Clinging to God’s Name in Our Anguish
Every child of God suffers disappointments. At times we can feel totally defeated, despairing and dead inside because all our hopes, dreams and visions have gone wrong. We may hope for something, seeking God for it and waiting for it expectantly, but we never see it come to pass. All of these things bring disappointment, and that can lead to anguish. Anguish is a painful loss of heart, a sense of hopelessness that no matter how hard we may try things will never work out for us.
I want to speak directly to those believers who have been overtaken by such anguish. You wake to a cloud hanging over your head; as you lie down to sleep at night, the ugly cloud is still there. Your anguish may be over a difficult marriage, a family member, your health, your living conditions. It could have to do with a besetting sin, something you can’t get victory over, and your battle each day is a losing one.
Whatever your anguished struggle, you’ve lost all hope of joy. You end up going through the motions of your walk with Jesus like a lifeless machine with no rest or peace. You wish to run away, but there’s nowhere to go to get away from the pain.
Our times of disappointment can be dangerous.
Disappointments can bring us to a crossroads where we have two options. First, we can surrender to hopelessness. If we choose to give in to anguish and disappointment, we’ll spend our days in a fog of unbelief. The alternative is to give ourselves into the caring hands of our Lord. We can say, “I may not understand what I’m going through right now, but I know I serve an almighty God. No matter what happens, he is in total control.”
I’ve known devoted men and women whose wounds were so deep that they chose despair. From what I witnessed in them, I realized it’s possible to get so shut in with your anguish that you no longer accept any hope from God’s Word. These people no longer trusted what anyone said to them, not even the Bible. They became so wrapped up in their disappointments that nothing could deliver them from despair.
What about you? Are you continuing in hurt and disappointment as if you have no God? Can you still summon a tiny measure of faith? The Lord is constantly declaring to us who he is, promising what he’ll do and waiting for us to come to him in trust.
Isaac gave his son Jacob an unusual blessing that helped him overcome his deep disappointments.
When Isaac sent his son Jacob away to Padan-aram, he gave him nothing for the journey, no cattle, goats or donkeys, not even a servant. This was highly unusual because in those days, material things were thought to represent God’s blessing. No one in that family knew the excruciating trials Jacob was going to face. Yet Isaac gave his son something that would enable him to face any crisis, a treasure greater than all the riches in the world. He gave him a specific blessing.
“Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him… May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you…and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham” (Genesis 28:1, 3-4).
Years before, God had revealed himself to Isaac’s father, Abraham, as the almighty Lord. God knew that Abraham would face many challenges and disappointments, so he said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1). The Lord was saying, in essence, “I am all you’ll ever need. I’ll be your keeper, faithful to protect you, so that no harm will come to you. I will also be your great reward. Simply believe I am almighty on your behalf.”
Abraham believed God, and the Lord kept his word to him. Abraham became a testimony to the whole world that God truly is almighty with all power and authority.
This is why Abraham is so extolled by the New Testament writers. He stepped out in faith with nothing to go on other than God’s Word and name. Abraham would live among enemies who could have destroyed him at any time. He had only a small clan to start, but God prospered and protected him as he trusted in the almighty’s name.
Isaac, Abraham’s son, also knew the Lord as God Almighty. So as he sent his son Jacob into the world, Isaac laid his hand upon him and said, in essence, “You’ll do just fine if you exercise the faith of your grandfather, Abraham. He survived all his trials and made it through because he stood on God’s name. He relied on the power of God Almighty, and that God is your God as well.”
During his journey to Padan-aram, Jacob received a revelation of God that emboldened his faith.
In the middle of the night, Jacob had a dream in which he saw a ladder stretching from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending it. God declared his blessings and providence over Jacob through this image of a ladder. It was a vision of God’s uninterrupted, divine supply system to his people on earth.
Today, God’s people don’t need such a ladder because we’ve been given something better. You see, Jesus has descended the ladder and now lives in us. Yes, ministering angels still protect us, but we have the living God himself abiding in us. He is our endless provision and supply.
Moreover, Jesus came down the ladder to experience our anguish and disappointments. Indeed, he took all these things upon himself, feeling every kind of disappointment we could ever face: lies, rejection, betrayal and abuse. Now our almighty Lord, who revealed himself to Abraham and Jacob, brings us his divine might and power to face all disappointments.
“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Paul instructs us to draw on this power freely. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).
Paul also tells us that everyone who trusts in the Lord has the blessing of Abraham. “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham…. So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Galatians 3:7, 9).
Why is it so important that we know about the name of God as well as his Word to overcome our disappointments?
Exodus tells us the Lord descended in a cloud and proclaimed his name to Moses. “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord” (Exodus 34:5). Likewise, Isaiah says every believer is to “trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God” (Isaiah 50:10). What does all this mean? Why is God’s name so important to us?
Let’s say you’re battling an overwhelming sin. You may think, “My temptations and lusts are just too strong for me to handle.” The Lord answers, “No! All the power of the almighty resides in you through my Spirit. In giving you my name, I have given you my strength, a mighty arm. Mine is a name you can trust.”
You may say to me, “But, Brother Dave, I fear God has had it with me. I’ve failed too many times. He may not be willing to help me now. Yes, I know God is almighty, but it may be too late for me.”
The Lord would answer you, “Don’t be discouraged. My name is not only strong and almighty but also merciful. I am very willing to help you. I have all the grace and mercy you’ll ever need.”
You may answer, “But, Lord, I have nothing good to bring to you. There’s simply nothing worthwhile in me.”
God answers, “My name is strong, almighty, merciful; yet it is also gracious. I don’t offer my help because of any good I may see in you. I do it because I am God, and all goodness resides in me.”
You may respond, “But I’ve been sinning for decades now. I’ve gone too deep in my sin. How could you ever have mercy on me?”
Again, the Lord says to you, “My name is strong, almighty, merciful and gracious. Yet I have another quality in which you can trust: longsuffering.”
Now you may think, “But I’ve broken every vow I’ve ever made to you. I can’t count the times I’ve grieved you by sinning, failing, lying and cheating.”
The Lord answers, “My name is strong, almighty, merciful, gracious and longsuffering. Yet my name has another quality to cover you. I am “abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands” (Exodus 34:6-7). I did not spend all my mercy on Israel, Paul, Peter or the New Testament church. I have abundant mercy reserved for you.” The wonderful name of the Lord is sufficient for every disappointment, anguish and failure we have ever suffered.
God is speaking to you right now, telling you to come out of your anguish and turn your back on all disappointments. He wants you to know he is your endless supply and that he’ll provide all you need for every battle. He’s saying, “Let me convince you that I’m everything you need. Let me do all for you. Simply believe in my blessing and my name. You’ll become wholly dependent on me, and your disappointment will turn to joy and peace. Let me be God to you!” Amen.