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.