A very long time ago, there was a Midwestern lawyer who was in such deep depression that his worried friends thought wisely to remove all knives, razors and dangerous objects from his vicinity. During that time, he wrote the following words in his diary:
“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.”
Possibly, this Midwestern lawyer might have lived with depression throughout his life but that did not stop him becoming one of the finest president ever known to the United States of America. His name, Abraham Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln was a man who was not spared of much sorrow throughout his life. At a young age, He lost his mother, and his father moved away leaving him. He had to work hard splitting logs and taking on other manual labour. His hunger for knowledge spurred him to work even harder to excel in his studies, and this led him to become a self-trained lawyer. His relationship with his first partner was cut short after she passed away.
Abraham Lincoln personally believed in an all-powerful God, but he apparently never made a clear profession to Christian belief. Nevertheless, after experiencing the tragedy of losing a child, he only found much-needed solace by drawing closer to God. Abraham Lincoln was remarkably fond of children but tragically 3 of his own died at a young age. On the day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, he reportedly told his wife about his desire to visit the Holy Land.
“Life carries with it more pain than pleasure for many of God’s children. The most bitter tears are those shed inwardly or alone when no one else sees the agony of our spirits.”
If we take a moment to look to history itself to some of the people that made much impact for God from the Wesley family, Saint Patrick, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Johann Sebastian Bach, William Penn, John Calvin, John Newton, William Cowper, Philip Bliss, Horatio Spafford, George Matheson, Joseph M. Scriven, C.S Lewis and so forth… They all had to endure many trials, but God carried them through until the work on earth was done. God does not use people who have never learnt perseverance, nor does He use people who have never learnt to lean on Him and Him alone.
- Ask Abraham and he would tell you about the sacrifice in Mount Moriah
- Ask Jacob and he would tell you how he laid his head on a pillar of stone
- Ask Joseph and he would tell you about the Egyptian dungeon
- Ask Moses and he would tell you about the wilderness and his dealings with Pharaoh.
- Ask Jonah and he would tell you about the time he spent in the belly of the whale.
- Ask David and he would tell you exactly what it is like to be hunted by Saul
- Ask Job and he would tell you how God can give you a song in the night when you have nothing to sing about.
- Ask Daniel and he would tell you about the time he spent in the den of lions.
- Ask Paul and he would tell you about his shipwreck experience, hanging on a spar in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is only when you and I are broken, that God can put us together again in a far greater way. When God heals a broken heart, He doesn’t just patch it up, He makes it stronger than it was before. Brokenness is the only way that you will understand the heart of God. Through brokenness, you will comprehend the nature of sin and phantom the strength of God’s love. God uses our brokenness, not only to bless us but to bless others, even for generations to come.
“For it was only when the Lord Jesus Christ allowed His body to be broken with thorns and nails and spear that redemption poured forth like crystal stream from which sinners could drink and live eternally.” – Dr. Michael Youssef.
There is one thing that you must never do in times of fear, brokenness, depression, uncertainty, and discouragement and that is to isolate yourself by cutting yourself out of Christian fellowship. God provided the great Apostle Paul with a Godly couple to be his friends and companion. Aquila and Priscilla were God’s gift to Paul’s burden of responsibility and formidable task, they were a provision of fellowship, encouragement, and love to his faithful servant, the great apostle Paul.
Nevertheless, the people God raises up as leaders must be willing to endure the suffering of solitude. On the contrary, solitude helps us appreciate people more. While we may come to Christ as individuals, we do not remain solitary salvation pilgrims or individual lone ranger Christians. Being a Christian is not an individual journey; it is a group effort lived in community.
In solitude, our heart of stone can be turned into a heart of flesh, rebellious heart into a contrite heart, and a closed heart into a heart that opens itself to all suffering people in a gesture of solidarity. This type of solitude is not a state of loneliness but of aloneness with God alone. “Talents are best nurtured in solitude, but character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Martin Luther, the great reformer was known to be prone to discouragement. He apparently became really discouraged and started to fall into the depth of despair when his friends turned on him during a period of time when he was battling both the emperor and the pope. In his despair, he sought the Lord, and eventually found much encouragement in the cool of the evening when he went for a walk and looked up. He later penned down the following words in a letter:
“I have looked up in the night sky spangled and structured with stars and found no pillar to hold them up, yet they did not fall…”
Joni Eareckson Tada once said, “Suffering presses you up against God.” This is coming from someone who understands physical pain every single day of life. Pain is no evil, unless it conquers us. French painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was asked why he persisted in painting when the arthritis pain in his hands and shoulder were unbearable, he replied saying, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.” Whatever crises you may face, it will pass away, but what would remain is your reaction to that crises.
The way you perceive God will have a direct impact on your attitude toward your circumstances. The only place to go in the hour of desperation is the throne of Grace. The great Apostle Paul said, “Let your moderation be known to men, and your needs be known to God.” The only solace right in the middle of our storm is God.
How you react in the midst of your storm is the most important thing in your Christian work. I read the other day about how different birds react to rainstorms. Apparently, the duck is actually indifferent to rainstorm and totally oblivious to it. The chicken, on the other hand, is a miserable creature in the middle of a storm. But the robin sings, saving its sweetest note to the most raging part of the storm. So the questions is – are you a duck, chicken or robin?
During the 19th century, one of my favourite songs, “I have decided to follow Jesus” was written in India, and the man who wrote it lived and died as a martyr along with his family in a Pagan village within the district and province of Assam. As a direct result of the great revival in Wales and England spreading out to the rest of the world through missionaries, this man and his family were the first convert believers in the whole of the pagan village.
When the village chief had that this man was worshipping Jesus and no other gods, he came to him and demanded he renounces his new-found faith or face execution with the whole of his family. Knowing full well the consequence of his choice, the man responded by saying, “I have decided to follow Jesus”
Right before his very eyes, his family was executed before he himself was, and right in the middle of it all, God gave him a song which he sang out with the following words, “The cross before me, the world behind me, though none go with me, still I will follow, no turning back, no turning back.”
After the man himself was killed, the village chief came under severe conviction and this led him to also become a believer in Christ Jesus. His family also turned to believe in Jesus, along with other villagers who since then gathered on a nightly basis to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”
God will always give a song of praise to a surrendered life of supplication, sold out to Jesus in prayer, because God’s song is a power to the powerless, strength to the weak, joy to the joyless, healing to the soul, victory to the defeated and a sacrifice unto the Lord. There is power in praising the name of the Lord but there is even far greater power being able to praise the name of Jesus right in the midst of your pain and confusing circumstances. Let me suggest ten reasons for having joy all the time, regardless of how painful your circumstances may be:
- You can rejoice always in God’s righteous character.
- You can rejoice always in God’s redeeming love.
- You can rejoice always in the Holy Spirit’s comforting ministry to you.
- You can rejoice always in the gifts and the blessings of the Holy Spirit.
- You can rejoice always in God’s promise to work all things together for good.
- You can rejoice always in the anticipation of your coming reward in heaven.
- You can rejoice always in the prayers God has answered in the past.
- You can rejoice always in the gift of God’s Word.
- You can rejoice always in God’s ever-present fellowship with you.
- You can rejoice always because God will be glorified even through your difficult circumstances.
“The only way to keep a broken vessel full is to keep it always under the tap”
– Billy Sunday.