How Do You Deal With Distress?

by Mar 22, 2017

How Do You Deal With Distress?

by Mar 22, 2017

How Do You Deal With Distress?

by Mar 22, 2017

Some of the strongest Christians in history have had a hard time dealing with stress and suffering. Charles Spurgeon preached 600 sermons … before he was 20. He preached to 10,000 people at once, without a microphone or a loudspeaker. He wrote more books than any other Christian leader in history. But he was also criticized by thousands of people around the world, and so he was always depressed. He said that regularly, “My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child.”

William Cowper wrote a hymn our church sings all the time: “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners, plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” He wrote a lot more songs that are just as powerful. And in between writing hymns, he would go into depression. Four times it was so deep that he couldn’t get out of bed for a month. Twice it was so deep that he attempted suicide.

Some of the strongest Christians in history have had a hard time with mental distress, physical distress, emotional distress, and relational distress.

So how do you deal with distress?

When I was a kid and I had a bad day, my mom always had chocolate chip cookies ready for me. That’s how I learned to deal with suffering. Chocolate chip cookies. You could throw anything at me, I didn’t care. Bully me, tease me, give me a swirly. It doesn’t matter, I’ve got a chocolate chip cookie waiting.

So when I proposed to my wife, I said, “Will you marry me… and will you make me chocolate chip cookies for the rest of my life?” That’s all I was really looking for in a wife. And she said yes! So for the first ten years of marriage, I always had a supply of chocolate chip cookies. As I went though my day, no matter what life threw at me, I always knew I had a chocolate-chip cookie coming at bedtime. Then I turned 35, my metabolism stopped working, and I gained 20 pounds. So no more chocolate chip cookies at bedtime. But I still love them whenever I get
the chance to eat them. They’re the most perfect food in the whole world.

But here’s the thing: have you ever watched someone make cookies? Have you seen what actually goes into cookies? Have you tried tasting what goes into cookies? Flour. Baking soda. Salt. Butter. Raw Eggs. Vanilla extract. They’re all disgusting! But somehow, all these terrible ingredients come together (with some sugar and some chocolate) and they make the most amazing thing in the world. You mix them up, add some heat, and bang! Perfection. You can make something delicious out of something disgusting.

And that’s exactly what God does in your life. Paul says in Romans 8:28, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Notice Paul doesn’t say that every thing that happens in your life is somehow good. He doesn’t even say everything will turn out to be good. He says God will take all these things that happen in your life — good, bad, and — and he’ll make something good out of them, like a chocolate chip cookie. You just have to trust him. And keep talking to him.

Guess who had the longest conversation with God in the Bible? Job, after he lost everything in the world that mattered to him. That’s when he experienced God the most. He lost “7,000 sheep … 3,000 camels … 500 yoke of oxen … 500 female donkeys … and very many servants.” All gone. All ten of his kids, gone. His health, gone. The only thing he had left was his wife, and she wasn’t a whole lot of help. She tried to convince him to curse God. To just walk away from him! “God doesn’t care about you, Job, so why should you care about him?”

Job’s response? “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” What a shocking question. Those of us who remember the story of Job are thinking, “Wait, wasn’t it Satan who brought the evil?” God blessed him with all kinds of good stuff, because he was a good guy. But it was Satan who destroyed all his flocks, and it was Satan who killed all his kids, and it was Satan who gave him the flesh-eating bacteria.

But Job says, “No, it was God gave me good things, and God who gave me evil things.”

We think, “Well, maybe Job isn’t supposed to be thinking that way. Maybe it’s just the heat of the moment and he’s lashing out wherever he can. He’s just talking nonsense! But at the end of the same verse it says, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” He knows that ultimately, God is in control of everything, like it says in Lamentations 3: “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”

So, shall we receive good from God, and not evil? I’ve been married to an awesome girl for 22 years and 2 months. I tell people all the time that I have the most faith-filled, easygoing, fun-loving, joyful, and sacrificial wife in the world. Nobody else comes close! But what if Cyndi died this week? Shall I receive 22 years of Cyndi’s love, and not 22 more without it?

I love my job. For the last 11 years, I’ve loved serving at Harbor Church. I really love to preach. But what if I got throat cancer next month and lost my voice? What if I had to go find another job? What job could I even get without a voice? Librarian? I’m not sure God gifted me for that. But shall I receive 11 years of fulfilling ministry, and not 30 or 40 more years of silence?

Like Job, I’m going to experience God even more, when I trust God’s sovereignty over my suffering.