Earlier this year, I found myself disillusioned, and only had myself to blame. At the same time, though I knew that rejoicing in Jesus Christ is always possible, always desirable, and always justifiable, I had a hard time really experiencing that joy like I generally do. In the front of our church sanctuary, there were banners that had Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! on them, and I would ponder, "Am I experiencing joy? How do I rejoice always? How can God expect that from me even now?" Usually my faith is a supernatural high for me, but for that season, the high was nowhere. Joy was something I had to reach hard for. I don't think my struggle was at all unique to humanity, though it was unusually dark for me. Life is full of things that can drag us down, and of course the enemy is always aiming to do anything that will pull us down and keep us at our worst. In spite of this, we need to remember that our hope, our joy, and our strength is not in the things of this earth. Sometimes it is too easy to forget; it would be easy to suppose our hope, or our joy, or our strength might be in people, or money, or circumstances. We might think it's in acclaim, or other forms of human successes, or in merely being treated generally well. In all those cases, we would be wrong. God wants us to rejoice, no matter what our circumstances, our disappointments, our sadnesses. We are to be joyful in the midst of it, in spite of it. How can we do that? It's because all of what we rejoice in should not be here on earth, but we can rely on the promises of heaven that are so beyond our understanding and especially our deserving. They stand firm, they are sealed away for us. No human being can come between us and what Jesus has done for us. Our sadnesses and sorrows have nothing to do with any fault in the promises and truths of God; they are in a separate category, untouchably holy and perfect; His truths and promises are ever-reliable. We should rejoice and exult in the goodness of God; focusing on that instead can help to draw us out and away from present circumstances, and we can glorify Him even in the processing of our pain.
I don't often find these lows, but this year has been full of them. Though I've oftentimes been disappointed by people, usually that disappointment was from people in whom I never really had put too much trust, and so it didn't bother me so much. I think my problem this year was in trusting a human being too strongly, which God warns us against doing.
We could think that people who don't trust other people are cynical. I don't think this is true; I think when we don't trust people, and we do place all of our trust in God, we are walking in obedience. We tend to want to trust people because they are here where we can see them; we feel that we know them because they are so physically present to us. The Scriptures clearly and repeatedly tell us not to trust people, though, and I feel that God has been pounding that into my head just lately. There is actually more kindness in not putting our trust in a person; when a human being lets you down, it is just because it's the way our flesh is made; trusting in humanity puts too much responsibility and pressure on a person, and no human is infallible. The Scriptures say,
Psalm 40:4 How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Psalm 116:11 I said in my alarm, "All men are liars."
Psalm 118:8-9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
Psalm 146:3 Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.
Jeremiah 17:5 Thus says the LORD, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD."
Actually in the writing of this, I was looking only for two verses I've quoted here, but found the others I listed, and included them because they too emphasized the need to trust in God and not man. So it isn't just a couple of verses; God reminds us again and again to trust only in Him. Jesus didn't trust mankind, either, as He walked the earth; and He made us!
John 2:23-25 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.
I know that I am not reliable. I would not want someone putting their trust in me to the point that I could ever disillusion them or cause them to stumble in their faith. While we are very fallible and weak, God never fails us.
2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
Psalm 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25 For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you.
Another thing that I learned in the midst of these struggles was just how loving and gracious God was to illuminate the Scriptures all the more brightly when I was feeling the greatest darkness. I know that a random reading of the Bible is not generally the best way to really plumb the depths of God's goodness, but oftentimes I needed to just open my Book and see what God's seemingly random message was for me that day. Once at 2 a.m., unable to sleep, I came downstairs and opened the Psalms with fumbling fingers and bleary eyes--turned at "random" to Psalm 4, and I knew in reading it that God's hand was there for my assurance. The message of that Psalm, in my own paraphrase, is, "I have everything under control. Now go to bed, rest your mind, and sleep. Trust Me." It wasn't because I was so very continual in my reading, or praying, or obeying...not that I was very neglectful either, but I definitely wasn't excelling. God just knew my frame, and my need, and always, stunningly, had the right Psalm for me, always had the right consolation, the right perspective readily available. He didn't have me turning to anything of judgment or correction or condemnation, though I know there are passages that could easily have seemed to express those things to me. It wasn't because I was so good, or right, or at all perfect. It was in spite of my frailties and because of His goodness; it certainly wasn't because I didn't have plenty of areas that need correction; it was because of His supernatural Word that performs His will so perfectly, and because there are times when He stands close to comfort His own, and to be the very Heavenly Father when we need Him the most.
So the key is to love and not trust others; follow others as they follow Christ; turn from following their path when they don't follow Him, and speak up to them when they stray from the path. It isn't to be cynical, but just to remember Who it is who can be trusted, who we all are who can't be trusted, and to love people, remembering the frail humanity that we all are. I think trusting rightly in the Heavenly Father, who loves all of us in spite of our frailty, brings that joy that was so hard for me to grasp for that season.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.