Despair & Doubt: The Simple Truth From A 'Distressed Father'

Apologetics. Faith. Reason.

I rediscovered something today. I wrote it down in my personal journal 4 years ago.

I'm not sure if it's my own original thought or if I just forgot to include the source.

In any event, here's the simple truth of the matter...


According to the world, the Gospel emerges in the context of two "impossibilities." Jesus Christ entered the world through a door marked "No Entry" (a.k.a. a virgin womb). He left through a door marked "No Exit" (a.k.a. a tomb). 
According to Christians, we rest on true wisdom that says "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26), and "all things are possible for one who believes," and so we cry out, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:23-24).


It's interesting to see the stark contrast between human weakness and divine power side-by-side here in the statements listed above, isn't it?

Just as being born of a virgin and defeating death by resurrection is only possible by God Himself, faith and salvation from death and eternal punishment for our sins is only possible through God's power and grace as embodied in His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Despite our fickle feelings, despite reason that wants to war with our spirit, we have been given this thing called faith that is supposed to receive the gifts that God has prepared for us.

Sometimes that's easier said than done it seems.


Worthiness does not depend on the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of faith. Instead, it depends on Christ's merit, which the distressed father of little faith (Mark 9:24) enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith. 
-- Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord VII 71


I'll admit, I've felt like "the distressed father of little faith" lately.

Stumbling upon this several year's old note of mine led me on an unexpectedly journey today. It was a journey of introspection and self-reflection.


 
The Afflicted Take Comfort In God's Mercy 
It is not uncommon for the soul to grope for comfort where there is none. As such, it is often said by Christians who are afflicted from the pressures and problems of this fallen world, that “God will not give me more than I can handle.” The text to which that common phrase refers is 1 Corinthians 10:13. Though, in it, the Apostle Paul does not talk about what the Christian can and cannot “handle,” but rather the limits of temptation. 
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor 10:13) 
God has not designed our fall into temptation. He warns against the dangers of complacency and pride calling us to “take heed lest [we] fall” (1 Cor. 10:12), and to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor 10:14). But God does not strengthen your faith in your own ability to cope, saying “Don’t worry about your suffering, you can handle it.” Rather He teaches us that He has not allowed any temptation that will force us into damnation. 
Yet, regardless of its validity, this phrase that God will not give you more than you can handle is not where the Christian can find comfort. So God knows your ability to deal with stress. What good is that? Such a notion does not promise an end to your suffering, nor does it assure you of forgiveness when you fail to “handle” suffering. No amount of meditation on God’s divine sovereignty can bring solace to the afflicted. 
Therefore, take comfort not in the measure of your pain, nor in your ability to “handle” distress. Take comfort only in Christ. Take comfort that He has born that which brings you despair. Your affliction has already been suffered by the Son of God. That is why you are to seek refuge not in God’s power over your situation, but in His mercy. It was His mercy, for which you cry “kyrie eleison,” that caused Him to send His Son to death in your place. As such, God’s baptized and redeemed children should not lose heart, though not because God will give them more or less affliction according to their ability to handle it, but because their affliction has already been suffered in the flesh of the Son of God. 
Therefore, when you are acutely aware of the sin of this fallen world as you are afflicted by its grip around your neck, look upon your suffering and rest assured that this too has been taken to the cross and laid in the grave. 
"All-loving God, Your mercy has no end, and Your kindness is new each morning. See, I, an afflicted and sorrowful soul, come before Your holy face to pour out the great grief of my heavy heart. My distressful condition and great misery that has overtaken me are well known to you. My soul is sorrowful; my spirit is in anguish; numberless afflictions surround me. I look around me for helpers, but find none. Some people refuse to give me comfort; others do not know my distress and I do not reveal it to them. But to you, O God, I make complaint with a heart full of grief. I know that You are merciful and moved to pity by our distress. You took pity on the stricken widow weeping for her son. You were moved to compassion when You saw the people who had gathered to hear You and had nothing to eat, and Your compassion went hand in hand with Your mercy and comfort. And so I come to You and plead: have mercy on me! O God, I am Your creature; do not forsake the work of Your hands. Yes, I am even more: I am also Your child whom You have taken into the arms of Your mercy in Holy Baptism. And so I say to You: O my Father, have compassion on Your poor and forsaken child. My Jesus, I have been bought with Your holy blood; I am Your portion and inheritance, purchased with Your precious blood! I know You will have compassion on Your own. O precious Holy Spirit, bear witness with my spirit that despite all my suffering I am still a child of God. And when I am faint in praying and can hardly put words together any more, You Yourself cry within me: ‘Abba! Father!’" (Starck's Prayer Book, 186.)


Despair threatens to overwhelm our faith by pointing out how we fail to change or improve, suggesting that God neither cares for us nor has power to help.

However, Jesus graciously descends to a world of despair and doubt so that He might deliver us.

Thankfully, God accepts us by grace through faith in Jesus, not through obedience or status, just as children receive love they do not earn. We are to trust the Lord as a child trusts a parent.


Lord, thank You for Your compassion, which brings You to our world of pain and dismay. Give us faith to overcome our doubts, and help us believe that all things are possible with You. Lord, give us the lasting faith that can persevere through every trial. Empty our hands of anything that competes with You, and let us hold firmly to You eternally. Amen.


Nothing is more important than retaining the faith unto eternal life.

Let nothing come between you and the Savior.

Though He tests us with fire, He does not consume His own people.

Rejoice, for God graciously gives us the faith in which He preserves us unto eternity!

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the simple truth is that through faith in Christ, we receive the Lord's undeserved gifts for us, and God freely gives us the most precious gift of all, which is His Son, and the gift of eternal life.



NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!