Thursday, February 14, 2013

When We Feel Weak and Discouraged

Do you know the song, “There is a Fountain”?  (Click here to hear one version of the songIt was written by a man named William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper").  Cowper wrote many other hymns that were sung for years.  He is also known for his poetry, one of the many great English poets of history.  But what many people don’t know is that William Cowper was also a man who struggled mightily with depression.  He was actually converted in his thirties during an 18 month stay in an asylum after attempting suicide.  After his conversion, he lived for many years in Olney, where he attended the church pastored by John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace.  He and Newton became close friends, and together wrote an enormously popular and influential hymnal.  Newton later said he couldn’t imagine any person having a closer walk with the Lord than Cowper.  But Cowper had a relapse, and attempted suicide again.  For years, he fought against this terrible gloom and self-doubt.  Many years later, on his deathbed, Cowper apparently caught his first sight of the glory that awaited him, and his last words were, “I am not shut out of heaven after all.”
Some people seem to think that a good Christian should be full of joy all the time.  Certainly God wants us to live joyful lives, but in truth, every believer goes through times of despair.  It happens because we are human.  For a time, we take our eyes off of God’s goodness, stop trusting His providence, and all we can see is our problems and pain.  I have told you about Cowper, but I could go on to tell you of many, many other Christian heroes who also reached the end of their ropes.  Did you know that even happened to Elijah?  Elijah is one of my favorite biblical figures.  To me, he is the Dirty Harry of the Old Testament, a man who fearlessly faced--and defeated--the enemies of God.  1 Kings 18 tells of him facing 450 pagan prophets on Mount Carmel, and bringing fire from Heaven in the sight of all Israel.  It was a fantastic day for Elijah...perhaps the best of his life.  But in the very next chapter, we find our hero literally giving up.  If that could happen to him, believe me, it can happen to you and me. 

So how does God respond when we're ready to quit?  And what should we do at that point?  This Sunday, I will talk about how we can be exactly who God created us to be--ambassadors for Christ, reconciling people with their Creator--even when we are at our breaking point.  I hope you can be there, and that you leave feeling lighter than you came in. 

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