There’s nothing quite like that feeling you get when you’re standing on the shore with the land at your back and the smell of the salty sea is in the air, to pause from all of the pressures of life and take in the entire expanse reaching to the horizon… …that is, unless it’s foggy. Yes, I will forever be grateful for being born and raised by the shores of the North Atlantic where we could go and see the ocean any time we wanted. But the hard reality that each of us Maritimers must face in our beloved, quaint environment is the dreaded porridge-thick fog that so often dims our days. I can remember tense moments as a teenager (with a shiny new driver’s license hot of the presses) driving home along the winding shoreline roads from my grandparent’s home in Chance Harbour. The density of the fog was not just thick enough to prevent you from seeing a car 20 feet ahead of you, but sometimes it even got thick enough to hide the road or the painted center line right under your car’s nose.
Mourning a deep loss can be just like that sometimes.
For the Christian, truth (more specifically the truth of scripture) is our mooring, our anchor, and our reference point for the rest of life. Emotions and feelings are constantly placing pressure on us to lose sight of our reference point and wander. It seems that more and more Christians are suffering from depression, discouragement, frustration, anger, etc. These are nothing more than feelings. There are real legitimate triggers for these feelings in most cases. For instance, in my case over the past 5 and a half months, my deep sense of sadness and loss is related to the ending of my relationship with my best friend and wife, Heather. Sadness is a perfectly legitimate and even healthy response to such a scenario. But here’s the catch; even an appropriate feeling to a legitimate life circumstance can try to steer you off course in your beliefs and actions.
This is where truth-wrestling comes in.
When I was a student being prepared for ministry at Northland International University, Dr. Matt Olson used to stand in chapel and warn us that difficult days would come because all who will choose to live godly in Christ will suffer persecution. Boy, was he right (not that ministry is all tough; it is both rewarding and challenging). He taught us repeatedly that when those days come, we have to fight and wrestle our minds and hearts back to a grounding in what we know to be true about God. Cut through the fog, find your mooring in truth, and cling to that anchor in Christ.
The Apostle Paul – though in a different context – instructed the Corinthians how to use this same critical life-skill. II Cor. 10:5 is often memorized and quoted by struggling Christians as they battle the temptations of lust. But I believe it goes so much further than that, and I believe that mastering this skill will help any Christian navigate the often foggy terrain of feelings – even the deep feelings of grief. Learn to capture your wandering thinking and wrestle it back to the truth that will keep it within its bounds and steer it towards right actions for God’s glory.
How do you do this? I’m still learning. And part of my motivation in writing this blog post is to help challenge myself to be living this way consistently. But the simple place to start is to be saturated with God’s Word – our standard for truth. Second, surround yourself with godly friends and counselors who will lovingly speak truth to you through your times of difficult feelings. Then third, speak God’s truth back to Him humbly in prayer. Acknowledge it to Him, accept it as true and ask for the grace to live it out. He will answer. He promised.
“For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” (II Cor. 10:3-5 HCSB).