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

The truth in the music.

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Over the weekend as I was whirring around like a tornado cleaning the house, the kids asked to listen to Christmas music. I suppose it really is that time of the year…

I didn’t feel like fussing with CDs so I pulled up my Amazon Music app and selected the first Christmas station that looked promising. The crooning of Michael Buble, the tinny Feliz Navidad, the rocking Brian Setzer renditions, and the bouncy Christmas oldies rang through the house one jingle bell after another. I skipped “It’s the Most Wonderful time of the Year” because it’s one of The Most Hated Songs in My Ears (I have no idea why that song irritates me so much). While my arms were covered in soap, the song, “Mary, did you know?” came on, performed by the a cappella group Pentatonix. My little girl wanted to skip it because it sounded too slow and she wanted peppy songs. I asked her to pause and listen to this one, partly because I hadn’t heard this version and was curious.

If you are unfamiliar with this song, please take a moment to read and digest the lyrics:

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM.

(Written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry)

Obviously, Mary couldn’t possibly have known all the amazing things Jesus would accomplish in His lifetime. We know that she was told He was the Son of God. Luke 1:35 records the angel’s words to Mary: “therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” She knew who Jesus was, but could she comprehend the magnitude? I don’t think so. Truth be told, none of us can wrap our heads around all the the Lord has done and continues to do for us.

Mary, we are told, treasured the wondrous acts she observed in her heart (Luke 2:19). There is a lesson in that for us. Do we treasure God’s wondrous deeds within our hearts? Do we marvel over each one as a precious gift or do we treat them as commonplace? Each time God answers our prayers, do we lift our souls in rapturous praise or do we shrug a thanks?

The striking lesson in this simple song is not, “what did Mary know?”. The lesson lies in this: Jesus will never cease to fill us with wonder. The Son of God, through whom the world was created, was willing to live on this earth in poverty, suffer disdain, and bear the torturous death on a cross so that we could be delivered from God’s much-deserved wrath.

These amazing realities in the gospels should stir our hearts with joy and conviction with each and every read.

 

Jesus astounded all who came in contact with Him. It wasn’t his dashing good looks or his phenomenal charisma, for as Isaiah tells us, “he had no form or comeliness that we might desire Him.” It was not pomp and circumstance for He was an impoverished itinerant. What drew people to Jesus was the depth of His compassion, His quiet authority, His defiance of natural laws, and above all, seeing the very nature and essence God dwelling among man. Most men would allow their fame to go to their head, but Jesus made it clear time after time after time that He was no “mere man.”

I wish I could have followed Jesus on those dusty Judean roads—to see the deep love in His eyes, to gaze in wonder at His mercy, to hear His calm voice over the roar of the storm. And yet Jesus says, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Through Jesus, God has done more than our finite minds can grasp. Through Jesus, we will be granted “scenes of bliss forever new” as the old hymn says. Through Jesus, we will never cease to be filled with wonder at the glorious greatness of the I AM.

Who knows what Mary knew? It doesn’t really matter.

What this song should convey to us is the awe we should feel in the presence of God and bring to our remembrance the hopeful expectation of the joy—forever new and forever wondrous—awaiting us in eternity.

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him…”

~ 1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV

“Is this all there is?” (Part 3 of “Does Everything Happen for a Reason”)

This is the third part of the series, “Does Everything Happen for a reason?” To read the previous post, click here.

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Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

“What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.”

~ C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

When faced with incomprehensible suffering, people respond in one of the following four ways:

  1. Blame God.
  2. Dismiss God’s omnipotence
  3. Conclude we are subject to random chance.
  4. Remember this life is temporary and turn to God for comfort

Continue reading

Hope is rising (Day 18 of the #encourage marathon)

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Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.

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 3.19-24, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 18 of our #encourage marathon! (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there needs the Lord. (That would be all of us…)

If you look back at your life, do you ever recall a day in which the sun did not rise? You may not have seen it, or a storm may have been so dark that you barely registered it, but did the sun fail to rise?

I’ve been alive since 1981, and I’ve never failed to see a new day. The sun always rises. It is even more dependable than death and taxes.

Who created that flaming orb? Who ordained the seasons and the earth’s rotation? What does it reveal about Him? The only thing more constant than the sunrise is the Lord who made it. If He is more dependable than the sunrise, can we count on Him to fulfill His promises? Can we trust Him to be there for us when we face trouble? Can we rely on Him to be present in our despair?

Yes. A thousand times, yes. Continue reading

Why we should find joy in suffering (Day 14 of the #encourage marathon)

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Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

~ James 1.2-3, NASB (click this link for multiple versions).

Welcome to mile-marker 14 of our 26-day encourage marathon.

Someone out there is suffering. It might even be you.

Have you ever cried out to God, “Why, Lord? Why is this happening to me?”

Continue reading

Run with Endurance (day 7 of #encourage marathon)

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Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s Day 7 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon! One week down! (You can read yesterday’s post here.)

Someone out there is running sluggishly, ready to give up. It might even be you.

The first three verses of Hebrews 12 is a continuation of Hebrews 11, which listed some of those whom I affectionately call the “heroes of faith.” They are witnesses of the power of faith, obedience and endurance. A form of the word ‘endure’ is used 3 times in the first 3 verses of this text. Repetition of a word is a literary device used to emphasize a concept. The author is saying, in effect, “don’t be sluggish, don’t get tired—ENDURE.”

The Hebrew writer encourages us to do three things in this passage to successfully run our race:

Ditch the baggage.

Would you run farther with a heavy backpack or without? Would you run faster with extra weight or without?

While carrying weight for training can increase your strength, it will also wear you out more rapidly. I’m not really a marathon watcher, but I believe that the most I’ve seen those runners carrying are a bottle of water and maybe a phone. Sometimes they have a small fanny pack or belt to hold water/food/etcetera. The water keeps them hydrated, the phone gives them music to keep their mind off the pain. Beyond that, they’re dressed lightly and carrying nothing else. Why? So they can endure to the end of the race. Every additional weight is a liability.

Run your race with God in the same way. Get rid of the sin that wants to hang on. Detach yourself from the physical allurements of life. If we keep trying to take it all with us, we won’t make it.

Endure.

Take time to read Hebrews 11 and take note of who is named:

  • Enoch – walked with God for 300 years (Genesis 5.22-24). It’s hard enough for most of us to do 30-60 years!
  • Noah – built the ark, preached for 100 years.
  • Moses – put up with the Israelites for God’s sake.
  • Joseph – taken as a slave, thrown in prison and still served faithfully
  • Abraham – left everything He knew based on Gods promises and waited two decades to see the promise of offspring.

Also notice how/what they endured in verses 33-38:

  • stopped the mouths of lions (Daniel)
  • quenched the power of fire (Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego)
  • escaped the edge of the sword
  • made strong out of weakness
  • put foreign armies to flight (Gideon, David)
  • tortured
  • mocking
  • flogging
  • chains
  • imprisonment
  • stoned
  • sawn in two
  • killed with the sword
  • Went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated… wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (most of the prophets including John the Baptist)

Look at the example.

Jesus is the ultimate example of endurance. The passage says, “[Jesus] for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame…” I posted about joy being a good motivator on day 4. Jesus knew that there was coming joy, and for it and for us he endured.

Many who teach and speak about acquiring wealth or achieving success often say that the best way to succeed (in whatever goal you pursue) is to read about, listen to, and/or observe those who have succeeded. These examples are not just motivators, but demonstrators. You see how they achieved success and you are thereby able to emulate their behaviors and choices in the hopes that you also will succeed.

Our goal is heaven (and to bring as many with us as possible). Since Jesus achieved His aims with glorious success, He is the ultimate example. Many of the “heroes” listed above were good examples, but they had their shortcomings. Jesus showed neither foible nor failure. He lived life flawlessly. In our race, let’s commit his example to our mind as we run so that we do not grow weary.

Don’t slouch your way through this race. Run it with endurance. And while you’re running, encourage others to do likewise.


I hope you’ll continue to join me on FacebookTwitter and here at Elihu’s Corner for this marathon. Share this verse on your Twitter feed or Facebook page (#encourage). Take time today to copy down this verse for yourself. Send an email or text to someone you know who would benefit from this encouragement.

I’m a little behind on my passage-copying, but I have some time set aside this afternoon to get caught up. I cannot encourage you enough to write down these verses. Studies have shown that the physical act of writing increases retention far more than typing or reading.

[If you click on the link in the above passage, it will take you to BibleGateway.com. From here, you can click a share link which allows you to share directly to Twitter, Facebook or send an email.]

If you missed the original post listing all 26 passages, click here to download the PDF list.

Joy will come (Day 4 of the #encourage marathon)

 

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Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.

For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

~ Psalm 30.4-5

It’s Day 4 of our 26-day #Encourage Marathon! (You can read yesterday’s post here.)

Someone out there is in pain. It might even be you.

You might have had a rough day yesterday. Maybe the past six months have been fraught with pain. It could be that years of trouble have mercilessly struck you.

You’re getting tired.

There’s good news. Joy is coming.

Have you ever watched the sunrise in the mornings? Before the sun ever reaches the horizon, there is a gradual lightening of the sky. Slowly but surely, the light increases until, without warning, there is a burst of light from the horizon where the sun has appeared. The western skyline shines effusively as the eastern skyline is all but lost in the radiant glow of the sun. Warm, rosy, colors abound. Warmth creeps into the air. Creatures of the day begin to stir.

Continue reading

Why do you seek Jesus?

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Why do you choose to follow Jesus?

Do you pursue Jesus so that you will have wealth? Do you seek to be free from loneliness by joining yourself to a church? Do you seek to be honored and respected?

I read things all the time from people who say that God intends for us to be wealthy and happy and a lot of other nonsense. God does not want us possess mere happiness—he wants us to have joy. The joy of the Lord transcends circumstance and is part of an abundant life. True riches are found in Christ and cannot be altered by the government, stock markets, or thieves.

Why do you seek Jesus?

In John 6, Jesus performs an amazing miracle. He takes five loaves of bread and two little fish and feeds a crowd of five thousand men, not including women and children. After everyone has eaten their fill, His disciples collect twelve baskets of leftovers. With their bellies full and their eyes amazed, the people in the crowd consider taking Jesus “by force to make Him King.” (John 6.17)

Further on in the passage, their minds still full with dreams of endless bread, they chase Him down to Capernaum:

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.

So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

~ John 6.22-27, ESV, emphasis mine

In spite of all Jesus had taught and the miracles He had performed, these people were still stuck on their stomachs. They wanted a king who would feed them so their labor could be put toward their other desires (if they even desired to work at all). If Jesus could do such a miracle, He could likely overthrow the Roman rule they despised. Their hearts were focused on the physical, but Jesus turned their minds to the spiritual. He teaches them some difficult truths in the remaining verses of the chapter. When they hear these things (and also realize that He has no intention of becoming an earthly king nor feeding them breakfast), John records that they “turned back and no longer walked with Him.”

If we seek Jesus in order to have physical abundance, we are seeking Him for all the wrong reasons. The rich young ruler sought Jesus, but when Jesus asked Him to forsake His wealth, he turned and walked away. Jesus tested the young man, and He failed miserably. It is possible to have earthly abundance, but if you are given such, God expects you to use it to fulfill His purpose.

“Do not work for the food that perishes…”

Some will abuse this passage by saying that we should not work. On the contrary, the scriptures encourage us to be diligent workers, laboring “as unto the Lord and not men.” If you want to have wealth, put your boots on, hit the pavement, and work. Does that mean that disaster will not strike? Does it mean the stock market will never crash? Does it mean hyper-inflation will never rob you of your hard-earned cash?

My friends, these things are all temporary. Someday they will perish.

“[Work] for the food that endures to eternal life.”

This ought to be our primary purpose for seeking Jesus: eternal life. History bears out the fate of the early Christians: imprisonment, torture, stoning, poverty, ridicule, isolation, abuse, crucifixion, lion feed, and humiliation. It doesn’t sound like what we would consider an abundant life. On the other hand, the people who witnessed their fate observed inner peace, strength under fire, love without measure, and a joy that transcended circumstance. The Christians possessed a quality that piqued the interest of non-believers—they reflected Jesus.

Do you want to have that abundant life?

Ask yourself, “Why do I seek Jesus?”

Do you seek Jesus to fill your belly or to satisfy your soul forever?

 

4 things to do before age 60

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”

~ Ecclesiastes 12.1, ESV

 

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When we are young, we think we have an abundance of time. After all, our parents and teachers tell us, “there’ll be time for that later,” or “not until your older.” We spend the first 18-20 years of our lives waiting until we are “older” to “do” things.

There is one thing we should never put off: serving God.

I remember asking my father if his hospice patients (those who were not Christians) tried turning to God near the end. They had lived their lives the way they had wanted—perhaps profligately—and now, with death staring them in the face, surely they’d want to make a change. He looked rather sadly at me and replied, “Once people get to that age, they’ve resisted God for so long that they have lost all desire for Him. Deathbed conversions occur once in great awhile, but it’s far more rare than it is common.”

It was an eye-opening statement, and one that has remained planted in my mind. We need to fix our desires, mindsets and habits now, before we do not have strength.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. 

By youth I mean anyone who is under the age of 60 not plagued by dementia or alzheimer’s. Even 70, if you’re still in great shape. Just because a child is 1 or 2, doesn’t mean you can’t start teaching them about God. Today is all we’ve got—make the most of it. I have sadly heard too many parents put off “church-going” because they think their kids won’t remember or “they’re too young.” They are more aware than you realize.

So, while we are still “young” we need to work on the following:

#1: Practice Forgiveness.

This should be a top priority. As I mention in this post on forgiveness, failure to forgive results in firmly rooted bitterness. We need to emulate Christ who forgave even his torturers. He also forgave us.

#2: Meditate on the Word.

Daily.

Don’t rely on Sunday sermons to fill you for an entire week. Even reading once a day isn’t meditation.

Meditating is not simply reading the Bible—it’s reading and pondering.

Here are three different ways to meditate on the Word:

  1. writing: keep a journal.
  2. walking alone: Some of the best thoughts come to me on my walks when I have time to think about passages I’ve read and sermons I’ve heard.
  3. talking with Christians: I love those kindred spirits who happily discuss biblical topics with me and allow me to think things through with them out loud.

#3: Pray Daily.

Again—daily. Multiple times per day.

If you are not in the habit of praying, start with meal-time prayers. After you get that set in place, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier get out of bed (this is important so you don’t fall back asleep) set the timer for 10 minutes and pray. After awhile, you may discover that 10 minutes isn’t enough!

Having regular communication with God while young will give us a stronger connection with him when we are old.

#4: Cultivate Joy.

This is one of my biggest challenges, especially as someone who is inclined to be a “brooding Irish” type. Joy does not equal happiness. Happiness is a momentary feeling swayed by circumstance; joy is a determined attitude.

There’s a few things involved in getting a joyful attitude:

  1. Know your home.
    This life overflows with uncontrollable circumstance. All that waffle about being the “captain of your destiny” is absolute rubbish. Most concentration camp survivors will tell you they couldn’t get out by their own power. A few succeeded in escaping, but most were stuck, plagued by illness or simply too helpless. The only thing you can control is your own mind. Knowing that there is an eternal home beyond the vicissitudes of earth is a source of joy for the Christian. We look to what Shakespeare calls, “The Undiscovered Country.” I long for that country which has been discovered by my brothers and sisters in the Lord who have gone on before me.
  2. Refocus the mind.
    If you are a long-time reader, you know that I have dealt with depression for many years (you can read more here). I still do. It is a daily fight to stay upbeat. I’m not always strong enough to keep my head above water, but God is! When this mess called life begins to weigh on my heart I have to recenter myself and focus my thoughts on what I know to be true.

    This is my constant aim:

    Finally, brethren,
    whatever is true,
    whatever is honorable,
    whatever is right,
    whatever is pure,
    whatever is lovely,
    whatever is of good repute,
    if there is any excellence
    and if anything worthy of praise,
    dwell on these things.

    The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    ~Phillipians 4.8-9, NASB

    Bring the mind back into focus. Let it dwell on the things listed above. For more on this, read here.

  3. Pray.
    As I mentioned in the previous point, I know I’m not strong enough to fight the weight of the world. I need help. Only God is powerful enough to pull me out of the stormy ocean of emotion and circumstance. Fix your eyes on Him. I have always treasured the account of Peter stepping out on the water toward Jesus. He walked on the water (which is physically impossible) as He looked toward Jesus. As soon as He took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the raging waters he sank like a lead weight. What did he do? He cried out to the one who could save him—and Jesus reached out and pulled him to safety. You can read the full account here in Matthew 14.

    When life threatens to crush your joy, cry out to God. He will lift you up.

Serve God today while you still have breath and mental clarity. For while there is life, there is hope.

Day 3: I am thankful for God’s steadfast love.

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

his steadfast love endures

For the past two days, I have been listing reasons why I am thankful for a particular thing, but today I’d like to do something a little different. I am thankful for God’s unfailing love, but there are such a vast array of scriptures on this attribute of God. It would take me a long time to discuss all the aspects of God’s great love. Even then, I’d surely miss something. So for this post, we are going to focus on one particular passage: Psalm 107.

What does it mean to be steadfast? It is defined as “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.”  Does that describe God’s love? Yes! His love is unwavering, unfailing, and dutifully firm.

He is faithful even when we are faithless. He is merciful when we deserve only justice.

Who knows how many millions of words we shall speak and write in our short lifetimes. What percentage of those words will be spent praising and speaking of our Lord? How often do we give thanks for His great love? It should be in my daily prayers, but often forget to thank Him for his love. I thank Him for his grace, my salvation, and the blessings of this life, but I need to remember to give thanks specifically for His unfailing, steadfast love.

Psalm 107:

Verses 1-3

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

Has the Lord redeemed you through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ? Give thanks!

Have people come to serve the Lord from all over the world? Give thanks!

(I want you to notice something as we look at Psalm 107. There are two repetitive themes or phrases: “they cried to the Lord—He delivered” and “thank the Lord for his steadfast love.”)

The Lord shows His love in the Wilderness.

Verses 4-9

Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Have you ever been in a “wilderness period” in your life? It could be a time when you are in a holding pattern or a time when there was no one to worship with. It’s a lonely time, but one in which we become more dependent on the Lord. We understand more fully the breadth and width and height of his great love. Give thanks for those times!

When you sought the Lord and longed for Him, did He leave you hanging? No. He satisfies us with his unfailing love (Psalm 90:14).

The Lord showed His love while we were still sinners.

Verses 10-16

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    prisoners in affliction and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
    and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
    they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    and burst their bonds apart.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he shatters the doors of bronze
    and cuts in two the bars of iron.

So many pictures come to mind in the above verses, but I will focus on this: We were prisoners of sin and darkness. Through Christ, the bonds of sin were broken. Thank God for His Son and freedom from sin!

It also brings to my mind this song:

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, his mercy rains.
Unending love.
Amazing Grace.”

~ Chris Tomlin

Give thanks! We are set free. We have been given mercy instead of justice!

The Lord shows love through healing.

Verses 17-22

Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

This section brings to mind the Israelites in the wilderness. They complained to God about their plight in the wilderness and he sent fiery snakes. Many died and were near death. They asked Moses to pray to God to remove the fiery serpents, and the Lord did. How often does our greed or our complaint bring greater trouble? More often than we care to admit! And yet, God is patient with us because, like a good Father, he loves his children and remembers that we are but dust.

I also like this section: “offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!” How much time do we spend speaking and singing of all the wonderful things God has done for us in this life compared to how often we complain about all the things going wrong? I am going to try something and I hope you will join me. (If you are around me regularly, please remind me of this if I start to grumble about some inconvenience). When you get ready to complain about something, find something to be thankful for instead. Instead of grumbling complaints, let’s shout our blessings.

The Lord shows His love in the storms of life.

Verses 23-32

Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the great waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
    his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men
    and were at their wits’ end.[b]
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

What New Testament account does this remind you of? Read Luke 8.22-25, Mark 4.35-41 or Matthew 8.23-27. I will put Luke’s account here:

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he [Jesus] fell asleep.

And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Luke 8.22-25, ESV

Is Jesus in the boat with you? Is He dwelling in your life? When the storms of life are raging about you, does He bring tranquility to your heart? Give thanks for the peace that passes understanding! I am so thankful for these accounts and these Psalms because life so much like an ocean—unpredictable and ever-changing. Sometimes there is calm and peace; other times the waves threaten to crush us. Only God has power over our lives. I can have peace knowing He is in control. I am thankful that He loves me so much and brings such reassurance.

The shows us love by providing for us.

Verses 33-43

He turns rivers into a desert,
    springs of water into thirsty ground,
a fruitful land into a salty waste,
    because of the evil of its inhabitants.
He turns a desert into pools of water,
    a parched land into springs of water.
And there he lets the hungry dwell,
    and they establish a city to live in;
they sow fields and plant vineyards
    and get a fruitful yield.
By his blessing they multiply greatly,
    and he does not let their livestock diminish.

When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
but he raises up the needy out of affliction
    and makes their families like flocks.
The upright see it and are glad,
    and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Be wise with me and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Where would we be if God did not love us? What would life be like without God? So many people think that bad things happen because God doesn’t care. They are looking at things backwards. The terrible things of this life happen for a reason. The first reason—there is evil all around us in the world. Countries full of poverty are usually destitute because of the greed of other men. Women are raped because of the lust of men. Men are killed because of the violence of humanity. What about “natural disasters?” Let me ask you this: is this world meant to be our eternal home? Natural disasters remind us of God’s great power and our powerlessness. When has a scientist ever stopped a storm? The destruction, the brokenness, the heartache remind us that this is temporary. They draw us closer to a far better country with a ruler who is always fair and just. A King, a father who loves us with an unfailing love.

Give thanks to the Lord. His steadfast love endures forever.