Discussing Dark Things (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 17, 2014)

Our Lord is an awesome, miracle-working God who loves, heals, saves, and provides for us, yet I also believe that he entrusts us with imagination and knowledge to develop and invent things to make our lives better. Thanks to modern medicine, for example, I feel pretty confident that I can take ibuprofen when I have a headache, and it will go away. Most Christians would not criticize my faith for taking a couple of over-the-counter pills to alleviate minor aches and pains.


Of course, we still pray for healing – and we’ve witnessed God do remarkable things! – yet, cancer patients still go through chemotherapy treatment. We ask God for provision, yet we still take insulin, blood pressure medication, multivitamins, etc. to keep our bodies regulated properly. Why then, when we have access to pastoral and professional counseling, not to mention a wide array of medications, do we often brush off diseases of the heart … or, to call a spade a spade: mental illnesses? Why do we only really talk about dark things when a celebrity dies, yet people all around us are suffering every day from the same problems?


If you want to read about a guy who had a lot to cope with in his adult life, check out 2 Corinthians. In chapter 11:23-27, we learn that Paul was flogged with 39 lashes (the max was 40) on FIVE separate occasions. Can you imagine the rumpled scars on his poor back? And that’s only part of the story: in the first chapter of his letter, Paul explained that things had gotten so bad on one of his journeys that he felt like he’d been sentenced to death row and didn’t even know if he’d make it home alive.


Paul didn’t have the advantage of modern medicine to help manage any anxiety or depression that he may have suffered from, but one thing he tried to do was to surround himself with supportive, godly people. Repeatedly in his letters that we read in the New Testament, Paul recognized various individuals and expressed his appreciation for them or asked others to pass messages of encouragement along to them.


Depression is a monstrous liar, and I can’t pretend to understand it any more so than a naturally skinny person can understand what it’s like to live in my body. We think we know how to “fix” each other, but we don’t truly know what it is like to live in another’s skin. All we can do is support each other. I would submit that it is much more difficult to drown out the lies when you are alone than when you are immersed within a caring community. If you are dealing with issues of the heart, talk to a pastor or life group leader, and let them know what you are suffering. Don’t go it alone; people do want to help.

Radio Static (Prayer Devotional for the week of August 3, 2014)

There is a stretch of about 4-5 blocks along my morning commute where the radio turns to static. I don’t know what causes the interference, but invariably, I’ll be driving along and suddenly lose my music in the same spot every day. I usually just turn off the radio, but one morning I left it on because I knew that the static wouldn’t last very long. It was interesting how I could still make out the song behind the garbled airwaves. It was difficult to understand and rather annoying, but I could still hear it.

Isn’t that how our spiritual lives are, sometimes? We go through patches that feel like static – nothing seems to be getting through during our prayer time, and the background noise feels overwhelming. And yet, if we concentrate, we can still listen amid the chaos.

One of my kids is dealing with a lot of static right now; in fact, he’s been handed more chaos in his young life than many adults I know could cope with. Sometimes the static makes it difficult to make good choices, and he feels overwhelmed. We sat together one evening and talked about prayer as a way to help him make better decisions, a way to cut through the distractions and temptations. We talked about James 4:7, which says that when you take a stand against Satan, he runs away like a coward. We also talked about Philippians 2:9-10 that tells us the name of Jesus is so powerful that every creature in heaven and earth must bow to his authority.

Guess what, friends? Satan is a big loser, The End. I’ve read the last chapter, and I know that Christ conquers! But what do sore losers do? They try to drag others down with them, don’t they? Satan wants us to feel overwhelmed by life’s static. He wants us to get distracted from our faith-walk and lose sight of God in the midst of the chaos.

Yet, through our faith in Christ, we have the mightiest weapon of all in our arsenal: the name of Jesus. When you don’t know what else to say, where else to turn, where to even begin, call out to Jesus. Say his name aloud, in bold defiance of the enemy that seeks to devour you (1 Peter 5:8). Cry out to him in the quietness of your heart (Psalm 34:17-18). Then listen for his voice through the static.

Do you want cheese with your whine? (Prayer Devotional for the week of June 22, 2014)

The Bible reminds us (in Matthew 7:5 & Luke 6:42, among others) to look at our own problems before we point out other people’s issues. Today’s topic might step on a few toes, so, let’s do a quick self-inventory. Do any of these statements ring a bell?

  • This restaurant is always so slow. What does it take to get decent service around here?
  • I don’t know why I bother. It’s not going to make a difference, anyway.
  • I hate my job/boss/class/teacher/co-worker/life …
  • Ugh, it’s Monday again.
  • I’m no good at that/I just can’t do it/I’m the world’s worst …
  • Why do bad things always happen to me? I can never catch a break.

If those comments sound familiar, then you are not alone. The Israelites were skilled complainers. In Exodus 15, verse 22 and following, the people of Israel were griping about how bad the water tasted. (Hello, Waco? Sound familiar?) God gave Moses instructions on how to fix it, but that didn’t keep them quiet for very long. In the next chapter, God provided miraculous food (literally, from thin air) for the wandering Israelites to eat, yet they still murmured. In chapter 17, God even made water flow out of a rock!

By the time chapter 20 rolled around, Moses was sick and tired of the complaining. He lost his temper in front of God and all of the Israelites, and instead of speaking God’s instructions to provide miraculous water from another rock, Moses snapped at the people: “Listen, rebels! Do we have to bring water out of this rock for you?” and slammed his staff against the rock. (Notice how he said we and not God.) God still performed a miracle and made the water gush out, but right then and there, Moses lost his opportunity to lead the people of Israel into the promised land.

The constant complaining … and Moses’ poor reaction to it … cost him dearly. Think about your own life for a moment. What tone of voice have your last few conversations taken? What have your last few Facebook posts looked like? What was the last thing you said to your kids? Parents? Spouse? Take an honest look at how much you complain, then commit to praying through the issues this week with us.

Originally posted May 15, 2011