We all experience challenges in life. If life is not tough for you right now, just wait. I’m sure you know that it will be soon. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but you know it’s true. Trials, tests, and tribulation await all of us. It’s part of life.
So we all must ask ourselves, are we prepared to face the storms of life? Will we be ready when the storms rock our “ship” and overwhelm us with “waves” of distress and despair? Is overcoming them possible? Or must we just grit our teeth, “weather” the storm, and wait it out?
Sometimes our suffering is a consequence of our own sin. Other times it comes from the sins of others. And sometimes despair rises up from the news reports that fill the airwaves with the devastating consequences of sin. Whatever it is that disturbs our peace and unsettles our souls, we definitely face storms in a world that is disheartening, discouraging, and distressing. But there is hope.
So how do we overcome distress and despair, sadness and suffering? There’s an ancient answer that always works and it involves the eyes and the heart! We’ll get to the answer, but first, let’s think about eye strain and heart pain.
The 21st century ushered in the “screen generation.” Everyone now has their eyes focused on some sort of screen. We learn from and are entertained by TVs, movies, computers, tablets, and phone screens. While these “screens” can deliver content that is godly and beneficial, they also deliver sinful and destructive content with images showcasing the seductions of worldly lust and the sins of fleshly desires. What we see and hear on these screens enters into our minds and influences our thinking, our words, and our actions.
Whether we like it or not, the new way to connect with friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and just about everyone is on a screen. It’s true that we’ve never been more connected. But it’s also true that we are more disconnected than ever before. In-person meetings and phone calls that offered personal interaction have been replaced with video conferencing, emails, and text messages (the shorter, the better). Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media have turned the personal diary or journal into a public platform for every thought, word, and activity. They serve as a window to the soul, which in some cases reveals more than should be told.
Eye Strain + Heart Pain = Soul-Suffering Sadness
Sadly, far too many people can’t seem to take their eyes off the screens. It’s no longer the bright lights of a city that capture our attention. Instead, it’s the dim glare of various screens that mesmerizes our minds.
Electronic connectivity is contributing to a breakdown in interpersonal communication skills that is troublesome at best and destructive at worst. Most of the branding and messaging that people see and hear is telling them to get more, to be more, and to do more. We’re told we need more to be happy. The messages subtly suggest that happiness is in our hands and satisfaction can be obtained through worldly gain. As Christians, we know this is far from the truth.
So what are we to do when the “kingdom of self” is rapidly expanding and people are finding satisfaction in getting more, rather than giving more? What are we to do when people are conforming to the world and Jesus is being forgotten.
Overcoming Sadness with Hope
When worldly things and fleshly pleasures do not satisfy, despair increases, depression abounds the soul suffers, and sadness results. The solution to a suffering soul can’t be found on a screen. You can’t “touch” your way through a few web pages and find real comfort and true peace. You might find a few platitudinous thoughts that will provide a temporary jolt of relief, but real comfort is only found in a Person–the Lord Jesus Christ.
As always, God’s Word has the answer. Three times the psalmist asked, why are you downcast, oh my soul? (Psalm 42:5, 11, 43:5). Without expecting an answer, he quickly gave the solution to his downcast condition:
Psalm 42:6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You…
The psalmist had the right focus. It wasn’t looking deep inside himself and understanding his feelings. It wasn’t looking to words on a piece of parchment. And it certainly didn’t involve a screen of any sort. The solution was found by looking up and “seeing” the Lord Jesus.
Seeing the Screen or Seeing the Saviour?
The solution to a downcast soul is to remember the Lord, to “see” the Saviour. We began with Eye Strain + Heart Pain = Soul-Suffering Sadness. Let’s look at that equation:
- Eye Strain: Whatever worldly lights are before us, Jesus shines brighter.
- Heart Pain: Whatever heart pain we feel, He is our hope
- Soul Suffering: Whatever suffering we experience, He is our comfort.
- Sadness: Whatever problem we face, He is with us.
Real joy only comes by remembering our God and remembering all that we already have! When we understand that we have been given everything we need, then we are free to give everything we have. That is the true joy that comes when we find our rest and satisfaction in the Lord. It is the joy that Nehemiah expressed, “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
Eye Strain is a choice. We choose to focus our eyes on the screens of our day. Let us look to the Saviour. Jesus is the only One who is capable of truly satisfying our souls.
The psalmist sought the Lord before he acknowledged his downcast soul suffering. He reversed the unhealthy equation from. . . Eye Strain + Heart Pain = Soul Suffering Sadness to a God-seeking, God-focused, God-loving, God-honoring equation. . .Soul Suffering Sadness – Heart pain – Eye Strain = Seeing Jesus and Seeing Jesus = Steadfast Love + Joyful Heart + Peaceful Rest + Strengthening Hope
The psalmist remembered God and focused his eyes upward. God uplifted his soul, healed his heart, removed his sadness, and restored his hope and joy. The psalmist closed his psalm proclaiming God’s faithfulness and provision:
Psa 42:1-2 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
Psa 42:6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You…
Psa 42:8, 43:2-4 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me…For You are the God of my strength…Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your tabernacle. Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.
Seeing + Hoping
The psalmist had the answer….and so do we! Look to Jesus.
- Jesus is the only one who can satisfy the hunger of our souls (Matthew 5:6, Luke 1:53).
- Jesus is the only one who gives sure and steadfast hope in this world (Hebrews 6:19) and hope for the one to come (Colossians 1:27).
In the dark seasons of the soul, and even in the bright light of happy days, fix your eyes on the Author and Finisher of your faith, Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). He is ever-present (Hebrews 13:5). Seek Him early, and then when life’s challenges, disappointments, troubles, and worries open the door to sadness, remember. . .
Psa 43:5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
Joy in Jesus
In Jesus alone is inexpressible joy–the only joy that truly satisfies.
1 Pet 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Pet 1:6-8 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith; the salvation of your souls.
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