Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: the Divine Squeeze + LINKUP

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze - Today we're going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We'll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God's purposes for trials and how we should respond.Today we’re going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We’ll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God’s purposes for trials and how we should respond.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we have covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

Today we’ll look at tests and trials.

 

The Divine Squeeze

 

It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through a trial. That thought can stop us in our tracks, because we don’t like trials. At least I don’t and I don’t think I’m alone.

But God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. J.C. Ryle said, “What you are in the day of trial, that you are and nothing more.” Trials show us what we are really made of!

That may be a little discouraging if you didn’t do so well in a trial or aren’t handling one well right now, but God is a God of second and third chances. That’s good news and bad. The good news is He keeps working with us. The bad news is He keeps working with us. That means when we don’t handle a trial well, He’ll give us another chance either by extending the trial we’re in or bringing another one designed to work on the same heart issue.

Many times I’ve seen someone file for an unbiblical divorce only to find themselves a few years down the road married to someone with the same issues. The world has come up with all kinds of psychological explanations for it, but I don’t believe God will set us free from those patterns until we learn to respond in a Christlike way to the present situation.

My husband spoke with a friend of his one day. His friend was complaining about a situation that was stretching his patience. He commented that God was always allowing something in his life to make him more patient.  My husband’s response, “Maybe it’s time to learn what He’s trying to show you!”

Whether it’s loving our spouses biblically, growing in patience, kindness or unselfishness, learning to truly forgive, or some other area of life, our Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit is well able to design the right teaching opportunity and homework.

But God also uses tests and trials to remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing as much glory to God as we should! He wants us to be able to say, like Job, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15.1-2).

 

Unbiblical Perspectives about Tests & Trials

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze - Today we're going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We'll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God's purposes for trials and how we should respond.

 

When we are going through trials and sufferings we can easily develop wrong perspectives about the nature of and reason for them.  Here are some of those unbiblical perspectives:

 

It’s always my fault.

Or it’s always the fault of anyone going through a trial. This was the problem with Job’s comforters.

If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place (Job 8.6).

The disciples, mistakenly, believed the same thing:

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (Jn. 9.1-3).

Sometimes things happen that are not a direct result of personal sin. You could be driving responsibly and be hit by a drunk driver. You could be a faithful employee, yet your company is sold and you lose your job.

 

It’s always someone else’s fault.

Other people have a “victim” mentality about our tests and trials. As we’ve talked about in some of the earlier posts in this series, we’re good at blame-shifting. It’s my spouse’s fault, my boss’ fault …” No matter how irresponsible we have been, we blame someone else.

 

It’s no one’s fault.

We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “S_ _ _ happens!” This is fatalism.

We’re not just the victim of some random cosmic joke! God is the author and originator of everything in our lives. He is either the proximate or immediate cause or He is the remote or distant cause, that is He allowed it to happen for our good and His glory. Nothing happens by accident.

 

A deistic view of God’s involvement in our tests and trials.

This is the idea that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.

 

So what does the Bible teach about tests and trials?

 

10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: 10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials

 

1. We all experience trials and sufferings.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).

 

2. Ultimately, trials are the result of the fall.

I’m glad for Adam and Eve that there are no guilt trips in heaven, because everything goes back to the fall (Gen. 3).

 

3. God is always the remote (distant) cause of trials and suffering.

He allows us to make choices, but only when those choices are in keeping with His sovereign will.

 

4. God is never the author of sin.

Even though He allows us to make choices, He never causes or tempts us to sin.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1.13-18).

Continue reading

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 2 + LINKUP

 

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 2Today we’re going to continue to talk about guilt, what it is, and why we experience it? We’ll look at how the world views it and the biblical perspective on it. Finally, we’ll talk about what God has to say about handling guilt biblically?

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 2

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In previous posts we covered anger, depression, fear and worry. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

Last week we looked in depth at Psalm 38 which was written by David as he struggled with guilt and depression.

Today we’ll look at how guilt and shame are tied to other negative emotions like fear and shame. We’ll also see how the culture has tried to remove all restrictions, including God’s law, to alleviate feelings of guilt, instead of dealing with the root issues. Then we’ll look at what guilt is biblically and how God says to deal with it.

 

An Unholy Trio: Guilt, Fear & Shame

 

A few weeks ago we looked at the first time fear showed up in the Bible. Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and eaten the fruit they had been forbidden to eat. When their eyes were opened and they realized what they had done, Genesis 3 says:

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

That fear was triggered by guilt and shame. Their response was to hide and when confronted to shift the blame to someone else:

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Since that day in the garden, human beings have perfected the art of blame-shifting and tried to cover our guilt with all kinds of fig leaves. We’ve blamed our parents, our economic situations, society, cultural demands, and religion just to name a few.

 

The World’s Fig Leaves

 

  • The Psychology Fig Leaf

Secular psychologists told us that religion and society imposed unfair “codes of conduct” on us and that was the root of our guilt. The answer we were told was to throw off those constraints and create our own definitions of what’s right and wrong.

Isn’t that what women’s liberation, the sexual revolution, the right to abortion, the demand to be gay, bisexual, transgender or whatever we desire, are all about? In our attempt to alleviate any guilt, we’ve re-written the code.

  • The Environmental Fig Leaf

Behaviorists came along and blamed the environment. They said we shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s not our fault. It’s because we’re poor and uneducated. Or it’s the way our parents raised or neglected us.

  • The Low Self-Esteem Fig Leaf

The self-esteem movement told us it’s because we don’t feel good about ourselves. We must raise our self-esteem so we can eliminate those negative emotions.

  • The Medical Fig Leaf

The medical world has clouded the issue, too. Drunkenness is now called a disease, alcoholism. Rebellion is oppositional defiance disorder. Sexual immorality is a sexual addiction.

The problem is when we quit calling things what they are, the answers get obscured, as well.

 

The Effects of Living in a Sin Cursed World

 

No one would deny the the environment in which a person is raised has an effect on them. But we have a choice as to how we’ll respond to those factors. And because of our fallen nature we can have a predisposition to certain kinds of sin, weaknesses, where we need to depend on God in a greater way.

And, certainly, we need to examine any “code of conduct” in light of God’s Word. Legalism and false religions are full of man-made rules. But the answer isn’t to come up with what seems right to us.

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death (Prov. 14.12).

And nowhere in the Bible are we told to esteem ourselves, but rather, to esteem God and others. We’re not to denigrate ourselves, but neither are we to think more highly of ourselves than we should.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith (Rom. 12.3).

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Phil. 2.3).

Whatever our weaknesses, whatever our environment, God has promised that if we belong to Him, He’ll give us the grace we need for every situation.  Continue reading

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 1 + LINKUP

 

Handling Guilt Biblically -

Today and over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about guilt, what it is, and why we experience it? We’ll look at how the world views it, some examples of guilt in the Bible, and we’ll get the biblical perspective on it. Finally, we’ll discuss what we as Christians should do about it?

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Guilt Biblically Part 1

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We have already covered anger, depression, fear and worry. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

Today we’re going to start talking about guilt, but first, I want to tell you about a man I know. This man was under a lot of pressure. He was suffering from poor health. He seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. He even seemed to be in a daze at times. He couldn’t focus. He was sad and depressed. And He thought about his problems all the time.

It was affecting him physically. His heart would race wildly and he was stressed out. All he wanted to do was sleep and, yet, when he tried to sleep he couldn’t.

If you’ve ever been around someone like that, it gets uncomfortable. There’s only so much you can say. That was the case with this man. He said his friends came around less and less and eventually some just quit coming. Maybe that has happened to you, either you have felt like this man or been one of his friends or both.

If you were trying to help my friend, how would you diagnose his problem?

Could he be clinically depressed, be suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome or have PTSD? Does he need medication?

It’s possible that you have met this man, too.

The man is David, and David was experiencing pressure at the hand of a loving God. David had sinned and God was dealing with him.

In Psalm 38 David said this:

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your wrath,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!
2 For Your arrows pierce me deeply,
And Your hand presses me down.

3 There is no soundness in my flesh
Because of Your anger,
Nor any health in my bones
Because of my sin.
4 For my iniquities have gone over my head;

Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
5 My wounds are foul and festering
Because of my foolishness.

6 I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly;
I go mourning all the day long.
7 For my loins are full of inflammation,
And there is no soundness in my flesh.
8 I am feeble and severely broken;
I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.

9 Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You.
10 My heart pants, my strength fails me;
As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.

11 My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague,
And my relatives stand afar off.
12 Those also who seek my life lay snares for me;
Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction,
And plan deception all the day long.

13 But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth.
14 Thus I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth is no response.

15 For in You, O LORD, I hope;
You will hear, O Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Hear me, lest they rejoice over me,
Lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.”

17 For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.

18 For I will declare my iniquity;
I will be in anguish over my sin.

 

A Closer Look

 

Let’s look closer at what David said:  Continue reading

Handling Emotions Biblically + LINKUP

 

Handling Emotions Biblically - Emotions are real and part of being human. In fact, God created us as emotional beings. But problems result when we allow our emotions to control our thoughts, words, and actions. When that happens, we can quickly end up in a ditch, spiritually and relationally.

This has been a busy summer for me. This week-end alone we’ve had the wedding of one of our grandchildren, two other grandchildren in a musical theater production, and today dinner out with family for my birthday. I know it’s been the same for many of you vacations and summer activities.

That said, the linkup is open, but there’s no new post today. Instead, here’s a bit of a roundup of what we’ve covered so far.

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Emotions Biblically Series

 

Week One, Handling Emotions Biblically: I introduced the series and talked about why, while emotions are real and powerful, they shouldn’t be what’s leading the show!

Week Two, “Handling Anger Biblically”: In this post I said that since God is the One who created us and everything else, all sinful anger flows out of our unwillingness to accept the fact that He is the Creator, and that He gets to make the rules.

When we get angry we’re really saying, “I don’t like the way You’re letting things work out in my life!”

We get angry because we want to decide what’s right and what’s wrong for us. We should be asking, “Lord, how do you want to use this in my life?” Instead, we allow the “feelings” to take over.

We also talked about the fact that emotions like anger, sorrow, guilt, depression … are not sinful in and of themselves, it’s what we do with those feelings that makes them sinful or not.

We discussed the different kinds of anger and said that anger is not just an emotion, but an issue of the heart (Matt. 15.18-20).

So, it’s not enough to just “control or manage anger.” The heart issues must be addressed if we want any lasting change and the kind of change that’s pleasing to God.

Week Three, “Handling Anger Biblically Part 2”: We talked about why God gave us the emotion of anger and how we express it in different ways. Some of us turn it inward and others explode on everyone around them.

Week Four, “Handling Anger Biblically Part 3”: In this post I wrote about the steps to overcoming sinful anger.

Week Five, “Handling Depression Biblically Part 1“: We looked at three different views on depression: the medical view, the cultural view, and the biblical view.

Week Six, “Handling Depression Biblically Part 2”: We discussed the differences between depression and discouragement. We also looked at various people in the Bible who struggled with these feelings.

Week Seven, “Handling Depression Biblically Part 3”: In this post we looked at David’s life, the many opportunities he had to be depressed, and then spent some time talking about his feelings after he sinned with Bathsheba. We looked honestly at the fact that, in some cases, sin is at the root of our feelings of depression and anxiety.

Week Eight, “Handling Fear & Worry Biblically: Acceptable Sins”: In this post we looked primarily at worry and its sinful roots. I said that some sins are so common they’ve almost become acceptable, even among believers in Christ. Though we may spin them with words like: concerned, disturbed, or troubled, fear and worry fall into that category.

Week Nine, “Handling Fear & Worry Biblically: The Antidote”: Last week I said that when sin entered the world it was accompanied by an uninvited guest … FEAR. We looked at the two root causes of fear and discovered the antidote for this powerful emotion. Lastly, I included a list of verses to study and meditate on when you’re tempted to be worried of fearful. A number of people told me they were going to bookmark it as a helpful reference.

In future posts we’ll look more at guilt and cover trials and suffering. Be sure to add your email here so you don’t miss any of them.

Now on to the linkup!  Continue reading

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically Part 2 + LINKUP

 

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically Part 2 - When sin entered the world it was accompanied by an uninvited guest … FEAR. Yet, the Bible tells us over 450 times, “fear not” or similar words. Find out the two root causes of fear and learn to overcome it biblically in your own life.

 

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically Part 2

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We’ve covered anger and depression. Last week we started talking about fear and worry. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Fear & Worry

 

Last week I said that some sins are so common they’ve almost become acceptable, even among believers in Christ. Though we may spin them with words like: concerned, disturbed, or troubled, fear and worry fall into that category. Last week we focused on worry, how it comes from a divided mind, that it has sinful roots, and how it’s a form of idolatry. Today we’ll focus on fear.

 

Fear

 

The minute Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, an uninvited guest called “fear” showed up, too. Genesis 3:

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

When Cain killed his brother Abel and was banished, he responded with self-pity and fear. Genesis 4:

13 And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

We fear what God will do. We fear what people will do. We fear what people think of us. We fear someone taking advantage of us or not loving us. We fear being disrespected. We fear all over the place.

 

“Fear Not”

 

Handling Fear & Worry God's WayYet, in His Word, God told us not to fear over 450 times.

He told a fearful mother:

17 … Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation” (Gen. 21.17-18).

He assured the nation of Israel of His help and deliverance by telling them to “fear not” (Is. 41.10, 13, 14). And in chapter 43 He said:

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.

In Exodus 4 God reassured a fearful, insecure future leader:

Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’”

10 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

11 So the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

And when he persisted, God sent his brother Aaron with him (Ex. 4.13-17).

In the New Testament, Paul told a nervous young preacher named Timothy:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Tim. 1.7).

 

2 Root Causes of Fear

 

2 Root Causes of Fear - Instead of addressing Adam’s fearful feelings in Genesis 3, God addressed the roots of sinful fear:

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

In that short verse He summed up the two causes of fear: who we are listening to (11a) and sin (11b).

Yet, God does not intend for His people to live in fear.  Continue reading

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically: Acceptable Sins? + LINKUP

 

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically -

Handling Fear & Worry Biblically

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We started with anger and then looked at depression. Today we’re going to begin looking at fear and worry.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Fear & Worry: Acceptable Sins

 

Some sins are so common that they have become acceptable, even among believers in Christ. Fear and worry, certainly, fall into that category. Some of us realize they’re wrong and try to spin them in a little better light with words like: concerned, disturbed, or troubled.

So, what is worry? Why would something that comes so naturally be sinful?

 

Worry

 

The Greek word for worry is merimnao. It’s a combination of two words: merizo (to divide) and nous (mind). It means to have a divided mind. It’s translated in various ways: worry, anxious, anxiety, or care.

There is a kind of care or concern that is good. Paul said he had deep concern for the churches (2 Cor. 11.28) and he commended Timothy because of his care for believers.

19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. 20 For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state (Phil. 2.19-20).

But worry is an overly-anxious concern. It demonstrates a lack of faith and trust in God, His character, and His sovereignty.

Jesus addressed worry in Matthew 6.19-34. In this passage, He forbids it three times:

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 

31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”

34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The Apostle Paul, also, addressed worry when he said:

Be anxious for nothing … (Phil. 4.6a).

 

The Sinful Roots of Worry

 

Worry is idolatry. It involves allowing your thoughts and concerns about the future or your current circumstances to become more important than thinking and acting God’s way. Those things about which you worry have become your idols: finding a spouse, the opinions of others, money, success, good health, your children, etc.

When we worry, we often have an inordinate focus on things.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6.19-21).

But Jesus warned us that we can’t be focused on the things of this world and still have a single-minded focus on and trust in God.

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

When we worry, we are putting our trust in some other god. We’re looking to something else as our refuge or savior. The answer is repentance and renewing our commitment to trust in God and God alone.

 

Worry Is Unbelief

 

Jesus said worriers have “little faith.”

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

The fruit of repentance in the life of a believer is a renewed faith and trust in God. We walk that out by focusing our minds on God’s care and trustworthiness (Matt. 6.25-30), His omniscience (Matt. 6.31-32), and His promises (Matt. 6.33).

And by obediently taking care of today’s responsibilities today:  Continue reading

Handling Depression Biblically: “How?” – Part 4 + LINKUP

 

Handling Depression Biblically - Part 4

Handling Depression Biblically – Part 4

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We started with anger and then moved on to depression. Three weeks ago we discussed the medical, cultural and biblical definitions of depression and two weeks ago we looked at the lives of two of the prophets, Elijah and Jeremiah, and how God ministered to them when they experienced feelings of depression.

Last week we looked at depression in David’s life.  As we looked at Psalm 32 we saw how David’s sin with Bathsheba affected his emotions and led to what we would describe as depression. Today we’re going to talk more about how a failure to handle the events and responsibilities of life in a biblical way and other sins can cause feelings of depression. Then we’ll talk about how, as believers, we should respond to feelings of depression.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Cain & His Unpleasant Emotions

 

In Genesis 4, we read about Adam and Eve’s two sons, Cain and Abel.

² … When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected (NLT).

Cain’s offering was rejected by God and Cain became dejected. The NKJV says his countenance fell.

Hebrews 11.4 says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous.”

God didn’t just reject Cain’s offering out of hand. Abel responded to God in faith, he believed God and obeyed Him. Cain’s disobedience and rebellion was first exposed by his offering. He followed the dictates of his own heart and brought what seemed right to him. Genesis 4 goes on:

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

God was personally dealing with and warning Cain about what was going on in his heart. His response should have been repentance, instead he remained angry at God and his brother will pay the price.

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Cain lures his brother out into the field and then kills him out of anger and jealousy.

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

Given another opportunity to repent and confess his guilt, he responds with defiance and rebellion.

10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11 Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

His response: “It’s too much! It’s not fair!” He was filled with self-pity and feelings of depression.

“Someone will kill me.” He becomes consumed with fear and guilt.

His sinful choices put him on a downward spiral of sin that lead to dejection, anger, self-pity, depression, fear, worry, and guilt.

 

Colleen’s Story

 

In a course that my husband teaches, the downward spiral is illustrated by what happens in the life of a hypothetical college student. We’ll call her Colleen.

Colleen is a good student. She heads off to college with lots of encouragement from her family and teachers to study hard and keep her grades up. College life is new and exciting. She’s making friends and doing well in her classes.

But one night as she heads to the dorm to study, a new friend says they should go to Starbucks and hang out for a while. She protests, but after some convincing gives in and jumps in the car. They stay late and she’s too tired to study. The first time she gets away with it, but soon it becomes a habit. One morning she fails a pop quiz and pretty soon her grades are slipping. When an exam comes up, Colleen cheats.

Then her parents call and ask her how she’s doing. She lies and tells them she’s doing great.

Soon she’s experiencing feelings of anxiety and depression.

If she went to the clinic on campus and told them about her feelings, it’s likely she would be given a prescription to help her feel better. But are her feelings really the problem?

Often, our feelings are like the warning lights on the dash of our cars. They’re telling us something is wrong under the hood. If we disconnect the lights or cover them up somehow, we won’t solve the problem. In fact, we’ll probably have a bigger problem somewhere down the road.

Something is wrong in Colleen’s heart. She has let fun and pleasing her friends become more important than pleasing God.

 

What Does Colleen Need?

 

Colleen needs to repent. She needs to ask God to forgive her and she needs to accept His forgiveness. She needs to call her parents, admit that she lied, and ask for their forgiveness. She, also, needs to confess what’s she’s done to her professor, ask for forgiveness, and be willing to accept the consequences. Then she needs to become faithful in her studies.

Hard. Yes.
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12.11 NKJ).
As challenging as this might seem, if she’s willing to respond God’s way, she’ll be on an upward path, instead of the downward spiral she’s been on, and her feelings can improve quite rapidly. But even if the feelings of depression and discouragement don’t leave immediately, she can have peace with God and know that He’ll use all that’s happened for good in her life. And she’ll grow in her Christian walk as she learns to live righteously before Him.


If You’re Depressed

 
What if you’re experiencing feelings of depression?

Continue reading

Handling Depression Biblically – Part 3 + LINKUP

 

Handling Depression Biblically - Part 3

There are numerous reasons that a person might feel depressed. We can be depressed because of a loss or a set back, because of a lack of sleep, or because of illness. And I don’t have to tell you ladies about hormonal issues. And, sometimes, there is no known cause other than living life in sin-cursed bodies in a fallen world.

It’s, also, true that a failure to handle the events and responsibilities of life in a biblical way can cause feelings of depression. But we must be very careful about making assumptions where others are concerned.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” We started with anger and then moved on to depression. Two weeks ago we discussed the medical, cultural and biblical definitions of depression and last week we looked at the lives of two of the prophets, Elijah and Jeremiah, and how God ministered to them when they experienced feelings of depression. We, also, discussed the difference between depression and discouragement. If you missed them, you may want to read them first.

 

Handling Depression Biblically – Part 3

 

Today we’re going to look at David’s life and talk about the “S-word,” sin, as it relates to depression.

I can already feel someone’s blood pressure starting to rise, so allow me to make a few disclaimers before we get started.

First, there are numerous reasons that a person might feel depressed. We can be depressed because of a loss or a set back, because of a lack of sleep, or because of illness. And I don’t have to tell you ladies about hormonal issues. And, sometimes, there is no known cause other than living life in sin-cursed bodies in a fallen world.

Many godly men and women have struggled with feelings of depression, including: the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon; the great reformer, Martin Luther; and poet and hymn writer, William Cowper. Last week we talked about “The Weeping Prophet,” Jeremiah, and Elijah, who defeated and killed 400 prophets of Baal, only to become so depressed afterwards that he wanted to die.

But it’s, also, true that a failure to handle the events and responsibilities of life in a biblical way can cause feelings of depression. So while we must be very careful about making assumptions where others are concerned, we need to address sin as a possible cause of depression.

 

David

 

If anyone had a reason to suffer from depression, it was David. It seems the man God called “a man after His own heart” (Acts 13.22) and “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23.1) had plenty of opportunities.

When Samuel came to anoint the next king of Israel from among Jesse’s sons, his father didn’t even call him in from the field (1 Sam. 16.5-13).

When he stood up to the giant Goliath, his brother made fun of him.

26 Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”

Then, even though he killed the giant and served Saul faithfully on and off the battlefield, Saul continually broke his promises to David (1 Sam. 18.17-19) and, eventually sought to kill him out of jealousy (1 Sam. 18.8-11).

And even though God had proclaimed him the next king, years went by while he was pursued by Saul, disrespected by others (1 Sam. 25.9-11) and, even, threatened by his own men (1 Sam. 30.6).

After he became king, he was betrayed by his close friend and his own son (2 Sam. 15.10-12).

Frequently, in the psalms, David cried out to the Lord because of his trials and distresses. But perhaps the clearest example of his struggle with depressed emotions takes place after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11.2-5). In Psalm 32 he gives us a snapshot of what he learned about sin, confession, and forgiveness.

When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah (NLT).

A good description of many of the physical feelings connected with depression.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

And verse 1:

Oh, what joy for those 
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those 
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

What he learned:

Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
    that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

10 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
    but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.

God shows us the way to live righteously. When we follow His instructions, we will, generally, experience feelings of peace and joy. That doesn’t mean we’ll never have challenges, losses, or disappointments. But when we respond God’s way we can trust Him to give us the strength to walk through them, in spite of feelings to the contrary.  Continue reading

Handling Depression Biblically – Part 2 + LINKUP

 

Handling Depression Biblically - Part 2 - Depression, if you’ve ever suffered with it, you know it can be a dark, discouraging place to be. At its worst, it’s been called the “dark night of the soul.” But there is hope for those experiencing discouragement, depression, and hopelessness.

Did people in biblical times experience feelings of depression? Is so, what can we learn from their lives and God’s interaction with them?

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” Previously we covered how to handle anger in God honoring ways. You can click the link above to read those posts.

Last week we began discussing depression, in particular, the different definitions of depression: the medical definition, the cultural and the biblical.

 

Handling Depression Biblically – Part 2

 

Last week I said that no one is immune to feelings of depression. For some it’s a mild sense of sadness, for others it can feel debilitating. Today we’re going to look at the biblical definition again and how it compares to discouragement. We’ll, also, look at Elijah’s and Jeremiah’s lives and how they responded to these feelings.

 

Depression or Discouragement?

 

The feelings involved in both depression and discouragement are much the same. They can be extremely painful and difficult and can tempt us to give in to them. The depressed person responds by shutting down. He or she stops functioning in some or all areas of life.

She may stop going to work, quit cleaning the house, avoid people, or refuse to get out of bed altogether. But when a person is discouraged, as I’m defining it here, he or she keeps going, keeps handling life, in spite of their feelings to the contrary.

So, I would define depression as, “a debilitating mood, feeling or attitude of hopelessness which becomes a person’s reason for not handling the most important issues of life.”

The difference between discouragement and depression is immobility. With depression there is an almost total reliance on feelings and those feelings become the basis for their action or inaction.

Numerous people in the Bible experienced feelings of discouragement and/or depression, including: Elijah, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, and Cain.

Today we’ll look at a two of the prophets, Elijah and Jeremiah, and next week we’ll talk about David, Jonah, and Cain.  Continue reading

Handling Depression Biblically – Part 1 + LINKUP

 

Handling Depression Biblically - Part 1 - Depression, if you’ve ever suffered with it, you know it can be a dark, discouraging place to be. At its worst, it’s been called the “dark night of the soul.”Depression, if you’ve ever suffered with it, you know it can be a dark, discouraging place to be. At its worst, it’s been called the “dark night of the soul.”

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” Previously we covered how to handle anger in God honoring ways. You can click the link to read those posts.

Today we’ll begin talking about depression and how to handle it biblically. In future posts, we’ll also cover:

Guilt
Fear & Worry
Trials & Suffering

 

Handling Depression Biblically – Part 1

 

No one is immune to feelings of depression. Pastors and many great men and women of God have struggled with depression and discouragement. So can housewives, executives, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, writers and Bible teachers.

For some it’s a mild feeling of sadness for others it can feel debilitating.

People in the Bible suffered from what many would call depression today, including Elijah, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, and Cain.

 

What Is Depression?

 

Before we talk more about depression, we need to define it. Most of us probably believe we know what it is, but we may find that there’s a wide range of definitions.

 

The Medical Definition

 

The medical world would define depression based on the DSM-5, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.

According to the DSM-5 a person is depressed if, “Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure (excluding symptoms that are clearly attributable to another medical condition).

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad, empty, hopeless) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). (Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.)
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation.)
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. (Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gain.)
  4. Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  7. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
  8. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Notice that the criteria are based on thinking and behavior, not changes in the body, and that the descriptions are subjective not objective.

According to Web MD,

There is no blood test, X-ray, or other laboratory test that can be used to diagnose major depression. However, your doctor may run blood tests to help detect any other medical problems that have symptoms similar to those of depression.

[Diagnosis is] based on self-described thinking and feelings and/or the observations of others.

I don’t note those facts to make light of the reality and intensity of the feelings, only so we can talk about depression in biblical terms.

Clinical depression means that a physician has used his clinical skills based on the complaints of the patient and his own observation.

The most common medical explanation for depression is chemical imbalance. Through the years different chemicals have been mentioned. The one considered the primary culprit has changed numerous times over the last 30 years or so. But while this is widely accepted, even medical journals say it’s a theory and not a fact.

According to Web MD some common triggers or causes of major depression include:  Continue reading