Month: January 2015

God the Encourager

encouragement

Photo Credit by Kevin Martineau

We can often feel overwhelmed by our circumstances. For many people, the pressure of finals, school, traveling, and holiday seasons can get us down. For me, I can get overwhelmed with traveling. Last year, my wife, son, and I flew to Ukraine and had a wonderful time. It was great, believe me! But on the way home, I had to fly by myself.

The good news was I didn’t have to run around and chase my two year old son up and down the aisles on the airplane; that was a relief. However, I was nervous for many reasons. What if my flight was canceled and I got stuck in Kiev, Ukraine, only a couple hours away from where the fighting was going on in Donetsk? After making it through the checkpoint, my next worry was: I hope the next flight isn’t delayed so that when I get to Detroit, I can make it on time through customs. Of course, my flight was delayed in Amsterdam.

Then, as we start lift off, the captain says: “We are delayed due to bad weather.” Hang on for just a few minutes. We finally get up in the air and get struck by lightning! Then when I get to Detroit, I have 20 minutes to maneuver through US customs, check my baggage in, go through security, and believe it or not, my next flight was on the opposite end of the terminal.

I was running faster than the family on Home Alone to make it to my flight. I barely made it. Everyone was laughing at me because I was sweating profusely and completely out of breath. Oh, and guess what, since it was only a 20 minute flight, they didn’t provide any beverages! I was so upset!

We let our circumstances get us down. In the Bible, we read the words of a psalmist who also experienced a down time, but his words also give us encouragement by pointing to the God who is above our circumstances. He repeatedly reminds himself to put his hope in God and to praise God as the remedy for his depression.

42:1-3 As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, “Where is your God?”

How would you describe in your own words what the psalmist experienced? When we feel at a loss for God’s presence, it causes these feelings. It’s like the moment, when you were a child and got separated from your parents in a big store. We all know how it feels to look everywhere frantically for Mom and Dad and not see them (It’s even worse when you become a Father). Suddenly, we have the horrible thought that we might be lost. In the next verses, we find out how the psalmist handled his grief. Let’s read out loud 42:6-8.

42:6-8 I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your billows have swept over me. The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night—a prayer to the God of my life.

The phrase I am deeply depressed reflects the psalmist’s despair. It is a phrase that paints an image for us. To you, how would you describe depression? It is where a great force or weight has pushed hard against the normal plane of something: when the weight of life overwhelms us. Remember, distressing times are opportunities to remember the goodness of God. The Psalmist sang about the promised land God gave to his people. The land was a sign of God’s blessing to His chosen people. Always remember that God can encourage us no matter what circumstances we are in. He is our shelter in the midst of storms. Ask yourself the following questions and then put it into practice today.

  1. Which life circumstance, if any, has ever left you feeling seriously overwhelmed?
  2. What does God provide physically, spiritually, and emotionally to help us handle these difficult situations?
  3. Where do you need encouragement today?

What does the Bible say about Suicide?

Unknown

photo credit Eric Davis

Did you know that every year over 40,000 people commit suicide? On average, about 8 out of 10 individuals who take their life are males, and the majority of them are ethnically white–followed by American Indians, Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics.

Moreover, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults–killing more people than cancer, heart disease, and stroke combined. This doesn’t include the 650,000 suicidal attempts that end in non-fatal injuries. What a shocking and sad statistic.

In 2012, my wife and I went to Winter jam, the largest Christian based musical tour in the United States. The year we went the theme was “Let your light shine.” I remember the speaker that year was Nick Hall. He began his message by shining a flashlight around the whole arena, illustrating the importance of being a good friend, neighbor, and “light” to those in darkness. Then he began to mention life issues that people struggled with: Peer pressure, drugs, fear, anxiety and depression, and how our light as Christians are to positively affect those around us.

He told a story about a young woman who came to the concert a few weeks back. She told Nick her struggles with depression. She felt like there was no reason to live, was a burden to others, felt trapped, and wanted to end her life. This woman always wore a necklace with a heart emblem.

Inside the emblem was a razor. Whenever she felt sad, she would take out the razor and cut her wrist to alleviate the anxiety and turmoil she experienced from within. The night she went to the concert, she was contemplating suicide, but instead, gave her life to the Lord. Afterwards, she handed the necklace over to Nick and insisted he share her story with the rest of the world on tour about the hope she found in Christ. What an amazing story.

Have you ever contemplated thoughts of suicide? You are not alone. There are godly people today and those in the Bible who struggled with sinful thoughts to end their lives. Solomon said he hated life (Eccl. 2:17) and yet advised the world to fear God and keep His commandments. After Elijah’s great victory over the 450 prophets of Baal, he became very depressed and yearned for death (1 Kgs. 19:4) but God spoke to Elijah and sent an angel to comfort him during this trial. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with depressing thoughts. He said in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that he was under great pressure, far beyond his ability to endure, so that he despaired of life itself. Nevertheless, Paul trusted that His great God could bear his burdens. 

We know that suicide is wrong because it’s murder. By taking our own life, we are rejecting God’s gift of life and marring his character. God is the giver of life–only He has the divine right to determine the day and hour of our death. Job 1:21 says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” It’s up to God whether to give life or end it. We must be willing to live for his glory, no matter how hard and depressing moments can be. I know it’s difficult, but all things are possible through the power of God. 

When in doubt, remember these lyrics from Robert Keen’s hymn “How Firm a Foundation.” Never give up.  

  1. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
    My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
    The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
    Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
    Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
  2. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
    The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
    For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
    And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
    And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.