What do you do when your dreams, your plans and your hopes blow up in your face? Who do you blame when everything in the Bible gave you hope, but then, out of the blue, all was destroyed? How do you react when difficult and trying circumstances seem to go on and on and on?
Have you ever experienced such a time as this? A time when you became so confused, so discouraged and so disheartened in your Christian walk that you wanted to let go, give in and give up?
The dictionary describes this feeling of utter disillusionment as dismay. It means we have become so perplexed, bewildered and confused at the total devastation we see in our lives that we are completely undone. The dictionary describes it this way: Dismay occurs when courage and resolution are taken away from us by the alarm and fear we find at every turn.
Synonyms of the word dismay are: appalled, horrified, disheartened, disabled, unnerved or cracked. It's the feeling of just wanting to give up and die. How aptly these words express Job's state of mind when, after all the devastation in his life, he cries out, "Now, I am nothing!" (Job 6:21)
If we are honest with ourselves, all of us at one time or another have felt dismay. However, in many Christian lives, this state of mind seems to be the "norm." Many have experienced some sort of vision, dream or hope smashed in front of their eyes and have been left in an impossible situation. (Proverbs 29:18; 13:12) They not only feel deceived by God, but abandoned by Him in their greatest need.
The desperation that results is beyond any sensory pain that one could ever bear. Psychiatrists tell us that grief of mind is often harder to bear than physical pain. Paul expresses it perfectly in 2 Corinthians 1:8 when he says that he "...despaired of life itself."
As Christians, hope in God, His Word and His promises are the anchors of our soul. (Hebrews 6:19) It's imperative that we have complete confidence that the Lord will do all that He promises in His Word.
That's the basis of our faith. Our spiritual existence is determined by our expectation of the Lord's provision for our future. Consequently, if our trust and expectations are shattered by some inexplicable experience, then overwhelming fear and confusion and the feeling of wanting to give up result.
Take, for example, the young Christian woman who has undergone three open heart surgeries in the last three years. Cindy not only was assured by her doctor each time that she was healed and could go home, but she also has had many personal promises from the Lord about her healing. How does Cindy now deal with the fact that, as of today, her heart is once again 98% blocked, and she now faces her 29th angioplasty in 36 months?
Then, there's the Christian wife, married for over 30 years, who not only has had hundreds of personal Scriptures promising the restoration of her marriage, but also the word of her wayward husband that "this time" he would remain faithful. How does she now deal with the fact that once again her husband has been caught cheating?
And, again, how does the Christian husband apply God's promise of Psalm 91 to give His angels charge over him and to keep him in all his ways, when one year ago he lost his only daughter in a tragic car accident, his only son, soon after, was committed to a long-term care unit because of drug use and today his wife lies in a hospital because of an attempted suicide. In light of these trials, tribulations and tragedies, how does one keep from becoming dismayed, discouraged and depressed? How do we avoid the feeling of wanting to let go, give in and give up?
This is the kind of scenario that seems to be happening in so many Christian homes at the present time. As one believer put it to me recently: "It's like being on a bungee cord, bounced back and forth, never able to stop."
Another expressed it this way: "It's like bringing a baby to birth (meaning God own personal promises), but not being able to deliver it (promises unfulfilled). And yet another: "I don't know how much more I can take. I'm just about ready to give up!"
The question becomes: How do we refrain from being angry, bitter and blaming God in situations like this? How do we get to the point where we never let go, never give in and never give up?
Isaiah 41:10 tells us, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee. Be not dismayed [never give up]; for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." (See also Deuteronomy 31:8)
There's our promise. There's our hope. And there's our part. God is telling us that if we choose not to be dismayed, then He will be with us, He will strengthen us, help us and uphold us!
The question is: How do we do this? How do we never give up, so that He will be with us, help us and uphold us?
The Biblical answer is by learning longsuffering. And, believe it or not, longsuffering is a fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22 lists it as number four on a list of 10! Now, all of us yearn for the fruit of Love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, but who on earth wants to learn "longsuffering" or patient enduring? No, thank you! And yet, God says longsuffering is a part of His character, a part of His image and a part of His nature. Therefore it's something He wants us all to learn.
Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:16 that he, himself, is a perfect pattern or model of Christ's longsuffering. He says that since Christ patiently endured his (Paul's) sinful ways, we must remember this example and patiently endure others' sinful ways.
Longsuffering simply means "suffering that seems to last forever." But please hear this: Longsuffering is always associated with hope and mercy. Therefore, it is the opposite of despair, discouragement and depression. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 confirms this: "...remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love and patience of hope [longsuffering] in our Lord Jesus Christ..."
Another definition of longsuffering that I really like is: believing all things, hoping all things and enduring all things. Longsuffering here describes someone who continually puts all unfulfilled hopes, dreams and visions at the foot of the Cross and never lets go, never gives in and never gives up!
Longsuffering is simply Love that endures all circumstances. Are you willing to learn this kind of Love?
That's what this new series of articles is all about.
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To be continued next month: Longsuffering - a Fruit of the Spirit. This article has been excerpted from Nan's new book Never Give Up. See here for more details and other products from The King's High Way.