Dear Esther :: February 29, 2016

Dear Esther,

I am a clinical psychologist and also a Christian. (My purpose is not to brainwash people or interfere with God’s will, but rather, I believe that God brings certain people into my line of work for certain types of assistance that they might not find elsewhere. Likewise, He brings people into my office for them to plant seeds important to my spiritual growth.)

The problem with my line of work is that I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety—both hereditary and not treatable by sheer willpower or strength of spirit. Prayer, exercise, sunshine, and medicine typically are helpful (in terms of preventing me from giving up on life all together).

However, knowing that we are at the end of times it is difficult to look forward to anything left here on earth—that is, holding on to hope and looking forward to “good things” until Jesus’ return; for the strife here on earth will certainly get worse before it gets better.

Every other day I either read articles, or hear Christians/pastors speak about the horrors of Satan’s tortuous reign and the impending doom and perpetual strife ahead, even though we are told to trust and believe in Christ.

The end of life is not my fear it is the remaining years that we/I have left on this planet, which is currently unbearable to me in its current state. I know in my heart, my soul, and the very essence of my spirit that the end of life as we know it, is fading away like a thief in the night.

While I should be eagerly looking forward to Christ’s return, I still have the “here and now” to deal with, and some days I don’t think I’m going to make it.

I don’t want to stay here any longer simply because I feel like my usefulness here on earth has been outlived, and, sometimes I genuinely believe that God did not equip me with the coping skills that I need to hang tough.

I don’t understand why a loving God would torture those of us who strive hard to follow in the footsteps of Christ in carrying out His will. I understand biblically and metaphorically but my heart cannot grasp the sense of “parental rejection” and subjective perception of “abuse by parent.”

I have had dreams about end times that are dreadfully frightening but yet realistic in nature (atmospheric – solar atrocities, astrological events causing catastrophes unfathomable, famines in which millions of blood thirsty insects bite and sink their teeth into the flesh of human kind for nourishment, and even biblical characters such as Job have occurred in my dreams as if to corroborate the authenticity of end time themes).

I believe this is God’s way of trying to prepare me for the inevitable without necessarily conveying the exact manner in which much of earth will be destroyed. While some might consider these dreams a gift from God, I derive little relief from the dreams even though I suppose they reinforce my belief in God Almighty.

Nonetheless, such dreams/insights(?) seem only to exacerbate my fears and anxiety, and worse yet, intensify the depression and suicidal thoughts. As we Christians await and encounter the cataclysmic events as they unfold, I cannot help but wonder if God really expects/wants us to be consumed by feelings of fearfulness and anxiety, in addition to anger during these times?

And if not, why is it then that so many pastors and teachers of faith make it a point to ignite the flames of fear that already exist because of the sharp reality which surround us. Where is the good in all of this?

Is there no enjoyment for Christians to be had with the limited amount of time left here on earth? Must everything be always so intensely serious, foreboding, and woeful in tone? Why aren’t we talking about ways to find happiness during our short time left—ways to “keep it together” as we strive to nurture and offer support to one another? Why don’t people laugh anymore?

As a class clown and entertainer of the family, I often wonder if a sense of humor abandoned me, complicating the depression that much more. It’s almost as if our world treats humor as if it is a sin, when studies have shown therapeutic benefits to laughter.

God, after all equipped us with the capacity to laugh, regardless of our capacity to make others laugh. It seems that many of the biblical teachers that I watch on satellite, social media, radio, or during direct discussion with them focus more on the catastrophe’s ahead rather than the wonderment and beauty of what lies ahead?

I rarely, if ever, hear sermons about what life on earth will be like when Jesus returns to rule the world. As far as the end of the world, why should preachers add fuel to our fears about the inevitable? We already know what is to come, and there is nothing we can do to stop it for God has confirmed the end times through his Revelation as outlined in the Bible.

So why fight or resist? Why encourage further despair about an event that God has declared inevitable? Why purchase supplies and merchandise in preparation for “the end.”

Doesn’t this represent a lack of faith that God will take care of our needs? Is it not true that fear places a barrier between us and God, that is, fear interferes with the strength of spiritual bonds and relations with the Lord.

And, as pertains to the Rapture, there seems to be no consensus as to exactly what, how, or when the “Rapture” will occur and unfold. I have heard much diversity in the views among pastors, clergymen, and biblical scholars regarding a “rapture.” So, when people tell me to find solace in the possibility of leaving others behind before the last 3.5 years of torment, my reaction is not one of relief.

In fact, the more I hear individuals speak of the topic of Rapture, the more I experience confusion. The only thing I seem to glean from the Bible regarding this topic is that there will be a few taken up into the sky—as if a temporary holding environment? But for how long and what happens from there, few elaborations are provided. Perhaps this is to prevent Satan for preparing a defense that still provides little solace.

I’ve been interested in the topic of Revelation since I was in the 7th or 8th grade in junior high school. It has been an area of the Bible that I cannot seem to “stay away from,” despite the gloom I experience after reading about it. While my faith has waxed and waned over the years, I ultimately return to Christ. I will never, ever, claim anyone or anything/entity as my Savior except for Jesus Christ.

I believe at times that God still has work left for me because the one strength or gift that He has given me that remains intact is that of human compassion, an understanding of what it is life to “feel pain” as a human, and an intuitive sensing about the feelings of others and their sufferings.

But this does not resolve my personal affliction with depression and sense of fear/dread I experience. This is where I believe that it is important for our clergymen and pastors to offer some type of support, even if merely small morsels of hope.

What happened to the once proclaimed and powerful emphasis on the “power of positive thinking” in the church and as encouraged/fostered by pastors? Has Satan already infiltrated all of our churches, clouding them with an unspeakable lowliness of spirit, sucking out the entirety of positive energy and replacing it with fear and dread?

Have we in turn become complacent in life as Christians, immersed in fear and dread, just standing around waiting to see what happens next?

If we cannot change the inevitability of God’s plans for the future, then how do we prevent selves from entering deep abyss’s in relation to end times? What solutions/guidance can our ministers provide us without projecting their own fears and feelings of anger/despair on us?

When did we stop trying to make lemonade from the juice of rotten lemons? Where are our leaders of faith during these difficult times to supplement the peace that we seek through God and Jesus via prayer, especially during those times in which peace is not immediately available to us or provided by God in response to our prayers?

The Weak and Wearied Psychologist

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Dear Weak and Wearied Psychologist,

At least a year ago I received a similar letter from a dear lady, a physician who was struggling with many of the very same issues. She had come to a point where she no longer wanted to be here and suffered from intense chronic depression. I can tell you, so many believers suffer from similar feelings, in varying degrees. How these feelings are processed and handled is very important.

It sounds like you have a strong grasp of your own limitations and have carefully analyzed your emotions and feelings. Let me try to relate the dilemma of gauging our perspective based on our feelings, emotions and the “power of positive thinking,” which was taught and made popular by the late, very liberal pastor, Robert Schuler.

Feelings and emotions of course matter because we can either feel like we are dead to the world, or zipping with energy and can stand up to and conquer anything that comes our way.

But what does the Bible say? We are to place our trust in God alone and not Man. I know you know this, so how do you integrate this truth into your life? We are to trust in Him and not our emotions or teachings that would place our trust in the power of positive thinking rather than our total faith in our Creator.

To gain the strength and equipment to “hang tough,” as you say, it is imperative to know what the Word of God says on topics of trust and faith otherwise we will become cannon fodder for the wiles of the devil. He has given us the Bible to use diligently in our everyday lives.

The questions and concerns you have can be best dealt with from a total biblical perspective; which means taking time to begin a serious daily Bible study. Picking up bits and pieces of the Bible from skewed teachings of men will continue to leave anyone frustrated and confused. We are all individually responsible to learn and study the messages in the Bible so we can handle this life.

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8).

We have many reasons to be disappointed with the Church. Too many leaders and pastors are weak. And there are many who preach “feel good” doctrines instead of the Word of God. We cannot rely on men to learn what the Bible teaches. We must each take responsibility and search the Scriptures daily to see if what we are hearing jibes with God’s holy Word. (Acts 17:11).

And as you mention, there are those who are focused primarily on gloom and doom. Where is the balance? We are to study the whole counsel of God (Acts 20: 27), so we do not get confused and frustrated by cherry-picked sermons. The Bible is where the balance is.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6a).

It is important to enlighten the lost about their frightful eternal fate without Christ. But the message should also be balanced with God’s promise of eternal blessings and the amazing grace which He offers to those who accept His free gift of salvation.

GRACE: Gift Received At Christ’s Expense.

Far too many Christians have never had good Bible instruction or have taken the time to study the Bible on their own. Instead they rely on the teachings of men. Inevitably, confusion sets in when they hear conflicting teachings.

When we carefully study the Word of God we cannot so easily be pulled astray by questionable and false teachings. A good way to stop some of the confusion is to stop surfing the various media platforms for answers and stick with the Bible and not the opinions of men who may or may not be well-versed in Scripture.

Some people who do not understand and study their Bibles get so frustrated that they walk away from the faith all together, not knowing that they must read and study the Bible for themselves:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

You sound like a very intelligent person and your “usefulness” has certainly not come to an end. it may be time to move forward in new ways. From some of what you say in your letter I can see some confusion in your understanding of Scripture; especially your confusion about the Rapture, which I will clarify for you a bit later.

Everything we need to know is found in the Bible. This is where the lemonade is that you ask about. The juice of sour lemons is being ingested by the poorly informed sheeple who listen to and accept the many questionable and false “teachings” found all over the media. The apostasy (the “falling away from the faith”) that Paul warned us about is well underway (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

We live in a time when Bible study is easier than ever. But we must each stop, turn-off the media toys and get back to basics. When we do read various materials, listen to lectures or sermons we must always go to Scripture to verify what we have read or heard is true:

“Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

When we do use the Internet, it can be a wonderful tool to access Bible dictionaries, Word study tools, etc. But we can also find a conglomeration of websites which for the most part have the best of intentions but are far from scholarly.

Anyone can start a website and post anything. Today, biblical discernment is crucial if we are to survive the onslaught of “experts” and personalities vying for attention.

It is no secret that many people who have a platform on TV or the Internet present a particular image that may appear to be for Christ, but are often weak in their understanding of the whole counsel of God.

Many talk about, or write and post what they themselves have read and heard others say; too often without seriously studying the Word of God for themselves. This type of “teaching” is a cancerous epidemic in the Church today, weakening the Church as a whole—opening the door to many flawed and false teachings. (Confusion is one of the devil’s greatest weapons.)

Yet, far too many seekers who read or listen to these people think what they are reading or hearing is coming from individuals who are solidly grounded in Christ and Scripture. Many are not. The types of people you mention, are, for the most part spewing what they have heard themselves from others — while claiming their presence on whichever social media/ Internet/ TV platform they chose. (Any medium that keeps their names in front of others!)

So we have chaos and confusion in the Church, and good people like you are desperately trying to find a balance that is so very much needed. Precious friend, God is not an abusive parent. He is the One who gave you life and sustains your life. Christ came here and suffered a torturous death so you can have eternal life with Him.

He warned that we would have tribulation in this life. I think we have all learned that God is not a genie who wiggles His nose and all is well. We cannot understand why so many things are unfair in this life. But evil is everywhere trying to discourage us, trying to destroy us.

We truly are living in a spiritual battlefield for reasons that are beyond our human understanding. The sooner we grasp this truth the better we can function. Trying to make sense out of a wicked broken world is a recipe for never-ending frustration. An ongoing quest to try to figure it all out will surely end in chronic despair.

Our mental condition can only be healthy when we step back from the driver’s seat and let God do the driving. The Lord asks us to trust Him, to abide in Him and have complete faith in Him. Please don’t let limited human reasoning cheat you from peace and joy you can have in the Lord. He is there to comfort and strengthen you. (You know all of this all on some level.)

It is true, our thoughts are critical to our overall well being, and it is by saturating our hearts and minds with His Word that we can manage and overcome inner-conflicts and doubts:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Refuse to allow the devil and His cohorts to convolute God’s goodness and promises. Yes, we have tribulation but He has overcome the world. Your reward is guaranteed, you belong to Him.

Our home is not this fallen world and the sooner we can accept that the better. Don’t let the devil outsmart you by falling for his lies that all is not well, and that life is not worth living, and all Christian teachings are too corrupt to be of any good.

The Bible, the Word of God—is our lifeblood. It is where we can go to gain sustenance and the assurance that all is well, even when all hell is breaking loose around us. God is the great I AM. He is our Heavenly Father—the One we can count on. Your interest in the book of Revelation is good; it is the only book in the Bible where God promises a blessing to those who read it (Revelation 1:3).

The nature of your profession is to analyze things; e.g., emotions, feelings, behavior. This can be a handicap if you let the analysis run your life without using the full counsel of God as your compass to define those issues. Interjecting man-derived counsel without the Bible can only lead to confusion. Psychology can be good to a point but God’s Word is where we can find all the answers to life’s problems. We are totally sufficient in Christ, and Christ alone.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

By taking time to regularly study the Bible, a person’s spiritual eyes will be open more fully. Please don’t allow the outward picture pertaining to the problems of your life rule you, and potentially destroy you. Surely you have many blessings that so many do not have. Dwelling on the “what-ifs” and the “lack- of” in our lives is a sure way to become immobilized.

In order to reap the inner peace and joy the Lord promises we must have an attitude of gratitude. How blessed we are as a nation, even after all we have done to hurt the Lord. So many people throughout the world do not even have their basic needs met.

This is a fallen world! Our perspective must change to count each and every blessing if we are to find joy in our lives. The focus on self must be changed to appreciating the blessings we do have. To survive evil onslaughts we must focus on our blessings and not our lack.

I have heard testimonies of missionaries who have seen abject poverty and have lived without basic creature comforts for periods of time. They count those experiences as the most trans- formative times in their lives. We live in a culture that makes it easy to think too much about ourselves.

Healing on every level comes when we do not place the focus on ourselves. God has a plan for our lives and that plan is to serve Him and we do this by serving others as well; not with worldly methods of teaching and analysis — but with the God-breathed teachings found in the Bible.

It is true that many Old Testament saints suffered greatly, far more than we have. You mention Job in your letter. In spite of all of Job’s sufferings, Job still trusted God:

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

Have you ever considered modifying your career, going in a different direction using your professional credentials, but in a setting where you could use actually use biblical teaching openly?

Perhaps it is time to reevaluate your profession and travel on a new road where you can use your credentials and talents to fully serve the Lord. Ask yourself if working as a psychologist as you are now is good for you. You could still help others in a similar way but in more Christian setting. Or maybe something in a different profession all together would be better for you.

A very relevant message comes to mind:

“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6).

“But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6: 33).

When we apply these Scriptures to our daily business and personal lives we can better function. We cannot change yesterday, but we can move forward and take new directions with the Lord’s guidance.

Dear friend, your life is precious to the Lord and He is there to guide you and carry you. Lean on Him and spend every moment you can with Him. Make prayer your daily bread and Bible study your main meal, and you will not be confused about God’s teachings. The Word of God is powerful and strengthening, the more we read it and study it the stronger we get in our faith and understanding.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17) .

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Jesus is the Great Physician who can heal your aching heart, mind and emotions. He is there for you. He can change your thinking and invigorate you as you move forward, not looking back.

“Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).

Over analyzing things can cause chronic sadness and frustration. We either accept what the Word of God tells us or we question it and get bogged down in doubt and confusion. We can be our own worst enemies, as the old saying goes. Don’t give the devil that kind of foothold so he can harass you.

Perhaps you have been told that your depression is hereditary; but you are a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). You do not have to hold on to what others have embraced. If there is a chemical/biological imbalance then that can be dealt with, but the greatest hope you have is in Jesus who will never leave you or forsake you:

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Please commit to getting to know the Lord more fully; place Him first in your life and your life will get better. You will gain a new perspective and many of the concerns you have will not be so much of an issue anymore. But a commitment to place Christ first in your life, and turning that choice into real action has to come from within you; it’s a choice.

Now as far as the Rapture, there is one true teaching which is found in the Bible. The confusion you have about it is coming from what you have read or heard from others. The pre-Tribulation view is the correct teaching, not a pre-wrath teaching as you seem to allude to — which teaches believers will not be raptured until the middle of the Tribulation. That is a false man created teaching

People who tell you to find solace in the Rapture are trying to tell you that Jesus is our “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13). He promises to take us up to heaven before the seven-year Tribulation begins. We will be translated to heaven and receive our new glorified bodies when Jesus “descends from heaven with a shout.” (That should give all believers a great sense of relief.)

Can you please think about this literal out-of-this-world promise, and comprehend what an awesome gift, what a huge blessing this is from our Savior? Our eternity is going to be so incredible that nothing you are feeling and experiencing today will matter. Not one bit. Hold on to that promise!

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

The late J. Vernon McGee, a popular respected Bible teacher (Thru the Bible radio programs) taught the Tribulation (Day of the Lord) would begin immediately after the Rapture:

“The one event of the Rapture will end the day of grace and begin the Day of the Lord. It closes one day and opens another.” (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Volume Five, p. 400)

On the same page of the same book, J. Vernon McGee also discusses how the world will be expecting to enter a new era of peace, but instead will be “plunged” unexpectedly into the Tribulation, indicating that there will be a false peace just prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. Scripture verifies this teaching:

“When they are saying, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:3-4).

“They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:27).

“But on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:29 ).

You also mention something about how the earth will be destroyed. Scripture tells us at the end of the seven-year Tribulation the Lord Jesus will return to earth with His saints (raptured believers) who have been in the safety of heaven for those seven years; “the armies of heaven” (Revelation 19: 11-16).

Jesus Himself will literally fight off the nations who will gather together at Armageddon. At that point he will destroy them all and cast the Antichrist and the False prophet into the lake of fire. He will then rejuvenate planet Earth, and after the short interval needed to clean-up and resurface the earth (and fulfill the prophesies related to his Second Coming), the literal 1000-year millennial reign of Christ will begin.

I urge you to read and reread what I have written to you here and seriously begin to change your view on how you approach and analyze biblical teachings, and begin a comprehensive Bible study. I have some good information in some of my previous “Dear Esther” responses on how to study the Bible.

On the left side of the “Dear Esther” page you will find to my response to Haley on January 28, 2016. You will find a helpful guide from me on how to study your Bible. Please keep in touch with me and do not hesitate to reach out if I can clarify any of your concerns or questions.

I have confidence in you that you can overcome your inner obstacles. You are obviously very intelligent and kind. Jesus is there for you every moment of the day ready to have an authentic relationship with you.

A great Scripture for you to read often is Psalm 91, which speaks of the security of those who trust in the Lord. No matter what happens in this life, God will give us the strength to handle it. How else have all the martyrs and the persecuted Christians held on? The Lord gave them the resolve and fortitude to get through their ordeals. (You are stronger than you think.)

You can be free of the cobwebs that fill your mind and weaken you. Dwelling on the negativities will only demoralize you. Give your total trust to the Lord. Stay close to Him and you will get through the years that are still left for you in this life.

And never forget that this life is so very temporary. (Although it does not feel that way so much of the time.) Your true home is with Him for all eternity; a glorious eternity far beyond what we can perceive with our limited minds.

In God’s love,

Esther

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).