What has ever happened in your life that was actually good?
There are days when I can think back over my life and see so clearly what Jesus has done at my best and worst moments to give me every good thing that I have. A light shines on every moment to show me the blessings of His care, and the joy that even the trials have brought to me. Those are the days when it is hard to keep a smile from becoming a laugh, just to think of how the King of all things delights in brightening my day.
Then there are times that the light seems to turn off like a switch. The days when the above question seems painfully real as I grope in the darkness for the things that I know have been blessings to me, but that I just cannot seem to find. Whispers creep into my head and argue with me at every point, telling me that all of the things that I know on the warm days, full of light, are just my imagination. Was it ever really so nice?
Boy, the devil has a lot of gall.
Thank God that we are given strength in Jesus to be unshakable more than just some of the time! Here are a few things you can do to keep your footing on the days when the light seems dim and the whispers seem overwhelming.
The first thing we often feel at these moments is that all is lost. It must be that something didn’t quite click when we first trusted Jesus, and that this is what life is going to be like from now on. It was so happy, following Jesus. If we don’t feel that way, it must be something we did, right? Our actions do affect our relationship with Jesus. If we are sinning, or have not surrendered something to Him, we will struggle. However, that is not always the cause of our distress. Read the Psalms. They are full of distress, and the reminder that the Lord is faithful in the midst of our adversities, even if He seems completely absent through them. Reading Psalms twenty-two through twenty-four is an especially good reminder. The first verse is what Jesus spoke on the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” If the Son of God can feel that way, then all is not lost for us when we struggle under the burden of a fallen world. Those three psalms are actually believed to be all one before the chapter divisions came along. I find reading them all at once deeply comforting. Try not to dwell on feeling in the dark, but do remember that it’s okay to feel that way. Overcoming that tendency to panic is usually half of the battle.
Know the Shepherd’s Voice
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
The devil works overtime to deceive us. In our moments of distress, he will do everything he can to convince us that it is God who is accusing us. Our Father does discipline us, and so the devil finds ways to imitate the Shepherd’s voice while telling us a lie. The best way to keep from being hoodwinked is to spend so much time with Jesus that we see the counterfeit instantly. The devil will still whisper in countless and seemingly new ways, but if we are walking hand in hand with our beloved Christ, learning the depth and newness of all of His ways, it will be rare that we are taken in and led to greater distress.
Cite Your Sources
The best way to conquer distress is to take the offensive. Don’t wait for the confusion to set in to decide to hide God’s Word in your heart. Sometimes the distress is too much to take, and I can’t find any words of my own for how I am feeling and what I need in order to see the light again. At those times, there is such a deep comfort in being able to quote Scripture. I have a few of the Psalms committed to memory, and sometimes just the fact that I can speak them and have a solid piece of God’s Word available is enough to block out most of the pressure from the enemy. Keep the references in your heart too. Sometimes the exact words or the context can get lost, so don’t be afraid to pull out your Bible or your concordance, or do a quick web search when you can only remember a few snatches. It’s a great reminder that the promises of God, and the concrete truth of His presence are defined by more than our own ability to hold onto Him. It is such an encouragement to me that Paul, in 2 Timothy 1:12, wrote,
“for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
Sometimes, that is all I need to hear. This is a very productive habit to start in the New Year. If you are at a time when it seems like more should be happening, use the time you have to hide God’s Word in your heart so that you will be ready when things get more active.
Bring a Friend
Isolation is a great way to overcome someone. When we are alone, it is so much easier to believe that all of the feelings in our own heads are what is really true. I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t want to allow others to know my problems, since I know that they have their own lives to handle, so it isn’t uncommon for me to hold things inside for longer than I should. When I do share something with one of my brothers or sisters, it is so deeply encouraging. When I am distressed about the pressures of the enemy, or about a difficult thing the Lord wants me to do, just the honest “Yep, that sounds like what the devil would do,” or “Wow! He is calling you to something great!” is enough to remind me that I am trusting my life to the One with all of our best interests at heart. It does often happen that I cannot reach anyone at the time of my distress, but Jesus is still there with me. There have been numerous times that I have been so exhausted in my spirit that all I can do is ask the Lord to have someone else be praying for me at that time. I can usually feel the burden eased almost instantly.
Remember too that distress will not always lift instantly. It can be something that the Lord uses to remind us to be in prayer for someone, or as part of the process of really, truly understanding something about His character that we may have known on paper, but not experienced with Him before. However, this does not mean that we have to be pulled back and forth by the whispers of doubt that come up, prompting “did God really say…?”
If you are struggling, and would like prayer or a chance to work through something with us, please leave a comment or an e-mail. Also, if you would like to share a Scripture verse that has been a faithful friend to you in the midst of your distresses, please let us know in the comments below. We love being able to connect with you.