God’s Goodness for Troubled Times
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When you feel hopeless, choose to think about the one thing you know will lift your spirit: the goodness of God.
How did Jonah do it? “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord.”1 That’s the answer to hopelessness! You turn your thoughts to God. You think about his goodness, his greatness, his love, his fairness, and his kindness.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for this is metanoia or repentance. Repentance doesn’t just mean you stop doing bad stuff. It means you change your mind and look at life from God’s viewpoint instead of your own.
Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, once said, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.” Everything depends on where you’re looking.
As you focus your attention on God’s goodness, look to his Word. One of the verses I’ve leaned on during some of the darkest times of my life is Psalm 27:13, which says, “I know that I will live to see the Lord’s goodness in this present life.”2 It’s a great reminder that God’s purpose in your life is greater than whatever problem you’re facing.
Even though it may be difficult, instead of focusing on your worries, choose to look up and turn your “thoughts once more to the Lord.”—Rick Warren3
Take a cue from Elijah4
Elijah was a tremendous spokesman for God. For three years he had been God’s mouthpiece to the nation of Israel. All kinds of miracles had taken place, and there was a spiritual awakening in his nation and a turning away from pagan idols. But one person did not like Elijah—Jezebel, the queen of Israel. A very wicked woman, she hated Elijah, partly because he was a godly and faithful messenger for God. In the preceding verses she sends a messenger to Elijah saying, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”5 The Elijah who has been fearless before an entire nation for three years suddenly goes to pieces when one woman threatens his life.
Elijah was a prime candidate for depression. He was physically tired, he was emotionally exhausted, and someone had threatened his life. He was an emotional fruit basket at this point, with all kinds of problems: fear, resentment, guilt, anger, loneliness, and worry. Elijah became depressed because of one incident too many that tipped him over the edge. And you know what? God says that “Elijah was a man just like us.”6He had the same problems we do, and in this case, he seems to have had a problem with depression. Elijah was so depressed that he was ready to die. Do you feel like that sometimes? I do.
Why do we get ourselves in such an emotional mess? Because of faulty thinking. If you think in a negative way, you’re going to feel depressed. Your emotions are caused by how you interpret life. If you look at life from a negative point of view, sooner or later you’re going to get down.
If you want to get rid of negative emotions, you have to change the way you think. The Bible says we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind.7 The only way we can change our mind and emotions is by changing the way we think. …
The fact is that God knows everything about you. ... So he’s not disappointed when a cable comes loose or a fuse blows. God knows that you’re human, because he made you and he knows what makes you tick.
Jesus Christ wants to lift you out of your depression. He can help you; he can change you; he can heal you of depression. …
Don’t wait until you are depressed to take your Bible and go to the coast or to the park or the lake or the countryside. Sit down and read your Bible, and get alone with God. Just let God love you and speak to you. Let him meet your needs, and let yourself feel his presence. There is no greater antidepressant than communication and fellowship with God.—Stephen Sizer8
Trusting in God’s goodness
It is not too difficult to affirm the goodness of God when all is going well. … But it is a bit more difficult to extol the goodness of God during the storms of life—when your spouse betrays you, when your boss fires you, or when your doctor calls with life-altering medical news. Charles Spurgeon once wrote that “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” But how do we trust God with the pain in our lives? Can we trust God when others have let us down and even betrayed us?
If we are to trust God to lead us through life—if we are to put our hand in His hand—then we need to understand that God is always, only, and entirely good in all that He says, all that He does, and all that He is. Psalm 119:68 declares, “The Lord is good, and does good.” If we are to entrust our very selves to Him in life and in death, then we need to believe that He is navigating the waves of life for us in such a way to keep us, preserve us, and bless us—and not in such a way as to harm us.
Recall that Jeremiah 29:11 declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This means that no matter how we feel, if we belong to Jesus, God is at work in every situation we face to do us everlasting good. As Romans 8:28 states, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” In all things—the good, the bad, the tragic, the painful, the surprising, the downright ugly—God is at work for our good. …
Whatever you are facing today, it can be released and placed into the loving hands of God Almighty. He is trustworthy. He can be trusted with your situation and struggles. As Fanny Crosby wrote in one of her classic hymns: “All the way my Saviour leads me—what have I to ask beside? Can I doubt his tender mercy, who thru life has been my guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell! For I know whatever befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”—Encounter the Truth9
I love the Lord because he hears my prayers and answers them.
Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I breathe!
Death stared me in the face—I was frightened and sad.
Then I cried, “Lord, save me!”
How kind he is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects the simple and the childlike; I was facing death, and then he saved me.
Now I can relax. For the Lord has done this wonderful miracle for me.
He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall live! Yes, in his presence—here on earth!10
Prayer for troubled times
This seems to be one of those times when troubles abound, but I know that You understand and can take care of me.
Where there are problems and pain, give Your peace and mercy.
Where there is tiredness, please give understanding of Your strength, and show me how to avail myself of that strength by leaning on You.
Where there are difficult decisions to make, or confusion or stress, make Your way plain and give everything needed for me to follow where You lead.
Where there is loneliness, I ask You to renew the experience of Your nearness and draw me into greater intimacy with You.
Where there is insecurity or self-doubt, please grant renewed confidence in Your abilities, more faith in You.
Where there is fear, please demonstrate Your love and give courage, as I know You can work out any situation for the best.
Where there is something blocking fellowship with You, please reveal the obstacle and take it away—whether sin, circumstances, or lack of faith.
Where there is a need for finances or other provision, please supply as You promised in Your Word, “God will supply all your need.”11
Where there is illness, send healing by Your miracle-working power and give instruction for healthful lifestyles.
Where there is discouragement, hopelessness, or depression, please send hope, renewed joy, and trust for the promised good You will work in our lives no matter what problems we face.
Where there is a need for friendship and love, send other believers to fill up the void, as the Bible says, “If we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other.”12
Where there is a spiritual emptiness, send Your Word for inspiration, and grant sweet communion with You in prayer.
Whatever the need, please fill it, Jesus, as the Giver of all good things. Amen.
Published on Anchor October 2022. Read by John Laurence.
Music by John Listen.
1 Jonah 2:7 TLB.
4 1 Kings 19:1–18.
5 1 Kings 19:2.
6 James 5:17.
7 Romans 12:2.
11 Philippians 4:19 KJV.
12 1 John 1:7 TLB.