Bad Days

Today was one of those days. Maybe you’ve had a day like this. I woke up with my heart all twisted up inside of me. Anger. Bitterness. Frustration. Sadness. It was the combination of many circumstances and situations in my life where I felt like God wasn’t at work in. But nothing happened today that ignited these feelings. I simply woke up with them.

Here’s the normal chain of events for my sinful heart. It happens every couple of months. I acknowledge and notice something off in my life, something outside of my control, and I begin to get mad and frustrated with God about it. I do the classic “if you loved me, you would do this. If you were good, this wouldn’t happen.”

“If you’re good, children wouldn’t be without a good home this Christmas. If you loved me, all of my relationships would be perfect in this season of my life. If you’re good, my family wouldn’t have lost a brother/son. If you’re loving, I wouldn’t be hurting. If you were good, my friends wouldn’t be in such pain.”

Around and around this goes, and each time this happens I show just how stupidly forgetful I am as a person.

I absolutely love the Psalms because of how transparent emotionally they are. I study different passages for the sake of teaching and preaching, but the bulk of my devotional readings are in the Psalms. They always hit me close to home.

A couple days ago I read Psalm 77. And it wrecked my whiney heart.

I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? – vv. 1-9

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I’ve felt this before for sure. I have felt like I’m tirelessly crying out to God and not finding comfort. I’ve felt like I’ve remembered God and meditated on His promises and still felt faint and too tired to even pray. I’ve questioned in my heart whether or not God will reject me forever, whether His promises have failed, and whether He’s forgotten to be merciful and compassionate.

I’m sure if you’re honest with yourself, you’ve been here too. So as I was reading this Psalm I was feeling pretty vindicated and affirmed in my complaining. But abruptly in the middle of this Psalm, the script flips.

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. – vv. 10-15

Asaph (the dude who wrote this little ditty) will go on to talk about the ways God specifically intervened and rescued the people of God in the book of Exodus.

I want to emphasize the way Asaph combats the feelings of hopelessness, bitterness, anger, and sorrow in his heart. He does so by appealing to the times when God rescued His people through His power and might.

Christians are pretty much the most forgetful people ever. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times God has shown His power and might in our lives, we still end up questioning His love and goodness the next time things aren’t going according to plan.

I write this blog not to condemn you, or myself (because this forgetfulness was literally me this very morning). I write it to convict and encourage you to take this Psalm to heart, and practice what I think is shown here to be a worthwhile endeavor. Reflect on and praise God for the ways He has moved in your life. This decade. This year. This month. This week. This very day.

In the last three months, God took me out of a ministry situation where I was almost constantly alone and put me in a place much closer to family, my fiancee, my friends. A place where I am able to work daily with a team and am given opportunities to grow, lead, and serve. This was a work of God in my life that I constantly doubted and wasn’t sure He would come through on. This alone is proof from this past year that He is good. The list could also easily be much much longer.

Make it personal for you. Write down and record the ways that God has rescued, redeemed, and moved in your life this past year.

It’s okay to not be okay some days. It’s okay to let out all your hurt and pain to the Lord who cares deeply for you. But don’t stay there. Praise God for the ways that He has moved.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach.

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The Weeping Christian

When was the last time you cried over sin? 381H.jpg

When was the last time you shed tears over the sins of our country, the sins of your community, and the sins of your own heart?

This happened to me for the first time in a long time yesterday. I got into an argument with my girlfriend, resulting in me saying some hateful words. After dropping her off at her home, I was overcome by my sin as I was driving and broke down in tears. I was mourning the wounds that I had opened and mourning the way my words were a grievance against God. I’m thankful for a God who extends grace, and a girlfriend who does the same.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about how little I actually mourn over my sin. I may pray confessions to the Lord throughout my day, and the consequences of my sin may have lingering effects, but when have I actually mourned my sin before God? Ever since I was a kid I have been quick at confessing my sins, in my attempts to get things back to the status quo. Yet when was the last time I allowed myself to really think through the reality of my sin, and how it’s detestable to the Lord?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. – Matthew 5:2-3

In the famous ‘Sermon On The Mount’ section of Matthew, Jesus makes these promises about those who are poor in spirit and those who mourn. These promises are based off of character qualities, not personalities or circumstances.

What I mean by that is this. It is definitely true that God promises the kingdom of heaven to those who at a particular moment are poor in spirit. It is definitely true as well that God promises to comfort those who are grieving and mourning whether that be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or any other major grief that we can face.

But in my humble opinion, these promises are for those who walk in the disciplines of confession and contrition.

The promise found in verse two is amazing. The poor in spirit will be given the kingdom of heaven. In other words those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy will be given the riches of heaven, the riches of grace.

To be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty, indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God. For we are sinners, under the holy wrath of God, and deserving nothing but the judgement of God. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy the favor of heaven. – John Stott

How often do we live this out though? How many of us are poor in spirit, living constantly, daily, in light of the fact that we have nothing to offer God to earn his favor? I honestly don’t know many in my faith community that exude the quality of being poor in spirit. Yet when we are in fact confessing our brokenness and nothingness to God, that is when we will receive paradoxically all that we need from the storehouses of God’s grace. It is in admitting that we have nothing, that we receive everything.

It is like the old hymn,

nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.

The second promise we see in this passage is the one that has prompted so much thought for me recently. Those who mourn will be comforted. Like I stated earlier, it is true that God comforts the grieving and mourning of those who are facing chaotic circumstances in their worlds. This verse however is about something far deeper than that.

If we are broken-hearted over our sin, the grace and favor of God will bring comfort.

It is one thing to simply acknowledge our sin, it is another thing entirely to be broken over it.

While I was quick to confess my sins as a child, I was just as quick to pretend like nothing had happened, plastering the smile back on my face and going about my day. It used to confuse and annoy me to high heaven why my family or friends who I had hurt would not be so quick to let bygones be bygones.

Our Christian culture tells us that as Christians, we’re supposed to be joyful, happy, not dwelling on things that don’t bring us joy. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not all joy and laughter. According to Jesus, the Christian life is not about being overly-bubbly or boisterous. According to Jesus, there is a place for tears.

The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them. – John Stott

When was the last time you cried over your sin?

Man oh man, this is such a lost art. In one certain ancient creedal statement of the Christian faith, it is said, ‘We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins’. Its as if we as modern Christians have lost sight of just how grievous our sins are against God.

There is a pendulum that swings in Christian culture between grace and holiness in regards to the emphasis of our literature, sermons, musics, etc. Right now the pendulum is heavily in the grace camp. This isn’t evil or explicitly wrong, but the over-emphasis on the grace of God (which is a wonderful thing) can lead to us not being remorseful for our sins because ‘there’s grace for that’.

Yes there’s grace for that. Which is wonderful. But let us practice confessing and mourning our sins before God. It is in these moments where we will be comforted by His grace.

Ironically, when we confess our sins in mourning before God, we receive grace which is the very thing that often keeps us from mourning our sins before God.

Brother or sister in Christ, be mournful over your sin.

Brother or sister in Christ, be poor in spirit.

Brother or sister in Christ, be comforted by His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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