January 2011 was one of the darkest months in my life. God was disciplining me because the sin of lust had captivated my heart and life. I lost nearly everything I loved. My friends. My church. The job I loved as a youth pastor. My reputation. And nearly much more.
But one of the most painful things about loss is that life rarely slows down for you to grieve. The bills keep coming, even when you’re bruised and broken. I had a six-month-old baby boy to provide for. And although my wife Holly was never officially diagnosed, looking back we’re quite certain she was suffering from post-partum depression. I had no idea what to do or where to go.
Some friends of ours told us about an entry-level position working at UPS which has a major hub in Louisville, Kentucky. I drove my depressed wife and colicky baby to a job interview in a strange city in the middle of a January snowstorm. It had been several years since I had worked in any jobs that weren’t ministry-related. Sure, I had a master’s degree, but for some reason UPS doesn’t care if you know a lot about New Testament Greek or Systematic Theology.
Nonetheless, I was confident I would get the job. I was resourceful, hard-working, intelligent, and respectful. I still remember the snowy drive back to the hotel after the interview. I’m sure Jonah was screaming. He hated car rides. These were hard times, but I was hopeful. Life hurt, but it wasn’t over yet. Lord willing, I would hear back from my interviewer in a week or two and then we’d move our little family to a new city for a new adventure.
But God had other plans. By the time we returned to the hotel I had an email in my inbox from UPS. I clicked on it. “We regret to inform you this position has already been filled.” WHAT?!? I drove my family 400 miles to interview for a position that wasn’t even available?!? I felt weak, empty, broken, foolish, and small.
Somehow in God’s providence, my heart was drawn to the book of Lamentations. I read the first 20 verses of chapter 3 and identified with Jeremiah’s lament about the agony of discipline. “Yes, this really does hurt.” And then I got to verse 21:
(21) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: (22) The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; (23) they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Like Jeremiah, my circumstances hadn’t changed. I was still a poor, unemployed, disgraced, former youth pastor with a Master’s Degree who couldn’t even get an entry-level job at UPS. My wife was still depressed and my baby was still colicky. But God was teaching me the lesson he taught Jeremiah over 2500 years ago. The same lesson I hope to share with you today. Hope arrives when you tell yourself the truth.
Martin Lloyd-Jones famously put it this way in his book Spiritual Depression:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. . . . The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way.”[i]
Hope arrives as you tell yourself the truth.
[i] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, pp. 20-21.