Posted on November 1, 2023 by Rev. Jonathan Conner
What you believe about reality affects the way you feel, which affects the choices you make. We also talked about some of the negative and untrue thoughts we sometimes give access to our minds:
We pointed out that these are identity statements, which aren’t true. So, we talked about getting them out into the open, about saying them out loud, and then speaking God’s Word out loud into the situation:
Christ died for my sins. Period. Christ rose for my life. Period. He must think pretty highly of me to do that. And I are baptized in Christ. I am a child of the living God. Jesus is my Lord. Jesus is my Savior.
These are the identity statements we need to hear out loud over and over and over again.
I am loved by God. I am forgiven by Christ. I am not defined by my failures or limited by my successes. I am defined by my baptism into Christ. This is who I am.
But, what if the foundational thoughts are true? What if these are the things we’re thinking about:
What if these are the thoughts that are parked in our minds? And what if they’re true? What do we do then?
This is the right response to injustice and loss. Sometimes we get angry and that’s understandable, but anger is tricky and requires its own article. So grieve, mourn, and lament. And take your pain to the Lord.
And when you do, know this: God gives you the words! He not only gives you the permission to bring your pain to Him, He gives you the words. We find these words in the psalms of lament. Consider a couple:
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest… Psalm 55:4-6
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me? Psalm 13:1
When you pray these psalms, you’re going to find something. Not only do they help you express what you’re thinking and feeling on the inside, but they almost always end up focusing on the steadfast love of the Lord. Here’s how Psalm 13 ends:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:5-6
The steadfast love of the Lord is a huge theological concept in Scripture. God Himself speaks of it in His self-revelation to Moses at Mt. Sinai (see Exodus 34). This steadfast love of the Lord is the unchanging reality of God’s nature. Yes, God may chide. He may inflict suffering for His purposes. He may bring hardship into our lives – and we may never know why.
In fact, God is under no obligation to give us an explanation for our loss or our suffering. We always remain the creature. This may sound harsh, but it’s an important part of rightly fearing the Lord. God owes us nothing. Nothing.
But, He gives us everything! God owes us nothing, but He gives us everything. Even if God may choose to bring hardship into our lives, we frame it within His steadfast love. Because He’s a God of steadfast love, we can trust Him even when hard things happen, even when we suffer, even when God Himself brings hard things into our life.
In His steadfast love He gives us His Son – His Son! He gives us His Kingdom. He gives us hope. He gives us grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And He loves us. And yet, I know that deep down there’s this burning question in your heart – because it’s in mine, too: “Then why does He wound us?! Why would He bring hard things into our lives? What kind of love is that?”
I’m reminded of William Cowper’s famous poem, “God Moves in A Mysterious Way”:
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain
God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain
I know it can be tempting to turn your back on God when you’re hurting, but that does nothing to alleviate the pain and everything to remove the hope of healing and wholeness, which we only have in Jesus. Because God is a God of steadfast love, a steadfast love that we see clearly in the cross and empty tomb of Jesus, because God has an always-and-forever, never-giving-up, love-you-to-the-cross-into-the-grave-and-out kind of love, you will not hurt forever. You will be made whole in the resurrection. And that’s something on which we simply can’t turn our backs.
I’m reminded of something Pastor Johnson highlighted from Jesus’ Beatitudes (see Matthew 5) during his September 1st morning devotion: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” God is going to comfort you in the renewal of all things. You need to hear this out loud. That’s why God established His Church – so we could hear this out loud. The Church is the out-loud-Word-hearers.
Further, you may need to talk to somebody, to a mature Christian, a pastor, an LFS counselor. You need to get the hurt out into the open, to put it into words. But even there, you need to pay attention to what you’re saying. You might find yourself saying, “I’m disappointed with God.” That’s understandable. But what kind of statement is that? It’s a feeling. What’s the thought? The thought is probably something like this: “God let me down.” That’s a difficult thought, isn’t it? And, yet, it’s probably one many of us have battled. Because it’s so important, we’ll address it next month.
We need to stop for this month so we can process what we’ve covered and so that we can pray. So if the thoughts parked in your mind are true – you’ve been wounded in some real way – mourning, grieving, and lamenting are the right response. And Scripture not only gives you permission, but it gives you the words. Pray them. And then see how they take you to the steadfast love of the Lord in Jesus.
Lord God, sometimes we hurt. We are wronged. We lose people and relationships close to us. And so we grieve. We mourn. We lament. Help us, Lord. Turn us to Your Word where You put our grief into words. Give our grief voice so that we can bring it out into the open. And provide mature Christian friends who will listen, pray, encourage, and support us in our sorrows. Then, Lord, turn us to Your steadfast love, Your always-and-forever, never-giving-up, love-you-to-the-cross, into-the-grave-and-out love. So, in the midst of our grief, give us hope. In the midst of our mourning, enable us to marvel at Your mercies. You owe us nothing, but You give us everything: forgiveness, grace, life, salvation, the Kingdom, and the promise of renewal, reunion, and resurrection. We give You all glory, thanks, and praise in the Name of Jesus, Amen.
 During the first week in September 2020, I (Pastor Conner) addressed the question of mental health in our morning prayer sessions. This article (and its two companion pieces) are a lightly edited text from those sessions. You can view the video sessions on Zion’s Facebook page by searching for the teachings/prayers from September 1 – 3 or by going to Zion’s website (zionmanning.com) and clicking on “Worship/Study/Pray” and selecting “Morning Prayers.” During those sessions, I recommended William Backus’ book Telling Yourself the Truth. I continue to recommend it as an excellent source for learning to stop listening to yourself (specifically, the negative and destructive thoughts that try to take up residence in your mind) and to begin speaking the truth to yourself (specifically what God says about you).
 We addressed the topic of anger during morning prayer on the following dates: 9/9, 9/10, & 9/11 2020.
 We addressed this psalm in its entirety during morning prayer on 9/8 2020.
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