Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hope even amid dire circumstances.

I have to give the Sunday School lesson this Sunday. I am not very good at teaching. :(

Discover Fresh Hope

Financial hardship is only one of many circumstances that can make people feel hopeless about life. Deteriorating health, broken relationships, or loss of loved ones can have the same effect. How do we cope, or help someone else cope at such times?

If we are honest, we have to acknowledge that we ALL face times when circumstances seem overwhelming, and God seems far away. We wrestle with doubt and despair. To make things worse, we feel guilty for having these negative feelings. During such times, the Psalms offer the comforting message that we are not alone. The psalmists were fellow strugglers who expressed not only praise and thanksgiving, but also sorrow, fear, and despair.

Psalm 42: 1-5
1. As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. 2. I thirst for God, living God. When can I come and appear before God? 3. My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, "Where is your God"? 4. I remember this as I pour out my heart; how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts. 5. Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.

We understand that God is not confined to any one location, and we can worship Him anywhere. In ancient Hebrew culture, the temple was the center of worship and represented God's dwelling place. Worshiping there with other believers, the psalmist had felt God's presence most keenly. For some reason the psalmist could not go to the temple. Questioning his own feelings and telling himself to trust God reflect the experience of someone who knows God is in control but feels hopeless nonetheless. It is a conflict between head and heart, knowledge and emotion.

Psalm 42: 1-5 demonstrates that we can share candidly with God our pain and disappointment. He will not be shocked; He already knows our secret thoughts, and He sympathizes with our suffering. The verses also challenge us to seek God above all else. More than we need a solution to our problems we need God Himself. Drawing close to Him, we discover that we are not alone in our despair.

Depend on God's Faithful Love:

Psalm 42: 6-11
6. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7. Deep calls to deep in the roar of all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me. 8. The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night--- a prayer to the God of my life. 9. I will say to God, my rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy's oppression?" 10. My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, "Where is your God?" 11. Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Underline the 2 questions in verse 9. Would you say the psalmist's question of God were bold, disrespectful, irreverent, honest, whiny, sincere, angry, legitimate? Does God welcome this kind of praying? Why or why not?

Although he questioned God's apparent absence in verse 9, the psalmist returned in verse 11 to the refrain that runs throughout these two psalms, expressing his "hope in God." Like the psalmist we may need to keep reminding ourselves in difficult times that trouble does not mean God is absent or doesn't care. Sometimes God uses tribulations to discipline us (not just to punish, but also to instruct). In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews noted that God's discipline is an indication of His love for His children (Hebrew 12: 5-11). God's love is one thing we can count on no matter what we may lose or how our circumstances might change. When others turn against us, we can know that God is always for us. When we seek Him and honor Him, He loves us. When we disobey and disappoint Him, He loves us still.

Psalm 43: 1-5
1. Vindicate me, God, and defend my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from the deceitful and unjust man. 2. For You are the God of my refuge. Why have You rejected me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy's oppression? 3. Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place. 4. Then I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy. I will praise You with the lyre, God, my God. 5. Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Turning to God for justice when we are treated unfairly demonstrates that we believe God is just and is powerful enough to intervene and set things right. Because life this side of heaven isn't fair, we all become victims of injustice at times. At such times, we can wallow in self-pity and drown in despair. The better alternative, however, is to do what the psalmist did. He boldly petitioned God, the Judge of all the earth, to redress the abuses against him. Looking to our Refuge for deliverance from injustice raises us out of the pit of gloomy introspection and self-pitying depression.

Life doesn't always turn out the way we planned. Illness strikes. Death claims loved ones. Relationships become strained. We suffer losses and setbacks. Shifting circumstances can take us from a place of contentment to a place of despair without warning. How can we make a new start in life when we find ourselves in what seems like a hopeless situation? Consider these truths:

1. We find fresh hope by understanding our soul's desire for God. When we draw close to Him, we move toward hope.
2. We find fresh hope by relying on God's love. Even when we do not sense God's presence or see how He is helping, we can trust in His unchanging love and know that He is working for our good.
3. We find fresh hope by looking to God for guidance. When we are at a loss to know what to do, His light and truth will lead us.


Paula said...

I'll have to come back tomorrow and take this all in. Seems like a good lesson but I am sooo sleepy to read.

Linda :) said...

I'm sure you will be fine giving the Sunday school lesson... :)

a corgi said...

this is a great lesson Janie! it looks like you really prepared it well!

one thing our pastor said tonight about why we go through struggles in life is that God is trying to make us complete, mature and lacking in nothing (from James 1:2-4); he said that God's purpose for our life is to make us more like Jesus every day and that will include not giving us everything we want/ask for because just like we don't give our kids everything they want because they would be spoiled brats, God doesn't give us everything we want because then we too would be spoiled and not growing to be like Jesus, make sense?

don't know how this ties into your lesson but I thought about it while I was reading this and felt the Lord wanted me to share it with you

I know its hard to do something if you don't feel its your gift, but I think it is neat you are stepping up and teaching; I think it will be a well-received lesson to the group you are teaching to


I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I love the Psalms. They always offer us hope above all things. I think your lesson is going to be a good one. Hope everyone joins in the discussion on the questions.
Lots to think about there.
'On Ya'-ma

sheri said...

I think you will be just fine. You are a wonderful teacher. During this time that I am finding my way to a better relationship with God, you bring things to light for me. As you did with this entry.
It is during the dark times that we are showing our faith in God with trust that He will see us thru.
Enjoy your day,
Hugs, Sheri

Missy said...

Hope is all we have sometimes to keep going.


kelly said...

I don't think you will have any problems in giving Sunday's lesson. Have a wonderful day.

Randy said...

Hello Miss Janie,

Bet the whole class really enjoyed it! a great lesson!I bet you are a wonderful and annointed teacher.

God Bless


Tightening the Corset Again said...

Everywhere I look this weekend there is encouragement about suffering! I'm thinking that God had a few lessons for me to grasp on the subject?

Thanks for sharing!

Donna said...

Janie, I did an entry about "Royal Telephone" just for you. Check it out.