Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: despair

Knowing our own wretchedness

I am quite well aware that I am an imperfect person. Such awareness means that I am a truly humble Christian, doesn’t it?

Or am I mistaking complacency for humility? Perhaps I should come right out and call it lukewarmness. That is what God called it when He told me what He thought of me almost 45 years ago. I opened the Bible at random and my eyes fell on Revelation 3:16: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” He was telling me that I left an awful taste in His mouth and He just had to get that taste out of His mouth.

Has God ever spoken severe, disapproving words to you? If so, it was not His intention for you to go off and start a pity party. Those were words of mercy, calling you to repentance. We cannot become a child of God if we think we are doing pretty good without Him. The severity of God in revealing the depth of our corruption is the most effective way of leading us to repentance so that we can experience His goodness and mercy.

When Isaiah saw God, he didn’t just bemoan his imperfections; he said: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). That confession moved God to cleanse his lips and then send him out to speak powerful words on God’s behalf. It is always the case that when we are most aware of our own depravity, we are just a step away from experiencing the greatness of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

The apostle Paul was acutely aware of his weaknesses. He confessed to being the chief of sinners; he said “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Yet he also said: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I like the way Blaise Pascal put it: “Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because He shows us both God and our own wretchedness.”

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I dreamed there was no God

[From an out of print book, When I Was Thirteen by Christina Young. I first posted this in March of 2013, and thought it worth posting again as it seems to me that far too many people today are living in just such a nightmare and do not know that it would be possible to awaken from that dream and experience the love of God who really is there.]

June 1, 1897
This is Sunday morning, and also the first day of June.  Everyone else is sleeping still, as the sun is just coming up over the trees at the ditch.  I got up early like this, because I had a bad dream, and couldn’t sleep any more, and I thought maybe if I would go out into the beautiful morning, I could crawl back up out of the slough of despond that had swallowed me up in my dream.

I will write down my dream pretty soon, but first I want to get happy again, and feeling that God is close by, as it was a most desolate feeling, to feel shut away from Him.

So I am sitting out here on the stoop watching the sun rising up, and smelling the sweet morning smells that the night sprinkles over the earth to make it sweet for the people when they get up in the morning.  It is a great pity the children in town can never have country mornings.

The little lost lambs have all found their own mother now.  I can see them frisking around along the sides of the road.  You would never think that they were such sorrowful lambs last night, and the happy old mother sheep seem to have clean forgotten their worry for fear they had lost their lambs.

Out in the orchards the birds are holding a service of song, and are nearly bursting their throats trying to make the world understand how happy they feel for this lovely June morning.  And back there in the pasture, the horses and cows are just getting up for another good day in the grass.  Old Nell looks quite a fine lady.

Somewhere in the Bible there is a verse which says “They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountains, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”  And that is the way the world looks this morning.  No one with a soul locked up in their body, and looking out of their eyes, could see the earth on a morning like this, and not be sure that God made it and loved the people upon it.

But I dreamed last night that there was no God.  And, though it was only a dream and I am awake again now and sure that He is closer to me than the morning air I am breathing, I am sad to think that there must be millions of people and sorrowful little children, away in the heathen lands, who have all the time the unhappy feeling I had while I was dreaming my dream.  For they don’t know about God.

In my dream, the children would not obey their parents, but did as they wanted to do themselves, and nobody wanted to bother themselves with children anyway, and they had to look out for themselves.  The parents found fault with each other, and with the ones higher up, and they wouldn’t stick to each other, and kept stirring up ugly feelings, and the ones higher up did just as they pleased and didn’t care who suffered for it, but were always living in fear of someone conquering them.  Everyone was afraid of everyone else and there was no faith in the world.

I was even afraid of Ma, as the thing that held us together, seemed not to be there anymore, and where love and tenderness once had been, fear and distrust were now.

Each one walked alone, and had no friend.

I was sleeping out on the road, trying to keep myself hid, and had huddled up in the dark beside one of the sheep, as that was the kindest thing I could find, and I wasn’t afraid of it.  I thought that Ma didn’t care for me anymore, but had told me to shift for myself, and there was no use praying to God for there wasn’t any God there.

I was wishing with all my heart that I had never been born, and hoping I would soon die.  I was planning, as soon as the daylight came, to try to sneak down to the creek and be drowned.  I would have to keep out of sight of a man, as they were all cruel to children.  I thought it would be all right to drown myself because if there was no God, neither would there be any Heaven, and if there wasn’t a Heaven, not likely there’d be any Hell, and being so miserable as I was, I would rather be nothing at all.

Just then a sheep bleated a little, and I woke up.  Of all the bad dreams I have ever had, that was the very worst.  There wasn’t any thrill in it, but just a heavy despair, as there was no chance to escape, and nowhere to turn for help.

I was never so glad to wake up before, and find it was just a bad dream.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Hell should turn out just to be shut out forever from under the care of God.

I know there are some in the world who say they do not believe in Him, although they are living in safety and peace, because others’ believe and act that way, but I think they must have a feeling that there is a God taking care of us, although maybe they don’t know that they have it.  Because if they really didn’t believe, and felt as I felt in my dream, I think they’d all kill themselves and so end up the misery.

I think, when God gives life to a child, He plants in its soul the feeling that there is a God.  They say even the worst of the heathens have the instinct that there is some such Presence, and are always searching to find it and seeking to know its will, though so doubtfully and so darkly that they never know any real peace, being so full of the terrors that live in their minds.  I expect the children all feel as I felt last night in my dream.

Pa is up now, and was surprised to see me sitting out here on the stoop.  It was good to see his face, with only kindness on it, and to know that he is a good man and walks in the way of God, and it is good to know that Ma is still Ma, and we can be sure of her love for us and can all be together still, and sure of the love of God, and that He is right here watching out for us all, and none of us need be afraid.  I guess I had better start setting the table for breakfast now.  Pa has the fire going.

The Lonely Ache of Popularity

Bill was tall, fair, handsome, sensitive. He was also the Eighth Grade football hero ‒ the one who scored the goals and carried the home team to victory. Girls in the top two grades were openly–or secretly–nuts about him.

Like Grace, the girl who lived down the street from him. She was a nobody, shy and plain, but she dreamed big. If only Bill would like her! She saw him taking her to the school dance and the looks on the other girls’ faces as she walked in the door on Bill’s arm. Their jaws would drop and their eyes would turn green with envy. Standing next to Bill she’d really shine; everyone would know that she must be something special if Bill liked her.

Alas for Grace. Debbie moved in and worked her way up the pecking order; by Grade Eight she was the head of our football team’s cheerleader group. Pretty, popular, pushy — she claimed Bill and grabbed every chance to be near him. Grace was left alone with her dreams and longings. Last I heard she was still single, but she went on to get her pilot’s license and live a life of adventure a lot of us never expected.

So how did Bill himself feel about all of this adoration? Do guys know when girls want them for an ornament, a trophy won in the cat fights? Do they sense that if they didn’t have the looks and status, the car and the cash, the popular girls wouldn’t give them a second thought? And does that tick them off, or are they just happy to be used for awhile–and to use? After all, don’t they see themselves looking good, too, with the prettiest girl on their arm?

The teachers wanted Bill as football star, the girls wanted him as a status symbol, likely his parents were proud of what their son had accomplished. But our thoughts were so ME-centred. Did any of us really CARE about HIM? A few years later Bill committed suicide.

The vicious rivalry in teen circles tears a lot of young people to shreds. Lesser lights want to stand beside the brighter ones, girl or boy, so the glow reflects well on them. But there’s only so much room in that glow, others are pushed aside. They often go off in a corner and seethe, knowing they’ll never be in the limelight.

I feel sympathy for girls who live with this torture. Then, to add to the mix, if there are abuse issues in your past, you grow up under that cloud – stamped as an UNDESIRABLE. Been there; done that.

I Just Don’t Fit In

Getting married and having a family don’t change the peer pressure, just redefine it. THEIR husbands have bigger salaries; THEY probably have cushy jobs, too; THEY have THEIR homes decked out by Martha Stewart; THEIR toddlers by Osh-Kosh; THEIR teens by Alfred Sung. THEIR kids are into everything culture &/or sports, rapidly being molded into the snobs and jocks of future high schools.

As long as you have one eye on THEM – the unidentifiable and ever-unmatchable THEM – you’ll always feel outclassed. THEY always have their act together; THEY are so far ahead in the game of Life because THEY know all the unspoken rules. YOU are the odd duck, the square peg in a round hole. The one with horrible secrets no one should ever find out.

But ask yourself, What if I really were popular? Would I really like being there as a prop in others’ productions? Would I be able to live with myself if I crushed others to get to the top? And what would I have to do to stay there? Some of the most talented people have admitted in later life how they lived with the dread someone would discover they were just a fake.

I believe every person on the planet at times thinks, “I just don’t fit in,” even on a level playing field. Then try changing cultures. For those like myself who have come from a “trailer trash” non-Christian upbringing and are now trying to fit into a conservative Christian circle, thoughts like “I’ll never be fit in” can overwhelm us and sink our ship. We need a solid rock to stand on.

Bonked By Another Diamond From Heaven

One time I was brooding over the way I was brought up and how my own family has such a different culture than my Christian brothers and sisters. I wanted so much to be like “everybody else” but I felt so different in the way I said and did things, the values I was taught, etc. The prospect of “fitting in” looked pretty bleak right at that moment ‒ and the devil was probably gloating as he tossed more jabs of “you’ll never make it here.”

Then the Lord spoke to me in this complete sentence: “The more you try to be like everybody else, the more you will realize how different you are. The more you try to be yourself, the more you will realize how much like everybody else you are.”

Can it really be that simple? I can just be myself? Like a shaft of Heaven’s purest light, this thought banished my dark musings, gave me direction and courage again. I was able to accept myself for what I was and trust that I could still fit in anywhere the Lord wanted me to be.

God is so good; He delights in setting us free from chains that drag us down. He showed me that there is MUCH more to life than becoming like — and liked by — Everyone. Actually the issue isn’t “fitting in”; it’s all about being an obedient and useful child of God. It’s putting OTHERS before our own ego.

Think of all the people in history who, single-handedly, have accomplished a lot of good in our world. Look around and you will see things you can do to ease someone else’s pain. There are people teetering on the brink of despair that could still be pulled back by a sincere friend – before they become another suicide statistic. You CAN make a difference. But not if you’re focussed on how “everyone else” looks at ME.

-Christine Goodnough

(This is a slightly revised version of an article Chris posted on “Christine’s Collection” about two years ago.)

 

I dreamed there was no God

Another post from When I Was Thirteen by Christina Young, the followup from yesterday’s post.

June 1, 1897
This is Sunday morning, and also the first day of June.  Everyone else is sleeping still, as the sun is just coming up over the trees at the ditch.  I got up early like this, because I had a bad dream, and couldn’t sleep any more, and I thought maybe if I would go out into the beautiful morning, I could crawl back up out of the slough of despond that had swallowed me up in my dream.

I will write down my dream pretty soon, but first I want to get happy again, and feeling that God is close by, as it was a most desolate feeling, to feel shut away from Him.

So I am sitting out here on the stoop watching the sun rising up, and smelling the sweet morning smells that the night sprinkles over the earth to make it sweet for the people when they get up in the morning.  It is a great pity the children in town can never have country mornings.

The little lost lambs have all found their own mother now.  I can see them frisking around along the sides of the road.  You would never think that they were such sorrowful lambs last night, and the happy old mother sheep seem to have clean forgotten their worry for fear they had lost their lambs.

Out in the orchards the birds are holding a service of song, and are nearly bursting their throats trying to make the world understand how happy they feel for this lovely June morning.  And back there in the pasture, the horses and cows are just getting up for another good day in the grass.  Old Nell looks quite a fine lady.

Somewhere in the Bible there is a verse which says “They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountains, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”  And that is the way the world looks this morning.  No one with a soul locked up in their body, and looking out of their eyes, could see the earth on a morning like this, and not be sure that God made it and loved the people upon it.

But I dreamed last night that there was no God.  And, though it was only a dream and I am awake again now and sure that He is closer to me than the morning air I am breathing, I am sad to think that there must be millions of people and sorrowful little children, away in the heathen lands, who have all the time the unhappy feeling I had while I was dreaming my dream.  For they don’t know about God.

In my dream, the children would not obey their parents, but did as they wanted to do themselves, and nobody wanted to bother themselves with children anyway, and they had to look out for themselves.  The parents found fault with each other, and with the ones higher up, and they wouldn’t stick to each other, and kept stirring up ugly feelings, and the ones higher up did just as they pleased and didn’t care who suffered for it, but were always living in fear of someone conquering them.  Everyone was afraid of everyone else and there was no faith in the world.

I was even afraid of Ma, as the thing that held us together, seemed not to be there anymore, and where love and tenderness once had been, fear and distrust were now.

Each one walked alone, and had no friend.

I was sleeping out on the road, trying to keep myself hid, and had huddled up in the dark beside one of the sheep, as that was the kindest thing I could find, and I wasn’t afraid of it.  I thought that Ma didn’t care for me anymore, but had told me to shift for myself, and there was no use praying to God for there wasn’t any God there.

I was wishing with all my heart that I had never been born, and hoping I would soon die.  I was planning, as soon as the daylight came, to try to sneak down to the creek and be drowned.  I would have to keep out of sight of a man, as they were all cruel to children.  I thought it would be all right to drown myself because if there was no God, neither would there be any Heaven, and if there wasn’t a Heaven, not likely there’d be any Hell, and being so miserable as I was, I would rather be nothing at all.

Just then a sheep bleated a little, and I woke up.  Of all the bad dreams I have ever had, that was the very worst.  There wasn’t any thrill in it, but just a heavy despair, as there was no chance to escape, and nowhere to turn for help.
I was never so glad to wake up before, and find it was just a bad dream.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Hell should turn out just to be shut out forever from under the care of God.

I know there are some in the world who say they do not believe in Him, although they are living in safety and peace, because others’ believe and act that way, but I think they must have a feeling that there is a God taking care of us, although maybe they don’t know that they have it.  Because if they really didn’t believe, and felt as I felt in my dream, I think they’d all kill themselves and so end up the misery.

I think, when God gives life to a child, He plants in its soul the feeling that there is a God.  They say even the worst of the heathens have the instinct that there is some such Presence, and are always searching to find it and seeking to know its will, though so doubtfully and so darkly that they never know any real peace, being so full of the terrors that live in their minds.  I expect the children all feel as I felt last night in my dream.

Pa is up now, and was surprised to see me sitting out here on the stoop.  It was good to see his face, with only kindness on it, and to know that he is a good man and walks in the way of God, and it is good to know that Ma is still Ma, and we can be sure of her love for us and can all be together still, and sure of the love of God, and that He is right here watching out for us all, and none of us need be afraid.  I guess I had better start setting the table for breakfast now.  Pa has the fire going.

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