Why have psychological theories and therapies become so popular in the church? Why do Christians automatically turn to the psychological wisdom of men when they are experiencing problems of living and emotional turmoil? Perhaps one of the reasons is that we do not comprehend the wisdom of God through the process of suffering.
In the depths of depression and despair God seems so very far off. When circumstances storm around and through us and we feel overwhelmed and when those feelings grip us with fear, we may feel abandoned by God and thus turn to other means of help. When we are overcome by the magnitude of our own sin, our guilt may cloud the facts of God’s provision for forgiveness and cleansing.
It is during those times of deep suffering and confusion that we are tempted to turn to the idols of the world in the same way that the Israelites turned to the idols of the nations when God seemed far off and they felt overwhelmed by war and famine. But when anyone despairs of God in the midst of suffering and thereby turns to psychological theories and therapies, they not only lose out on the possibility of spiritual growth but they postpone the real help that God both promises and provides.
God is a very present help in time of need even when He seems far off. His Word is filled with hope, truth, and guidance. God works directly in us through His Living Word:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Heb. 4:12,13).
God knows us through and through. He is the only one who can see into the depths of our very being and who truly knows what we are experiencing. He is the only one who can change the inner man to conform us to the image of Christ even in the midst of suffering.
Jesus Himself experienced the greatest suffering of all when He hung on the cross. The gruesome and unbearable pain He bore in His body did not reach the magnitude of the pain He endured in His inner being as the sins of the world were thrust upon Him, because the horror and blackness of sin separated Him from the Father.
He paid the full debt of sin and is also our great high priest, who is our advocate before the Father and who works on our behalf even in our deepest trials:
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:14-16).
God gives grace in the difficult places when we turn to Him. That does not mean that troubles will instantly vanish, but He will work His perfect will in us to conform us to the image of Christ, for He promises:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).
Here God reveals through Paul that trials can be used to conform us to the image of Christ and that His work in us is a full and complete work, all the way from justification to glorification. But lest anyone fear that he is separated from God during trials and what has been called the dark night of the soul, Scripture assures us that nothing can separate us from Christ’s love.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39).
We need to encourage one another with these words because our hope is in God. Indeed, in the most difficult trials and the darkest nights, our adversary will work to tempt us to feel abandoned and condemned, as well as tempt us to sin in other ways. But, the above Scripture assures us that we are not abandoned. He is present to give us help to overcome temptation:
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:6-11).
Have we diligently called upon the Lord in our afflictions and waited for His help? We want instant relief, but God’s timing, whether short or long, is the right timing for His perfect purposes in us. He is true to His Word, even when the passing of time may seem to contradict His promises. We can count on Him.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea (Ps. 46:1,2)
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength (Isa. 26: 3,4).
God is faithful. He does enable His children to persevere through suffering. He not only brings them through, but He brings them to glory.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
(From PAL, V6N6)