Tough Feelings, Gracious God: In Turmoil

1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
   against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
   deliver me!
2For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
   why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
   because of the oppression of the enemy?

3Send out your light and your truth;
   let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
   and to your dwelling!
4Then I will go to the altar of God,
   to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
   O God, my God.

5Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my salvation and my God.

Psalm 43

Sarah[1] was one of those people you couldn’t help but like. She was in her 90’s when I got to know her and she resided in an assisted living facility, but she was still quite independent. She was optimistic, charismatic, and she had spunk.

But sometimes when I would go to visit her, she wouldn’t be her happy, spunky self. Instead, there was a seriousness to her demeanor.

When this was the case I knew she’d been under spiritual attack. Now Sarah was a faithful Christian and had always been a regular at church, in devotions, and in prayer. I was just a young pastor and I don’t doubt that Sarah was far more spiritually mature than me. But even the most spiritually faithful and mature among us face spiritual attacks.

In fact, we should expect spiritual attacks!

The way in which Satan would attack Sarah was to try to cause her to doubt her faith.

“You might have faith, but is it enough? Do you really have enough faith? I know you have struggles. If you have faith, then why have you been worrying?”

These accusing questions would lead Sarah to then wonder, “Do I have enough faith? Am I really going to be saved?”

Spiritual attacks can cause use to get stuck in the echo chamber of our minds. It begins with a question which leads to another question which leads to doubt and then the doubt leads to despair.

Sarah knew the right answers, but she had gotten stuck in the loop of questions, doubt and despair.

What she needed was a word from the outside. What she needed was to hear from Jesus.

Now, as a pastor, I am not Jesus, but I get to speak the words of Jesus. But this isn’t unique to pastors! You can speak the words of Jesus to friends and family as well.

The conversation might happen something like this:
Me: “Sarah, are you baptized?”
Sarah: “Yes, of course!”
Me: “And what does that mean?”
Sarah: “It means that He has claimed me! I am His child.”
Me: “Even if your faith is as small as a mustard seed?”
Sarah: “Yes, even if my faith is as small as a mustard seed. That’s what Jesus said!”

And then we would proceed to have the Lord’s Supper in which Jesus again comes from outside of us to say, “Your sins are forgiven” and in which she would receive the body and blood of Jesus and she could then say, “I know that Jesus has come to me and that my sins are forgiven.”

When we are in turmoil, when we are under spiritual attacks, we need the words of Jesus; we need Jesus. So we can go to the scriptures and read His words or we can talk with a fellow Christian or our pastor and hear the words of Jesus. And we can go to the Supper and receive Jesus and we can know, “I am a child of God and my sins are forgiven. Heaven is mine because of Jesus.”

[1] Note her real name for the sake of privacy

For Reflection/Discussion

Read the section on Holy Baptism from Luther’s Small Catechism.

  • When we are struggling with doubt and despair, how can baptism be of help?
  • How can having a word from outside of ourselves be helpful?
  • Have you ever experienced spiritual attacks? If so, how did it happen? How did you deal with it?
  • Who are some mentors with whom you can talk about spiritual attacks?

Mental Health Resources

Mental Health First Aid Training:

Suicide Prevention Hotline:

Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training:

About the author

Ben Meyer is a husband, father, pastor and child of God. He has served as a pastor in Missouri, Illinois, and now at Hope Lutheran Church in Sunbury, Ohio and has presented at the Rural and Small Towns Missions national conference. He enjoys sports, fishing, hiking, reading, and spending time with his family.
View more from Ben

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