Jeremiah’s Lament, By Proxy


Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
—Jeremiah 12:1b

It’s a good question to ask concerning those who wickedly prospered at the expense of others, knowing they were doing wrong but letting expediency and the lure of a quick buck be their guides. Righteous or wicked?The present economic disaster rests largely on the shoulders of the treacherous and deceitful, doesn’t it?

What makes it all the worse is that those who made millions selling derivatives of derivatives of derivatives, who knew it was all a house of cards that would doom other people,  are off enjoying the beaches of Nice on the Riviera while you’re in tears because you can’t find your tattered box of grocery coupons.

Monday was one of those days that amounts to a troika of tragedy, bad news coming in threes, one of those days that has you questioning everything, especially a verse like this one:

No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.
—Proverbs 12:21

When it seems to be nothing but ill for the supposedly righteous, while the supposedly wicked prosper, well that’s one of those theologically low days, isn’t it? Makes you wonder just where you stand on the righteousness-wickedness scale.

A couple weeks ago, I was talking with a friend who said to me that it sure seemed to him that people who are closer to God appear to have more trouble in life than those who could care less about the Almighty.

Do those righteous folks always end up like Joseph, who went from the bowels of Pharaoh’s dungeon to the seat at his right hand, along the way becoming the savior of Egypt? Or are they more likely to be like this fellow:

There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man.
—Ecclesiastes 9:14-15

Starting the week off on heavy topics may be par for the course around this blog, but I’m holding onto hope anyway.

What is your take on this? Is it true that people who are more devout seem to suffer more than the clueless pagans around them? Regardless of how you answer that, why do you believe that way?

Black Dogs and Slate-Colored Skies


It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
—Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 ESV

Greater Cincinnati broods under a pall of slate-colored skies for much of the winter. That frigid, monochromatic season arrives like a boorish houseguest, and his anticipated departure encapsulates the entire household's hope. Slate-colored skiesAs for me, I've never been one for a perpetual grayness that obscures the colors of life. Cerulean skies and a smiling sun are more my style.

I've noticed a trend in talking about depression on several Godblogs. Brad Hightower of 21st Century Reformation discusses depression and the creative process, Nathan Busenitz looks at failed secular answers to confronting depression, Dan Phillips of Team Pyro observes forty years of desert wandering, while Lisa Samson chronicles her own battle with the affliction. Various reasons for depression exist. B.H. ties it in with the ever-popular tortured artist effect, N.B. for the lack of a godly foundation, D.P. goes for the unbelief angle, while L.S. attributes it to artificial sweeteners. I can definitely see all four causes as possible culprits.

Winston Churchill, the peerless political hero of WWII, referred to his depression as his "black dog." Man's best friend took on a Stygian demeanor, but Churchill's affliction undergirded the hope that lifted his entire nation in evil days. Out of his own personal abyss, he saw a light in the distance and led his countrymen to it.

The patron saint of a majority of the Godblogosphere, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, fought depression most of his life. Several people died at one of his preaching events when some fool hollered "Fire!" in the crowded theater. Those deaths haunted the "Prince of Preachers" for much of his life. Later, Spurgeon dealt with respected Christian ministers who belittled his ministry. Then came his declining health. He writes:

I know that wise brethren say, ‘You should not give way to feelings of depression.’ … If those who blame quite so furiously could once know what depression is, they would think it cruel to scatter blame where comfort is needed. There are experiences of the children of God which are full of spiritual darkness; and I am almost persuaded that those of God’s servants who have been most highly favoured have, nevertheless, suffered more times of darkness than others.

As the nights grow longer and the news around the world tells ever more grim tales of hate, fear, loss, and death, many go into "the most wonderful time of the year" with sad faces. Nothing weighs the heart than to fall into the recessed corners of life while others decorate brightly-ornamented trees and sing festive songs.

The Christmas carol "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" begins

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Four hundred cursed years without the voice of God speaking life into His chosen people. The heavens were as brass, sealed with bars of cruel iron. Yearning and mourning, but to no immediate satisfaction.

I believe that one of the dark secrets of our churches are the countless souls stumbling through fog under slate-colored skies, black dog at their side. Maybe they've failed to believe in their hearts, or maybe they never should've downed that Diet Coke with a Splenda chaser.

Or perhaps they are simply people who know the deep, deep love of Jesus, but weep with Him for a world rent by injustice, want, and human savagery. For the True Light of the World is also the sinless Man of Sorrows. 

Are we ministering that Light to others? Have we tasted of the heavenly sorrow that brings wisdom so we can speak the voice of God into the yearning barrenness of another?

Spurgeon again:

I would, therefore, try to cheer any brother who is sad, for his sadness is not necessarily blameworthy. If his downcast spirit arises from unbelief, let him flog himself, and cry to God to be delivered from it; but if the soul is sighing–‘though he slay me, yet will I trust in him’–its being slain is not a fault.

This Christmas, take a moment to look around. Someone you know is struggling with depression, I can guarantee it. Find out why. Better yet, shine the light of Christ in the midst of his or her darkness.

Wintertime cannot prevail. One day the Lion of Judah will return and this perpetual chill we dwell under will surrender to eternal Springtime.


In sibilant winter winds hear the answer

To the questions, to the groanings of the trees,

"How long, how long must we slumber

And the nights saunter on without number

While we sleep away day and we slumber

As the hours roll by as they please?"


And from the ice-stifled brook by the woodside

With the echoes of its runnings frozen still,

"What time, what time will I waken

To the courses and swells now forsaken,

To meander my way when I waken

From the grip of this dire winter chill?"


See, hibernating, the vole in the meadow

In its dreaming, in its breathing whispers, too,

"Enough? Enough in my larder?

Will the length of the winter make harder

My assault on the stores in my larder;

Will I have all I need to get through?"


Listening in on the widower weeping,

Hear the anguish of a young man turning old:

"Oh who, oh who will be waiting,

And my shattered heart anticipating,

As I live out my winter here waiting

For the rest of my life to unfold?"


In sibilant winter winds comes the answer,

"There's a splendor to the coming of that day

When the trees' dormant hands will applaud me,

And the streams' many voices will laud me,

And all creatures below will applaud me

When the wintertime passes away."


"Winter" © 2002 by Dan Edelen, Ethereal Pen Productions, LLC.

Discouragement & Thanksgiving


I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the LORD.
—Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV

My wife and I received more discouraging news Tuesday evening. I don’t know why disappointment seems to gather around the holidays like a flock of morbid moths to a Christmas candle, but I’m getting accustomed to it.

We hear all the stories how more people die in December than any other month of the year. (I lost my Dad six Decembers ago, so I can point to my own experience of that truth.) And for every Jolly Old Saint Nick, there’s some Scrooge ready with a “Bah, Humbug!” CornucopiaBad seems to lurk around good for no other reason than sheer spite. Still, I think Job—who had leeway to talk—said it best: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)

We Americans aren’t very good at being grateful in times of trouble. I think we used to be, but perhaps our decadence snuffed our thankfulness. I pray that’s not the case. Still, we have a strange karmic approach to thankfulness that says that as long as the good outweighs the bad, we’ll be thankful. If things slide the other way…well, all bets are off.

So we’re going into another Thanksgiving carrying a load. It’s not life-threatening, but it’s still a bitter pill. I thought we’d avoid eating bitter pills on our menu this year. One snuck in with a day to spare, I guess.

I’ve generally thought of myself as a thankful person, though not perfectly. The one thing I’ve tried to instill in my son is gratefulness for even the smallest gifts God gives. Or as Habakkuk so ably put it:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
—Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV

“To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” I love that little flourish at the end. Music in the midst of discouragement. Think Paul and Silas in stocks in prison, singing hymns into the wee hours. I wish more modern worship songs said something about praising God when hell burst against us. That’s the kind of strong Church I long to see. “You can flog us to our skin hangs in ribbons, but we’ll go down singing the praises of Jesus Christ.”

(That may come to that sooner than we think.)

Faith is thankfulness for goodness put on hold. Like Psalm 27 says above, Wait for the Lord. Perhaps that’s why so few of us are truly thankful: we don’t know how to wait for anything. “We’ll take the despair now, please, but don’t bother us with thankfulness.” Sometimes, I think we believe thankfulness lives for another day. But it can’t wait, can it? Thankfulness embodies what we are in Christ, every minute of every day.

I hear people saying that Easter is one of the holiest of Christian holy days, but I’d like us to give almost as much attention to Thanksgiving Day. Because as much as we’ll be enjoying the fruits of Christ’s resurrection, we’ll be spending eternity thanking Him for it—and for every small gift we failed to appreciate this side of heaven.

Better practice now.

Have a truly thankful Thanksgiving.