I’ve been thinking about different kinds of temptation lately – and something just struck me about the whole category of “mental” sins. When I say mental sins I am distinguishing them from those obvious and tangible sins like murder, rape, theft, adultery . . . although of course we do know that those things launched their careers as the purely mental sins of hatred, lust, or greed. Right now I’m talking about the sins that come to roost in your head like discontent, moping, anger, self-pity, or the inability to forgive – basically those sins that, one way or another, interfere with joy. You can look into Virtualtreatmentcenter.com and get virtual counseling with a therapist who can help you solve your problem.
They seem to always be provoked by an external trial of some sort – and that trial can be big or small, real or imagined. Maybe your house is too small, or your husband isn’t a spiritual leader, you don’t have a husband and wish you did, your best friend turned sour on you, your kids colored on the couch, you don’t have money to pay the bills, you were abused, or you are struggling with a crippling illness. Whatever it is, whether it is a genuine trial or just an imagined trial that could be filed under the category of first world problems (you don’t have very many followers on Instagram but you can see how the experts uses Instagram Likes kaufen to make this possible), the point is that this is the moment at which the temptation sprouts.
But here’s what I’ve noticed – there are always two things in play. The objective trial is one thing – the temptation to sin about it is another. But temptation is a master of disguise, and what it usually does is pretend to be the trial itself. I think that falling for this little ruse can often be why we struggle with something that just seems unconquerable – we’re looking at and fighting against the wrong thing and that’s why we don’t get the victory.
So here’s what I mean. The Bible has a lot to say about trials, and the general gist of it all is that we are meant to rejoice through them. Joy in hardship is not just possible, it’s commanded. In Philippians 4, in the same passage in which he commands us to rejoice in everything, Paul says that he knows how to be abased, how to abound, how to be hungry, how to suffer need. The joy of the Lord is consistent throughout the great inconsistencies of life.
So let’s say that there’s something truly difficult – let’s say that your house is genuinely too small and everything is very cramped and very hard to keep organized and clean. And you’re tempted to feel really sorry for yourself, to dwell on how difficult your life is, to compare your lot to that of your sister who has much more money than you. That’s just plain old, garden variety discontent. But when we’re caught up in the grip of it, that’s not what it feels like. It feels like the house is too small. It feels like the Great Foe you have to fight against is the impossible situation that is your house. It’s the house’s fault that you’re unhappy, and there seems to be no way to overcome the problem – especially given the lack of closets. But here’s the thing. The actual enemy is not the house, it’s your attitude – but it’s your attitude wearing a camoflage suit and pretending to be a small, untidy house. There’s no spiritual discipline that will transform an outdated apartment into a spacious and beautiful, Pinterest-worthy home . . . and we all know that. So it all seems hopeless, and we dwindle further into the sadness and the self-pity. But – there is a spiritual discipline that can conquer a bad attitude . . . and it turns out that it’s a very easy one. It requires looking past the trial and looking at the temptation – and this is what the temptation is working very hard to keep you from doing. The whole strength of the temptation lies in its pretending to be a huge, unconquerable giant of a problem. But when you look directly at the temptation itself you discover it to be a small, petty, ugly little thing that is easily swept away by a prayer of repentance.
Similarly, let’s say that you found out that your best friend had been saying some really unkind and untrue things about you. That’s the trial, and it’s an objective hardship. The temptation to anger that you feel is a different thing though. On the excel spreadsheet, it belongs in a separate column. At the top of one column there is the label “Trials” and underneath it we should file things like best friends who say ugly things. But the next column is labeled “Temptations” and in that column we put things like anger, resentment, bitterness, grudges. Falling to one of those temptations is what makes you unable to forgive her, even when she’s asked your forgiveness. You’re still angry and you don’t think you can get over it. The more you think about it, in fact, the angrier you get. Once again this is because we easily confuse the trial and the temptation and think they are the same.
But the trial is not actually the problem. If Paul can rejoice while being hated, persecuted, chased, imprisoned, flogged, and executed – then we can infer from this that it is possible to rejoice when your best friend was unkind about your outfit or your housekeeping. It’s possible. What makes it feel impossible is when we keep looking at the trial itself – in this case, the things she said. They were rude. They were wrong. You have never talked that way about her AND it was completely unprovoked. But the more you focus on those things the unhappier you get, and the whole cycle seems like it has no exit. On the other hand, if we stop looking at the trial and instead look at our own anger or lack or forgiveness – it turns out that’s an easy fix. Our attitude is masquerading as the trial itself – and there’s nothing we can necessarily do about the objective trial. But once again, when looked at straight-on, our attitude turns out to be a small little dragon that loses all its ferocity when we name it accurately and repent of it.
The severity of the trial obviously makes some temptations harder to resist than others. Corrie ten Boom no doubt had to wrestle much harder to overcome her temptations to despair than I have to when Boden is sold out of the cute shirt in my size. I’m not implying that someone who has faced shattering trials should just be able to “snap out of it” with no effort. But the Christian life is all about fighting, battling, and overcoming our temptations, whatever our trials might be – and the Bible and the history of the church give us example after example after example of our brothers and sisters who have done just that. We aren’t supposed to make treaties with our temptations and figure out how to coexist, we’re supposed to conquer them. When Christ and the apostles told us to rejoice in suffering, they were men who knew what suffering was. They knew pain, they knew torture, they knew betrayal. I would venture to say that they understood suffering and trials more than any of us – and yet they told us to count it all joy, they did not tell us to learn to live with our depression.
When we get rid of our bad attitudes it doesn’t mean the trials will necessarily disappear. Sometimes they will – if they were imaginary trials to begin with. But when we’re faced with legitimate hardships then those will probably still be there after we repent of our sin. But think of it this way. A legitimate trial is something serious to contend with and it takes a lot of strength to face. Imagine having to do something complicated that required a good deal of focus and concentration, like removing a splinter from the bottom of your foot in uncertain light. But the wind keeps blowing all of your hair straight into your face so you can’t see anything and it’s getting in your eyes and sticking to your chapstick and getting tangled up with your tongue so you can’t talk. That’s what it’s like trying to face a trial while we’re in sin. Repentance is that amazingly freeing feeling of pulling your hair up into a ponytail and getting it out of your eyes and your mouth. Now you can see what you’re doing, you can take a deep breath and you can tackle what you need to tackle.
36 thoughts on “Trials and Temptations”
I agree with most of this. You lost me at the “small little dragon that loses all its ferocity….” Sometimes the dragon has grown rather large and strong, and it has won many battles. It is crafty and tenacious and doesn’t give up easily. And sometimes it has lulled you into a Stockholm Syndrome sort of sympathy with it. Defeating it does not seem like such an “easy fix” at that point.
Hi Valerie – yeah that’s true. Sometimes we make pets of our little attitudes, give them names, feed them . . . and they grow large and hideous and overwhelming. Sometimes we think it makes us more interesting to have big problems (even just more interesting to ourselves). Or we’ve lost to this particular dragon so many times that the path of defeat is well worn. However, the point is still that the outside circumstances are not within our control, but our attitude is our own. And we know in principle that when compared with the cross of Christ, when faced with the armor of God, it IS a petty little dragon. There’s nothing we can manufacture in our own hearts that is too formidable for repentance or too big to kill. We may have to do it again in ten minutes . . . and then again . . . and then again . . . in fact, we definitely will. But we should face it the way David faced Goliath – as formidable as he was, it was just one little stone that took him down. And I love how David saw the true perspective in that encounter. All the other Israelites just saw how huge Goliath was – David saw how small he was . . . “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied.” When compared with David, Goliath was huge – but when compared with the God of the armies of Israel . . . not so much. And David knew who he was standing with, and that gave him the ability to see everything in its true perspective.
I love the ending to this post.
The hair all tangled and in the way if me getting to the problem at hand.
Such a clear picture of how our sins can be an irritating distraction from the present challenge we need to be working on. Repentance being the tool that holds back those little stumbling irritants so we can get to task.
So the problem isn’t a too-big dragon; it’s a too-small Jesus.* That helps. This fits right in with Sunday’s exhortation about love for God being the proper motive for self-government. If I underestimate His love for me and His willingness and ability to work on my behalf, then I’m going to end up with a paltry love for Him and a pathetic level of obedience.
*Not, of course, that the real Jesus is too small, but that the faithless imagination miscalculates Him.
So abuse and a small house are in the same category? You know you have written about abuse before and minamalized its affect before as well. This is frightening to me as chronic abuse actually affects people physically. It rewires the brain. Chronic trauma is even worse. I suggest before you right another article suggesting women to “get over it” you do some research. The national trauma network is a great place to start as well as empowered to connect and Karyn Purvis. Please stop minamalizing abuse and lumping it in with just a bad attitude. This is not biblical at all.
As someone who has worked as a campus pastor encountering women who have suffered abuse, or other traumatic events, this is terrible advice. Traumatic events will not be healed by an attitude adjustment, they often require licensed counseling and significant time to understand the complex inner workings of the human mind and how it responds to trauma. Being angry, sad, depressed, etc. are all normal and completely necessary emotions in order to advance towards healing. Jesus always offers full and complete healing. Telling women to just have a better attitude is an insult to God’s power as Creator, who has created complex human bodies and systems that require complex care at times. Jesus is also a great healer who comes along side those who have been hurt in the full spectrum of their emotions, so they can experience true healing. Anything short of that is a watered down version of deity.
Both examples you gave here, the too small house and friendship problems, are so timely and convicting for me. Thank you for sharing!
I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks!
“Reading comprehension!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach reading comprehension at these schools?”
I’m totally with you about the distinction between trials and temptations, and the need to avoid temptation in the midst of trials. However when you bring the “d” word to the table, we’re talking about something completely different. “Depression” is not feeling sorry for yourself or having a bad attitude. Depression is a sin in the same way that cancer or appendicitis or a broken femur are sins.
Charles Spurgeon and Martin Luther both suffered from recurring, apparently causeless, depression throughout their lives. Spurgeon wrote, “No sin is necessarily connected with sorrow of heart, for Jesus Christ our Lord once said, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.’ There was no sin in Him, and consequently non in His deep depression.”
It’s also important to consider that David did not sin when he was pouring out his heart in lamentations even the Psalms that don’t have happy endings(Ps. 88 for example), and Job in all his speaking did not sin by blaming God. Faith isn’t always smiling. Faith isn’t always happy. Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Joy can live in dark places and joy can be present in tears and suffering.
I agree with AW. I think you need to be more careful about lumping all these emotions as sin without some qualifications. Certainly many emotions and thoughts are sinful. But many emotions that seem (or even feel like) sin may have very real physical causes. I struggled with depression for longer than I like to admit. I tried over and over to change my thought patterns. I prayed. I immersed myself in Psalms. I did not forsake church worship, although goodness knows I wanted to, because all I felt there was condemnation that I wasn’t happy like everyone else. The harder I tried and the more I failed to muster up good emotions the lower into the pit I went.
Finally I talked to a doctor. I have some very real vitamin deficiencies and problems with my hormones. I also have a mold infection, which strangely enough, affects your brain, and can cause all sorts of horrible emotions. Now I am being treated with supplements and also medicine for the mold infection. I could tell a difference within a few weeks of how I was able to handle my emotions. I am still struggling, but now I can fight it. Before I could not. I may still need help to deal with some things in my past or some things in my emotions which may or may not be sinful, but I could not have even begun to work on it without real physical help.
Sometimes, because we are physical as well as spiritual beings, we need physical help. Abuse (both emotional and physical) can cause actual changes in brain structure which can lead to depression. Brain researchers have stated this again and again. Also researchers have observed inflammation in the brains of people with depression. They are still not sure if inflammation in the brain can cause depression or if the depression causes inflammation, but there are absolutely physical things going on in every serious depression. If your brain is not making enough of the chemicals it needs, I don’t care how hard you try or how much faith you have, you are probably not going to be able to get out of some deep depressions. I’m really afraid that talking about abuse and depression without extreme care, and with so little compassion, may keep more women who would benefit from a good doctor from getting the help they need, and instead spending another despairing day pulling themselves up by the bootstraps.
Bekah can answer for herself, but I’m pretty sure she did not equate depression or abuse with a bad attitude. She was saying those trials are real, but a bad attitude makes them more difficult to deal with. This is one way we can pursue Phillippians 4 more effectively.
I am thankful God gives victory to His children who have had to fight their own Goliaths, whether unintentionally self-imposed or imposed upon them by perps. The fight is real. Often the fight is a multifaceted fight. At times blows make their inroads and we are broken. But God is the victor and He loves to make His children victorious.
I understand, and I don’t necessarily think that was Bekah’s intention in what she wrote. But when I read the line, “…and yet they told us to count it all joy, they did not tell us to learn to live with our depression,” my first thought was that for many Christians, both now and in the past, “counting it all joy” *meant* “learning to live with our depression.” The two ideas are not antithetical.
As I read this, I couldn’t help thinking of Peter trying to walk on the water. He did fine in spite of the trial as long as he kept his eyes on the right object – Christ. But when he focused on the wind and the waves, he went down.
Possibly we’re talking past one another? I certainly agree that sorrow isn’t necessarily a sin, and of course “joy” is not the same thing as “happy clappy all the day” – but surely you would agree that sorrow is not ideal? You use the analogy of depression as a cancer or a broken femur – so it does sound like you agree that it’s not the ideal state of affairs. Wouldn’t you argue that we should fight against and attempt to overcome the cancer? Shouldn’t we try to set the bone? Or should we just make peace with the appendicitis? Surely we see in the Psalms that when the Psalmist is overcome with sorrow he looks to God . . . as a way out of his sorrow, for relief from the sorrow, expecting deliverance from the sorrow. Just deciding to pitch a tent and get comfortable in the pits of despair isn’t something I really see in Scripture – and I’m assuming that’s not what you’re saying either?
B. Martin when you lump abuse into a sentence with first world problems like a small house there is a problem. This post doesn’t acknowledge that traumatic situations affect the chemical makeup of the brain. Abuse is a traumatic life situation and a small house is not. Two totally different things. Also she has done this before. This is why I suggested she research the affect of trauma on the brain before writing about abuse.
Rebekah are you saying depression is a sickness? I hope so because it is. It’s not sin which seems to be what your post is saying.
“The severity of the trial obviously makes some temptations harder to resist than others. Corrie ten Boom no doubt had to wrestle much harder to overcome her temptations to despair than I have to when Boden is sold out of the cute shirt in my size. I’m not implying that someone who has faced shattering trials should just be able to “snap out of it” with no effort.”
Ana and AW, don’t give in to the temptation to ignore the parts of the post that make a strong distinction between “shattering trials” and mundane, minor trials.
Here is something that might help.
Nancy, Ana and AW are all talking about healing from trials. There are many sorts of trials, and many ways to recover from them. Focusing on where you agree, well, that’s kind of a joyful thing, is it not?
Regarding depression.. I think the comments are not as opposed to each other as might appear. I have been treated for depression (and anxiety) several times (3 psychiatrists, 2 social workers, and 2 Christian counselors over a period of maybe 20 years, multiple courses of medication, and my family history includes hospitalization for depression, shock therapy for same, and one suicide – all in different relatives). I benefited tremendously from the secular psychiatric therapy and the medication. But, against all medical expectations, I’m free of all therapy and medication now, and that is because of Jesus meeting me in hurt places *and* thinking Biblically. Somewhere John Piper has a post about whether anxiety is a disease (affliction might be a better word) or a sin. It can be one or the other or both at the same time.
There were times during my depression when I suspect it would have been very unhelpful to be advised about my attitude. And I think there is something to the idea that we can’t repent our way out of brokenness (John & Stasi Eldredge). Brokenness needs healing and sin needs repentance and both can play into our difficulties. But I am sure glad now to know that I have a choice about responding to hurts. This week something upsetting happened. The younger me would have taken offense and moped and could have argued with some justification that that was appropriate. But I know now that that is a dead end, whether it is appropriate or not, and Jesus has better things for me if I look to Him in that moment of choice.
Thank you, this is really helpful and explains why my most painful trial and temptation have been so similar, and so baffling to me. It’s funny (not in the ha-ha kind of way, but in the cheese-forgotten-in-the-back-of-the-fridge variety) that my trial is that my husband holds me responsible for his bad attitude toward me (lots of emotional blackmail), and my temptation is to be resentful about that (add to that depression and questioning self-worth). Both of us have kept the “If they would only change” card in play. During the past few months I have been realizing the futility of this more and more. It’s so divisive and insidious. It’s a doozy of a cycle for me to extricate myself from, because in doing so, I think I will be setting myself up for some very painful humiliation (“See? I told you that if you changed I would be happy and meet your emotional needs!” etc.), but at the end of the day, that is beside the point, isn’t it? And, who knows? Maybe the Holy Spirit is working the same idea in him, too, though I know I can’t rely on that for my own change. Wouldn’t it be just like God to use the one who’s been battling depression to bring joy into the marriage?
“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” –2 Cor. 12:9b
Thank you, Bekah. This is very helpful!
Amazing writing. Amazingly encouraging. A good prayer is Oh Lord, let me fight on….the good fight….I get depressed when I think of what people did to me and my family, however I know exactly what it’s like to be in the grips….only pray Oh father give me the gift of repentance. I’m learning to trust that God is my God, and even though I lose hope, he’s a covenantal God.
Bekah, (I apologize in advance for writing a book here. If it’s too long feel free to delete it.)
I think we are talking past each other. Let me try to clarify.
I think your thesis is that it’s easy to confuse external trials with internal sins. If your friend says something bad about you behind your back, that’s a trial. If you become hard toward that friend or refuse to forgive them, that’s a sin. Am I on the right track?
As far as that goes, I agree 100%. Having a too-small house is a trial for a mom with lots of littles. It might be easy if someone calls her out on her bitterness and self-pity about her small house to simply think that the feelings she’s having are part of the trial and not part of a sinful response to the trial.
I would be careful of trying to apply this woodenly to every situation though. A person who has been abused, for example, tends to blame themselves for the abuse. And that’s not something they can just unthink. When they finally begin to see reality for what it is, their tendency will be to feel anger toward the person who abused them. At this point, I think it would be bad to remind them that even though someone did wrong to them they need to forgive and move on. They’ve been pushing it down for a long time, thinking they’re the wrong ones. I don’t think that the anger generated from that is bad or sinful; on the contrary I think it is helpful and part of the healing process. God is angry at what that person did, and they should be too. Of course the time comes to let that go and be at peace, but oftentimes the peace can only come after the storm, and because they’ve been assiduously avoiding thinking about their past or allowing themselves to have that righteous anger, they continue to be dominated by what happened to them.
Depression is another tricky situation. Depression isn’t a sin. Depression can be brought about by sin. It can also be brought about by physical issues, genetic issues, past trauma or abuse, etc. To push the analogy earlier, you can get cancer because you smoke two packs a day for 20 years, or you can get cancer because it’s in your gene pool. In either case the depression is a separate issue from what caused it.
A depressed person (really depressed, not just someone with the blues or feeling a little glum), feels like they are wrong. Like they are worthless. Like they have no purpose. Then they feel guilty for feeling this way. Even worse, many depressed people don’t have any visible reason for feeling this way. So they think things like, “People have been tortured for their faith. There are lots of starving people in the world. What right do I have to feel like this?” And then they feel even more guilty. And, once again, a depressed person really can’t think themselves out of it. They can’t reason their way out. They can’t look objectively at their situation at all. So when a depressed person reads that they need to repent of their bad attitudes so they can face their trials, they immediately internalize it and start beating themselves up again. “Yes, I know I need to repent. Yes, I know there’s nothing wrong really with me. Yes, I know I’m a worm.” Anyway, that’s mainly why I wouldn’t include depression in a post like this.
Should they want to get better? Yes. Just like the person with the broken leg should have it set. A depressed person should seek pastoral help, medical help, etc. Sometimes there’s something a doctor can do. Sometimes there’s not. In either case there will be a lot of waiting for God. Like the blind man who waited his entire life for Jesus to show up because he couldn’t see otherwise, depressed people can’t feel right. They are hope-blind, so to speak, and not through their own choice or volition.
As Spurgeon wrote: “This evil will also come upon us, we know not why, and then it is all the more difficult to drive it away…As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet, all-beclouding hopelessness…If those who laugh at such melancholy did but feel the grief of it for one hour, their laughter would be sobered into compassion. Resolution might, perhaps, shake it off, but where are we to find the resolution, when the whole man is unstrung?”
A person with depression doesn’t need to hear that God hasn’t called them to make peace with their depression. It’s not like they can just choose to stop it at any time. Nobody has pitched their tent and gotten comfortable in the pits of despair. What they need to hear is that it’s okay to be depressed. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to be laid low by God’s providence. It’s okay to cry. They need to hear that they are not useless because they can’t laugh, because they can’t host dinners, because they can’t keep a spotless house, because the homeschooling seems to be going slack. They need to know that, in their depression, they are right where God has placed them, and that they need only to BE in Him rather than lace up their boots and try to DO stuff. They need to hear, in the words of Milton:
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.
Hopefully this helps to clarify where I was coming from.
Thanks – so just a quick couple things. First, I think I agree with a lot of what you said and would quibble with a some of it as well . . . but that would require so much explanation that perhaps I’ll save it for a separate blog post. (Perhaps on some day when I wake up and think, “I know! What would be super fun would be to make the entire internet mad at me!”) Depression is just one of those topics isn’t it?
But in the meantime – of COURSE a depressed person can’t reason their way out of it, and that was never my thesis. We can’t ever reason our way into righteousness, no matter what our starting point is.
And finally, Spurgeon notwithstanding, where in Scripture do you find commands exhorting a person struggling with depression? What do those commands say? Or are you arguing that depression is a special category not covered in Scripture?
Bekah, I loved the metaphor about the splinter in your foot, poor lighting and the hair whipping and sticking in your Chapstick–such a helpful visual!
So much yes! Taking care of the bad attitude or taking care to not have a bad attitude truly frees you to tackle the problem.
Thanks for the metaphor, and the whole piece; it was convicting and encouraging!
Holy Moly! That was exactly what I needed to read at this very time. My husband is a missions pastor and traveling again while I am home with 3 small kids taking care of business… Alone. I woke up angry and ready to give up the fight. My dad sent this blog to me randomly… But I guess it wasn’t that random was it? ? Thanks for writing this. I’ll be going. Can to this a lot!
Ana, notice that Rebekah is writing about temptation and not about abuse. Temptation can come in the context of abuse, obviously. Abuse is very severe trial and handling temptations that come to someone suffering from it will not fix all the results of the abuse, it will deal with the temptation. It is important to acknowledge what this post is and is not about. Most of the examples are of common trials not severe traumatic ones because everyone can relate to this.
Thank you for this post. I found it extremely helpful, distinguishing the trial from the temptation.
It has already led me to repentance of my bad attitude concerning several situations!
Ephesians 4:26 is worth mentioning in that anger in the short term isn’t necessarily sin. Jesus said Woe to them who cause these little ones to sin. what sins is Jesus talking about? I really hope the Lord puts one or two of these women who have had such horrible abuse stories into your life. You have a lot to offer, but you still have a lot to learn. That is why you have gotten so much flack on this post. Walk with a few of these women as they are healed. Your concern is what someone said behind your ir back. Only someone in a very secure family would even mention this. There are women reading this blog who are scared for their welfare Orr the welfare of their children while dealing with the effects of sexual abuse and have health problems some of them a consequence of abuse. There is no security in their home, their husband or the borderline liberal church they attend. If they are Christian, they know something is wrong at the church but they don’t know where else to go. There is some support there, it they don’t know where to go, what are they to do? Listen to a televangelist or maybe read a lady’s blog? Think about it.
In a fallen world where Jesus and God himself grieve over sin and brokenness, we do live in a state of … “sorrowful, YET, always rejoicing”. The mysteries of holding these two in tension are resolved within our relationship with Him, and no amount of muscling our way out of despair will do. Redemption & Restoration are so weighty & imply the incredible sacrifice involved in setting us free – from our selves, our sins, our hurts, our diseases. “He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” Ps 103:3. The pain of our sin can be remedied by running to Him in repentance. It is a solid life rope we can grab to pull us out of the swirling seas of our self-centered emotional chaos. Letting Him “undragon” us as He did for Eustace Scrubb in Voyage of the Dawn Treader – “It is only Aslan who has the strength (and the love) to do the job properly — that is, to turn Eustace back into a boy again — and Eustace welcomes the gift, even if ‘the very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart.” (Alan Jacobs, ‘The Narnian’). For the pain we encounter which is not sinful – but the very real heartache of living and loving in a deeply fallen, yet sacred and beautiful world inscribed with meaning and glory, there is another life rope. I have found that in the throes of agony I may be crying out to God with my deep grief and then suddenly I will just begin praising Him, worshipping Him, trusting Him more…..and it is true that while the painful situations do not disappear, there is a salve to the soul in His Presence, where there is fulness of joy. Right now, a future joy, that seeps in when we go to Him…..that at times seems so bright and at other times remains just a flicker in our dark nights of the soul. But hope remains and worship can move us past this temporal realm and into that other where He rules in perfect peace … if only momentarily, intermittently, and as yet through a veil, but hopefully ever more increasingly. Depression is real and in a broken world mingles with physiological/psychological/emotional brokenness, trauma & sin. Often those with melancholy temperaments will struggle more with depression as they feel the ramifications of human need and heartache so much more deeply, so piercingly. It can feel like the weight of life, suffering, relational distortion & dysfunction are overwhelming and insurmountable. And for all of us, in our areas of disease, sin, weakness and need – there is an opportunity for His power to be perfected in our weakness. It is a life long process, but a very tangible reality. Doctors, friends, pastors, sages, counselors, medication, family, brothers & sisters can all be healing to us in this journey. I found this post so helpful in this regard: http://bookwormjournal.blogspot.com/2006/01/dragon-skin.html
And Neil Plantinga’s book ‘Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin” tackles the subject of all forms of breakdown of shalom in a thoughtful & penetrating way that I find so helpful in dealing with life and relationship in a fallen world. John Piper’s statement I go back to time & time again “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life He gave you.” If you haven’t heard this beautiful ballad “Healer” by Holly Ann, it’s so worth a listen. https://vimeo.com/71543019
I found this lady’s blog post to be a very helpful method of implementing the principles Bekah advocates here.
Looks like I’m a bit late to the party, but I just read this today and was encouraged. Especially liked the bit at the close about sin swirling your hair into your eyes! Excellent and helpful. Also, the early comment about perspective truly hit home for me and I am forced to honestly ask myself which is bigger: God or my trials? Thank you for taking the time to write this exhortation!
I like it. I got as far as the “Excel spreadsheet column” in reading this. I just created a spreadsheet that itemizes the Trial, the temptation to sin, the truth, and the prayer to help in those moments. Life is so busy with three little ones, 5 or 6 different jobs between my husband and I, nursing at night, church and ministry, etc, that it’s easy to lose sight of the truth and cry in anger at God and/or my husband or children. But really I know that every single day He has provided for our needs. I know the truth but my sin and emotions overwhelm me. I think a visual reminder will help. I’ll start attaching verses to the chart that will help me remember God’s promises. That will be a great project. Thank you!!
This is a really helpful post Rebekah! As someone who was sexually abused by my stepfather for the most of my childhood, I still found this to be life-giving. I know everyone’s experiences differ, but the choice to look to the cross even in the pit of sorrow is still what we must do, and is our only hope. My temptation has been to not want to do that; and to hold onto what happened when I was younger. That was the sin, and even though I was a new Christian at 17, when I began to deal with it in earnest, I knew right away that despite the mess and my crazy thoughts that I needed to lay it down, leave justice to the Lord who sees and knows all, and to choose each day to walk in the light. It didn’t minimize the trial, nor the lasting damage, but it was the only thing to do in light of the gospel, and in response to the love of God that I had come to know. I’m just adding my thoughts, since I’m not convinced that all abuse suffers lose their ability to think clearly about what has happened to them. Even if our hearts are broken. I’m sure I haven’t said all this perfectly, none of it was meant to be judgmental or unkind to another.