When Night Is at Its Darkest

On one of my trips to Uganda, our mission team stayed at a place where the electricity was rationed. There were days and nights we did not have electricity. At night, because there was no streetlights or lamps, it was unbelievably—even unnervingly—dark. I was glad someone in the village was able to give me a couple of candles. They were small, but they were comforting enough to help me fall asleep. I woke up to be greeted by sunlight. The sun had not abandoned Earth.

There are times the “dark nights of the soul” can be extremely—despairingly—dark. There are nights of depression when the blackness can seem to swallow up the light, and like water fills every corner and gap. A person can feel as though he is literally drowning in his loneliness and despair.

In life, when night is at its darkest, when loneliness is at its most painful, when sadness is at its deepest, when despondency comes rushing in waves like a devastating tsunami, then one can find himself in an extremely vulnerable position.

That ancient serpent, the devil, comes with malicious deceit, whispering lies into the mind that seem to have impeccable logic. “If God is faithful, where is He? Nobody loves or wants you, why else is your mailbox void of letters and invitations? Why else does your phone remain silent? Those around you are successful, but what have you done? You haven’t accomplished anything! You’re just a blemish, a failure! If you were dead, your family would be better off and the world wouldn’t be at any loss. There are some razor blades in the garage or some pill bottles in the medicine cabinet.” The darkness  becomes seemingly unbearable.

Many have not experienced such a dark night of the soul or suffered such mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish. Give glory to God! But many know full well what I am talking about. Sadly, many get to the point where they can no longer endure the inner torment.

The promises of God can be like little candles in such darkness, but they can give a soft glow bringing some comfort to allow you to get some rest before the coming dawn—the dawn will come. The darkness will not extinguish the light:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ~ John 1:5

For he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?… What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:1, 23-24, 31-39

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8

The lies of the evil one come like the fury of a hurricane, trying to blow out the flames of God’s promises, but one needs not fear, though hopeless he might feel. In the midst of the raging waters and violent winds, we are told:

It is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. ~ Hebrews 6:18-20

When night is at its darkest, keep close to you the light of God’s promises. Although you might feel despondent, God is faithful. Look to Christ, pray to Christ, cry out to Christ, cling to Christ, and trust in Christ. He will bring you safely to the coming dawn.

7 Hindrances to Prayer

Sound theology teaches us that God is both personal and the Sovereign over the world He created. This being the case, it should come as no surprise that prayer is personal and comes with certain stipulations (as do all relationships). Furthermore, because God is the Sovereign One, He is to be approached as such. This being said, there are several hindrances to prayer to keep in mind.

  1. Sin. God is a God of holiness, purity, truth, love, and justice. Sin betrays these. Unconfessed  sin will hinder one’s prayers. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa. 59:2).
  2. Unbelief. One of the greatest hindrances to prayer is unbelief. Unbelief is an affront to God’s existence, character, or capabilities. We’re told that Jesus “did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:58). And James writes, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (1:6-8).
  3. Selfish motives. Prayer is to be more about God’s kingdom and human intercession than self promotion and advancement. James addresses this hindrance explicitly: “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:2-3)
  4. Outside God’s will. Sometimes one’s requests are outside of God’s will and plan. For example, Paul prayed three times for God to heal him of his “thorn in the flesh,” yet God denied his request each time, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). God was using this “thorn” to humble and further develop the apostle.
  5. Self-righteousness. Pride has always plagued the human heart, creating the desire to one-up and trample upon others. God abhors such self-adulation and condescension of others—especially wrapped in religiosity. Jesus tells a parable about a self-righteous religious leader and a tax collector praying. The former was thankful he was not like sinners such as the tax collector. The tax collector, however, wouldn’t look up, but beat his chest, asking God to forgive him, a sinner. Jesus explains it is the tax collector who left the temple justified (Luke 18:9-14).
  6. Dishonoring your spouse. This is specifically directed to husbands. The apostle Peter writes, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Men, being disrespectful of your wives and treating them in an un-Christlike will hinder prayers.
  7. Spiritual Warfare. Some hindrances to prayer are spiritual in nature, opposition from the evil one. We get a sneak peak of such a situation in the life of the prophet Daniel (chap. 10). He was a very godly man who had taken time to pray and fast. We learn their was opposition in the spiritual realm.

Persons can pray but this doesn’t mean anything is happening, much like a person shadow boxing. He is beating the air but nothing more. Some have given up praying, saying, “It doesn’t work.” However, prayer is powerful if one follows the instructions and purposes as laid out in the Manual—the Bible. May we approach the living God appropriately and on His terms, and may we remember the true and deeper purposes for prayer. We just might see more incredible moves of God if we do.

10 Truths When a Christian Experiences Depression

  1. Depression is not necessarily because of sin. There are some who think if a believer experiences depression, then it must be because of sin. However, there are various reasons for depression. Although sin can be a reason, so can hunger (physical or emotional), loneliness, loss, chronic pain, and tiredness.
  2. Depression is not a sign of faithlessness or unfaithfulness. In the Scriptures we read of faithful persons of God who had bouts of depression, including Jeremiah, Job, Hannah, Elijah, and Paul. Throughout church history, Christians such as Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, and A. W. Pink likewise experienced depression.
  3. God’s promises are truth, not one’s feelings. Rarely are feelings honest—especially when one is struggling with depression. Feelings will say one is unimportant, worthless, or unloved. One must be anchored on the truth of God’s Word. As Luther wrote: “Feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving; My warrant is the Word of God, naught else is worth believing.”
  4. We have an adversary who seeks to take advantage of one’s depression. The devil is able to plant negative thoughts in people’s minds. Not every thought is one’s own. Sometimes, in fact, it can be difficult to tell the difference. Yet, when thoughts encourage despair or harm, these are certainly from the evil one. Still, there can seem to be such a diabolical logic—but the adversary’s intentions are always to steal, kill, and destroy (see John 10:10).
  5. Your family and friends would not be better off without you. One of the most ruthless and deceptive lies told by the evil one to the depressed is that their loved ones would be better off without them. However, the loss and anguish family and friends would experience is unfathomable. 
  6. God has neither forgotten nor forsaken you. One of the areas where feelings can become very misleading is when God “feels” a million miles away. God promises to never forget, leave, or forsake those who are His (see Isa. 49:15; Heb. 13:5).
  7. Your life is not worthless. With depression, thoughts and feelings both feed off the other. Negative thoughts continue to drive negative feelings, and those feelings trigger continuous negative thoughts. One’s thoughts can influence a person to come to the conclusion his life is worthless; however, the fact God gave His Son, and Jesus shed His own blood, to redeem you shows your incredible worth. 
  8. Your failures do not define you. Memories, like continuous devastating waves of a tsunami, can come rushing into the mind of the depressed. Memories of failures in school, in work, in sports, as a friend, as a parent, as a son or daughter, as a Christian, and as a human being. Sanctification is a lifelong process of changing from glory to glory (see 2 Cor. 3:18). Still, your identity, as a whole, is in Christ (see Eph. 2).
  9. Light and joy will eventually return. The deep blackness and joylessness of the pit of depression can seem to be perpetual, like a never ending nightmare. As long as a night might seem, dawn eventually comes. Similarly, a dawn will eventually come. The night of depression is not forever (see Mic. 7:8).
  10. It’s alright to get help. Needing the help of others is not a sign of weakness, but part of being human. While God created us for Himself, it is He who said it’s not good for man to be alone. It is He who created the institutions of marriage, family, friendship, community, and the church. Each of us need these. Even Jesus surrounded Himself with His closest disciples just prior to His crucifixion. When one is dealing with depression, although he wants to isolate himself, he needs his family and friends. He needs his pastor or professional counselor. God gives us one another to help one another. It’s not only alright to get help, but it can be detrimental to refuse the help and resources God provides.

Depression can be debilitating to a person. These truths will not take one’s depression away, but may they be of help to keep running the race, and as grace to persevere when everything inside wants to give up.

There are many false prophets and teachers today, claiming to be Christians, yet casting doubt on the Scriptures—the very Scriptures of which Jesus declares to be absolutely trustworthy and enduring. These false teachers say the Bible is God’s Word mingled with human error. The apostle Peter tells us that the writers of Scripture were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Brother, Sister, the God who spoke the universe into existence and sustains it by His power is more than capable of preserving His Word. Don’t buy into the deception of the liars of the day.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

Hope for Troubled Hearts in Troubled Times

The days in which we are living in are so uncertain. Some talk about a great economic collapse that will be felt around the world. In the midst of discussions and rallies crying out for peace there is so much anger, unrest, and violence. The news consistently reports acts of terrorism around the world. As the world grows smaller because of technology, ironically, people are feeling more isolated. And with Covid restrictions, there has been an alarming rise in depression and suicide.

Many questions are floating around. Will America experience another civil war? Is our economy going to collapse? What’s going to happen to churches and Christians? Will things ever return to normal? What is God doing? Is He even there?

When Jesus was speaking to His disciples, He is also speaking to us:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. ~ John 14:1

 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

We live in a fallen world, and Jesus teaches that as His return draws closer there is going to be a rise in lawlessness, lovelessness, and chaos. Just hearing this and observing the world around us can cause an increase in one’s heart rate and anxiety. Nevertheless, in Christ we can experience genuine peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. ~ John 14:27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Philippians 4:6-8

While requiring self-discipline and effort, the key to acquiring His peace which He abundantly offers, we must fix our eyes on Jesus and not on the troubles around us. We must pray and bring our anxieties to Him, along with thanksgiving. We are granted so many blessings, but how often we take them for granted!  And finally, we are to shift our thoughts on what is true, lovely, pure, etc. How easily we can fill our minds with “stinking thinking.”

God’s people are not forsaken by Him—never! 

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Hebrews 13:5

Today, may your attention be set upon Christ, His sacrifice, and the living hope that only He can give. And may He grant you His peace that passes all understanding, and the richness of His presence.

Blessings upon you, my friends!

It’s a Beautiful Morning

Followers of Jesus Christ are not to live in deliberate or habitual sin. We are asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1 -2, ESV). Furthermore, elsewhere the purposes of both grace and salvation are explained:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ~ Titus 2:11-12

Even so, the Bible teaches us, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins, (Ecc. 7:10) and “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).  And life teaches us experientially that we can sometimes blow it profoundly! How many of us have asked, “Will God forgive me of this? Again???” In fact, some give up altogether that God still loves them and can forgive them.

My friend, perhaps you have asked such questions. Maybe you are wrestling with such doubts now. Believe me, I have been there numerous times. But God’s grace truly is amazing, and the death Jesus died in our stead transcends our understanding. I hope you will be encouraged by the following passages:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ~ Psalm 103:13-14

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

Perhaps you have blown it big time and guilt haunts you. My friend, look to the cross and the glorious and merciful Savior who had been slain upon it and is now alive forevermore! Find refuge in His mercy and peace in His great love for you. His mercies are new every morning, and there is never a time when we are not in need of them.

Sacrifices of Praise

A sacrifice comes with a cost. It is to surrender something we desire for something better, and the cost can be undesirable as the heart breaks. 

Typically, “praise” is associated with joy, gladness, and an eager willingness. Honestly, often it is. However, have you ever been in a church service with a broken heart and fractured soul? You still loved God, although you might not have “felt” like it, because your heart ached and your mind was being bombarded with an onslaught of questions. Perhaps only you and God knew what was tormenting your heart, mind, and soul: loneliness, guilt/shame, loss/grief, anxieties, betrayal, etc. And while those around you sang with enthusiasm, it was an extraordinary accomplishment that you got out of bed and made it to church.

What does all this have to do with sacrifices of praise? During these times praise is a sacrifice, feeling heavy as lead as our feeble voice struggles beneath the strain. Chances are, for many, during these times you do not want to offer such a sacrifice. Believe me, I have been there (and still am, at times). Such an offering is not without pain, but it is a sacrifice for something better (albeit, not immediately). While seemingly small sacrifices, God accepts the sacrifices of tear-sprinkled praise arising from broken hearts: “You are faithful, God!” “I love You, Jesus!” “I trust You, Lord.”

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. ~ Hebrews 13:14-15 (ESV)

When God Is Silent

There, perhaps, is no other indescribable anguish of the heart and spirit than the silence of God—especially for those who have experienced His love, witnessed His power, and can recount times of closeness and answered prayer.

Extended periods of God’s silence and inactivity can truly test one’s faith. Emotions can seem like a turbulent sea, with questions tormenting the mind like seemingly endless waves pounding on the shore. Dark storm clouds block out the light of the sun—and nights are ever darker still.

Such experiences are not uncommon for the people of God. The psalmist writes, 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? ~ Psalm 13:1 (ESV)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. ~ 22:1-2

The prophet Habakkuk cries out,

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? ~ Habakkuk 1:2

The prophet Jeremiah pleads to the Lord,

Be not a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster. ~ Jeremiah 17:17

In the New Testament, although it was clearly confirmed to John the Baptist that Jesus is the Messiah, after being imprisoned he sent disciples to ask Jesus,

Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? ~ Matthew 11:3

Times of divine silence, especially extended periods, causes common questions to arise:

  • What has happened?
  • What did I do?
  • Is God angry with me?
  • Will God speak again?
  • Has God abandoned me?
  • Is God trustworthy?
  • Why?

The reasons for God’s silence varies. Sometimes it is to humble us, and to remind us of our dependence on Him. If we are not careful, we can become conceited and think we are quite “spiritual”. Such pride usually lacks love.

Sometimes God’s silence is due to willful and persistent sin.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

Still, sometimes God is silent to stretch and grow our faith. We live in an age in which feelings are exalted. Too often we lean, depend, and even put trust in our ever-changing feelings. However, our faith is to be anchored on God, His character, and His promises.

When experiencing God’s silence, what are we to do? First, we should examine ourselves. Are we refusing to confess and repent of sin (e.g., immorality, unkind words, unforgiveness, idolatry, prayerlessness, etc.)? Second, we need to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. God is unchanging. He remains faithful. Third, and this is the most difficult, we are to continue to trust in spite of our feelings and doubts.

The prophet Micah shared in such experiences, too. He writes,

My enemies, don’t be glad because of my troubles! I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light. I have sinned against the Lord. And so I must endure his anger, until he comes to my defense. But I know that I will see him making things right for me and leading me to the light. ~ Micah 7:8-9 (CEV)