Interview with

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Audio Transcript

Today we look again at life when it’s at its darkest. Christians often go through dark seasons, sometimes long dark seasons. Maybe that’s you right now. Maybe this episode is providentially put into your life right now.

This is the context for today’s email from a young man named Joshua. Joshua lives with his dad in California. “Dear Pastor John, thank you for this podcast. Is there anything I can do to help God help my dad? We’re not in the best living situation, and though we’ve prayed, we haven’t found a new place to live. I am actively pursuing the Lord in my mornings, and I am trying to lead my dad here, yet he still struggles with his faith. Just last night he said he doesn’t feel God’s love for him as his son. Life is hard for him right now, and God feels distant. What can I say and how can I pray for a dad who does not feel God’s love?

Joshua, here’s what I would want my son to do for me if I were in a dark place like your dad is right now. And I could be there; I have been there. There’s no Christian who doesn’t experience seasons when God feels distant or when we don’t feel his love as sweetly as we would like to.

Meditate on the Cross

First, I would want you, my son, to speak the truth to me about the objective reality of the love of God in the historical act of the death of his Son. Even though your dad does not now feel the preciousness of the love of God in giving his only Son, he needs to hear it. “Faith comes [by] hearing” (Romans 10:17) — over and over, not just at the beginning.

Make the connection for him between the love of God and the death of Jesus, because that’s the rock-solid, objective foundation of our feelings of being loved. For example:

  • “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us [he shows, he demonstrates his love for us] in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6–8).
  • “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
  • “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
  • “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
  • And that precious, present-tense word loves in Revelation 1:5: “[He] loves us.” Not loved, as in most places. “[He] loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.”

That’s what we need to hear. That’s what I would need to hear and what your dad needs to hear. When our feelings don’t correspond to reality, we need rock-solid, objective, historical truth about the death of Jesus.

Treasure Signs of Life

If I were your dad, I would want to be reminded that the love of God for me was shown to me not only when Christ died, but also when he made me alive and gave me the mustard seed of faith that I’m struggling to hold on to. “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us . . . made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4–5). If I have any life in me at all, small as it feels right now, it is owing to the great love of God for me in making me alive.

Remind your father that when God made us his own by his great love, nothing can now separate us from him:

I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)

Learn Gutsy Guilt

Surprise him with a passage he may never have thought about. I love this passage. I’ve called it gutsy guilt:

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
     when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
     the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
     because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
     and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
     I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:8–9)

Even when we sin our way into darkness, the child of God can speak with boldness to the darkness and say, “Darkness, you will not have the last word. Even the God who put me here in discipline, who made darkness cover me, he will bring me out. He will execute judgment for me, not against me.” That’s what I call gutsy guilt for the justified children of God.

Wait for the Morning

Remind him that even when darkness covers us, and wherever we go in our weariness and lack of feeling, God is there, and he is our light.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
     Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
     If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
     and your right hand shall hold me.

And this is so relevant for his dad:

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
     and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you [O God];
     the night is bright as the day,
     for darkness is as light with you. (Psalm 139:7–12)

And then add this promise for a sweet application of that psalm:

Weeping may tarry for the night,
     but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Pray for Spiritual Strength

And finally, remind him that the apostle Paul knew that the struggle to feel the love of Christ would be part of the Christian warfare, so he taught us how to pray about it:

[I pray that you] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18–19)

The amazing thing about that prayer is that Paul shows us that it takes strength to comprehend the love of Christ. There is a kind of soul strength that God gives in answer to prayer that enables us to grasp and feel and enjoy the love of God in Christ for us personally.

So, I pray, Joshua, that you will be filled with peace and joy and hope as you share these things with your father. And you can tell him that our little APJ band here is praying for him.