Groanings Too Deep For Words

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The Broken World

Have you ever had groanings that were too deep for words, where the details are so heavy and difficult to share, it’s hard to even breathe, much less talk about it? It may be a situation of abuse, abortion, addiction, bankruptcy, divorce, or the loss of a dear loved one to suicide. It may be the inability to have children, or perhaps you finally have a child, but your precious one has an unexpected terminal illness. It may be that you have a rebellious young adult causing tremendous heartache as a prodigal son or daughter. It may be that your eyes have finally been opened to your own sin and poor choices. Whatever it is, there’s a deep lingering sadness, and a time for grieving, sighs, and groaning.

Yet, our fast paced world doesn’t allow us to grieve properly. You know, the one of self-esteem and you can get through anything so get up and get going. The one where you must keep up that perfect public image, because let’s face it, who has time for reflection or grief? Who wants to be around that kind of sadness? However, sadness, as the Disney movie, Inside Out, vividly portrays, is a very helpful emotion. Sadness is a gift from God given to help us deal with the difficulties we face in a fallen world. Sadness brings tears of healing in the present, while making us long for a better world in the future. A world restored to the original intent of God dwelling with man in perfect relationship, where there’s no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain, and no more death.

No Words

Grievous circumstances are often when our words fall short and we can’t even begin to describe the spiritual and emotional turmoil we’re feeling. This is where the Christian clichés, and the token, often out of context, Bible verses given by friends, though meant to be encouraging and kind, may seem empty, unwanted and even cruel.

It is in the these life moments where words need to be few and where love needs to be shown with much patience and kindness. There’s not a quick fix – just snap out of it, solution, and our actions during these times will prove much stronger than our words. This is when just being there to serve out of love and support is the best thing we can do for one another before we speak words based on the “truth in love” principle. This is a time for weeping with those who weep. A time for listening. A time for reflection. “What is God teaching me?” It’s a place for hugs, a time for praying, – not just saying, “I’m praying for you”, but actually praying with someone. It’s also a time where we should ask for permission to speak. “I’m so sorry for what you’re going through, is it okay if I share something?”

How Long?

The grieving period really depends on the circumstances and the people involved, but eventually the sadness gives way to an opportunity to express joy in the hope of Christ. And here we must acknowledge that people grieve in different ways. This may take days, weeks, months, or even years. There will be good days and bad days, but there’s a Living Hope that we must turn to, in order to help us better understand why there is suffering. It’s a hope that may have never been completely lost, but we, or our friends, were unable to fully rejoice in it during the season of grief.

Paul, who was no stranger to suffering, wrote these inspired words of hope, a hope which cannot be seen, yet a hope we patiently wait for. It’s a hope that we must learn to embrace.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:18-25 ESV).

Peter, who denied Christ three times, and who had to be terribly grieved by his denial throughout his life, also reminds those who are born again of our Living Hope. You see heartaches often have reminders that trigger renewed periods of grief. Can you imagine him hearing a rooster crow each morning or just seeing one wander by? Some days it may not be too difficult, others it may be like a fresh crushing blow. Like Peter, we must constantly remind ourselves of this hope:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV).

Our Helper When There Are No Words

Going to back Romans 8, Paul writes where our Help comes from, and then writes one of the most quoted scripture verses for encouraging other believers. However, we must be careful when we use it. For instance, don’t jump to v28 when you should start with v26. Stay there for a while in weakness and be comforted, knowing that when we have no words to pray, the Holy Spirit knows, and He’s interceding for us with groanings too deep for words…

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:26-28 ESV).

 

The Wise Counsel of Friends

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At some point in our lives we’ll face a crisis where we’re not sure what to do and we’re overwhelmed with the weight of what we’re facing. These kind of dilemmas may have various degrees of severity, but what they do is push us over the edge of the normal routine of life and into an uncomfortable situation that refines us by fire. The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom to help us navigate difficult circumstances and one thing is clear God provides friends with wise counsel to help and encourage us on our spiritual journey. Friends are precious gifts from God and we shouldn’t take friendship lightly.

Acknowledge The Need For Help

The first thing we must do in difficult situations is to realize when we need help, wisdom, and counsel from friends and act upon it. The challenge for us during tough times is we’re often flooded with anxiety and may experience sadness, depression, anger, restlessness, and frustration. Both sleep and the appetite may be lost, or we may go to the other extreme of oversleeping and overeating. This is on top of the daily pressure of work, school, family, and household duties. The reality of our specific situation may be multifaceted and complex. Our decision making may be clouded by doubts, fears, and mental phantoms where we tend to resist the help of our friends because it exposes something we’d rather not deal with. We may be hurting emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Therefore, we’re more likely to believe lies and say things out of frustration which aren’t helpful. We’re primed to make bad decisions.

This is precisely why and when we need wise friends with Godly counsel.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad (Proverbs 12:25).

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

Resist Following Your Own Heart

The second thing we must learn is to resist the desire to follow our own heart and mind because the Bible tell us we’re prone to think wrongly. Where the world tells us to “follow our heart”, the Bible says:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). 

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Here we often struggle by justifying our attempts of coping alone. We ask ourselves questions and answer back and believe things which aren’t true: “So what if I make an unwise decision or hurt someone? I’m already hurting, it can’t get any worse. Is this happening to me because of my sin? What if I have to confess something that makes me look bad? I think God is after me. I wonder what the Bible says about the situation? I really don’t have time to dig into the Word. I wonder if I should seek my pastor or friends advice? What if I talk to one of my friends, I’ve heard they’ve been through something similar? No, they wouldn’t understand my situation, it’s similar, but not really the same. And I bet my pastor is too busy, and I don’t want to look foolish to my friends, but is it more foolish of me not to seek advice? I don’t know, I’ll just do this my way and see how it goes.”

Embrace Wise Counsel

Whatever trial we’re facing its purpose is to help us depend less on ourselves and more on God. Trials reveal our heart, expose sin, and help us see our need for a Savior anew. This is where wise counsel helps us through the muck of our lives, helps us stay on the right path, and helps us to learn to accept the love and support of friends whom God has placed in our lives for this very purpose. Thus, instead of following our own heart, we should embrace the help of Christian friends and thank God for them.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). 

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:5-6).

And I’ll include my favorite again:

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

So embrace the sweetness of a friend who will rejoice your heart by their counsel and be that friend to others. Friends are a Godsend for our good and His glory on our life journey.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

This reminds me of The Pilgrim’s Progress, that famous book penned by John Bunyan, where the main character, Christian, has two friends on the way through life’s journey. One was named Faithful and the other Hopeful.

Faithful was from the City of Destruction whom Christian meets as he leaves the Valley of the Shadow of Death and the two journey together until Faithful is killed in the wild town of Vanity Fair. But soon after Faithful’s execution Christian meets Hopeful and the two of them travel together all the way to the Celestial City. After each trial God provides a friend for Christian.

In the second half of the book, Christian’s wife, Christiana, later follows her husband on a similar journey and she has Mercy and Great-heart to help her on her way. If you’ve not read The Pilgrim’s Progress lately I highly recommend it.

Like Bunyan, and the writer of Proverbs, God knows we need friends that are faithful, hopeful, full of mercy, and who have great hearts for the Lord. Embrace their wise counsel because, even though they’re not perfect, they are very much a sweetness to the soul and in God’s providence they provide much encouragement to us on our long spiritual journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with a Scoffer

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You’ve probably heard the saying, “you don’t want to be THAT person”, but what if you’re entangled in a life circumstance with THAT person through work or family? What is a scoffer and how do you deal with a scoffer?

The Bible tells us that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived and based on the Book of Proverbs he must have dealt with many difficult people and situations as he uses the Hebrew word luts (phonetically loots) for scoffer more than a dozen times.

This word means: to make mouths at, i.e. to scoff or have in derision, interpreter, ambassador (a bad one), make a mock, mocker, and scorner. A scoffer is generally surrounded by similar words like the Hebrew word zed (phonetically zade) which means arrogant, presumptuous, and proud. Other words describe this person as quarreling and full of strife. Thus, a scoffer is a very difficult person who is either clearly not a Christian, or could be the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing who is not a true follower of Christ.

For instance:

Proverbs 21:24 (ESV) – “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.

Proverbs 24:9 – The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.

So how do we deal with a scoffer? First, we must let the Bible inform us, we must heed the warnings and recognize the danger. For example:

Psalm 1:1-2 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Proverbs 9:7-8 – Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

Proverbs 14:6 – A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.

Proverbs 22:10 – Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.

Based on God’s word, and the wisdom provided, we must be very careful with a scoffer. We shouldn’t seek their counsel and we shouldn’t counsel, rebuke, or reprove them because it will only create hatred in them toward us and bring injury to us. However, there may be a time where you must drive away a scoffer which means you shouldn’t handle it alone. You will need to get others involved who have the authority to help you, even a restraining order.

But what about loving our enemies? Aren’t we supposed to love them? Yes, but sometimes staying away, driving away, or leaving someone alone is the best way to the love them and protect you and your family in a God honoring way.

If you find yourself in a difficult situation with a scoffer (and it may take a while to identify them as such) the best advice is to inform yourself with the Word of God, heed the truth, seek wise counsel, and pray. Pray for wisdom, pray for the difficult person – that their heart will be softened to the gospel and they will see their sinful ways, repent, and turn from that path.

But more importantly, pray and ask that God will reveal to you how this difficult circumstance can best change you. Why is this difficult person in my life? God, what are you teaching me through this challenging circumstance? Perhaps it’s not the scoffer God is working on, perhaps he’s refining us through a difficult person.

If you’re in the heat of battle with a scoffer and have been wounded by them, take heart, for God has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you and His mercies are new every morning. Seek Him, seek help, and as much as it depends on you – seek to live peaceably.

I’ll end with Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:17-19 (ESV):

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

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