Is God frowning at you?

Christians have the great promise of joy and hope, and these are based on God’s grace in Christ. What better promises? And what greater foundation to trust them?

And yet, Christians may and do feel joyless and hopeless at times. When the circumstances of life bite and gnaw, when the sinful desires of our own heart roar and prowl, and when the presence of our beloved Savior seems but a distant memory, it is quite normal for Christians to feel a sense of despair. In Psalm 42, the psalmist gives literary expression to the feelings that sometimes plague us.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (v5).

I say to God… why have You forgotten me?” (v9).

Adversaries taunt me… all day long… [saying], ‘Where is your God?'” (v11).

If you feel some sense of the frown of God today, then consider the Gospel, and invite trusted Christian friends to help you discern whether or not you are truly trusting and following Christ. If their loving counsel is an encouragement that you are, then please, dear brother or sister, remember these things:

1) Remember that you have felt God’s smile before. These times are real, though they may feel distant. If God has ever smiled over you, given you His blessing and not His curse, then you may be certain that He is always smiling over you (Eph. 2:1-10).

2) Remember that God’s promises are absolutely trustworthy and not at all dependent upon feeling or circumstance. Think of Abraham and God’s delayed promise of an offspring and a nation. God doesn’t always do what we might want, but He is always working for the good ends He has prepared for His people (Rom. 8:28-29).

3) Remember that God is glorified, not in your confident self-reliance, but in your simple trust in His power and grace. Putting one foot in front of the other towards Christ is much more glorious than dashing or leaping in any other direction (Gal. 2:20).

May God grant you joy and hope, and especially if these things seem far away from you today. May you behold the glory of Christ and feel His Spirit refreshingly assure you of your glorious and secure adoption into the family of God (Rom. 8:14-17).

Despair, Outrage, or Something Else?

In the last couple of weeks there has been enough bad news to test the strongest emotional fortitude. There have been appalling assaults on law enforcers, heartbreaking examples of societal dysfunction, and more disastrous terrorist attacks… These are perilous times to be sure.

In the midst of all this, there is no shortage of voices calling for an extreme response. From my perspective, there are really two options presented with great frequency and volume.

On one hand, we may feel angry and defensive, and thus react with outrage. Such outrage is mostly verbal, and often quite ambiguous, but lashing out in some way seems to be a primary response on the part of many.

On the other hand, we may feel alone and fearful, and thus withdraw in despair. The world we thought we knew has become unfamiliar and too scary. Many people are feeling as though these days are the worst of all human history, and they are drawing back from the world.

And yet, we may turn to Scripture for a rebuke of both responses. Peter, writing to persecuted and exiled Christians, said, “[Have] unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and [humility]. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1Pet3.8-9).

In this we may hear a charge to engage the world around us and a call to do so with humble sobriety. We are neither to separate ourselves from the world, nor to scream out in rage as we walk through it. We must not seek an earthly refuge away from the perils of life, nor depend on earthly powers of political, economic, or social force to minimize those perils.

We do not get to choose the period of history in which we live, but we do have the same opportunity that all other saints have had before us. We have received blessing and grace from God above, and we may now offer blessing and hope to those around us who are now overwhelmed with fear and fury.

Our hope is not that this world will one day become safer or more comfortable for us! Our hope is that this world will one day be remade and so shall all those who love and trust the Savior of guilty sinners like us! Our hope is that one day the King of glory will break open the sky and bring perfect justice and perfect peace! Our hope is that this same King is at work among His people even now to bring about His glorious ends, and we are participants in the greatest story of all time.

May God bring us comfort when we are falling into despair. May He give us wisdom when we are angered by the sinful actions of others. And may God grant His grace to many more sinners as He hastens the day of Christ’s return.

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