Hope in the Midst of the Dark Night of the Soul

 “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.  For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”   Psalm 30:4-5

In this Psalm, David describes what may be called “a dark night of the soul.” He does not give the specifics of the circumstance but this Psalm recounts a period in David’s life when he harbored some sin in his heart and had experienced the chastening hand of God upon his life.  These two verses form the heart of this Psalm and offer us great hope in the midst of our trials in this life.  David reminds us here of God’s anger.  There are some who would like to do away with the notion of God’s anger all together, but the Bible teaches us that God’s anger is the expression of His Holy and Righteous character.  God would not be God if He were not angered and outraged over sin.  But notice carefully what the Psalmist says here about God’s anger— His anger is but for a moment.  In the gospel we discover that God’s anger has been appeased by the death of Christ on the cross.  That is why in Romans 3:25 Paul speaks of Jesus, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”     On the cross Jesus fully met the demands of God’s righteousness on our part so that we can now experience God’s favor.  This does not mean that life will always be easy.  As believers we will experience the full range of human suffering and ills that come from living in a fallen world.  There will even be times when as the result of our sin we experience the temporary withdrawal of God’s manifest presence.  But we never have to be afraid or dismayed because this experience is never permanent.  “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  It may feel as if the dark night of the soul will never end.  Satan wants you to believe that what you are going through right now is permanent.  But the Gospel reminds us that we have hope.  JOY IS COMING!

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The Fiscal Cliff, Materialism and Idolatry

FYI- This post is not about politics, so read it all the way through.

fiscal cliffOver the last several weeks we have all heard a great deal about the so-called “Fiscal Cliff.”  It is no secret that our government has a serious spending problem and that decisive steps will need to be taken in order to avert an even more serious financial disaster in the future.  But it occurred to me the other day that the Federal government is really just a reflection of what is happening in the general population. In a government “of the people, for the people, by people” we should not be surprised that the Federal government reflects the same irresponsible spending habits as its citizens.

According to a report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, non-real estate household debt jumped 2.3 percent to $2.7 trillion dollars in the last quarter of 2012.  A spokesmen for the New York Fed stated, “The increase in mortgage originations, auto loans and credit card balances suggests that consumers are slowly gaining confidence in their financial position.”  I would like to suggest these statistics indicate something more disturbing— rather than regaining confidence, we are simply returning to the same patterns got us into this mess.  If we want the Federal Government to take fiscal responsibility, it must begin with getting our own households in order.  But this issue goes deeper than just learning better money management techniques.  I want to suggest that at its core, America’s financial woes are primarily the result of a deep-rooted spiritual problem

In the church we hear about the way materialism has caused much of our current financial problems.  While I agree that materialism is a problem, I think the issue goes deeper.  Materialism is a symptom of a much deeper problem— idolatry.  When we look for ultimate fulfillment in anything besides Christ, it can become an idol.  Therefore, family can be an idol, sex can be an idol, and even church when it is divorced from the gospel can be an idol.  But I would submit that in America our favorite idol is material and monetary wealth.  The Scripture gives us stern warnings about making wealth and money the main object of our life.  In Matthew 6:24, for instance, Jesus says “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”

 

As followers of Christ we need to ask ourselves a tough question, “Whom are we really serving?” In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The last phrase is the key to keeping material goods and money in their proper place.  If the thing you treasure the most are here on earth, that is where your heart is going to be.  You are going to be dragged down by the weight and cares of this world.  But if what you treasure the most is in heaven, your heart will be lifted above the temporal cares of this world and be captured by things of eternal weight and glory.