Summary: Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is hold-on.
Title: Holding On
Text: Psalm 42 and 43
Having just heard the text you know doubt caught the gist of the Psalmist’s state of mind. If he was not depressed, he was most certainly discouraged and despondent about the circumstances of his life and the effect the change in circumstances has had on his spiritual and emotional life.
We have all called the number of an office or business only to have an automated voice give us a menu from which to select to whom we wish to speak. I recently (not really) called a Psychiatric Hotline and was give the following menu:
Welcome to the Psychiatric Hotline.
• If you are obsessive compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.
• If you are co-dependent, please ask someone else to press 2.
• If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5, and 6.
• If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want.
• If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.
• If you are depressed, it doesn’t matter which number you press. No one will answer.
The author of the Psalm we have just read was depressed and he had zero sense of God’s presence and activity in his life. As we make our way through Psalms 42 and 43 I think you will see that he was “holding-on” for dear life.
Thesis: Sometimes in the ebb and flow of our emotions, the most spiritual thing we can do is hold-on.
It is a text that speaks to the dryness and the depths of despair we may experience during times of depression… but it also speaks to a down-deep determination to get through it when it happens to us.
There is a story of a mother who was distressed about her son’s resistance to going to church. She said, “You go to the movies and have fun. You go out with your friends and have fun. You text, twitter and e-mail and have fun. You go over to your friends’ houses and they come here and you have fun. Why is it that you can’t go to church for just one hour each week?” After a thoughtful moment the young man said, “Mom, what would you think if you were invited to somebody’s house and every time you went, the guy was never there?”
There have been a few times in my life when I could identify with what that young man was feeling. Sometimes, when you least expect it and can least afford to feel that way, it feels like God has gone missing.
In 1952 Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, wrote a little booklet called The Four Spiritual Laws. The first law was, “God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life.” The hope of forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ was the Good News.
In the 4 Spiritual Laws booklet there was a memorable illustration of a train that was by design to be helpful in keeping the elements of our faith in perspective. Granted, modern day trains do not have cabooses… rather they may be pulled for several locomotives and pushed by several more in the place where the caboose once trailed along. But use you imaginations and remember the old-time trains… the trains that had an engine, a coal car and a caboose.
1. First there was the Engine : The engine represents the facts about God and God’s Word. The engine tells us that God has promised us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. I John 5:11-13
2. Next the coal car: The Coal Car represents our trust in God and God’s Word. The bible says that God has given us eternal life in Christ and if we have Christ in our lives we know we have eternal life. So essentially we live by faith in the facts about God and God’s Word.
3. And finally, the Caboose brings up the rear: The caboose represents our feelings or emotions in regard to faith and facts. On a good day our feelings represent the results of that trust. However, we have to remember that feelings or emotions are exactly that… feelings or emotions. A Christian life lived on the basis of emotions or feelings will not go far. Not train is ever pulled by a caboose.
The problem is many people think the train isn’t really a train unless there are Facts, Faith and Spiritual Goose Bumps. In essence they attempt to fuel their faith with feelings. And the real tragedy is that if they do not have spiritual goose bumps they lose their faith in the promises of God and God’s Word, i.e., I do not feel, therefore my faith is not legitimate and God is absent and/or non-existent.