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Bitterness, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
October 27, 2022 9:00 am

Bitterness, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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October 27, 2022 9:00 am

Whenever we struggle with depression, despair, or doubts about God, we tend to feel a lot of shame. Do we just not have enough faith?

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Is it ever okay to question God? Pastor JD Greer answers that question today on Summit Life. A lot of you have gone through dark chapters and you have thought these very things and you have shut yourself up and said, no, I cannot say this. I cannot feel this. Real Christians don't feel like this.

Jeremiah was a real Christian. God, where are you? God, you're not listening. Why, God? Every time I seem to be making some headway, he crushes it. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian JD Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Bittavitch. For some reason, most of us tend to think of good Christians as those people who are always smiling and encouraging others and always confident, never wavering. So whenever we struggle with things like depression, despair, or doubts about God, there tends to be a lot of shame that goes along with that. And we think that there's something wrong with us or maybe we just don't have enough faith.

And it can be difficult to ask for help because we don't want anyone to see us as broken. Well, today, pastor JD addresses this very real struggle from a biblical perspective. If you'd like to follow along with the transcript of each message, you can always find them free of charge at Pastor JD titled today's message despair.

So let's jump right in. My final topic in this series is one that was not a part of my original list, but one that I really feel compelled to talk to you about. I would assume this is the Holy Spirit.

And so I would think that there's probably some of you listening right now that you are why God laid this on my heart. And that final topic is despair. Despair. By despair, I mean this overwhelming, suffocating sense that life is just not going to get any better. You've finally given up on your marriage. I mean, every once in a while, you would get this glimmer of hope that things were going to change only to have the door slammed in your face again. In fact, some of you might have actually been a little excited about this series thinking this is going to be it.

This is what God is going to use to turn my spouse around. And it might even have started to happen, but then it all caved in and it imploded and you're back to where you started. Or maybe your job is going nowhere. And you finally are kind of embracing that your dreams are shattered.

Maybe your finances are just not you thought this time you thought last year that this time things would finally be on the up and up, but they're not. And you're starting to kind of kind of resolve yourself that this is the new normal. Or maybe you're lonely. Maybe you're lonely and things don't seem to be changing. You're getting older. Every day that passes is another one that you're alone.

And every day that passes, your prospects don't seem to be getting any brighter. Or maybe you think you're never going to get victory over a particular temptation or habit. You fall into it for the millionth time, pornography. Maybe it's some kind of sexual perversion. Maybe it's losing your temper.

And you just started to think, hey, you know what? Maybe this is me. Maybe I'm never going to change. Maybe this is just the reality.

This is what I am. You're praying for a family member to come to Christ, but they're still as cold and turned off as ever. You're dealing with grief, some of you. Loss of a parent, loss of a spouse, loss of a child. Loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend. And you keep thinking that the grief is going to get better.

You keep hearing that time heals all wounds, but it's just not changing for you. You know, sometimes you can't even really put your finger on what it is. Sometimes it's just this kind of dark cloud that seems to cover your life. And it leaves you with a sense of spiritual vertigo. You know, we don't really know what ways up.

You don't know what ways north. You don't really know what way to walk or what to do. And so you feel yourself wanting to give up. You feel your heart beginning to succumb to bitterness, to cynicism, alcohol, drugs, suicide. It's really popular in our culture to turn to medication.

People always want to know. They're like, well, how do you feel about medication? Is it ever okay for us to take medication to deal with these kind of things? Well, first of all, I'm not a licensed counselor. Let me make that clear.

Second of all, even if I were a licensed counselor, it is impossible for me to stand up here and make a general statement that would apply to everybody. But I will just say this very quickly in passing, all right? And that is that God has made us as a body-soul union. And that means that sometimes what's happening in the body does affect what is going on in the soul. We all know that at some level, right? You ever notice how when you haven't gotten enough sleep, you are much less sanctified? Right? I mean, you're snapping at everybody.

You're crabbing. And the answer is not just to go do your quiet time. Yes, go do your quiet time after you've gotten a good night's sleep. And then you'll find that both of them together actually help you with sanctification. You see, the body can aggravate what is going on in the soul. Here's the thing. While conditions in the body do aggravate spiritual conditions, they usually don't create them. That's the thing to remember.

Brad Hambrick, our staff counselor here, pastor that oversees a lot of this stuff, told me this week, he said, he said, so he said, here's how I see it. He said, a few years ago, we were, I was in the yard playing with my kids and I got a really bad case of poison ivy. And he said, I had to go on a trip and it was really inconvenient to have this poison ivy. So an uncle of mine, a good old redneck uncle of mine told me that if I would scrub it with a Brillo pad and pour bleach on it, it would clear it up immediately. And he said, I thought that sounded like a good idea.

This is the man that we have hired to care for your souls. He says it got unbelievably infected, really infected. So he called the emergency room, the guy at the emergency room said, here's what you do. He prescribed for him an antihistamine together with a steroid that would speed up the healing process. Well, Brad said that he took this over the course of two or three days and he noticed kind of in retrospect that those two or three days, he was just an animal. I mean, he was snapping at everybody, little things. He was just blowing up at people. And then he finally realized that what was aggravating that was that steroid.

It was taking things that were normally there and then blowing them up to much larger proportions. He said, that's what's going on in somebody's body. It's not that their bodily fluids are creating these issues, but it's like pouring nitrous on them, which is one of the reasons that we say, yes, there are some things that you may need to talk to somebody who knows what they're talking about as you go through this. But while your body aggravates these things, your body is not what creates idolatry, selfishness, or unbelief in your heart. That's why we say that medicines can help alleviate pain, but they can't give hope. Hope comes from somewhere entirely different. Hope is real, okay? Hope is real, and it does not come by deadening anything. Hope comes from somewhere different.

So I'm not answering the question about medication. What I am showing you is that there is hope, and that hope is something a little bit different. So if you have your Bible, I want you to open them to Lamentations. Open your Bible to the book of Lamentations. Now, some of you are like, Lama, who? Lamentations is about halfway through the Old Testament.

If you've got a table of contents, then open it up and check out where that is. Lamentations is, by the way, you're like, what does that mean? Is that like a Hebrew word?

No. Lamentations is an English word that means a lament. Lamentations is a collection of laments. Lamentations is the laments of the prophet Jeremiah.

The book of Lamentations is a collection of five poems. It is a work of art in Hebrew. Those of you that have your Hebrew Bible in front of you can see that. How many of you is that, by the way, just out of curiosity?

Okay. You can see that Lamentations is five poems that are written as an acrostic, which go through every letter of the Hebrew alphabet. That's why every chapter has 22 verses, because the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, with the exception of the middle chapter, chapter three, which we're going to look at, which has 66 verses, because it's a triple acrostic, so that each verse has, or each letter has three verses. You say, well, what is the point of you telling us all that other than, you know, to give us something to know during Bible Trivial Pursuit? Here's what it is, is that Jeremiah is trying to show you that he is giving you the experience of suffering from A to Z. That's what more scholars think he's doing.

Here is the experience of suffering from A to Z. You say, well, why is Jeremiah suffering? Jeremiah lived during a time when Israel was being punished for their sin. Israel had hardened their hearts to God so many times that God was doing to them what he promised he would do to them, and that is, he was exiling them from the land. And so Jeremiah had personally witnessed multiple violent deportations of his friends and his family from Israel. He'd seen the destruction of Jerusalem. He had watched the temple be torn down. He had watched friends and family members be carted off as slaves to the conquering nation of Babylon. And God gave Jeremiah, his prophet, a message to preach to them. And that message basically went like this. What you are experiencing is the judgment of God.

Do not resist it. God is not going to raise up a hero who will bring you deliverance in your lifetime. You should repent, but you should not look for hope and deliverance.

That's a popular message. And the people of Israel totally rejected it, and they put him in prison and said that he was guilty of treason. He was a traitor.

And so he spent most of his time in prison. In fact, he probably wrote the book of Lamentations from the dungeon. Lamentations chapter three, verse one. I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath. He has driven and brought me into darkness without any light. Driven, that word in Hebrew means driven like an animal. That's what it means, like with a whip. This is not all the way my Savior leads me, okay?

This is not that. This is he drove me. You almost think that Jeremiah is thinking about some friends and family that he watched driven off like slaves. He has driven me and brought me into darkness without any light.

That means hopelessness. I read a book this past year called The Endurance, which is about the failed mission of Sir Ernest Shackleton to be the first human to cross over the South Pole. And so he had to abort the mission from the very beginning because his ship, The Endurance, got trapped in polar ice and crushed. And so his team was stranded out there.

I'm basically a continent-sized floating iceberg for 18 months, 18 months. He said that the worst thing, the worst thing was not the cold. The worst thing was not the starvation. The worst thing was the darkness. Because at the South Pole, the sun goes down in mid-May and doesn't come up again until mid-August. So we're talking like three months of just darkness. People who've been through that say that there is no desolation quite as complete as the polar night. No light. Darkness all the time. That's how Jeremiah feels. No light. No hope. This is Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer and a message titled Despair.

Be sure to visit us online at to take a look at all of our resources. You know, we say it all the time here. The Gospel isn't just the diving board into Christianity.

It's the whole pool. We don't want anyone anywhere to miss that. Charles Spurgeon once said, whenever I get a hold of a text, I say to myself, there is a road from here to Jesus Christ and I mean to keep on his track till I get to him. So our goal is to bring solid Bible teaching straight to homes and cars everywhere so that no one misses the opportunity to know Jesus personally. When you give to Summit Life, that's the mission you're supporting. You're helping us reach out and bring the Gospel message to your neighbors and other fellow listeners. And this month, we're inviting you to join our Gospel Partner Program as an ongoing monthly giver. You can find all of the information about joining this special group by visiting our website at

We look forward to having you on the team. Now let's get back to today's teaching here on Summit Life. Here's Pastor JD Greer. Verse three. Surely against me, he turns his hand.

And again and again the whole day long. Who's he talking about, by the way? Who's he talking about?

He's talking about God. God, he has made my flesh and my skin waste away. He has broken my bones. He has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation. He has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape. He has made my chains heavy. Though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. You ever feel like that? You ever feel like God's not listening to me?

I don't know why. Here's the thing, Jeremiah knows that's not true. He'll show you that in a minute. But this is how he feels. A lot of you have gone through dark chapters and you have thought these very things and you have shut yourself up and said, no, I cannot say this, I cannot feel this. Real Christians don't feel like this. Jeremiah was a real Christian.

Jeremiah was a real Christian. God, where are you? God, you're not listening.

Why? Why, God? He has blocked my ways, verse 9, with blocks of stones. He has made my paths crooked.

In other words, every time I seem to be making some headway, he crushes it. Verse 10, he's like a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding. What's your favorite image of God?

Is it that one? Like a bear waiting to maul and dismember you? Oh yeah, that's how I like to think about God. Verse 11, he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces. He has made me desolate. He bent his bow and set me as a target for his arrow. That's almost sadistic, isn't it?

Like setting somebody out as a target for your arrow? He drove into my kidneys, the arrow of his quiver. I become the laughingstock of all peoples, the object of their taunts all day long. It's not even that I'm being admired for the way that I'm suffering. People, in fact, are questioning my motives.

They're saying, I don't know you at all. Well, he has filled me with bitterness. He sated me with wormwood.

Wormwood is a bitter herb. In Jewish thought, it represented the wrath of God. It represented desolation.

In the New Testament, by the way, they translate it as gall, gall. Verse 16, he's made my teeth to grind on gravel and made me cower in ashes. My soul is bereft of peace, and I have forgotten what happiness is. I can't even remember days where I was joyful and happy.

I can't remember what that's like. So I say, verse 18, my endurance is perished, and so has my hope from the Lord. Jeremiah, the prophet of God.

You guys encouraged yet? You're blessed? You know, before I go on, I need you to learn something very, very important, and that is that God chose to include this in the Bible. He didn't have to. He could have edited this out. In fact, he didn't have to choose to include this book at all.

He could have been like, what? The prophet yelled at me, doubting me, accusing me of things? No, we're not putting that in the Bible. Why don't you give us another one of Zephaniah's books? His books are all cheery about me dancing over people, people like that. Or how about Solomon?

His wisdom is really hot right now. We can't keep his sex manual. Song of Solomon, we can't even keep that on the shelves. That'll drive Bible sales up.

Let's put another one of those in there. No, God put this book in there for you who suffer because God knows how you feel, and God needs you to know that he knows how you feel, and it is okay for you to express that. In fact, I would tell you that you need to express it. I feel like we're entirely too quick sometimes with our answers and our think-positively Christian jargon because sometimes what you need is not theological reasoning. Sometimes what you need is a God who walks through this with you.

It's what you need. I had friends, I have friends who went through a dark season of their life, and we were in a culture where you were not allowed to talk this way. So they bottled it up, they shut it up, they never expressed it. And everybody thought, hey, they're doing well. They're kind of, they're struggling through this. They believe in all this stuff, but you know what was going on inside? All this. But they never expressed it.

They weren't allowed to express it. So what Hebrews 12, 15 says, beware lest a root of bitterness be growing in you. You can trim off the roots of bitterness.

You can keep your mouth shut, and then that root goes in there and it defiles everything. Guys, here's what I believe. I believe this in all my heart. God can handle your doubts. He can.

He can answer your questions. In fact, I would tell you that in asking the question and expressing the doubt, you're actually giving real faith a chance to grow. It's like I've often told you, doubt is a foot that is poised to go forward or backward. You might pick that foot up, and you might go backwards into unbelief.

That is certainly possible, but you're never gonna walk forward until you pick up your foot. Some of you, your faith is shallow because you've never really struggled through these things. You've got a domesticated God who gives you purpose and makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but you don't crave Him. You don't stand amazed at Him. You don't passionately follow Him. Deep struggles like this one are the way that God often changes that. It's what the prophet is saying. He's like, had I not been struck by the rod of your wrath, I would have never learned to follow you.

Write this down. Real faith grows out of honestly expressed doubt. Real faith grows out of honestly expressed doubt until you have experienced deep pain and deep questions. You'll never know how much deeper God is than pain, how much more glorious He is than the questions. Deep experience, deep pain, deep doubt is how God deepens your understanding and makes you stand amazed and takes you from a casual Christian to someone who craves Him.

The way that David said in Psalm 42 is that dear paths for the water so my soul longs for you. You don't get that without this. I'll be totally upfront with you. I've never been through what Jeremiah's been through. I've never been through anything close.

I've had pain in my life like you and we all have, but some of you may have been through this. I've never been through anything that I would say is equivalent of that, but I've been through times where I deeply doubted God. I remember right after college, it was several things that I just learned to believe all my life. I remember one of them was hell, and I raged against God.

How, God, how could, why would you do this? And by the way, I knew enough to know that you can do what I see so many people do in our culture, and that is a lot of issues not to believe that part of the Bible. Because I at least had the understanding that the Bible is not a solid bar where you take what you want and where you leave what you want.

It's either all true or it's not true. And I was like, it's either all this is false or, but God, how, how, how, why? And I'm not gonna go into all of it right now, but I will tell you this, that God used some of these most difficult things to show me a God that was so much more glorious than I had thought that he was. That hell is what hell is, because God is who God is, and that's what our sin against God requires. It also deepened my understanding of what God went through to save us, because it showed me the depth of my depravity and my sin, because that was the natural result of my sin.

And so even the doctrine of hell taught me to worship a God who was so loving and so glorious that that is what he went through to save me and what the alternative is to rejecting him, or what happens when you reject him. What I'm trying to tell you is this simply this, listen, some of you need to express your lamentation. You need to write it out. I mean, write that, put that down. Write out my lamentation.

That's your homework assignment. You need to write it out. I mean, literally write it out and not some sanitized positive encouraging Christian radio version of it, but a raw version like Jeremiah's. I mean, seriously, this is a Christian song. Imagine hearing this on Christian radio. Positive encouraging, God is like a bear who mauls me.

Write it out. Then you go somewhere and read it back to God, scream it back to him. Grieve over a shattered dream, a messed up marriage, a lost child, allow yourself to feel the emotions and the sadness and then put them into words and remember that God is listening to you.

God is listening to you and it's okay to be honest with him. A comforting message from JD Greer and Summit Life. If you joined us a little late today or if you'd just like to listen again, you can find this message free of charge at And while you're there, you can also browse Pastor JD's blog or download the complete transcript for any sermon.

These are just a few of the resources that we've made available thanks to your generous support. Summit Life is listener funded and we are so grateful for all of you who believe in this mission. As a young ministry, we're so grateful for all of those people who have partnered with us on this Summit Life journey, right JD?

Molly, you are exactly right. It has been amazing to see what God is doing. And yes, we are so grateful. Let me just say this to all of our listeners, especially those of you who are gospel partners. We are so grateful for those of you that have come alongside of us and prayed for us and supported us financially. We consider you not givers to the ministry. We consider you part of the ministry because your gifts have helped us reach so many new people. Letters and calls that we get of people whose lives are being transformed. This month, we are inviting you to consider taking your support to the next level by becoming what we call a monthly gospel partner. You're not paying my salary when you do that.

Every penny of that goes toward producing and distributing these messages. You are giving directly to the ministry. We are just set up here in a way that by God's grace, we are able to do this and be supported. I'm probably supported by my church, so your giving to this is going to go simply to take this preaching and teaching farther into new places.

And so I think you can feel good about it. I think you can believe in it and know that you're really making a difference for Jesus in the world. We even take at least 10% of all that's brought in and we dedicate that at least 10% to planting new churches in unreached parts of the United States and around the world, particularly in Muslim places. We would love to have you join where God is working through this ministry. And yeah, I invite you to do that, to consider it, to pray about it, to go to and check it out. When you sign up for an ongoing monthly gift of $35 or more, you become part of that gospel partner family. And for your first gift as a partner, we'll send you a box of 20 inspirational greeting cards to help you encourage some of the people in your life. Your gift to the ministry right now helps us proclaim this powerful gospel message every single day all across the country and around the world.

We thank the Lord continually for our faithful partners because we truly could not do this without you. As always, you can visit us at or call us right now at 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. If you'd rather mail your donation, our address is JD Greer Ministries, P.O. Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 27709. I'm Molly Vitovich. Tomorrow we're coming to the conclusion of this practical series called Home Records, and you don't want to miss it. Be sure to join us Friday for Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-05 19:43:51 / 2022-11-05 19:50:20 / 6

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