Tag Archives: hopelessness

Placing God Second

I once read a wonderful book by Thomas Jones called “Mind Change.” (2) Having suffered for many years from gradually worsening multiple sclerosis Jones honestly shares the struggles he has just getting out of bed in the morning. But he also shares how he fights to maintain a proper mindset. He proposes that we place God second in our thoughts! At first reading that sounds strange, but here’s how he puts it. We either think “GOD BUT…” OR “…BUT GOD.” “Whenever we use the word ‘but’ in a sentence or in our thoughts, we go away emphasizing and focusing on whatever comes after the word ‘but,’ not what comes before it.”

In other words, when we’re in the middle of a difficult circumstance we have two options. We can say “I know God is loving and kind, but my life – or this problem…” We will then focus on the problem and the circumstance and think less about the rich resources of God. Or we can say “My life…this problem…but God is loving and kind.” We will then focus on the rich resources of God. The equation is either “God’s promises but the problem” or “The problem but God’s promises.” We choose to focus on either our emotions or on God’s resources and faithfulness.

In the same spirit the prophet Jeremiah chose to put God second in his equation. For 2 plus chapters in the Book of Lamentations he laments the desperate and hopeless situation in which he and Israel find themselves. Lamentations 3:19-20 is his summary: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” Then notice – “Yet this I call to mind…” (literally, “Make return to my heart”) “…and therefore I have hope…” It’s “The problem but God’s promises.”

The reality is the Bible is filled with “…but God” equations. Space doesn’t permit a thorough list, but consider a few examples.

  • Psalm 6: 3, 6-7, 9-10: the problem – “My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.” But God – “The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.”
  • Psalm 13: 1-2, 5: the problem – “How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” But God – “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:8b-9: the problem – “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” But God – “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Here’s the key to placing God second in our thoughts: Jeremiah makes the good thoughts return to his heart by exercising his faith: “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

Sometimes we just need to exercise our faith , to get back in the presence of our Father and be quiet so we can focus on Him. When your situation seems hopeless and you’re ready to give up, try putting God second in your thoughts. And let me know what happens. I’d love to rejoice with you!


1- This blog is from a sermon by Pastor Curry entitled “Our Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days” (Lamentations 3:1-26). For more information, or to request a copy of the sermon, contact [email protected]. For the audio message click here.

2 – For information on ‘Mind Change’, click here.

He’s Got This!

The Apostle John, although he might have been Jesus’ most intimate associate, did not receive any special favors. In Revelation we meet John, probably in his mid to late 80’s, exiled to a remote island called Patmos. He was banished there for refusing to obey the ruling powers by ceasing to preach Jesus. All he could see was desolation; all he experienced was loneliness; everything spoke of death and destruction. His heart was heavy as he worried about the churches and the severe persecution of his brothers and sisters of the faith – and he was helpless to assist and stand with them.

Then, on the Lord’s Day, John was overwhelmed by and taken up in the Spirit of God and saw the risen, reigning Lord Jesus Christ. (1) Through this experience he learned an enduring lesson that he shared with his churches and with us: we can experience victorious living through a vision of the Sovereign Lord.

We can live victoriously when we acknowledge that there is an overwhelming presence. John’s geographical limits were no hindrance to him; his spirit was not in exile! He had turned to Christ and was taken up in the Spirit! It makes me reflect upon times when I felt defeated and all alone, and also how often I’ve had such flimsy excuses as to why I do not follow Christ more closely. I wonder how many blaring trumpets, burning bushes, or brilliant voices I have missed because I have taken my eyes off of Christ. But not John. He focused on Christ and was given a glorious vision: (Revelation 1:12-16): “Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force.”

Jesus is the “Son of Man” from the book of Daniel, before whom all nations and people will bow. Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Our focus is to remain on Jesus Christ the Lord. We can be in the middle of a dreary Patmos Island and yet be in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ! As Christians we can be in two places at once! So Dante was in prison yet wrote The Divine Comedy. So John Bunyan, while in prison, penned Pilgrim’s Progress. So John Milton, after going blind, authored Paradise Lost. So John, abandoned on a remote island, met the risen, reigning Lord Jesus Christ. So on our islands of restrictions we can be lifted up in the Spirit and be free! We are never alone!

So: what are your restrictions, frustrations, imprisonments? From what do you long to be free? You live surrounded by the overwhelming presence of Jesus Christ. Focus on Him.

Notice what happened to John when he focused on Christ – the things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” That’s when he experienced overwhelming encouragement. (Revelation 1:17-18): “But he placed his right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever…’” Notice it was Jesus’ right hand – the right hand in the Bible is:

• the hand of authority,
• the hand which holds the stars and planets,
• the hand with which Jesus blessed and healed,
• the hand through which He raised the dead
• the hand by which He broke the bread.

It is the hand through which surges the power of life. And with that hand Jesus reaches out and touches John’s shoulder and says, “Do not be afraid.” “I’ve got this! It’s okay!

I like how The Rev. Dr. Lloyd Oglivie explained it. He said Jesus disillusions us! In other words, He sets us free from our illusions, of our misunderstandings and misrepresentations of reality. Up to this point, John did not have a complete nor accurate view of the reality of the sovereignty of Christ – all He could see was the peril and struggles of the world. So Jesus disillusioned John and gave him a dose of heavenly reality. He extended the hand of blessing – the same hand He extends to each of us.

• What is your illusion?
• What do you fear?
• What do you doubt?
• Where do you need a dose of this heavenly reality?
• From what do you need to be disillusioned?

As Jesus reaches out to you, hear Him say, “And I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Jesus holds the keys to our destiny and the destiny of nations in His hands. It is Christ with whom we have to deal. And He is the One who says, “Do not be afraid.” “I’ve got this! It’s okay!” Jesus is the key to victorious living. He disillusions illusions!

What an overwhelming presence and encouragement! No matter what the circumstances of your life, commit to believe and live by the truth that with Jesus, our Lord and King, the last word is never darkness, but always light; never despair, but always hope; never death, but always life. After all, He’s got this! It’s okay!

(1) Picture from LOGOS