The following is a guest post written by my daughter, Christine Eaton.
“I feel a loneliness for my Creator that pulls me like a migratory bird in the Fall.” -Rebecca Reynolds
If fall were a person, she’d be an introverted poet and artist. She steps out of summer shyly, never quite sure if the world is ready for her yet. As she paints the leaves red and strips down the trees, and as the carved jack o’ lantern sitting out on the neighbor’s front porch grows mold and curls in on itself, she reminds us that there is death, but for those who know, there is more than that.
Through the moments she creates, the cuddling with a lover under a blanket, the communion with family over meals, and the satisfaction of sitting alone with a book while the room fills with the aroma of freshly baked pumpkin bread, she awakens a nostalgia we have kept in the most reserved parts of ourselves. We feel separated from something we have not yet fully known. But we know that separation is due to the death that fall keeps revealing to us. As she touches us in this way, we ache. We feel that our deepest desires lie in a longing for something more; an intimacy that nothing in the world can ever satisfy.
Well-made poetry and art, the kind we must sit back and call beautiful or sublime, is able to show us in small glimpses this idea of light and this glorious intimacy for which we are longing. Fall’s work is just that, for while she shows us death, she also shows us this light (like any good poet). Since the medium fall paints and writes with is the form of nature, we can be assured that while she is groaning, with an anguish like our own, under the weight of death, she is pointing us to her Creator.
For the ones who know her Creator, let fall remind you through that ache you feel in your bones, that we are made for something more. We long for that deep communion and intimacy with Him. We are made for heaven, and let us be assured that one day, we will stand as a bride and that ache will be replaced with glory, death will be undone, and everything sad will come untrue.
“I am not fit to be my own chooser; God shall choose for me! I desire nothing but what God sees fit to give me.” – Thomas Jacombe
This quote is a soul-searching statement about contentment. So much of our turmoil of soul stems from believing our situation should be something other than what it is. Our dismay is often the result of thinking that we are facing something that is not beneficial to our souls. However, is God not sovereign, and is he not good?
We are not fit to be our own chooser. If we were to choose our lot in life, in our sinfulness, we would destroy ourselves. We would always choose pleasure and success, and, in the process, ruin our souls. Like the picture of Dorian Grey, our souls would decay in the sugary sweetness of earthly delights, while the world would look on in wonder at our picture perfect life.
At first, our choice for pleasure would be accompanied by our claim that we desire to magnify the goodness of the Lord, but as our souls began to deteriorate, we would lose the ability to choose otherwise. More and more earthly pleasure and success would be required to keep us satisfied.
Praise God, he chooses for us. Whatever hardships we face, the hand of our God ordains it. Whether we encounter sickness, poverty, famine, pestilence, or the weapons of our enemies, he is good in all he does. He is the keeper of our souls, and through it all he is holding the rot at bay.
We are called to fight against all of these hardships when they hit and not wallow in them, but our success or failure in these battles is also his decision, and all his ways are perfect.
If we understand that his choosing is better than ours, as the troubles of our day present themselves, we will not be dismayed or moved to despair. Instead, we will know that what we are facing this day is the best thing we could face for our spiritual well-being. Any other situation would be detrimental to our spiritual health, and God will not allow that to happen.
We will trust the hand of God in all things. We will fight with a strength not our own, and leave the results to Him. For we will desire nothing but what God sees suitable to give us.
The following is a challenging thought from J.C. Ryle for those who profess to be Christians but reject the doctrine of hell.
There is but one point to be settled, “What does the Word of God teach?” Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell is real and true. Hell is as true as Heaven, as true as the fact that Christ died upon the cross.
Disbelieve Hell, and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin everything in the Scripture. Disbelieve Hell, and you may as well throw your Bible away at once! From “no Hell” to “no God” is but a series of steps!
Do you believe the Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell will have inhabitants. If I never spoke of Hell, I would think I had kept back something that was profitable, and would look on myself as an accomplice of the devil!
A flood of false doctrine has lately broken in upon us. Men everywhere are telling us, “that God is too merciful to punish souls forever–that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly will sooner or later be saved.” We are to embrace what is called “kinder theology,” and treat Hell as a pagan fable.
This question lies at the very foundation of the whole Gospel. The moral attributes of God–His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in it. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of Hell. If words mean anything, there is such a place as Hell. If texts are to be interpreted fairly, then most people will be cast into it. The same Bible which teaches that God in mercy and compassion sent Christ to die for sinners–also teaches that God hates sin, and must from His very nature punish all who cleave to sin and refuse the salvation He has provided.
As mentioned in a recent post entitled Social Media is Brain Poison, where I used hyperbole to lay out some of the problems with social media, I mentioned that there are some real benefits to this new technology. Connectivity to family and friends is always at the top of the list. The problem is the costs often outweigh the benefits. The reason why we tend to lose with social media, despite what it can offer us, is because we tend to use it incorrectly which the designers of these platforms hope we will do. So how do we use social media in a way that allows us to tap into the benefits while mitigating the costs?
I conjecture that the vast majority of regular social media users can receive the vast majority of the value these services provide their life in as little as twenty to forty minutes of use per week.
We need to start by using it less. There are benefits, but those benefits do not merit hours of social media time per day. I have found his conjecture to be true. I have not abandoned social media altogether. Instead, I check it once a week and usually spend less than 15 minutes doing so. Any other posts are sent through a free posting service that avoids interacting with these platforms directly. You can receive the benefits you seek without spending hours online scrolling the infinite feed and checking your likes and comments.
Of course, you may ask, what is wrong with spending more time on social media? To answer that question I leave you with one more quote from Newport where he describes a conversation he had with a social media executive.
[The executive was] just raving about these people spending twelve hours a day on Facebook . . . so I asked a question to the guy who was raving: “The guy who’s spending twelve hours a day on Facebook, do you think he’ll be able to do what you’ve done?”.. . ..You can’t, in other words, build a billion-dollar empire like Facebook if you’re wasting hours every day using a service like Facebook.
The only way it would not cost us to spend long hours distracted on social media is if we literally had nothing better to do with our time. As Christians, we have a much higher calling.
We live in a culture that is saturated with Christian sentiment. Even secularism attempts to use the name of Jesus to get what it wants. This is clearly seen when a political figure who has no fear of God quotes scripture or uses a biblical illustration.
We see it in many of the popular manifestations cultural “Christianity” It is a thin veneer without any substance. It has rejected the word of God as its authority, and it has put self on the throne. This is greatest problem with commonplace religion.
For the man or woman rooted in scripture, it does not take much to see behind the façade. This type of religiosity is covered in references to self. Personal experience, feelings, self-esteem, and self-referential misuses of the words “love” and “justice”, litter its linguistic canon.
They want a utopia, and they think they can can usher it in through political power. What they are looking for is happiness, and the they think they can find it in earthly pleasure. They are looking for glory and they think they can find it in riches and popularity. The problem is that satisfaction will never be theirs because they are looking for it in themselves and in the things of this world.
When Jesus said, take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow me, he was not inviting us to a life of misery. He was calling us out of ourselves to the greatest campaign in which mankind can ever be involved: knowing God. There is no greater glory and there is no greater joy, but we must root our life in his truth. If we aim at anything less than God himself, we have settled for lesser things because there is nothing greater than God.
The problem is that the way to find this glory and joy in God is to do the exact opposite of what you think you should do. It is like being submerged under a waterfall struggling for air. The most natural thing to do is to try to swim to the surface, but you will never get there because the crashing water will keep pushing you under. The right thing to do in that moment is swim down. It is only by swimming down that the water will spit you out down stream. This counter-intuitive nature is the same in the Christian life. If you are looking for true joy, he must increase, and we must decrease.
All the world, including commonplace religion, is swimming up. It is trying to make itself righteous and find its glory in itself, but we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The only hope for us is Jesus who died on the cross for our sins. We must stop trying to justify ourselves. We need to admit our depravity instead of trying to hide it, and come to Him in faith. Only when we bring our sins to him, instead of our good works, will his sacrifice on the cross satisfy the wrath of God for our sins, and will his righteousness be counted as ours. This is the first counter-intuitive, but there are many more that fill the Christian life.
It is in our weakness that he becomes strong.
In Jesus, the last will become first.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit.
Love your enemies.
It is more blessed to give than receive.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth.
The meek will inherit the earth.
Life is more than food and the body more than clothing.
Blessed are those who suffer for Christ’s sake.
Walk by faith, not by sight.
Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
In the words of Adoniram Judson, “I beg you, not to rest contented with the commonplace religion that is now so prevalent.” It will lead you to fear those who can kill the body and take away your earthly pleasures, and it will tell you to neglect him who can destroy body and soul in hell. Take heed to the words of Jesus, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).
After a little while — you will see Me! – John 16:17
Those sweet tender words, “After a little while,” have deep thoughts in them, like the still ocean at the twilight — thoughts too deep for our fathoming. They breathe some precious comfort to those believers whose burdens are heavy — either with care, or poverty, or sickness. Neither shall the mourner weep much longer, or God’s poor children carry the pains and hardships of poverty much longer. The daily toil to earn the daily bread, the oppressive care to keep the barrel from running low and the scanty “oil” from running out — will soon be over. Cheer up, my brother! “After a little while — you will see Me!” says your blessed Master, “for I am going to prepare a place for you!”
Oh the infinite sweep of that glorious change! A few years here in a poor dwelling, whose rent it is hard to pay — and then infinite ages in the palace of the King of kings! Here a scanty table and coarse clothing — and there a robe of resplendent light at the marriage-supper of the Lamb! Let this blissful thought put new courage into your soul, and fresh sunshine into your countenance!
I sometimes go into a sick room where the godly are suffering with no prospect of recovery. Perhaps the eyes of some of those chronic shut-ins may fall upon this article. My dear friends, put under your pillows these sweet words of Jesus, “After a little while — you will see Me!” It is only for a little while — that you are to serve your Master by patient submission to His holy will. That chronic suffering — will soon be over. That disease which no earthly physician can cure — will soon be cured by your Divine Physician, who by the touch of His messenger death, will cure you in an instant, and bring you into the perfect health of Heaven! You will exchange this weary bed of pain — for that crystal air in which none shall ever say, “I am sick;” neither shall there be any more pain.
Not only to the sick and to the poverty-stricken children of God, do these tender words of our Redeemer bring solace. Let these words bring a healing balm to hearts that are hurting under unkindness, or wounded by neglect, or aching under adversity, or bleeding under sharp sorrows. I offer them as a sedative to all sorrows — and a solace under all sharp afflictions. “After a little while — you will see Me!” The sight of Him shall wipe out all the memories of the darkest hours through which you made your way through this wilderness world — to mansions of glory!
“A few more struggles here, A few more conflicts more, A little while of toils and tears — Then we shall weep no more!”
May God help us all to be faithful — only for a little while — and then comes the unfading crown of glory!
How do you live with discouragement? Every attempt to remove yourself from the trial fails. Even the normal days are not good; they are only manageable. When people look at you, they see courage, but you know it is nothing but a stiff upper lip. The last thing you want to do is burden them more than you have to.
The problem is that every setback brings you a little lower. It has become so much of a pattern that when you see a little light at the end of the tunnel, you refuse to let it lift your spirit because it has let you down so many times in the past.
You know you must fight, but the desire and will to do so has been beaten lifeless by the enemy. You had the courage once, but it has been taken from you. So what do you do now? Do you allow the misery to take over? Do you resign yourself to it? Clearly, the answer has to be, no, but what do you do?
It is at this point you find your will exhausted, and that is probably a good thing because perhaps the battle is not yours to fight. Or perhaps you have been fighting the wrong battle. The first thing we must begin to realize is that, in at least one sense, discouragement is not always the enemy. Maybe, just maybe, it is a tool in the hands of our loving God to do us good. Bear with me for a minute.
Our God is sovereign. He is not simply trying to manage the chaos of this world. He is in complete control of it. His sovereignty becomes clear when we ask two questions of any hardship. Did God know this was going to happen, and could he have stopped it? If we answer no to either of these questions, we truly are in trouble because God has ceased to be God, and something else is mastering him. This, of course, can never be because there is nothing beyond God’s knowledge or power. Being God means he knew you would face this and that you would respond to this trouble with discouragement, so dismay was part of his plan. I know this is the hardest part of the pill to swallow, so let me elaborate for a minute because the payoff will be worth it, and without this pill, experiencing disappointment will be unbearable.
The most significant objection people have with the conclusion drawn from the fact that God knows what is happening to us and could stop it, and that discouragement was part of his plan, lies in the fact that discouragement is often a sin. If God’s plan for us was to reach a point of discouragement, doesn’t that mean that God is causing us to sin?
The problem is that this way of thinking is too simplistic. The disconnect is in failing to realize that we are already sinful. The fact that the Lord allows us to face situations that draws our dross to the surface, in no way makes him the author of our sin. This understanding lines up perfectly with scripture. We are humanly responsible for our sin, and God is completely sovereign. We cannot deny either of these truths if we wish to remain biblical.
If you are God’s child, and he has brought you to a low point, he’s doing it because he loves you. There is something he wants to do with this discouragement in your life, and ultimately, like all dross drawn to the surface, he will wipe it away.
The first thing we need to do when discouragement hits is to ask ourselves why we are demoralized. Discouragement is almost always tied to the things of the world. Our hearts cling to them, and when hardship hits, they start to falter. Dismay almost always involves the removal of some earthly pleasure. We have placed our hope and trust in some aspect of the world.
Homes, cars, jobs, human relationships, health, quality of life, or even mortal life itself; discouragement is always the result of losing, or the threat of losing, one or more of these. But even as these begin to show weakness, God has not failed us. Knowing that God has not failed us, and we are still dismayed should be an indication that we have misplaced our trust.
This revelation of misplaced trust may be the the first blessing the Lord is bringing to us. He is going to use it to set us more firmly upon the rock of Christ Jesus. When we find ourselves discouraged, we are not to resign ourselves to it. We are to change the way we see it. Instead of trying to will our way out of it, we should ask the Lord what blessing he is giving us through it. The most significant blessing will always be increased faith.
Scripture tells us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (1 Pet. 1:6).” There are two things we need to see in this verse to help us. First, we need to realize that this happens after we have received the gospel. That is what “in this you greatly rejoice” means. We rejoice in the gospel. This verse is talking to believers, and the trial taking place is happening to Christians. The second point is that it says you have been “grieved” by the trials. One version says, “distressed,” and another refers to it as “heaviness.” The point of all these synonyms is that these are trials you will feel. These are not merely outward trials you will float through on a spiritual cloud. They are trials that will hurt your heart; they will bring you low. Dare I say, “discourage” you. And as the passage indicates, if they hit us, they are necessary.
There is a reason for this adversity. It is not pointless. The passage continues, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be tested,” and that faith is worth more than gold. It is worth more than any earthly possession because faith is our trust in God, and he is purifying it. The result of this is the praise and glory of God (1 Pet. 1:7).
Even when our health fails and we find our quality-of-life slipping, we must remember that even though the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. This continued renewal in the face of hardship is why we do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:17).
How do we not lose heart? The scripture tells us, “by looking not to the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen.” For the things that are not seen are eternal, and everything else is passing (2 Cor. 4:18). If the things of Earth are not letting you down yet, they will.
How do you live with discouragement? You allow it to do the work God intended it to do when he sent it to you. You let it turn your eyes away from this world, and be renewed spiritually. All of this will end in the glory of God, which is the chief end of man. This is where our true enjoyment will be found, and that enjoyment is eternal with a weight of glory that cannot compare to the heaviness you are facing now. Let the dross rise to the surface, look to the things unseen, and your loving Father will begin to wipe it away even if the trial remains.
Whosoever drinks of this water — shall thirst again! – John 4:13 There is no delusion more prevalent, or more difficult to remove from the minds of men — than the imagined power which this world possesses to confer solid good or substantial enjoyment on its devotees. Their life is one unceasing struggle for some object or attainment which lies at a distance from them. They are fighting their way to an exhausting prominence of wealth or of distinction — or running with eager desire after some station of imagined delight, or imagined rest — on this side of death.
And it is the part of Christian wisdom: to mark the contrast which exists between the activity of the pursuit in the ways of human ambition — and the utter vanity of its completion; to observe how, in the career of restless and aspiring man, he is ever experiencing that to be tasteless, on which, while beyond his reach — he had lavished his fondest and most devoted energies!
When we thus see that the life of man in the world is spent in vanity — and goes out in darkness — we may say of all the wayward children of humanity, “Surely man walks in a vain show, surely he vexes himself in vain!” Psalm 39:6
But these objections on that waste of strength and of exertion, which is provoked by the mere devotees of this world, are not applicable merely to the pursuits of general humanity — they frequently apply to the pursuits of professing Christians!
I hope you are finally sick of it. If you find yourself in a period of spiritual stagnation, I pray you have had enough of its emptiness. It can happen subtlety over time. One day you are walking close to the Lord and a period of time later you find yourself devastated by his absence. What makes it worse is the realization that he did not leave us; we left him.
Our hearts started looking to the things of the world for satisfaction. Our gracious Father had blessed us and sent us gifts of his kindness. He gave us health, employment, shelter, food, and transportation, and all of these were good. In his presence, they satisfied the needs he intended them to fulfill, but our hearts started to turn.
It was subtle but significant. We started to love the gifts more than the Giver. We saw the pleasure they provided and wanted more. As we desired to be filled, we turned to the treasures of the world, and before long, when the choice presented itself, we neglected our God and ran after riches. Our hearts were bound.
The locusts of our spiritual life began to have their fill. Our time of prayer turned into time spent binge-watching television shows while lounging on a soft couch. Time spent in scripture was eaten up by social media feeds on shiny new devices. Our minds, which used to have a spiritual focus, began to be consumed with how to find greater and greater personal peace and affluence. Our minds were trained on how to acquire nicer houses, more luxurious cars, and more financial security in case of a downturn. We began to combat time with physical fitness. We used to trust in the name of the Lord our God, but now we trust in retirement plans and the best medical insurance money can afford. All these locusts dined on the fiber of our spiritual lives. Its fruit was devoured, the grain destroyed, and the oil diminished.
Yet, praise God, while we sat in spiritual stagnation, the Lord sent us locusts of his own. He sent locust to eat what was pulling our hearts away from him. Our health began to hesitate, our vocations began to vacillate, and our security began to stammer. All of the things we thought could fill us began to reveal themselves as sinking sand.
Then the revelation struck, we are not the person of God we used to be. Though we may still go through the typical Christian motions at church and abroad, our hearts are far from Him. He has stripped us bare, and we now stand naked before him.
We look back over the past several months, or years, and we realize we have squandered them. Yet, even now, declares the Lord, “Return to me with all your heart. Come to me with your fasting, your weeping, and your mourning.” He calls us to rend our hearts before him and return for he is gracious, merciful, and slow to anger (Joel 2:12-13).
Come home, dear child. You have had your fill of what the locusts can award. Come to the Lord, and he will have pity on you. He will send you spiritual grain, wine, and oil. You will be satisfied (Joel 2:19). He will give you early rain, and times of refreshing, but as you return, opposition will appear.
As you return to your Lord, the enemy will rear his head and say, “You might go home, but the years you have wasted are mine. The seeds of sinfulness you planted will continue to produce fruit. There is nothing you can do to get those years back.” Instead of serving God storing up treasures in heaven, you gave them to the prince and the power of the air storing up treasures on earth which moth and rust destroyed and thieves broke in and stole.
When the enemy tells you this, know he is right. Nothing you can do can redeem lost time, but what is impossible with man is possible with God. Our Father says, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten (Joel 2:25).
Our Savior does not work in the economy of this world. Though you wasted many years in the service of worldliness, if you return to the Lord with all your heart, he can make your latter days more spiritually fruitful when taken together than the years you wasted.
As an example, if you are up in years, fighting a terminal illness with one year left to live, and you spent the past 15 years frittering away your life, if you give your heart entirely to the Lord, he can take your final year of life and produce 16 years or more of spiritual fruit. Yes, even if you are laid up in a sick bed. Never forget how the testimony of the thief on the cross has called thousands home.
A dear friend pointed out that even if while you were raising your children you were not walking with the Lord, and they followed your example, Christ can still call them home and train them up in way they should go. All is not lost.
Finally, let us never forget that the Lord has a way of harvesting fruit from your life even after you have gone on home to be with him. Think of the lives of many of the faltering saints in scripture; David, Peter, Samson, or Solomon. Though all of these had significant failings, the lord is still blessing us through the witness they left behind.
Return to Jesus. You shall eat in plenty, be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God. You shall know that God is in your midst, and that is what you have been missing. He is the Lord your God and there is no one else. You shall never be put to shame (Joel 2:26-27).
If you find yourself spiritually barren because the locusts are eating their fill, I hope you have had enough. It is time to come home.
We all have a tendency to minimize our sinfulness. We look at the wrongs we have done, and we do everything we can to try and justify our actions. Doing this, however, fails to take full ownership of our sins. Many times, as Christians, we admit that we need forgiveness, but we still don’t like to admit the fact that our sins are utterly deplorable. We like to talk about sin and forgiveness, but we do not like to admit that we are truly sinners. Deep down we think, “surely we are not like many other people who are real sinners.” Thinking like this, however, makes us like the Pharisee, who scoffed at the tax collector–utterly in denial of the reality of his own sin.
Martin Luther once wrote a letter to Melanchthon entitled, Let Your Sins Be Strong where he addresses several different topics, including the tendency to downplay our sins. Luther says, “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”
We must stop trying to diminish the sin we have committed in order to maintain dignity. We must let them be strong, and look at them in all their wretchedness. We must see our sins as they mock God and refuse to obey Him in all His Holiness. Taking ownership of our sins is the only way we can bring what is ours to Him and say, “I need you to bear my punishment for these. There is nothing anyone can do to atone for these sins. Jesus, you are the only one.” His response to this request is, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” Thanks to the cross, there is no sin that is able to separate us from His love, for His sacrifice is fully sufficient.
Today, let us consider the words of Martin Luther: “Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.” Let us not try to justify our sins, for self-justification warrants nothing but death, but against Christ’s justifying blood, no sin can prevail.
My sins are mine I know them well They mock at God and damn to hell But by His blood, I am set free, He paid my debt at Calvary.