Summary: Keeping our Faith in the face of emotional turmoil
When I hear the words of the scriptures in today’s passages, I am reminded of the deep feelings of grief and sorrow that Job and David experienced. Job, the perfect man, as the Bible says, was feeling abandoned by God. David felt as if God had forsaken him, and felt as if God would not answer him. Have you ever felt like that?
Abraham Lincoln, who I would call our greatest president, lived his whole life with those types of feelings – in dark depression. “Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th-century English preacher, talked openly in his lectures to students about his dark moods that he called "his fainting fits." Winston Churchill spoke frequently about being plagued by the "black dog," his code word for depression. Franz Kafka talked about his dark moods,… and Van Gogh, the artist, cut off his ear in a fit of depression. So if you sometimes find yourself being pursued by the "black dog" or caught in an emotional fog, welcome to the human race!”
Even a man by the name of Charles Spurgeon, from whom I will quote later in this sermon, was given to periods of depression. History tells us that there were times when Spurgeon would be so depressed that he would refuse to leave his home to go to church. On more than one occasion, his deacons had to come and physically carry their pastor to the pulpit.
Stephen Foster, in his song we know as “Swanee River” wrote these words:
“All round de little farm I wandered when I was young,
Den many happy days I squandered,
Many de songs I sung.
When I was playing wid my brudder happy was I.
Oh! take me to my kind old mudder, Dere let me live and die.
Chorus: All de world am sad and dreary,
Ebry where I roam,
Oh! darkeys how my heart grows weary,
Far from de old folks at home.”
What a dreary song! Yet those same feelings of abandonment, loneliness, despair and grief are common both to believers and unbelievers. And while some may avoid scripture passages such as we read today, in these same passages I find great hope and comfort.
1. For while some flee from God in times of depression, here in these scriptures I see men who, while expressing their emotions in vivid honesty, still knew that God was sovereign. They didn’t let their emotions overrule their knowledge of who God was, and what he had done for them. They continued to trust him in spite of their feelings. They continued to serve him, worship him in fact, with their whole beings. They continued to have faith in God.
“The Psalmist reminds us just how much God prefers heartfelt authenticity to superficial religiosity. The Scriptures encourage us not to suppress or candy coat our feelings of abandonment. They do not discourage our cries of dereliction, our sense of divine desertion, but in fact give them voice.”
“…from [the book of Job] the modern Christian may with astonishment learn Christianity; learn, that is, that mystery of suffering may be a strange honor and not a vulgar punishment....”
Yes, faith and trust in God takes you to a place that you cannot control. It is scary and sometimes looks foolish. But until you go there to that place you can’t experience fully what God has for you. Pain and suffering brings the knowledge & experience of God. And faith then brings us to the point where we see God in the situation and continue to trust him for the Sovereign God he is.
Mother Theresa once said, “You will never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
2. And I see people who were willing to accept the hand of God in their tragedies, to accept God on his own terms, and to accept his timing.
You see, when we look for God on our own terms it often seems as if he absent. The reality is he is never absent, but it can sure seem that way. And these writers of the scriptures knew deep down that God was not really gone. They acknowledged God at work in their lives, in the good and the bad, and it did not destroy their faith. As one pastor said, “God is always giving grace as yes and no all wrapped up together.”
That is a difficult place for most of us to be. It is the naked acknowledgement of mystery. And our world seems to have not much room for mystery. But I have to agree with the writer who said, “The more that we are comfortable with mystery the more we understand in this world; and the more comfortable we are with mystery in our journey, the more rest we will get along the way”