Tag Archives: Gloom

How attitudes intensify or moderate suffering

We all face difficulties of one kind or another. Job loss. Accidents. Disease. Rejection. “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward”(Job 5:7). However, the attitudes with which we face troubles will profoundly affect our ability to cope victoriously; either intensifying or moderating our anguish.

Alice and Elsie and Marci, not their real names, routinely intensify their own pain. Alice wallows in unhappiness while blaming her employer and the government for the misfortunes in her life. A cheerful greeting to Elsie triggers a recitation of grievances that reflect her bitterness and anger. Marci not only looks sad and troubled, she is.

The attitudes of these three intensify their emotional distress. Consequently, they will endure greater pain than that of others who tackle life with an uplifting outlook. Their corrosive emotions may even affect their physical health. For our own wellbeing, as well as to glorify God, we need to get rid of dark and hurtful emotions such as: sadness, worry, doubt, discouragement, fear, envy, hopelessness, bitterness, wrath, discontent, wounded pride, hatred, and the like.

The New Testament uniformly teaches that faith in Jesus Christ, and obedience to his teaching, delivers us from bondage to these emotions. (I’m not denying that in some cases there are physical causes for depression.)

This does not mean we should cover up our anguish. The Psalms of lament show us the pattern of David. “My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord…all night long I flood my bed with weeping”(Ps 6:3,6). “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”(Ps. 13:1). But notice that David brought his pain to God and underlying that pain was faith. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

A huge part of the Christian process of sanctification involves replacing dark attitudes with those that are uplifting. This process doesn’t happen overnight. But the apostle Paul explained that through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, the transformation is certain. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control;” the very emotions that moderate suffering.

According to Jesus, happy are they who have the right attitudes. (See Matthew 5:3-12.) He taught his disciples, “Do not worry” (Matt. 6:31); “Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me”(John 14:1).

There isn’t room in this article to touch on the power of prayer, the transforming effect of thankfulness, and the uplifting outcome of worship and praise. And surely, I don’t need to mention that we engage in these activities not for therapeutic reasons, but because we have touched the hem of the Infinite. That touch makes us want to lift our hearts in praise. We have been transformed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ and that change makes us want to express thankfulness. The positive effect of praise and thankfulness—joy—is incidental to the reality of salvation, but very real.

I have no doubt whatever that the Christian faith has contributed infinitely more than we can imagine to human health, social wellbeing, and international harmony. How do I know this? I know it from the teaching of the Bible, observation of others, my own experience, and the testimony of myriad Christians, some of whom suffer indescribable persecution.

Do you have doubts that Christian attitudes moderate suffering? “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Or as Jesus said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).

In a later blog, I’ll write about the role of encouragers in helping those who face trials.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

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Beauty for Ashes

DSCN2359A few weeks ago, I noticed some very tiny flowers in an uncultivated flower bed—weeds, but very pretty. Later in another part of town, I spied a cheerful carpet of mauve flowers on a lawn. Alas, they too were weeds. These tiny flowering weeds got me thinking.

In many ways, the world in which we live is very dark. People are losing hope. An advertisement for a new book professing to solve all human probDSCN2535 (2)lems is a symptom of this malaise. No, it doesn’t ask us to “love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.” Evidently, forgetting the dismal record of the last 200 years, the solution proposed is scientific and biological. Vain hope. But at least its analysis of our condition is relatively accurate. We live in “a world facing complete breakdown from terrorism, refugee crises, corrupted economies, polarized politics, family disintegration, rampant mental illness and ecological devastation.”

DSCN1650No wonder doom and gloom occupy most writers these days. Yes, but what about God? “He makes all things beautiful in his time” (Eccl.3:11). As the One who is altogether lovely, whatever he touches becomes beautiful. David’s longing was “to gaze on the beauty of the Lord…all the days of my life” (Psalm 27:4). The antidote to ugliness and evil, is God.

Have we failed to notice indications of God’s glory scattered prodigiously throughout the earth? What do I mean? I mean those silent witnesses to the beauty of God and His salvation. Every beautiful thing in creation points to its Creator and whispers, hope. As Isaiah prophecies of Jesus; “The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:1,3).

DSCN2541The beauty of a baby’s smile. The fragrance of lilac. The beauty enshrined in a grain of sand or a snowflake. The rainbow reflected from a drop of dew. The infinite shape of clouds. The loveliness and variety of myriads of flowers. The shape of trees. The magnificence of mountains. The splendour of the sea. The magic of sunrise and twilight. What about butterflies and birds; diamonds and dandelions. Lord, the earth is full of your glory!

Have we failed to notice God’s beautifying touch? The refugees who shout hallelujah after being saved by Jesus Christ. The drug addict in Brooklyn totallyRainbow delivered from addiction. The abuser becoming gentle and loving. What about myriads of men and women from every tribe and nation who have seen their fear and despair replaced by joy and peace and hope?

DSCN2373 (2)Oh, yes, the cataclysm produced by the fall of mankind into sin, produced thorns and thistles, hatred and war; and probably mosquitoes, volcanoes, tornadoes and earthquakes. And yet, God has not left us without witness. If we would but look, we would find glimpses of beauty from the hands of the Creator at every turn. And that beauty bears witness to hope in seemingly hopeless situations; hope through bowing in faith to Jesus Christ, the Lord. Then we will revel in beauty and worship God in the “beauty of holiness”.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Conquering Winter Gloom

SnowstormIn northern climes, darkness comes early. And when clouds obscure the sun, the gloominess of this period of the year can be depressing. Some of us succumb to SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder and become seriously depressed.

How can we fight off gloom? Some of us can head south to a sunshine coast or board a cruise or fly to Figi. What if we can’t?

When I was a boy, I remember my mother varying our usual diet of white bread by giving us raison bread. The scattering of raisons made each bite a delight. In a similar way we can scatter special treats through our winter days to take our mind off the cold weather.

Keep busy. This is not the time of year to mope around the house lamenting the season. Of course, if you have a steady job or young children, much of your time will be occupied. But then there’s the weekend. Plan something fun for the whole family. And if retired, one has many other choices.

Plan a project or take a course. Winter is an ideal time to embrace that project we’ve put off. The more fun it is, the more it will distract us from weak sunshine. Take a course on photography, computers, memoir writing, or painting. Take action to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Before you know it, you’ll be wishing you had more time.

Volunteer. Every community needs volunteers; to visit seniors, deliver meals on wheels, drive people to appointments, taking shut-ins to the grocery store, the list is endless. Churches never have enough volunteers for their various ministries.

Plan fun things to do. Go to a movie, watch a hockey game, or take in a play. Play Scrabble. Set up a difficult crossword puzzle on a card table. Plan to have dinner or lunch in a special restaurant.

Encourage others. Call someone who needs a chat or prayer. Surprise people with a note or letter. Receiving real hand-written mail in this era of Facebook Raod closed during ice storm and email has become rare.

Plan a special tea or meal with some friends, family, or even new acquaintances. It may spice up your life.

Read books. People who love books find that winter passes quickly. Join Goodreads (goodreads.com) where you can find what others are saying about books, keep a record of your own reading, and write short reviews.

Keep up your exercise. If you can, get out of the house regularly. Visit a mall, not to shop, but to get some exercise and have a coffee with a friend or spouse. Many places have community centres with a walking track and exercise machines. And take your vitamins, especially the sunshine ones.

Take a short-term missions trip. The needs in places like Haiti or Uganda and many other countries are unending. As a side benefit, these countries usually are warm and sunny while northern climes freeze.

Most important, adjust your attitude. Albert Camus wrote, “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” How is that possible? Some will say all we need is positive thinking. But Christians rely on more than will-power. They trust in God to transform their attitudes—to everything, even winter. In Christian hearts, spring and summer can continually bloom when we allow the Holy Spirit full sway. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, …self-control”(Gal. 5:22,23).

The Apostle Paul, who lived a life surrendered to the Holy Spirit could write, while shackled in prison, “rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…content in any and Mini-daffodilsevery situation”(Phil. 4:4,11,12).

Beyond doing whatever we can practically to add spice to our winter lives, we need to be much in prayer that the Holy Spirit would so work in us that we radiate joy and contentment in a winter environment.

Blooming Out Of Season

Two months after the rest of my shasta daisies had ceased blooming, almost overnight a lone daisy poked up its cheerful head. What led it to bloom as the days got colder and shorter? The blooming season for flowers in this part of Southern Ontario is ending. The hostas are wilting. Even the petunias look the worse for wear. The fall mums have lost their sunny sparkle. We’ve had a frost and a week of rain without much sun. And still my solitary daisy blooms!

This single daisy reminds me of people who bloom in difficult circumstances.??????????????????????????????? Most of us can rise to our potential when we have a good job, reasonable health, supportive friends, and regular sleep. When everything is sunshine and roses we can smile and whistle a happy tune. But that’s not so easy when cancer strikes, or gossip destroys our reputation, or the Taliban besiege our town, or we face an impossible task.

There’s the cheerful woman in her late 90’s who still comes to prayer meeting, cracks jokes and loves to spread a ray of sunshine around her retirement home.

There’s Diana, beaten, molested and told she was stupid and worthless who after kicking her addiction to drugs cajoled government to help her develop successful businesses for ex-psychiatric patients.

I’m reminded of Thomas Edison who kept on experimenting through hundreds of failures until he perfected a light bulb.

I think of children who remain hopeful even while going through chemo-therapy and worse.

Consider the survivors of the Muslim attack on the Northern Nigerian town of Yelwa that killed 75 in their burning church building. Despite threats the surviving Christians boldly rebuild their church.

What about the young woman fighting against the tide of despair to rescue Ebola orphans in West Africa?

Then there is Malala, shot and almost killed by a Taliban a sympathizer just because she stood up for the right of girls to be educated. Undeterred she continues to agitate world-wide for universal education. A worthy recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

I think of the retired pastor who earns enough during the year to travel half-way around the world so he can encourage persecuted Christians and train pastors.

What of the scores of Chinese, Ethiopians, Koreans, and westerners who ignoring warnings about Muslim terrorism go to spend and be spent in dangerous parts of the world. Against all rational odds, SIM has more missionaries from more countries now in the challenging mission field of Pakistan than it did when things were much easier.

Second Timothy 4:2 exhorts preachers and teachers to, “Prea???????????????????????????????ch the Word; be prepared in season and out of season.” Clearly, we need teaching about God’s grace in Christ when things are going well lest we become complacent; and when we plunge into difficulties lest we be discouraged.

Whether we are preachers or not, we should all aspire to bloom in every season by displaying the godly characteristics of love, patience, kindness, joy, peace, gentleness, faith, and goodness. Indeed, Lord, help me to bloom like that daisy even during dark and cold days.

Should a Christian Ever Be Grumpy?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday, I’m trying to be cheerful, but I’m feeling miserable and ill-tempered. It’s a sunny day outside but I had very little sleep last night caused by one problem or another. So what should I do, pretend I’m rejoicing in the Lord, or be honest? Or let’s choose another scenario. What if it’s a cold, dark, rainy day and my car has a flat on the highway and my umbrella is broken and my bank account is empty and my arthritis is killing me and—? You fill in the blanks.

There’s an emphasis these days among Christians, at least, to be filled with thanksgiving and to rejoice in every circumstance. And that’s good and right. The Bible’s commands here are clear. “Be joyful always;…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16,18). In the world beyond the church there are exhortations to be positive.

We all appreciate cheerful, positive, affirming people. No one likes to be around a grouch very long. But do we ever feel uncomfortable when someone tells us they have cancer but are rejoicing in the Lord? Something seems off here. It’s unnatural.

Of course, the whole Christian faith is unnatural. That’s what makes God’s OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtransforming grace so astounding. The Holy Spirit indwelling a born again Christian is in the business of transforming grouchy, negative, critical temperaments. There is no doubt that the commands to rejoice always, to always be thankful, to have faith as a grain of mustard seed, and many others, define the transformation goals of the Holy Spirit. “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, [from glory to glory, KJV] which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”(2 Cor. 3:18).

However, these spiritual goals, challenges—if you will—are a little like Mount Everest. Something to be conquered, but very high. To live every day, every minute submissive to the Spirit, fulfilling the will of God is what we should aim for. We want to become Christ-like. But it is from glory to glory. There are incremental stages along the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, I realize that some people are much more optimistic than others. Some never worry. And some Christians have progressed in their sanctification to such an extent that they are sincere in expressing such unnatural sentiments. And we do need to pray for God to transform our minds. “As a man thinks so is he.”

But I wonder if God is more pleased when we are honest about what we feel than when we grit our teeth and try to kid ourselves into being joyful. I think most of us relate more to the honesty of David or Jeremiah. “Give me relief from my distress…O Lord, consider my sighing…My soul is in anguish…How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”(Psalm 4:1;5:1;6:3;13:2).

So, let’s press on the upward way but when we feel miserable pour out our hearts to our heavenly Father. He loves to hear our heartfelt cries for help in trouble, gloom or discouragement almost as much as He enjoys our joyful celebration.

Spreading Sunshine not Gloom

These November mornings I find myself taking longer to wake up and shake off the aches and pains of arthritic joints. I hobble down the hall into the kitchen, fumble with the coffee maker then collapse on my overstuffed armchair content to ease into the day slowly—very slowly. It’s downright annoying and quite humiliating. Where did the vigor and energy go that had me jumping out of bed to embrace a new day while I sang the hallelujah chorus? Okay, maybe my memory is a bit cloudy here, especially when it comes to singing anything.

If I let myself, I could easily feel as gloomy as the yard outside the window looks. Leaves litter the grass. The flowers are shriveled husks. The deciduous trees are bare, except for some beech and oak whose leaves hang on longer. I face another day of November rain or early snow with four or five months of winter ahead. And I haven’t serviced the snow blower yet.

Everything reminds me of the verse, “outwardly we are wasting away”. Now, that’s the way I feel! And as I look out the window, that caption could be written beneath all the broad leaved trees. In late fall and winter, it takes a very discerning eye to separate the living trees from those that are dead. Sometimes a canker on the trunk of a tree betrays the inner rot. Among others woodpecker holes signal the presence of carpenter ants eating their way through the heartwood.

But inside, most of those trees are very much alive, just waiting for the spring. And what about us? Isn’t there more to that verse than a lament about our aging bodies? Ah, here it is. “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Daily, the Holy Spirit refreshes our spirits by reminding us that not only does God love us now, but He is preparing a bright future for us. “In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

Lord of heavenly glory and earthly help, enable me to see beyond the seen; beyond the temporary pains and problems into a future bright with glory; a future that is eternal. And help me to be a cheerful glory-spreader instead of a gloom dispenser. But, and this is a big but, help me to be real and not just plaster a smile on my face. For shiny, artificially happy Christians are insufferable.

Clouds Do Not Extinguish The Sun

I commented to a friend the other day how welcome the sun was after so many cloudy and stormy days. An inveterate optimist who seems to always discover a silver lining in otherwise gloomy circumstances, she pointed out that the sun was always there, even when hidden from view. To ensure that I didn’t miss the spiritual application, she also reminded me that the Lord is always with us even when things look dark.

I don’t often appreciate people turning an innocent comment about the weather into a soapbox. But this particular friend is such a sunny Christian who faces challenging circumstances with laudable faith, that one can’t be annoyed with her. Don’t you wish there were more positive, hopeful Christians committed to spreading sunshine wherever they go? In my case, her comment has inspired me often to revel in the promised presence of our triune God—and led to this devotional.

The Bible is replete with reminders of this truth.

                The Lord is my shepherd…He leads me…He restores my soul.

                He guides me…I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23)

 It ‘s hard to imagine someone facing more challenges and difficulties than David. And yet he was able to pen not only the twenty-third psalm but many other gems. The following verse from his pen, I often claimed during our missionary years:

                I have set the Lord always before me.

                Because he is at my right hand,

                I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

 Jesus warned his disciples three times about his coming death, an event that could have totally shaken their faith. To prepare them he explained; I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.…He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. (John 14: 16-18)

 Then just before his ascension from their sight, gave them the Great Commission Embedded in that command was his promise:

                And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20)

 Knowing that our Lord is present beyond the veil of sight, will not deliver us from troubles. Economic challenges will sometimes stymie us. We must continue to remain vigilant in traffic. Illness may lay us low. Sorrow could dog our footsteps. Relationships may falter. Persecution might come. But we will never be alone.

 Angels will be attending our pathway. Jesus Christ will be praying that our faith fail not. The Holy Spirit will be within us empowering us to resist the enticements of our own fallen nature. The Father will be operating behind the scenes so that all things in our lives will work out for our good and His glory. The Holy Spirit will be interceding for us with groans that words cannot express. All the resources of heaven will be bent on carrying us triumphantly to heaven.

 We live in a fallen, chaotic world prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and wars. But as the hymn writer reminds us: Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

 Although sometimes hidden, the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. (Psalm 84:11)