The Way Out of Despair

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

I have known of great Christians who have experienced a trial so dark and deep that life itself seemed almost not worth living. In his very darkest hour, Jeremiah discovered a glorious truth that brought new hope and assurance to his mind. It was something he already knew about God, but it hadn’t touched his soul until he came to the end of himself. He discovered that at the very bottom, God was there! The farther down he went, the more God was to be discovered. God was not to be discovered up there in some blissful soaring into untroubled skies but in the shadows of grief and despair. When Jeremiah hit bottom, he fell hard against the faithfulness of a compassionate God. 

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, NKJV). Jeremiah came to realize great truths. Listen to his discoveries. 

  1. “The waters flowed over my head; I said, ‘I am cut off!’ I called on your name, O Lord, from the lowest pit. …You drew near on the day I called on you, and said, ‘Do not fear!’” (Lamentations 3:54-57). 

  2. When God seems to have covered himself with a cloud so that my prayers could not pass through, he will still see my oppression and will judge my case (see Lamentations 3:44, 59). 

  3. If the Lord allows grief and sorrow, he will at the same time uphold me with abundant compassion and love (see Lamentations 3:32). 

  4. God is not trying to sabotage any of my plans; he is not withholding justice from me (see Lamentations 3:35-36). 

  5. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

  6. “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26). 

  7. “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord; let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven” (Lamentations 3:40-41). 

  8. Being down has spent my strength and hope. I am left empty and humbled, so now I depend totally on his mercies! (see Lamentations 3:18, 20-22). 

Having the Mind of Christ

Gary Wilkerson

The soul, most experts say, is your mind, emotions and will. You could also take it as thoughts, feelings and actions. A lot of Christians will hear a sermon that says, “Act like this”, so they’ll try to change their behavior. However, their thoughts and feelings are not on the same track. This is what James was talking about when he wrote, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8, ESV).  

We must be convinced in our soul of what we’re doing. Well, how does that happen? It’s more difficult than many of us think.  

I think the average stay of a length of a New Year's resolution is eight days. How many diets start and stop? How many commitments to read the Bible start and stop? Well, everything we do has to have a ‘why.’ I don't read my Bible to earn brownie points. I don’t have a devotional life because I fear I'm not going to get into Heaven otherwise. I study scripture because I want to know and love Jesus. When my ‘why’ is big, my mind is made up, my emotions are convinced and my will has impetus to it. My soul is resolute.  

If any one of those three are not present in your life, you'll probably fail. Paul wrote about how we avoid failing here: having the mind of Christ. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. …Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:1-2,5). 

How do we obtain the mind of Christ? “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV). 

When I find myself drifting away from my resolutions to obey and follow God, I return to scripture and prayer so that God can renew my mind, my soul, until it reflects Christ’s. 

The Beam in Our Own Eye

Claude Houde

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye” (Matthew 7:3-5, ESV).

We all have a shocking level of awareness when it comes to noticing even the tiniest flaws in those around us. You know, that little speck in someone else’s eye that bothers you so much? It’s usually our brother, sister, wife, husband, parents or in-laws. We can gossip about other people's specks for hours that will turn into months and years, never even thinking about our own problems.

Jesus was politically incorrect and outright confrontational when talking about our responsibility in a dispute. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly…” In other words, start by acknowledging your wrongs, taking responsibility for your own issues. Unfortunately, the unhealthy, dead-end mentality of “It's not me; it's the other person's problem” continues to destroy friendships, couples and entire families.

In my 35 years of pastoring, I have seen so many families break up simply because one person flatly refuses to acknowledge their part in a conflict. I have even seen this stubbornness, pride and hard-heartedness abort the future of young leaders with extraordinary potential. Don't get me wrong. I am aware that the roots of a conflict are almost always deeply complicated and that everyone has their share of responsibility. However, we must recognize the danger of getting bogged down in the quicksand of “It’s their fault. It's the speck in their eye that caused all this.”

Can you imagine the rivers of blessings that could flow into our lives, marriages, families and churches if we put Jesus’ teaching into practice? Imagine the peace revolution that would take place if we all said, “It is my responsibility to move towards reconciliation. It is up to me to examine my heart. I have to ask God to change me. I have to start by acknowledging my faults and sins. I am not solely responsible for the conflict, but I must first remove the beam from my own eye.”

Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches. 

Hate Life to Find It

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

The key to abundant life is found in one seemingly insignificant and confusing verse. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25, NKJV).

This is God’s challenge to our small world! Understanding what he means here is the door to a life-giving revelation. Jesus also said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

Certainly Christ cannot mean hate in terms of a classic dictionary interpretation, which is to loathe, detest, dislike or reject. God's Word says, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer…” (1 John 3:15), and “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19). It is not life itself that is to be hated because life is a gift from God. It is not people we hate; that would be unscriptural.

We must learn to hate the way we are living life. We must hate what our preoccupation with families and loved ones has done to us. Is your life all wrapped up in your children, husband, wife or parents? Are all your joys and problems limited to this small circle? God is simply calling on us to widen our circle of living. Life must be more than simply draperies, bills, kids' schooling, parents' welfare, family relationships. In the gospels, Martha was addicted to a life of trivia, but Mary wanted to grow! Mary wanted to expand her horizons, and Jesus approved of Mary's approach to life.

You cannot grow until you hate your present immaturity. You don't have to forsake your duties and obligations to family and friends, but you can become so bound by duty that it stunts your growth. One day you must wake up. A holy anger must arise in your soul, and you must cry out, “Oh, God! I hate what I have become. I hate my temper tantrums. I hate how irritable I am at times. I hate my moodiness. I hate how small I have become. I hate it!”

You must hate your present life so much that you cry out to God, “Lord, translate me into your glorious kingdom of power and victory!” (See Colossians 1:13)

He Understands Completely

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

I take great comfort in knowing that my Savior understands my feelings. He relates to all I am experiencing. He truly understands every feeling and never condemns me for suffering attacks from the enemy. Instead, he tells me to hold on and not to be afraid. He lets me know he too is familiar with this kind of struggle, then he offers me a gracious audience at his throne with a promise of mercy and grace in my hour of need. Whether my negative feelings have been a result of a physical or spiritual battle, our Lord offers comfort and help when most needed.

Scripture declares, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NKJV).

What does our Lord mean by this? He is encouraging all his dear children to quit fretting when under the influence of negative thoughts. No more accusing yourself of failure and wickedness. Despair and fear can be caused by sin, but not always. Don't just lie down and take it! Don't go to bed at night until you shut yourself in with him, approach his throne boldly and claim the help he has so clearly promised. Claim mercy, forgiveness and grace to expel all negative feelings. That is Christ's formula, not mine.

Having claimed victory, having used the authority of his name, having come to him with faith to lay hold of forgiveness and the promises, ride out your storm in a state of rest. Let God dissipate the negative feelings at his own pace.

“For in that he himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

“…weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

You can lie down to sleep with this prayer on your lips: “Oh, Lord, I reject these negative feelings. I disown them. I don't know where they came from or how, but I commit them all to you. Give me a new assurance and take away all fear. Amen.”