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Desperation moves people to seek God. Where do you go when you’re hurting from the inevitable trials of life? You may suffer rejection from an adulterous spouse, death eventually comes uninvited to you as loved ones die, sickness, pain, and fatigue can become your constant companions, others can belittle and demean you, or laugh at you when you’re crying on the inside. All that can make you feel like quitting on life and God. However, the Christian is commanded to see his trials as opportunities for spiritual growth. Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4).
When David was hunted down like an animal by King Saul or his son Absalom stole his throne, David wrote Psalm 42 that has been a comfort to millions of people throughout the centuries. When you’re feeling desperate, this word of God is like an oasis in the desert of despair. He wrote: As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? (Ps. 42:1-2). Do you picture a deer drinking from a clear bubbling spring, lapping refreshing water? This yearning of David’s soul reveals nothing but a poisonous feeling that depressed him. He is feeling more like a deer who has run full speed to escape a pack of hungry wild dogs. Like the deer that is dehydrated, emaciated, and desperate for water, David came the end of his rope.
As believers saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, we too can feel desperate when prayers go unanswered, when worship sees dry and unmoving, and when trials of various kinds enter our lives. You can feel as if you’re in a spiritual desert where your thirst to feel God’s presence is unquenched. David described his feeling of desperation like this: “Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, ‘Where is this God of yours?’”(Ps. 42:3). What’s the answer to this kind of emptiness that so many people experience through the unexpected, shocking, terrifying events of life?
Clinging to God’s promises replaces desperation with hope. My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration! (Psalm 42:4). Without doubt, true Christians can say that they’ve had past experiences in which the Holy Spirit has moved them to tears, to joy, to conviction, to service, to love, to worship, to peace to hope. In the midst of David’s despairing cries for God, David remembers the times when the Holy Spirit moved him in all those ways. Even in his sorrow, he vividly sees himself worshipping in the house of God with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among cheerful believers.
When you or I can no longer sit in a church pew with our brothers and sisters in Christ, our remembrance of what we did there, the people who walked through life with us there, the strength, guidance, and spiritual power that came to us there, the sorrows and joys we shared there will give us the sure knowledge that God is with us in our desperate times. David remembers and says, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God” (Ps. 42:5). Will you remember how you celebrated God there? There’s a certainty through remembrance of God’s presence with us when our emotions are broken by life’s tragic experiences. What do we learn in desperate times? We learn to remember that God has not deserted us and is always with us in life and in death. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deut. 31:8).
Can you know God is with you in your pain? Yes. Can you know God is with you in your loneliness? Yes. Can you know God is with you in discouragement and depression? Absolutely. His presence with you gives you reason to praise your Savior and your God because you are never alone. The reality of God comes to those who learn to wait upon the Lord especially when life is hard. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Is. 40: 31).
Your hope in these desperate times comes from looking for the good God has shown you and doing the good God has called you to do. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you (Phil. 4:8-9).
Have you noticed when you dwell on something negative, it grows and dominates your thinking. Somehow you forget what you have to be thankful for. Once negative thinking starts through unforgiveness, bitterness, rejection, or envy, it can consume you. It’s like a spiritual cancer that opens the door for Satan to take control. Look up, my friend your redemption draws near. Your cure for spiritual depression is to turn to God, praise him for his mercy, and realize that your purpose for being here is to live to glorify God.
David ends Psalm 42 with this sermonette to himself. You need to preach words like these to yourself whenever you feel discouraged: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God!” (Ps. 42: 11)
Where is your God? He is here to give you salvation for your sins. Have you accepted Him? He has open arms for those who humbly open their hearts to receive Him as Savior and Lord. But to all who believed in him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1: 12).
Are you being tossed about by hurricane force storm in your life? Don’t give up! Hold on! Remember Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1-3).
Douglas Stull is the pastor of the Shepherd of the Valley United Brethren in Christ Church.
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