Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-11, Galatians 4:6-7, Ephesians 2:18-22
Seven years ago I found myself so emotionally, physically, and spiritually debilitated that just getting out of bed in the morning was difficult. I’d never struggled with acute depression before, but after soldiering through the deaths of several of my loved ones and a cancer scare of my own, my get-up-and-go was totally gone. All I wanted was to wave a white flag at life and crawl under the covers, venturing out just long enough to grab another pint of ice cream.
If someone had given me some perky acrostic or suggested I listen to a sermon entitled, “Ten Things Victorious Christians Do to Kick Disappointment and Despair to the Curb,” I’d have kicked them in the shins. Fortunately, Lynn, the Christian counselor I’ve gone to for years, doesn’t prescribe the dangerous meds of “minimizing grief” or “multiplying guilt.” Instead, she was silent as I sobbed, empathetic as I lamented.
Lynn gave me this advice: “Cling to Jesus and do the next right thing.”
She told me to stop trying to tackle the troubles of an entire day, much less a week, month, or year. I was simply to move forward one step at a time. Some days I’d wake to the alarm clock only to be hit with a shock of emotion as I remembered my circumstances. And other days, just whispering the name of our Savior gave me enough grit to pull back the covers and get out of bed.
Day by day, inch by laborious inch, Jesus led me by the hand through that dark valley of life— one step at a time.
I know far too many people who have lost their joy and all but lost their faith in Jesus because endurance was an overlooked muscle group in their Christian vocabulary. And so they’d stop attending Bible study, then church, fading away from their faith community in the midst of their malaise. Some have been wounded by that very same community of believers. Others have simply lost the energy and will to put on a happy face, to pretend their get-up-and-go hasn’t left them too.
Surely our Creator-Redeemer weeps over the gaping holes in the fabric of His covenant family. We weren’t created to be wincing, jaded isolationists. We were created in God’s image, in the image of the triune God who exists in perfect relational harmony with Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit (Genesis 1:26). We’re hardwired for relationship, for communing with others of the faith.
When life leaves us disappointed, disillusioned, and despairing, we need to resist the urge to withdraw from the body of Christ. Instead, we need to move toward other passionate—albeit flawed—Christ-followers to walk with us toward healing. We need to be honest with them, with God, and with ourselves about the true state of our hearts. We need them circling around us, crying out, “Abba Father!” on our behalf, reminding us of the Truth: we are no longer slaves, but daughters of the one true God (Galatians 4:6-7).
Together, we can persevere toward the living hope of the Lord Jesus Christ to whom we’ve been called.
Only God can love us unconditionally. Hoping in Him will never disappoint us the way the world does time and time again. Because “God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit” we can learn to rejoice and hope again, even in our pain (Romans 5:3,5). But it’s only in clinging to Him that we will find the strength to move forward in faith, one step at a time.
Lisa Harper is a master storyteller with a masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary. She’s lauded as an engaging, hilarious communicator as well as an authentic and substantive Bible teacher. She’s been in vocational ministry for 30 years and has written 15 books (her latest being, The Sacrament of Happy: What a Smiling God Brings to a Wounded World) and Bible study curriculums but says her greatest accomplishment by far is that of becoming Missy’s (her adopted daughter from Haiti) mama! They live on a hilly farmette south of Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy eating copious amounts of chips, queso, and guacamole.