The God That Runs To You

I’m sure you’ve experienced what I’ve experienced. My nice, orderly world came crashing down all around me. It totally blindsided me! I got on my knees to do some serious soul searching and I prayed, “God I know you called me here. I know I’ve done what You’ve asked me to do. What’s happening? Why am I being attacked? Where are You, God?

I’m sure you’ve been there too. “Where’s God?” has been the cry of countless people from the oldest book of the Old Testament until this very day. In dark times our world seems to shrink, and the weight of the entire world seems to rest on our shoulders. We begin to at first sigh and say, “Why me?” and then those sighs become sobs of “God, where are You?!” 

“Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like.…” —A.W. Tozer 

Here’s the truth: We are always in a spiritual battle. It’s just hard to see it in the “good ol’ days.” But in the “bad ol’ days” we realize we don’t have it all figured out! The dark days are simply the reality of spiritual warfare revealed. 

Answers don’t come easily because there are no easy answers!

One of Job’s friends named Zophar thought he had God all figured out. He concluded his easy answer that the wicked have a bad life and the righteous have a good life. So if things were going badly for Job, he must have messed up somewhere. Except Zophar was wrong! God Himself pronounced Job righteous (see Job 20:1-8; 1:8). Zophar’s easy answer now doesn’t seem so easy, does it? 

I’ll say it again: In the hard times, answers don’t come easily because there are no easy answers. 

In fact, Jesus told us, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

How did Jesus overcome the world of hurt and pain? He did it by taking a hands-on approach—Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity…. For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way…. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:14, 17-18). 

The phrase “He is able to help” literally means that He runs to the cry! 

In order to be able to run to our cry, Jesus has to know what our cries sound like and what our pain feels like. He had to taste all our pain for Himself. He had to feel all of them in a human body. The Limitless God was incarnated in limited flesh to experience everything we would ever feel. 

Now that Jesus has died and been resurrected, our cries bring Him running to us with ALL of His LIMITLESS love and power and empathy! 

In the good ol’ days we may not recognize just how close God is to us. But when the bad days come and we cry out to Him, He comes running. Jesus may be closer when you say, “I don’t know where You are!” than He’s ever been before. 

Go ahead and cry out. Jesus knows those cries. He hears you, He knows your pain, He runs to your cries, He comes close to help.

Join me next week as we continue this series asking “Where’s God?” in the specific difficulties that we face. We’ll ask questions like, “Where’s God in my depression?” and “Where’s God in my divorce?” and “Where’s God in this national calamity?” Please don’t miss these encouraging messages! 

11 Quotes From “When The Darkness Will Not Lift”

John Piper has given us an extremely helpful book whether we ourselves are battling the darkness of depression, or someone close to us is. Please check out my full book review of When The Darkness Will Not Lift by clicking here. 

“This is the rock where we stand when the dark clouds gather and the floods lick at our feet: justification is by grace alone (not mixed with our merit), through faith alone (not mixed with our works) on the basis of Christ alone (not mingling His righteousness with ours), to the glory of God alone (not ours).” 

“Where should you start? Start at the easiest place for those in darkness. Start with despair. Despair of finding any answer in yourself. I pray that you will cease from all efforts to look inside yourself for the rescue you need. I pray that you will do what only desperate people can do, namely, cast yourself on Christ.” 

“You cannot isolate the spiritual from the physical for we are body, mind and spirit. The greatest and the best Christians when they are physically weak are more prone to an attack of spiritual depression then at any other time and there are great illustrations of this in the Scriptures.” 

“It will be of great advantage to the struggling Christian to remember that seasons of darkness are normal in the Christian life.” 

“One of the reasons God loved David so much was that he cried so much. … It is a beautiful thing when a broken man genuinely cries out to God.” 

“Faith is sustained by looking at Christ, crucified and risen, not by turning from Christ to analyze your faith. … Paradoxically, if we would experience the joy of faith, we must not focus much on it. We must focus on the greatness of our Savior.” 

“It follows from this that we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties. While we have the light, let us cultivate distrust of the certainties of despair.” 

“Instead of only saying, ‘Just do your duty,’ we must say…that joy is part of your duty. The Bible says, ‘Rejoice always’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16). And in regard to the duty of giving, it says, ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). In regard to the duty of service, it says, ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). In regard to the duty of mercy, it says do it ‘with cheerfulness’ (Romans 12:8). In regard to the duty of afflictions, it says, ‘Count it all joy’ (James 1:2). We simply water down the divine command when we call someone to half their duty.” 

“In dealing with our sin we can make two mistakes. One is to make light of it. The other is to be overwhelmed by it.” 

“If we want the joy of seeing and savoring God in Christ, we must not make peace with our sins. We must make war.” 

“Sometimes the darkness of our souls is owing in some part to the fact that we have drifted into patterns of life that are not blatantly sinful but are constricted and uncaring. … Unconsciously we have become very self-absorbed and oblivious and uncaring toward the pain and suffering in the world that is far worse than our own.”

“Paradoxically, depressed persons may say that they must care for themselves and cannot take on the problems of the world, when in fact part of the truth may be that their depression is feeding on the ingrown quality of their lives. … Joy in Christ thrives on being shared. That is the essence of Christian joy: it overflows or dies.”

When The Darkness Will Not Lift (book review)

Depression and a “dark night of the soul” can happen to anyone. It falls over us sometimes because of physical issues, sometimes spiritual issues, and sometimes mental or emotional issues. Whatever its root cause, When The Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper gives hope for those battling joy-suppressing melancholy. 

Depression, as with most ailments that humans face, doesn’t have a simple starting point. Most likely, depression is the result of a combination of many things—environmental, physical health, emotional crisis, spiritual attack, among other things. Sadly, many Christians attempt to address this multifaceted problem with a singular solution. Darkness doesn’t lift simply because someone has enough faith to make it so! 

“It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold Him.” —John Piper 

Pastor John weaves together Scripture, practical insights, and historical examples to help us see depression in its entirety. This comprehensive look will help you better understand both your own battle with darkness as well as helping you be a better friend to others who are also struggling with depression. 

Pastor John looks at the physical, emotional, and spiritual causes of depression, and then helps us battle for joy when the darkness will not lift. This is a short book, but one that you should return to frequently to help yourself and others in times of depression.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—What God Is Doing In Depression

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

What God Is Doing In Depression

     This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the back side of the desert, while His servant keeps the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night precedes the day-dawn.

From The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon was known to have wrestled under the dark clouds of depression frequently throughout his life. As he noted above, “So have better men found it.” Many of us battle the dark waves of depression, myself included. 

But look at how Spurgeon came to see depression in a new light. He began to note that depression was actually the forerunner of a dawn of breakthrough. Think about how many notable people in the Scriptures went through dark valleys prior to God using them in previously unimaginable ways—men like Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, Saul (who would become Paul), and even Jesus Himself. 

The writer of Hebrews records that Jesus learned something during the dark night of His soul that He wouldn’t have learned any other way. Jesus saw God’s dawn coming, so He was able to continue to go through the darksome valley. 

Depression is a serious thing. If you are battling this darkness, there is freedom in admitting it. Spurgeon did, I have, and so have many others. Admit you need help, and then get help. Talking to your doctor or a Christian counselor may be a necessary component toward your healing. 

But in all that you do, please learn to do what these notable folks in the Bible did—and what Charles Spurgeon did: begin to see depression not as your permanent residence, but merely as a dark night that is preceding a glorious dawn! 

9 More Quotes From “Jesus Always”

Sarah Young does a masterful job of weaving Scriptures together and presenting them to us as though Jesus Himself were speaking to us in first person. You can check out my full book review of Jesus Always by clicking here. 

“The problem arises when you gaze too long into the future, trying to visualize and take control of those not-yet events. A future-focus can easily deteriorate into a problem-focus. Weeds of worry and fear spring up quickly in this sort of ‘soil.’ When you realize this has happened, turn away from your worries and back to the One Who is lovingly present with you. Rejoice that I will still be with you when you arrive at each coming stage of your journey.”

“When My followers are joyful, unbelievers are more likely to be drawn to Me. Joy shines in stark contrast to your ever-darkening world, and some people will ask you about it. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you the reason for your hope.”

“Treasure Me above all else. … To treasure something is to hold or keep it, esteeming it as precious. I am training you to hold securely onto Me, your Savior-God and constant Companion. … When you prize Me above all else, other things lose their grip on you.”

“Thank Me for all the challenges in your life. They are gifts from Me—opportunities to grow stronger and more dependent on Me. Most people think that the stronger they get, the less dependent they will be. But in My kingdom, strength and dependence go hand in hand.”

“For Christians, aloneness is an illusion—a dangerous one that can lead to depression or self-pity. The devil and his underlings work hard to cloud your awareness of My presence. It’s crucial for you to recognize and resist their attacks. Fight back with My powerful Word, which is living and active. Read it; ponder it; memorize it; speak it.”

“My followers often fail to see the many blessings I shower on them. They’re so busy looking for other things that they miss what is before them—or is on the way. They forget I am sovereign God and the timing of events is My prerogative.”

“Do not be frightened by world events or news reports. These reports are biased—presented as if I do not exist. News clips show tiny bits of world events from which the most important factor has been carefully removed: My presence in the world.”

“It’s important for you to grow not only more trusting but more thankful. A grateful attitude is essential for living near Me. Ingratitude is offensive to Me, and drags you down both spiritually and emotionally.”

“Stillness is a rare commodity in this world. Many people judge themselves and their day by how much they have accomplished. Resting in My presence is usually not one of those accomplishments. Yet how much blessing can be found in this holy rest!”

You can check out other questions I’ve shared from Jesus Always by clicking here and here.

Hope… The Best Of All Things (book review)

HopeHow could any of us go on without hope? Perhaps you are in a difficult place right now, with problems weighing down heavily on you. Would you like some hope in this dark time? Joni Eareckson-Tada has some encouraging words for you in her book Hope… The Best Of All Things.

Joni knows a thing or two about hope. After suffering an accident as a teenager that left her a quadriplegic, she struggled with the loss of hope. But in that dark place, God met with her in a powerful way, and now Joni travels the world to minister to those in deepest hopelessness.

Hope is a short book, but it’s packed with new perspectives for those battling depression and darkness. Joni will share with you some of her own experiences—as well as the experiences and insights of others—to give your soul the oxygen it needs: a fresh breath of hope!

Whether you are going through a battle, or you know someone who is, Hope will be a welcome light for a dark place.

Links & Quotes

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“What a great responsibility God has laid upon us preachers of His gospel and teachers of His Word. In that future day when God’s wrath is poured out, how are we going to answer? How am I going to answer? I fear there is much we are doing in the name of the Christian church that is wood, hay and stubble destined to be burned up in God’s refining fire. A day is coming when I and my fellow ministers must give account of our stewardship: What kind of a gospel did we preach? Did we make it plain that men and women who are apart from Christ Jesus are lost? Did we counsel them to repent and believe?” —A.W. Tozer

“Prayer pursues God’s glory by treating Him as the inexhaustible reservoir of hope and help. In prayer, we admit our poverty and God’s prosperity, our bankruptcy and His bounty, our misery and His mercy.” —John Piper

“We love beauty with simplicity, and we love the pursuit of knowledge without effeminacy. We employee wealth properly, for use rather than for noisy display, and we do not consider poverty to be a disgrace but do regard it as shameful for someone not to seek to escape poverty through labor. We citizens of Athens care for both our own domestic concerns and for the affairs of state; those of us engaged in business are not lacking in understanding of public matters. For we alone consider those who avoid engagement in public affairs not as ‘uninvolved’ but as useless. And we, as we judge and reflect carefully on matters, do not consider words to be a hindrance to actions. Rather, the real hindrance to action is to enter into whatever must be done without taking forewarning through discussion.” —Pericles, speaking about Athenian culture, quoted in the Archaeological Study Bible

The serious mental health costs of watching pornography. Don’t be fooled: porn is dangerous!

Tim Dilena talks about the difference between truth and “viral fame” in this video.

Truth! Why marriage shouldn’t end your dating life.

I like Seth Godin’s thoughts on our vocabulary. “It’s not about knowing needlessly fancy words (but it’s often hard to know if the fancy word is needless until after you learn it). Your vocabulary reflects the way you think (and vice versa). It’s tempting to read and write at the eighth-grade level, but there’s a lot more leverage when you are able to use the right word in the right moment.” Read more in Does Vocabulary Matter?

Lincoln’s Battle With God (book review)

Lincoln's Battle With GodI’m a big fan of the historical and biographical work of Stephen Mansfield. His books are thoroughly researched but they don’t read like scholarly works, but have a more storytelling feel to them. This is especially true in his book Lincoln’s Battle With God.

I have read several biographies about our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, but this is one of the most innovative angles of this great leader’s life. Mansfield tells the story of Lincoln as a boy growing up in an overly-strict, hyper-Calvinistic home where religious observance was demanded and oppressive. Lincoln’s father was distant and didn’t have satisfactory answers for his young son when life was painful.

This contributed to Lincoln as a young man who, while searching for answers, went the opposite direction of his father’s faith, and became immersed in rationalism and even agnosticism. Through it all as Lincoln searched for answers, he and his friends had to cope with Lincoln’s “hypo” (his word for deep, almost debilitating, depression).

When rationalism didn’t help him discover the answers he so desperately desired, Lincoln came full circle to begin to explore the tenants of Scripture once again. But this time he looked at the Bible through a different paradigm, being much more thoughtful and circumspect.

His journey to the White House where he had to deal with a nation torn apart by Civil War and the premature death of his young sons exposed him once again to events which would have caused the younger Lincoln to spiral into depression. But his faith in God now had grown rock solid and sustaining.

This book is a fascinating journey through Lincoln’s spiritual struggles, and it’s one that I think many will benefit from reading. Those who are admirers of Abraham Lincoln, those battling depression, and even those searching for life’s answers will find a lot to learn in these pages.

Links & Quotes

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Some good reading & watching from this weekend…

“Our mistake is that we want God to send revival on our terms. We want to get the power of God into our hands, to call it to us that it may work for us in promoting and furthering our kind of Christianity. We want still to be in charge, guiding the chariot through the religious sky in the direction we want it to go, shouting ‘Glory to God,’ it is true, but modestly accepting a share of the glory for ourselves in a nice inoffensive sort of way. We are calling on God to send fire on our altars, completely ignoring the fact that they are our altars and not God’s.” —A.W. Tozer

Eric Metaxas has a great take on depression in his post Depression And Black Dog Beliefs.

[VIDEO] I’m not a huge Duck Dynasty fan, but this short quote from Phil Robertson is pure gold!

Paleontologists has found the bones of a huge dinosaur called Dreadnoughtus, that was bigger than a 737 airplane! It sounds a lot like what God described to Job.

Earth has a new address. Our home supercluster is called Laniakea (for the Hawaiian word meaning immeasurable heaven).

Whether you are a Detroit Tigers fan or not, this is a great story about teammates and friends.

“We are atheists in this matter of prayer compared to the early church. Many today look upon secret prayer as hard work and boring, so they do it only occasionally. Can you imagine a husband and wife living in the same house, hardly ever speaking and yet in public speaking as if they were intimate? So some treat our blessed Lord! Prayer, hidden secret prayer, is the mightiest weapon God has given His people; yet it is neglected, disdained, and seldom used.” —David Wilkerson

“Kindness is an inner desire that makes us want to do good things even if we do not get anything in return.” —Emmanuel Swedenborg

“Now if God be wisdom, as truth and Scripture testify, then a true philosopher is a lover of God.” —Augustine

Links & Quotes

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Some good reading from today…

“Nothing stirs God’s heart more than a humble heart and a merciful spirit. God responds to mercy, because it is through compassion that we fully come to know Him. This is the defining quality of a true follower of Christ. We are never closer to the heart of God than when we are forgiving someone. And we are never farther from it than when we are holding a grudge.” —Nicky Cruz

“God’s Majesty can never delight in that which polluteth man’s dignity.” —Augustine

“If God takes away from us the old, wrinkled, beat-up dollar bill we have clutched so desperately, it is only because He wants to exchange it for the whole Federal mint, the entire treasury! He is saying to us, ‘I have in store for you all the resources of heaven. Help yourself.’” —A.W. Tozer

“From many modern sermons would you know that there was a Holy Spirit? If it were not for the benediction or the doxology you might go in and out of many churches and meeting-houses by the year together, and scarcely know that there was such a Person as that blessed, blessed giver of all good, the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we hear a little about His influences, as if the Holy Spirit were not as truly a Person as even Jesus Christ Himself, Who in flesh and blood trod this earth. Oh, dear friends, I fear the first danger, that of running wild with whimsies and fancies about inner lights and new revelations; but I equally dread this last, this going forth to work with the sword, forgetting that it is the sword of the Spirit, and only mighty as the Holy Spirit makes it mighty ‘to the pulling down of strongholds.’” —Charles Spurgeon

5 Things Christians Should Know About Depression & Anxiety

“I reject a heaven that I must enter by shutting my eyes to the sufferings of my fellow men. I choose a broken heart rather than any happiness that ignores the tragedy of human life and human death. Though I, through the grace of God in Christ, no longer lie under Adam’s sin, I would still feel a bond of compassion for all of Adam’s tragic race, and I am determined that I shall go down to the grave or up into God’s heaven mourning for the lost and the perishing.” —A.W. Tozer

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