I love the hymn “The Solid Rock” by Edward Mote. It has been a battle hymn for my soul these past two years. For the past two years at times, I have battled with despair and depression. I have felt like I have been going in circles with no clear direction in the foreseeable future. I have felt sadness overtake me like a giant wave crashing onto the shore and felt as if I was being crushed by the weight of the world upon my shoulders. I have been in the valley of shadow of death, as the Psalmist writes, with zero paths out. It has been a difficult season. I have had to lean into the gospel more, lean into my faith in the Lord Jesus more than ever, and consistently remind myself that when darkness seems to hide the glorious riches of Christ, I must rest all the more in the promise and reality of life everlasting with the Lord Jesus, knowing that I am a beloved child of God who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit. I have had to rest all the more in the truths in the infallible Word of God and immerse myself in the vast riches that are afforded to me there. Applying the Word of God in the season of despair that I have been living in has only reminded me of what a mercy it is to have Gods own words at my fingertips. My goal and my hope in telling you all this, dear Christian, is to pass along what I have had to be reminded of myself daily: God’s truth is everlasting, encouraging, life giving, profitable for teaching and reproof, and like a soothing balm which we can apply to our lives and know peace.
In applying the Word of God to our lives, we first must receive the Word of God by faith. What I mean by this is that we must believe and trust that what the Bible says is true and that it is—most importantly—what God has said. Without this conviction, the Bible is just another book. Nothing more. Receiving, by faith, the Bible as the infallible and inerrant Word of God allows our heart, soul, and mind to be unshakingly certain that we are hearing from God Himself. To put it plainly we need to believe and know that God is speaking to us when we read the Bible. Understanding this truth is essential in applying God’s Holy Word to our lives.
Secondly, we need to constantly ask God to give us understanding of what He has said. To understand Scripture requires prayer and meditation on the Word. Prayer and meditation are the conduits we have to directly commune with God and, through the Holy Spirit working in us and through us, receive understanding and enlightenment from what we are reading.
When you are praying in concert with reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit is immediately working to open up your mind to the beautiful things of God. The Psalmist gets to this point in Psalm 119:18 when he writes “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” and earlier, in verse 15, he says, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” To apply the Word, we need to understand what it is God is saying to us.
More importantly though, I believe we should consume the Word of God as if our physical frame depended on it. We must devour and fill our minds with what God is saying before we can even begin to seek the Holy Spirit and God’s help in understanding it. A closed Bible gets you nowhere. It does nothing for you sitting on a bedside table or bookshelf collecting dust. The apostle Peter equated the reading of Scripture to that of drinking nourishing milk in 1st Peter 2:2, and Moses and Matthew both wrote of it as life-sustaining bread in Deuteronomy 8:3 and Matthew 4:4, respectively.
Job himself even recounted the effectiveness and sufficiency of the Word of God: “My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:11-12). To apply the Word is to know what the Word says, and I believe Spurgeon gets it right when he said, “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” That is not to say that if you constantly and consistently read the Bible and absorb its contents you will never have a bad day or fall into moments or seasons of despair and depression, but rather, what Spurgeon is driving at is the same core message that I am today. Applying the Word of God, especially in seasons of despair, is a mark of a healthy believer and someone who unfailingly trust that what God has said is trustworthy and true, even in times or hours of desperation.
A Christian who consumes Scripture will be able to apply it when needed most—in times of despair, utter sadness, and depression—because he or she has a deep well of rich biblical theology, truth, and promises from God. I think about my grandfather, Norman Wisely, who always had a verse to quote or passage to retrieve and reference when troubles crept into his and my grandmother’s life. He was a tremendous man of God and servant-leader in his church. Many looked up to him for advice and insight into the Word of God because he knew the Word of God like he knew his own family.
From the time I was a child going to spend my summers on their farm in Illinois, I can remember waking to see my grandfather pouring over his Bible at the breakfast table or in his recliner. Whether it was an illness, a financial issue, or family drama, my grandfather was always applying Bible verses and stories to ease tension, relieve fears and doubts, and remind himself and our family of God’s everlasting love and faithfulness. I am sure you yourself have people like that in your own lives. People who, at the drop of a hat, can immediately use the Bible like a balm to soothe a weary heart and mind. That ability can only come through consistent Bible reading and prayer for understanding.
Finally, my dear Christian friend, at all costs we must humble ourselves, submit to the Word, and actually apply it to our lives. That seems straightforward and self-explanatory, but far too often we completely forget to apply what we have read many times and use the Word of God how He intended it to be used. We may know what the Bible says; we may believe what the Bible says; we may know that the Bible is the living and active Word of God, that is sharper than any two-edged sword, and even understand it; but if it is not even applied to our lives when we are in a desperately despairing situation, it cannot offer us any comfort whatsoever.
Therefore, cast aside any pride you may have that is holding you back, and any wrong-headed thinking causing you to believe that you are required to despair alone, with no comfort or peace in sight, and allow the Bible to wash over you like a cool refreshing fountain of spring water. Let the Holy Spirit soothe your soul and relieve your pain. Let the Word of God shine brightly in your life and blot out the darkness that seems to never end.
Believe me, my friend, I have been there and have forgotten to let the Word break through and crush the bonds that were holding me back from joyous living in the Spirit. The Bible is a gift of grace, mercy, and love from God, who desires you to hear from Him—so use it! When you are grieving and feel distant from God, turn to Psalms 22-24 and know that He is there. When you feel the heat of the enemy’s arrows of temptation, flee to the Gospels and rest in the fact that Christ will never leave you nor forsake you. Preach, my dear friend, preach the beautiful life-giving words of Ephesians 2 over and over again to yourself when Satan is crouching at your door and telling you that you are unworthy to receive the love of God.
May the words of Lamentations 3:21-33 wash over you, and may you start today applying this particular word from God to your life if, like me, you’ve been suffering through despair and desperation for far too long. Know that the God of the universe loves you with an everlasting love, and that joy will come in the morning, and that Gods mercies are new each and every day.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.”
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.