Monday, December 19, 2005

John Piper on Holiday Depression

John Piper's most recent devotional book Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life is a wonderful addition to the author's already terrific reputation and as a devotional writer.

As I was thumbing through its pages yesterday, however, I came across a word on holiday depression. Chapter 34: "Does God really Want You To Be Encouraged? On Seizing the Gift of Hope. Meditation on Hebrews 6:17-18" This two page devotional study on a specific text out of Hebrews deals with the subject of taking encouragement from God's word.

Piper begins by writing, very observantly, "Holidays are dangerous times of discouragement. The expectations for gladness are higher, so the realities of sadness are heavier." How difficult the holidays are for some of us. I am blessed to be young and surrounded by a loving wife and other family. Under the shelter of a warm roof and full of good food. Not all, however, have such blessings. For some the holidays are a sickening reminder of lost loved ones, abandonment, and merely the indicator of another passing year of their fading life. Piper understands that many will feel this way and he offers this pointer to great encouragement.

"May I offer this preventative medicine?" Now the Word of God is implemented for the stirring of sadened souls: When God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He added an oath, so that through two unchangeable things [the promise and the oath], in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17-18, author's translation)

By focusing the readers attention on three phrases from within this selected passage Piper shows us the answer to thew question- Does God Really Want You To Be Encouraged?

1) God desired to show more convincingly- "This text assumes that God had already said enough to give us encouragement. But God is not a God of minimums. His aim is not to speak as few encouraging words as possible. He speaks some words to give us hope. Then, being the effusive God He is, He...speaks some more words of encouragement. " "But not just more. They are better. He moves from simple promises (which are infallible and infintely trustworthy) to oaths...He desires to show-prove...demonstrate...point home- the hopefulness of our future. He really wants us to feel this." "He 'desires' [it]."

2) That we might have strong encouragement- Piper continues, "How encouraged does God want us to feel? Hebrews 6:18 says, 'Strong encouragement!' Note the word! He might have said, 'great encouragement' or 'big encouragement' or 'deep encouragement.' They would all be true. But the word is really 'strong.' Encouragement that stands against the seasonal downers. Preach this to yourself: 'God desires me to have strong encouragement!'"

3) To seize the hope set before us- Finally the author concludes with these wonderful words. "There are good times in this life. But let's face it: The days are evil; our imperfections frustrate us; and we are getting older and moving toward the grave. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ we are of all people most to be pitited (1 Corinthians 15:19). There are good times yet to come in this life. But fewer. And even these are rubbish, compared to the surpassing worth of gaining Christ in death (Philippians 1:21). Even here we can rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. But only because there is a 'hope set before us.' Reach out and seize it. God encourages you to."

I hope that you will read those words from Piper, more so read the words from God in the Bible and find that there is still encouragement to be found for those who find the holidays sorrowful, and yet trust in Lord.


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