Depression: What it is and How to Fight Back

This is part 4 of the series “Invisible Illnesses.” To read the previous post, click here

depression post

The problem of depression and the Christian is complex. As with PTSD, we need to educate ourselves before rushing to errant judgement.

Depression can be split into two categories (although they frequently often overlap): there is depression caused by physical/chemical triggers and there is depression as a state of the mind. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction. Continue reading

Overcome or Overcomer?

alone

“Its only Monday, and the world is already falling apart.”

She raked slender fingers through her long hair, willing the movement to ease her tensed nerves. Her heart seemed to gravitate towards the floor. Why couldn’t something go right for a change? No matter what she did, it all seemed to unravel in the end.

As the minutes ticked by, the room grew darker until she realized her own hands were barely visible. The encroaching darkness brought relief, but only for a moment. Tomorrow she would have to face the catastrophe reverberating from today’s events.

Seized with sorrow, she sank to her knees and wept.

Plagued with doubt. Overwhelmingly defeated. Dogged by despair.

She lifted her hands to pray, her words only audible to the One who could hear the desperate cry flowing from a burdened heart.

“Why, Lord?” she gasped through tears, “Why?”

As the tears rolled down, words crept into her mind—words she had read several days ago: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”

Words from the Bible. Words that Paul—who suffered multiple losses and countless disappointments—had written to fellow Christians. Words she needed at this dark hour. Peace and comfort soothed her aching heart like a warm compress. Though the pain lingered and the problems persisted, relief came. God had not abandoned her. He was present with her in the gathering gloom.

These moments of doubt, defeat, and despair visit every person at some time in their lives. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you live, or how righteous you are. For many, the three D’s lead to the destruction of faith and/or life.

You may think the righteous of times past never struggled with the three D’s, but they did:

Moses

“I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers‬ ‭11:14-15‬)

David

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭13:1-2‬)

Elijah

“I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings‬ ‭19:10‬)

Jeremiah

“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.”
‭‭(Lamentations‬ ‭3:17-20‬)

Jesus’ disciples

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened…” (Luke 24.21)

These examples merely scratch the surface. All who have served God faithfully have been tested and tried in this way. What we see in the scriptures is the enduring mercy of the Lord. He does not abandon us in the pit of despair, but always shines through in the darkness to those who cry out to Him in Faith.

He replaces doubt with trust, despair with hope, and defeat with victory. We are more than conquerors through Christ.

If we read further through each of the above passages, we see the dispelling of the three D’s:

Moses

[God speaking to Moses] “And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” ‭(Numbers‬ ‭11:17‬)

David

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” ‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭13:5-6‬)

Elijah

[God speaking to Elijah] “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings‬ ‭19:18‬)

Jeremiah

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations‬ ‭3:21-24‬)

Jesus’ disciples

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road…” (Luke 24.32-35)

The afflictions of doubt, defeat, and despair are ones we all must endure. What defines us in these moments is not our own strength, but upon whom we lean for strength. When we reach out to God, He will not push us away.

When there is doubt, he will bring certainty.

When we feel despair, he will supply hope.

When we suffer defeat, he will transform it to victory.

As you read the word each day, make note of how God demonstrated his steadfast love toward those who served Him in times past. To download a free PDF worksheet to use for your own encouragement, click here.

So we do not lose heart. 

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~ 2 Corinthians 4.16-18

Don’t forget to download this free printable for your personal study!

The Overlooked Truth About Depression and Faith.

depression post

Did I just hear that correctly?

Yes. I did.

It was the phrase, “Christians shouldn’t ever be depressed.”

Ouch.

I sat gloomily, feeling the weight of the statement and sinking deeper into the pit that was my depression.

I chewed on that statement for weeks, wondering if I wasn’t right with God. I debated in my own mind about whether my depression was sin, trying to decide if I had allowed my weakness to conquer me.

The problem of depression and the Christian is complex, and I address it in this post because I am confident there are many who have asked themselves the same question.

I have yet to find a verse in the Bible that reads, “Thou shalt not be depressed.” There is an abundance of verses that tell us to rejoice always and to count it joy when we are persecuted or fall into trial.

Then, there is the book of Psalms, the book of Lamentations, the book of Job, the book of Ecclesiastes, the verses about being grieved by various trials, the verses about weeping enduring for a night and joy coming in the morning, verses that tell us to be firm and endure, and verses about going to the Lord for refuge.

I pray that what I write here is helpful to anyone battling this problem.

Depression can be split into two categories (although they often overlap and work together): there is depression caused by physical/chemical triggers and there is depression as a state of the mind. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction.

1) The physical causes of depression.

Depression is categorized as a mental illness along with PTSD, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Mental processes are impalpable. Because we don’t see our mind working and processing (like a computer) there is a tendency to forget that a great deal of this intangible process comes from the tangible part of our body called “the brain” and is heavily influenced by our hormones. Our brain is a functioning organ like our heart, and as such is prone to malfunction. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are dysfunctions in the brain. These diseases afflict elderly Christians. Are they no longer right with God because their brain is malfunctioning?

Over four years ago, a very dear friend of mine introduced me to the Weston A Price Foundation. Dr. Price was a dentist in the 1920s that was curious as to why so many of his patients had dental deformities. Fortunately for us, the man asked solid questions and did considerable hands-on research. He found isolated societies from different places in the world—Switzerland, Alaska, Africa, the Outer Hebrides etc.—whose inhabitants did not eat modern foods (i.e. white sugar, white flour, canned goods). Instead, they ate the foods available to them. Organ meats, fermented foods, fresh raw milk from grass-fed cows, fresh seasonal vegetables, bugs (in occasional places), fish oil, fat and grains that were sprouted or fermented. They did not suffer from tuberculosis (the disease of the day), their babies were round and happy, they had broad faces and—in spite of having no dentists—they often had perfectly straight teeth and little to no dental decay. They possessed a high level of optimism and had generally cheerful dispositions.

As soon as roads were built that connected these societies to the modern world and the displacing foods were brought into those communities, the following generation of children were born with narrower facial structure and suffered dental deformities, tuberculosis and, yes, depression.

Without getting overly technical, my understanding is that a narrower facial structure can affect the formation of the brain, which in turn affects the hypothalamus and the lymphatic system impacting hormone production and immune system function. It isn’t just a dental issue or a physical issue—it’s a mental issue.

In effect, the way our parents ate when we were in the womb, affected our development in utero; the way we ate as babies and developing children affected our facial structure, which in turn impacted our brain development. In essence, the reason depression is so much higher today than 50 or 60 years ago can be traced to poor nutrition! Check out the comparative pictures in the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price.

If you are suffering from clinical depression, it goes beyond a “state of mind” or “attitude.” It is highly likely that you may be dealing with a chemical or hormonal imbalance.

Consider that for a moment.

If you were to be diagnosed with cancer, would that make you less of a Christian? Would God see you as a sinner because you suffer from a physical malady not brought on by conscious choice? Again, with Alzheimers and Dementia—are they less Christian than the elderly who still have full possession of their faculties?

What did Jesus have to say about that?

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples came upon a man who had been blind from birth. The blindness didn’t come because he was playing with matches and gunpowder. His parents didn’t beat him senseless or use illicit drugs that caused blindness. The man had been born with his blindness—a physical deformity.

Jesus’ disciples asked him the age-old question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

What did Jesus answer? 

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Have you ever stopped to consider that your physical battle with depression might be an opportunity for God to be glorified?

I have read it, heard it and felt it implied that people who are depressed just need to “get over it” or “snap out of it.” For the Christian suffering from depression, being told that we should “get over it” and be paragons of joy can be even more discouraging because it amplifies existing feelings of inadequacy and weakness.

What did Paul say about his weakness? He called it his “thorn in the flesh.”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12.7-10

Look at your depression as an opportunity for God to manifest His strength. You may not feel like you can face the day. Your present circumstance and the way you feel at this moment may be so overwhelming you can barely get out of bed each day.

Allow God to be your strength when you have none.

Allow God to give you joy when you feel none.

Allow God to lift you up when the burden feels too heavy.

Do not allow your physical struggle with depression to define you.

Allow God to transform you.

If you live your life each and every day, fighting to find something to give thanks for, actively seeking for the good that can be found, working to heal the physical problems of depression and handing over the uncontrollable and overwhelming emotions to God when they rise up, just think what a difference that can make to your approach to life. If someone discovers that you are doing all that while battling depression, just imagine what a faith-building impact that can have!

One person’s obedience + God’s power = Victory.

A caution: Depression is no joke. It takes more than simply your own strength of will to overcome. Because it is a physical issue, there are steps that must be taken to deal with it. I personally do not advocate SSRIs, but that is a decision that you should make for yourself after doing research and consulting with trustworthy health professionals. Depression can lead to suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse. Do not hesitate to seek help.

My fellow blogger, Sean Croxton at Underground Wellness did a whole series called The Depression Sessions in which he conducted interviews with a broad range of health professionals addressing the problems of SSRIs and suggesting natural approaches to depression. You can check it out here. He also has these podcasts that might be helpful:

Furthermore, some lifestyle changes may be in order. Less sugar in the diet, lower carbohydrate intake, more magnesium and an increase in Vitamin D (just to name a few) are small changes that have been shown to counter depression in a big way.

2) The “Woe-is-Me” mentality.

There is a character in the fiction of A.A. Milne (popularized by Disney) named Eeyore. Eeyore is a gloomy donkey who lives in the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh and friends. His voice always carries the “I’m down in the dumps” tone. On Eeyore’s Birthday, Pooh discovers that Eeyore is gloomier than usual, only to find out that it’s Eeyore’s birthday and nobody has remembered.

Can’t you see? Look at all the presents I have had.” He waved a foot from side to side. “Look at the birthday cake. Candles and pink sugar.”

Pooh looked–first to the right and then to the left.

“Presents?” said Pooh. “Birthday cake?” said Pooh. “Where?”

“Can’t you see them?”

“No,” said Pooh.

“Neither can I,” said Eeyore.

Pooh is moved with pity and rounds up his friends to get presents for Eeyore. It all turns out well… it is a children’s story after all. But the fact is, Eeyore is always gloomy. Things could be going great and he would still find something to mope about.

His outlook is pessimistic. Life holds little joy for him.

His gloominess is caused by the way he has his mind set.

Here is where I split the hairs.

There are definite physical and chemical causes to depression, but there is also an attitude of depression. What I mean by that is some people have trained themselves (often unwittingly) to have a depressed outlook on life. They set their mind on the negative and sad. It isn’t a difficult task considering all the suffering around us.

The clinically depressed often have greater trouble with this (this is where physical and attitude can run together) because they are already fighting the uncontrollable feelings brought on by the physical issues mentioned earlier. They have to fight harder than the average bear to set their mind firmly on good things.

This is the critical point: they must fight. Often, they need help. They have to seek counseling, naturopathy, homeopathy and/or medication in order to reach that point where they can mentally choose to stamp on those negative emotions and feelings.

For the past 20 years (maybe more), our society has slipped into this mindset: “I have this problem therefore I can’t help but be this way. It’s my parents’ fault, my hormones’ fault, and my job’s fault it’s got to be someone else’s fault. Because of all these problems, I can’t do things any differently. Just accept me the way I am because there is no way I can change.”

It’s time we stop thinking like that.

I’m not telling you simply to “get over it.” Believe me, that mindset does not help anybody. (It has certainly never done anything but make me feel worse!) What I am telling you is that you have to do something about it. Don’t wallow in it, look for a way out of it.

We’ve been watching the old A-Team show lately. Yes, it’s a hokey show, but nearly always good for a laugh. In pretty much every episode, they find themselves in some nearly impossible situation and they have to engineer their way out. B.A. (played by Mr. T) ends up doing some welding, soldering or hammering, turning old jalopies into armored vehicles and barns into booby traps and inevitably they wriggle out of their danger with their cleverly devised solution.

What most people see as junk and scrap, they see as potential tools for success.

Think of the depression mindset as your nearly impossible situation.

How can you engineer your way out? How can you look at this from a new angle?

1) For starters, who is on your side?

It’s not a trick question.

Ok, I’ll give you a hint: The One who created the brain and body of the human being.

That’s right! God.

How do you ask God to help you? By praying. Every time those feelings and thoughts rise up and threaten to immobilize you, ask God to help you overcome those feelings. Don’t let them have dominion over your mind.

2) What other tools do you have on hand?

The Sword of the Spirit aka The Word of God aka the Bible!

How often do you use that tool? If it’s just sitting in your toolbox collecting dust, it’s time to pull it out, dust it off and start using it. How are you supposed to get your mind off all the negative things in this life if you aren’t filling it with the positive?

Consider this passage in Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

Hebrews 4.12-16

The Word of God can help us train our minds and hearts to discern what is rational and irrational in our thoughts and feelings. I have had days where, for no apparent circumstantial reason, I feel depressed, heavy, gloomy, and moody. I can actually recognize the irrationality of my feelings and I attack it vigorously. Again, this came with help and counseling. I tell my spouse, “I’m not feeling right, I feel heavy, I need you to bear with me and help me through it.” I pray minute by minute about it. I fight it. I dig deeply into God’s Word… especially the Psalms. It takes time to recognize the gloom for what it is, but it can be done. I also make sure I watch my food intake closely on those days, try to do some exercise if there’s time and intensely guard what I say. I am not always successful… I am human after all… but it has been an illuminating experience. I didn’t get to this point without a lot of assistance. I used counseling, acupuncture, homeopathy, dietary changes, exercise and healthy activity. It was gradual, but highly effective for me.

3) Training.

Like anything in a Christian life, godly characteristics do not come naturally. They take training and practice. Trust takes training. Patience takes training. Joy comes with time and training.

When dark, pessimistic thoughts come on, do you stew and brood about them? What does the Bible advise?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4.8-9

You have to practice seeing the negative for what it is and then finding the positive and resting there. If you see something bad, ask yourself, how would God see this?

Take for example the Supreme Court decision that has dismayed so many of us. Many of us feel some degree of dismay, righteous anger and fear. We fear coming persecution, imprisonment, job loss and other such things.

What is a positive angle to this? How can we keep from being gloomy about the state of the Union?

  • This World is not our permanent home. We long for a heavenly country. This incident is an excellent reminder that all that we see is temporal, not permanent. Thank you Lord for stirring my desire for heaven!
  • There is an opportunity to talk to people about the Word of God. I know that most people don’t want to hear what we have to say, but we should be speaking anyway. I have been called stupid on more than one occasion, but it’s been an opportunity to stand up for the Word of God and demonstrate that a Christian can argue their faith lovingly and respectfully.

4) What other helps are available?

Other Christians who have suffered from depression may have some invaluable insights on counselors or treatments that have helped them. Counselors (especially those with a Christian mindset) can be invaluable helpers. Do not brush aside counseling. So many people feel that they are too good for it. Don’t let your pride be your downfall. Get a counselor to help you train your mind and address the physical problems with depression if they exist.

Don’t forget the websites and podcasts that I mentioned above. They could be very helpful for you. I will be attending the Weston A Price Conference in Anaheim this November and if you are interested in making dietary changes to help with depression or other illnesses, this may be the stop for you! Sally Fallon, the president, does an excellent presentation every year on the work of Dr. Price and it is illuminating!

My very dear friends, do not allow someone’s misguided or uninformed statements plunge you into a deeper depression. The Lord knows our every weakness. Sometimes our depression is purely attitude, more often than not it’s physical, and even more often, it’s a combination of the two. If you are battling depression today, please know that there is hope and there are plenty of us who want to help!

If you have overcome depression in the past or know of someone who has, please share that story to inspire hope for those who are feeling hopeless.

Lord, why did you ever send me? (Moses part 2)

trust at the sea

Yesterday, we looked at Moses and his reluctance to fulfill God’s command. After trying to get out of it, Moses finally obeyed God’s commission and traveled to Egypt.

Moses’ Trust-Training was underway.

Before listing God’s promises and subsequent fulfillment, consider an important piece of information. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (aka the Pentateuch) were all inspired by God and written by Moses. He recorded his own foibles in these texts, but there’s more to it than that.

In writing these books, Moses also recorded God’s promises and their subsequent fulfillment.

It is almost impossible to be a writer and be unaffected by the content of your writing. In some way, those words will impact the mind and heart. I am confident that as Moses recorded this narrative in Exodus, he was touched by the sheer number and accuracy of God’s fulfilled promises and prophecies. Recalling what God had done surely trained his mind to trust in the Lord and the veracity of His word. Moses knew that if God made a promise or prophecy, He would see it fulfilled no matter who or what tried to interfere.

With all that being said, here is a list of the things God promised and prophesied in chapters 3 and 4 of Exodus along with their subsequent fulfillment:

  • Promise: 3:12 – “this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
    Fulfillment: Exodus 19
  • Promise: 3:16-18 – “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers… has appeared to me… and they will listen to your voice.”
    Fulfillment: 4:29-31 – “Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the Lord had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
  • Prophecy: 3:19 “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.”
    Fulfillment: 7:13-14, 23; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12
    “But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.” (8:19)
  • Promise: 3:20 “So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.
    Fulfillment: The Ten Plagues, Exodus 7-12
  • Promise: 3:21-22 “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.
  • Fulfillment: 12:35-36 “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.”

That’s FIVE promises/prophecies that God gave to Moses, and they were ALL fulfilled, just as God said they would be. I know that the list is a bit tedious to read through, but it really makes the significance of God’s trustworthiness POP! And, as I said above, Moses wrote this all down. He could see, in retrospect, what the Lord had done not just for the Israelites, but for him as well. God had demonstrated his faithfulness over and over and over.

And yet….

Before the Ten Plagues even had a chance to happen, Moses hit a snag with Pharaoh and the Israelites. Pharaoh was offended that Moses dare to ask the for the Israelites to go and worship, so he creates more work and toil for the Israelites. Moses immediately doubts himself:

“O Lord… Why did you ever send me?” (6.22)

Immediately God replies:

“Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh…” (7.1)

And Moses did. Repeatedly. Plague, after plague.

By the time the Israelites were delivered, Moses had great confidence in the Lord. He was put to the test when the Israelites found themselves trapped—the ocean in the front, the Egyptian army behind, and mountains on both sides.

Moses says to the people (who are crying out in terror):

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 

The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14.13-14

Moses finally understood that he could trust in the Lord, no matter how dire and desperate the situation.

He finally saw that if he but trusted in the Lord and obeyed his commands, great things could be accomplished.

Are you plagued by doubt today? You may be asking, as Moses did, “Lord, why did you bring me here?” I have asked that question of the Lord more times than I care to admit. He does not always give us the why, and that is when we need to rely on the trust that He has developed in us through His word, through prayer, through renewal and through praise.

If you are doubting the power of the Lord, take time to write down all the times when God has taken care of you. Write down answered prayers. I mentioned this in a previous post on prayer: a friend of mine recommended writing prayer requests on an index card and then, when the prayer is answered, filing it behind a “fulfilled” tab to see the results of God’s care pile ever higher.

Read. Pray. Renew. Praise. Repeat.

Solid Trust requires training.

Let us press on to know the Lord and trust Him completely… no matter how inadequate we may feel for the task.

Lord, please send someone else…

trust God - steps

In the previous posts on Gideon, we examined how Gideon was trained to trust in the Lord step by step. Today, let’s look at Moses.

Gideon and Moses have a few things in common.

1) God saw the potential in both men even though they did not.

2) They were both a bit scared of carrying out God’s commands.

3) Both were trained to trust.

Moses is one of the most highly respected men in history. His commendations include:

  • Author of the Pentateuch.
  • Hero of Faith (Hebrews 11)
  • Lawgiver
  • Meekest Man on Earth.

In light of all those glowing accolades, it’s rather surprising to think that he was actually afraid to carry out God’s command.

Exodus chapter 3-4 records God’s first meeting with Moses. As always, I suggest reading the chapters for yourself to get the full context.

Moses was tending his sheep when suddenly he saw a strange sight. It was a bush engulfed in flames but not consumed. That got Moses’ attention. When God sees Moses turn to check out this strange sight, he speaks through the bush. After a few brief words of introduction and explanation, the Lord says to Moses:

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

I can just picture Moses with a mixed look of terror and shock on his face…

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3.11)

Even though Moses had been brought up in the house of the Pharaoh, he had given all that up. He was only a humble shepherd now. He did not see what God saw.

[God] said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3.12)

God never gives a command and says, “Good luck! You’re on your own!” To Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” To Moses, he says, “But I will be with you…”

Do you ever feel like God is asking too much of you at a given time?

My friends, whenever God asks us to do something, He promises to be there every step of the way. These accounts in the Bible are there to teach us the faithfulness of God and how He cares for those who follow Him. We simply need to trust and obey. This is why reading the Bible daily is so important. It helps us develop our trust in God’s promises.

Leading hundreds of thousands of slaves out of most powerful nation of the known world is no mean feat. This is a monumental task! Moses is plagued by uncertainty, but God will train him to trust.

In chapter 4, Moses makes two excuses as to why he may not be the best candidate for the job. After each excuse, God provides a way around the self-perceived weakness.

Excuse#1: They won’t believe me.

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” (4.1)

Moses is saying, “Lord, if I go, they’re going to think I’m making this up!”

God is ready with an immediate solution. He has Moses actively participate in 2 miracles: Moses’ own staff turns into a serpent and then back into a staff, and Moses’ hand becomes leprous and then clean once more. Then God tells Moses, “if they still don’t believe, you will pour out water from the nile on to the ground and it will turn to blood.” Miracles in the Bible are often used to confirm that a person is sent from the Lord and that their message is true.

Excuse #2: I am not a good public speaker.

God is ready with another answer:

“Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4.11)

God is, in effect, telling Moses, “You just saw 3 miracles. I am the Lord that does those miracles. I am the Lord that made the mouth of man. Do you honestly think I can’t help you communicate My words to Pharoah? Don’t you trust Me?”

Finally, Moses can see that he is not going to get out of this commission using his excuses, so he says,

“Lord, please send someone else.”

Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you’ve even communicated those very words to God in prayer.

How many times do we find ourselves engulfed in circumstances that seem unmanageable? How many times are we called to do something and we just don’t see how we can accomplish it? As with Moses, God will never call us to do something and then abandon us. He will always be there to strengthen us, help us, and—best of all—be with us.

We are all called to different tasks during different seasons of our lives. It could be that in this season of life you are called to change diapers, wipe noses, kiss bruises and—above all—nurture a helpless little child. It could be that you are caring for an elderly parent that may or may not be a pleasant patient. Maybe you are working 12-hour days doing stressful or unpleasant work to provide for your family. You might be the student working full-time and schooling full-time with sleep and study crammed in between. Maybe you are called to be single and you aren’t sure how to cope with the loneliness. We often look at people like Moses and think that our job is unimportant by comparison. God has given you and me an appointed task for today. We need to carry it out with joy and diligence no matter how big or how small it may seem.

Above all else, we need to trust Him to provide what we need to accomplish our commission.

I love this quote from Elizabeth Elliot:

“This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

Elisabeth Elliot

Moses asked God to send someone else, and unsurprisingly, God became angry. God provides one more solution: Aaron, Moses’ brother is a good speaker. I’ll tell you what to say, you pass it along to him and he will speak for you. Stop making excuses and get moving. (my paraphrase)

According to Exodus, Moses doesn’t say anything else, but as we read further, we see him proceed to carry out the command of the Lord.

The training of Moses has begun.

Tomorrow, I will list out the promises that God makes to Moses in chapters 3-4 and their subsequent fulfillment so that we can see with clarity how Moses was trained for the enormous task of leading the people out of Egypt and all the way to Canaan.

Do not be discouraged, my friends. Give your tasks to the Lord. Don’t ask someone else to do what has been appointed to you. Trust God to give you what you need to carry it out.

~Elihu

Building Trust Through Prayer

gotanxiety

I’ve done a lot of writing about prayer on this blog. There is a reason…

God commands us to pray.

The Bible is filled with of examples of prayer.

Prayer is communication with God, our Creator and Father.

How much do you trust someone that you rarely talk to?

Parents—how awesome do you feel when your kids confide their fears to you? It gives you an opportunity to comfort, reassure and guide your children. It strengthens the bond between you. Our Heavenly Father (God) wants the same opportunity, but how often do we pour out our anxiety and worry before Him?

For those who are not parents—I’m sure you have friends. Isn’t it a blessing to have friends to lean on? Friends give you a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, and a warm hug. We aren’t going to make ourselves vulnerable to our friends if we don’t trust them. We aren’t going to trust them if we never communicate with them. Do you trust God and confide in Him as you would a friend?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything.

Pray.

Don’t simply go through a list of requests to God. Communicate your fears to Him.

One thing people in the Old Testament did in some of their prayers was to remind God of His promises. This scripture says, don’t be anxious, but pray and give thanks and the peace of God will guard your heart and your mind. That’s a promise! If I stop dwelling on my worries and fears and hand them over to God, He will give me peace. If you are not feeling peace, reverently remind God of this promise from His word… oh yeah, and don’t forget to read the word too…

One of my favorite examples of prayer is the account of King Hezekiah in Isaiah 37. In the previous chapter, the King of Assyria (Sennacherib) had invaded Judah and was headed for Jerusalem. Sennacherib sent a message telling the people in Hezekiah that they have nothing in which to place their trust.

Here are some excerpts of Sennacherib’s message:

Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”

Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

~Isaiah‬ ‭36‬:‭14-15, 18, 20‬ ESV

His servants bring him the message and he is overcome. Notice what he does in chapter 37. He sends a message to Isaiah the prophet:

“Thus says Hezekiah, ‘This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace; children have come to the point of birth, and there is no strength to bring them forth. It may be that the Lord your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God, and will rebuke the words that the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’”

‭Isaiah‬ ‭37‬:‭3-4‬ ESV

He asks a righteous person to pray for Him and for Judah.

Then, he gets a letter from the Rabshakeh, reiterating what his messengers had already told him. Hezekiah takes the letter, reads it and then goes to the house of the Lord.

Where do we go in our distress, fear, anxiety or doubt? Do we go to the Lord? Do we go to other believers or do we simple seek out the “experts.” Do we hide or do we seek help?

Hezekiah went to the house of the Lord.

When he gets there, he spreads the letter out before the Lord and prays:

“Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

“It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.

Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God. “

~Isaiah 37:16-20

I love this part. He spreads the letter before the Lord. God already knows what it says. God doesn’t really need to see it. Nevertheless, Hezekiah lays it before God. He shows God reverence in his prayer. He reminds God that the Assyrians have degraded the Lord. He acknowledges that deliverance will not come from his own might, but from God’s mighty hand.

Spread out your fears and doubts before the Lord. He knows the troubles you are facing, but tell Him anyway. As you tell Him your fears, show him reverence, remind Him of His promises and acknowledge that He is a God of power.

The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

To build trust: Read. Pray. Renew. Praise. Repeat.

Lord willing, we will talk about “Renew” in our next post.

Remember to pray, dear friends.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5.6-7)

~Elihu