Thoughts to Ponder

Having a form of godliness but denying its power.

I know that some of you who read this will not agree with my stand on the issue I am going to address in this devotional. That is okay, that is why I call these devotionals "Thoughts to Ponder." I am not trying to be provocative, but I am trying to get people to ponder on God and His word and how it relates to our lives.

I have said in the past that about ½ of the people who write me from my suicide help page claim to be Christians. I get hundreds of letters each month and this percentage of Christians seems to hold pretty steady. This is appalling to me. How can so many Christians be so depressed as to want to kill themselves? I cannot help but wonder how many other Christians are out there who have not gotten to the point of thinking of suicide, yet feel hopeless.

I want to post two letters I have received in the past couple of days. These two are pretty typical of what I get from many people who say they are Christians. The letters are in blue. I will discuss each of them individually.

Dear Ralph,

I cannot even believe that I am writing you here; let alone reading about suicide. What makes it difficult is that I have been a saved christian for many years, but the thoughts of suicide have been running rampant through my mind for months now. I know where these thoughts come from, Satan the master-mind of death. However, I cannot see any significant reasons to want to live. I've disappointed God and myself and life has become very hard for me. You've expressed seeing many suicides in your work, but battling depression is something else. I think I've experienced the worst kind of depression as well. The one that hides behind work, everyday life but becomes stronger through the years. Having a nervous breakdown is, and really can be a blessing in disguise.

I will probably never have the courage and yes, I think it takes courage to end your life especially knowing Jesus, to end my life, but my prayer everyday is that the Lord lets me die in my sleep. I know if I committed suicide, that I would be at peace with the Lord and I know that I would be forgiven. He sees our hearts and knows every thought and he knows that life has become full of despair, hopelessness for me.

For me, I think the biggest hindrance to following through on these thoughts is my family and what people would think. Being a faithful christian in church with no signs of depression and then suicide? The truth is this: I've made a list of reasons to live and not to live, and the list of reasons not to live far outweighed the other. I am a liability to my family, to God, to myself.

I admire your website and I hope it helps others to stop and take a look at their lives and their options.

As you see this person says "I have been a saved Christian for many years." Yet she also claims that she cannot see any significant reasons to want to live. Notice also the she says "I think the biggest hindrance to following through on these thoughts (thoughts of suicide) is my family and what people would think."

Do you see a pattern here? Knowing Jesus Christ does not give her a significant reason to want to live. The only reason she does not kill herself is her family and what other people would think. No where does she show any concern at all for what God would think or what He wants.

Anytime I hear someone assume that they can thumb their nose at God and deliberately do something they know is a sin and God will just over look it, I have to wonder about their true relationship with God. Do they truly understand what He has done for them? Do they truly understand who God is in relation to who they are?

Let me go to the next letter:

I am a Christian, I read my Bible every day and pray, and go to church when I am physically able. I have been diagnosed as manic depressive with anxiety disorder, and the prognosis has gotten progressively worse every year for the past 30 years. The medications I am on no longer work. I am no longer able to work, and as a result, my husband is stuck with the whole job of supporting us. If I do not return to work we WILL lose our house and he will lose his business.

I have lost all hope. I have had two reasonable days in the past year. I am worn down in the struggle against my disease. I don't even care if I go to hell any more. I deserve it anyway. But I am currently worth more dead than alive. I have not committed suicide yet because I am a coward, and I'm sure I would somehow botch it and make matters worse.

There is no help for me.

There is no help for me. What a statement for a Christian to make. It appears that this person has been treated with the best that man has to offer for 30 years but it has done no good. I believe it has probably done more harm then good. God is not timid about those that lean on man for their help. (Jeremiah 17:5-9 NIV) This is what the LORD says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. {6} He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. {7} But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. {8} He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. {9} The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Why do we as Christians not tell people that God can help them? Why do we always seem to push problems off to the "professionals?" Now don't get me wrong, God has given us much in the way of medical science to help us in our physical struggles. However, we all to often take that knowledge and replace reliance on God with it.

For a Christian to say there is no help for them, is to say that either God is not capable of helping them, or that He does not really care enough to help them. Which is it? Is God not able to help us, or are we not worth His time?

This person goes so far as to say she does not care if she goes to hell. Since when has hell become so mundane as to compare with the sufferings of this life? Maybe it is because we no longer preach and teach about the horrors of hell and that (Hebrews 10:31 NIV) It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This brings me to the central theme for this devotional. Paul tells us: (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV) {1} But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. {2} People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, {3} without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, {4} treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- {5} having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. I have no way of knowing how many of these attributes these two people have, but I can tell you they seem to have a form of godliness and deny its power. Where is God's power to help them? Where is their love for God evidenced in these two letters? Both seem to have little concern for God or respect for His power.

I am not trying to pick on these two people, this type of attitude is all too common in the body of Christ today. I have been maligned by professing Christians because I dare to tell people who are suffering in depression that the very first place they should look is God. I have been told I don't understand depression. Well they are right I don't understand depression, but according to God no man does. Only God can know what is going on in a person's heart and mind. I may not know anything about the disease but I sure know the Doctor who can cure it.

Again let me stress that I am not saying that medical science has no answers or that a Christian should not use medical science. What I am saying is that in matters of the heart and mind a Christian should go first to the One who can help them. When a Christian is in deep despair there may well be a physical component but don't over look the possibility of a spiritual component too. I am not speaking about someone who has become ill or injured and is experiencing depression over that illness or injury. I am speaking about someone who is in deep depression for no apparent reason. I will say that even for the person who is ill or injured and therefore depressed, God is the answer.

Take a look at three men who trusted God: (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV) {16} Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. {17} If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. {18} But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Notice their statement: "But even if he does not..." They trusted God, but they knew that sometimes God's plans are not our plans. They loved God enough and respected Him enough that even if He did not save them, they would serve Him.

I have many people write me and tell me that they have prayed for years for God to help them and He has not helped. They claim there is no hope. Some even claim that they are having a hard time believing that there is a God. What a drastic difference from the attitudes of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The problem is that these people have a form of godliness but deny its power. They do not really know God.

Part of the problem is that people want God to answer their prayers in the manner they want. They do not want God to have His will in their lives, they want Him to do their bidding for them. This is the reason things like the Prayer of Jabez are so popular. People want God to be a genie in the sky who will jump at their commands.

It is not wrong to pray and ask for God to deliver you from some problem, but there is a problem if you have prayed for Him to do something for years and nothing has happened. Here is my point, if you are praying that God will take away some mental problem or even a physical problem and He has not done so, maybe it is time to reevaluate your prayer. Maybe it is time to quit asking God to take it away, and start asking Him to give you the grace to handle it. Maybe He is trying to get you to trust Him. It is possible that your spiritual growth hangs in the balance. If you will trust Him and allow Him to guide you, you will grow, but if you just demand that He 'fix' whatever is wrong, you remain stagnant.

If you deny God's power, then you will continue to wander around in the wastelands and not see prosperity when it comes. As the time of Jesus' return draws nearer the problems will increase. More people will follow after meaningless teachings which tickle their ears. More people will follow false teachers who tell them what they want to hear. More people will be lovers of self and will have a "form" of godliness but deny its power. It is up you if you are one of them or not. Satan cannot fool you if you stay in God's word, but if all you know about God is what someone else is telling you then you may well be fooled already.

Christians all over the world are being martyred and abused. We in America have been very lucky but I wonder if that will last. We may well have to face some tribulations. If we don't trust God to deal with our depression and our past pains, how in the world are we going to trust Him to deal with our physical discomfort and pain when it comes? How can we, if need be, face martyrdom with only the help of a God who cannot cure us of our past hurts and sorrows?

If your God cannot cure you or help you deal with your present problems then I urge you to get to know the God of the Bible. The God that freed His people from Egypt, who saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from a fiery furnace, who saved Daniel from hungry lions, who has offered to make you a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

God is not powerless to help us, it is we who are powerless when we have a form of godliness but deny its power!

(Numbers 11:21-23 NIV) {21} But Moses said, "Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!' {22} Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?"

{23} The LORD answered Moses, "Is the LORD'S arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you."

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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March 2002