3 Lies To Combat in Suffering and Anxiety

Note: All content on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute or replace medical advice. Consult a professional in your area of need before making decisions about your mental health.

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Suffering is often a breeding ground for temptation. Weakened by pain and disoriented by anxiety, we are uniquely vulnerable to believing Satan’s lies.

C.S. Lewis observed, “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against [God].” The Devil loves to leverage our pains and fears to try to twist our view of Christ and his heart toward us.

One of the most reorienting stories for sufferers is Luke’s account of the bleeding woman and the dying daughter (Luke 8:40–56), which you can read here. At the intersection of two tragedies, we find Jesus—whose actions reveal his heart and our hope in suffering. This story also helps us identify and combat common lies we are tempted to believe in pain and anxiety. Consider three:

When Jesus asked who touched his garment, the bleeding woman—likely outcasted due to ritual uncleanness—“came [to Jesus] trembling” (v. 47). Undoubtedly, fighting through a crowd to touch Jesus was scary enough. Now, Jesus wanted her to identify herself in front of everyone—a fearful thought. Yet she still answered Jesus’ call, even while trembling.

How did Jesus respond to her trembling faith? He doesn’t say, “How dare you tremble? You should never feel fear while doing scary things or taking a step of faith!” Instead, Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace” (v. 48).

Jesus doesn’t condemn her trembling faith; he commends her trembling faith. His response reminds us that true faith isn’t the absence of fear. True faith is trusting God and following his calling amid our fears. It is not the absence of fear but the presence of faith which God commends.

After Jesus delays his journey to Jairus’ house to care for the bleeding woman, a messenger arrives and says to Jairus, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher anymore” (v. 49). The verb has negative undertones and could be translated as “bother” (NIV), “annoy,” or “harass.”

In seasons of suffering, we can be tempted to think our brokenness and neediness annoy Jesus. We picture Jesus with a bothered expression, saying,

  • “You’re anxious again? Over this? How many times do I have to tell you to stop worrying?”
  • “Do you actually have the nerve to ask me for help after all the sinning you’ve been doing?”
  • “Will you quit crying? You should be done grieving by now.”

We think of Jesus as exhausted by our ongoing weaknesses and pleas for help. We see him with hair-trigger anger and reluctant compassion. But notice how Jesus responds to Jairus’ desperation: “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well” (v. 50).

Even before Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter, he comforts Jairus’ heart. This moment gives every suffering believer a window into Christ’s heart. Jesus’ knee-jerk reaction toward anxious and hurting believers is not condemnation but compassion. Not anger but affection. I love Dane Ortlund’s observation:

“The Old Testament speaks of God being ‘provoked to anger’ by his people dozens of times … But not once are we told that God is ‘provoked to love’ or ‘provoked to mercy.’ His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, … ready to burst forth at the slightest prick.”

Ritual uncleanness is one of the most important connections between the sick characters in this story. If anyone contacted a bleeding woman or dead body, that person would’ve himself become unclean.

Most would’ve avoided these individuals. Yet Jesus draws near. He heals the bleeding woman and calls her “daughter”—an endearing title for someone used to scowls and disgusted looks. But even more poignant is how Jesus treats the deceased daughter: “Taking her by the hand he called, saying, ‘Child, arise’” (v. 54).

Jesus could’ve healed the girl from miles away (cf. John 4:46–54). He could’ve stood outside Jairus’ home and shouted, “You, in there—rise!” He could’ve entered the room with a hazmat suit and healed her without contacting her uncleanness. But he didn’t. 

Jesus drew close enough to touch, likely knelt beside her, and took her by the hand—willingly associating with her uncleanness. He embraced her while she was still unclean (cf. Rom. 5:6–8).

And so Christ does for us. When we turn to God in repentance, God runs to us in forgiveness (Luke 15:20; James 4:8). When we reach for Jesus’ hand again after sinning, he doesn’t jerk back his hand and say, “Don’t touch me!” If someone tries to remove their hand after we sin, it’s not Jesus—it’s us, shrinking back in shame. Yet, praise God, Jesus promises that no one will snatch his people from his hand (John 10:28)—not even us, by our sin and shame.

Jesus remains a hand-holding Savior, even when we are most unclean. Even when we feel like letting go of Jesus, he never lets go of us.

One of the most curious details in this story is that the woman had been bleeding for 12 years, and Jairus’ daughter was 12 years old. While it’s hard to know the full significance of this connection, one thing is clear: Jesus knows every detail of our pain. He knows how many days (or years) we’ve suffered, the number of times we’ve tossed in bed, and the exact number of tears we’ve shed (Ps. 56:8).

We gasp both times we read 12 years—but for opposite reasons. For the bleeding woman, 12 years was grievously long. For the dying daughter, 12 years was grievously short. Who can’t relate to these pains? Much of our suffering comes from painful things lasting too long and good things not lasting long enough. God acknowledges both forms of suffering in this story.

I wonder if the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to include these numbers in part to say to every sufferer, “I see you. I know your pain. I know your timeline. I know your joys are often short-lived, and your sorrows feel unending. And I won’t leave your suffering unresolved.”

As Jesus said to Jairus, he says to you: Do not fear. Only believe. I am coming soon. When I do, everything will be made well. Until then, I will hold your hand—and I won’t let go (cf. Isa. 41:13; Ps. 139:10; Heb. 13:5).

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Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (herehere, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Watch or listen to “Grace That Is Greater Than All Our Sin” here.

Read “Which Jesus Is ‘With You’ in Suffering?” here.

Read “In Suffering, God Isn’t (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.

Read “7 Things to Say to a Hurting Loved One” here.

God Sees All Time ‘Equally Perfectly Vividly’

“The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.” —Deuteronomy 33:27, NLT

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My Sunday school teacher recently made a statement that sent my jaw to the floor: “One of the implications of Christ being the Alpha and Omega is that he sees every moment of your life equally perfectly vividly. Six days ago, six months ago, six years ago—he sees it all just as vividly as he sees this very moment.”

We are fickle. We tend to let our pride skyrocket after a moment of strong faith. Then we doubt our salvation after a moment of foolishness. God isn’t swayed by moments in time the way we are. He alone sees the whole of us: our good and bad, our past and future, every success and failure—equally perfectly vividly—yet he still loves us fully. What a comfort!

Peter must’ve been similarly comforted when he pleaded with persecuted churches to remember that God isn’t constrained by time like we are: “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8).

Why is this the “one thing” we must not forget? What hope can this give us in the highs and lows of life? Consider how God’s unique ability to see pastpresent, and future—equally perfectly vividly—can fortify our souls.

Past

Do you remember what you prayed for a few years ago? You pleaded with God through tears, trusting he’d provide even though you couldn’t see how. Then days, weeks, months, even years passed. You didn’t see his answer. Maybe you still don’t see his answer. Don’t forget this one thing: This prayer is still before God with the same intensity and clarity as if you were praying now. Not one prayer is misspent. Not one act of faith forgotten. Not one tear evaporates into meaninglessness (Psalm 56:8). Even if you forget your prayers, God remembers each one and will answer in his timing (John 15:7).

God’s perfectly vivid knowledge extends to our obedience as well: That afternoon three months ago when you stepped out in faith even as you trembled. That time in high school when you sat with the outcast. That moment 20 years ago when you responded to unfair criticism with love. God hasn’t forgotten. He sees each moment and is as pleased by your faith as if it just happened. All of your efforts will continue to glorify him forever.

What are the implications of God’s perfectly vivid knowledge of our past hardships? Notably, God does not say, “That happened 15 years ago; we’ve moved on from that now.” Perish the thought. God is just as grieved today by past difficulties and injustices as he was when they happened. And he’s just as committed to bringing justice for wrongs done and eternal healing for those who’ve been hurt (Psalm 9:7–10).

God’s commitment to us is clearest in the most significant moment of the past: the cross. Every time you sin, God sees the sacrifice of Christ perfectly vividly. His memory never lapses; not a millisecond passes when the work and benefits of Christ don’t fully apply to you. Every promise God has ever made is still fresh on his mind as if he spoke it to you just now. Human commitments often ebb and flow as time passes; God’s do not (2 Timothy 2:13).

Present

One of the biggest emphases in self-help culture is living in the present. Countless books, seminars, and meditation classes are dedicated to helping people achieve this end. Why? Because every person struggles to live in the moment; our minds inevitably wander to the past or the future.

Thankfully, this isn’t so with God. Because God exists outside time, he isn’t preoccupied with what will happen tomorrow. He isn’t distracted by what happened in the past. God is fully present, perfectly attentive, and passionately engaged with your prayers and actions—just as engaged as he would be if there weren’t any other humans on the planet.

This makes Jesus uniquely able to help you with each new struggle as it arises. He’s an always-fresh Savior. He doesn’t offer stale advice or suggest a strategy that worked in a different season or for a different person. Unlike any other counselor, Jesus always understands your emotions, circumstances, and point in sanctification perfectly. He alone can give you exactly what you need, no matter the circumstance.

Future

“Vivid” is the last word most people would use to describe their understanding of the future. While our pasts may be fuzzy, we’re all completely blind to what’s ahead. The future of our families, churches, jobs, homes, aspirations, nations, and world is unknowable. Unsurprisingly, fear of the future consistently ranks among the most prevalent and crippling phobias.

Yet there’s One who sees the future as vividly as we see this present moment. Unlike anyone else, God isn’t subject to guesswork regarding the days, weeks, and years ahead. In fact, God doesn’t only see the future; he ordains it (Proverbs 19:21Isaiah 46:9–11). In his love and kindness, he ordains it all for our eternal good and safety (Romans 8:28–30Ephesians 1:3–14; 2:7).

We can rest today not because we know tomorrow but because we know the loving character and faithful promises of God. As Corrie ten Boom is quoted as saying, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Believer, your past, present, and future are all safe in Jesus’ arms. He isn’t waiting to see how you perform before granting his love. He has promised never to leave you (Hebrews 13:5), and he will hold your hand through all that’s ahead (Psalm 73:23; Isaiah 41:10, 13). So rest in your sovereign Lord who rules over the entire universe—even over time itself.

Note: This article is also published on The Gospel Coalition.

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Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (herehere, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read or watch “How to Do (and Enjoy) Discipleship” here.

Read “The Day ‘Darkness Rejoiced As Though Heaven Had Lost’” here.

Read “Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety ” here.

Read “In Suffering, God Isn’t (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.

How to Do (and Enjoy) Discipleship

Above is a video devotional on discipleship I delivered for a mini-series at my church. A lightly edited transcript of the video is below.

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A few years ago, I got to see the Broadway show Hamilton, which was easily one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen in person (along with Taylor Swift, of course). For three hours, I sat in awe of the creativity and excellence of the entire production. I could talk for a long time about this show.

Yet one of my favorite parts of Hamilton was not the show itself but the drive home from Chicago with my sister. We blabbered back and forth for a full hour: Wasn’t that incredible? Wasn’t Eliza’s voice amazing? Wasn’t King George hilarious? Did you see those acrobats? Did they ever mess up?

What was I doing as I recounted my favorite parts to my sister? I was inviting her to enter into praise with me. I was inviting her to enjoy and marvel at the object I found admirable. Why? Because our joy is amplified when someone else praises the same object that we find beautiful. Our joy is amplified when we share in praising the praiseworthy.

We’ve all felt this sensation. When you hear a catchy song, watch a riveting movie, or see a beautiful sunset, don’t you want to share it with someone? Then—after the other person experiences the object of your praise—you ask, “Wasn’t that so good?” If she says, “That was amazing,” joy floods your heart—and that’s because sharing in praise completes our joy.

My Hamilton experience is just a tiny glimpse into what makes Christian discipleship so wonderful. Discipleship is an invitation to worship and enjoy our beautiful and praiseworthy Savior, Jesus Christ, with one another. And when we do that—when we share in praise and pursuit of Jesus—Christ is glorified, and our joy is multiplied.

Let’s consider three questions: What is discipleship? Why do discipleship? How can we grow as disciplers?

1. What is discipleship?

Before we define what discipleship is, it’s helpful to consider what it is not. Two common misconceptions of discipleship are helpful to identify up front:

On the one hand, some people think discipleship is merely community. They think as long as they have spent time with another Christian, they have therefore done discipleship.

On the other hand, some people think discipleship is merely teaching. They think as long as they gave someone a gospel tract or sermon, they have therefore done discipleship.

Unfortunately, neither community alone nor teaching alone fulfills God’s purposes for discipleship. Discipleship, rather, is the marriage between community and teaching (see 1 Thessalonians 2:8). Discipleship is life-on-life, gospel-centered, Word-driven, Christ-conforming community.

Often, discipleship happens when a mature believer teaches and walks alongside a younger Christian. But it’s not limited to that context. Discipleship happens whenever two people seek to know Christ, love Christ, and become more like Christ together. Examples include:

  • A mother teaching her child how to pray.
  • Two young men holding each other accountable.
  • An older Christian mentoring a younger Christian.
  • Two friends studying the Bible together.
  • Siblings going to church together and then talking about the sermon afterward.
  • A married couple inviting a single adult into their home for dinner and intentional spiritual conversation.

Discipleship is what happens whenever two or more people seek to know Jesus, love Jesus, reflect Jesus, and become more like Jesus together. To say that in three words: biblical discipleship is following Jesus together.

2. Why do discipleship? Why follow Jesus together?

Consider two reasons to follow Jesus with others:

(A) Because salvation is found in no one except Jesus; there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Jesus is the most precious, most beautiful, most glorious, most trustworthy, most praiseworthy person in the universe, and he is the only unfailing object of salvation, joy, hope, and peace. We follow Jesus to gain and know him (see Philippians 3:8).

So, you say, “Okay—I get that, and I do love Jesus, but why should we follow Jesus together? Can’t I just follow him alone?”

Consider the second benefit of discipleship:

(B) Following Jesus with someone else leads to a double blessing that cannot come from following Jesus alone.

Let’s return to the sunset analogy. When you enjoy a beautiful sunset with your wife, husband, or close friend, two wonderful things happen at that moment:

First, you enjoy the sunset more because of that person’s presence. We’ve all felt this joy—beauty is better shared!

But we often overlook the second blessing: You also enjoy the other person’s presence more because of the sunset. The very experience of admiring beauty with someone else causes you to walk away with a deeper appreciation for both the object of beauty and the person with whom you share it.

Discipleship provides the same double blessing! When you marvel at the beauty of Christ with another person, you walk away with a deeper love for Christ and that other person (see Psalm 16:2–3).

To take that a step further: When you and another person pursue Jesus together, you will not only be able to enjoy the beauty of Jesus with that other person, but you will also be able to enjoy the beauty of Jesus through that other person. Think about the most patient person you know. Do you realize that this person’s patience is helping you understand and cherish the patience of Christ? Think about the most loving person you know. Do you realize that this person’s love is helping you understand and cherish the love of Christ?

Discipleship invites us to enjoy Christ and the people around us more—it’s a double blessing! Discipleship is the joy of knowing and being known, loving and being loved, and becoming more like Christ with someone else.

So, you say, “That sounds great on paper, but how?…

3. …How can I grow as a discipler?”

Consider three marks of an effective discipler. (This is by no means an exhaustive list; it’s more of a starting point.)

(A) An effective discipler teaches with both her words and her actions.

Remember, discipleship is the marriage between teaching and community. Sometimes the most powerful moments of discipleship happen not when you are explaining justification by faith alone at a coffee shop but when someone simply observes your life:

  • They watch the way you speak gently to your kids. (Or they hear you repent to your kids after not speaking gently to them!)
  • They see how you treat the waitress with kindness.
  • They watch you respond with patience when someone cuts you off in traffic.
  • They see how hospitable you are in your home.
  • They hear the way you encourage your classmates or friends.

People will learn just as much about Christ by your actions as by your words. So it’s important to not only talk about the Christian life with the person you are discipling but also to live the Christian life with him or her.

(B) An effective discipler regularly spends time with Jesus in God’s Word and prayer.

I love the little phrase at the end of Acts 4:13:

“Now when [the Jewish leaders] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Can the people in your life recognize that you have been with Jesus? Can they tell that you have been spending time with him?

It has been said that you become like the people you are around the most. Can others tell that you have been around Jesus? Do they see Christ shining through you? Do they even hear you talking like him because you have been listening to his words so much?

A great way to disciple others is to read the Bible and pray with them. When these disciplines are already rhythms of your own life, you’ll find them spilling out in your interactions with others, and your discipleship will be much more fruitful.

(C) An effective discipler excels at listening.

A common mistake among people in leadership positions is to think that to lead a student, child, or a younger Christian, we must major in speaking—in telling others what to do and how to live. This simply isn’t true. While part of discipling others is guiding them through our words, the first step in leading and influencing others is truly knowing them, which cannot happen apart from listening.

The adage is true: people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. We earn the right to speak into the lives of others by first listening well.

Love through discipleship

Is there someone in your life with whom you can have an intentional conversation about Jesus? Sometime today, seek out an opportunity to talk with this person (or schedule a time to meet with this person). Often the most meaningful spiritual conversations begin with a very simple question, such as:

  • How are you doing spiritually?
  • How can I pray for you?
  • What has God been teaching you recently?
  • What is one way you’d like to grow in your faith?
  • What is one joy and one challenge in your faith right now?
  • Can I share a passage with you that has been encouraging me?
  • Would you like to come to church with me this Sunday?

God wants to display Christ’s beauty to the people in your life. He will use you to accomplish this end, especially as you spend time with Jesus, reflect him through your words and actions, and listen well. So rejoice today in the blessing-filled task of discipleship!

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Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (herehere, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Book suggestions:

Side by Side (Edward T. Welch)

Deep Discipleship (J.T. English)

The Cost of Discipleship (Deitrich Bonhoeffer)

My recent articles:

Read “The Day ‘Darkness Rejoiced As Though Heaven Had Lost’” here.

Read “7 Things to Say to a Hurting Loved One” here.

Read “In Suffering, God Isn’t (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.

Read “To Fix or Not to Fix? When to Give Advice and When to Listen” here.

The Day ‘Darkness Rejoiced As Though Heaven Had Lost’

Today is Holy Saturday—the day between Christ’s death and resurrection—the day darkness rejoiced as though Heaven had lost.

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I visited Taylor University last week. The chapel service was one of the most enthusiastic worship gatherings I have ever experienced. Multiple times I thought, “Is an Asburian revival about to break out?”

Several factors might’ve contributed to the energy in the room that day. It was Friday. It was sunny. Spring is here. College students are lively. And honestly, I wonder if God is answering prayers and bringing genuine revival among college campuses.

But beyond that, on that Friday—just two weeks before Easter—there was a true sense of resurrection victory in the air. Christ’s power over darkness was the theme of the service, and the joy of Jesus’ resurrected life was palpable.

This joy was perhaps most noticeable as we sang Death Was Arrested, a song that… well… I had somehow never heard before that morning.

You say, Um… what? Are you even a Christian?

I know, I know, I live under a rock when it comes to modern worship music. Shortly after the service, I asked one of my friends, “Have you ever heard that song before?”

She said, “I’ve known that song for like six years, Blake…”

Sheesh!

Anyway, in case you, like me, have *miraculously* never heard Death Was Arrested, let me explain what makes this song so moving.

As the title suggests, Death Was Arrested heralds Jesus’ victory over sin, darkness, and death. Through the grace and endless love of Christ, ashes become beauty; orphans become children; tears become dancing; prisoners become free. Christ defeated death with death and rose triumphantly to give us new life. The song glitters with little gospel gems.

But something happens in the middle of the song that—for first-time hearers like me—is quite striking.

Midway through the song, we sing,

Our Savior displayed on a criminal’s cross

Darkness rejoiced as though Heaven had lost

Then, unexpectedly, the music fades. Several (long) seconds of silence ensue. (In the live North Point Worship version, the lights cut out, and darkness floods in.) For a few moments, the room fills with the ominous aura of Holy Saturday. The day of silence. The day of waiting. The day darkness rejoiced as though Heaven had lost.

Twenty-four long hours for Christians to wonder, Is it true? Has Heaven lost? Has darkness won? 

When darkness feels like your closest friend

Our lives are full of moments and seasons of this tension, this silence, this waiting. I experienced one such moment several months ago.

It was a month of praying, fasting, struggling, and waiting. One morning, I spent several hours in my bedroom, seeking the Lord, wrestling to discern his will for my life. I felt like God was not answering me. No—let me rephrase that. I felt like God didn’t even hear me. It wasn’t like he was giving me an answer I didn’t want to hear; it felt like he wasn’t answering at all.

By God’s grace, this was a very unusual experience for me. Normally, God attends my prayer times with a strong sense of his presence, blessing, and even direction. But this day felt different. It felt like darkness. I even asked him, “Are you not going to meet me today?”

He didn’t answer.

At least, I didn’t initially feel like he had answered.

So, I did what any good seminary student would do—I prayed Psalm 88. It was the first time in my life that I pulled the Psalm 88 card on God in prayer. I wasn’t messing around.

Psalm 88 is known to be one of the only Psalms that does not end with a word of hope. In fact, the prayer ends with “Darkness is my closest friend.”

That’s what I felt that day.

It wasn’t complete hopelessness—God has proved himself faithful far too many times for that—but my experience was, “At this moment, it feels like darkness has won. It feels like God is absent. It feels like God doesn’t hear me. Where is God in all of this?”

But as the day went on, it dawned on me that the very existence of Psalm 88 was a profound evidence of God’s presence, love, and care.

When God’s people suffer, he doesn’t say, “Stop hurting! How dare you feel like darkness is your closest friend!” No, no—quite the opposite. God is actually the one who gave us these words to pray in the first place!

God doesn’t only give us permission to express our true feelings; he literally gives us step-by-step instructions. He knew we would, at times, feel drowned by darkness in this life, so he gave us a way to process our feelings with him—a way for our souls to breathe.

Ed Welch describes the Psalter as a self-diagnosis manual through which God asks us, “Do you feel like I have left you? Do you feel like I have forgotten you? Do you feel like I have rejected you? Do you feel like I don’t care? Do you feel like I don’t hear? Do you feel like I sleep while you suffer? Do you feel like you are drowning in my waves? Do you feel like darkness is your closest companion?” God graciously gives us words to pray when we have none. He even gives us words to express our frustrations with him!

Like any good counselor, God isn’t threatened or offended by our feelings. He knows his own perfection and doesn’t need to defend or justify himself. Rather than interrogate us for our feelings, God illumines us about our feelings. In love, he helps us understand ourselves.

Psalm 88 stands as a reminder that God doesn’t condemn us for our feelings. Yet he does want to help us take our feelings captive. He wants to give us hope through his Word (Psalm 119:4950).

The Hope of Holy Saturday

Consider the kindness of God to write Holy Saturday into Holy Week. He could’ve just as easily raised Jesus from the dead on Saturday instead of Sunday. Why wait a day?

By writing Holy Saturday into Holy Week, God communicates to every suffering saint who feels like darkness is winning: I see you. I know your suffering. I know the darkness that clouds your vision and threatens to smother your hope. But, dear child, remember that resurrection is coming! I didn’t leave Christ in the grave, and I won’t leave you in the grave, either. Darkness didn’t prevail over Christ, and it won’t prevail over you.

Believer, let this Holy Saturday remind you that our Savior willingly entered into darkness to save us. He knows what it feels like to wait. He knows what it feels like to suffer. He’s not unfamiliar with the blackness; he plunged its deepest depths—its very heart—to rescue us. And because Jesus entered into that dark abyss, we can rest knowing that the darkness we experience in this life is the darkest it will ever get. Eternal light is coming. Resurrection is coming. Jesus is coming.

“I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the Lord!” —Psalm 27:13–14

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Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (herehere, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read “In Suffering, God Isn’t (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.

Read “That Decompressing Exhale For Which Our Souls Long” here.

Read “Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety” here.

Song suggestions:

That Decompressing Exhale For Which Our Souls Long

Note: The intro to this article is adapted from a sermon I preached on October 30, 2022. You can watch or listen to that sermon here.

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In 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Paul describes the emotion that will flood the hearts of believers the moment Christ returns with his mighty angels.

Before reading the verse, consider this: If you were to pick one emotion to describe what you think believers will feel—what you will feel—the moment Christ returns, which emotion would you choose? Awe? Wonder? Amazement? Fear? Worship? Reverence? Joy? Thankfulness? Contentment? Satisfaction?

Undoubtedly, we will feel all those emotions and more when Christ returns. Yet, curiously, in this verse, Paul doesn’t choose any of those words to describe what believers will feel upon Christ’s appearing. Which emotion does he point to instead?

According to 2 Thessalonians 1:7, the feeling that will flood the hearts of believers the moment Christ returns is…

Relief.

The complete unburdening of a lifetime’s worth of stressors, sorrows, sicknesses, sins, and suffering in a single moment. That decompressing exhale our souls so desperately long for but never quite seem to manage in this life. That unthreatened assurance that everything is going to be okay—even forever good—which constantly evades our felt experience on this side of eternity.

Pure, unmixed, relief. This is the glorious and inseparable destiny of every Christ-follower—a destiny from which only time separates us now.

Why relief?

The surrounding context of this glorious promise of relief is—perhaps surprisingly—the judgment of God:

“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels…” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-7)

Why will the judgment of God bring relief to believers? Consider three reasons.

1. The final judgment of God confirms that everything we ever did matters—that all our faithful suffering had a purpose and was worth it.

As Tim Keller put it, “[There are] two views of life: Either everything means something or nothing means anything. And what is it that distinguishes those two views? Judgment Day. Judgment Day is very good news. Judgment Day means you will not be forgotten.” 

The moment Christ returns, believers will instantly be flooded with the warming assurance that I am seen. I am known. I am loved. I am valued. My life mattered. My efforts mattered. And not just to anyone—to Christ himself!

We will marvel with joy and relief, knowing that all our sins have been paid for and that every moment of faithfulness is an eternal ingredient in the Divine happiness. We will sing with grateful hearts as we are enveloped with the glorious sensation that every act of obedience, every sacrifice, every painful trial we endured while trusting Jesus—it all had a purpose. And it was all worth it.

2. The final judgment of God inaugurates the righting of all wrongs and the immediate removal of all sin, stress, sorrow, sickness, and suffering.

The Narnian image of the earth greening upon Aslan’s return—everything dead coming to life and everything barren becoming fruitful—is a very appropriate picture of Christ’s return. As we sing, “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground. [Jesus] comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found” (Joy to the World, Isaac Watts, 1719).

This life-exploding, blessing-flooding, thistle-removing image of Narnia and Joy to the World is not a romanticized pipedream; it is a promise of God himself to all his children. Notice the myriad of images of life and flourishing that God gives us in Revelation 22:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. Also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Revelation 22:1-4)

Plain as daylight, God promises abundance of life and fullness of healing at Christ’s return (v. 2). No longer will there be anything accursed (v. 3). No more sin. No more sorrow. No more stress. No more sickness. No more suffering. The complete unburdening, unmixed joy, and perfect healing for which our souls yearn—it’s coming.

So sing it loud, clear, and confidently this Christmas season: Jesus is coming to make his blessings flow, ‘far as the curse is found. Christ’s coming as Judge is, in fact, the greatest news believers could ever dream of.

3. The final judgment of God initiates the unhindered presence of God.

There might not be five words of hope more beautiful in all of Scripture than the first five words of Revelation 22:4: They will see his face. This is, quite simply, the consummate fulfillment of every longing we’ve ever had. As Tim Keller explains,

“The face of God is the source of all love, beauty, and joy. … The reason that you get joy when you listen to a great piece of music is because it reminds you of the face of God. Music is created by God—it’s an image; it’s a mirror of that which is in his face. You feel joy when you put yourself into somebody’s arms, but the reason you feel joy is because you are loving someone in the image of God. The joy and the strength you get in a loving relationship, the joy and the beauty you get by looking at the ocean or hearing a great piece of music—it all comes from the presence [and face] of God.”

The return of Christ will initiate the fulfillment of every dream we’ve grasped at but have never been able to fully obtain. In that moment, we will realize that our longings were, all along, not random but custom-fitted for the very inheritance we will enjoy for all eternity. Not one longing will be left unsatisfied; all will find their fulfillment in the face of Christ. At last, we will say, “Ah, for this my soul has always longed!” Can you imagine the relief of this long-awaited fulfillment?

Rest in God’s promises 

Believer, you can take a deep breath today—even in the midst of your suffering—because God promises you this: I will give you the relief for which your soul longs. And this moment of relief will only flower into the incomparable joy of the unveiled presence of Christ—a pleasure that will satisfy us for all eternity (Psalm 16:11).

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Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (herehere, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Watch or listen to “With Us in the Wilderness” (sermon) here.

Read “Do You Want to be Healed?” here.

Read “Five Habits That Kill Contentment” here.

Read “Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety” here.

Read “An Answer to Prayer Even Better Than Clarity” here.

Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety

Note: This article is adapted from a lesson I taught at The Rock young adult ministry at New Covenant Bible Church in February of 2021. You can listen to the lesson here.

Disclaimer: All content on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute or replace medical advice. Consult a professional in your area of need before making decisions about your mental health.

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Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of our concerns are attached to legitimate threats; others are demons of our imagination. I appreciate Winston Churchill’s words: “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

Fortunately, God cares about all of our anxieties (1 Peter 5:7)—regardless of the source—and he beckons us to come to him in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Beyond this, God also intends to use us despite our worries (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). You don’t need to be strong or have it all together in order to be used by God or to glorify him. In fact, God specializes in working in and through weak people. In the words of John Piper, “God loves to be at a disadvantage just before he wins.”

Far from benching you in your weakness, God intends to beautify you, reveal himself to you, bear fruit through you, and showcase his power through your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So, how can we glorify God in our worry and anxiety? Consider three steps as a starting point.

#1: Pray your feelings.

Key verse: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).

Perhaps the most comforting aspect of James 5:13 is what it does not say. Notice that it does not say, “Is anyone among you suffering? Celebrate anyway! Is anyone among you worrying? Just pretend like you’re happy!” Instead, this verse acknowledges that worshiping God will look different on different days of our lives, as we go through different emotions.

God knows and honors the fact that we’re emotional creatures (Psalm 103:13-14), meaning he doesn’t demand (or expect) that our worship always look gleeful. This is great news. Can you imagine if God only accepted our worship when we were happy? God not only allows us to be real with our emotions—he encourages us to! So, when we feel cheerful, God says, “Sing! Enjoy your happiness! Worship me in your happiness.” When we’re suffering or sad, God says, “Come to me! Pray! Let me help carry your burdens. Worship me in your sadness.”

God is not afraid or ashamed of your emotions. He does not say, “First get rid of your worry, then come to me.” He says, “Come to me with your worry” (Matthew 11:28-30). God doesn’t ask you to be polished, only to be honest. He wants to meet you where you are and to help you walk through it (Psalm 23:4). So, in the words of the psalmist, “Pour out your heart before him! God is a refuge for us!” (Psalm 62:8).

#2: Inform your thoughts.

Key verse: “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

A few years ago, I heard a talk on the subject of sin. The speaker didn’t hold any punches. He said, “If you’re struggling with sin, just stop it! If you’re struggling with lust and pornography, just stop it! If you’re struggling with fear and anxiety, just stop it!” Then, at the end of his talk, he literally had everyone say it together: “When we are struggling with sin, what do we do? Just stop it!”

I cringed when I heard this—not because there is no truth in this approach, but because the Bible is not that simplistic! When we are worried and anxious, God does not say, “My child, Just stop it.” But he does say, “Take your thoughts captive.”

What exactly does it mean to take our thoughts captive? Consider the opposite of this statement—to be taken captive by our thoughts. This is when we allow our thoughts (and feelings) to control us or to be the ultimate authority on who God is, who we are, or the way the world is. Whenever we do this, we are extremely vulnerable to being deceived by the lies of worry.

It has been said that there are two primary lies at the root of worry: (1) God is not in control; (2) God is not good. Whenever we are taken captive by our thoughts, these lies are free to fester and grow. How can we uproot these toxic, deceitful narratives? We must inform our thoughts and feelings with God’s promises.

God’s Daily Mercies

There are many wonderful promises to cling to in our worry and anxiety (I provide 15 here), but one of the most important promises to dwell on is the promise of God’s daily mercies. Much of our worrying in life comes when we try to seize control of something today (or figure something out today) that will happen in the future. Yet time and time again throughout Scripture, God welcomes us to simply focus on what he’s put before us today and rest assured that he will take care of us tomorrow (cf. Exodus 16; Lamentations 3:23; Matthew 6:11; 6:34).

Corrie ten Boom gives a powerful illustration of this concept in her book The Hiding Place. When Corrie was six years old, she struggled with the idea that her dad could die at some point in her life. So one day, when he came home from work, she burst into tears and pleaded with him to assure her that he wouldn’t die. Here is the excerpt (lightly edited):

“I need you,” Corrie sobbed. “You can’t die. You can’t.”

Her father sat down beside her and said gently, “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your train ticket?”

“Well,” she said, “just before we get on the train.” 

“Exactly,” he said. “And our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that you need strength, you will look into your heart and find what you need just in time.”

God does not promise to give us today what we need for tomorrow—but he does promise to give us today what we need for today, and to give us tomorrow what we need for tomorrow. And when we rest in this promise—when we depend on God today and trust him to provide tomorrow—we combat the lies of worry and we glorify him.

#3: Remember your Savior.

Key verses:

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

In all of our worries, we must remember (at least) two things. First, we have a Savior who cares deeply about all of our concerns (big or small), because he cares deeply about us (1 Peter 5:7). Second, as sinners, our most foundational need is actually not to get rid of our present worry, but to be made right with God—to have our sins paid for, our hearts changed, peace with God restored, and eternal life secured through Christ.

When anxiety hits, we don’t only need someone who can sympathize with us—we need someone who can actually save us! And the good news is that in the person of Christ, we have both. Jesus is not only a perfect sympathizer, he is also a glorious Savior who is coming back to make things right. As Jesus himself promised: “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22; cf. Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4).

Let’s rest today knowing that we have a Savior who both cares and saves, that he’s not finished yet, and that the best is still yet to come.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings—here and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen), ChurchLeaders.com, The Aquila Report, Monergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Download “15 Promises God Makes to His Children” here.

Read “An Answer to Prayer Even Better Than Clarity” here.

Read “Christian, You Are Fully Known and Fully Loved” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

An Answer to Prayer Even Better than Clarity

I once told a friend I would give my whole bank account for clarity. He said, “No, you wouldn’t.” I said, “Yes, I would.” He said, “No, you wouldn’t.” I said, “Yes… I would.” He said, “You really want clarity, huh? Okay, I will pray for that for you.”

The next morning—less than 12 hours later—I woke up and read this line from Aimee Joseph’s Demystifying Decision-Making: “We far too easily demand clarity from our Creator when, instead of clarity, he would rather cultivate faith in us.”

I suppose God answered my prayer for clarity quicker than expected. Yet instead of giving me clarity of direction, he gave me clarity of priority—gently reminding me that increased trust is infinitely more valuable than a divine blueprint on what to do. (Let’s hope God doesn’t come for my bank account now that he’s cleared this up for me!)

Consider three ways that trust in God is more valuable than clarity on what to do.

1. Clarity might help you now; trust will help you for a lifetime.

In one sense, the difference between clarity and trust is similar to the difference between a painkiller and true healing. We often long for the narcotic of clarity because we long for a quick fix. Clarity takes us out of the uncomfortable—out of a place of dependence—and makes us feel back in control. But is that really what we need most?

If God gave us clarity, that may (or may not) help us with a particular decision, but it would never help us again. But if he gave us trust, that would help us for a lifetime (Ps. 125:1–2).

Those who trust the Lord don’t thrive because they always have clarity but because they deem the one who holds the future worthy of their soul’s deepest rest. The security we long for doesn’t come from knowing the future but from knowing and trusting God.

Don’t misunderstand: clarity is not a bad thing. In fact, clarity is often the fruit of faith in action. But don’t miss the goodness of the seasons of life that feel unclear. Don’t rush past them. Don’t live in the future and miss the preciousness of what God is trying to teach you right now. If you learn to trust God even in unclear seasons, your efforts will bear sweet fruit for the rest of your life and all eternity.

2. Clarity allows you to move on; trust allows God to move in.

One of the hardest parts of unclear seasons is feeling stuck—like we can’t move forward in any areas of life until we resolve the unclear area. But let two things be clear.

First, if you do nothing in this present season except deepen your trust in God, it will be one of the most productive seasons of your life (James 1:2–4). The product of clarity is a decision; the product of trust is a relationship. Which is more productive in the long run? I appreciate Ann Voskamp’s observation: “Too often we want clarity, and God wants us to come closer.” Is it possible that God is allowing this season of waiting to deepen your communion with him?

Second, God may be slowing you down in some areas of life, but he doesn’t want you to stop moving. Don’t sit on the sideline while you wait for clarity in one area. God usually gives us clarity not while we are sitting on our hands and fixating on a decision but while we are being the hands of Christ and focusing on his mission.

3. Clarity gives you something to run to; trust gives you someone to run to.

One of the most precious gems in Demystifying Decision-Making is a story Aimee Joseph tells of her son after he made a poor decision. If you feel uncertain about the past or future, be encouraged by this story today!

My nine-year-old son stood with his bicycle at the top of the steep hill in front of our house. His gaggle of neighborhood friends stood at the base of the hill where my husband and I were doing some gardening. Suddenly my son cried out from the top of the hill, “Hey guys, watch this!” My husband and I immediately looked up in alarm, as those are dangerous words coming from a young boy. Much to our surprise, our son’s next move was not to ride down the hill on the bike but to send the bike down the hill without a rider. Our eyes moved back and forth between the bike, which was picking up speed, and the new-to-us car toward which it was headed. Sure enough, the bike slammed into the side of the car as we watched in shock and horror. My son, recognizing what he had done and not even understanding himself why he had done it, began running down the hill. I fully expected him to run to his room in embarrassment, but he did something we did not expect. He ran directly into my husband’s arms, paying my husband one of the greatest compliments of his life. In a moment when fear of shame and consequences might have made him run from his father, he chose to run to his arms. He knew his father well enough to know that there would surely be consequences, but he also knew that his father loved him far more than he was disappointed with him.

Joseph’s story helps us see the all-surpassing value of trust. Trust not only helps us make decisions without being paralyzed by fear, but it also gives us someone to run to even when we make poor decisions.

Feeling clarity is not always a stamp of God’s approval, nor does it guarantee good outcomes. Meanwhile, trust in God gives us confidence that regardless of the outcome, we have a loving and sovereign Father who is always with us and ready to embrace us in his loving arms (Luke 15:20).

Run to your Father’s arms

Our future is unknown, but God’s character and promises are not. Let’s rest today knowing our God is supremely trustworthy and will redeem all of our decisions for his glory and our good (Rom. 8:28).

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Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (herehere, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen)ChurchLeaders.comThe Aquila ReportMonergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read “Which Memories Should I Dwell On?” here.

Read “Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

God the Father: Quick to Anger or Slow to Anger?

Psalm 2:2, 10-12: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed … Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

Psalm 103:8, 13: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love … As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”

Like any loving father, God the Father is quick to anger toward those who would threaten his children, yet slow to anger toward his children.

When an intruder enters the house, God is the kind of father who jumps up to protect his family, setting himself against the intruder without hesitation. Yet when his child falls down in sin and despair again and again, God is the kind of father who is patient and gentle—even in his loving discipline.

As sinners and sufferers, this is exactly the kind of Father we need. We need one who, in respect to our sin, is merciful and slow to anger. Yet, we also need a God who, in respect to our suffering, is unceasingly angry about the evil which harms us (cf. Ps. 7:11).

So, rest, today—knowing that God is gentle and patient with you, even though you sin again and again. But also rejoice, today—knowing that God has never been more passionate in his hatred of the evil which harms you than he is right now.

God’s passion is our hope—for one day his passion will culminate in his ultimate deliverance, when he heals this earth and saves us from sin and suffering forever (cf. Rev. 22:3-5).

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois. You can find more of his work at The Gospel Coalition.