Archive for the 'Suffering' Category

Thomas Watson on Affliction

This is from Thomas Watson’s book The Lord’s Prayer. I’ve been finding that books like this are just as good for dealing with suffering as books on suffering (which many posts on this blog are about). Not just the parts of them on subjects dealing with suffering directly, but for example in this book, the extensive part on Our Father is very edifying in every way. The quote below is from part of the section on Thy Will Be Done. Notice the hierarchy of numbering goes from [] to () in the bold parts. I think the most difficult part of reading the Puritans are the lists with the numbers. They can go three and four deep. It’s more difficult when it’s an eBook, like this one is for me. At least it makes it easy to copy and paste. I think this is especially good for those dealing with suffering or who might wrestle with the subject:

When do we not submit to God’s will in affliction as we ought?

(1) When we have hard thoughts of him, and our hearts begin to swell against him.

(2) When we are so troubled at our present affliction that we are unfit for duty. We can mourn as doves—but not pray or praise God. We are so discomposed that we are not fit to hearken to any good counsel. “They hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit.” Exod 6:9. Israel was so full of grief under their burdens, that they minded not what Moses said, though he came with a message from God to them; “They hearkened not unto Moses, for anguish of spirit.”

(3) We do not submit as we ought to God’s will when we labor to break loose from affliction by indirect means. Many, to rid themselves out of trouble, run themselves into sin. When God has bound them with the cords of affliction—they go to the devil to loosen their bands! Better it is to stay in affliction, than to sin ourselves out of it. O let us learn to stoop to God’s will in all afflictive providence.

But how shall we bring ourselves, in all occurrences of providence, patiently to acquiesce in God’s will, and say, “May your will be done”?

The MEANS for a quiet resignation to God’s will in affliction are:

[1] Judicious consideration. “In the day of adversity consider.” Eccl 7:14. When anything burdens us, or runs cross to our desires, did we but sit down and consider, and weigh things in the balance of judgment, it would much quiet our minds, and subject our wills to God. Consideration would be as David’s harp, to charm down the evil spirit of frowardness and discontent.

But what should we consider?

That which should make us submit to God in affliction, and say, “May your will be done,” is:

(1) Consider that the present state of life is subject to afflictions, as a seaman’s life is subject to storms. [No one escapes bearing the lot which all suffer.] “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward;” he is heir apparent to it. Man comes into the world with a cry—and goes out with a groan! Job 5:7. The world is a place where much wormwood grows. “He has filled me with bitterness (Heb with bitternesses); he has made me drunken with wormwood.” Lam 3:15. Troubles arise like sparks out of a furnace. Afflictions are some of the thorns which the earth after the curse brings forth. We may as well think to stop the chariot of the sun when it is in its swift motion, as put a stop to trouble. The consideration of a life exposed to troubles and sufferings, should make us say with patience, “May your will be done.” Shall a mariner be angry that he meets with a storm at sea?

(2) Consider that God has a special hand in the disposal of all occurrences. Job eyed God in his affliction. “The Lord has taken away;” chap 1:21. He did not complain of the Sabeans, or the influences of the planets; he looked beyond all second causes; he saw God in the affliction, and that made him cheerfully submit; he said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Christ looked beyond Judas and Pilate to God’s determinate counsel in delivering him up to be crucified, which made him say, “Father, not as I will—but as you will.” Acts 4:27, 28, Matthew 26:39. It is vain to quarrel with instruments. Wicked men are but a rod in God’s hand! “O Assyria, the rod of my anger.” Isaiah 10:5. Whoever brings an affliction—God sends it! The consideration of this should make us say, “May your will be done;” for what God does he sees a reason for. We read of a wheel within a wheel. Ezek 1:16. The outward wheel, which turns all, is providence; the wheel within this wheel is God’s decree; this believed, would rock the heart quiet. Shall we mutiny at that which God does? We may as well quarrel with the works of creation as with the works of providence.

(3) Consider that there is a NECESSITY for affliction. “If need be, you are in heaviness.” 1 Peter 1:6. It is needful that some things are kept in brine. Afflictions are needful upon several accounts.

[1] To keep us humble. Often there is no other way to have the heart low—but by being brought low. When Manasseh “was in affliction, he humbled himself greatly.” 2 Chron 33:12. Corrections are corrosives to eat out the proud flesh. “Remembering my misery, the wormwood and the gall, my soul is humbled in me.” Lam 3:19, 20.

[2] It is necessary that there should be affliction; for if God did not sometimes bring us into affliction, how could his power be seen in bringing us out? Had not Israel been in the Egyptian furnace, God had lost his glory in their deliverance.

[3] If there were no affliction, then many parts of Scripture could not be fulfilled. God has promised to help us to bear affliction. Psalm 37:24, 39. How could we experience his supporting us in trouble—if we did not sometimes meet with it? God has promised to give us joy in affliction. John 16:20. How could we taste this honey of joy—if we were not sometimes in affliction? Again, he has promised to wipe away tears from our eyes. Isaiah 25:8. How could he wipe away our tears in heaven—if we never shed any? So that, in several respects, there is an absolute necessity that we should meet with affliction; and shall not we quietly submit, and say, “Lord, I see there is a necessity for it?” “May your will be done!”

(4) Consider that we have brought our troubles upon ourselves; we have put a rod into God’s hand to chastise us. Christian, God lays your afflictive cross on you—but it is of your own making. If a man’s field is full of tares, it is what he has sown in it. If you reap a bitter crop of affliction, it is what you yourself have sown. The cords which pinch you are of your own twisting. If children will eat green fruit—they may blame themselves if they are sick; and if we eat the forbidden fruit, no wonder that we feel it gripe. Sin is the Trojan horse which lands a multitude of afflictions upon us. “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!” Jeremiah 4:18. If we by sin run ourselves into arrears with God, no wonder if he sets affliction as a sergeant on our back, to arrest us. This should make us patiently submit to God in affliction, and say, “May your will be done.” We have no cause to complain of God; it is nothing but what our sins have merited. “Have not you procured this unto yourself?” Jer 2:17. The afflictive cross, though it be of God’s laying, is of our making. Say, then, as Micah (chap 7:9), “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him.” “Whatever a man sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

(5) Consider that God is about to prove and TEST us. “For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.” Psalm 66:10, 11. If there were no affliction, how could God have an opportunity to try men? Hypocrites can serve in a pleasure boat: they can serve God in prosperity; but when we can keep close to him in times of danger, when we can trust him in darkness, and love him when we have no smile, and say, “May your will be done,” that is the trial of sincerity! God is only trying us; and what hurt is there in that? What is gold the worse for being tried?

(6) Consider that in all our afflictions, God has kindness for us. As there was no night so dark, but Israel had a pillar of fire to give light—so there is no condition so cloudy, but we may see that which gives light of comfort. David could sing of mercy and judgment. Psalm 101:1. It should make us cheerfully submit to God’s will, to consider that in every afflictive path of providence, we may see his footstep of kindness.

There is kindness in affliction, when God seems most unkind.

[1] There is kindness in affliction—in that there is love in it. God’s rod and his love may stand together. “Whom the Lord loves, he chastens.” Heb 12:6. As when Abraham lifted up his hand to sacrifice, Isaac loved him. Just so, when God afflicts his people, and seems to sacrifice their outward comforts, he loves them. The farmer loves his vine when he cuts it and makes it bleed; and shall not we submit to God? Shall we quarrel with that which has kindness in it, which comes in love? The surgeon binds the patient, and lances him—but no wise man will quarrel with him, because it is in order to a cure.

[2] There is kindness in affliction—in that God deals with us as his children. “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons.” Heb 12:7. God has one Son without sin—but no son without stripes! Affliction is a badge of adoption. Says Tertullian, “Affliction is God’s seal by which he marks us for his own.” When Munster, that holy man, lay sick, his friends asked him how he did? He pointed to his sores, saying, “these are the jewels with which God decks his children!” Shall not we then say, “Lord, there is kindness in the cross, you treat us as your children. The rod of discipline is to fit us for the inheritance. May your will be done.”

[3] In kindness God in all our afflictions, has left us a promise. So that in the most cloudy providence, the promise appears as the rainbow in the cloud. Then we have God’s promise to be with us. “I will be with him in trouble.” Psalm 91:15. It cannot be ill with that man with whom God is; I will be with him, to support, sanctify, and sweeten every affliction. I had rather be in prison and have God’s presence, than be in a palace without it.

We have the promise that he will not lay more upon us than he will enable us to bear. 1 Cor 10:13. He will not try us beyond our strength; either he will make the yoke lighter—or our faith stronger. Should not this make us submit our wills to his, when afflictions have so much kindness in them? In all our trials he has left us promises, which are like manna in the wilderness.

[4] It is great kindness that all troubles that befall us shall be for our profit. “God disciplines us for our profit.” Heb 12:10.

Don’t let mental sickness affect judgement of spiritual maturity

The state of godliness is not to be judged of by the fears and sorrows in which it usually begins. A man’s life is not like his infancy at his birth. The fears and penitent sorrows, which foolishly fleshly sinners fly from, do tend to everlasting peace and joy; and perfect love will cast out all tormenting fears, unless it be those of a timorous diseased temper which have more of sickness than of sin and will be laid aside with the body, which was their cause. A life of peace and joy on earth may succeed the tremblings of the newborn convert; but a life of full everlasting joy will certainly succeed the perseverance and victory of every believing holy soul.

–Richard Baxter, A Grief Sanctified

Also see:

Breaking News: Depression Doesn’t Always Have a Cause

Tangled Up in Blue: Depression and the Christian Life – Reformation21

Actually, this is very, very old news. If you’d rather not read the whole article, here is a quote from it on something that I’d like more people to realize, along with another comment below it:

Charles Spurgeon, who himself wrestled throughout his life with depression, described it well: “Causeless depression cannot be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness … The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” He had a category for causeless depression, depression that shows up through no fault of one’s own.

So did Martyn Lloyd Jones. He preached a series that later became a book on the topic, known to us as Spiritual Depression (Eerdmans, 1965). He warned Christians of the temptation to over-spiritualize conditions like depression, writing, “Many Christian people, in fact, are in utter ignorance concerning this realm where the borderlines between the physical, psychological and spiritual meet. Frequently I have found that such [church] leaders had treated those whose trouble was obviously mainly physical or psychological, in a purely spiritual manner; and if you do so, you not only don’t help. You aggravate the problem.”

It seems Martin Luther had a similar category too. Speaking of his own struggle with depression (and the use of medicine in his own day) he said, “When I was ill…the physicians made me take as much medicine as though I had been a great bull…I do not deny that medicine is a gift of God, nor do I refuse to acknowledge science in the skill of many physicians. But take the best of them, how far are they from perfection?…When I feel indisposed, by observing a strict diet and going to bed early, I generally manage to get round again, that is, if I can keep my mind tolerably at rest. I have no objection to the doctors acting upon certain theories, but, at the same time, they must not expect us to be the slaves to their fancies.” Luther had a category for depression that is mostly physical in cause and cure.

[...]

In other words, Christians with much less understanding of mental health than we have seemed to have a better grasp of it than we do.

–Sammy Rhodes, Tangled Up in Blue: Depression and the Christian Life

Even today many church leaders don’t trust what Lloyd-Jones and others had to say. He had such great insight and as far as I know, he didn’t even deal with chronic depression himself. I suppose along with God’s grace, being a formal medical doctor and an astute pastor was enough for him to develop a keen sense of these things.

After the news of Robin Williams, plenty of people who’ve never really been depressed have waxed… something, trying to explain exactly what happened and use the opportunity to promote their point of view and get hits on their blog, or retweets on their Tweeter, or be liked on their Facebook.

Also see:

Afflictions Under the Father’s Hand

Your afflictions may only prove that you are more immediately under the Father’s hand. There is no time that the patient is such an object of tender interest to the surgeon, as when he is bleeding beneath his knife. So you may be sure if you are suffering from the hand of a reconciled God, that His eye is all the more bent on you.

–Robert Murray McCheyne

HT: A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

The Olympics – Rambling

Rambling isn’t an Olympic sport. It’s just what I’m doing right now.

I’ve always loved watching the Olympics. It’s like the Super Bowl for two weeks. Things are different now. I know this may sound like whining to some, or attention seeking, or talking about how I’m special. I’m not special, although I may be whining. It’s difficult to watch because with chronic fatigue, it can be hard to see all of these people who are healthy and have great energy. I’m not jealous; I’m truly happy for them. I’ve always been a “body watcher” (I hope that doesn’t sound weird), being so into fitness, and for decades, weight training, and it’s nice to see so many fit people in one place.

Having chronic back pain, it’s difficult seeing figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, a Russian Olympic gold medal hopeful, who developed severe back pain, have an artificial disc put in-between two vertebrae and can now perform again. For me it was first a surgery to repair a herniated disc, which allowed me to stand up straight, but my pain kept increasing. Later came a fusion, which also didn’t work. Now a pain pump, which also doesn’t work as well as hoped (the goal is to relieve at least 50% of the pain).

However, since I started writing this post, you may have seen that his back completely gave out and he had to withdraw. I will write another post on the subject of loss, which is also hard to watch, along with Psalm 42.

Outside the Olympics, Peyton Manning kept having back surgeries (four) until they got it right. I had my one fusion, it didn’t work, and that’s it. I’m really glad Peyton Manning is able to keep on playing–better than ever. Career ending injuries are sad to see, especially right when they happen, like when Bo Jackson injured his hip. Who knows what he could have become, among so many others. Bo knows hurt.

Right now, I’m frustrated. I don’t know if frustrated is the right word. Angry sounds too strong. I can’t think of a better one. I’m reading through the Psalms, and David and other psalmists get a little miffed now and then too, wondering what’s going on. But they always go back to thanking and praising God for what He’ll do and for who He is. I’m finding in times like this, that takes discipline.

My wife has a book called 31 Days of Praise. When she had a couple of big trials, she decided to praise God continually. That got her through it. That took discipline. I admire her for that.

I feel like I’m just learning how to “set my mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1).” It’s a different kind of discipline than physical exercise or regular spiritual disciplines. I’ve always liked doing those things, so I don’t really need discipline to do them. Thanking and praising God when I’m just mad and really down takes discipline. We need to choose to do it. God compels us through his Spirit if we live by it, and rewards us, but we still need to strive. It’s a different type of spiritual exercise. I don’t like it.

One thing I can to be thankful for is that I’m able do a little bit of some specially tailored weight training again now and have been able to improve. I’m back on the couch afterwards, but I can do something. It’s easy to compare myself to others, which I shouldn’t be doing. I shouldn’t even compare myself to myself–what I used to be able to do. I just have to workout smart, and be glad for any progress. But when I see Olympic athletes doing all kinds of stuff, it makes it difficult not to compare and wish I could just be healthy mentally and physically.

Reading the Psalms has come at a good time. God is good. God is a great teacher. Athletes may have great specialists to help them with everything they could need for their sport, but we have the beyond perfect God, who lives in us permanently to take us through life beyond the grave. I’m learning how to state my displeasure–lament, and to confess the ways that I’m sinning in my attitude, and then praise him for who he is, and thank God for what he has done and is doing. Then I can ask Him to help me, most importantly to be conformed to Christ. I do pray for healing now and then, but after decades of dealing with some things, I pray for coping, and spiritual things that I know are in God’s will (Ephesians 3:16-21 for example–see Complete List of Paul's Prayers). I know that difficulties are supposed to help us to long for heaven–our home–but I don’t seem to lack in that area. I would like to experience more hope for heaven in the present.

In a previous post on preparing for suffering, I included a quote by C.S. Lewis about “engaging in mental/theological exercises” and having a sound view of God. Another thing we can do it to constantly thank and praise God. The more we are bent towards God by praising Him as we think about Him and pray, and the more we thank God for things he does in our lives, the more likely we are to do that when trials come along. Memorizing and reciting Colossians 1:11-12 (along with :9-20 for good measure) has been very helpful in smaller trials. “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” (NRSV) Being saved is of so much more importance than whatever is happening to us.

I have so much to be thankful for, and God is still showing me more ways to praise him. There is no lack when it comes to those things.

The LORD is my shepherd.
I am never in need.
Psalm 23:1 GW

Always be joyful.
Never stop praying.
Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 GW

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV

(Emphasis added)

Also see:
Tragic Worship | First Things by Carl R. Trueman

Resources for Suffering Here

I want to remind people of a blog I used to write called Suffering Christians, which you can see under Associate Blogs in the right column. Very uplifting title, huh? I kept the categories few and well organized, so that if you want Scripture, or prayers, or articles, you can click on a Category in the right column and get just those things.

At one point I decided to fold that blog into this one, since that had so few readers. There is a Category here creatively named Suffering. If I would have been thinking, I could have created sub-categories so that it would be like the old blog.

It’s a topic I write about often because of experiencing it. God has used it to bring me much closer to him. I wish it didn’t work that way, but I’m also glad we don’t just suffer for nothing.

How To Give Bad Advice To Suffering People

I wish that everyone that gives unsolicited advice to those who are suffering, especially chronically, would be required to first read Job and at least a short exposition of it. That would remove so much heartache from so many sufferers. They would see what well meaning but bad acting friends are. Most of all, they would see God’s rebuke of Job’s “friends”. I believe they really were friends, but as time went on, they acted less and less like friends, and more like self-righteous people who want to prove themselves right.

Here is an excellent quote from What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About:

Job also demonstrates the damage that can be done to others, especially to those who are suffering, when “comforters” or “counselors” presume to analyze a situation and then deliver dogmatic pronouncements about what God is doing and what his purposes involve. Job 28 shows that there are situations in life where human finitude makes it impossible to understand the works and ways of God and that the proper course in such situations is to fear God and turn from evil (Job 28:28; cf. Eccl. 12:13). After Eliphaz counseled Job to turn from his sin and to ask God for forgiveness, Job observed how unhelpful such directives were because he did not know anything to confess. In chapter 6, he observed that what a suffering person needs in such circumstances is kindness from his friend rather than theological advice and analysis which, in Job’s case, only intensified his pain. Job himself asserted those who lack such care have forsaken “the fear of the Almighty” (Job 6:14), and Yahweh later affirmed how his anger burned against the three whose words were filled with foolishness (42:7). The book of Job, therefore, clearly warns against the arrogance of assuming that our theological categories constitute a comprehensive statement about how God works.

–Edward M. Curtis

One thing I noticed in this post The Sad Christian, is that the commenters who had the least experience with depression, especially the chronic kind, were somehow the ones who gave the most advice. The ones who are going through the same thing are ones who don’t give advice. They tell him they [truly] know what he’s going through, or that they’ll pray for him, as opposed to the platitudes, advice that he already knew about ten years ago, advice he’s already heard 25 times, etc. Books are written on that, and I could write a lot more, but I’ll leave it at that. If you want to look at the comments, you can see what I mean.

One comment I like there is, “So the question becomes how our faith helps us endure depression rather [than] how our faith stops us from being depressed.” He’s commenting on how the author of the post, who’s tried nearly everything, still has bouts of deep depression. Some people don’t believe this can happen to a solid Christian, but believe me, it does, as do all kinds of illnesses.

Most people really do care and really do mean well. But they should know better. And if you’re one of those people, now you do.

Also see:
What IS the Book of Job About? | Scripture Zealot blog
What Not to Say to Those Who are Suffering | CCEF

Not Everyone Recovers From Suffering

Sometimes there is no visible silver lining, no redeeming value in sight. Sometimes those who endure difficulty feel that nothing is left but an empty shell. Some people never recover physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is not guaranteed that we will emerge on the other side of pain strengthened by the experience. It would be naive to suggest that suffering universally results in growth. S. Cairns suggests a more nuanced perspective as he elaborates on Simone Weil’s observation that “affliction compels us to recognize as real what we do not think possible.” He observes:

The occasions of our suffering are capable of revealing what our habitual illusions often obscure, keeping us from knowing. Our afflictions drag us — more or less kicking — into a fresh and vivid awareness that we are not in control of our circumstances, that we are not quite whole, that our days are salted with affliction.

I dare to suggest, however, that when we undergo trials, the biblical way to pray is for strength to carry on and acquit ourselves well. We should seek to honor God when life is at its lowest. We should strive to trust him even when hope is gone.

–John Walton, Job (The NIV Application Commentary)

These are things we need to pray for people who are suffering. I’ve said it before–if we only pray for healing, we are probably doing the sufferer a great disservice. Which is more important, temporal healing, which may or may not happen, or, if they are a believer, things that are Scripturally in God’s will and are a part of eternal things? (Both would be great.)

Many times in the Western world, we don’t see those suffering. Usually, the worse the suffering, the less likely we are to see them. So we go on thinking that as life goes on we make more money, really bad things shouldn’t happen to believers, otherwise they don’t have enough faith or somebody hasn’t laid hands on them yet, and it’s always darkest before the dawn. Not to sound morbid, but it can always get darker.

Some insist on going out in “faith”, testing God, and guessing His will, without praying for anything else. Praying is not gambling with God’s will. Certainly pray for the temporal situation and people’s physical needs. Pray for whatever bad is happening to stop. But pray for things that are definitely God’s will as what’s found in Scripture, and you will be participating as a slave of Christ in shaping that person’s or people’s lives. Use Paul’s prayers if you would like help in that regard.

Comfort for Suffering Saints by Jerome Zanchius

This is on the web in a few different places. You can read it and download it as a PDF file at box. This blog has the advantage of the roll-overable Scripture references, which were expanded, hopefully working on most computing devices. There is also a link to a short biography of the author. This is based on a Calvinist view of predestination–just as a warning for the more sensitive readers. I hope it benefits you as much as it does me.

COMFORT FOR SUFFERING SAINTS

How the sovereignty of God is a comfort to Christians, acting to remove rather than add to anxiety!

by Jerome Zanchius (1516-1590)

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Romans 8:28-29

Without a due sense of predestination, we shall want the surest and the most powerful inducement to patience, resignation, and dependence on God, under every spiritual and temporal affliction. How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer!

  • There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise and infinitely gracious God (Hebrews 11:6).
  • He has given me in times past, and is giving me at present (if I had but eyes to see it), many signal intimations of His love to me, both in a way of providence and grace (Ephesians 1:1-23).
  • This love of His is immutable; He never repents of it nor withdraws it (Philippians 1:6).
  • Whatever comes to pass in time is the result of His will from everlasting (1 Corinthians 8:6), consequently—
  • My afflictions were a part of His original plan, and are all ordered in number, weight, and measure (Psalm 22:24).
  • The very hairs of my head are (every one) counted by Him; nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His determination (Luke 12:7). Hence—
  • My distresses are not the result of chance, accident, or a fortuitous combination of circumstances (Psalm 56:8), but—
  • The providential accomplishment of God’s purpose (Romans 8:28), and—
  • Designed to answer some wise and gracious ends (James 5:10-11), nor—
  • Shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees meet (2 Corinthians 7:6-7).
  • He who brought me to it has promised to support me under it and to carry me through it (Psalm 34:15-17).
  • All shall, most assuredly, work together for His glory and my good, therefore—
  • “The cup which my heavenly Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).

Yes, I will, in the strength He imparts, even rejoice in tribulation; and using the means of possible redress, which He hath or may hereafter put into my hands, I will commit myself and the event to Him, whose purpose cannot be overthrown, whose plan cannot be disconcerted, and who, whether I am resigned or not, will still go on to work all things after the counsel of His own will (Romans 5:3-6; Psalm 33:11-12; Ephesians 1:11).

Above all, when the suffering Christian takes his election into the account, and knows that he was by an eternal and immutable act of God appointed to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ; that, of course, he hath a city prepared for him above, a building of God, a house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens; and that the heaviest sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in the saints, what adversity can possibly befall us which the assured hope of blessings like these will not infinitely overbalance? (Proverbs 8:35; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Romans 8:18; Romans 8:33-37.)
“A comfort so divine, May trials well endure.”

However keenly afflictions might wound us on their first access, yet, under the impression of such animating views, we should quickly come to ourselves again, and the arrows of tribulation, would, in great measure lose their sharpness.

Christians want nothing but absolute resignation to render them perfectly happy in every possible circumstance; and absolute resignation can only flow from an absolute belief of, and an absolute acquiescence in, God’s absolute providence, founded on absolute predestination (1 Thessalonians 1:2-4).

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

This new book by Timothy Keller looks like it may be very good. Find all kinds of resources on it at Westminster Bookstore.

Amazon has it in hardcover and Kindle formats.

book-Walking-With-God

By the way, Westminster Books has one of my favorite books on suffering, Be Still My Soul, for 50% off the cover price at $6.50 for a week. This is more than $2 less than Amazon.

book be still my soul

Affiliate links

Around the Web: Suffering

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God: A New Teaching Series from R.C. Sproul Jr. | Ligonier Ministries Blog – Watch the first lesson for free

Let’s Talk About Mental Illness by Stephen Altrogge – Not another post about mental illness! But this one is short and very good. It’s very descriptive. I especially like this, which I can relate to:

But, because our bodies do not function correctly, a guy could be feeling anxious for no reason at all. I have experienced this all too often. Adrenaline courses through my body. My heart races. I have shortness of breath. I can’t sit still. My body is in fight or flight mode. And I’m Not. Worried. About. A. Single. Thing. Changing my thinking won’t change my feelings.

Some will say, “You need to get counseling to get to ‘the root of the problem.'” After decades of trying, I’ve yet to get to the root of the problem, and this is just how life is sometimes. We can’t always know everything. One thing I’ve noticed is the advice givers give less and less advice the more they know either by living with someone who deals with these things for a long time, or eventually deal with it themselves, God forbid. They realize the sufferer has already been given all of the advice and tried everything they could. If they know them well, and see there’s something they might need to try, then they might want to bring it up. I will write a post on that.

I'm Healed by Becky Lynn Black

Spurgeon on Depression

I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God’s people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night.

–C.H. Spurgeon

I don’t mean to murmur, but it doesn’t seem that this is the prevailing attitude nowadays.

I was going to leave it at that, but I remember what I also found earlier today on David Black’s blog. It’s a quote by Terry Waite, but I want to include Prof. Black’s commentary.

Whenever I discuss the Greek word apostolos with my students, I always ask them to translate the word, not just transliterate it as “apostle.” Students usually suggest “personal representative,” “messenger,” or “ambassador.” I tell them that my personal favorite is “envoy,” and I usually mention the name Terry Waite as an example. If you recall, Waite was the British hostage released in 1991 after five years of solitary confinement in Lebanon. Waite was not held captive simply because he was a British citizen, however. Terry Waite was serving as the Envoy of the Church of England at the time, a high and honorable position. As an apostolos, he represented in his person the power, prestige, and authority of the entire Anglican Church.

But there’s another side to this story. In addition to being an envoy, Waite was a remarkable Christian theologian. When asked how he had survived all those years of solitary confinement, he said:

I have been determined in captivity, and still am determined, to convert this experience into something that will be useful and good for other people. I think that’s the way to approach suffering. It seems to me that Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it, and eventually to convert it.

Wow. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. I wonder how many Christians, besides me, need to learn this lesson? Today Becky has had excruciating pain. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. Her body is gradually weakening. Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. I want you to pause right now and ask yourself whether your Christianity is anything like Terry Waite’s. Fortitude is integral to Christian living. I say this as perhaps the softest man who has ever walked this earth, a pampered American free of poverty and, for the most part, pain. My task is to avoid suffering at all costs. Convert suffering into good? How impossible that sounds! But for the Christian, only scars produce lasting sanctity. I know this intellectually, but I want to run and scream whenever I face problems. Leveraging suffering for good — this is actually something I know very little of, but I want to learn how to do it.

Quote of the Day: Pamper the Body and Starve the Soul

Generally speaking, the soul and body fare inversely. When the body is pampered with every luxury, the soul starves. The soul thrives best when the body cries out. Probably we all have to choose, not once or twice, in life, whether we will have the full satisfaction of our appetites, and lean souls; or be lean as to our circumstances, while the spirit is keen, alert, and full of vigorous life.

–F.B. Meyer

I think the US, and probably the West, has suffered spiritually because we have been so “blessed” materially.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

But the rich should take pride in their humiliation–since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:10-12

Around the Web

I realize that many think that more formal (or literal) translations are better. Of course, books have been written on that, but this just deals with form and grammar. To me copying the grammar of the original languages and trying to squeeze it into English, except for when they don’t, makes for some awkward reading for some of us. I prefer English as opposed to Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic English. Half of you who are into translations will disagree with this. I felt ‘literal is better’ when I read the NRSV for three years–a great translation–so I understand (in a non-expert way) where everyone is coming from.
Top Translation Traps: Slavery to Form « God Didn’t Say That

“For this month’s column, I thought I would offer a few reflections on Andy Stanley’s recent book, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend. Here’s a classic passage which represents in miniature an entire universe of erroneous thinking.”
–Carl Trueman
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie – Reformation21

As long as we’re getting critical, if you are an author or a pastor, don’t do this.
An Unhealthy Focus in Much Christian Literature | Borrowed Light
I’ve read how I’m supposed to have a problem with prayer and a few other things, when I don’t. It’s very condescending.

Everytime I read the Old Testament, I appreciate it more, even if I’m more disturbed by it. Some good stuff on this page if you’re interested. A quote if you don’t have time.
Old Testament | Miscellanies.

[Jesus] regarded the whole Old Testament movement as a divinely directed and inspired movement, as having arrived at its goal in himself, so that he himself in his historic appearance and work being taken away, the Old Testament would lose its purpose and significance. This none other could say. He was the confirmation and consummation of the Old Testament in his own person, and this yielded the one substratum of his interpretation of himself in the world of religion.

–Geerhardus Vos—Biblical Theology

I know you’ve been bombarded with articles on mental health. Here are just a few more with the last one being an infographic on schizophrenia, one of the most misunderstood disorders and misused terms.

Lessons Learned from the Dark Valley of Depression | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

A Biblical Counseling Perspective on Mental Illness | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

HT: David Murray | HeadHeartHand Blog

Click for a larger one:
Schizophrenia: The Broken Mind

You better be joyful, or else…

Based on the biblical teaching, I would go so far as to say that it is the Christian’s duty, his moral obligation, to be joyful. That means that the failure of a Christian to be joyful is a sin, that unhappiness and a lack of joy are, in a certain way, manifestations of the flesh.

–R.C. Sproul, Can I Have Joy in My Life?

First off, I like R.C. Sproul and think he’s a great teacher.

But I think this can lead to being judged in a bad way. For those who deal with chronic depression, it may be near impossible, while still being a genuine Christian who is working out their salvation. I deal with that, and am able to feel joy, but you may not see it. Will people judge me because of this? There are also periods in one’s life when they don’t feel joy. Hopefully they will have the hope that they will have joy, as the Psalmists did, but even hope can be hard to come by at times.

I don’t have the book, so I don’t know if there’s context that would change what it sounds like as it is. But the quote is out there.

I would balance this with some quotes from Good News for Anxious Christians by Philip Cary, which I do have. Forgive me for any typos, and let me know.

The terrible vulnerability of our feelings is particularly evident in the psychological affliction we call depression, who’s victims are unable to feel joy or any strong emotion. [I wouldn't call myself a victim.]

The idea that Christians are supposed to have a deep inner joy all the time is a terribly cruel notion. The idea itself is what’s cruel: it turns the people who wish to comfort the afflicted [better term] into tormentors. They want to help their suffering friends get the joy back, but in the process, they insist that their friends accept the underlying idea that it’s not normal for Christian life to experience deep suffering of the heart. So in addition to their suffering, their friends are wounded by the suggestion that their affliction is due to some failure in their Christian life–as if there’s something wrong with Christians who have a cross to bear.

[T]he promises of Christ can be turned into slogans, so that instead of promising that suffering shall come to an end–as the Cross of Christ leads to resurrection–the message is that suffering is unacceptable. [That's what the afflicted may perceive.] What also happens is that Biblical exhortations such as the apostle’s words, “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil 4:4) are turned into a kind of a command, even a kind of condemnation. Instead of inviting us to joy, they demand that we be joyful, or else.

Coincidentally, I came up with the subject line for this post before I typed out the quote.

In the book I wrote this: “For people who say this [you must always be joyful]: are they also never anxious (Philippians 4:6) or praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) as Paul also ‘invites’ us to do? Take out the plank.” And while you’re at it, don’t ever be anxious. It’s a command.

I realize this is a tough issue, and I think both of these authors aren’t as dogmatic as they sound.

I believe that we can always be joyful in what Jesus has done for us on the Cross, as I’ve written about in the past. (That post is important for how I feel about experiencing joy.) When there is deep suffering though, especially if it’s chronic, even this can be very difficult. Also, as I alluded to above, some of us have what’s call a “low affect” where we don’t show much emotion, even though we may feel it (and can sometimes lead to it spilling out, which can be embarrassing). I’ve had people try to get me to smile–“Oh come on, you can smile [dumb joke here]“, and I just don’t feel like it. I’m not a puppet who is going to make someone feel better because they don’t like the idea that someone can be afflicted in that way. It scares them. Or they just want me to feel better because they care, but don’t understand. I suppose the former what is a little cynical.

D. Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book Spiritual Depression (which I read as a library book, so I’m paraphrasing), wrote that part of the reason non-Christians aren’t as attracted to Christianity as they could be is because they don’t see joy in them. I think he wrote something about there being an epidemic of glum Christians. But he also acknowledged that there are those who experience chronic depression for a variety of reasons. He was only addressing the truly spiritual aspect of it, if that can even be divided from other factors. He was way ahead of his time (and the Puritans even more so, by hundreds of years), and I think he had the right balance.

This post is at about most people’s attention span, including mine, so I better end it here. I just wanted to hopefully give some perspective and balance to this very difficult subject. Let’s be careful out there, whatever your spiritual, emotional and physical health may be.