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John Mark Hicks

December 11, 2019 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am CST

Author of:
Anchors for the Soul: Trusting God in the Storms of Life

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Interview Transcript

Note: transcript was automatically generated by YouTube, so there may be typographical, gramattical and spelling errors.

Shalom and welcome to this edition of revealing the truth work of the headlines the heartlines and biblical truth I’m your host messianic rabbi Eric Walker drawing on his own experience with losses and tragedies through the death of his young wife and more recently the death of a 16 year old son John marks Hicks mark Hicks tells the story of God through his own experience of suffering he walks with sufferers through the valley of loss he grounds them deeply in the story of God’s love listening empathy sovereignty and victory this path is not only for those who seek to persevere in the midst of their suffering but for also for those who want to prepare for the suffering that comes to all in addition to helping sufferers John Mark provides guidance for those who want to sit with people who are suffering the anchors are found in God John Mark Hicks has taught at institutions affiliated with Churches of Christ since 1982 including Hardy’s Harding school of little theology from 1991 to 2000 and Lipscomb University from 2000 to present where he’s currently a professor of theology he’s authored or co-authored more than a dozen books and contributor articles to several books and periodicals both academic and popular he lives in Nashville Tennessee with his wife Jennifer together they share five living children and two deceased they also have six short six grandchildren here to talk about his new book anchors for the soul how to trust God in the storms of life is John Mark Hicks John mark welcome to revealing the truth well thank you I am happy to be here and I appreciate very much the opportunity to to talk with you this is such a a weighty [Music] the topic of the loss of a loved one that really is not there’s not a biblical pattern this is probably one in the hierarchy of instances of events this is ranks lowest the death of a child ranks lowest among the various events chronicled in the scriptures right we had Aaron who lost his two sons when they brought strange fire we don’t have great examples we have job we have King David but this this biblical foundation or understanding is one that has to be obtained through a journey of faith and navigating through the soulish aspects and into the spiritual aspect of understanding who God really is so what I want to do is I want to go back in time to pre all these events to John Mark Hicks as he was growing up as to what the influences were in your life what examples did you have and as you reflect back which we need to do in order to harvest to find out you know what do I understand now about the course of events what were they leading me to how was God going to work like in Genesis 50 what the enemy meant for evil God would work for his good so that many would be saved well we have a backwards look at that we get to see everything leading up to that and then see the whole story in our personal lives were in the moment we’re not looking back and saying or asking the question to you Lord what what am I going to get out of this we’re asking the question how can I get out of this so sir if we go back into your early years where your foundation of faith was formed maybe that can give us an understanding about how you were capable of navigating these tragedies well I grew up in a family of faith my father was a minister my mother is a schoolteacher I grew up in a church that was formative for me in terms of spiritual life and friendships and community I had a wonderful upbringing in the faith and I think what that did for me is at one level it grounded me deep but it had an another level it was it was easy it was easy faith for me and I think that that is where the Lord formed me over the years moving from that kind of easy inherited joyous kind of faith to a more mature faith hopefully but the crisis that that brought that about or the what I had to move through in order to experience that maturation or that recognition of who God is and what God is doing was was an early event of suffering that I wasn’t prepared for I don’t think my my world in the world in which I lived prepared me for the kind of depth of lament that was part of the experience of the death of my first wife so i i i I had a good life I had everything everything was great I went to college graduated from college my wife and I were going to be missionaries we went to graduate school to prepare and I thought all of that was kind of put in kind of a mechanistic framework you know God does this for me I do this for God then God does this for me and it’s kind of a quid pro quo to used the language of the day right that this was a mechanistic world in my mind I’m going to obey God and God’s going to bless me and I’m going to commit myself to God and God is going to do everything healthy for me and give me a joyous life and and then what happened was you know she loved my first wife brought a great pain and the doctor said you know it’s gonna be very difficult for you to carry a child full-term with this kind of pain and with this kind of condition so they recommended surgery and we had the surgery for that purpose but it was ten days after the surgery that she died mmm blood clot through the lung and heart and that was just a total shock to my system I had been living in this world of okay god I do this you do that and it and so what happened to me was was the experience of a Psalm 44 where I felt betrayed by God you know God God set me up you know I I had lived my life for God I had dedicated myself to God my wife and I were gonna be missionaries we had trained ourselves and went to seminary that it uh you know all this and then this happens what do I do with that and I had I had very little preparation in my upbringing for lament’ I can’t even remember but one funeral that I attended that had any impact on me as I was growing up and so when I’m at the funeral of my own life I don’t have any resources to draw along I don’t have any faith experiences to draw on because all my faith experiences had been a journey of joy but now I’m faced with the reality that I prayed that God would heal my wife I prayed that we would have children together I prayed that we would live a long life together and serve God together and now she’s dead and I I didn’t know what to do with that that was such a shock to the system that I became so angry with God felt so betrayed by God that I I stopped talking to God I I was so angry that I feared that what I might say would be a blasphemy of some sort and then I had that fear okay I’m never gonna get forgiven with that so I better just shut up be quiet not talk to God right and so I said in silence for months because of that so that was the beginning of my journey into loss and it was like God threw me in the deep end you know just right off the bat with this kind of hurt that I had never experienced before and I didn’t know what to do with it how did your family of faith circle around you you know she were always searching for a word of comfort then I come from a Jewish background we have a very different approach to the mourning period the very dear approach one which I think is still incredibly wise and that is as you sit for seven days Brandi you receive people during those seven days and as people make their presence known they don’t initiate a conversation right it is the bereaved who’s sitting there and surrounded by people that care for them old friends and family and if they want to bring up a topic of a memory or begin a conversation then they’re free to do so but otherwise just your presence in sitting what’s called Shiva which means seven days right this concept of a quiet morning with the support of just an outpouring of love you might you might grasp their hand hold it give them a knowing look you know you might say I’m so sorry for your loss but there’s so many cliches and so many answers and so many things people volunteer that there’s actually no come five done so many funerals and I stand there with the family by the casket and I hear some of the things that people say and I know that it it is only but it’s death by a thousand cuts when you’re already bleeding out absolutely yeah I hear that I think that’s exactly right let me contrast my world with with Shiva Shiva which the sitting with the traditions of the Jewish faith of sitting with which i think is wonderful i want to affirm that because i did not have that kind of tradition in my life i i didn’t know what to do with this i didn’t know how to sit there and people didn’t know how i mean i in our in my life let me put it that way i can’t speak for all of christian christianity of course but in my tradition it seems like the funeral was the main event or the wake before or you sit with the deceased and people come to visit and visitation but people don’t generally know how to do that we’re very uncomfortable we don’t know what to say we don’t know what to do it feels awkward we feel so sad and we feel so hurt and we feel so overwhelmed by the situation that that we say stuff that we that if we were thinking we wouldn’t say all right for example at the wyatt my visitation of my wife I had a really gentle wonderful elderly woman come up next to me by the coffin and looked down at my wife and and she said doesn’t she look good and I thought no she doesn’t she doesn’t look good but she was trying to find something to say to be comforting but I think you’re exactly right and this is part of the tradition of the Hebrew Bible is is to to lament with the other by participating in the lament by listening to the lament I mean the Psalms let let the laments rise out of the songs and let us listen to the lament of the other now try to correct it and I try to you know to fix it or or say words that will somehow make it go away no we lament and so what you expressed there about presence and silence I mean that’s the last couple of chapters of the book or in fact and the first thing I say is be there be present but when you’re present be silent you wait for the other that you wait for the griever to initiate as you mentioned a moment ago because when we initiate we initiate about us or we initiate about we want to distract people from their grieving we want to make them feel better when in fact what needs to happen is people need to sit in their grief and they need to be formed by that and they need to experience it and need to experience its depth and so those those days of sitting I think are wonderful traditions that in my upbringing and in my tradition particularly we didn’t have that I mean you might have the visitation and then you have the funeral and then it’s over and we go on with our business you know and so the worst days of grief for many people are the day’s the months and the weeks after the funeral when no one is sitting with them no our very few people are sitting with them or they may send a card and that’s a good thing and I’m you know that’s great but when we don’t sit with people then there is no community in the loss we might you know we might say oh let’s go out to dinner or let’s go see a movie or let’s do something and that’s fine there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s not sitting with me in my grief listening to my grief so I think as we as we think about how we sit with people in silence and listening yes there comes a moment when we can say something and I think you’re exactly right we can say you know I’m very sorry or I’m very sad or I love you and what I suggest in the book is here’s my my rule of thumb when I’m with when I’m sitting with a person in grief I will speak in terms of I rather than you I don’t say well you should or you need to or it would be better for you to you know whatever I stay away from the you statements I use the I statements I am sorry I am so sad I am here I love you because the you statements can be not only directive like you’re supposed to do something that you’re not doing but they can also be very interpretive that they can say you should understand this or you should see it this way or somehow we we you know we try to subtly introduce interpretations into the events like it’s gonna be okay oh really you know it’s gonna be okay what does that mean okay right now okay means for me this is not okay all right and I don’t see how it’s gonna become okay so we have to be very careful about that interpretive language or no language about this was for the best really I don’t see that so staying away from interpretation and the use statements but focusing on the I statements when we when we are in that situation where we speak into a person’s suffering we don’t describe their suffering we describe our suffering which comes alongside them now does that make some sense oh ma incredible sense and it actually lines up with the story of job yes friends were constantly offering counsel and opinions and assessments as Joe was going through his trials and tribulations and they were well-meaning but not accurate and would have led and he followed their suggestions let him down a path that would not have glorified God and then I think about the conversation that Jesus was having with the disciples when they asked him when they’re talking about the blind man and they said now Lord who sinned what did he sin or did his parents sin that he said be blind and he said neither so that God might be glorified well that’s a very puzzling statement how can God be glorified in a person’s blindness how can God be glorified in the passing of your wife in the loss of your son and when we dig deeper into that we find that sorrow is not forever love is and if we can be that expression of love which is a soothing balm it is a anointment it is what we a salve it’s the myrrh of emotion it’s what was put on the the circumcision to protect it from infection and to help in the healing process that’s what love is and so it it’s you know you have a period of a week or two or you know maybe your church group and church family have that roster of who’s gonna bring you meals but when that stops when that visitation stops comes a vacuum that you now you have to think about what do I do with her clothes right well I have to do that in the quiet time of my own privacy it’s not that I’m gonna have a whole bunch of cheerleaders helping me remove the article what do I do with them what do i do what do I hold on to how do I avoid having a soul tie a connection to my deceased wife that prohibits me from coming face-to-face with the raw emotion and with the reality of God and being able to ask the question being so angry with God then I can now be safe to express that anger yeah I’m Lord and how could you do this to me well that was that was an important moment for me I in the months after the loss of my wife I stopped talking to God I’m asked I would look good on the outside you know I put on this face that made it look like I was doing okay and but on the inside I was hurting and on the inside I was angry and frustrated and bitter much like Joe Wright just said this is kind of job’s world but what what made a difference to me was a friend of mine at some point said why don’t you might might be helpful for you to read the Psalms and and I thought you know my initial reaction to that I didn’t say it but I was thinking I’ve read the songs before who are you to suggest this to me but it nod at me and eventually I started reading the Psalms and I began to see in the Psalms the very feelings that I that I was experiencing for example you know how long is must my how long is my soul be in anguish Psalm 6 or Psalm 10 verse 1 why do you hide yourself in times of trouble or Psalm 13 how long will Lord will you forget me forever how long must I have sorrow in my heart every day and I began to read those songs and I began to say see that what I was experiencing on the inside is what Israel sang about in their worship and when I think about my my worship growing up I didn’t sing those kind of songs those kind of songs were not in my repertoire in church we had a few maybe that could be classified as a lament but generally speaking it was about encouragement and hope and victory it was more triumphal in its character right so that what church gave me typically was a triumphalist picture of the world that did not give space to lament did not give space to it so when I began reading the Psalms I I began to see cow that’s what I feel and and what happened to me was I began to to pray the songs I can pray that these are words that Israel has used for centuries to express their lament and their hurt and their anger and their disillusionment and their doubt I can do that too and to pray the songs with Israel became became my my lifeline that was the first turning point for me was to recognize that I could speak to God honestly and I could tell God what I was feeling on the inside and that the Psalms gave the lament songs in particular which are almost half of the Psalms write the lament songs gave me permission and not only commission but invited me into the presence of God to speak what was real in my life and what I was really feeling as you prayed the Psalms and I have you know I was raised in the synagogue I came to faith in son synagogue so all I know is sure this Jewish book are written by Jewish authors about Jewish people right and so it’s it’s it’s my worldview is a biblical Jewish believing worldview and as I saw in the scriptures and I was going through a betrayal that was a death to me something that drove me to the point of daily tears and daily lamenting Psalm 13 I found a recording of Psalm 13 and I put it on a CD and I put it in my car and I put it on repeat and that would drive the 40-minute drive that I had a drive from point A to point B every day listening to this lament and and saying now that you’ve heard me but I will trust in your unfailing love and trust in your salvation and but I don’t know how yeah I don’t know how because you’re silent and you’re not telling me yeah and what are you doing are you is this trial by fire is this a testing are you seeing if you can trust me in despair to be like job which would not curse God won’t continue to praise God why why Oh Lord would you allow something like this to happen what is it you require of me mm-hmm and as as you go through the some love lament you come to that point where it says okay I will serve you the rest of my days even and Paul made it so clear that there were there was a thorn in his flesh and that three times he asked the Lord to take it away and the Lord didn’t take it away and so he said you know I must live with this and that’s that it’s kind of a a metaphor for the kind of grief that you carry assume that others carry is that he still was able to give great service of the Lord and eventually open up a very clear path of two-way communication by finally not resigning himself to it but accepting the fact that his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are harder than our thoughts so how did you come out the other side of this well I think the first step for me was the lament songs I mean that was the first be invited into that space where I could just wring it out before God and Psalm 13 as in your experience Psalm 13 and my experience has been central it’s it’s been kind of the song for me that epitomizes this movement from lament to trust or learning how to trust and lament at the same time I think that that’s kind of what Psalm 13 does we had that first couple of verses how long the Lord but then you get the petitions in verses 3 and 4 where look at me answer me give light to my eyes you know so you have the complaint the questions and then you have the petition and then you have the expression of trust nevertheless that’s how I would translate that involved there you know nevertheless I got all this lament I got all these petition I’m I’m messed up here but nevertheless I trust in your unfailing love and I will sing of your goodness because you have been good to me so the movement from lament to trust is I think part of it is a process of naming it got a name it and name it before God and I think when I when I look at when I’m thinking about my book here and my own process these five anchors emerged for me as kind of the formative even foundational perspectives on the story of God that shaped my grief and gave gave rise to a sense of peace I don’t say peace in the sense of you know without turmoil and I mean peace and a sense of Shalom a sense of safety and wholeness even though we have scars even though we didn’t beaten up a little bit we can still have some kind of sense of safety in the presence of God and so the five anchors are or I think the the primary frame which I emerged three the Greve it’s not that we get over the grief all right we’re gonna move through the grief it’s not that we can escape the darkness it’s that we move through the darkness toward the light and these five anchors are what are important to me in that regard that’s a great segue into our break as we’re talking with John mark Hicks author of anchors for the soul how to trust God in the storms of life he presents in the book five anchors that are going to help you not only navigate if it’s your grief but also find a way in the end of the book how to be of support and help others through their grief and it is a first-hand testimony to the power of God to we healing and bring trust and a life of service to God almost even though even though you took my wife even though you took my son even though I will trust in your unfailing love and I come to the crossroads that says that I don’t understand it I cannot explain it I cannot justify it I can only believe in the fact that you are sovereign you are God and I am NOT and therefore I’m going to make the decision to trust in you yes as you navigate your life your grief your service the troubles that are going on within you these five anchors will serve you on every circumstance but especially in grief we’re gonna take a short break and when we come back from that break we’ll talk about these five anchors from anchors for the Soul how to trust God the storms of light by John Mark Hicks we’ll be right back the Lord meets you right where you are and sodas ignite Ignatians new live streaming outlets you can now watch revealing the truth revealing the Bible and prophecy revealed simulcast live each Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to one o’clock p.m. Central Standard Time on YouTube live Facebook live vinny o periscope and through our website WWE and acecomm no matter what device you are using our program will automatically scale so you won’t have to miss a single program and if you happen to miss an episode you can always subscribe to the igniting nation youtube channel and access over 1,000 interviews and never miss your favorite authors special guests and topics that interest you the most there are lots of ways to see Israel but nothing compares 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heart lines and biblical truth I’m your host mrs. kenig Rabbi Eric Walker we’re talking with John mark Hicks author of anchors for the soul how to trust God in the storms of life john mark Hicks welcome back to this edition of revealing the truth well thank you good to be here when we went to break we referred to the five anchors that you talked about in the anchors for the soul so I wanted to give you these next 13 minutes or so that we have in this segment they’re kind of lay out what those five anchors are and the thematic aspects of them so that people will want to get the book and really really explore it thank you thank you for the opportunity I mean these are these are so core for me they are central for me and they they form my spirituality they formed the way I interact with people they formed the way I deal with grief and when I’m sitting with people when I can tell this story but it’s appropriate to tell the story it’s not always you know we as we said before you start with silence and you let people grieve and hurt and you sit with them but there comes a moment when we can share the story of God and for me I’ve summarized these in five anchors using the metaphor of a storm we need stability in a storm how can faith find its stability so it’s not shipwrecked against the rocks of suffering and doubt and pain and hurt and so I call them five anchors and imagine people could put them in different order in different ways but I start with the first anchor as the love of God that God loves me and and this is what every sufferer doubts right we get to that moment when we doubt whether God really does care does God is really is God really concerned about me does God really love me and and that is the core doubt that suffering brings to our lives I’ve experienced it Psalm 77 actually raises those questions about has your steadfast love ceased forever right so or Malachi you know Malachi says hey God loves you and the people of Malachi responded saying how has God loved us you know where is that where’s the evidence of God’s love so I think the beginning point the beginning anchor point is coming to terms with and affirming and feeling it deep inside of us that God loves us now how we’re going to do that though we can’t look at the circumstances of our life and say oh oh I see how God loves me later that’s happened and that’s happened and because there’s a lot of stuff that happens that doesn’t reflect that sort of positive energy right it seems to me the love of God is something that the story of God assures us of the story of God the Creator who creates out of love not out of ego but out of love the story of Israel where God chooses Israel not because Israel was so wonderful or righteous are great but because God loved Abraham and God loved Israel and God would not give up on Israel and called Israel out of Egypt as a child right them that even Ephraim that disobeyed God so deeply God says I can’t give up on you I I love you you’re my child but most of all I think in terms of the Christian context we see the love of God in the cross I can stand at the side of my wife’s coffin and doubt God’s love I’ve done that I can I can be at my son’s grave and doubt God’s love I’ve done that but I can’t be at the cross and doubt it when I’m at the cross and when I kneel at the cross this is the testimony that God loves you they God loves me God loves you no matter what else is going on in our life Crosse is that word from God that says I love you and that’s where we have to begin and that’s what we need reminders that’s why we we worship together that’s why every Sunday or whenever we do get together or Saturday whatever it is when we worship together we are reminding each other of God’s love for us at the cross and in the resurrection the second anchor is one we really already talked about there in the first first part of our program that is God listens that God invites us to tell God exactly how we feel and that’s the lament songs and again it’s part of the story of God it’s it’s you hear it in Abraham you hear it in David you hear it in job you hear it in Jeremiah and you hear it in Jesus right because Jesus is on the cross and what does he do he quotes a lament song my God my God why have you forsaken me Jesus asked why you know Joe best why Abraham asked why Jeremiah asked what the people of God have always asked why this is not a new thing it’s not a strange thing it’s not something we should tell people oh don’t do that don’t ask don’t know this is part of the prayer life of Israel it’s part of the prayer life of Jesus that when we are when we are overwhelmed with this hurt and this pain we cry out why there’s nothing wrong with that right so Jesus lamented and so we can lament Paul talks about in Romans 8 how he groans and that the spirit groans with us and the spirit interprets our groaning you know the father pours darkness over the cross as the father mourns the loss of the Son and the son laments and the spirit limit God laments and when we lament we we enter into God’s own weeping right so learning how to lament or being willing to lament and acting on those feelings that we have in our heart just tell them to God I remember one time I was with a group of families who all had Tana Lee ill children like my son we went around the room telling our stories and it one just broke down and talked about her anger with God and how she was so upset with God betrayed by God we all listened and because we all understood that we know what that feels like and I asked her just a simple question would because this was a support group kind of environment and I asked her have you ever told God that and she said no I wouldn’t I wouldn’t say that to God yeah yeah you can’t you see there’s there’s healing and speaking it there’s healing and naming it and I think that’s part of the function of lament so the first anchor God loves us the second anchor God listens to us and the third anchor is God understands now this one this was a little tougher in terms of getting at but this is what I think is so important about the Incarnation when when God’s Messiah comes into the world there’s God coming into the world God comes to God’s temple right in the flesh God made flesh and God in the flesh doesn’t come and explain suffering you know Jesus never gives a sermon on the explanation of suffering right he doesn’t you know it doesn’t do that for three chapters in Matthew right he doesn’t explain the suffering but what the Incarnation is is one who comes to suffer with us to suffer with us to join us in the journey to become Israel right to be baptized with Israel to go into the wilderness with Israel to go into the land of Galilee with Israel and to experience the hurts of the exile and the pains and the oppression and the insults and the injuries and the thirst and the hunger you see before the Incarnation God never experienced hunger before the Incarnation God had never been tempted before the Incarnation God had never died but in the flesh God in the flesh God now has an empathy with us rooted in the Incarnation God knows what it God becomes an insider to the suffering now there’s sense in which all through the Old Testament or through the Hebrew Bible the God is suffering too because God’s weeping with his people God is hurting and grieved by the sin in the world I mean God knows how to hurt God that’s part of who God is God hurts well what happens in the Incarnation is we take it to another level that God becomes one of us walks in our shoes sits with us in the funeral home and experiences all that we experience so that now he is able according to Hebrews to it he is able to help those who are being tempted help those who are being learning who are suffering so that Jesus was made perfect by the things which he suffered for our sake so when I’m experiencing suffering I can I can always come back to this anchor and say god knows what that’s like God understands this this isn’t something outside of God’s experience god knows what I’m feeling as one who has felt it in God’s own life through the Incarnation and then through the Incarnation the father feels that because the father is in communion with the son right and the spirits in communion with the son and so the spirit feels it too so the God feels what we feel we’re not going to surprise God by telling God something God already knows what that’s like and so he so God sits with us in our suffering as a fellow sufferer yes I think that that’s really important and those first three anchors are so important because they are they’re the foundation God loves us God listens to us and God understands god empathizes with us because the fourth one is the trust factor the fourth one is the tough one God reigns as you were saying earlier you know why if God reigns why does this happen if God reigns what’s going on here what is up with this how do I interpret this how do I understand this and here’s where we had the dual affirmation of faith on the one hand God reigns and I trust I don’t understand I think that’s part of the anchor here of God reigns because when I thought when I affirm the reign of God I’m also saying you know God’s God and I’m not and God’s doing things that I could never understand and God is involved in things that I could not appreciate that if you were trying to explain to me all that God is doing and why God is doing it it’d be like trying to explain quantum mechanics to a four-year-old I don’t have the capacity to understand all that God is doing my god cannot fit in my brain right it’s bigger than my brain so here’s where trust comes into play and this is where trust I think can be developed because of the first three anchors if I really believe God loves me and if I really believe God listens to me and if I really believe God understands what I’m going through and has experienced what I’m going through then maybe I can trust him I can trust God trust the God who reigns and I can trust a text like Romans 8 verse 28 that God is at work in everything for God’s purposes for good and finally the fifth anchor is God wins God ends this is the victory Jesus says I reserve the right for the overcomer to sit my right hand and eat from the tree of life as I walk in the victory for the death that brought life and the resurrection of Jesus becomes a kind of preview of coming attractions it’s exactly right it’s exactly right we’ve been talking with John Mark Hicks author of the book anchors for the soul how to trust God the storms of life after surviving the death of to loved ones he has maintained and advanced his teaching and his ability to glorify God and come into contact with the fact than stablished that God loves God listens God understands God reigns and God always always wins amen and so for those of you that are suffering right now whether or not it’s the loss of a life or loss of a loved one through divorce or trying to even offer comfort to someone this is an incredible tool for understanding not long not thick but rich with wisdom and personal personal experience from one who has gone through suffering John Mark Hicks thank you for joining us here on revealing the truth Thank You rabbi Eric I appreciate the opportunity very much god bless you my friend we’re taking short break and when we come back we’ll bring you the next edition of revealing the truth.

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