Deep Sorrows Are Rarely Overnight Guests

There are periods in our lives when we experience little comfort, when refuge seems out of reach, when “but joy comes in the morning” seems but a faint hope. Joy always does come on some morning, but it does not come every morning, and we should not try to pretend that it does.

In Psalm 88, unlike many others, there is no silver lining, no bright light at the end of the dark path; it is sorrow and woe from beginning to end. The cause of these morose reflections appears to be a loss of friendship. “You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them” (v8), and “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness” (v18).

The psalmist suffers in anguish: “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol” (v3); “Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves” (v7); “my eye grows dim through sorrow” (v9). And then in one final exasperated utterance:

O LORD, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together. (v14-17)

Deep Sorrows

Deep sorrows are rarely overnight guests and the anguish of enduring a disaster-in-progress is sometimes an experience of months or even years. We sit watching as if we are captives – gagged and bound with eyes propped open – powerless, defenceless, hopeless.

Often when this happens we tend to make self-condemning declarations. We indulge in the self-pity of believing that we are to blame for every small negative detail of a complex situation. Indeed, we may be partly to blame for our predicament, but we must guard against taking undue credit.

For in this frame of mind, we would look at the man born blind and tell him he must have sinned – either him or his parents. We would sit with Job and offer long monologues of very bad advice. These responses betray a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty and a deficit of trust in his clear promises to us.

Enough Already?

As I make my way, reading and reflecting, time and again through the psalms, I sometimes think, “Isn’t it enough already, all these reflections on sorrow and weakness and trouble? On feeling alone and abandoned and low? On the betrayals of friendship and on sins of my own?” But I write only in response to what I read, and the psalms are full of these themes. 

Not only should we learn to expect these emotions to surface in our souls, but we should embrace them as often as necessary; we should not suppress them the way we sometimes do. Rather, we should use the psalms as the starting points for our expression and conduits for our own sorrow. 

We need to learn to sit in the sorrow, to let God do the chisel work he intends to do without constantly trying to dodge the bevelled edge. What does that look like? On many days, I’m still working that out.

  • I know it means applying faith to my anxieties, thus halting the endless cycling of my negative thoughts. 
  • I know it means denying the false relief of digital distractions to alleviate my tired mind. This only makes my mind more tired.
  • I know it means to cease striving for comprehensive self-invented solutions and admit that I cannot change the hearts of those for whom I pray. What I can do is ask God to change my heart and then comply with the often painful process.

How Does This Add Up?

In John 9, where we find the story of a man born blind, Jesus says the purpose of his blindness was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. In John 11 he says something similar about Lazarus: “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Blindness, sickness, and all manner of disorders and diseases – who does not want to be relieved of such afflictions? But Jesus, then and now, has full authority and is capable of arranging these events in such a way that our faith is strengthened as God is glorified. 

The events of our lives may seem paradoxical or sometimes even counterproductive to us. They often may not seem to add up, but Jesus knows and understands exactly how they do.

Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash

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Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)

Our Fumbling Steps as Faithfulness

Psalm 3:6 contains one of many aspirational statements we find in Scripture: “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” We should not hesitate to make similar declarations. 

King David at times did have many people who had set themselves against him. He was afraid for his life; he was not always calm under pressure. His faith was not perfect. He sometimes struggled to see the value in his afflictions. He pleaded for vindication from God when he was falsely accused and judged. 

But through all these experiences he kept striving for and desiring perfect faith and full trust. God described David as a man after His own heart, not because David was the most perfect human who ever lived – he certainly wasn’t! –  but because he kept pursuing God’s heart.

Even our fumbling steps in God’s direction are counted by him as faithfulness. 

On the day we receive our commendation, he will not say, “Well done! You completed the course perfectly and in record time!” He will say, “Well done, you faithfully pursued me. You clothed yourself with the righteousness of my Son. You repented when you sinned and cared for those in need. Enter your rest.”

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Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

God’s Plan Was Better Than My Plan

 As we read through pages of the New Testament, we uncover stories of the lives of the first Christians and discover that even when people are clearly called by God to a specific mission, this doesn’t guarantee the kind of success they hope to have. This is still true: God calls us to a mission, but he doesn’t always call us to tangible or predictable results. 

I imagine Paul and others were, like we are, sometimes a bit discouraged about this. “Yes, I have my clear calling from God! I know what his plan is for me! This is going to be great!” And then the dreams you dreamed about how everything would go don’t come to pass. You discover that God has ways of bringing about his plans that are very different from yours. 

God’s Plans and My Sanctification

When God called me into full-time ministry 15 years ago, I had no clue what I was in for. I was not the Lead Pastor then but the Pastor of Worship, a role I thought would have me playing music, doing coffee, and generally spending pleasant time with people. And there was all of that, but I didn’t know at the time that our church was heading into a period of unprecedented upheaval. 

I didn’t know that I would see the highest highs and lowest lows of the church’s life. 

I didn’t know that I would be wiped out by a burnout that would take 8 weeks of rest and intense counselling to recover from. 

I didn’t know that I would experience almost constant anxiety over the state of the church and its people. 

I could not have anticipated the slander and opposition and spiritual warfare that awaited me. 

I didn’t know that there would be so much pain. 

But it’s also true that while all of that was happening, I didn’t see how God was using every moment of that pain to draw me closer to him and help me to become more like Jesus – a process that is still underway and one that progresses more slowly than I would like.

I didn’t know any of that. 

Answering the Call

All I knew was that God had – out of the blue – called me to become a pastor, and as I followed that call it led me to a place. It wasn’t a place I expected to end up, but in retrospect, I have no doubt that it was what God had planned for me. And despite all the hardship, I do not regret answering the call.

The same kinds of things will happen to you as you answer God’s call. And although you can’t see it while it’s happening, his plan will accomplish far more for him and in you than your plan ever could. 

These two things are true for anyone who wants to pursue God’s mission: First, God IS calling you to serve him; that is not in doubt. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a mission. Second, you should know that if you follow where he’s leading you will find yourself in hard places and difficult situations. 

We Need Not Fear

But here is what’s also true: Jesus knows the fears of our hearts, even the unspoken ones. He knows the anxiety, the discouragement, the cynicism that creeps in, the sin that seeks to trip us up and bind us, and he speaks to all of that with a comforting precision. He loves us; we are his and we need not fear because he is with us.

Armed with this affirmation, this reassurance, this ultimate security, we should continue to go boldly forward with the mission to which he has called us. 

In the words of Elisabeth Elliot: “The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem much worse, but in the end, it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.” 

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Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)

Jesus is Sovereign Over Every Storm – An Encouragement For Troubled Days

“He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear…”

Mark 4:40-41

Asleep in the storm, the disciples accuse Jesus of not caring that they are about to die. Despite this accusation, Jesus rebukes the cause of distress rather than rebuking those in distress. He is sovereign over the weather; they should know this by now.

He then asks them why they are so afraid and immediately diagnoses the source of their fear: they still lack faith. After all that they have seen him do, after what he has just done, these obvious miracles before their eyes, they still lack faith! And even after this miracle and a direct challenge from Jesus, it says they were immediately filled with great fear. 

Why Are We So Afraid?

We may wonder or even chuckle at the thick-headedness of the disciples, but aren’t we the same? We have seen God’s repeated interventions on our behalf yet we constantly wonder how and if he will come through for us again.

Christian brother or sister, Jesus is going to rebuke the storm that threatens you! Even if the storm continues to rage it will not rage forever, and he may even use the storm to transport you to your eternal home. 

Either way, he is with you and he is for you. He is sovereign over every storm, literal and metaphorical, and we can place our faith in that!

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