How does God’s Word speak to troubling thoughts, vacillating emotions, debilitating despair, and tantalizing temptations?
Dilemmas and Defenses
The desire to go on has leaked out of me. There’s no strength of will or spirit in me to face the day’s responsibilities, no matter how important I perceive them. How am I going to grade papers, lead a class session, and show interest in a student over lunch when I didn’t want to live through the night? All I want to do is lie down on my office couch, cover myself with the throw, and go back to sleep.
“My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)
I’m emotionally, mentally, and physically spent. My battery is so low that not even a jump from the gargantuan battery of an 18-wheeler could replenish it. Plus I’m carrying a burden that makes me feel like a 60-pound third grader with a backpack that weighs more than he does. Yet I can’t slip it off and put it on the floor or stuff it in my locker. I have absolutely no control over the situation weighing me down.
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation” (Psalm 68:19).
Will this depressive episode ever end? It’s the second longest I can remember experiencing. One day I weep at the least provocation–or for no known reason at all–and the next I’m so emotionally numb I can’t feel a thing, either negatively or positively. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever smile or laugh or praise God again. I’m thinking it won’t get any better this time.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Psalm 42:5).
“Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me” (Micah 7:8).
“You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness” (Psalm 18:28).
Senseless acts of violence. Who goes into a bar frequented by college students and starts blasting away? Who strolls into an elementary school and guns down innocent children? Who detonates a bomb in a synagogue or church just because their belief differs from his? Who gets behind the wheel of a car while huffing a toxic substance and runs off the road, killing three fourth-grade girl scouts and the mother of one of the girls?
I’m afraid of what the future holds for this fallen world. What kind of warped world will my seven-year-old grandson grow up in?
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).
“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).
“And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
My temptations have escalated more than the thermometer in a mid-summer South Carolina day. How long can I keep resisting the lures of the world, the flesh, and the devil? The resistance I successfully exercised last year–even yesterday–doesn’t have any efficacy for today. The warfare is relentless, daily, and I must wield the weapons of warfare every single day. There’s no day off in this battle, not even a half day’s respite. To be honest, I’m getting weary of the fight. My arms are heavy with fatigue. Why not just drop the weapons and raise a white flag?
“Bu the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
“You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay” (Hebrews 10:36-37).
Panacea or Provision?
Even some who share my Christian faith will look at this post and accuse me of offering superficial solutions to complex, difficult human dilemmas. But anyone who thinks I’m saying, “Throw a Bible verse at your problem and it will evaporate!” is missing the point entirely.
I’m not saying that offering biblical rebuttals to doubt, fear, weariness, demotivation, burdens, temptations, and depression is like a powerful injection of an antibiotic that immediately and permanently takes away an infection. Yet I am saying that meditating on the promises of God, ingesting truths that pertain to my problems, and mulling over His perspectives on what I’m going through makes a noticeable difference, both inside me and behaviorally.
His Word boosts my faith so I don’t give up or lay down my weapons. His Word instills hope by pointing me to a brighter future. His promises rebut the enemy’s lies that pervade my thinking when I’m despondent, reminding me that God is with me (no matter how I feel) and His strength invigorates my weakness. God’s Word reviews His character traits and instills trust even when life around me (or inside me) isn’t making any sense. His Word reminds me that God is in charge and that life on this fallen planet is linear and there’s a raucous end to it that we’ll celebrate.
I don’t consider this use of God’s Word superficial. I call it a deep sustenance of a broken person.
This is one assertion I know for sure. This stuff isn’t theory to me. An hour ago (7:30 A. M.), I cowered on my couch in total defeat, dreading not just this day, but my very existence. Then, without a conscious prompting from me, God’s Spirit paraded these memorized verses through my mind, and somehow, rejuvenated, I got up and typed this blog.
Bring on the class! What an opportunity to shape lives and prepare students for ministry! Bring on the lunch appointment. Now I look forward to meeting this new student. Bring on the book reports to grade. It isn’t glamorous work, but I make God happy when I do it thoroughly and write lots of comments (mostly positive ones) on their papers.
Yes, the burdens, fears, doubts, temptations, and weariness will come again. But hear this: God’s Word will come to me again, too! If you don’t believe me, there’s a vacancy on my couch you can take.
Which type of despair did you most identify with?
Which verse or verses resonated most with you? Memorize these verses so you’ll be ready to “preach to yourself” when the dark moments come.