Theme: Dark Thoughts Within
In this week’s lessons we are reminded that although there are times when we might feel abandoned by God, we must persevere in prayer in order to enjoy the sense of God’s presence once again.
Scripture: Psalm 13:1-6
A second cause of depression, leading to feelings of abandonment, is an extension of the first: a prolonged period in which the blessings of God given in an earlier time seem to have been removed. I think this is what David is talking about in the second line when he asks, “How long will you hide your face from me?” This means more than merely being forgotten by God, which is what the first question addresses. To say that the face of God is shining upon us is a way of saying that God is being favorable to us or blessing us. So, if God is hiding his face, what this must mean is that the times of blessing or favor seem to have ceased.
Let me suggest a few areas of our lives in which this happens. It happens in family relationships. It may be a case in which the happiness of the early days of a marriage has been replaced by the stress of trying to work out personality conflicts or other difficulties. You may be wondering if God has ceased to bless your marriage. Again, it may involve your children. You remember the early days when it was comparatively easy to raise them. Your family had many good times together. But now one or more of your children is antagonistic and rebellious, and everyone else in the family is under the strain. Nobody has any fun anymore. Has God forgotten? Have the blessings of God been taken away forever?
It happens in our work. In the early days of your business you seemed to make rapid progress and succeeded at almost everything you touched. But you have entered a middle period of your career in which your early successes have leveled off and your business is stagnant.
It can happen in church work too. Growth levels off. Times of harvest give way to times of reorientation or testing, to seasons of hard plowing and sowing. Where are God’s blessings? Has God abandoned us?
It can happen in our spiritual lives. There were years when you saw many spiritual victories and could chart rapid spiritual progress. But for many months now you have been in a deepening slump. You know that God deals with us by grace. But the lack of blessing has continued for so long that you have become morbidly introspective. You have been dredging up past sins and have been wondering, “Is God punishing me for what I did then? I confessed the sin and believed he forgave me. But maybe he is bringing it up again and putting me on hold because of it.” In extreme situations you may even think, “God has abandoned me forever.”
The third reason for feeling abandoned is dark thoughts and uncontrollable emotions. I have alluded to some expressions of this in the previous section since, as I indicated, when we no longer sense that God is blessing us, we tend to ruminate on our failures and get into an emotional funk. And when our emotions take over it is always hard to get back onto a level course. This is because the best means of doing this—calm reflection and a review of past blessings—are being swept away. We discover that we cannot settle ourselves long enough to complete the exercise.
What is the second cause of abandonment? What examples of it can you think of?
What is the third cause of abandonment? Why can it be difficult to deal with this cause?
Reflection: If you are going through a dark time, recount God’s blessings to you—both past and present. If necessary, make a list to encourage you.