On most mornings I turn to the Scriptures as much out of a good, lifelong habit as anything else. On some mornings I approach God’s Word with a more keen sense of purpose. And sometimes I come with a real desire to meet God.
But on many occasions—often outside my daily routine of Bible intake—I turn to the Word of God out of an acute awareness of need. The world’s increasing complexity may have tensed my anxiety and frustration levels close to the snapping point. Or suffering, finances, or circumstances may have drained all my courage, endurance, or heart.
At such times we should go to the Bible and ask the Lord to give us patience, comfort, and hope through His Word.
We can do so with confidence, because the Bible expressly says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that we through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
When the apostle Paul spoke of things “written in former days” he was referring to what we now call the Old Testament. Today we can affirm that “whatever was written in former days” applies to the New Testament as well. The whole Bible was written “for our instruction,” that is, to instruct us—chiefly about God and His glory, and His work through Jesus Christ. And through these Scriptures, God gives real “endurance and . . . encouragement . . . [and] hope.”
Every now and then my heart is so broken, or my grief so deep, or my burden so heavy that I drop down in my desk chair, open the Bible, put my head in my hands and cry out, “Father, please encourage me through Your Word.” Or, “Lord, I’m so discouraged. I don’t know if I can go on. Give me hope!”
How does He answer? Sometimes it’s through promises, such as, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Or He answers through the assurances of doctrinal passages like Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Or He may reply through the comfort of psalms penned by writers with the same passions coursing through my soul: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5).
Overall, I think God means for us to draw endurance, encouragement, and hope from the Scriptures by seeing there how He has always accomplished His purposes throughout the world and at all times, and then believing that He will accomplish them in our lives. I can read the Old Testament, and then see how God fulfilled it later in Jesus Christ and the church. I can read in the New Testament of both the power of Christ and His tender mercies toward His own. Then I encounter the repeated promises that Jesus will return for His people and take us to an eternal home of joy more glorious than all the sunsets in the history of the world combined.
Through these holy, historic, and living words God grants endurance regarding His timing and providence in my life. Through these God-breathed lines I experience the encouragement of His presence and precious promises. And in the pages of Scripture He gives me the hope of a better world that is one day closer.
In His mercy, the Lord encourages us through people, circumstances, and countless other ways. But there’s no simpler, purer, or more direct means of receiving endurance, encouragement, or hope than by going to His Word and asking for it.
This material originally appeared in Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), 52-53.
I’m sure you are right even more than you realize when you say you are learning a great deal through this. Be assured that your sufferings will not be wasted. Many texts tell us this, but 2 Cor. 1 is one that particularly comes to mind. Moreover, I was reading in 2 Cor. 5-6 today, and was reminded how Paul proved himself a faithful minister by undergoing so many terrible ordeals. Your perseverance in your discouraging circumstances likewise proves your own faithfulness to God’s call on your life.
I was also thinking about your struggle with assurance. Two thoughts occurred to me. One, the salvation you hope for is not something you must wrest from God, but is an offer, and offer He has already made—and willingly. In other words, God has offered salvation to you; you do not have to make Him willing to save you. He has already demonstrated that by sending His Son for sinners, and then willingly offering that salvation to you.
Second, no one who came to Christ, no one who wanted Him, was turned away. No matter how unworthy they were and felt (e.g., the woman caught in adultery; Zaccheus), no matter how weak, no matter how undesirable (lepers), no matter what. Jesus has promised that He will cast out none of those who want Him, including ministers (like Peter) who disappointed themselves by not being as strong as they thought they would be.
Further, a bruised reed He will not break off, nor will He put out a smoldering wick (Matt. 12:20). A bruised reed is one stepped on and almost broken, hanging by a thread. A smoldering wick is all smoke and almost no light, only a glowing edge along the top of the wick. As worthless as these may feel and are to others, He will not break them or snuff them out. (Incidentally, Richard Sibbes’ A Bruised Reed might be very sweet to you right now.)