to protect those who accidentally killed another person— maybe an ax head flew and hit someone, and they died as a result.
God told Joshua to establish cities of protection where one could be safe from an avenger. There were six of them, three on the east side of the Jordan river, and three on the west. The cities covered Israel; each was spread out intentionally so they were always close.
That city became a place of asylum for those guilty of manslaughter.
As believers, we know that we’ve committed crimes against God and other people. The burden we carry threatens to undo us. Satan (and his minions) want to destroy us—and honestly, we deserve it. We are essentially spiritual ‘criminals’ who have hurt others and damaged ourselves in the process.
Outside the city, we’re vulnerable—but inside those walls we find safety.
Those who have killed others are protected. If we venture outside, we find our adversary who is waiting. Scripture tells us that we must stay cloistered there until the current high priest dies. Upon his death, we’re released and may leave the city walls.
For broken believers, the whole concept rings true.
The text speaks for itself, and there is spiritual logic in all of this. We see parallels here that speak to our condition. We’ve messed up big time. We also carry issues that the enemy can attack. Depression, bipolar, trauma, and even thoughts of committing suicide— can be a fundamental part of our lives.
I must tell you that safety is found only in the Savior.
Finding God and abiding in him is our place of safety. His walls protect us, Jesus is our high priest, who never dies; that means we need to stay with him, permanently. I like Hebrews 6:18, LB:
“Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without a doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.”
For us especially, we often have problems with the doctrine of assurance of salvation. Our enemy works overtime to accuse us (Rev.12:10). We’re his targets and the lies of many demons assault us. We can, at times, wonder if we’re really saved. We wonder if we are really forgiven, and we doubt our salvation. Satan’s efforts can be constant and crippling.
I encourage you to think this over and pray about this.
“Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day.”
Paul’s voyage, Acts 27:29
“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”
An anchor is used when a boat needs to connect to the sea floor. It’s typically used to moor the ship or used in a bad storm.
“A boat anchor helps keep a boat attached to one place on the ocean floor so that it does not go adrift in the sea. Likewise, a “spiritual anchor” is something that helps keep us grounded, connected to what matters most, and able to cope with the challenges that life brings.”
Hopefulness is necessary for walking through the present circumstances we must face.
It also is for our future. To live without hope can be spiritually destructive. If there is no hope for us our hearts will break into pieces.
Hopelessness comes from living without an anchor. You must have an anchor as a believer. You must.
Despair will destroy you.
A Christian may for many days together see neither sun nor star, neither light in God’s countenance, nor light in his own heart, though even at that time God darts some beams through those clouds upon the soul; the soul again by a spirit of faith sees some light through those thickest clouds, enough to keep it from utter despair, though not to settle it in peace. In this dark condition, if they do as Paul and his company did, cast an anchor even in the dark night of temptation, and pray still for day, God will appear, and all shall clear up, we shall see light without and light within; the day-star will arise in their hearts.
“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence.”
“He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”
Psalm 91:3-4, NKJV
I believe that there is great opposition to living free. Satan contests every square inch. His modus operandi parallels the predator. He likes to hunt human beings. We see his power and influence all around us.
I’m being quite careful not to be melodramatic when I say this, but Satan has a terrible plan for your life. He often uses human ‘lackeys’ to carry out his wishes. They will use deception, lies, and foolishness to snare people’s souls. They [he] will even resort to brute force. As a result, many believers are being persecuted for their faith.
14 “David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.”
1 Samuel 23:14, NLT
5 “My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
7 “We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!”
And there is plenty more where this comes from. And we haven’t even got to the New Testament yet, where there are substantial references to this kind of attack. The doctrine of Satan is developed further there. Perhaps it is because we encounter the person of Jesus Christ and the act of personal redemption He made for each of us. Through this, we discover that we have an enemy that we were never really aware of before. And guess what— he hates us!
Some New Testament thoughts:
4 “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Just as we have a personal savior in Jesus, we find we also have an antagonist and a sworn enemy. We didn’t ask for it, and it would be really swell if he didn’t exist at all. But the world’s evil around us has a source and we dare not minimize it.
“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”
Our fealty to Jesus becomes critical at times like this. Spiritual warfare has an ebb and a flow to it, sometimes the battles can be intense, and at other times less so. But we can do nothing at all apart from the blood of Christ. We must defend ourselves, by calling out to God, or else we will become a casualty.
We can pray.
We can read the truth (the Bible).
We can praise and worship.
We can put on “the armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:11).
We can “submit to God” (James 4:7).
We can resist Satan and be firm in our faith, (1 Peter 5:9).
We can “plead the blood of Jesus” over our lives, and over our loved ones, (Exodus 12:13)
Probably the capstone is the following verse. This pretty much sums up this ‘act of resistance’ we are all called to do. I wanted to emphasize it because it is critical:
“Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
In April 2002, I was sitting in a cavernous waiting room at King’s Crossin London, England. I was waiting for a bus to Cambridge, UK. I sat all alone and stared at the tiled floor at my feet. The doctors had warned me not to travel alone, but I ignored their advice.
And now I was starting to unravel.
Depression had followed me all the way from Alaska to England. I had pushed my limits and was completely drained and becoming confused. I began to cry out to the Lord, very desperately. Sometimes madly. (Read Psalm 88.)
As I sat there staring intensely at the floor, several pigeons seemed to put on a show, just for me. They were fat little guys, apparently scratching out a good living. Several very large windows were open, and these pigeons seemed to have no fear as they took advantage of a meal from bored travelers.
All of a sudden, something very odd happened.
A pigeon came across the floor and “presented” himself, right square in front of me. I watched him intently and saw that he was crippled, one of his feet was nothing more than a twisted claw. He had been profoundly injured in such a way, that he would never be the same. He was damaged, and yet somehow he survived (and he was thriving)!
It was like experiencing a lightning bolt. God’s own light switch was being flipped.
I saw that pigeon, and I saw myself, and it was a moment of clarity, a shining grace. In the mega-hustle of 13,614,409 people in London, and in the midst of my own profound mental crisis, I knew God’s caring touch and it gave me real grace, love, and goodness–far greater than all my sin and confusion. He was just letting me know that He was very, very close. (See Psalm 34:18.)
I began to remember my damaged pigeon, completely oblivious to self-pity. I started to call out to the Father out of my confusion. Within a few minutes, I found myself sitting on the top level of a double-decker bus, with the driver aware of my problems and who specifically guided me to the place I was staying.
I was being cared for. Between a crippled pigeon and the dutiful ministrations of a bus driver, I’d finally found my hotel. (See Matthew 6:26.)
I have come to realize that this trip to England was not for me to see Big Ben, Parliament, or wander the academic schools of Cambridge University. Rather I was brought there to make contact with a certain pigeon, who was waiting to meet me and pass on vital instructions.
The Father shared things that I need to know. British castles and churches are beautiful and worth seeing but I must admit I’ve forgotten much. But all I really needed was somehow given.
I will take everything Jesus wants me to have.
P.S. Two things:
If you can avoid it, don’t travel alone.
Please never call pigeons, “rats, with wings.” :-)
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
Definitely, we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this, there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty? We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgment, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But ‘condemning another’ is His exclusive jurisdiction.
It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly.
It becomes imperative that we understand this; that any real discernment given is only to intensify and escalate the calling of every ‘saint,’ intercessor, or pastor.
We discern, not to pass judgment, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to ascribe a penalty to someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger. Please consider this–it’s never easy, is it?)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
We are broken people. We struggle with many different things. Some of us are mentally or physically ill. We are not whole yet. Some of us must take meds to help us be ‘normal.’ We deal with issues that would devastate someone else. And we don’t have it anywhere near together.
And yet out of our ‘hot mess,’ we think we can penalize someone else? Really?
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgives us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in light of this, is it not strange that almost all of our judgment is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body. In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
Granted, “we are to be wise as serpents,” But that same verse instructs us “to be as harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) A loving meekness and gentleness, need to be combined with intense spiritual power. We must embody “the fruits of the Spirit.” These things are the characteristics of the Spirit-saturated believer.
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we had any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (Again, these are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes. )
Certainly, I intend to confront the darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this black night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in the position to Judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore. I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
If you have never cried, you can stop reading right now. But if you have shed tears for yourself or for others, or if like me you have shed some without even knowing why or where they came from, take heart. God knows the tears you have shed. Psalm 56:8 says so. Here are several translations of that wonderful verse:
Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record? (NIV)
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle Are they not in Your book? (NASB)
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (NLT)
Write down my poem of sadness. List my tears on your scroll. Aren’t you making a record of them? (NIRV)
I love the image of God keeping all my tears in a bottle. I can envision shelves filled with bottles in Heaven, each with a name on it, and an accompanying scroll documenting every tear and lament. Or maybe it is just one huge bottle with all of our tears mingled together.
Today tears are being shed in dark rooms where children are being held as sex slaves, in Africa as people remain homeless and without food and water, in the United States as many remain jobless, in hospitals and on the streets where the mentally ill are forgotten, in homes around the world where people are spiritually lost and have no hope.
We live in a fallen world.
Tragedies happen and humans are not always kind to one another. And so tears are shed. It is hard to fathom God collecting every single one, but He does. He notices and He records each tear and each lament.
The more I think about it, I like the idea that God has mingled all our tears together. The Psalm does refer to God’s “bottle” in the singular. And if He has collected every tear in that bottle, then mingled with our own are the tears of Jesus. In John 11, the apostle records this event: “Jesus wept.” John 11:35.
In this passage, Jesus weeps when He learns of the death of Lazarus.
When they see Him weeping, the people say “See how he loved him!” John 11:36. But I don’t think Jesus was weeping because Lazarus was dead – He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Rather, I think He wept because of the compassion He felt for humanity as we weep over our own tragedies and losses. It is us that He loved so much that it brought Him to tears.
So if you weep today, remember that God is collecting your tears in His bottle, and mixing them with the tears of our dear Savior. Not only that, but God will deliver you from the final trial that lead to tears by redeeming your soul.
For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
“A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.”
Friendship with God can be a liberating secret for the believer. It releases us from the terrible bondage of religion and ritual with all its negative connotations. Intimacy with our Lord will carry us beyond creed or doctrine to the place of true communion.
It’s not that the Law is bad, but in the intense light of God’s grace, it’s a poor substitute. We value legalism, and that is precisely what we believe when we bypass the relationship. Doctrine is a good servant, but a poor master.
Grace always trumps legalism. Love truly surpasses rules.
As good evangelicals, we can talk big about “a personal relationship.” That is indeed crucial. But few be the believers that walk in a daily friendship with their Savior. That is truly a tragedy.
As a teacher of God’s Word, I mourn over my students when they miss out on what is real and true. I’m afraid for them.
“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends since I have told you everything the Father told me.”
John 15:15, NLT
Friendship with Jesus will bring true guidance. He shares secrets and wisdom with his friends. We are brought into a true knowledge of the Kingdom through the relationship of friendship with the King. We are not slaves– or drones, slavishly serving out of slavish fear.
We are now His friends!
Jesus wants to confide in us; sharing wisdom and truth hidden by time and sin. And his kingdom is chock full of great mysteries! He is looking to bring us into a willingness of daily communion. Only through intimacy with Jesus can we handle what He wants to teach us. (see Psalm 25:14; John 15:15.)
He will heal our wounds, and forgive all our sins. He is truly our savior as well as our friend.
Friendship comes with a price. It means we are now tethered to the Lord. That can get old, especially when I want to do my own thing. I will continually have to lay something down and choose to accept being tethered and follow Him.
But my soul now has a best friend. Or just maybe, Jesus has been my friend all along, and I just didn’t know it.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Matthew 7:15, NIV
My channel changer flips through the enormous darkness that exists in the world. I’m reminded that Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness they face.
Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be.
Darkness has a dark grasp on so many. The devil’s cunning is his ability to adapt to each person’s weakness. Deception has worked well for him for thousands of years. But understand: Lucifer is alive and well and he is prowling planet Earth.
An alert has been sounded by Jesus.
The reality of deception is now made obvious. Sometimes, some sheep will not really be sheep. Our senses are not always trained to look for counterfeit Christians. We get confused by the outside (“it looks like wool to me”). But it’s a lie. The wolf has deliberately taken on the attire of a believer.
Jesus explains what really is taking place around us.
(Oh my, how He wants us to discern!) I think every believer should have a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith. This is not cynicism or negativity; rather it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that routinely destroys people. The first-generation Church understood the reality of evil and what it would do when it’s unleashed.
“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.”
Corrie Ten Boom
Ferocious” in verse 15 is a sobering word. When I read it, I think of my home in Alaska with its wilderness and its wolves and brown bears; or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengeti’ with its lions or leopards. A dangerous carnivore is often hidden by its camouflage.
Ferocity is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies danger. Satan can patiently stalk for days, and maybe even months, and then he springs his trap and ambushes its victims.
“I know that as soon as I’m gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard.”
Acts 20:29, MSG
The Bible tells us that we must understand two critical things:
1)Deception is quite possible for the real believer, that in 2000 years the darkness is still potent. Satan is alive and well on planet Earth.
2)Living in close proximity to Jesus will protect us in the dark. The true Shepherd keeps His flock. He is our complete protection and safe place against evil things we don’t quite see.
When we’re alerted that the enemy is close to us, the best thing we can do is to move closer to our Shepherd. The battle is His, we are His.
“The devil is nimble; he can run apace; he is light of foot; he hath overtaken many. They that would have heaven must run for it.”
Last Saturday I purchased a wonderful find at Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon’s own homegrown new and used bookstore) – a used book called “Invisible Light: Poems about God” – for only $4.50. And it is in excellent condition.
It’s a collection of poems by various poets, some well-known and some not so well-known, as well as a few Psalms and other pieces of poetic scripture. I noticed in the table of contents that there were two poems by William Cowper, who I first heard of when reading “When the Darkness Will Not Lift” by John Piper. (See my book review of that book here).
Both of Cowper’s poems were so beautiful; it made me wonder why I even try to write poetry. (But I do know my poetry is getting better, and reading poems like Cowper’s just makes me want to learn more about poetry and get better at writing it).
I want to share one of Cowper’s poems with the readers at Broken Believers. I do so because it is a great reminder that even when we think we are too lost and broken to be of any use to God, even then God can do the impossible. He can take a broken vessel and cause great light and wonder to pour from its cracks. I am thankful for the poetry Cowper wrote, and for the witness that he provides of the truth that God uses the broken for astonishing things.
Cowper suffered from recurrent bouts of depression and severe mental illness. At times he was convinced that he was damned for all eternity and that he was a lost soul. Nonetheless, he was able to write some truly inspiring poetry and hymns to glorify God. This particular poem will cause the “Comfortless, broken, afflicted to delight in the joy of a life to come where all pain and sorrow will cease, and the glory of Jesus will be all we need.”
If you are struggling, feeling like you can never be of any use to God, take heart. God is in the business of using His power and wisdom in tandem with the broken believer to accomplish great things.
The Future Peace and Glory of the Church
by William Cowper
Hear what the Lord hath spoken:-
O my people, faint and few;
Comfortless, afflicted, broken,
Fair abodes I build for you:
Thorns of heartfelt tribulation
Shall no more perplex your ways;
You shall name your walls, Salvation,
And your gates shall all be Praise.
There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures, without end, shall flow;
For the LORD, your faith rewarding,
All his bounty shall bestow:
Still in undisturb’d possession,
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.
You no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see;
But, your griefs forever ending,
Find eternal noon in me:
God shall rise, and shining o’er ye,
Change to day the gloom of night;
He, the LORD, shall be your glory,
God, your everlasting light.
“My disgrace is before me all day long, and shame has covered my face.”
Some years ago while in prayer I saw something. There was a white marble fountain situated in a gorgeous courtyard. It was beautiful. As I looked I realized that it didn’t have clean fresh water like you might think, but it spewed feces and urine. It was gross, it was awful, and I immediately understood.
I realize that I was that marble fountain, and I generated only filth.
Being ashamed is cruelty that can only destroy a person. We think we must have defense mechanisms to survive. We drink, use drugs, and get involved with sex. Some might put on a tie and raise their hands during our church worship time. Whatever works I suppose. Almost always shame drives us to look for ways to escape.
People who live with shame often feel worthless, depressed, and anxious.
Shame can be a contributing factor to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. People who are constantly ashamed live out a difficult emotional and mental battle each and every day.
The Hebrew word for “shame” is disgrace, confusion, or dishonor.
I believe only the power and blood of Jesus can purify me. Only He has the ability to clean my spirit. In the New Testament, we see Jesus healing the leper with just a touch. Shame will be removed from your heart when he touches your own “leprosy” of sin.
Here are things you must consider.
Shame separates me from God.
Shame is a sign of self-hatred.
Shame makes me feel like giving up.
Shame leads me to go out and sin more.
Shame destroys the gifts that He is waiting for me to serve others.
Shame makes me judgemental and critical of others.
Shame weakens the Church in ways I can’t comprehend.
These two verses (below) are true. They will move you out of shame and guilt. These two must be believed and put into practice before you can be really free. It will probably be a battle–every day. The following two promises are crucial.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.”
1 John 1:9, LB
“Once again you will have compassion on us. You will tread our sins beneath your feet; you will throw them into the depths of the ocean!”
I must reiterate this, and use all authority God has given to me as a teacher, please shake this off.
I so want you to be free from shame.
Unless you step completely away from the shame you’ll be destroyed by the enemy. I dare not pull any punches with you. I don’t mean to be hard, I really don’t.
I strongly suggest you share your battle with another believer who will understand and be discreet.
Shame is the ugly fountain that only produces deadly things. It’s that shame that keeps me from understanding that I’m the beloved of God and His precious child.
“Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others. Your greatest ministry will most likely come out of your greatest hurt.”
Nothing I can say will cause your pain to go away. Any words or counsel are nice but weak when applied to that grievous wound or disability. Fellow believers will want to guide you, they mean well. They love Jesus and their hearts are good. I know this.
But it can be like two Tylenol to a man with a broken leg.
Pain, in every way I can think of, is always evil. It raises its head to either nibble at our edges or devour us completely.
I have friends who struggle with migraines and others with Lou Gehrig’s disease. A few friends have been incredibly injured, and a few others have impaired disabilities. Two or three have severe diabetes. One has a painful degenerative hip syndrome. Also, I have a dear elderly saint in her later stages of Alzheimer’s. One of my friends has cerebral palsy.
I must tell you I also walk in chronic pain and am permanently disabled. My own discipleship hasn’t been easy. Pain has only shown me my need to invite His powerful presence of Jesus, and to become fully His. I’m learning this.
We who hurt deeply are given the option of becoming truly gentle people.
Gentleness is not an easily given gig– the lessons can be rude and hard and even with possible tears. Faith lifts the rough veil of this ugly circumstance and finds the merciful God beaming with love.
And we are taught the hard reality of human beings. Looking eye to eye we connect with people and grasp their struggling lives. We see their needs and want to alleviate pain. We want to serve and give and love, finally.
Love shows me how it should be done; and suddenly a profound mystery, I’m loving like Jesus! I’m doing what He would do. Our hearts swell at this revelation. We understand.
And our hearts will decide that issue. Is it real?
So few really understand and discern, and even fewer can help you. Love them all. Love Jesus. Stay broken, gentle, and faithful to Loving Father.
A few years ago some asked me if I had the faith to be healed, they challenge us, “where’s your faith, brother?”
Hmm. But what about having faith in God even when you stay sick? To actively trust the special kindness of Him no matter what?
If you had never known afflictions in your own life, how do you think that you can properly touch those ‘nail-scarred’ hands which Jesus meets you with? And the apostles, and all those martyrs from every generation in an unbroken line of suffering.
And what about their crosses?
“Ah, afflicted one, your disabilities were meant to unite with God’s enabling, your weakness to combine with His power. God’s grace is at hand –sufficient– and at its best when human weakness is most profound.”
“All of Jesus’ followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for the wonderful Life they had seen.”
I suppose that this is what broken believers do. There is an essential element of joining up with others in this verse. The faithful followers will inevitably flock together. There are very few solitary people following the Lord Jesus. We can’t do “Christianity” by ourselves.
They’re gathering to one person. Jesus.
Not a religion, creed, formula, or idea. (Many will sort this out as time goes on.) Jesus is our Lord and master and friend, not a doctrine, or certainly not a simple “Powerpoint” presentation. It’s Jesus!
We come together because we love Him, and we’ve been told that He loves us as well. Walking in that reciprocal love is why we were created.
Within this intimate assemblage, we will hear spontaneous shouting.
Some will sing. It will get raucous and loud. Their enthusiasm is focused on Him, “the wonderful Life.” Frankly, some who follow Jesus are not “quiet” people. I don’t know how you feel about this. (Maybe, you just need to adjust?)
Sometimes some of us get moody and withdraw from others. Depression can thin out the ranks quicker than anything. It is like a communicable disease that spreads from person to person. I have become a victim, and a carrier myself. As a broken believer, I must seek out an inoculation for my brooding. I also must see the enemy’s influence. Worship is a great help.
The verse is talking about our walking.
And yes, there is a definite walk! Within the rabbinical pattern of first-century discipleship, the student would copy his teacher as closely as possible. If he limped so would they. He would dress like his teacher, talk like his teacher, and walk like his teacher. Imitation was the highest honor you could bestow.
The verse talks about “what they had seen.”
They were observers. That means they had to get closer to the action. Seeing something, or someone up close makes you a witness, an “eye-witness.” You may need to get closer and see for yourself this Jesus, the Lord, and Savior of the whole world.
Trigger warning: This post is about suicidal thoughts and hopelessness. If you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to someone at one of the hotlines we have posted here.
I had all but given up. I mentally cataloged the various prescription and over-the-counter pills in my medicine cabinet. There were enough to end my hopelessness forever. I truly believed my one-and-a-half-year-old son and my long-suffering husband would be better off without me.
I saw no other way to escape this deep depression that had engulfed me for what seemed like forever. I had tried everything—academic accolades, career, marriage, counseling, antidepressants, alcohol, exercise, motherhood, even religion—but nothing pulled me from my pit of misery. Near-constant tears were destined to drown me if I didn’t kill myself first.
I credit God for stopping me from following through that day. His Word says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7. His word did not fail me when an angel stopped my hand from a dreadful mistake.
“For no word from God will ever fail.”
When a friend learned of the depths of my despair, she invited me to a women’s Bible study. It had been a long time since I had engaged in any formal study of the Scriptures. I was nervous because I felt certain they would see me for the fraud I felt I was.
But those ladies didn’t judge me or tell me I just needed more faith. Instead, they loved me and lifted to God my simple prayer: “I just don’t want to be depressed anymore.” It took me over a month to whisper that prayer request, but it didn’t take Jesus long to answer it.
The answer came in a most unlikely way—through a dream.
I had been harboring bitterness toward a number of people who had harmed me, but the worst offender was the boy who had raped me when I was only 14. I had often said that he ruined my life. One night I dreamed I was going about my ordinary life, buying groceries, taking bills to the Post Office, and depositing a check at the bank. As I completed each errand I turned to find my attacker, down on his knees, asking me to forgive him. Each time I brushed past him, refusing to accept his apology.
I awoke from that dream with the knowledge that forgiveness would set me free. Yet I knew I could not do it alone. I sat on the edge of my bed and prayed for God’s help to forgive all those grudges I had recorded in my heart. Cleansing tears streamed down my face as I poured out my prayer to Jesus.
That very hour I felt something was different. The darkness had been lifted and the light of hope streamed in. That was over twenty years ago and although I can still be a bit melancholy, I have never again felt the deep and abiding hopelessness that tried to lure me to the medicine cabinet.
There will be no wheelchairs, canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven. Outside the gates, there will be a huge pile of crutches.
Some of us have been struggling with mental or physical illness. Some people don’t understand us and they walk away. This really hurts, and we can isolate ourselves even more. We feel not only forsaken but even “cursed” by God.
But these things shouldn’t separate us from our Father’s love. He loves “his special needs” children even more.
We believe that our transformation is happening, more and more, into the image of Christ. We are becoming like him (hence the word, Christlikeness). This is a long process, but it is happening! (Philippians 1:6). God has given his word. Don’t give up. It may take years, or maybe taking just a few moments.
I believe Jesus understands us perfectly.
I’m seeing lately that spiritual growth and getting older often work hand-in-hand (and why shouldn’t they?) Often as we get older, we’ll start having many different issues. When you’re 60 years old, you don’t have the same situations that you had when you were 30. Physically we grow and understand things differently, and this works into us spiritually.
Becoming older (and hopefully wiser) we will blend discipleship and age together, especially when the Word and Spirit are present.
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Philippians 1:3-6, NLT
It is my wish for you that you could walk in your own shoes, and not somebody else. Also that you would know the grace of God intimately. Being disabled means special efforts will often be necessary, but Jesus’ love for your soul will be molded to fit that disability. There will be no wheelchairs or canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven.
I like to imagine that there will be a considerable pile outside the gates. Glory awaits.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”