Praising God In The Troughs

Some people mistakenly think that the maturity of a Christian is a steady climb, and anything short of that is not God-honoring. They feel the graph has to always be moving up and to the right. In reality—if we zoom in—we will see lots of peaks and troughs that are in the climb. 

For instance, we read the worship leader of Psalm 42 saying, “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life,” and we think, “Yeah, that’s what I expect from a saintly psalmist!” 

But let’s get the context. In the opening verses, this same worship leader talks about his profound thirst, his tears, and the taunts of his enemies. Twice in this psalm, he laments, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” 

Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I doubt anyone has ever given thanks because of those dark times, but they have learned to give thanks during those dark times.

Consider David’s beautiful words in Psalm 23. He points out that the Good Shepherd leads us into green pastures AND into dark valleys, beside quiet waters AND into the presence of enemies. 

But notice this: the Shepherd of our soul provides what we need in both daytime AND nighttime. He pours out blessings in the presence of our enemies, and as my grandfather wrote in the margin of his Bible next to verse 4, “Where there is shadow there must be light.” 

Consider the example of Paul who wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4). He wrote this to the church that was birthed by Paul’s miraculous deliverance from prison, while Paul and Silas were doing just that: Praying and singing hymns to God! 

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives us insight into how the demons view the temptation of Christians. Uncle Screwtape wrote to his nephew, “It may surprise you to learn that in God’s efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. … It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that the human is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.” 

A mark of a maturing saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! 

Don’t feel like you need to praise God FOR your troughs, but you can and should praise Him BECAUSE of His presence even in your driest, darkest trough. God is doing something in this trough time that He could accomplish in no other way. As David said, our Good Shepherd leads us in both sunlit and dark paths “for His name’s sake”—He will be glorified and you will be rewarded! 

Be sure to follow along on this series Thankful In The Night.

Poetry Saturday—The 23 Psalme

The God of love my shepherd is,

             And He that doth me feed:
While He is mine, and I am His,
             What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grasse,
             Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently passe:
             In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, He doth convert
             And bring my minde in frame:
And all this not for my desert,
             But for His holy name.

Yea, in death’s shadie black abode
             Well may I walk, not fear:
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
             To guide, Thy staff to bear.

Nay, Thou dost make me sit and dine,
             Ev’n in my enemies sight:
My head with oyl, my cup with wine
             Runnes over day and night.

Surely Thy sweet and wondrous love
             Shall measure all my dayes;
And as it never shall remove,
             So neither shall my praise. —George Herbert

Shepherding God’s Flock (book review)

T.M. Moore founded the Fellowship of Ailbe, a ministry patterned after the example of the Irish Christians who kept the spread of the Gospel alive during history’s dark times. A key component of the Fellowship’s ministry is the equipping of pastors for their tasks, and Shepherding God’s Flock masterfully lays out the role of pastors like few other resources. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep as a consistent image of how God cares for His people, and how He desires for pastors/elders to care for those under their care as well. God has stern warnings for shepherd-leaders who misuse or abuse their positions, but He also showers His blessings on those shepherd-leaders whose hearts beat with God’s heart. David talked lovingly of the Lord being our Shepherd, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, and the Apostle Peter called for elders in the church to shepherd the flock under their care. 

Shepherding God’s Flock helps pastors work through the practicalities of their shepherding role. And I do mean work through these concepts. This book is as much a workbook as it is a textbook. T.M. Moore gives valuable insights for pastors, but he intersperses penetrating discussion questions throughout his teaching. You will also need to keep your Bible handy while reading Shepherding because Moore will send you to passage after passage to undergird the principles he is teaching. 

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to both current pastors and those preparing to enter into pastoral ministry. It would probably be a good idea for lead pastors to read this book alongside their elder/deacon boards. 

As Moore notes in his closing words, “Shepherding is the work God has chosen for the care and nurture of His flocks. We’ve neglected this ministry for too long. Let us resolve to bring the work of shepherding to bear on the task of building Christ’s Church.” 

To that, I add my hearty “Amen!”

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