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15 March, 2013

The Discipline of Dismay

If you are going through a time where you are not sure what is going on in your Christian walk,  inside you feel empty, sad, overwhelmed and depressed; all of the sudden the Christianity you thought you knew, the Christianity that brought you so much joy is far out of reach. You feel like you are on some kind of automatic pilot. Even faking a smile is hard for you. Then you are going through what Oswald called the discipline of dismay. The discipline of dismay lasts a little while. It is a dark period of your life that your soul needs to go through if your Christianity is to amount to anything to God.

Like Oswald said, we tend to look back on our time of obedience and our past sacrifices to God in an effort to keep our enthusiasm for him strong (see Isaiah 50:10-11) One of the mistake we make is to try and find the enthusiasm back. We do not realize that God is not looking for that enthusiasm, He in fact does not care for it. He wants you to endure the inexplicable pain that you are in right now, while seeking His face and focus on Him like there is no tomorrow.

What Oswald did not know when he wrote that piece is that we are in a time where when the enthusiasm for God is gone, the younger generation falls back on Social Media to seek encouragement.  So they find comfort through those shallow comments these professed Christians have perfected over the years, but with no real meaning to their lives. I noticed as well the younger generation lack guidance and understanding coming from their own family. If they had parents living deeper Christian lives with Him, parents who have gone through the process with God, those younger people would have a better understanding of what is going on and would stop in seeking for the type of band-aid comfort they find on Social Media. 

What we do not realize, when God takes us through a time of dismay, it is indeed a good thing for our soul and our walk with Him. While we are there, it does not seem it is possible that any good can come of it because there is so much confusion just trying to understand why we are where we are with Him. But, it is good because God is taking you beyond a time where you can bypass the sense of self-satisfaction you get from your Bible reading, prayer time, and Christian activities. He is taking you deeper into Him. The sad thing is, until God takes you there, you would never realize that you have been living a self-satisfying kind of Christian life.

This phase is mandatory, the waiting process, His silence, the fact that you do not recognize Him and He is becoming more and more like a stranger to you. The protest that you will go through, the soul searching, the lack of answers from Him, are all part of the process. The attitude He is looking for is for you to surrender it all to Him, for you to stop protesting, for you to trust those words you have been reading in the Bible and trust that He is a faithful God. When you go through it with the right attitude, you position yourself to receive more of His grace.

It is a time of great depression and no matter what you do, your soul cannot get out of it. Don’t despair, and don’t panic. If you surrender through the process, I promise you, He will take care of you in the same way He took care of Elijah when he was running for his life and God sent an Angel to feed Him and care for him.  He will take care of you in the same way He took care of Paul who was so discouraged that nothing could revive his soul, God had to send an angel on three occasions to reassure him and strengthen him.

So, if you are going to a dark time with Him, I beg of you, stop seeking for temporary shallow satisfaction. It is a time to hang on to Him more than ever. It is the perfect time to test Hebrews 13:5 “I will never desert you nor forsake you.”  Trust in the God of your Salvation. Look to His Cross. It is hard to let go of all we know and to hang on to Him especially at a time where we have no answer and He seems more absent than we have ever experienced. But it is okay. It will feel as if you are asked to let go of something that is holding you nicely and help you stand up, for something you have no idea what it is, where it is, what it is made of. In fact within yourself, you have no desire of letting go of something you can see for something you cannot see. But, your soul needs to go through it all. Your soul needs to learn to trust what it cannot see
That’s exactly what He wants from you. Even though nothing makes sense to you, I beg of you to trust Him and He will not fail you.

In essence, what you are doing during this period, is giving up your identity to take on His!

Here is Oswald Chambers's devotion for today

The Discipline of Dismay

At the beginning of our life with Jesus Christ, we were sure we knew all there was to know about following Him. It was a delight to forsake everything else and to throw ourselves before Him in a fearless statement of love. But now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is far ahead of us and is beginning to seem different and unfamiliar— “Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed” (Mark 10:32).
There is an aspect of Jesus that chills even a disciple’s heart to its depth and makes his entire spiritual life gasp for air. This unusual Person with His face set “like a flint” (Isaiah 50:7) is walking with great determination ahead of me, and He strikes terror right through me. He no longer seems to be my Counselor and Friend and has a point of view about which I know nothing. All I can do is stand and stare at Him in amazement. At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize that there is a distance between Jesus and me and I can no longer be intimate with Him. I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely distant.
Jesus Christ had to understand fully every sin and sorrow that human beings could experience, and that is what makes Him seem unfamiliar. When we see this aspect of Him, we realize we really don’t know Him. We don’t recognize even one characteristic of His life, and we don’t know how to begin to follow Him. He is far ahead of us, a Leader who seems totally unfamiliar, and we have no friendship with Him.
The discipline of dismay is an essential lesson which a disciple must learn. The danger is that we tend to look back on our times of obedience and on our past sacrifices to God in an effort to keep our enthusiasm for Him strong (see Isaiah 1:10-11). But when the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy

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