Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Christian with Depression

            Permit me share with you something which few people outside of my immediate family know; I deal with fairly severe depression and have done so for more than ten years now. As with anyone else who faces depression, I have my good days and my bad days. There are times I do not even think about depression, and there are times I have a hard time forcing myself to get out of bed. Most people do not know this about me for two reasons: I do not talk about it, and I am good at being “on;” rising to the occasion while in public and being able to power through the hard times. Related to being “on,” I force myself to keep going, even when I feel like I cannot do so any longer. Why am I writing of this tonight? For some reason, I think this curtain needs to be pulled back at this time. Why specifically tonight? I could not tell you for the life of me. With that context put in place, I want to share with you some things I have learned being a Christian with depression.
            1) The whole “good heart,” feel good, unthinking emotionalism of our age is dangerous; particularly for people with depression. This is typically meant to encourage people and make them feel better about themselves. In fact, I remember one camp service where the guest speaker had the congregation repeat (several times), “I have a good heart.” While I understand this speaker likely wanted people to realize they are now a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), there are more accurate ways to describe that truth.
            The problem with the whole “good heart” movement is it is anti-Scriptural. Jeremiah 17:9 states plainly, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Some have said this heart described is one which should not/does not exist within the Christian (usually citing Jeremiah or Ezekiel’s contrast between the heart of stone and heart of flesh), but it does not answer the reality of the many Christians who still deal with depression; even years and countless times of asking for this “thorn in the flesh” to be removed. Besides that, the context in both Ezekiel and Jeremiah speak of the day when the Exile would end and the people would again love the Law of the Lord and would obey Him; not that they would feel blissfully happy all the time.
            If you suffer from depression, remember that your heart is deceitful and cannot be trusted. This sounds jaded to those who have never faced depression, but the truth is a lifeline to those who deal with this sickness. If you follow the concept of “following your heart,” you will be lost whenever your mood changes. There will be days your heart/depression tells you to just give up and that things will never be better; this is a lie. Hold fast to the truth that your heart is deceitful. Ignore the changing of emotions and rely on truth.
            2) Many people and even church services are very emotionally focused; this is also dangerous for those who deal with depression. Music is played, lights are manipulated, and in some places, you even see smoke/fog machines. In some places, you’ll hear people tell you to jump, to dance, to repeat, to do all sorts of things which are meant to elicit a specific emotional response. Perhaps the worst though is when someone starts off the day with “How’s everyone doing today?!” This question is inevitably answered with claps and shouts of encouragement/joy; except by those who deal with depression. This tends to make those with depression feel even more alone than normal; after all, they seem to be the only ones who are not feeling waves of joy first thing in the morning. In fact, they have often had to put in considerable work just to get there. Asking how we feel at any given time may not give the same expected result.
            As with the first note, if a depressed person follows how they feel at any given time, they will be totally lost. There will be days you feel like you should just run away from all responsibilities, all future plans, and even your faith. There will be days you feel unloved and that you should just leave or end it all. There will be days you feel like this depression is all you will ever feel or know. Unfortunately, there are also days when you will feel like you are not forgiven, and that you are doomed for eternity. Again, do not follow the ever changing, unthinking emotionalism which is so prevalent in the world (and even some churches) today. Instead, stand on the truth. On days you feel you are not forgiven, remember the truth that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
            Additionally, since there are times you will feel condemned and lost, remember that “And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:19–21). Again, hold to the truth rather than to changing feelings. It is not how we may feel that matters so much. What matters is that we stand on the unchanging truth. There is no confidence in changing emotion for the depressed Christian, but we have confidence in truth.
            3) In the middle of troubles, trials, and depression, God is still in control. Regardless of how you may feel at any given time, God is faithful. On Sinai, He even identified Himself as “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6–7).
            We serve a faithful God who is steadfast and unchanging even when it feels like we are being tossed about by wave after wave of depression and loss. Even when we feel hopeless, He gives us hope. Furthermore, because God is faithful, He will not permit any outside influence to remove us from relationship with Him; only we could do that. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
            I do not have all the answers, and there are still times I feel overwhelmed by depression. There are days it is incredibly difficult to force myself to get up and get moving. There are times I would be totally lost if I were to rely on how I felt. Yet by holding to the truth, I can keep moving. I know that I serve a faithful, just God. I know that He is merciful and understanding. I know that “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
            Furthermore, I know that the day will come when depression will be no more; when “the tabernacle of God [will be] with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3b–4). If you suffer from depression and you are a Christian, you’ve likely felt as though you should be able to move through life without this issue. 
            Remember that your heart is deceitful and cannot be trusted; stand on the truth. You’ve likely felt a great number of hopeless feelings. Again, remember that God is faithful; stand on the truth. You’ve likely felt lost, tossed about on a turbulent sea of depression and loss. Remember, God is still in control and He promises a future without this terrible depression if we are in Him; stand on the truth. You may have even found yourself doubting your calling or ability to fulfill that which God has placed in your soul to do. Remember that even when we cannot do it, He is faithful and Almighty.
            Think of Paul and his “thorn in the flesh” which he identifies as a messenger of Satan. “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:8–9). You may have been dealing with this depression for a very long time (I know I have), but God is still faithful, and He will enable you to do the task He has set before you.
            Do not allow depression or the Enemy to win over you. As depressed Christians, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). I do not know why I thought to share this tonight, but I did. I hope this may have helped someone. What it all comes down to for me is this: feelings and the heart are deceitful and troubling, but the truth is unchanging and God is faithful. Trust and hope in Him and even when depression rages, your faith will be placed in the steadfast Rock. As the old hymn says, “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.” Trust in the Lord and He will help you weather this storm.

God bless,


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

When Doors Slam Shut

Though strange I may be, I do not consider myself particularly stranger than the rest of mankind. As the saying goes, "You're unique; just like everyone else." I have my own thoughts, hopes, desires, and dreams. By the same token, I have my own failures, limitations, frustrations, and fears. I would do myself a great disservice to consider my struggles or triumphs of any greater or lesser value than another's.

I have discovered though, that my unique blend of successes and failures are my own. Try as I might, I cannot be someone else. My academic and ministerial career is my own, and to strive to become anyone other than who God created me to be would be foolish at best. Yet for the longest time, I have done exactly that.

I remember the tremendous sense of failure and inadequacy I felt whenever I heard of how well my father did while attending Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. After all, he was a husband, a father, a student, he worked full time as campus security, served as a youth pastor, regularly preached on the radio, visited people with Pastor Green, and aced every class in which he was enrolled. Then, this amazing man graduated and began pastoring churches where he would work (at times) eighty hours a week or more. How could I ever hope to measure up to my father?

While serving as pastor and studying Pastoral Ministry through correspondence, I would often feel overwhelmed with all that had to be done. In those times, I would question what seemed to be obvious failures. I was not measuring up to my father; I was unable to properly juggle all that was taking place in my life. Something desperately serious had to be wrong with me. Why else could I not succeed?

Despite the encouragement of my mother, father, and wife, I refused to believe I was anything but a failure. "You are not your father," they would remind me in hopes of lifting my spirits. Unfortunately, my twisted sense of self always heard those words as proof of my shortcomings. I was not my father, and I never would reach that standard. Now, lest it be thought my parents in any way forced me to follow a certain path in life, let me clarify that such a thought would be categorically false. They have always claimed they would be proud of their children if we worked in a gas station as long as it made us happy and we were serving God.

With this foundation laid, permit me to share my purpose for writing today. This past spring, the church I was pastoring closed. Without going into detail, I will say the timing was unexpected for me. We knew the church was foundering, but still held out hope for revival and renewal. Then in May of this year (2014), I received a call which broke my heart. The situation had changed in an instant, and the church would not be able to remain open.

Not only was I heartbroken for a church with such history to close, but people my wife and I had come to know, love, and lift up in prayer would be losing their home church. Also, my sense of failure began to overshadow me. Though some do not believe me, I did my very best while serving in that church. I visited the sick and the well, I visited people in the local community who did not attend the church, my wife and I organized programs for children, hosted movie nights, hosted dinners, arranged for special musical nights, brought in special guests, had community bonfires through the summer, and did not take money from the church budget to do so. My wife learned to play piano to provide music for the worship services and I learned to play guitar. We often were the only ones who came to prayer meetings, but were faithful to pray for the church regardless of whether or not anyone else attended.

Everything I could possibly think of, we tried. Still, it was not enough. The church closed and I, like others, blamed myself. Surely there had to have been something else to try. If only I had done _________. If only I had thought to try __________. If only I had been perfect and never made a mistake.

I thank God for a wonderful, loving couple from that congregation. Were it not for the prayers, encouragement, and love from that couple, I likely would have given up. When some voices spoke my own fears "I never thought he should have been our pastor," that couple encouraged us and cared for us.

Still, I felt the loss keenly. I couldn't help but wonder for long months afterward if the other voices were right. Had I truly failed so spectacularly? Was it all my fault?

The way had closed for me. Since I had dedicated myself to study through correspondence while pastoring rather than following the traditional path, no church wanted me as their pastor. My education was incomplete. I felt utterly hopeless and felt like a complete failure. "If only," and "maybe if" became my laments. It seemed every door had closed and not even a window of hope could open.

Parker Palmer said it well when he wrote, "When way closes behind us, it is tempting to regard it simply as the result of some strategic error: had I been smarter or stronger, that door would not have slammed shut, so if I redouble my efforts, I may be able to batter it down. But that is a dangerous temptation."

I did not have the best attitude in the wake of the church closing. When it became clear I would not enter a new pastorate, I applied to Kingswood University to more quickly complete my education. Initially, my goal was simply to complete my degree so I could begin again in pastoral ministry. I was still trying to batter down closed doors under my own strength and understanding.

Thankfully, God has worked on my heart through the summer. Before the fall semester even began, He changed my desires and goals tremendously. With His help and the unfailing encouragement of my wife to no longer put off my ultimate dream, I set out on a new path. Instead of beating on a closed door, it finally dawned on me that there was something else God wanted for me; something else I wanted as well.

Though my initial reason for applying to continue my education was selfish and an effort to "just get it over with," everything has changed. Rather than pursuing a degree in Pastoral Ministry, I am now seeking a degree in Theology as the first of many steps toward earning my doctorate. Instead of hoping to merely survive, I am joyfully anticipating the coming years obtaining my Bachelor's degree, two Master's degrees, and my doctorate. Rather than pastoring, I hope and plan to teach.

I will freely admit this has been a painful journey to understand what I truly desire to be, but it has been worthwhile. I am finally able to realize I am not a failure. Rather, a door closed so I could be directed onto a different path. Instead of regarding all as my fault, I have finally come to realize my insistence on blaming myself was overly narcissistic; it is not all about me.

I understand this post is vastly different than my normal writing, but I felt strongly to share from my heart. I only hope by being transparent in regard to my struggles, someone may come to the realization of what God wants to do in their life. Maybe this will help someone learn to stop attempting to beat down a closed door and will help them learn to accept the new path laid out for them. If nothing else, this is praise to God for a wonderful, encouraging family and for helping me realize I am not a failure.

Be encouraged, and may God bless you!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Supernatural Showdown

Sadly, there are many people who blame the devil for every trouble they face. Flat tire? There must have been a demon slashing your tire. Alarm didn't go off this morning? An evil spirit must have unplugged the cord. And on the other side of the coin, there is the prevailing attitude that if something bad happens to someone we don't get along with, God is punishing them. After all, EVERYTHING has to be spiritual, right?

The devil unplugged your alarm, but God is punishing that person you don't get along with by unplugging their alarm? It is utter foolishness! I'll touch more on why bad things happen later, but first I want to point out something incredibly simple that many people have difficulty understanding. That is that God is not like us.

Isaiah 55:8-9 records, “8 ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. 9 ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

What you think should be is not necessarily what God thinks should be. For example, there are people who think that there should be a worse Hell for more evil people. However, the true torture of Hell is separation from God; something without degrees.

Yes, Scripture speaks of fire, brimstone, and eternal torment, but it is being separated from God with no hope that would be the worst. God says that sin is sin, and one person's sin is no worse than yours. This simple fact should show us that God's ways and thoughts are not like ours.

Maybe you're wondering where I'm going with this. Well, rest easy because I am going to tell you. Just because you think someone should be punished in a certain way, at a certain time, for a certain reason doesn't mean that God agrees with you. By the same token, there are times that God allows things to happen to us (note: ALLOWS, not MAKES) that we don't understand. I think of poor Job at times like this.

Look at how the book of Job opens: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1)

Job was a man who was righteous, good, nice, wonderful, whatever you want to call him. He was a good man who you would expect nothing but good for. We are told some more about him.

Namely, he would even offer sacrifices on behalf of his children in case they sinned! He was a man who trusted God and did right. Yet as the account unfolds, we read of something that bodes ill for Job.

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?

10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!

12 And the Lord said to Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:8-12)

We don't like to think about this passage. Oh no, it is far easier to think that any hardship is because the devil is raging against us and any hardship our “enemies” face is because of God's judgement. The idea that God may allow things to happen to us to grow us, prove us, or even encourage others in the future is not an idea we like to consider.

Now please note that I am not saying for an instant that the devil never attacks us. Far from it! Ephesians 6:16 speaks of, “...taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Yes, there are times that the enemy rages against us.

C.S. Lewis wrote in 1951speaking of – “…two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils…. to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. [The devils] are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

So yes, there are demons/fallen angels (one of which is Lucifer who we call Satan) and they do come against humanity. However, I do not believe for a second that there is a demon behind every bush or that every step you take is dogged by darkness. Of course, if you obsess with and consistently surround yourself with evil things, that’s a different story altogether.

There are also times that the Lord judges the wicked in this life. Deuteronomy 32:35 records, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.”

Despite there being times when the Lord punishes the wicked in this life and the devil attacks the righteous, we need to stop looking to blame the spiritual realm for everything. Yes, God is the Righteous Judge of all the earth, and He will deal with us all accordingly, but He is not your hitman that will smite that person because they cut you off in traffic. He is not just sitting in Heaven waiting for people to slip up so He can strike them down.

Sometimes, bad things happen; especially so when humans are involved. Being agents of free will, we are able to make choices which affect our lives and the lives of others. Going back to the alarm clock example, if you stop plugging the cord into a loose outlet, maybe it won't be unplugged in the morning! Maybe if you checked your tires regularly, you would have noticed if they were worn in a spot or if you had picked up a nail.

Just because something bad happened to you doesn't necessarily mean that God was punishing you or that the devil was attacking you. Just because something bad happened to someone you don't care for doesn't mean that God is punishing them or the devil is attacking them.

And let me take it a step farther: what if God had allowed your alarm to become unplugged so that you would be late so that you would avoid an accident? Or if you picked up a nail in your tire so that something else more potentially devastating could be prevented?

My wife's car had the brake lines let go a short while back. Being back in university, car repairs are never enjoyable. However, it came to light because of that incident that her engine is not good. It will still work for use around town, but we were told not to take it on long trips under any circumstances.

Imagine now if the brakes had not let go and we had driven her car down to Nova Scotia (a six and a half hour drive). We could have been stranded at the least, and severely hurt or killed as the result of an accident. Am I happy that her car is in need of further repair? Absolutely not! But I am glad that we were spared tragedy.

All of that to say this: we need to stop with the bad attitude! My biggest issue with the attitude of “God, smite them” is that it totally against the attitude of Christ.

27 But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)

If we could all learn to do that, posts like this wouldn’t even be necessary.

God bless,


Friday, September 12, 2014

Hard Words

There are certain times in life where God passes down “hard words.” These are not necessarily words that are difficult to understand, but are words that people do not want to hear.

For example, we love to hear that God is love (1 John 4:8), and it makes us giddy to hear that He has “loved us with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). However, we do not like to be reminded of the fact that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

We don’t appreciate being reminded of God being the Righteous Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25) or of Him being a jealous God (Deuteronomy 6:15).

Elijah was less than impressed when the brook Cherith dried up in 1 Kings 17. After all, he had been taken care of at Cherith, had been provided for, and had been hidden from his enemies. When the brook dried up though, he seemed to have become vulnerable again. He had to step out in faith when life again became difficult.

Hard words and hard times are inevitable in life; regardless of how we feel about them. What I want to draw your attention to today is a particularly hard word that was passed down to God’s people in captivity.

Jeremiah 29:4-10 - 4 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.

6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.

10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

Oh, we love to hear verses 11-14 of Jeremiah 29. We love to hear of the plan and the purpose God has for us! Why wouldn’t we? Despite it being a promise to that particular people in that specific time, such a promise shows God’s heart and we are able to know that He wants the best for us! We know and proclaim that He has good plans for us and those plans will prosper us! Right?

I feel for poor Jeremiah. As a young man, he is called by God to spend his life declaring doom and gloom on God’s wayward children. He had the unpopular message of the day! When all the false prophets were proclaiming peace and victory, Jeremiah had to stand against them and speak what God had told him; he had to preach hard words. Words of God like:

And you, even yourself, Shall let go of your heritage which I gave you; And I will cause you to serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger which shall burn forever. (Jeremiah 17:4)


12 I also spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live! 13 Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?

14 Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you; 15 for I have not sent them,” says the Lord, “yet they prophesy a lie in My name, that I may drive you out, and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you.” (Jeremiah 27:12-15)

Judah would be enslaved for seventy years, and there was nothing to be done about it. They wouldn’t be able to convince God to go back on what He had declared. There was no hope of victory over Babylon. Exile was a foregone conclusion and it was time to stop listening to false prophets and stop being deluded.

Maybe you are wondering what my point is. After all, my posts are generally uplifting or hopeful. Why am I so bent on depressing you by writing of Jeremiah, the Wailing Prophet, probably the man with the most depressing message to enter the pages of Scripture?

The answer is no great theological statement. This will not be some great paradigm changing post, and maybe it will be seen as anticlimactic. Still, this is why I am writing about Jeremiah:

There are hard words and hard times we face. Instead of looking solely to the future, instead of lamenting our current lot in life, there are times when we need to learn to be satisfied with where we are.

There are times when we need to trust the Lord and be content with the hardship we are facing. That’s not a popular idea in our culture that is obsessed with peace and prosperity in all areas of life, but it is still true.

Judah was told to build homes, plant gardens, have children, give their children in marriage, and seek the peace of the city. They were to settle in and make a life in Babylon.

We have such trouble reconciling that to our picture of God! We have trouble understanding (or don’t WANT to understand) that Judah was told to make a life where they were because their circumstances weren’t going to change any time soon.

We can’t imagine being “stuck” in our troubles. We get the idea that God is going to snap His fingers and miraculously remove us from every issue, and make everything sunshine and roses.

It is almost as if we forget that sometimes we must go through “the valley of the shadow of death” and have a table set “in the presence of our enemies” (Psalm 23).

That is not to say that we will always have trouble, but we are fools if we think that everything is going to be easy! We are absolutely blind if we think that God will instantly remove us from trouble. He CAN, but that doesn’t mean that He always will.

Jesus even said in John 16:33 - These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

We can have peace and joy in God regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, but we will still have trouble in this world! Paul perfectly speaks to my intention in writing this blog post when he speaks of contentment.

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Don’t turn a deaf ear to what God says just because it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t want to hear what He says. Don’t ignore God if He tells you to make a home where you are. As the old saying goes, “Bloom where you’re planted”.

Yes, God promises: 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.

13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

God will not forget His people, He will never leave nor forsake them, and He does care and love them. Still, we need to learn to be content with wherever He has placed us, obey Him regardless of whether or not we feel like it, and be His people.

Don’t serve God or love Him conditionally; don’t simply follow the Lord when things are good. Love and trust Him even when told to settle in Babylon. And know that He always has the best in mind for those who follow Him; even if you can’t see it right now.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

May the Lord bless you wherever you find yourself,