I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13
Ask any toddler, that walking stuff can be a huge challenge. Pull yourself up. Sway a bit tentatively. Try to grab onto something stable. Well, that didn’t work. Back to square one. But do they ever give up? Not on your life. There is limb design, for one thing, an engineering marvel of muscle, bone and nerve. And extra padding in the right spot to catch the fall. So far so good. That determination is admirable in those so unskilled at life. You might think you can’t learn much from a drooling, temperamental toddler but that’s just not true, because learning to walk is far from over so early on, spiritually speaking.
Parents naturally know when their little darling is getting ready to take their first steps. They’re all over that. They encourage it, they assist, and even knowing they will be exhausted in the future chasing the escapee, they themselves bring it on anyway. They know what’s best for their darling, and crawling for the rest of their lives would be, well, humiliating. And any parent who would discourage that growth step has some serious instability of their own to deal with. Every parent encourages this part of growing up.
Do you remember when you were young in the faith, content to just have that newfound joy and purpose? The sky is bluer, the sun is brighter. The forgiveness, the cleansing, the fresh start. I remember those days, that feeling of being alive; there is nothing like it at all. I recall going from hopelessness to sheer joy. It was an overnight radical conversion, an absolute miracle. I knew it was all true, deep down in my heart and mind.
But those early days, as precious as they are, must come to a practical end and what happens next is learning to walk with Jesus. If He left us in the inaugural stage, we would never be prepared for the real purpose He has for us, nor would we be prepared for eternity, let alone any opposition to our faith. Everything we go through is really preparation for the next thing. It doesn’t mean we can’t have joy unspeakable, but it will be tempered by so many things.
I have noticed though that more and more believers seem to be struggling with depression and anxiety. And not just what I call “the blues” because, let’s face it, if you aren’t down from time to time you probably aren’t paying close enough attention to the meltdown of every aspect of society. There’s a kind of godly sorrow in our hearts as we see the ramp up of sin and judgment looming. Other than that, let the world do their worst because their day of reckoning is coming.
What I’m talking about, warning about, is what is generally referred to as full blown depression, the non-functioning kind that steals, kills, and destroys; steals joy, kills faith, and destroys hope, thanks to the enemy of our souls – and in cooperation with our own flesh and thought life. I am seeing those who truly are new creatures in Christ wrestle with a sort of emptiness and resignation that more belong to the days of waking up in the world and being utterly clueless as to anything eternal.
There are probably a few reasons for this sort of brick wall kind of existence.
1. Your problems are still with you as a Christian; financial, relationships, temptations. Prayer isn’t accomplishing what you thought it might at any given stage, presuming you are praying regularly.
2. You’re not skilled at handling the Word or don’t bother to become so, so as to learn to rely on His promises.
3. You’re not in fellowship with those who can encourage you and keep you accountable to the faith.
4. You may be looking at self too much, dwelling on past mistakes and current struggles.
5. You think everyone has it all together except you; they have joy, they are conquering the devil with one hand tied behind their backs. I guarantee you that is not true. Everyone struggles with something. Everyone has a flesh that has to be subdued moment by moment. There is a war on, and it’s every day. There are no Super Saints who have arrived, there are only those who have allowed themselves to be trained and refined by fiery trials, commitment to the truth of the Scriptures, and seeing His hand in our lives. Comparisons and expectations are relationship killers on both sides of eternity.
Or maybe it’s anxiety, which is just worry by another name, another faith killer. And it is a sin.
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.” Proverbs 12:25
The good news is, the Lord instructs and guides us daily, He chastens us and He sometimes breaks our hearts for our own good. Our faith to Him is worth more than gold. Not our struggles, not our failings – our faith. 1Peter 1:6-9 tells us all we need to know about how to have joy regardless of – well, anything:
“…though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls.”
Wow, it’s all there: trials are short-lived. Our faith is precious therefore it will be tested. We love and believe without seeing. The end-game of our faith is the salvation of our souls and there will be a lot of praise, honor and glory when it wraps. Hang it on your fridge because there will be days your thoughts and circumstances come against all this. Maybe many many days. Days that vex and shred your soul.
But before you toss in the towel, check your thought life, the part where you doubt it all and then, because you are in control of that 100%, be obedient to taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Demolish those internal arguments that set themselves up against the knowledge of Christ — and watch your outlook change radically (2 Corinthians 10:50) The more you do it, even though it’s difficult (EVERY thought?) the more you will build spiritual muscles and find yourself walking in the Spirit.
If you are a young believer struggling with things you cannot see; if you don’t understand the war for your soul and your life; if you are even considering medicating it all away, let me ask you something. Is Jesus enough? Is it Jesus plus medicine? Jesus plus a list of things that make you happy temporarily? Jesus plus man’s wisdom, money, fame or love? What if it’s JUST Jesus – and you lose everything else? That should be our default. God and God alone because He is faithful. We generally are not. But you will never know Him deeply until you cling to Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Regardless.
God has given us not a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7) Is that true or not? If that one isn’t true, none of them are.
Of course, there will be many days you might wake up and have no desire to partake in life. The world is so harsh and unyielding, so offensive to the believer’s sensibilities. But don’t forget, we are strangers in a strange land. Pilgrims looking for a city. This ain’t it, clearly.
But – you still have to put one foot in front of the other in a childlike walk of faith.
David, in the Psalms, left us a great deal to think on when things get dark and the path is obscured. Again, we have choices to make about how we will respond. I opened with Psalm 27:13 in which David says he came close to despair but for his expectation that God’s goodness soars high above our circumstances and transcends the barrage of sin we endure day in and day out in this current world. There will be dark days. There will be times we don’t sense His presence or get clear direction. Our hearts will break and people will disappoint or even alter the course of our lives with their decisions. And yet, we can be confident with not only David but the great cloud of witnesses around us that tell us, yes, we are saved, sealed, and kept for a great and wonderful day ahead. Whether we feel it or not, it is still nonetheless true.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.
One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.”