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Author: Sean

Dark Valleys

Dark Valleys

Excerpts from Chapter 3 of Deserted by God? by Sinclair Ferguson.

Read Psalm 23.

If the Father loves me so much that he did no spare his own Son but delivered him up to be crucified for me, no further guarantee is needed of his wholehearted and permanent commitment to me and my blessing.

Whatever happens to me must be seen in that light. Yes, my deepest fear may become realties. I may not be able to understand what God is doing in or to my life; he may seem to be hiding his face from me; my heart may be broken. But can I not trust the One who demonstrated his love for me? When I was helpless in my sin he sent Christ to die for me (Romans 5:8). If he has done that, will he not work all things together for my good? Will he withhold any thing that is ultimately for the good of those who trust him?

In this way, Christ’s death becomes the rod, the cudgel that breaks the neck of the fears that are the enemies of my peace; his word becomes the staff by which he holds on to me and rescues me from danger.

I can be confident of this: Whatever he sends me will bring me what I need; whatever I need, he will provide; whatever he provides comes marked with the approval of nail-pierced hands. I can trust him.

If the Lord is my shepherd, he will restore me when I fall.

If the Lord is my shepherd, he will surprise me with his grace.

Our natural instinct is to suspect that if he restores us at all it will be grudgingly; it must be a necessary by irritating inconvenience for him.

But Christ does not come to us officiously; he comes to us willingly and graciously to restore us. …The Lord restores us because he means to change us.

Whatever trials the Lord brings us into, he means to show us his presence and glory in a way we could not otherwise learn.

If the Lord is my shepherd, he will be with me now and forever.

How Long?

How Long?

Excerpts from Chapter 2 of Deserted by God? by Sinclair Ferguson.

Read Psalm 13.

There are sinister elements about discouragement. It is all-pervasive, affecting everything in our lives. Yet at the same time it is a vague generalized feeling that seems to discourage us from probing its roots too deeply lest we find the experience too painful.

Forgetfulness may be accidental: an oversight perhaps. But hiding is not; it is a deliberate act of avoidance. The God to whom David looked as the one of whose life and being he was the mirror image seemed to have turned away from him.

…When God hides his face, we do not know where he is looking or what he is planning.

This was David’s problem: he had lost all sense of what God was doing. He could not see the smile on his face or catch a glimpse of its determined purpose of grace. …Worse even than this, David could not see light at the end of the tunnel. He did not know if there was an end to the tunnel.

Our most painful experiences are like that: sorrows, burdens, disappointments that we will have to carry throughout the rest of our lives. They are irreversible.

Lesser griefs convey a taste of this too: thwarted ambitions; the loss of a job; a broken romance; a difficult situation that cannot be resolved. Each day, sorrow fills our hearts and casts its shadows over everything we do. Will it be like this forever?

In the very act of lamenting that God has deserted him, he is at the beginning of a spiritual breakthrough… For one thing, he is actually talking, face-to-face, to the God whom he accuses of forgetting him and hiding from him! …what David is doing is asking God to give the blessings he has promised; he is urging him to be faithful to his own word, to do what he has said.

What had David been in danger of forgetting?

1. The Lord’s unfailing love brings David to “trust,” confide, and rest in him.

2. The Lord’s salvation makes David’s heart “rejoice.” However great his difficulties are, he possesses something greater than them; however long they last, salvation will outlast them.

3. The Lord’s goodness makes him “sing.” …God’s people struggle to believe that he is good, in the face of what seems to be so much counter-evidence. …he now sees that in all things he works for the good of those who love him…

Deserted by God?

Deserted by God?

I’ve been reading a lot over the last few months since I lost my job teaching Bible. One reason for this is that I have a lot more time. But another reason for this is the need to work through some issues that I’ve never had to deal with before. You would think a trip though cancer surgery and treatment might fix a lot of  aspects of your perspective on life, but losing a job brings on a whole different set of difficulties, especially when it’s in a ministry setting.

One of the books that has been a positive help is Sinclair Ferguson’s Deserted by God? The sub-title sets the theme for the book: Hope for all who do not sense the Lord’s sustaining presence during life’s most troublesome times. I believe that Dr. Ferguson succeeds in giving that hope. In order to encourage others, I want to proved some of the highlights of each chapter, hoping that you will not just read my excerpts, but purchase the book and work through the whole thing yourself. I believe you will be blessed in that endeavor.

The following excerpts come from the first chapter, Can Anyone Help Me?:

An important reason for approaching this subject by means of Bible study is that when we are discouraged, or face difficulties, or feel that God has deserted us, our great temptation is to turn upon ourselves. We lose our sense of perspective, our objectivity. We need to be brought out of ourselves and have our gaze redirected from what we are and do to what God is and does. This alone will provide the reorientation we all need for spiritual health.

We are all too familiar with Christians who have been told by secular counselors that their problem is that they read the Bible. They need to avoid it. But, on the other hand, sadly, the way many Christians read the Bible and view the Christian life does in fact aggravate their difficulties…

…Their counsel is to get rid of the Bible, and the God of the Bible, when the true solution is to learn how properly to understand the Bible and to discover the God of infinite grace and compassion who speaks to us in it.

Most of us come to a book like this looking for help for ourselves or others: as quick a fix as possible. But quick counsel will only see us through from one crisis to the next. We need long-term help, and that can only be provided by long-term measures. Disciplined, thoughtful, prayerful study of God’s word, undertaken with the Spirit’s help is what we need. It will change the way we think, and consequently the way we live, and ultimately the way we feel.

I do not believe it is possible to overstress the importance of this principle. Of course it is unglamorous; but there is much about the Christian life that is unglamorous. The important thing is not its glamor, but that it is God’s way. And because it is his way, it works.

A cleansing process takes place when our lives are thus exposed to the influence of God’s word in Scripture.

Most of all, Scripture refocuses our hearts and minds on the God whose character is revealed in it. Knowing him better is our deepest need. Meeting that need will put all our other needs – our doubts, discouragements, depression, disconsolation – in their proper context.