Written the day after my son's funeral
I thought perhaps this week would be just too difficult to think about posting any devotional or writing anything to you all, after learning last Tuesday, that our 24 yr. old son had committed suicide. This last week was an indescribable nightmare that I prayed I'd never have to endure and pray for all of you, that you will not. What I would like to share with you is God's sustaining grace through the worst tragedy in life. I think I know some of you that get this newsletter will identify, as you've voiced to me your own tragedies God has walked you through. I'm sure the pain and sorrow will not go away for a long, long time. In fact at this point I don't see it possible that I am ever free of it. A suicide brings so many questions, and so many hard things to deal with. It leaves a family and church with tremendous pain. If any of you out there think lightly of it and are even remotely considering such a thing, please wipe it far out of your mind. You have no idea what devastation you leave behind for others.
I've been to this point myself. I know in order to get there you have to be completely without hope. We all have a natural instinct of self-preservation and to have gotten to the place where even that does not keep you from doing it, you have to be to a place of utter despair. I was there and God drew me out of it. It was impossible for me to bring myself out of it.
Before this happened, the Lord gave me a little lesson one day as I was reading the Word and happened to pick up a book on our counter and read a portion out of it. The lesson was that no matter what others do, no matter what evil surrounds, no matter what our circumstances and how bad they get, God is always the same God, always reliable to be exactly Who He is according to His perfect attributes and character. He does not change. That is why we can always trust Him... trust His goodness to be beyond any goodness we could ever comprehend... perfect. His love... beyond our comprehension or ability to love... perfect, selfless, enduring, never failing... no never. His righteousness... perfect, never ever, ever changing and He could not act outside of His own righteousness. No matter what the questions we may have or the "whys" we may have in this life, we can count on God to always be God and always act according to Who He is, never changing. When Peter walked on the water to Jesus, the storm was raging before he ever got out of the boat, yet he had faith in Jesus enough to step out and walk on that water to Him. Nothing changed about the wind and waves... but suddenly he saw them... not that he didn't see them before... but now he hesitated and doubted the God of the wind and waves. Perhaps his doubts were... "Is Jesus really God and able to make me walk on this water? Is He really able to stop those wind and waves from drowning me? Who is He? Does he care about me enough? Why did He let me step out into this? Does He really want me to drown? Will He really get me through this?" Well, who knows what all went into his head. I know when the wind and waves of suicide, or sorrows or troubles of any kind come to us it can cause questions of God's love for us... His goodness... His mercy... etc. But God prepared me before this happened by showing me that I needed always to see Him rightly, and that is what our stability is... knowing Him rightly. If we even keep our eyes on Him but do not see Him rightly, that is when our circumstances and grief and so forth will drown us. We must know Him rightly. When this happened, I had much agony over what my son did and still do, but I have a peace that passes all understanding from and about Jesus Himself, because in the last several years of my life He's been revealing to me His attributes and character and Who He is in such a way that I know I can never doubt His love or judgment in anything. I can never judge what He allowed or didn't allow, or how good He is, or how loving, or how merciful. I believe in Him. I don't doubt His love for Ben or His mercy... in fact I am encouraged by knowing I can rely on it. I trust in Him... not because I'm such a great person of profound faith, but because of He Himself indwelling me and doing that, which He does in all His children who put their faith in Him. I'm not trying to show what a great lady of faith I am, but what a great God of faithfulness we have here. It is because of the struggles with those questions through many years of my Christian life, and falling and seeking His answers that He has shown me these things. It did not happen overnight or from one little devotional or lesson. It was years of tears and falling and seeking and finding that brought me to this place. But I want to share that stability of Who He is with all of you. You can count on it. You can rest in it. The pain remains, as it just will for now, but even in the pain I've learned He brings a special comfort that you would not know otherwise. He provides for all. We can find our comfort in Him.
My son, Ben, received Christ as His Savior a couple years ago. He entered into water baptism in March of 2007. He struggled with severe depression, neurological, and physical problems and I do not agree with what he did nor do I condone it, but in trying to explain it, we realize how desperate he must have come. For anyone who would care to listen to a wonderful Gospel message that was preached yesterday at his memorial service, that was so very encouraging and uplifting, click the play button here and listen: boomp3.com
Here is a slide show of Ben's life also, which was shown at the end of the service, as a tape of Ben singing his testimony song, "Amazing" was played: Slide Show The song is about the amazing grace and love of God to him... his personal testimony. I hope those of you who listen are blessed by it.
I thought the pastor did a wonderful job with such a very hard subject and we were much comforted by it.
I didn't think I could share anything today but it is actually therapeutic for me to share with you. It is out of the deep grief and sorrows of our own lives we are truly able to share the reality and comfort of Christ. I hope many of you find it a comfort today, and also again, if anyone of you had a thought of suicide, please know there is hope... there is the strength, the faith, the guidance to get through whatever in life you must face... whatever the race is you care called to run, through Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith, and Who, for the hope set before Him endured the cross. I remember once praying, "Lord I'm sincerely asking You to take my life or let me die. Is it ok for me to ask this of You and will You please just take my life?" He answered me... gently, in a still small voice... "Yes, I could let you die now, but if I do, you would never experience or know the glory I want to work in you and through you." Suddenly I realized He was asking me if I would love Him enough to keep living, and trust Him to do His work in me. Suddenly I wanted that more than anything, no matter what the pain. As Christians sometimes, there is more of a temptation to want to end life and just be free and in heaven than even for a nonbeliever. We must trust Jesus alone with that perfect time. I look forward to that day I can be with Him. But I will let it come according to His will... when His purposes are accomplished in me, and when He says now is the time. My times are in His hands. Satan can so easily deceive when we are immature in the Lord and unaware of His schemes and lies. We need to watch out for one another when we see each other going through the fire. We are here to help one another along the journey. We don't do this journey alone... ever. From beginning to end we are in it together as the body of Christ.
Psa 62:5 My soul, wait thou in silence for God only; For my expectation is from him. Psa 62:6 He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my high tower; I shall not be moved. Psa 62:7 With God is my salvation and my glory: The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Psa 62:8 Trust in him at all times, ye people; Pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
What does it mean to “pour out our hearts” before God?
Strong’s meaning is:
A primitive root; to spill forth (blood, a libation, liquid metal; or even a solid, that is, to mound up); also (figuratively) to expend (life, soul, complaint, money, etc.); intensively to sprawl out: - cast (up), gush out, pour (out), shed (-der, out), slip.
pour out your heart before him: as Hannah did, 1Sa_1:15; and as water is poured out, Lam_2:19; it means the desires of the heart, the complaints of the soul, the whole of their case which they should spread before the Lord, and make known unto him; see Psa_102:1, title, and Psa_142: 2; the phrase denotes the abundance of the heart, and of its requests, and the freedom with which they should be made to the Lord; for through the blood and sacrifice of Christ a believer may come to the throne of grace with boldness and liberty, and there freely tell the Lord all his mind, and all that is in his heart;
Many Christians never learn to do this and suffer depression and anxiety because of it. They think it is selfish to do so, yet the Bible tells us to do it. Rather, it is selfish not to as it robs God of revealing Himself to us in those areas of our lives that we hold to ourselves. In pouring out our hearts to Him, we are turning our hearts over to Him in a surrender of what is filling it. We turn it over for His examination, His care and love, His comfort, His revealing Himself to us and His glorifying Himself to us and through us.
Some of us will pour our hearts out to others around us… sometimes those who don’t want to hear it, or care. But we fail to pour out our hearts before God. There is something wonderful that happens when we do. Others may empathize or even sympathize with us as we pour out our hearts to them, but God is the one who lifts up our hearts, encourages us, and shows us the path He has prepared for us through our circumstances, our fears, our anxieties, and our loneliness… all things that affect us in this life here below as Christians. Every challenge that seems too great, every fear that we want to run from, every sorrow we must bear… God IS the answer and understands the “pouring out” of our hearts and ourselves before Him; and not only does He not despise it, He looks for it, as it is a place of humility before Him… of brokenness that He is able to meet and act on in us. In fact, many times, until we fully pour our hearts out before Him in that brokenness we are unable to receive anything from God. We are still trying hard to do for ourselves what only God can do.
I think many times depression becomes severe because we don’t learn to do this. Many times we suffer in silence, and depression, because we are unable to pour our hearts out before God in faith. If it is not in faith, we go on in despair, walking away as though there were no God to hear us. But if we come to Him in faith—knowing He cares—casting our cares on Him for He cares for us intimately, perfectly, and wants to work through that care—then we go away feeling as though we’ve truly emptied ourselves of that care before Him, and He will take it up. Sometimes there is a great release in just bearing your soul to someone you trust. Who greater to bear our souls to than God? He sees them anyway, and nobody cares more!
What does the verse say? God is a refuge for us. That is why we should pour out our hearts before Him… because He is a refuge for us. As we wait silently before Him, He strengthens our hearts. Our “expectation” or hope is from Him. He alone can fulfill it. Many turn to the world rather than learning to come before Him and pouring out their hearts to Him, waiting on Him, trusting Him for the answer… for their hope. They are disappointed, or find a counterfeit that does not lead to the way He has planned for them. If we sit in silence before Him, we sit expectantly with His Word, trusting Him to lead us and give the needed grace and wisdom. We are silenced in our souls from the world’s philosophies or ways, (ps. 1), and silenced from the voice of well meaning friends or anyone else but God alone, and able to pour out our hearts before Him and receive from Him what is needed, because our expectation has become His expectation and desire for us, and we know then that we shall receive from Him. He then becomes our refuge from the thing burdening our hearts—our refuge and strength—our ever-present help in our time of trouble. He leads us through it. Many times the troubles don’t go away—but He leads us through it. He is our refuge through it—our helper in the time of need. It will not overwhelm or defeat us.
So important it is to learn to pour our hearts out to God! To seek His face! It is in these times we truly come to know Him and His heart is revealed to us.
Psa 62:6 He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my high tower; I shall not be moved.
When we come to the place where we say to ourselves, “He ONLY is my rock and my salvation”, then our hearts are ready to go to Him and pour ourselves out and receive what He alone has for us, that no man can give us. When we are at that place, we find He is our high tower—my defense—in this I will never be moved from my place of faith and rest in Him.
I shall not be moved; neither greatly, nor at all; his faith gets fresh strength and rigour, the more he considers God as his rock, salvation, defence, and refuge;
J, F, & B:
not be moved — not at all; his confidence has increased.
We find Him to be all-sufficient… Psa 62:7 With God is my salvation and my glory: The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
Those who learn to pour out their hearts to God find a release in their souls, and a peace that the world cannot understand. The world marvels at it. It is beyond their comprehension, because only in God can that perfect peace that surpasses our natural understanding come. The world may find helps from other ways, but they do not find the kind of peace that is brought by God alone and the benefit that comes from knowing Him through our tribulations. And sadly… many Christians also do not find it as they should, because they look to the world’s ways rather than to God and settle for its help rather than His life.
May our hearts be turned to Him and poured out unto Him in all things.
From Bob Hoekstra’s daily devotional:
“…being filled with the Spirit is not automatic or universal for Christians, as is the indwelling of the Spirit. This fact can be clearly seen in the instruction given in Eph_5:18. "And do not be drunk with wine. . . but >b>be filled with the Spirit." Since this is a command and not a description, it only becomes a personal reality to those who respond properly. Additionally, the form of this command contains tremendous insight concerning the fullness of the Spirit and God's desire for us. The injunction to "be filled with the Spirit" is in the present tense, indicating an ongoing condition. It could properly (though awkwardly) be translated "be (always) being filled." This imperative is a call to a way of living, not merely periodic events. It is the will of God that we actually live, day by day, more and more, by the fullness of the Spirit's empowering work. We should humbly pray for the fullness of the Holy Spirit as we face each day, each challenge, each opportunity of life.
We have times of strength in our lives … whether it be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. We have times when we “feel strong”. We have times when we feel very weak, and helpless, and struggle with each day. We have times when we feel we are in control of life. And we have times we feel we have lost control and cannot see the road ahead clearly. We have times when our tomorrows seem so promising. Yet we have times when our tomorrows seem very fearful and we dread what tomorrow may bring. Life is full of surprises. It never is secure, or sure, as in a moment, what we call our security or stability can be taken away from us. There is never a moment when on this earth we can say we are for sure safe and all is well. A moment can bring disaster. A day can bring on sickness or an event that will change the entire course of our lives.
How does being filled with His Spirit fit into this? Moment by moment, day by day, we must rely solely on His Spirit filling us and equipping us, not just for the extraordinary task once in awhile, but for our daily lives, whether they are busy, trying, mundane, or whatever! Every part of our lives and every moment of it, is to be lived by His Spirit, and filled with His Spirit—whether in our strengths or our weaknesses. As we are filled with and strengthened by Him, no matter what may come, we are prepared for it, as we know He’s already been there, seen it, and made the way. We only need to trust. He is right there within us, filling us to handle it and walk through it with us.
The Christian’s surety is God Himself.
Heb 7:22 “by so much also hath Jesus become the surety of a better covenant.”
He Himself has become the surety of His covenant of Grace. He Himself, filling us daily with His Spirit is our hope for tomorrow, our help for today, our peace and calm in whatever storm comes our way, and grace sufficient for our weakness and helplessness. Only this grace must be appropriated and walked in by faith. It cannot ever be earned. We’ll never be good enough for it. It is already ours in Christ, only to be appropriated by faith. It is never walked in by our own efforts striving to do what we can the best we can. God’s grace is greater than our very best. His Spirit was given to us to be the life in us and through us. That alone is sufficient for whatever our todays and tomorrows bring. Moment by moment we have the grace available to us in the presence of His indwelling Spirit. It is as we acknowledge His Spirit’s unbroken presence, and yield to Him in faith in that New Covenant of grace through the blood of Jesus, asking Him and trusting Him to fill us, that we find grace sufficient moment by moment for whatever we need.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary says of the word, surety:
“One who becomes responsible for another. Christ is the surety of the better covenant (Heb_7:22). In him we have the assurance that all its provisions will be fully and faithfully carried out.”
We can rely on Him. His giving of His Spirit for us to live by, is part of that covenant of grace. It is a sure thing that we can count on and live by. So often we feel it means that He’ll help our flesh to somehow reform or live better lives or just help us, coming along side us. But He has done so much more than that… He has given us His very Spirit to dwell and abide in us, and to live by, moment by moment, depending on Him, knowing by faith that we have been crucified with Him and are seated with Him in the heavenlies. Our life is now a new life that is His, and He Himself makes sure of that life. He knows in this world we’ll have so many needs, whether we find ourselves in good days, or bad days, strength, or weakness, we cannot walk in all He has meant for us except we do it by faith in this wonderful gift He has given and are always being filled with His Spirit. He is our surety of that grace—He Himself seeing to it that His grace is supplied for every need as we trust in Him.
Each of us are at different stages of our lives, spiritual growth, circumstances, etc. – but all of us, alike, are dependant on the Holy Spirit to be our life in this world, our light in darkness, our strength in weakness, and grace to enable us moment by moment so that He is glorified, first of all to us and in us – then to others around us so that they might also partake of His glory. He has gone on before us to prepare the way for us on our journey here below, and promises grace for every single part of it.
One of my favorite psalms Ps. 84:4-7…
Psa 84:4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: They will be still praising thee. Selah.
Psa 84:5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; In whose heart are the highways to Zion.
Psa 84:6 Passing through the valley of Weeping they make it a place of springs; Yea, the early rain covereth it with blessings.
Psa 84:7 They go from strength to strength; Every one of them appeareth before God in Zion. (ASV)
In another writing on Ephesians by H. A. Ironside Here is an excerpt:
"The Christian's Conflict", Eph. 6:10-12, (Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might.) from his study on Ephesians, "In The Heavenlies").
Perhaps it might be rendered, “My brethren, be daily strengthened, “ for it is in the continuous tense; be constantly receiving strength from the Lord and go forth in the power of His might. It is important to realize that even after we have been converted for many years we have no more power in ourselves to insure victory over the foe than we had when first saved. The excellency of the power is not in us but in God, and therefore the necessity of living in communion with Him. The preacher cannot do his work aright unless in communion with God, the choir cannot sing aright, the workman at his bench or machine cannot do his work aright and bring glory to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the young woman at her desk, the man selling goods upon the street, the farmer at the plow, cannot work aright unless in communion with God. We all need His mighty quickening power to enable us to triumph in our respective spheres just as much as any missionary going to a foreign field to carry the gospel to lost men and women. Here is a challenge to everyone of us. We must face it for we cannot overcome in our own strength, therefore the importance of living near to the Lord, being strengthened in the Lord and in the power of His might.
In Christ, our life, “the new man” is being renewed daily by faith.
2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves;
2Co 4:8 we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair;
2Co 4:9 pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed;
2Co 4:10 always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body.
2Co 4:11 For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
2Co 4:14 knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you.
2Co 4:15 For all things are for your sakes, that the grace, being multiplied through the many, may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God.
2Co 4:16 Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.
That life He has given us never grows old or wears out. It continues on and on for eternity, and never fails. It can only fail if Christ Himself could fail, as it is He Himself that is that life. It is our “real” life, which is hid in Christ.
Col 3:3 For you* died, and your* life has been hid with Christ in God.
Col 3:4 Whenever Christ, [who is] our life, is revealed, then also _we_ will be revealed with Him in glory.
What a grand promise! What a wonderful hope, that we can be sure will never fail!
Rom 12:21 “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Overcome (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary):
1. To conquer; to vanquish; to subdue; as, to overcome enemies in battle.
2. To surmount; to get the better of; as, to overcome difficulties or obstacles.
So many things in this world threaten to overcome the Christian. Besides the evil that increases around us as the world continues to race toward its judgment day, there are foes without and foes within! Shall we be conquered by them? Is it possible not to? Are we just to bide our time the best we can here below as we wait for the Lord to come?
Many times I’ve had the overwhelming feeling of being conquered, or overcome, or subdued when life’s troubles surmounted. I can’t say I’m a strong person that was ever able to overcome anything. But I can boldly say I have a powerful God Who I’ve learned to lean on knowing He is able to overcome the worst in me and around me and on my behalf. I don’t mean to say He’s always made my life wonderful so that my troubles would just vanish every time I prayed. In fact most of the time they were still there or grew worse, or took many years for me to walk through before seeing anything get better. He alone taught me not to be overcome by them. He taught me that in everything, He is sufficient. When I am not, He is sufficient for the day. His light is greater than the darkness, His truth greater than the lie, and His love much more powerful than the hate that increases against His children worldwide. The life He gives is more powerful than death, and has conquered it. We have nothing more to fear!
Yet I fear much of the time, and when I do I find myself ashamed. I fear the future all too often. I fear losing another loved one. I fear “what man might do to me”. I fear to speak for my Lord at times. Too often I feel overcome. I sometimes am just tired of life itself in this world. I will share with you what revives me in those moments. When I look into the face of God, through His Word, and in prayer, I see something greater than all my fear and dread. I see something greater than all my weakness. We seem to think that as we grow older we should be growing stronger as Christians. I have only noticed that I grow weaker, but He grows stronger in me. The last battle left me weaker than before, in myself… yet my leaning on Him has grown stronger and more diligent than ever before. My awareness of how much I need Him has grown like never before. My complete hope in Him alone and realization that He is my very life and joy has grown because my life and joys in this world are being taken from me again and again. Oh don’t get me wrong. The Lord has given me so many wonderful provisions and blessings in this life! I have not lacked at all and have been so blessed and I have been able to rejoice with Him in His wonderful provisions and blessings and gifts. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him! Yet, there are times when we lose them. There are times when people we love leave our life one way or another. There are those dearly beloved who go on before us. There are things we once enjoyed that we must learn to do without. And there are strengths we once had we don’t anymore. That is just life in this world. I don’t believe God delights in taking things away from His children so that they will suffer and not be attached to them anymore. I believe this is a misconception. Whether we have them or not we can be attached to them! But we can have much and thank God for it and remember that He is our source of joy and life and all good things… or we can have little and do the same and still our rejoicing is in Him. Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in – with little or with much”. Yet when we do lose things and God allows sorrow in our life, as He took our sorrows unto Himself, He is able to be our comfort and strength and overcoming power so that we are not swallowed up by it. That is only possible as we allow Him to by surrendering our hearts to Him to fill in these times. He can be that in our prosperous times as well as our weak and troublesome times.
Evil has many forms. We can be overcome by good things given to us as well as by hardship. We can be overcome by plenty or by little. We can be overcome by success and the goodwill of others around us or by persecution and loss. It is our heart that must not be overcome by anything! It must be safely close to Jesus where He will keep it, so that nothing at all can overcome it. Only Jesus is strong enough to keep it. What must we guard against most of all? We must guard against our heart being overcome so that it is drawn away from Him! The enemy of our soul seeks to use everything in our life one way or another, whether good or bad to overcome our hearts and draw them away from Christ. He knows our weaknesses. Yet, Jesus also knows them and sometimes when we don’t… He allows them to come out clearly where we can see them so that we’ll lean on Him all the more where He can keep us safe, and where we will not be overcome.
How do we overcome with good? Faith – Faith in Jesus Christ alone to fill us with His goodness so that we can walk in that love and goodness just as He did, by His Spirit He has given to everyone that is born of Him. By that Spirit indwelling us, Who knows all things, and knows the incorruptible inheritance He has waiting for us, we are able to do good to those who do evil to us, forgive wrongs committed against us, love our enemies, and give ourselves up for Jesus’ life to be seen in and through us, so that that goodness can overcome the evil also in others and spread to their hearts. Hate and destruction is the world’s way of dealing with each other. But God’s way of overcoming hate and destruction is grace, love, and mercy. One day all evil will be judged and destroyed once and for all. But right now He holds out love and mercy for all who will choose to not be overcome by evil, but will allow His goodness to overcome the evil in their own hearts and fill them with grace. God has made a way – the only way – a perfect way. It is through Jesus Christ and His life only and always. We cannot change the world, but we can allow Him to change our hearts.
Each day we must choose to not be overcome, but allow Christ to overcome us and dwell in our hearts by faith, living His life in us and through us. What will you choose today?
LIVINGSCRIPTURES WEEKLY DEVOTIONAL