Overcoming Lonesomeness and Despondency
— Psa. 130. —
THE life of every human being has its lights and shadows, its seasons of joy and its depths of sorrow. These make up the warp and woof of experience, and the web of character that flows from the active loom of life will be fine and beautiful, or coarse and homely, according to the skill and carefulness with which the individual appropriates and weaves into it the threads of experience. In every life, under the present reign of sin and evil, the somber shades predominate; and to such an extent that the Scriptures aptly describe humanity in its present condition as a "groaning creation." Nor is the Christian exempt from these conditions that are upon the whole world; for "we also groan within ourselves, waiting for deliverance."—Rom. 8:22, 23.
But while we are waiting for the deliverance, the daily experiences of life have a most important mission to us, and the manner in which we receive and use them should be a matter of deepest concern to us; for, according to the use we make of them, each day's prosperity or adversity and trial bears to us a blessing or a curse. Those experiences which we are accustomed to regard as prosperous often have in them subtle dangers. If wealth increase or friends multiply, how almost imperceptibly the heart finds its satisfaction in earthly things; but, on the other hand, when the keen edge of sorrow and disappointment are felt, when riches fail, and friends forsake, and enemies take up a reproach against us, the natural temptation is to despondency and despair.
Just here is an important part of the great battle of the Christian's life. He must fight the natural tendencies of the old nature and confidently claim and anticipate the victory in the strength of the great Captain of his salvation. He must not succumb to the flattering and deceptive influences of prosperity, nor faint under the burdens of adversity. He must not allow the trials of life to sour and harden his disposition, to make him morose, or surly, or bitter, or unkind. Nor may he allow pride or ostentation or self-righteousness to grow and feed upon the temporal good things which the Lord's providence has granted him to test his faithfulness as a steward.
Sorrows indeed may, and often will, come in like a flood, but the Lord is our helper in all these things. The soul that has never known the discipline of sorrow and trouble has never yet learned the preciousness of the Lord's love and helpfulness. It is in seasons of overwhelming sorrow, when we draw near to the Lord, that he draws specially near to us. So the Psalmist found it, when, in deep affliction, he cried to the Lord and reasoned of his righteousness, saying, "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications." Feeling his own shortcomings, and longing for full deliverance from every imperfection, and prophesying the bountiful provisions of the divine plan of salvation through Christ, he adds, "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities [imputing them to us], O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared [reverenced]"
How blessed are such assurances when the soul is painfully conscious of its infirmities and of its inability to measure up to the perfect law of righteousness. When the heart is true and loyal, God does not mark our infirmities in a record against us. They are not imputed to us, but are freely forgiven through Christ in whose merit we trust and whose righteousness is our glorious dress,—arrayed in which, we may come with humble boldness, even into the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
If God thus ignores the infirmities of our flesh and receives and communes with us as new creatures in Christ, his children should also so regard one another, considering not, and charging not against each other, the infirmities of the flesh, which all humbly confess and by the grace of God strive daily to overcome. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" The case is different, however, when the infirmities of the flesh are cultivated, indulged and justified that the errors may be continued. Then, indeed, they are charged against us, and if we do not speedily "judge ourselves," the Lord will judge and chasten us.—1 Cor. 11:31, 32.
"I wait for the Lord," the Psalmist continues, "my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning." How necessary is this patient waiting for the Lord! In the midst of cares, perplexities, difficulties and infirmities we may remember that all the jarring discords of life are working together for good to them that love the Lord, to the called according to his purpose. But for the consummation of this purpose of God toward us we must "wait," and, while waiting patiently, endure hardness as good soldiers. "Trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for him, and he will bring it to pass." Time is an important element in all God's plans: we are not, therefore, to be disappointed when the test of endurance is applied while the blessings we crave tarry long. God took time to frame the world and to fit it for human habitation; time (6000 years) to give the world its necessary experience with evil; time (4000 years) to prepare for the advent of Christ as the world's Redeemer; time (2000 years) for the preparation of the Church to share in his glorious reign; and time must be allowed for the shaping and adjusting of the individual affairs of all his people. God has not forgotten when the answers to our prayers seem to tarry long. He who heeds the sparrow's fall and numbers the very hairs of our heads is not indifferent to the faintest call or the smallest necessity of his humblest child.
O, how blessed is the realization of such care over us.
"MORE THAN THEY THAT WAIT FOR THE MORNING."
"My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that wait for the Morning,—I say more than they that wait for the Morning."
The "brethren," are not in darkness respecting the dawn of the Millennial Morning, because taught there of by the Comforter (See 1 Thes. 5:4), and because to their eyes of faith the Day Star (the Day-bringer—Christ) has already appeared, and they rejoice in the inspired testimony that although "weeping may endure for the night [of sin's predominance] joy cometh in the Morning" of the great day of the Lord. And as the dawn of the new day, "the day of Christ," becomes more and more distinct, many besides the "brethren" can and do see signs that "the night is far spent and the day is at hand;" and by and by, notwithstanding the dark clouds and terrible storm of trouble that will temporarily hide the signs of morning from them, all the world—even the still sleeping nominal church—will awake to the fact that "The morn at last is breaking."
But many of those who are now watching for the Morning from the standpoint of Socialism, Nationalism, etc., are not waiting for the Lord—in fact, they do not know the Lord, his character and his Kingdom having been so sadly misrepresented by those who claimed to be his mouthpieces. They rejoice in the Morning, because it ushers in the golden age of human equality, general education, decreased toil, and increased privileges, comforts and luxuries. "God is not in all their thoughts," when they look for the Morning. Looking from a more or less selfish standpoint, and unguided by the divine revelation—for no man knoweth the mind of God save he who has the spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11, 12)—they fail to see the real object and chief characteristic of the coming age of blessing, and are merely championing the interests of the masses as against the present special advantages of the wealthy. They see not the greatest blessings of the dawning day;—that with earthly comforts and privileges it will bring the great blessing of a trial for everlasting life;—that it will be the world's Judgment Day, to determine who, under those favorable conditions, will develop characters in harmony with God's character.
But with the "brethren" it is different. While they appreciate the coming earthly blessings none the less, but the more intelligently, the Lord, his character and the work which will be accomplished for men by the great Physician—as Prophet, Priest and King—these more weighty and more valuable considerations outweigh by far the earthly favors which will attend his Kingdom's rule. Yes, the "brethren" wait for the Lord himself, longing to see the King in his beauty—the fairest among ten thousand, the one altogether lovely. Yes, truly our souls "wait for the Lord more than they that wait for the Morning."
Then let all the Israel of God hope in the Lord (verses 7, 8), for with the Lord there is mercy; mercy not only in dealing with our infirmities, but also in shielding from overwhelming trials and in granting grace to help in every time of need,—to those who abide in the Vine by faith and obedience. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."
R5670: "LIGHT AFFLICTIONS" HERE—"GLORY TO FOLLOW"
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our body." — 2 Corinthians 4:8-10.
THE Apostle Paul is here addressing the Church at Corinth, and in the larger sense addressing the entire Church of the Gospel Age. He is apparently describing to some extent the experiences of himself and those who were with him in his missionary labors. He traveled from place to place, but not as our pilgrim brethren now do; for sometimes he spent an entire year, sometimes more than a year, in one city. Nevertheless, he was a traveler, going about where other missionaries of the Lord had not gone, addressing the Jews and whoever else might give evidence of having a hearing ear. On these tours he took with him assistants. We are therefore to consider that his words here referred not only to the Apostles (for he was the only Apostle of the company), but also to the others with him; and that this Epistle, as are all the inspired writings, was designed by the Lord for the instruction and benefit of all the saints throughout the Christian Dispensation.
The Apostle's assistants were general ministers of the Lord, as are all God's children in proportion as they do a work of ministry. His words would seemingly be addressed, then, to all who are engaged in the Lord's service. In this Epistle he points out that there are differences in the services rendered—"He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully"—and also differences in the experiences of the various members of the Body of Christ. He says that some of them had been the objects of persecution and that others had shared in those persecutions by suffering with those so persecuted, indicating that the Lord recognizes and appreciates this association with those in distress, if there be such association.
This thought is brought out also in St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews. (Chapter 10:32-34.) If those not so actively engaged in the service are faithfully doing all that their hands find to do, the Lord is as appreciative of it as He is of those who because of greater ability or physical strength or opportunities are able to accomplish more—each doing to the extent of his opportunity the work of the Lord.
The Apostle said of himself and his companions, and of all those laboring faithfully in the service of the Master, "We are troubled on every side." There are many troubles that are common to the whole human family—lack of employment, sickness, death, poverty, etc. There are multitudinous troubles which come to the world; and of course the Apostle and his companions were subject to these difficulties like other men. To many these trials of life bring distress. But while St. Paul and those with him had their ailments and difficulties, their persecutions and trials, they also had the knowledge of the Truth and the Lord's sustaining grace; and they were enlisted in the army of the King of kings. They were not distressed by their troubles, but were trusting in the Lord's precious promises that these should all work out for their good.
"AS HE WAS, SO ARE WE, IN THIS WORLD"
And so we are not to allow the troubles of life to distress us as they distress other people. We have something that others do not have—the Lord's assurance that everything in our lives shall be a bearer of blessing to us if we are faithful. This enables us to rejoice in tribulation, if we really believe this promise of our Father's Word. There are other troubles that come to the Lord's people, but do not come to the world. The world is more or less in opposition to those who are engaged in publicly preaching the Truth and to those who are associated with them. There is a battle on between right and wrong, light and darkness. The world, being attached to their darkness, feel an enmity toward the light, a hatred of it; and they are often disposed to give special trouble to those who are the Lord's representatives in a particular capacity.
Occasionally we find worldly persons who are of good heart and kind intention and who are desirous of helping on a good work; but these are exceptions. Our strongest opposition, however, comes generally, as did that of the Master, from those who are our brethren, though many of them are only nominally so. Then we have the Adversary particularly against us. It is true that the whole world have the oppositions of the Adversary, but he is especially active against those engaged in the public service of the Lord. Satan seems to bring before these special temptations, and it is not surprising that they should be the particular objects of his rage and of his wiles. But those who are thus engaged in God's service have special blessings at His hands, and extra fortifications. So while we may be sure that those in the public ministry have more troubles from the Adversary, they are also given more grace to cope with them.
OUR DEATH THE GATEWAY TO LIFE
"We are perplexed, but not in despair," says St. Paul. The Apostle and his company were not the only ones who have been at a loss to know just what to do. The whole world have been perplexed, and are particularly so today. The general anxious uncertainty of our day results in a large measure, it would seem, from the nerve-racking experiences of the present time. If people knew the right thing to do in respect to their business, their homes and their affairs in general, they would not be so full of doubt and bewilderment. But no one is wise enough to get along without some perplexity; and present conditions in the world are causing much distress and also anxious foreboding for the near future. Those who are engaged in the work of the Lord have some perplexity. But the anxiety or uncertainty of the Lord's people should never go to the length of despair. Those who are of the world, getting out of work and being in various difficulties, become very despondent. Frequently we hear of suicides. Things look very dark to people who take their own life.
It may yet be true of the Lord's people that things will look very dark; but they are not in despair, and will not be in despair whatever may come; for the Lord has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us. This gracious promise should give us a hope sure and steadfast. Our anchor of hope should hold. Our position, therefore, is very different from that of the world, who have no particular hope. The world have no solid anchor, no precious promises to hold them fast. We know that if the worst comes to the worst, if we should even die of starvation, our hope lies beyond the Veil, beyond death. Therefore God's saints of today look upon death as the gateway by which to enter into fulness of life, into a realization of all our hopes and joys. If, therefore, there is despair, it would prove that our anchorage has been cut loose. Whoever would find that he is in despair would find that he is letting go his faith, and should immediately seek counsel from the Word of God and from others strong in faith, and should go to the Lord in frequent and earnest prayer, assured that if faith is restored despair will go.
"I WILL NEVER LEAVE THEE"
"We are persecuted, but not forsaken." There are persecutions of certain kinds that come to those in the world. Sometimes their neighbors have a grudge against them, and they thus are more or less persecuted. But they have no effective means of dealing with such a matter and nothing to comfort them. Sometimes they give as good as they get. But in the case of one of the Lord's children it is very different. When we feel that justice calls for retaliation, then we should remember that it is not ours to retaliate, to return evil for evil. The Lord has told us that we should leave all matters relating to justice in His hands. "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." He does say that we are to run away from persecutions; therefore we are not to condemn those who run away as following a wrong course. We are told by the Master, "If they persecute you in one city, flee to another." So if a child of God is persecuted in one neighborhood and he can get away to another neighborhood, it would be better to go.
But though persecuted for righteousness' sake, the Lord's people are not forsaken. The world and those possessing the world's spirit may harass and buffet them, but the Lord does not forsake them. When persecutions come to us, however, we are to inquire, "Are these oppositions and persecutions coming to me on account of my loyalty to the Lord, or is it that there is something in my disposition which causes them?" If the latter is the case, we should diligently endeavor to rectify our fault. If, on the other hand, we find by careful scrutiny of ourselves and our conduct that we have been doing our best, our very best, and that the persecutions are coming to us on this account, then we are to rejoice in the persecution.
We are "cast down, but not destroyed." This expression shows that while the Apostle and his companions did not suffer despair, did not feel forsaken, they sometimes felt a heaviness of spirit. This heaviness of spirit, or feeling of loneliness and depression, is natural at times to all mankind under the adverse conditions prevailing in the world. The weight of this casting down may be accentuated to some extent by the condition of the physical health. Those who are weak or in pain physically are apt to feel any mental pressure or trouble. This is all to be fought against in the Christian; for we know that our afflictions and disabilities are something outside and not of the Lord, except in the sense that He permits them for our development, for our future work in the Kingdom. We are therefore to be of good courage. If the Lord permits us to have trouble, we are to exercise fortitude, to patiently endure, and not to allow it to destroy our faith or our happiness or our loyalty of spirit to Him to whom we have vowed allegiance.
We are to put up with whatever our Father permits, in sweetness of temper, and to say to ourselves, "This may be a good lesson to me. Perhaps these cast-down feelings, this feeling of desolation, may help me to sympathize more with others." The poet has truly said:
"Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary."
So let us see to it that we do not allow this feeling of depression to conquer us and to destroy our faith and energy; but rather, looking to the Lord for assisting grace, and claiming His precious promises, we are to rise above the difficulty and press bravely onward.
OUR "COVENANT BY SACRIFICE"
We are "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." The Apostle thus declares that the Lord's people, in proportion as they are faithful in His service, have a likeness to the Lord in their service, in their death. Our Lord's experience in the narrow way was three and a half years of dying. He was daily laying down His life—surrendering His life. He was an Example to us of how we should surrender our lives. He laid down His life, not in the service of the world, but of the Lord's professed people. While the merit of His sacrificed life was to be used of the Lord for the life of the world, yet He laid it down in the direct service of His Jewish brethren.
The Hebrew people were the people of God. Our Lord spent His life especially with those who were truly desirous of pleasing God and knowing His will, whether found amongst the rich and influential or amongst the poor and lowly. Jesus welcomed publicans and sinners, and gave His life for them. He knew that among this humble class He would find the greater proportion of true wheat. He was laying down His life during all the three and a half years of His earthly ministry, and merely completed this work at Calvary.
And so it is with all of the Lord's true people. They have made "a covenant by sacrifice." They have consecrated, dedicated their lives to the Lord and His service; and as Jesus their Master laid down His life in doing good, in proclaiming the Truth then due, so they are to lay down their lives in the same manner, whether the time of their ministry be three and a half years or twenty years or whatever it may be—until the Father's good time shall come for their deliverance. They will be in full harmony with the Lord and will gladly have fellowship in the sufferings of their great Head—and properly so; for they are prospective members of His Body. Thus all of these members are continually bearing about in the body the dying of their Lord. They are dying daily as He died, "laying down their lives."
"THEREFORE GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY"
This is all the work of the New Creature. The old creature is merely compelled to follow in the way of the New Creature, and this setting aside of the will of the flesh is the basic feature of our dying. When our dying has been completed, our lives faithfully laid down, it will bring us to that condition where we shall hear the Master's "Well done!"
St. Paul also says that "the life of Jesus" is to be "made manifest in our body." We understand him here to be referring to the human body. The New Creature owns this body. With the people of the world there are not two personalities, but merely the one creature. This duality of personality is applicable only to those who have been begotten of the Holy Spirit. The old body is suffering; but the New Creature rejoices, glad to be in the service—gives thanks to God day by day respecting its tribulations, knowing that these are working out "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Thus the life of Jesus is manifested through us to the world, and to the brethren. The world cannot understand. They say, "If I were in your place, in such a trial, I would be miserable. But you are rejoicing!" So they cannot understand. But we have a newness of life that the world cannot appreciate. All who can appreciate this should daily grow in grace and knowledge. We should show forth more and more of the Lord's life in our characters and in our bodies. Thus we shall be manifesting more and still more of the Lord's Spirit, doing more of the Lord's work, becoming more like Jesus—all of which will prepare us for the glory beyond, when the New Creature shall be completed, when all the perfections and glories of the new nature will be ours.