Thursday, August 14, 2014

Is God good and can He be trusted?

That we trust God completely and unreservedly is absolutely crucial to all Christians to suffering from anxiety and/or depression.

I would like to thank Crosswalk.com for their kind permission in letting me reprint the below devotional series written by Selwyn Hughes, which addresses the issue of trusting God, and trusting in Him completely. I found this series very enlightening and helpful, and recommend that you read it right to the end.

Can God Be Trusted?

Psalm 20:1--9

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." (v. 7)
We consider now another matter that is essential if we are to go deeper with God -- confidence in His character. Is God good and can He be trusted? The manner in which we answer this question is crucial to our ongoing relationship with Him. If we have doubts about His character -- His justice for example -- it will most certainly affect the way we view Him and approach Him. You may have heard the story of the farmer whose one and only tractor failed. So he decided to walk across the fields to a neighboring farmer whom he knew had three. As he strode to the neighbor's farmhouse, he reflected on what he knew about his fellow farmer. He remembered that he never appeared at any of the village's social events, and he had heard somewhere that he had a reputation as a skinflint. More negative thoughts about the farmer entered his head, but by this time he found himself at the door of the farmhouse. The farmer, who had seen him coming across the fields, appeared at the doorway and asked: "What's the problem?" "I've come to tell you," said the man, "that you can keep your jolly old tractor!" Many do not realize how profoundly the way we think about God and His, character influences the way we worship Him, the way we work for Him, and the way we witness to Him. Any doubts about the goodness of God will result in our souls keeping their distance from Him. If we do not have complete confidence in Him, we will not desire a close relationship with Him.

Prayer:

Father, I see how crucial is this issue. Help me deal with any doubts that may be circulating in my mind. I don?t want any distance between You and me; I want closeness. I am listening, dear Father. Continue leading me on. Amen.


Doubt and Disobedience

Genesis 3:1--19

"[The serpent] said to the woman, 'Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden"?'" (v. 1)

We continue discussing the point that unless we have a strong conviction that God is entirely trustworthy, we will not desire a deep and ongoing relationship with Him. Yesterday we spoke of the distance from God our souls experience when we entertain doubts about His goodness. Do you realize that the reason for the distance between God and the first human couple in the Garden of Eden was doubt about God's goodness? Doubt about God soon leads to dislike of God, and dislike of God soon leads to disobedience. When Eve responded to the Tempter's insinuation that God did not have her best interests at heart (by withholding something from her), the doubt she entertained soon led to dislike of God, and then it was relatively easy to take the next step and disobey Him. The moment her doubt about God's goodness expressed itself in taking the forbidden fruit, the foundation on which her relationship with God was established -- trust -- crumbled beneath her feet. Adam rapidly followed her in committing the same kind of sin (doubt about God's goodness) and then, inevitably, distance replaced closeness. Since the Fall, every child born into this world has within its nature a basic distrust of God. Paul puts it like this: "The sinful mind is hostile to God" (Rom. 8:7). The word hostility can be translated "enmity." No one trusts someone they regard as an enemy. Distance between humankind and God arose when the first human couple doubted His goodness. Closeness between human beings and God comes when we have confidence in His goodness. As we said yesterday, no confidence -- no relationship.

Prayer:

O God my Father, help me have an unshakable confidence in Your character so that no doubts prompted by the devil will ever penetrate my soul. I want no distance between us, but an ever growing closeness. Grant it, in Jesus' Name. Amen.


Build on the Rock

Matthew 7:15--29

"'... everyone who ... does not put [Jesus' words] into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.'" (v. 26)

"The biggest problem we face in the Christian life," said Dr. Cynddylan Jones, a famous Welsh preacher, "is distance." He continued: "The only way that distance can be overcome is by having the perspective of Job who said: 'Though He slay me yet will I trust Him.'" When I talk to counselors in training I tell them that what they should be listening for as a counselee tells his or her story is distance. That's what underlies most problems that bring people into counseling. This does not mean we should ignore or make light of the surface problems with which people may be struggling. But the plain fact is this -- when we are close to God and have a deep and intimate relationship with Him, we may feel downcast but not destroyed. Therefore, every Christian counselor's ultimate goal should be to close any distance there may be between the person and God, and to develop spiritual oneness. Counseling is not effective or complete until this is accomplished. How does distance come between ourselves and God? There are many causes -- bitterness and resentment against another, persistent sin, failure to establish a devotional life -- but largely it arises through a lack of trust. If you cut your way through the maze of human problems that's what you find -- an inability to trust. That's what happened in the Garden of Eden, and that's what happens in our personal Garden of Eden also. To try to develop a close relationship with God and fail to deal with this most basic issue is about as effective as building a skyscraper on an acre of sand.

Prayer:

O God, I see so clearly that although there are many things that bring about distance between You and me, the most basic is lack of trust. Help me settle this issue once and for all over the next few days. In Christ's Name I pray. Amen.


Where Is God?

Psalm 74:1--23

"Rise up, O God, and defend your cause; remember how fools mock you all day long." (v. 22)

How do we develop trust in the goodness of God when so much that is happening in the world seems to contradict it? If God is good, how can He allow disasters? Dr. M. Scott Peck opens his book The Road Less Travelled with these words: "Life is difficult. This is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it." I have great difficulty with some of Dr. Scott Peck's statements, but I fully endorse these remarks. Once we accept the fact that life is difficult -- that the mystery of why calamities and suffering occur will never be fully solved while we are here on earth -- then we will stop demanding that a satisfactory answer be found and begin to get on with life. Christians go down different routes regarding this matter of calamities and suffering. One is to close their eyes and pretend the tremendous problems are not there. But integrity requires that we face whatever is true. Reality is grim -- innocent children are abused, starved, massacred -- and countless other forms of atrocity are carried out around the world daily. We must not blind our eyes to these facts and pretend they are untrue because they appear to contradict the concept of God?s goodness. Pretense must never be our refuge. We must be willing to look at these things, unpleasant and horrible though they be, and allow ourselves to be jarred by them. When we face life honestly and allow ourselves to be jolted by what we see, then, and only then, are we ready for God to speak.

Prayer:

Gracious and loving heavenly Father, give me the courage not to bury my head in the sand and pretend there are no problems. Help me stand even when I cannot understand. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.


The God Who is There
Job 42:1--17
"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." (v. 5)
The Book of Job records the story of a godly man who underwent some of the most bitter experiences it is possible to meet with in this life. At first Job says very little about his difficulties, but later in the book he begins to face the reality of what has happened to him and declares that if he could have an interview with God he would tell Him exactly what he thought of Him (Job 23:1--17). It was when he faced his hardships, recognized how he really felt and admitted it that God came to him and answered him (Job 38:1--41:34). We must never be afraid of admitting that what we see around us doesn?t match up with what we know about the character of God. To blind our eyes to the realities of life for fear that what we observe might turn us against God is utterly foolish. We must face difficult issues, for it is only when we do so that we are ready to hear God speak. If we refuse to face reality, then our souls are not alert to hear His voice. We fear that we might hear something to make us even more uncertain of God, and thus prefer to take refuge in illusion. When Job faced the reality of his situation and how he really felt, then he was ready for God to speak. But notice God didn't give any answers to Job's questions. He gave Himself. Job had an encounter with God that more than satisfied him. He could live without answers when he knew that God was there.

Prayer:

Loving Father, the more I learn about You the more wonderful I see You are. Help me never to take refuge in illusion but to bring all my doubts and fears directly to You. Do for me what You did for Job -- enrich me with Your presence. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


Accepting the Inevitable

Job 36:1--15

"But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction." (v. 15)

Oswald Chambers said: "Life is more tragic than orderly." Chambers knew that unless Christians are willing to grapple with this truth and accept it, they will be plagued by inner oughts and shoulds that lead them down the road of illusion. They will find themselves saying, "It ought not to be like this" or "Things should be different" -- and the only thing this kind of demandingness produces is frustration and anger. The Fall has turned this fair universe of God's into a shambles, and though much about the world is still beautiful, accidents, calamities, and suffering prevail. And these will continue until the time when God brings all things to a conclusion. There is nothing wrong with wishing that things were not so, but when we demand that they be different, when we say the effects of the Fall must be reversed and reversed now, we will end up feeling terribly frustrated. Life is difficult, as Scott Peck stated, and though prayer does move God to work supernaturally in some situations, life will go on being more "tragic than orderly" until Christ returns and finalizes His plans for this fallen planet. This is reality -- and the sooner we face it the better. True faith is not built upon illusion but upon reality. We may not like things the way they are in this world, but to avoid facing them because they don't match up with what we know about God is foolish. As I have been emphasizing, it is only when we face honestly the harsh realities of life that we become ready for God to speak to us.

Prayer:

O God, I see that facing the hard things of life honestly drives me to a place where I become desperate for an answer. Then You step in -- and give me not an answer but Yourself. I can live without answers, but I cannot live without You. Stay close to me, my Father. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Messed Up Theology
Job 13:1--15
"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him ..." (v. 15)
A friend of mine who is an instructor in the field of Christian counseling says that one of the things he likes to do with his students is to mess up their theology. He does so by asking them difficult questions about the realities of the universe in order to see how they attempt to square these issues with their view of God. "God always answers the prayer of faith," said one of his students. "Then why," he asked the student, "did I pray for an hour for my father who was desperately sick to have a good night and then hear that he had the worst night since he had been in the hospital?" "You didn't pray in faith," replied the student. That's the kind of glib answer many people would give to that question. Such people can't sit quietly in the presence of mystery and say: "I don't understand why this is so but nevertheless I still believe God is good." They must have some kind of answer that they can hold on to because when they have no answers they have no faith. Faith is Job saying: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him." Anyone can believe when there are explanations and answers. The person who goes on to know God in a deep and intimate way is the one who can affirm that God is good even though there may be a thousand appearances to the contrary. Pray for me and I will pray for you that together we might come to the place of trusting God even when we cannot trace Him.

Prayer:

O God, bring us closer day by day to that place of deep confidence and absolute trust. May we know You so deeply that nothing we see around us will shake or shatter our belief in Your unchanging goodness. In our Lord's Name we pray. Amen.

The Old Rugged Cross
Romans 5:1--11
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (v. 8)
Can we believe that God is good even though things may be happening around us that seemingly give the lie to that fact? The only place we Christians can go when we are assailed by doubts about God's goodness is the cross. At Calvary we were given undeniable evidence that God is good. We must cling to the cross when in doubt and remind ourselves that a God who would give His only Son to die for us simply has to be All-Goodness. A songwriter put it like this: God is love, I see it in the earth around me; God is love, I feel it in the sky above me; God is love, all nature doth agree; But the greatest proof of His love to me ... is Calvary. Many things about the cross are mysterious, but there is no mystery about divine goodness. There at Calvary it blazes forth for all to see. I often wonder to myself what was happening that was good when my wife was dying with cancer. I couldn't see anything, but because I know God is good I accept that something good was being worked out. A good God was in charge, and I am prepared to wait for the clarification of that until I get home. Then I know He will tell me Himself. God is good no matter what the appearances to the contrary. The "old rugged cross" makes that crystal clear. Let us cling to it, come what may.

Prayer:

O Father, I am so thankful for the cross. It is the one place in a dark and mysterious universe where light breaks through. Help me interpret the darkness by the light, not the light by the darkness. For Jesus' sake. Amen.

4 comments:

  1. Peter, thanks for this blessed post. You're absolutely correct; when we go through depression/anxiety/panic/nervous illness our thoughts so often play tricks and our minds so easily believe them and we are thrown into a perpetual pit of anxiety and depression. The best remedy to that is unconditional trust. I like what you wrote in another post: "trust what we know, not how we feel"

    God bless.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Thanks for sharing.

      God bless
      Peter

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  2. Replies
    1. Hi Krissie,

      I've made a lot of progress over the past five years, with huge improvements with the spiritual and mental aspects of depression. Still having a significant amount of bad days, though. (It's a long story.)

      Thanks for asking,
      God bless
      Peter

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