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.

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