Maybe you are going through a tough time right now in the form of a trial or great challenge in your life. Whatever it is you are going through, most likely it is something that was not expected and has, literally, “ambushed” your life. We are all bound to go through difficulties in our lives at various points. The question is, where do we find encouragement and hope during these trying times? I want to offer you two sources of encouragement and hope in your trials: “Dancing in the Dungeon” by Ron Ethridge, Jr., and “Spiritual Depression” by Martyn-Lloyd Jones
DANCING IN THE DUNGEON AND A THEOLOGY OF ENCOURAGEMENT
I’ve been reading a book in recent days called “Dancing in the Dungeon” (amazon) which is by an encourager of mine named Ron Ethridge, Jr. While Ron’s specific difficulties outlined in the book are mostly ministry-related, he wrote the book for anyone going through any type of trial or suffering. I would recommend Ron’s ministry and website to anyone, especially ministers, going through difficult times (See Ron’s website here). What hope or encouragement have I found in Ron’s book? There are several lines I could mention here, but I want to mention one line of encouragement which is found in Ron’s individually-crafted statement called his “theology of encouragement.” This is a statement based fully on Scripture. I would like to quote this statement in full here and I will insert Scripture, where Ron has inserted endnotes in the book, to help support his statement:
“Every hurt, disappointment, and pain in life is placed there by a loving God who wills only the absolute best for His own, now and forever (Isaiah 46:9-10; Psalm 84:11; Romans 8:18, 31b-32, 37-39). God’s goal is not so much ease and comfort in this life as it is His glory (Isaiah 48:11) and the strength of His children’s faith (Luke 22:31-32). God never allows anything into His children’s lives that is anything but good in His all wise knowledge (Romans 8:28). God is so determined to make His children like HIs son that He does not leave it to chance, but wills it without any possibility of failure (Romans 8:29). Therefore, everything the Christian experiences is ultimately good, increases joy, lays up treasure in heaven, and is to be understood in these contexts (Romans 8:31-32)” (“Dancing in the Dungeon,” pg. 2, quoted with permission by Ron).
My encouragement to you is to read every line of this statement above, very carefully, and to look up (or just click on) the Scripture listed above and read that even more carefully. I believe that as you meditate deeply on the Scriptures above that you will find, as I have found, a great source of hope in the midst of your difficulty. The reason for this is the “God-centeredness” of the Scriptures mentioned. Sometimes when we are talking about trials we focus on ourselves and the situation too much, but Scripture beckons us to find our hope not in ourselves or certainly not in our situations, but in God alone. This leads me to a second source of hope that I’d like to point you to and that is from a book (and series of sermons) called “Spiritual Depression” by Martyn-Lloyd Jones
SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION AND TALKING TO YOURSELF
The book “Spiritual Depression” was originally written in 1965 by Martyn-Lloyd Jones, a Welsh minister from the middle of the 20th century, sometimes called by some as “the greatest preacher of the 20th century” (listen to Lloyd-Jones’ sermons for yourself at the link below if you’ve never heard him before!). You can find information about “Spiritual Depression” and “the Doctor” (as Jones was known since he was a medical doctor before a minister) here. You can find the Doctor’s sermons about “Spiritual Depression” for free here at the MLJ Trust website which has many volumes of the Doctor’s sermons. There’s also an app for some mobile devices as well where you can listen to his sermons on the go. You can purchase a new edition of the “Spiritual Depression” book which includes an MP3 CD of the 24 “Spiritual Depression” sermons by the Doctor here from Granted Ministries.
How can the Doctor assist us in finding hope within our trials? I want to give an extensive quote from the Doctor’s book on “Spiritual Depression” that helps to sum up his series on the matter:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? [Billy’s emphasis] Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’” (source).”
The Doctor says that our unhappiness is due to the fact that we are listening to ourselves more than we are talking to ourselves, and then he uses Psalm 42 to back up his claim. How can this help us? We must speak to ourselves. Are you depressed and down about your situation? Remind yourself, out loud, that God is in control and that God loves you, no matter what. Are you downcast by the treatment of others? Remind yourself, out loud, that you are God’s child and that you are more than a conqueror in Him and that He will never leave you or forsake you. Do you feel as though only dark days are ahead of you? Remind yourself, out loud, from Psalm 23 that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Remind yourself, out loud, that if God gave up His Son for you, then how shall He not also give you all things? (Romans 8:32). Remind yourself, out loud, that if you ask your earthly father for good things and he gives them to you that surely your heavenly Father will give you good as well (Matthew 7:11). We must be about the business of speaking Scripture to ourselves, as the Doctor has outlined above, rather than listening to ourselves. If we listen to ourselves we will get nowhere and will lead only to dead ends and despair. Speaking Scripture to ourselves is more than just a pep-talk or a “self-help” ritual, but it’s reminding yourself as to what reality is in your situation. Scripture speaks of reality as to who God is and His purposes for our lives, therefore, we must continuously be reminding ourselves as to what reality is, lest we forget it and believe a lie instead.
CRAFTING YOUR OWN “THEOLOGY OF ENCOURAGEMENT” STATEMENT
Maybe it would do you good to craft your own “theology of encouragement” statement, as Ron has done above. This would assist in your “speaking to yourself,” as Lloyd-Jones has recommended, based on Psalm 42, above. I would encourage you to support your statement with Scripture and to insert those items in Scripture that speak the most encouragement and hope to you in the midst of your darkness right now. We must believe truth more than a lie, therefore, we must keep truth in front of us, on our mouths, and in our hearts.
I’d love to hear your feedback and encouraging Scriptures in the “Comment” section below!
- Share in the “Comment” section below some of the most encouraging Scripture passages to you either right now while you’re going through a trial, or share passages that have encouraged you in the past.