Three Benefits of Discipleship

Three Benefits of Discipleship

What happens when you get a group of women in a room to discuss life and the gospel?

Talking. Lots of talking. And questions. More questions than you can imagine. Why? Because we need each other, and sometimes life can be confusing and include insurmountable circumstances. During my time in settings like this, I’m reminded of the importance of discipleship.

Discipleship can take on many forms. It can be as simple as inviting someone into your kitchen for fellowship to organizing a normally scheduled lunch. However it looks, it involves honesty, seeking advice, and Scripture, and someone willing to do all of the above.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes writes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).

He is writing about the vanity of trying to work alone as a means to outdo another. But labors aren’t the only benefit of working together. Two are also better than one as we live out our faith in Christ. We really need each other, though we often try to go at it alone. We truly need reproof and instruction, though we seldom seek it out. This is why discipleship is so important.

Here are three simple benefits of discipling relationships:

  1. Discipleship builds humility.

Our temptation might be to think we know what is best for ourselves. As you’ve heard, and maybe said before, “we know ourselves better than anyone.” Scripture says that we might actually be more confused than we think. The heart is deceitful and so to trust yourself at all times is probably not the best route to take (Jeremiah 17:9). Wise counsel from a friend, pastor, or spouse could be just the thing God uses for our protection.

Proverbs says that a wise man will hear and learn, and will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). So we can safely assume that an unwise man will not hear from others, will shut them down and will not listen, will lack understanding and will not acquire wise counsel. We need to resist the temptation to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). This isn’t so easy! But as we seek to gain understanding, we must first acknowledge that we don’t always know what is best.

  1. Discipleship unites us with fellow believers.

The body of Christ isn’t meant to simply exist for us to gather together on Sundays and then move along with our lives the rest of the week. God’s word paints a picture of believers doing life together (Acts 2:44–47). Seeking counsel and discipleship is one way to invite others into your life.

Most of the time people won’t know the details of your life unless you are willing to share with them. Being willing to be discipled by another provides an opportunity for prayer and mutual encouragement (Galatians 6:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). We want to pursue one another because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:30).

  1. Discipleship equips us for faithfulness.

Paul tells us in Titus 2:3 that the older women in the church should teach what is good and train the younger women. They are to equip other women in how to walk in step with the truth of the gospel. And this isn’t a suggestion — it is God’s instruction for how we should relate to one another.

This is Discipleship 101. It’s yet another proof that we need each other. We can’t obey the commands in Titus 2 without being willing to be discipled (and being available and willing to disciple others!).

Book Giveaway!

As we think about discipleship and relationships, I wanted to make sure to share about Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s newest book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. As I wrote in my endorsement: Nancy’s instruction, wisdom, and grace will challenge you to not only pray for a woman who you might call a spiritual mother, but you’ll also desire to be the type of woman others might call on—for the good of the church and to the glory of God.

Today, I’ll be giving away 5 copies of Adorned along with 5 copies of my newest book Enjoy. Part of our temptation to neglect to pursue discipleship could be that relationships are difficult. My prayer is that the chapter in Enjoy on relationships called “The Gift of One Another” could help encourage you in this pursuit.

Five people will be sent one copy of each book.

The giveaway begins today, 2/21, and ends tomorrow night, Wednesday 2/22 at 11:59 p.m.

To enter, simply click here or fill out the form below to enter for the Adorned and Enjoy giveaway.

a version of this post first appeared at desiringGod.org.

Being Found by the Deepest Love

Being Found by the Deepest Love

It was the summer of 1998. I was leading a private camp and awaiting the arrival of my assistant. She arrived with her blonde ponytail, blue eyes, and bubbly spirit. She was a few years younger than I — and seemed it. Not that she was immature, she wasn’t, but there was innocence about her that poured out as she spoke and interacted with the campers. Our first meeting would be God’s way of forever changing the whole course of my life.

That girl was Elizabeth Plewniak (Moore at the time). She and I were polar opposites. I was black and she white. I was in college and quite academic and she had decided to leave college early to do campus ministry. Later I would find out that she came from a fairly wealthy family and I was poor (we would have been considered poor to lower-middle class). Most importantly, she was a Christian and I was not.

Growing up, I only attended church on major holidays. When I did find a church my junior year in high school it didn’t end so well. I ended up falling for an unbeliever and left the church. That wasn’t the only reason for my departure, I was also aware that there wasn’t something quite right with the doctrine. Nevertheless, I said goodbye to church and vowed never to return. I didn’t want to have anything to do with organized religion.

But that was not God’s plan.

A Roommate of Faith

So here I found myself in an odd series of events that only God could ordain, rooming with a Christian girl during a private camp. Our first night of camp she plopped down on the bed and broke open her Bible.

I was seated on the adjacent bed wondering if she would mind if I turned on the television as she began to read to herself. When I glanced at her I could feel the blood rush to my face. My guard immediately went up and I spoke frankly, “What are you doing?” All I could think was what she might say to me.

By the end of the night, we were both crying over my past church experience and my fears. By the end of the night she had also shared the gospel of salvation with me.

It took me some time before I would eventually visit her church. Elizabeth and I would meet together every now and then; but finally in the spring of 2000, after a broken engagement and humiliation over my sin, I came to her church and I stayed.

The Gift That Gives

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday morning and I hadn’t been back to this church in possibly a year. While singing the worship song “Rock of Ages” the Lord began to soften my heart and reveal His grace to me. After the meeting Elizabeth and two friends (Paul and Carel) prayed for me. And I was saved.

I recall later reading Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The Lord revealed that He saved me not by my works or anything I had done or anything I could ever do but instead by His grace, His free gift, His own power!

And it is the same power that saved me that enabled my friend, Elizabeth, to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to me — a stranger and different from her. And it is the same power that will enable you to share cross-culturally too.

The Race-Transcending Gospel

What struck me about Elizabeth was that she wasn’t at all concerned that I was black and older and the leader of the camp. None of that mattered to her. She admits intimidation but not because of my race or ethnicity.

In her own words: “When I met my friend Trillia, I was very intimidated by her, but I don’t think it was because she was black and I was white. I was more attracted to her because she was black. I don’t know if it was common grace or a work of God in my heart. My mother raised me with a value of loving diverse people. I saw black people as very attractive and desirable and gifted in ways that I’m not, and that attracts me to them and I’m just curious about their life and culture. That’s something I’m drawn to.”

Her curiosity led her to become my friend in 1998. But it isn’t what led her to share the gospel with me.

“Trill and I kept getting put on the same jobs and I was totally in faith that this was the Lord’s doing,” Elizabeth told me recently. “Sharing the gospel with her and challenging her on her faith — that was difficult because my flesh was seeking to please her and impress her. But I did feel like the Lord was leading me to do that, to love her in those ways.”

Motivated by love she shared the gospel with me and the course of my whole life was changed — forever. The outcome could have been different. Elizabeth could have hesitated because of our perceived and obvious differences. Sharing the gospel can be scary enough without throwing clear differences into the mix.

But it is genuine, Spirit-filled love for the soul of another that can overcome all the natural oppositions to sharing the gospel. I believe the motivation for that love comes from our own salvation experience. God drew us out of the pit to salvation. We were not seeking God. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:10). And we love others, through the proclamation of Jesus Christ, because God lavished that same love on us (2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 John 4:19).

And it is his example of love that transcends all others.

The Supreme Example

Throughout the New Testament, Christ continually related to people who were different from him, be it tax collectors or Samaritans (who were hated by the Jewish people and vice versa. See John 4:9, John 8:48 and Luke 9:51–56). He was bold to share, bold to the point of death on a Cross, bold to his own death because of his love for souls. And with his death came his Spirit, poured out on us to witness to others (Acts 1:8).

God does as he pleases and can use our stumbling speech. Even Paul didn’t share the gospel with eloquent verbosity: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17).

The gospel has power to bring even the most unlikely of people together for his glory. God will also give the most unlikely of people the power to share with those unlike themselves.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

And this is true love — a love that shares the race-transcending gospel.

So, on Valentine’s Day I’d like to celebrate the love of the Father. He loved me, sought me, saved me and continually gives of himself to me. That’s amazing grace. Oh, how deep the Father’s love!

 ***

How Deep the Father’s Love

 How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss –

The Father turns His face away,

As wounds which mar the Chosen One

Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,

My sin upon His shoulders;

Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice

Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there

Until it was accomplished;

His dying breath has brought me life –

I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,

No gifts, no power, no wisdom;

But I will boast in Jesus Christ,

His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer;

But this I know with all my heart –

His wounds have paid my ransom.

 song author Stuart Townsend; Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music (Adm. by CapitolCMGPublishing.com excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family, songs@integritymusic.com)

 A version of this post first appeared at DesiringGod.org.

More than a Month Long

More than a Month Long

In 1976, the United States government officially acknowledged this month as an annual celebration of noted Black historians, scholars, educators, and publishers. Growing up, school days for me during the month of February meant learning about historical Black figures like Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr. The posters commemorating these important historical Black figures would go up and we’d be required to dive into heavy research on who these people were and what they did. But just as quickly as the posters went up at the beginning of February, they disappeared when the calendar turned over to March 1. As earnest as our research had been, once February ended, these historical figures were basically forgotten.

February is a wonderful time to reflect on the lives of Black Americans and the remarkable contributions they had on society. It’s a time to teach kids about American history. It also presents a great time for local media to highlight the “heroes” of their respective communities. But I have a love/hate relationship with this month because I believe it should be more than month long. I wonder if there’s a different, perhaps even better way, for Christians to approach embracing the historical significance of Black Americans and culture.

Set Aside, But Not Equal

I don’t mean to suggest that Christians withdraw from the celebration of Black History Month in culture at large. By all means, we should honor worthy heroes along with the mainstream. But the better way I’m suggesting — the Christian approach — is to celebrate Black history throughout the whole year.

Many of us have a real desire for racial harmony. But cramming our heads full of history for one month won’t necessarily build a broad awareness of the issues our country still faces. If anything, the fact that we have this one month segregated from the other eleven reminds us that we’re still a long ways from real reconciliation.

Personally, the experience I had growing up made me sense the topic of Black history to be less important than others. We set aside a month for study and then bleached any further mention or learning for the rest of the year. It seemed like filling a quota — we were doing something that was assigned, but wasn’t worthy of learning about for more than 28 days.

But I think, for American Christians, there are deeply compelling reasons to learn beyond February. Here are two reasons why studying our country’s history and important African Americans has year-long significance:

  1. We gain perspective.

Getting to know our shared history throughout the year can help us gain understanding and perspective. Specifically, in the church, it could be a means of building community and helping us learn how to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Bearing the burden of another is a way to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Our nation’s history of oppression and segregation continues to carry a sting for many, both white and black. Understanding the gravity of the situation can only help us in relating to the pain so many still carry.

Knowledge and understanding of this history can be a catalyst for open dialogue. Of course, we wouldn’t want to assume that knowledge equates to full understanding, but it can help. Furthermore, and possibly most importantly, this knowledge can display a genuine interest in and love for others (when done as unto the Lord).

This knowledge could have eternal significance as well, it could lead to opportunities to share the gospel.

  1. We welcome greater diversity in our homes.momanddad

I thank God for my parents and their desire for us as their kids to know about other cultures. But that’s not all they were teaching us. By exposing us to the pain of our history, they also taught us to forgive and love. My father in particular is the reason why I am so passionate about reconciliation and believe that it is possible. He taught us to love our neighbor—even though it wasn’t a conscious Bible teaching. We had an open door policy, so to speak. It started at home. That’s where it begins. It begins with a conversation over the dinner table.

We can all benefit from learning and discussing history, especially as it relates to culture in the United States. Learning about culture can open the doors for hospitality in our homes.

Starts with You and Me

But, even as I type this, I realize that there are many who wouldn’t know where to begin to teach their children or to discuss over dinner with friends because you haven’t taken the time to learn. That’s okay—we all begin somewhere. I don’t prefer to share a problem without trying to affect change, be a part of the solution, or change myself. So, over the next year I’ll be posting an article each month about Black history. It will either be about a book, article, or other resource. I will simply share what I’ll be reading about and how it affected me and I’d love for you to join me on this journey.

February: Let Justice Roll Down, By Dr. John Perkins

I had the joy of interviewing Dr. Perkins and thought this would be a wonderful start to our “More than a Month Long” journey in learning about Black history. While this series of posts will not be interactive, I welcome you to comment on what you are learning. I will simply post my reflections on the book at the end of February and share the next article, book, or other resource for March at that time.

If you’d like to read along, you can purchase the book here. Here is a clip of our interview:

 

Celebrate Black history in February. Learn and give thanks. But let’s not stop there. Ultimately, it’s not a celebration of a single people, but a recognition of the diversity among God’s image-bearing creatures — the diversity among every tribe, tongue, and nation for whom Jesus died.

The Executive Order and the Image of God

The Executive Order and the Image of God

Though I have a degree in political science and thought I’d be a lawyer, this article is not about politics. God had other plans for me. When I think through current issues, I often view situations through the lens of the gospel and how the gospel changes how we think, respond, and feel about everything. As I’ve watched and listened and learned about this current event, my heart turned towards the people affected and I’ve thought about how we view one another. That’s where this article stems from, that’s the framework, that’s the heart behind it.

***

Last Friday, our president issued an executive order on refugees and immigrants with the purpose to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.” By Saturday morning, my news feeds were filled with cries of frustration and confusion about what this executive order meant for our nation, the many refugees seeking safety here, and for the fate of those carrying green cards and visas. I was among the confused and concerned. Although I join many who have voiced alarm over how the order was handled (if you’d like to know more about the order, you can read Joe Carter’s FAQ’s article and Dr. Russell Moore’s letter to the president), I’m also deeply troubled by how we might view our neighbor and the fear that so often is associated with the foreigner. The doctrine of the image of God is one of many aspects that should inform our love for others. This doctrine is foundational to how we view others and, as we wrestle with the implications of our president’s executive order, it’s good to remember – even the basic truths that are found in this post – what God has said and done in creating all of mankind. I wrote a portion of this a few years ago for Tabletalk magazine and thought it was an appropriate reminder as I prayed about the events today.

In the beginning, God created all of mankind in His image, male and female alike (Gen. 1:26). And we know that before the foundation of the world, God, in His goodness and kindness, had His people in mind (Eph. 1:4). It was no surprise to our omniscient Father that Adam and Eve fell and sin entered the world. He knew people would not worship and delight in Him. Knowing this, He didn’t have to give us aspects of Himself, but He did. God—the holy one, pure and awesome—created us to reflect aspects of His beauty and character. We are not worthy of such a generous apportionment.

As God’s image-bearers, we are all equal. We are equal in dignity and worth, and we are also fallen equally (Rom. 3:23). Genesis 1:26 explains that God created man in His image. Of all the creatures in God’s creation, we are the only ones created in His very image, so we have dominion over the rest (1:28). It is a profound mystery (God is spirit, so we do not bear His physical image; see John 4:24) and yet a great privilege.

Image-bearing alone should cause our hearts to leap for joy, but, as we know, even as God has revealed Himself, many have chosen to suppress the truth that they know about Him (Rom. 1:18-19). And it is with this knowledge that the Christian delights to share the gospel, but it is also with this knowledge that we respect the dignity of all human beings. We do not give others dignity that they don’t already possess, we only acknowledge the worth that has been bestowed by God. As image-bearers, we are all made to glorify and magnify the Lord. And by all, I mean all mankind. The Lord did not distinguish between the Christian and non-Christian in creating them in His image. He also did not distinguish between ethnicities, giving some a more privilege place in the created order. All humans at the root of our being are created the same, each with immeasurable value.

Understanding our equality as image-bearers changes everything about our human relationships. As image-bearers, we should view others as God views us. One way the Lord identifies us—and I’d argue this is the most important differentiation—is as either in Christ or not in Christ. C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote in The Weight of Glory:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

There is no one walking the earth who is not in need of the gospel. We are a part of humanity, each one of us heading toward either heaven or hell. The Christian who understands his nature before God is eager to love, welcome, and share with his fellow man.

My own testimony comes to mind here. God sent a young girl aflame for Jesus and His gospel to share the good news with me. I was dead, but God made me alive through Jesus’ death on the cross. By a free gift, I was made alive by grace through faith (vv. 1-10). I could never have saved myself, and I didn’t think my heart needed transformation, but He knew what I needed, He did the work, and He used a sinner saved by that same grace to teach me about Him.

We do not in any way welcome, serve or love others just to share the gospel. We love and serve others first and foremost because of the worth God conveyed in creation. We value humans because God values humans. People are not projects.

If our first thought of another image bearer isn’t compassion but fear, then we’ve failed to view them as God does. If we have been saved, bought with a price, then we of all people ought to fight the temptation to, as C.S. Lewis says, view others with superiority.

As we see our country potentially closing itself off towards certain people groups, we are left with the question of how we will view those around us, especially those who are personally affected by this executive order. Do we see them? Do we view them as those in need of compassion, care, and love, and ultimately the gospel or are we tempted to resist due to fear, assumptions, privilege, and pride? God’s word says if we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive us and to purify us (1 John 1:9). We don’t have to remain where we are. That’s good news. We can begin even today to see how fellow man as God does—made in his image.

Many of us aren’t engaged daily with refugees. The reality of this should also warrant a pause in our conscience if we’ve been tempted to make judgments on those who we aren’t in proximity to. (There are many organizations I’ve discovered who are working to assist the needs of refugees. If you are looking for a place to start, I’d suggest World Relief.) Most of us, however, are likely engaged with immigrants. May we as followers of Christ be a people who truly love our neighbor—not out of guilt, but because we know that God loved and gave his Son’s life for us. And because we know this fundamental truth: all people are created wonderfully in the image of God.

 

 

Delighting in Our Children

Delighting in Our Children

Recently, I read an article about a growing trend among mothers: they regret ever having children. It’s not that these mothers are sad or overwhelmed from time to time because of the commitment it takes to raise children, nor are they simply fearful because of the responsibility. No, these particular mothers mourn having their already birthed children. They feel trapped. They hate it with everything within them. Their children aren’t seen only as a burden and interruption from life, their children are a mistake. Most of us, thankfully, aren’t where these mothers are, I’d imagine for many of us we fall somewhere in between worshipping our children and thinking they are the center of our lives and desiring more free time and rest for ourselves. We can empathize with the women in the article in regards to those moments of feeling overwhelmed, but most of us aren’t likely mourning our children. But, what if I said that our children are for our joy? Could we accept that? Do we believe that?

I remember a time I dropped my son off at his school and yelled my usual through the rolled down window, “I love you. Make good choices. Obey your teacher.” As I began to roll up the window and drive away, my little first grader took his small hand to his mouth and blew me a kiss.

It was like everything stopped at that moment.

I realized how quickly this season would pass. Would he blow me a kiss when he’s 16 years old? I don’t know. I blew him a kiss back and he waved to me, mouthing the words “Bye, Mom.” I was overwhelmed. I wished I could freeze that point in time.

Sweet Ragamuffins

I like to call my children sweet ragamuffins. Motherhood is challenging. My kids don’t obey me every time I ask them to do something. They are rambunctious, loud, and messy. And they are also sweet. They are gifts. Like many moms, I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything. What I think we can so often forget, though, is that motherhood isn’t a task to be checked off like the laundry. It is a calling.

Maybe the word “calling” makes you want to run and hide. For many, “calling” can sound as if motherhood is your only identity, that it’s all encompassing and you will never get a break from your endless responsibilities. This is not true. You are likely called to be a wife and church member and friend as well (and the list could go on). So motherhood is not your only identity; it is, however, a part of your identity. And there is a weight to that. Mothers are more than just mothers, but we are never less. God’s word instructs us to train up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). I can’t think of a greater challenge given to us as parents. As one who is in the throes of raising and teaching young children, I am regularly reminded of my desperate need for Jesus.

Gifts to Enjoy

But I don’t think remembering the responsibility that we have to train our children is the best way we embrace and savor the short days we have with them. Remember that, “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). Our children are not tasks to complete, but gifts to enjoy. And we enjoy them by remembering that they are truly gifts from God. Yes, even when they stand in the hall refusing to put away their socks, or when they throw their cereal on the floor, or when they make it almost impossible to complete a trip to the grocery store. Those are trials mothers and fathers face weekly and yes, even these things are gifts.

Paul, instructing Timothy to challenge the rich to put their hope in God instead of their wealth, reminds us that it is God who provides all things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). Our children aren’t meant to be checked off a list, they are to be delighted in. And as with every gift we receive and enjoy, we must be careful not to idolize our children. Only God should be worshipped. But what if we began to think of our kids as true gifts from God aimed at our enjoyment? Both in enjoyment of our kids and in God at work through them.

A Call to Treasure

It might seem like a funny connection, but I think of how much I enjoy looking at colorful birds at the zoo. They are exotic creatures, each with their unique beaks and a beautiful mosaic of feathers. The birds are a wonder of God’s creation, and he cares for them. But not more than he cares for us: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26).

In a similar way, I can think of many things I enjoy, but I value my kids more. I love looking into my kids’ precious eyes. I want to get into the world of their God-given personalities and take in their laughs and answer their questions. I want to enjoy them.

Maybe that’s precisely what the main thing of this parenting calling is all about. Maybe it’s not as much a call to train your kids as it is a call to train and treasure them.

Our children won’t be our little children forever. So, let’s enjoy and savor these days that God has given us. Our kids are his gifts to us, glimmers of his goodness, which leads us to say with C.S. Lewis, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary sparkles are like this!”

***

(Special note: Sign up for Enjoy2017, a free six-week live-it-out devotional based on my new book Enjoy. Hope you’ll join us!)
A version of this article first appeared on Desiring God.
The End of Ourselves, the Fullness of Him

The End of Ourselves, the Fullness of Him

I often wish I could pull up a seat with you. Metaphorically speaking, do you mind pulling up a seat with me and having some virtual coffee as I share? I often think and write about weakness and transparency.  These are two topics that have always been important to me personally. I am painfully transparent (as my friends can attest) and incredibly weak. Weakness is one of those things most of us hate to admit, which is why I wish I could sit right there beside you. This winter, I was reminded of a time in life when I experienced great weakness and imagined sharing about it might encourage you during these long winter days.

When I moved to the Nashville area, I experienced a weariness I’d never quite felt before. My weariness could easily have been attributed to a quick move in a short period of time. The trouble was, it didn’t lift. My weariness stayed around for a year. I had never experienced a season of despondency like that, but as I think back, despondency was exactly what I was battling. I had moments where I lacked joy, even seemed hopeless, and lacked motivation. I believe God brings us through various seasons for a purpose and doesn’t waste trials, even ones where circumstances (like mine) were seemingly okay. I do believe He is good and faithful with all my heart—He had a good purpose in that season of life for me.

As odd as this next line might sound, I was aware during those darks days that God had never been nearer to me. That is, I sensed His nearness more than ever. I get why the Psalmist cried out with tears, he knew God would answer with His presence (Psalm 16:11, Psalm 42: 3,5). My despondency was not lifting, but God was reminding me through His Word and through sweet books like Not By Sight by Jon Bloom that he is there, even during those hard moments.

God seemed more real to me over those months of despair than I could remember in many joy-filled days. There was actually a part of me that didn’t want that time to end because I was so desperate for Him. As I wrote in my new book, Enjoy, sometimes God lets us come to the end of ourselves in order for us to enjoy more of him.

So, perhaps you, too, are struggling with a season of despondency and like it was for me, this is new to you. Or maybe you’ve been in this season for a long time. I can’t tell you how long it will last. I have no desire to give you a false hope. But maybe knowing that you aren’t alone will help. You aren’t alone, many people struggle with seasons like ours. And you aren’t alone, there is a real, present hope—His name is Jesus and God is with you. And when we come to an end of ourselves, when everything is failing within and around us, we realize that nothing but God can satisfy the longings in our soul. We realize the God is all we have and all we truly need:

Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;

you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.

But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,

that I may tell of all your works. –Psalm 73:25-28

Reflecting on this passage of Psalms in their book The Songs of Jesus, Tim and Kathy Keller shared this beautiful prayer: “Lord, I thank you for how suffering drives me like a nail deeper into your love. It is not my earthly joys but my griefs that show me your grace is enough.” During your dark hour, know that God’s grace is enough for you. He is with you, draw near to him. Sing out to the Lord, “Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.”

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