One night I walked into the sanctuary of a church building where I served as the Pastor for Prison Ministries and as the coordinator for the Counseling Center in Houston, TX. A well-meaning lady asked me how I was doing. I told her that I was discouraged and would appreciate it if she prayed for me. (I like to practice the Christian virtue of honesty.)
Her response to my honesty was to chide me about admitting I was discouraged. She was trying to make me ashamed that I felt discouragement. She was trying to inspire me to never feel that again by attempting to convince me that if I ever felt anything negative it MUST mean I didn’t have enough faith in Jesus.
She meant well by what she did.
I don’t think her stance was biblically sound, though.
It is possible to have strong faith in God AND to occasionally feel discouragement. Why do I believe that?
Consider David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22):
“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)
David, a man of GREAT faith in God, felt that God had forgotten (literally, “misplaced”) him.
David felt God turned His face from him.
David admitted that he was counseling himself about his troubles (admitting that he wasn’t going to the LORD about it.)
David admitted that he had sorrow in his heart daily.
David felt that there was no end to how long his enemy would be over him.
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt as if God wasn’t paying attention, that He didn’t care, that you were all you had to deal with the pressures of life….filled with sorrow or fear or anxiety or depression?
Did it make you wonder where your faith had gone?
(We’re in good company.)
In those times did you still cry out something like this: “How long, O LORD?”
Why did you cry out to Him in those times if you didn’t have faith in Him?
It is because you DID have faith in Him even while feeling bad.
OUR FEELINGS ARE NO BAROMETER OF OUR FAITH!
They are just feelings. They measure nothing.
In our hearts we know God cares, is paying attention and will move on our behalf because we know He loves us.
We simply FEEL bad.
In this psalm David models something for us as he prays to his God (even when it seems to him that God isn’t listening.)
“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him’; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” (Psalm 13:3-4)
David makes a powerful statement here. He wants God to enlighten his eyes….make his eyes shine. This is a way of asking God to change his emotions…to lighten them up…and his eyes will shine brightly because of that. He knows that if God doesn’t do this he will “sleep the sleep of death” – describing how depression can pull a person down gradually.
Then, David voices his faith, even while feeling God isn’t paying attention:
"But I have trusted in Your mercy…” (Psalm 13:3-5a)
Next, he announces his intentions regarding God…BECAUSE of his faith:
“My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5b-6)
Why will he rejoice in God’s salvation and sing to Him? Because, even in his current trial, he is focusing on the fact that in the PAST God has “dealt bountifully” with him (literally, has treated him well.)
Let us commit together to practice this in the trials in which we find ourselves: let’s actively remember all the times God has been there for us so we will not be discouraged and dominated by that OR by the trials.
Our faith is strong because it is the VERY faith Jesus has….given as a gift through Holy Spirit Who indwells all believers (Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 8:11).
Our faith is just fine. Let’s walk in that together!