Often times our American culture dulls us to the reality of “real life.” Our society is spoiled with great comforts and freedoms that blind our eyes to the true realities that exist in this fallen world. However, all of those realities come crashing down when the doctors walk into the room and say, “I’m sorry, but the spot we saw is cancer.” The realness of life grabs your attention when the phone rings to inform you that your father just died. The nearness of eternity commands your attention when your little baby is found lying in the crib lifeless and motionless. During such moments of pain, it is possible to lose focus on God while battling for true joy and peace. Such moments of grief often cause pain like an angry sea that pushes you under the waves and chokes the breath out of your lungs.
Often times the discouragement hits home weeks down the road following the diagnosis or personal tragedy. It is during that moment in time that the darkness and loneliness of tragedy settle in like a cold winter’s storm. How can a person find comfort and peace during such moments? The answer for overcoming discouragement is found in the Bible.
Psalm 30:1-12: It is during this song penned by King David that we see him praising God for deliverance and healing. During the song we see how David was made to be glad and to sing praise to God for his deliverance. The words that David sings should bring great comfort to our hearts as we fight for joy in the midst of discouragement. Notice what David says in Psalm 30:5. David understood that his joy was coming much like the brightness of the sun breaking through the darkness of night in the morning’s sunrise. It should be pointed out that David also understood the reason for God sustaining his life. It was not for David to continue living or that he may continue to be King, but that David could bring glory to God (Psalm 30:9; Psalm 30:12). That should be our prayer as well. We should pray that God would sustain us and give us life in order that we may praise Him!
John Bunyan was an English Puritan who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. That little book has sold more copies than any other book in the English language other than the Bible. John Bunyan experienced sadness and grief as he sat in a prison cell in Bedford England for 12 years because he refused to stop preaching the Gospel. At the time of his imprisonment, Bunyan had four children, the oldest of which was blind, a new wife who he married after his first wife died, and a new baby on the way. It was during that time of grief that his wife miscarried and was left to care for his four children while he sat in prison for preaching the Gospel.
Bunyan writes about that time in his life by saying:
The parting with my Wife and poor children hath often been to me in this place as the pulling of the Flesh from my bones; and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great Mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries and wants that my poor Family was like to meet with should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all I had besides; O the thoughts of the hardship I thought my Blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces (Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, 123).
It seems clear that the entire event of his imprisonment was not a time of great joy. Although he was able to have visitors and given the privilege to write and continue his metal work, he was not overflowing with joy since he was separated from his family. Therefore, it is important to note that Christians – often great Christians – face battles of discouragement.
John Bunyan’s work The Pilgrim’s Progress is a great allegory of the Christian life. In that story, one of the greatest moments is when Christian and Hopeful are in Doubting-Castle. During that moment, Christian realizes that he has the key that can be used to unlock the door and allow them to be set free. Notice how Bunyan describes this event, because this is where we too can find the key that will unlock the doors of Doubting-Castle if we ever find ourselves imprisoned there.
What a fool I have been, to lie like this in a stinking dungeon, when I could have just as well walked free. In my chest pocket I have a key called Promise that will, I am thoroughly persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle.” “Then,” said Hopeful, “that is good news. My good brother, do immediately take it out of your chest pocket and try it.” Then Christian took the key from his chest and began to try the lock of the dungeon door; and as he turned the key, the bolt unlocked and the door flew open with ease, so that Christian and hopeful immediately came out (The Pilgrim’s Progress, 172).
As Christian realizes he has the key, notice that it is hidden in his chest pocket. The entire story of The Pilgrim’s Progress is allegorical, therefore, it is full of symbols. This scene depicts the fact that Christian had the key hidden in his chest pocket. This implies that we as Christians should have the Word of God – the Word of Truth – hidden in our chest – our hearts – that we could experience victory, even in the midst of a “stinking dungeon” like Doubting-Castle. That is why David said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).
If you find yourself battling for joy and victory in the Christian life, remember that the answer is found in the Bible – God’s Holy Word.
For God’s Glory,
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When the Darkness Will Not Lift – John Piper
Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure – Martyn Lloyd-Jones