"When God determined to recover a ruined situation, he would find a man and baptize him in anguish" (David Wilkerson). And this is precisely what we need today!
Anguish is defined as severe physical or emotional pain or distress. Spiritual anguish is when we feel deeply the things that reflect the heart of God. Prophetic voices have always sounded the alarm and called people to weep over the things that break the heart of God. Jeremiah lamented, "O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart" (4:19). And God told Isaiah to "Cry aloud, spare not! Lift up your voice like a trumpet" to warn the people of their sin (Isaiah 58:1).
In the New Testament, John the Baptist was the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" (John 1:23). Even Jesus experienced deep anguish when he cried out, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Luke 13:24).
Anguish over the Ruins
The book of Nehemiah begins with Jerusalem being in ruin: "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days, I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." Later in the book, Nehemiah said to the king, "Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?" (Nehemiah 2:3).
We only need to look at the devastating drift from God's moral standard in America to understand Nehemiah's lament. From the school districts to the courtrooms and from the media to manipulating news outlets, the outright perversion is extremely alarming. We are drowning in a cesspool of moral filth: "The wicked freely parade and prance about while evil is praised throughout the land" (Psalm 12:8). Where is the anguish?
The gates of the city represented security, commerce, and justice, all of which had decayed. As it was then, so it is today. The ruins are all around us as well. Security and justice are being exchanged for corruption and manipulation, and commerce is being replaced with socialism. Again, where is the anguish? Where is the desperation? Where is the righteous indignation? The woke church isn't waking anyone up, and the dead church isn't reviving anyone. We need true prophetic voices again to sound the alarm: "'Return to Me', declares the LORD of hosts, 'that I may return to you'" (Zechariah 1:3).
Anguish Sparks Spiritual Awakenings
Anguish is where a deep prayer life and revival are born: "Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out before You day and night. May my prayer reach Your presence; listen to my cry" (Psalm 88:1-2 HCSB). Anguish fears judgment but also knows that there is hope: "When Zion travails, sons and daughters are born" (cf. Isaiah 66:8).
In 1930, there was a powerful awakening at a school for the sons of missionaries in South India. It was traced to three young boys who were in anguish over the lack of spiritual fervor at the school. God answered their prayers and brought intense spiritual hunger.
In 1949, The Hebrides Revival in Scotland began when two elderly sisters were in anguish over the desperate need for revival. They told the pastor that both of them would pull down heaven by praying from ten o'clock at night until two o'clock in the morning. Their anguish prevailed, and spiritual fire was ignited. We must once again reach this level of desperation.
Anguish over a Lack of Spiritual Hunger
To awaken our spiritual appetite, there must be a continual hunger and thirst for God. Matthew 5:6 tells us that only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. Are you in anguish over the spiritual condition of our families, nation, and church … over the lack of righteousness? Then ask God to awaken your barren and dry soul by setting aside time to fast and pray.
Evangelical author Neil T. Anderson once asked a high priest of Satanism this question: "Based on your experience of the other side, what is the Christian's best line of defense?" The Satanist responded, "Prayer, and when you pray, mean it. Fervent prayer stops Satan's activity like nothing else."
Decades ago, Gordon Cove challenged readers when he wrote, "You have not sought the Lord with 'your whole heart' until you have tried a protracted season of prayer and fasting." Could a lack of prayer and fasting be hindering you from understanding the heart of God? Absolutely. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Anguish over Sin Leads to Salvation
Another important aspect of anguish involves us realizing our utter depravity and our need for complete reliance on God. Jesus cried out in deep anguish on the cross for us, and we must cry out to Him: "Oh God, save me, a sinner … have mercy on me."
Don't let feelings of unworthiness keep you from surrendering and submitting your life to Jesus. Paraphrasing C.H. Spurgeon, "When Satan tells me I am unworthy, I remind Him that I've always been unworthy, and yet, God still loves me." Feelings of unworthiness do not prevent you from having fellowship with Him. Make the choice today and turn your life completely over to Him. Your anguish over sin will be turned into tremendous peace and joy: "Who the Son sets free is free indeed" (John 8:36).
Hear the sermon where this article originated here.
Photo courtesy: ©Cole E. Photography/SparrowStock
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Southern California and the WCF Radio Network. More can be found at ShaneIdleman.com, including free downloads of his eBooks. Visit him on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to his new podcast, Idleman Unplugged. You can also follow Pastor Shane on the new free speech platform Parler.