Repression, injustice, hunger, fear and widespread loss of
property. These are the hallmarks of many nations, particularly when
governments engage in unethical practices. My wife and I
witnessed such practices with alarming frequency during the last few
years of our thirty-year pastoral ministry in a developing country.
During those years we watched close friends and faithful believers
suffer great losses. And the Lord finally guided us to leave.
heart-wrenching good-byes, we spent three months in a Christian
restoration community receiving professional care for post-traumatic
stress disorder and clinical depression. In the years prior to our
therapy, I had wrestled with God’s mysterious ways and had become
disheartened with His seeming reluctance to intervene. Our therapy helped us to see a new perspective
from which to view our disillusionment and grief. Yet questions still
lingered: How am I supposed to handle my disillusionment over the
seemingly inscrutable ways of God? Is it really possible to know peace
and stability—a heart rest—in the midst of chaos?
wrestled with these questions, the Lord slowly lifted the pall of grief
that had engulfed me. He impressed on me the importance of resting in
His promise to deal with the nations: “He will judge the world in
righteousness and the peoples in his truth” (Ps. 96:10–13). This
promise reminded me that He will bring about the right conditions for
justice and relief from tyranny in His time.
significant turning point in my recovery came when the Lord showed me I
was focusing on why He seemed reluctant to intervene, rather than focusing on what I knew to be true about
Him. When events defied explanation, the Lord reminded me that I would
find sustainable hope only in Him and His Word. As the psalmist
prayed,: “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in
my affliction” (Ps. 119:92).
Throughout the ages disheartened
believers have persevered in the midst of bewildering circumstances by
drawing spiritual strength from the right sources. In his book, A Grief Observed,
C.S. Lewis wrote: “At first I am overwhelmed… then I try to bring
myself into the frame of mind I should be in at all times… I become a
creature consciously dependent upon God, drawing its strength from the
right sources.” [Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed (London: Faber and Faber,
1961), 5-7.]. God is our source. His Word tells of many who found their
spiritual strength from the right sources and who did not need to
re-think their views of God. What they knew to be true of Him in the
past fortified them with grace for the present.
ruthless foreign invaders threatened the nation of Judah, King
Jehoshaphat declared: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God
who is in Heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power
and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. O our God,
did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people
Israel? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your
Name, saying, ‘if calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of
judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before
this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our
distress, and you will hear us and save us” (2 Chron. 20:6–9).
cruelty and malevolence rending his nation, the psalmist asked, “When
the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps.
11:3). God’s reply enabled the psalmist, in a moment of distress, to
see God clearly. We read that the Lord reigns in his holy temple—an
assurance that He provides a refuge, present and accessible, for His
people in distress. Not only is God present in the holy temple, but He
is seated on his heavenly throne. This signifies that God, in his
sovereignty, controls the outcome of circumstances—however trying or
dangerous. Finally, verse seven concludes that “upright men will see
his face.” Not all hope is lost in the face of adversity; we hold to
the prospect of living with the Lord forever.
As he grieved
for the people of Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah also reflected on the
truths of God. By doing so, he kept himself from being carried away by
what Charles Spurgeon has called the “hurricanes of infidelity which
still come from the wilderness, and like whirlwinds, smite the four
corners of our house, threatening to overthrow it” [Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David
(Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), Psalm 73.].
Jeremiah wrote: “I remember my affliction…the bitterness…I well
remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet, this I call to
mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are
not consumed, for his compassions never fail…the Lord is good to those
whose hope is in him…though He brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love” (Lam. 3:19–22; 25; 32).
God’s mysterious ways defy human explanation, believers have recourse
other than disillusionment with God and bitterness of heart. Confusion
and lack of immediate answers actually can help us to see the most
important truth—that we are constrained by faith to cast ourselves upon
the mercy of God, who is infinitely wiser than we are, and in whose
Word we find long-term comfort and hope. “Remember your word to your
servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is
this: Your promise preserves my life” (Ps. 119:49–50).
revisiting what we know to be true about God, we find that His faithful
Word enables us to draw strength from the right sources. It helps us to
focus on the truth even in the hour of our severest trials and
Chris F. Goppert (MA [BS], 1980) is
the founder of Salt Savours, a consultative ministry of encouragement
to pastors and church leaders. For more information go to