RSS

Tag Archives: despair

How to Be Strong and Courageous in the Midst of Trouble (Psalm 27)

We read this Psalm the other morning and again last night with the children.  I hold these words from David near to my heart as they provide me with comfort and encouragement.  Where (or to whom) do you turn when you are afraid and/or face trials and obstacles?  Let us allow these God-inspired words to fill our hearts…

Psalm 27

A Psalm of David.

(1) 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?

(2) When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

(3) Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

(4) One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; 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 enquire in his temple.

(5) For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

(6) And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

(7) Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

(8) When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

(9) Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

(10) When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.

(11) Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

(12) Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

(13) I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

(14) Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Christian Studies

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Walk Through Psalm 22

Have you ever felt forsaken by God?  Did you know that David – the shepherd boy, king of Israel and man after God’s own heart – felt forsaken by God and wrote down his thoughts and feelings for us to read?  Did you also know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cried out the first words of the Psalm that David wrote as he died on the cross for our sins?

I have read through this Psalm several times since last April.  I am comforted knowing that both David and Jesus experienced the awful feeling of being forsaken by God the Father.  Jesus of course experienced this separation from the Father as he took on our sin.  As we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, we are further transformed into his image if we submit to the process.

Let us walk through the words of this Psalm together:

Psalm 22

To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.

(1) My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

According to Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, these first words were uttered by Jesus Christ, as he died on the cross for our sins.  Can you imagine being the Son of God, having spent eternity past with both the Father and the Holy Spirit, coming to earth as a man and being crucified for our sins, experiencing the judgment of God that we deserve?  Just as the lyrics to that great hymn How Great Thou Art proclaim, I echo that “I scarce can take it in.”

(2) O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

Have you ever cried out to God and seemingly received no reply?  Again, David experienced the same loneliness.

(3) But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

(4) Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.

(5) They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

Notice how David recounts God’s past faithfulness to his ancestors.  In the same way, when we experience despair and abandonment, we should meditate on God’s faithfulness to us and others through history and also on His mercy extended to redeem our souls.

(6) But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.

(7) All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

(8) He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

Again, these words were fulfilled as the religious leaders mocked Jesus as he hung on the cross (see the similar words recorded in Matthew 27:43 and Luke 23:35).

(9) But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.

(10) I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly.

(11) Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

(12) Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.

(13) They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion.

Have you ever felt surrounded by the armies of darkness?  I have – and we can take comfort in knowing that we are not the only saints to experience persecution from the enemies of our souls.

(14) I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

(15) My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

(16) For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

(17) I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.

(18) They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

Again, we can picture Christ hanging on the cross, his flesh beaten and broken and his hands (or wrists) and feet pierced with nails.  We know that the Roman soldiers cast lots for his garments (see Mark 15:24 and John 19:24).

(19) But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

(20) Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog.

(21) Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

(22) I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

If we are sanctified by him, Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brethren (see Hebrews 2:11-12).  How amazing to think that the King of the Universe considers us his brothers and sisters!

(23) Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.

(24) For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

God does hear the cry of the afflicted, even if it does not seem as if He does.

(25) My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.

(26) The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

(27) All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

(28) For the kingdom is the LORD’S: and he is the governor among the nations.

(29) All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul.

(30) A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

(31) They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

I appreciate how David ends this Psalm by declaring the majesty and power of the Lord.  From despair and dejection, he proceeds to exclaim the faithfulness of our God.  May we, in our weakest and darkest moments, always remember that God loves and shepherds his children.  Perhaps, this reflection led David to write the next Psalm in our Bible:

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

(1) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

(2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

(3) He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

(4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

(5) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

(6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Amen.

Blessings,

Andy

 

Tags: , , , , ,

‘It didn’t destroy us’: Clouse family approaches painful anniversary of fatal Perry County fire | PennLive.com

Below is a link to an inspiring and heart-breaking article written by John Luciew of the Pariot-News.  This article recounts the tragic loss of seven of Ted and Janelle Clouse’s children in a house fire.  This tragedy occurred over one year ago in the county immediately to the west of ours’, across the Susquehanna River.

‘It didn’t destroy us’: Clouse family approaches painful anniversary of fatal Perry County fire | PennLive.com.

I experienced anguish in my spirit several times while reading this article.  We’ve lost one child and cannot imagine what it would be like to lose seven children at one time.  I could relate to the suddenness and surprise of the event, the second-guessing, the tormenting memories, the temptation of guilt and despair, the outpouring of community support, and the ultimate faith and trust in our loving God.

Blessings,

Andy

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

Tags: , , , ,

Where Are You?

Note:  I wrote this desperate prayer several days ago after a difficult morning.  That same day, I heard two songs on the radio that I’ve shared at the bottom of the post.  Praise God, I am doing better now, however I decided to post these words with the hope of helping someone else who may be struggling with the same questions and feelings. 

I can write about having faith and trusting God through this journey of grief. But when the doubt and confusion creep in, where are You Lord? When I don’t hear Your voice and I can’t even focus to pray, where are You? What is wrong with me? Have I disappointed You, that You’ve turned Your back on me? Why don’t you answer my prayers for something tangible to hold on to? Am I not seeing your blessings around me?

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body… For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2Co 4:8-10,16-18)

I am filled with confusion. I can barely focus or think rationally at times. I easily forget things. Shouldn’t I be past this? It has been over ten months already. Some days I can barely cry, I feel so dried up, and then some days the tears just flow. Why is this? Just when I feel like I’m moving forward, I am overwhelmed by my grief. This journey is inconsistent and almost unbearable. Some days I can barely hold on to hope. Do You even love me (of course You do – or do I really love You)? Am I even Your child? What happened to my faith, or did I have a superficial belief? Why am I angry so much of the time (this isn’t the fruit of the Spirit)?

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. (Psa 42:5)

Lord, please come quickly because my heart is in anguish. I know this is selfish – you are waiting for others to get in the boat. I realize that I can’t just ride things out until you do come – too much is at stake. I need to have courage and lead my family. Please give me Your heart and help me be a light to others even with these clouds over me. Please help me choose You over everything else. Please be near me.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Pro 3:5-6)

Desperately trying to hope,

Andy

 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

Tags: , , ,

Through

Our daughter Isabella has a sore in her mouth that bothers her whenever she eats certain foods.  We told her that in order to help heal the wound she could brush her teeth with the baking powder and salt tooth paste that we use.  The salt would help to heal the wound.  She replied that it would really hurt, to which we answered that sometimes to cleanse and heal we have to experience pain.

The other day while driving to work, I was listening to another Gaither Vocal Band CD.  The song “Through” came up and I immersed myself in the lyrics.  The lyrics in the middle section of the song really stood out to me:

Without fire there’s no refining, without pain no relief

Without flood there’s no rescue, without testing no belief

(Note:  The full lyrics and be found here.)

How often do I want to avoid pain?  Yet, the very thing that hurts is designed to improve us, if we allow it to.  For example, if you want to build muscle tone, you must provide resistance against those muscles, which produces physical pain.  If you want to overcome your temper, sometimes when you are most angry you have to call on the Holy Spirit for patience, peace and self-control; the battle to overcome our flesh thus producing pain in our heart (it is easier in the short-term just to give in to our flesh).  While I would not wish to go through this trial by my own choosing, this journey through grief is meant to produce in us fruits of godliness, if we allow Him to work in and mold us.  But, we must go through the pain and not avoid it.  If we try to run away from it, the pain will instead produce bad fruit (for example bitterness).

The following Scripture verses come to mind related to experiencing pain, suffering and trials:

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:8-10, emphasis mine)

The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts. (Pro 17:3)

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1Pe 1:7)

And he [Jesus] was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luk 22:41-44, [clarification mine], emphasis mine)

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (Heb 5:8)

Do you have any special verses that have encouraged you as you went or are going through pain, suffering or trials?  Please share them below so that we can encourage each other.

Blessings,

Andy

 
7 Comments

Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Memory Closet

I dedicate this post to those of you who may have experienced similar traumatic circumstances and to our family and friends who hurt along with us. 

Yesterday morning, I went into the room where the boys used to sleep together. Even though there were two beds in the room, Isaac and David slept together on a twin bed during those last several months, with me sandwiched in-between as we sang and prayed together before going to sleep. If I remember correctly, it was Isaac who wanted to sleep next to his little brother since he enjoyed the comfort of being next to him.

Isaac "I'm Free"In that room’s closet is memorabilia from Isaac’s life – his creations, toys, writings and other items packed in boxes and containers. I opened the closet door and pulled down a box from the top shelf. Some of you may be familiar with that box – the one that the funeral director gives to you after the service and reception. Inside this box (among other items) is: the registration book signed by those who attended Isaac’s services; some pamphlets and bookmarks containing two beautiful poems and details about Isaac’s services and his obituary; and that document that certifies his death and its cause. As I read through his obituary again and looked at his smiling face, I opened the door to another closet – the one to my memory.

I remembered the services, where people greeted us and commented about how well we seemed to be doing, all the while we’re just numb and in shock. (Am I really burying my son? Is this real because it seems like a dream?) I remember the painful quiet after everyone was gone, going home with all the flowers, the left-over food (what a blessing) and we start to try to live our new life, taking baby steps, crawling and stumbling backwards all the way.

Then I rewind a little farther back, to the day when we were sitting in the conference room at the funeral home, surrounded by family and planning our son’s funeral service. (What?) We have to select a casket style and color, write an obituary, select a pamphlet design and poem insert, etc., etc. (Did this really happen?)

So I rewind some more, to that day – the day that everything changed. I remember driving away from our home after Isaac was transported in an ambulance to a nearby field, where the rescue helicopter would be landing shortly. We drove for almost an hour to the medical center, calling our relatives and friends along the way. All the while, I’m expecting him to live (my heart is racing as I write this). I wonder if there were angels around us, because I don’t know how we made it there safely. I remember pulling in to the parking lot at the same time that the helicopter was landing. (Shouldn’t it have been here already?) From a distance, we watched them wheel Isaac from the helicopter through the emergency doors and I was still assuming that he was going to be alright.

I remember waiting…then the chaplain walks back with me. I remember the double doors opening and there he lays – the sounds, the bright lights, what seems like dozens of people, and the lead doctor explaining how they wanted me to see that they were doing all they could but they couldn’t revive him. I see the flat line on the monitor (What? He was going to be OK – I’m shaking now as I write). I have to go back and tell my family. Then, Brenda and I are back in that room, all quiet now, Isaac disconnected from the machines, most of the people gone. We sit there and hold his lifeless body and struggle for the words to say goodbye to the son that we didn’t get to say goodbye to. And then – what’s this? – people are forming a circle around and PRAYING over us – here in THIS place? It was the beginning of God sending his messengers to minister comfort and truth to us. We go back out, tell our extended family who has come and our pastor and his wife that Isaac is gone. I remember my nephew putting his arm around his cousin, my daughter, to comfort her as she tries to comprehend losing her big brother and best friend. I see our two youngest children playing, not even sure that they understand what is happening. We make some more phone calls. This goes on for a while. Then we go home – to the silence, and we lay in bed and cannot sleep because out hearts and minds are racing. Then, when we are at our lowest, the devil sends his lying troops, speaking into our minds, trying to get us to doubt God, our salvation, our parenting abilities, etc., etc. (Where’s God? You can’t trust Him. This doesn’t happen to His children. Your prayers don’t matter – He didn’t protect Isaac.)

The next day is the dreariest, rainiest day that I can remember. We sit around in silence, while visitors come. Then another night and the condemning thoughts get louder. We are awake and don’t know what to do, so we call our faithful pastor and wife who come over around 3AM to minister truth and comfort to us for hours. But the cycle continues…

Then I rewind some more, to the moment it happened, but I won’t write about that.

(When these thoughts come, they tend to speak in the second person. I seem to be an observer watching these events happening to – me. I have to intentionally translate them to the first person when I type them. I wonder if this is because it is still difficult to comprehend the reality of what happened. Sometimes, it all seems like a dream. But writing down these thoughts helps me to comprehend the reality of my life as a bereaved parent.)

So (after I pull out a bookmark to put in my Bible), I put the lid back on the box, place the box back in the closet and close the closet door. Just inches separate me from the memorabilia of Isaac’s life. Yet, I find it difficult to close the other closet door – the one in my mind. Perhaps it needs to stay open because if I close it then I don’t let the pain out. And if I keep stuffing the pain back in the closet, then it wants to come out in other, less fruitful ways (anger). So I leave it open, so that the pain can be released and I can be healed and free.

Either I’m more aware or there are more people these days facing very difficult trials and circumstances.

I pray that you experience God’s healing and freedom, my dear reader.

Andy

 

Tags: , , , ,

Psalm 130

A friend of ours passed this Scripture along to us today.  We were blessed by it so we are sharing it with you:

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Psa 130:1-8)

 
1 Comment

Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: