Thursday, October 18, 2012

What if I'm still depressed?

   So, maybe you are one of the precious few who read my last post, and maybe it helped you see that God still loves you, but chances are it did not erase your depression. Reminders of God's love help, but they are not always a cure. Does this say something bad about us? God's unfathomable love, His "unspeakable gift" is not enough to get me out of the dumps? That makes me seem ungrateful, surely none of God's people ever acted like this... right?

   Allow me to introduce Timothy. Timothy had a wonderful nurturing relationship with the apostle Paul (arguably the greatest missionary to ever live). Paul made sure to instill in Timothy, from the beginning, the greatness of God's love and sacrifice. Paul spent time with Timothy and they grew as close as father and son... lucky! We would probably all like that chance. But, do not be too quick to wish yourself into Timothy's sandals. With great privilege comes great responsibility. And Paul left Timothy at Ephesus, a very troubled church, because he had confidence in him. It makes sense to send your most trusted man into the most pressing situation, but that is not pleasant for the most trusted man.

   Take a few minutes to read 1 Timothy chapter 4 through 2 Timothy chapter 4 with the thought in mind that he is a man like you, with feelings and emotions, and ask yourself; does it sound like Paul is writing to someone who is depressed? Don't pass over this and read on, actually stop and read it, its only about 5 pages, you can handle this.
   I never looked at these books until I was stressed beyond anything I had ever been through with my local ministry work (much of it was self-inflicted, but that is besides the point). I realized stress had caused me to loose focus on my personal spiritual life and I picked up my Bible and started reading 1 & 2 Timothy because I was a young preacher who needed guidance. I cried so hard while reading these two books. It was like Paul was speaking to me. I loved him for his care and concern, I felt so sorry for Timothy and the pain I never knew he was going through, plus, to be honest, I felt sorry for myself. But this changed how I looked at Timothy. Listen to Paul's words:

"Do not neglect the spiritual gift that is in you, which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the elders laid their hands on you." (1 Tim. 4:14). This young man had the elders hands laid on him and received a spiritual gift from God. It was prophesied that Timothy would do great things for the Lord. Paul is referring back to the prophecy he mentioned back in 1Timothy 1:18. Is that not amazing? Who would ever hesitate to use such a gift? In my limited thought and experience, I would answer that a man under incredible stress and weighed down by depression would. Has not God given me the amazing gift of His grace, love, peace, mercy, forgiveness, even His very Son and His Holy Spirit? But at times the stresses of the world seem so great and I am so overwhelmed that I forget to use the gifts that God has given me. why is someone with as hopeful a future as a child of God living as if he had no hope? The way I see it, you will be overwhelmed by something, the question is by what. You can be overwhelmed by Satan, this happened to Judas. Judas opened the door to Satan and before long he was overwhelmed by Satan's influence. We can be overwhelmed by the world, Paul writes to Timothy about how this happened to many who had work alongside him. You can be overwhelmed by Christ. Did you know that this is what baptism means? It means to be overwhelmed. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:27 that if we are baptized into Christ that we put on Christ or we are wrapped in Christ. You can be overwhelmed by Him. You can be overwhelmed by the Spirit who God has given us as guide, and Paul encouraged Timothy to rely on Him (2 Tim. 1:14). Who will overwhelm you?

"Do not drink water only, but take a little wine to help your digestion, since you are sick so often." (1 Tim. 5:23). Stress is not only dangerous for the toll that it take on your mind and emotions, but also for its effects on the body. Unfortunately, this is how stress effects me, it attacks my stomach. It is no fun. But I think this is another passage that shows the condition Timothy was in. Notice Paul's care even for this.

"Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses." (1 Tim. 6:25). He reminds Timothy of the reward God has for him. God called him to eternal life, as He called us, and that is a pretty good motivator. It's not all for nothing, it's all for everything!

"I remember your tears, and I want to see you very much, so that I may be filled with joy. I remember the sincere faith you have, the kind of faith that your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice also had. I am sure that you have it also. For this reason I remind you to keep alive the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you." (2 Tim 1:4-6). Paul himself laid his hands on Timothy and imparted a gift to him! Again Paul reminds Timothy to keep that gift alive. He reminds Timothy of how impressed he has always been with him and of the confidence he still has in him. May we all be viewed in light of our accomplishments and our potential and not our moments of fear and doubt. Paul follows this up by reminding him that God will give him strength and see him through it all, and uses his own life as an example. How many people could ever conceive of enduring all that Paul went through?
" ... I have worked much harder, I have been in prison more times, I have been whipped much more, and I have been near death more often.  Five times I was given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent twenty-four hours in the water. In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from my own people and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends. There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches. When someone is weak, then I feel weak too; when someone is led into sin, I am filled with distress. If I must boast, I will boast about things that show how weak I am. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus---blessed be his name forever!---knows that I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas placed guards at the city gates to arrest me. But I was let down in a basket through an opening in the wall and escaped from him." (2Cor. 11:23-33).
And that's just to name a few of the things Paul suffered. Be he says, God saw me through it all and is still fighting for me, so hang in there and remember God will do the same for you. That is his reminder to Timothy and to us. God will see you through! Even if I neglect His gifts for a time or seem ungrateful, He waits to pick me up and carry me through.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dealing With Depression: How Does God View Human Frailty?

Depression is no respecter of persons. Age, race, gender, and social background do not matter to this crippling oppressor of mankind. And we often see depression depicted like this:
   Yet another picture of an adolescent hunched over with internal turmoil that crushes them to the ground and makes them rock themselves in a corner. In reality, it is rarely like this. A depressed person, no matter what their age, is probably going to look like your average coping individual, at least in public. I like to think that I do. Most of the people around you are dealing with depression, or not dealing with it, but still suffering from it; it is just a matter of degree. This does not make your case, or mine, any less significant, it just means we are not alone.
    If it is a problem that so many people struggle with, there must be many Christians struggling with depression, right? And if there are many Christians who are depressed, surely someone thought to turn to God's words and share some wisdom and insight from the Scripture, right? If they have, I have yet to find it. Oh, there are plenty of Christian bloggers who blog about what you should do when you are depressed, and lots of ministers who are apparently untouched by this plague on the rest of the race, but I can sum the first 20 or so that your search engine will show you. They basically say, suck it up and move on, because Paul told Timothy "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV).
    Oh... Just get over it and move on... why didn't I think of that. Are you kidding me?! Have any of these people ever suffered from depression? I think they are confusing depression with disappointment. So, disgusted by the lack of help that I found there, I decided that maybe it is time for someone who fights depression (with victories and defeats) to write about it, and try to uncover what God thinks about my struggle.
     Personally, I believe that one of the worst things about depression is the feeling that you are not good enough. If you fall into a state of depression, chances are you really cannot stand your inability to just "get over it." Your inability to move on make you feel worthless because it seems like the rest of the world is able to cope. Maybe, like me, you feel that you are far too fragile to live in the world you live in. If we feel like we are not meeting the expectations of the general public, we feel this more strongly with those who know us more intimately, and we feel this exponentially more with God. If I cannot be the person I want to be, how can I ever be who God wants me to be? I mean, how does a supreme being look at my profound weakness?
     You might be surprised by the answer. Allow me to tell you a story that inspires me.
There is an almighty, perfect, and holy God. And He desires to have a relationship with humans. As strange as that may seem, from the beginning of time (which He set into motion) it has been His goal to have an unparalleled relationship with man. Once Adam and Eve ruined the chance of us living in the garden of Eden forever with God, God put into effect the plan He made before the world began, to redeem man to Himself. He would justify man so man could be with Him for eternity, after death.
     There were, however, two men who God could not wait to have at His side, apparently. These men never experienced death, but were called home by God. The first man, we know very little of. His name was Enoch and He walked with God, then one day "He was not, for God took Him." (Genesis 5:24). All we know is that he walked with God. It seems like he had a wonderful relationship with God and one day God just took Enoch to be with Him. Makes sense. But what about the second man? Enoch was just the type of person you would expect God to take home, but it is not exactly the same with Elijah.
      When we think of Elijah, we tend to think of this guy:
 This guy is a prophet of God, he calls on God's name and makes miracles happen. This guy faces hundreds of God-hating false prophets all by himself. Just him, his faith that God is with him, and a sword. This is the guy who uses that same sword to kill the unfaithful prophets. This guy heals widows' sons, depends on God and goes were God points him, make droughts and rain through prayer, and shouts and shakes his finger in the face of unrighteous maniac kings because God told him to. So far, he seems to meet the credentials, right? But he is also this guy:
  The guy who runs and hides in the wilderness when threatened by a evil queen. The guy who begs God to kill him already, who lays under a tree and later in a cave and cries, just waiting to die. ... huh... if i didn't know any better I would say this guy struggled with depression. So, of course God shouts at him from out of heaven, slaps some sense into him, says be warmed, filled and happy because I gave you a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Right? NO!!!
    This is the first of several examples that I will be posting over the next few weeks of how God is kind, patient and understanding towards His servants who are suffering from depression.
     So what does God do? 1 Kings 19 - He sends an angle to get Elijah to eat and drink. Depression will lead us to take poor or no care of ourselves. We may lay around and not bathe, get dressed, eat, or even drink, because we are so crushed, and often when we realize our pitiful shape we become so ashamed of our behavior that we believe we don't really even deserve any better than how we are treating ourselves. Or maybe we go the other rout and eat ourselves into a pitiful state. Either way, we are not taking proper care of ourselves. So God sends Elijah an angle to care for him. And what does Elijah do? He eats and drinks, lays back down and returns to his agony. There is rarely ever an easy fix to depression.
     The angel comes and does the same thing again telling Elijah he needs his strength for a journey. Sometimes a change in scenery, even just getting out of the house can provide some relief. The problem is getting motivated to look presentable and then go out. It sounds so easy to someone who has never been there, but it can be hard and frightening. It often takes a push like Elijah got. So he traveled 40 days and nights to the same mountain where God spoke to Moses. 40 days, a trip, and a visit to an amazing landmark should help right? It doesn't seem like it. Elijah is just living in a cave, still needing God's help to get him out of this sad situation he is in. It does not mean that Elijah did not have faith or that God was not there, he just had not made it out of this emotional torment that he was in.
     So God shows up and shouts, Okay Elijah, I tried to be patient with you, but this is ridiculous, just get over it and move on. Right? No again. God shows Elijah His power through mighty works, but when He speaks to his fragile, suffering servant, He speaks to Him in a kind whisper.
     He does not say, there is no way a depressed person who struggles like this with their faith and motivation can be pleasing to me. He just asks Elijah what is wrong. Why don't more people do this rather than shoving advice and cliches down our throats? Elijah says, I gave you all I have and it's not enough, and now I am all alone. God does not tell him that he is right, that he is not enough, instead He seems to agree with him. This is amazing! But God says, Okay, get up and we will appoint Elisha to take your place. This amazes me. This is how caring God is! How often do we fail to cast our cares on Him and simply say, Lord, this is enough. Help! I cannot do it anymore. 1 Cor. 10:13 tells us that God won't put on us more than we can bear, but this does not mean that we don't heap too much on ourselves by not putting things in His hands. This passage tells us He will provide a way of escape, just as He does here for Elijah, but we have to take it.
     He next tells Elijah, you are not alone. How nice it is to know that you are not a freak, not some failure who is worse off than those around you. He tells Elijah that there are literally thousands of others who are serving God under this stress and strain too. what is really funny is that if you do some research, you will find that a servant of the king who feared God had actually hid the other men in caves. Elijah had no idea how similar their plights really were.
     Through appointing Elisha, Elijah finds companionship and comfort; but God did not forget how Elijah had asked for the Lord to end it all, or how he said it was all too much. The Lord came for Him and takes him home in an epic whirlwind, complete with a chariot of fire. The only person we know of, other than Enoch, that God ever took home to be with him was not a man like Joshua who seemed confident and strong throughout his whole life, but a man who James, the brother of Christ, says is "just like us." (James 5:17 ISV).

When I feel alone, crippled by depression, when I disappoint even myself, how does God see me? God sees my as a beloved child in pain, in need of help, but not unworthy, not displeasing. My God sees potential for greatness and reward even in a man just like me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hope for the Hurting

There are so many things in this world today that cause us pain, and pain can be crippling. Drugs, alcohol, sex, self-inflicted injuries, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, pornography, and abuse are just a few of the things that either cause the pain or are used as an escape from the real problem. But they only cause you more pain.

     God knows this, and has always known this. Sin is the cause of our pain. Sin brought death and separation from God (Gen. 3). God sent His son to take away sin and restore our relationship with God. But God did not forget about the pain this could leave us with. This is why Jesus said "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentile at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, the burden I give you is light." (Matt. 11:28-30).
      A yoke is a teaching tool. Jesus is not asking you to give up one burden and take on another, no, Jesus is saying give your burden to me, and let me teach you how to carry a burden. Peter said "Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you." (1 Pet. 5:7). David wrote "Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly yo slip and fall." Here is a picture of a yoke:
    The way this teaching tool works is to couple an experienced worker with an inexperienced one. The experienced worker keeps his buddy on track, pulls him back on course if he wavers. Jesus says let Me do this. He even tells us that He is humble so He won't correct us in a prideful or condescending way and He is gentile in how he corrects and instructs. What more can we ask for?
    God also expects us to help each other as we walk through life (1 Thes. 5:11). If you are hurting, grieving, struggling with an addiction, hurting yourself, hurting others, struggling with sex or pornography, first you need God, look into His word, look to His guidance, pray. Let others help. Check out
Or the website
Talk to a minister, comment on this post and I will talk with you. Get help. God cares and we do too, and through Him there is Hope.