Pastor Choi offers three pieces of advice to those who are down due to their life’s difficult situations: 1. Do not trust own feelings. Rather, trust in God and His Word. 2. Do not let the negatives pull you down. Cherish small successes and thank God for the strengths He has given you. 3. Surround yourself with trusted believers, family, and friends, because you need their support and their encouragement.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
When You Are Down
Numbers 11:10-15 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Complaint of Moses
10 Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers ’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ 14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. 15 So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”
One of church jokes on Moses: Why did Moses wander in the wilderness for 40 years? Because, being a man, he never asked for directions. Indeed, Moses led the congregation of Israel (a.k.a. Israelites) for 40 years in the wilderness until they finally entered the Promised Land.
Grumbling Generation: During those forty years in wilderness, many a time the Israelites grumbled against God and against Moses: mainly due to the harsh living conditions in the wilderness: from food and drinks to fears. Their constant grumbling against God and against their leader provoked God to anger and drove Moses to frustration. In turn, Moses complained to God. I must say here: it is best for us not to complain or grumble, but the truth is that God tolerates our occasional complaints but never likes our grumbling. Grumbling displeases God, while occasional complaints don’t (disclaimer: I never suggest you to complain to God oftenJ).
I would like to make a clear distinction here between two words: Complain vs. Grumble: The Oxford Dictionary defines as follows:
Complain: to say that one is not satisfied/something is wrong/one is suffering.
Grumble: to complain/protest in a bad tempered way.
Tired Leader: Let’s go to our leader Moses again. Most of the times, he handled well his moments of frustration and discouragement. In fact, I admire his patience and humility with the Congregation of Israel (personally, I don’t believe I would survive even a year in Moses’ shoes). Yet, there were times when Moses had more than he could handle. Here, I see a leader discouraged / fed-up with his people’s constant rebellion against God. He had enough. He was about to quit.
So, one day, he vented out his frustration to God in his prayer. He begged God to release him from his duty. Listen again: 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers ’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ 14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. 15 So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” (vv. 11-15) [emphasis mine].
Whoa! Did you just hear what I heard? His death wish in the words he uttered to God? Pretty strong, I must say. Come to think of it, some great men of God have been there and done that: Job wished to die in the midst of misery. So did Jonah. So did Elijah. So did I (not that I am worthy of being in that party). Welcome to the club. When the chips are down, we all get discouraged. Sometimes, we even wish to die.
I remember, several years ago, falling into a spiritual depression. I didn’t arrive at a death wish, but I was very discouraged. One day I attended a District Day of Learning where church leaders were invited to learn something beneficial for church growth. The topic of the day was “Discover your spirituality type.” Both for pastors and congregations. There are four types: Theologian, Charismatic, Mystic, and Crusader. The speakers also talked about the American spirituality in the past 50 years quoting from Robert Wuthnow’s Book: “After Heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s.” Here’s a summary.
The 1950s was the era of “Dwelling Spirituality.” Here come the baby-boomers! Neighborhoods were swarmed with children. Houses of worship were filled with people. Denominations across the board all flourished. People flocked to the church which became a cultural center.
“Seeking Spirituality” emerged in the 1960s. People would go beyond churches. The denominational loyalty began to erode. Believers began to go any church they chose to.
“Practice or (Do Something) Spirituality” emerged in the 21st century. On the one hand, people love “hands-on” ministries. On the other hand, however, they are uncomfortable within a single faith community when it comes down to commitment. In fact, they offer minimal or no commitment to their churches. E.g. The attitude of “No longer than six weeks” commitment permeates in committees, membership classes, confirmation class, and even worship leaders. That day I struggled with one question: what happened to the membership vow? (every members promises “to faithfully participate in ministries by prayers, presence, gifts, and service”). That “Non-committal” phrase was what got me!!! Welcome to the era of non-commitment.
I Was a Discouraged Leader: That day, more than anything else, I lamented over the fact that the Christian Church suffers from this great pandemic of the “non-committal” attitude among its members.
That afternoon, and for the next two days, I found myself very discouraged / tired and spiritually down. Thank God, though, my slump didn’t last long.
How I Came out of the Spiritual Dump: Three things helped me to snap out of the spiritual depression.
First, it was God’s Word. One verse pulled me out right away. It was 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (NASB).” I learned a lesson that I should never trust my own feelings because they change constantly. I also learned not to make any decision when I feel down or angry or hungry. I would rather trust in God and His unchanging Word than my own feelings. To such an immovable Word of God I can anchor my soul.
Next, I didn’t let the negatives pull me down. Instead, I focused on what was working well and cherished small successes in my ministry at that time. E.g. a couple of members of the church thanked me, the pastor, for their answered prayers. In turn, I was grateful to God for answering their prayers of which I was part.
Thirdly, I surrounded myself with faithful family and friends. They listened to my frustrations and supported me, and encouraged me to keep on going. Their support and words of encouragement were priceless because they lifted me up. That’s why I thank God every day for my family!
What Do You Do When You Feel Down?
I would give three pieces of advice to those who feel down and frustrated with their life situations.
First, trust in God and His Word, not your moods. God makes all things beautiful according to His good will in His time. His timing is never too late or too early. Therefore, be patient. Do not trust your feelings especially when your chips are down. Never make a decision influenced by your moods, either. Let God’s word speak to you. Soak your soul in God’s word daily.
Next, never let the negatives pull you down. Focus on the small successes and on your strengths that work well. Recall the times when God answered your prayers and thank God for that. Do not give up but keep on praying (Jesus’ command in Luke 18:1 ff). P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens). Meditate on God’s Word that would keep your heart and mind in assurance and peace such as Philippians 4:6-7 and Matthew 6. That’s where this year’s Lenten Challenge comes in. Do the daily proclamation using the booklet I provided for you.
Third, surround yourself with trusted believers for their support and prayers. You need family and friends who would encourage you to go on in God. E.g. Paul was encouraged by Titus’s arrival. Even Jesus had a moment of discouragement (John 6:53-69). One day, He fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. The crowd loved it. So, on the following day, they returned for more bread. Jesus, this time, gave them a hard teaching to accept: to eat His flesh and to drink His blood meaning His own atoning sacrifice for all. The crowd didn’t understand the true meaning of it. In fact, they took it literally and got quite offended with His message. Shaking their heads in disapproval of His teaching, they deserted Him. Jesus, turning to His disciples, said, “You won’t leave me, would you?” Peter answered: No, we are going to stick with you and around you, because You have the words of eternal life (v. 68).
You can definitely use the prayers from your friends as well. E.g. Even Jesus asked for prayers from His disciples in his darkest hour at the garden of Gethsemane. How much more do we need them! Ask your friends to double up their prayers for you!
Jesus Knows Your Problem: Jesus deeply cares about your daily needs. In fact, if He knows how many strands of hair you have, don’t you think He already knows what you are up against? Therefore, hang in there, because He will see you through.
The late Corrie ten Boom once said: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” Be still and trust the Greatest Engineer of all—God. Never trust your feelings. Anchor your soul to God’s Word that is immovable. Gather your trusted friends and family members and pray together. You will get out of your slump in no time. Amen.