When Our Troubles Help Us Find Jesus

Jesus loves his lambs.

“When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death”.

John 4:47

Without his troubles, it would be highly improbable that this man would go find Jesus. His son is very ill, and close to dying. Undoubtedly the father has tried all of the conventional methods but to no avail. Somebody has mentioned that Jesus has just arrived in Galilee, and that remains the best option. He will find Jesus, the healer, and bring Jesus to his son.

Very often this is how it works for us. Life is good and there is no reason for us to go to Jesus. We’re content and reasonably happy with how things are going. But this man– a royal official, is desperate. Life has detonated in his face and he is completely undone. He is in a good place, although he can’t see it.

Believe it or not, our trials and troubles are often wonderful visitors.

Without these we would not look for Jesus. They are frightening and they are difficult, but they are necessary for us. Over the years, it is likely that this man has been insulated and protected from life’s difficulties. There has been nothing to cross him as his life unfolded. He believes that he has an immunity to suffering.

This official desperately seeks out Jesus. His son is dying. He must locate Jesus and bring Him back. He is frightened and frantic. Jesus is his only hope. But even this is not automatic.

“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful- “severe mercies” at times, but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better”

Elizabeth Elliot

The answer is not what this man was looking for. He wanted Jesus to return to Capernaum with him, but instead Jesus decides to stay right where He is. Instead He speaks, and the boy is healed, long-distance. As we seek the Lord’s grace, forgiveness and healing into our own lives, and our family, let us let the Lord be the Lord. Let Him decide how to do it. This man simply trusted, “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” But he would never, ever be the same.

For those of us afflicted, with either physical or mental disabilities, we discover Jesus who leads us into a special place. We may find ourselves serving others in a new way that our illnesses have opened.

“All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of His grace, power and love.”  

Hudson Taylor

 

cropped-cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

When It is Far Too Dark

sad-guy-alone

Practical Thinking: When the Darkness Overwhelms

Depression has been called the “common cold” of mental disorders, and one source estimates that it disrupts the lives of 30 to 40 million Americans. For many, a “cold” isn’t even close to describing their depression; it is very challenging and destructive.

Here are several things that you can do right now:

  • Avoid being alone.  Force yourself to be with people. (I know “force” is a strong word, but if that is what it takes!)
  • Seek help from others. This will require some humility.  Reach out to someone who will understand.
  • Sing. Music can uplift your spirit as it did for King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23). Get an iPod and fill it with good music. It is worth it.
  • Praise and give thanks.  This can really push back the darkness.  “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
  • Lean heavily on the power of God’s Word. Write out verses; listen to the teachers on Christian radio.
  • Rest confidently in the presence of God’s Spirit. “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance” Psalm 42:5.  Remember that God is not against you, He is on your side.

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Romans 8:31-32

“God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns”

Philippians 1:6

Keep coming back to Brokenbelievers.  On this site you will find a lot of good teaching which can help you sort things out.  And if you “comment” on any post I will receive it, usually within a few hours at the most.  I’m not a medical professional, however I’m an evangelical pastor, with my own history of mental illness and major medical problems.  I will get right back to you.  And I can pray.

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1-2

k

See the book Healing for Damaged Emotions for more details, David A. Seamands, Healing for Damaged Emotions (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Chariot Victor Books, 1991) (ISBN: 0896939383). )

Fire or Blackberries?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. (And I’m a “sky guy”, it means I’m always looking up.) But the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico, while camping on the beach. As I laid there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there was 10x more stars than ever before.

Once as I gazed up, a weird sort of fear gripped me, it was almost a panic. I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone, and reduced a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.

Reflecting on this, I realize now what I had experienced was “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems we have traded our awareness of an Almighty God, and in turn we get to pick all blackberries we can haul. We reason it out, and we feel that we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.

Maybe we should learn to see through things; each of us have the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”

Psalms 19:1, NCV

OCD: Rituals and Obsession

“I couldn’t do anything without rituals. They invaded every aspect of my life. Counting really bogged me down. I would wash my hair three times as opposed to once because three was a good luck number and one wasn’t. It took me longer to read because I’d count the lines in a paragraph. When I set my alarm at night, I had to set it to a number that wouldn’t add up to a ’bad’ number.”

“I knew the rituals didn’t make sense, and I was deeply ashamed of them, but I couldn’t seem to overcome them until I had therapy.”

“Getting dressed in the morning was tough, because I had a routine, and if I didn’t follow the routine, I’d get anxious and would have to get dressed again. I always worried that if I didn’t do something, my parents were going to die. I’d have these terrible thoughts of harming my parents. That was completely irrational, but the thoughts triggered more anxiety and more senseless behavior. Because of the time I spent on rituals, I was unable to do a lot of things that were important to me.”

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety these thoughts produce. Most of the time, the rituals end up controlling them.

For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. If they develop an obsession with intruders, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going to bed. Being afraid of social embarrassment may prompt people with OCD to comb their hair compulsively in front of a mirror-sometimes they get “caught” in the mirror and can’t move away from it. Performing such rituals is not pleasurable. At best, it produces temporary relief from the anxiety created by obsessive thoughts.

Other common rituals are a need to repeatedly check things, touch things (especially in a particular sequence), or count things. Some common obsessions include having frequent thoughts of violence and harming loved ones, persistently thinking about performing sexual acts the person dislikes, or having thoughts that are prohibited by religious beliefs. People with OCD may also be preoccupied with order and symmetry, have difficulty throwing things out (so they accumulate), or hoard unneeded items.

Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the repetition distressing. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing is senseless, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.

OCD affects about 2.2 million American adults, and the problem can be accompanied by eating disorders, other anxiety disorders, or depression.  It strikes men and women in roughly equal numbers and usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood. One-third of adults with OCD develop symptoms as children, and research indicates that OCD might run in families.

The course of the disease is quite varied. Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or get worse. If OCD becomes severe, it can keep a person from working or carrying out normal responsibilities at home. People with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, or they may use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves.

OCD usually responds well to treatment with certain medications and/or exposure-based psychotherapy, in which people face situations that cause fear or anxiety and become less sensitive (desensitized) to them.

Source: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml

cropped-christiangraffiti1 (1)

Waiting On God (Who is Waiting on Us)

by Andrew Murray 

And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.”

Isaiah 30:18

We must not only think of our waiting upon God, but also of what is more wonderful still, of God’s waiting upon us. The vision of Him waiting on us will give new impulse and inspiration to our waiting upon Him. It will give us an unspeakable confidence that our waiting cannot be in vain.

If He waits for us, then we may be sure that we are more than welcome; that He rejoices to find those He has been seeking for. Let us seek even now, at this moment, in the spirit of lowly waiting on God, to find out, something of what it means. ”Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you.” We will accept and echo back the message, ”Blessed are all they that wait for him.”

Look up and see the great God upon His throne. His love an unceasing and inexpressible desire to communicate His own goodness and blessedness to all His creatures. He longs and delights to bless. He has inconceivably glorious purposes concerning every one of His children, by the power of His Holy Spirit, to reveal in them His love and power. He waits with all the longings of a father’s heart.

He waits that He may be gracious unto you. And, each time you come to wait upon Him, or seek to maintain in daily life the holy habit of waiting, you may look up and see Him ready to meet you. He will be waiting so that He may be gracious unto you. Yes, connect every exercise, every breath of the life of waiting, with faith’s vision of your God waiting for you.

And if you ask: How is it, if He waits to be gracious, that even after I come and wait upon Him, He does not give the help I seek, but waits on longer and longer? There is a double answer. The one is this. God is a wise husbandman, who ”waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it” (James 5:7). He cannot gather the fruit until it is ripe. He knows when we are spiritually ready to receive the blessing to our profit and His glory.

Waiting in the sunshine of His love is what will ripen the soul for His blessing. Waiting under the cloud of trial, that breaks in showers of blessing, is as necessary. Be assured that if God waits longer than you could wish, it is only to make the blessing doubly precious. God waited four thousand years, until the fullness of time, before He sent His Son. Our times are in His hands. He will avenge His elect speedily. He will make haste for our help and not delay one hour too long. The other answer points to what has been said before. The giver is more than the gift; God is more than the blessing. And our being kept waiting on Him is the only way for our learning to find our life and joy in Himself.

Oh, if God’s children only knew what a glorious God they have, and what a privilege it is to be linked in fellowship with Him, then they would rejoice in Him! Even when He keeps them waiting, they will learn to understand better than ever. ”Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you.” His waiting will be the highest proof of His graciousness.

”Blessed are all they that wait for him.” A queen has her ladies in waiting. The position is one of subordination and service, and yet it is considered one of the highest dignity and privilege, because a wise and gracious sovereign makes them companions and friends. What a dignity and blessedness to be attendants in waiting on the everlasting God, ever on the watch for every indication of His will or favor, ever conscious of His nearness, His goodness, and His grace! ”The LORD is good unto them that wait for him” (Lam. 3:25). ”Blessed are all they that wait for him.”

Yes, it is blessed when a waiting soul and a waiting God meet each other. God cannot do His work without His and our waiting His time. Let waiting be our work, as it is His. And, if His waiting is nothing but goodness and graciousness, let ours be nothing but a rejoicing in that goodness, and a confident expectancy of that grace. And, let every thought of waiting become to us the simple expression of unmingled and unutterable blessedness, because it brings us to a God who waits that He may make Himself known to us perfectly as the gracious One.

My soul, wait thou only upon God!

 

Flourish-61

  Andrew Murray (1828-1917), was born in Cape Town, South Africa and became a revered missionary leader in the late 1800s and early 1900s, promoting and establishing missions in South Africa. His devotional writings are considered classics of the Christian faith.

Affliction Understood, [Daily Pain]

The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winner

There is the unquestionable presence of affliction that is present in our lives.  Affliction is the general term for specific instances of trials, tribulations, persecutions, emotional or physical pain and suffering.

The ancient Assyrians used the word for “affliction” as the same word to describe their method of a public execution, which involved being impaled to the ground.  Rocks were gradually piled high until the victim expired.  The combination of being impaled and the rocks piled on you was quite devastating.

And you know what?  That is a terribly specific concept of what afflictions feel like.  Just ask someone, it is exceedingly terrible to be in pain and feel ‘buried’ at the same time.  There is a feeling of suffocating in suffering.  Some have described it, like being ‘hit with a 2×4’. You have just been completely blindsided.

In the letters from the Early Church there was a patentability, or openness when it came to persecution and pain.  The writers of the New Testament operated out of a profound awareness of the pain of the believers of their day.

  • “We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.”   2 Cor. 1:8
  • “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.”  2 Cor. 4:8
  •  “You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles.”   2 Cor. 7:4

‘The Ostrich Effect’ in Affliction

One of the most extensive arguments concerning ‘affliction’ develops around the nature of the atonement.  The thought is that Jesus died and rose to bless me.  Sin and sickness, poverty or lack are not part of God’s plan for the redeemed.

Now, it is possible to refute this in this little post.  But I will try to nudge you a bit to examine the issues of the Early Church.  Know however that there are many people who will follow the ostrich’s example and bury their heads to avoid reality of affliction.  But, I can understand this impulse– this desire to honor God, even if we “play word games” with our faith.

I also know first-hand that the struggles are hard.  Wrestling with them is a brutal way to live the abundant life.  Failure and frustration are trying to short circuit our faith.  And our faith must be protected and valued.

“Afflictions add to the saints’ glory. The more the diamond is cut, the more it sparkles; the heavier the saints’ cross is, the heavier will be their crown.”

–Thomas Watson

 What Does the Scripture Say About Affliction?

  • “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”   1 Peter 4:12
  • “…where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”   Acts 14:22
  • I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”   John 16:33

“The wisdom of God appears in afflictions. By these He separates the sin which He hates, from the son whom He loves. By these thorns He keeps him from breaking over into Satan’s pleasant pastures, which would fatten him indeed, but only to the slaughter.”  

-James H. Aughey

I want to try to visit this subject again.  We will trust that ‘real light’ will come to our twilight worlds.

1brobry-sig4 (2)

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1-3-1

*

When You Can’t Find an Exit: Psalm 88

No exit, today!

A  Simple Psalm of David

    1 O Lord, God of my salvation,
      I cry out to you by day.
      I come to you at night.
 2 Now hear my prayer;
      listen to my cry.
 3 For my life is full of troubles,
      and death draws near.
 4 I am as good as dead,
      like a strong man with no strength left.
 5 They have left me among the dead,
      and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
   I am forgotten,
      cut off from your care.
 6 You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
      into the darkest depths.
 7 Your anger weighs me down;
      with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
                         Interlude

Psalm 88:1-7, New Living Translation

I definitely needed this Psalm today. Yesterday I went to the doctor and was blindsided by news that really isn’t good, at all.  Of course, I also have this ongoing struggle with depression.  Today I feel like I’m running a marathon with ‘leg weights’ on.  I thank God for David’s depression.  “Thank you God for letting this happen to David!”

This particular Psalm is radically different than the others.  This Psalm has no kind words, and no praise to God for deliverance.  It is a singularly sad song.  Imagine if you will, a huge stone fortress in the mountains.  Every room has a door, and every room a window.  All except one.  No light enters this room.  There is no entrance or exit, no way to get free.  Psalm 88, would describe living that torturous experience.

I like my Psalms to be strengthening or encouraging.  But then comes this one!  Life unravels and frays.  Everything scrambles and gets confusing. Life comes apart on me.  The thought of being one who is irretrievably lost and damned, tunnels into my thinking, like a strange kind of worm, assaulting my thinking.  The despair is beyond belief, I have no words to describe its special variety of darkness.  But anyone who has walked into this hell will understand.

Am I ‘less’ a Christian because of this vicious despair?  Some would say so.  David in verse 1-2, calls out to God.  (I guess this what you are supposed to do).  There is a sense of consistency in his cry.  In verses 3-5, we see him evaluating his position.  Again, there is a underground current of despair.  There is simply no help, no deliverance for him.

And in verses 6-7 is a painful recognition that God is doing all of this.  It’s a bitter and painful place to be.  There are no explanations why life has gotten so nasty and bitter and out-of-control.  But one thing that Psalm 88 does quite well, it strips you of any dignity that you have left.  I think that there exists a faith behind your faith.  (If that makes any sense at all?)

Now, I will get on my ‘soapbox’.  There is so much embedded in the Psalms.  Comfort, faith, victory and hope are what we find,  and more.  But in Ps. 88, we find a black pearl, the only one of its kind.  Somehow, we dare not leave it behind, just because we don’t understand it.  I’m convinced that it has tremendous power to the disciple in endless pain.  Just vocalizing this Psalm does something to us.  These words help.  This Psalm is ours.  God has provided it for us.

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg