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Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

“Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”

Psalm 55:6-8

I have heard people say, “If I could just get over this health issue,” or “If only I had more money.” If only I had less stress, more help, less pain, more support, etc, etc.

 

Have you ever been there?

If only . . .

If I could just . . .

 

Between these words, I hear a cry for relief. Not only relief from difficult circumstances, but also from hopelessness. What if I become so sick or anxious or overwhelmed or so deeply in debt that I can’t function? What if my circumstances never change? What if it gets worse?

 

Thanks to our Adamic inheritance, we live in a fallen world, full of sin, disease, dysfunction, injustice, abuse, brokenness—the list is endless. You may be dealing with something that could wreak more damage than a hurricane. Whether from external circumstances or personal struggles within, the weight of constant suffering can be unbearable and make us hopeless for a way out, no end in sight. No hope for relief.

 

I am blown away by my pastor. For too many reasons to list here, but for one in particular: He suffers terrible migraines. These are horribly painful to the point of making him physically sick. He can’t think or do anything but lie still. With a family and a loaded plate of pastoral responsibilities, he doesn’t have time to be sick, and yet he somehow presses on, with the diligence of a faithful, caring shepherd. He asks God for healing and asks others to pray, and yet the headaches continue. When a migraine strikes on a Sunday, we’ve seen God answer prayer many times by giving Pastor enough strength and relief to deliver his sermon. What amazes me is that in spite of this suffering, this man is absolutely unwavering in his faith in Christ. His life is an inspiring example of steadfast confidence in and obedience to God. The fact that God has not yet healed him doesn’t stop him from serving the Lord with his whole heart, with truth and grace, every minute of every day.

 

He continues to ask God for healing. And we should keep asking God to relieve us and others of suffering. I know he can. And many times, he does. But what if immediate relief isn’t part of his plan for us right now? What if God is more interested in how we weather a storm (or an entire hurricane season) than he is in rescuing us from it?

 

The Apostle Paul talked about his “thorn in the flesh.” I think Paul came to terms with the fact that relief for him would not be coming. I also think he became grateful for the thorn, because it drove him closer Jesus.

 

How does being closer to Jesus help when we face difficult circumstances?

 

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

So I’ll never fail to bear fruit. Awesome. But what good is fruit when I’m suffering?

When we turn our lives over to Christ, his Spirit moves in and begins the work of making us more like him. God’s word and presence feed, sustain, and transform us. This transforming work is evident by such “fruit” as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Not a pretense pulled down over us like a goody-hoody, but a God-kind of gentleness and peace that springs from the place in our soul where Jesus lives and works on us. This fruit not only lets others see God in us, it reminds and assures us of his sanctifying power and love. This assurance comes from experiencing God in a way that teaches us we can trust in his goodness, his provision, and his constant faithfulness.

 

If storms feel endless and unbearable, maybe we need to stretch our roots deeper in God’s stream. When we make him our Source, nothing can destroy us. No drought, famine, wildfire, (debt, depression, cancer) can steal our love, joy and peace when we are nourished by The Stream. Yes, storms may shred our bark, and our fruit might be knocked off and crushed, but we will never wither. We will sprout new leaves and blossom again. What tremendous hope we have!

 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Romans 8:35-39

We might be battered for a season, but God will be our strength and sustenance. If he is allowing us to go through difficulty, he will provide what we need. And he won’t let us weather a storm alone! He is a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” and will stay beside us all the way to the other side, whatever that may be. He will never leave or forsake us!

 

Sometimes, the response we get to “If only” or “If I could just” isn’t the relief we desperately want. I know, not very comforting, I’m sorry. Relief from suffering may come soon, later on, or it may not come at all—in this life. But even if we suffer the sting of some particular thorn for the rest of our lives, we won’t suffer forever. An entire earthly lifetime doesn’t even compare to forever. It may feel like eternity, but no matter how long our suffering lasts, God promises us it will not last forever. He also promises to be with us, strengthening and providing. Let’s set our hope in him, and look forward to a joyful forever yet to come, where all difficulty, sorrow, and suffering will be forgotten.

 

Paul could say this with full assurance, thorn and all.

 

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing
with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Are you in a season of suffering? Can you share a time when circumstances felt too unbearable? Have you “reached your roots” into the stream of God’s provision and strength?

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I’m not supposed to have sugar, but today I’m ignoring the voice of wisdom. I’m savoring a little square of real Norwegian chocolate. It’s amazing—creamy chocolate with tiny almonds, a hint of caramel and surprising bits of salt. I might share if you ask nice. I know I’m not supposed to have it, but it came all the way from Norway. What idiot would pass it up? Besides, chocolate is a sure fix in a time like this.

Okay. The truth is, I’ve been battling depression for several weeks. Once in a while, I give in to it. Let it wash over my heart and flood my thoughts, blocking the light and darkening my mood.

Have you ever given in to the Big D?

I’m not prone to drama or emotional breakdowns; I’m usually the even-tempered one. But sometimes depression strikes without reason. Well, that’s not true. There are reasons if I step away from the conveyor belt of life and take inventory. Lately, I’ve had a number of disappointments. It’s not like life is bad. These aren’t earth-shattering. But several disappointments at once can stack up like boulders, squashing me until I’m numb and good things are dull gray and I’m responding to everything with apathy. And at the moment, rain is pounding the roof so hard it sounds like an angry, hissing crowd, making the sky so dark I want to turn on every light in the house and blast some grinding, bass-driven rock. If this keeps up, the family won’t be seeing the rest of that Norwegian chocolate. (Ever seen a depressed Norwegian? Me neither.)

Mix disappointments with a couple minor health issues, nagging pain, and chronic poor sleep, and voila, the recipe is perfect. The result: a triple-layered funk coated with a thick glaze of apathy.

And I know better. I have so much to be thankful for, countless things I take for granted. One day in a third world country would probably slap 99% of the funk right out of me.

How do you deal with depression? I tell myself to snap out of it and smile at the checker and muster up genuine excitement at someone’s great news, or at least have the decency to appear excited.

When that doesn’t work, counting my blessings helps. It helps a lot, actually. It’s not as trite as it may sound. So much of our negative emotion and mood comes from a bad attitude, which comes from negative thoughts—true or skewed—roaming around loose in our minds.

This thoughts-to-attitudes-to-actions tendency is a sneaky business. When I’m feeling low because of real issues, negative self-talk seems to find a better foothold too. I start noticing crappy things about me, like how socially awkward I can be. How I compare to others. What I’m not doing right. Past mistakes.

Some of these things are simply nasty little lies. Others contain some truth but don’t really matter; they do nothing but encourage self-centeredness, which is useless and a breeding ground for all kinds of mental and spiritual crud.

The best way I’ve found to steer out of a depressed funk is to list the positives. Honestly. Humbly. And then eventually, I remember to pray. What a concept.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians blows me away. His letter—from prison—encourages the Philippians to be full of joy. He uses the word “rejoice” 16 times. And there’s not one word about gritting our teeth, putting on a smile for the checker, and faking it. He had genuine reason to rejoice and wanted us to bury this reason deep in our hearts.

 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:4-7

Counting our blessings is a good start. Voicing gratitude to God takes the defunking process much further. Thanking God for what we have and what he’s done reminds us of God’s infinite wisdom and amazing grace. It dissolves the negative and erroneous self-talk tangled around our hearts. It forces our faces up out of the chocolate chip bag long enough to see beyond the moment. Reminds us we have hope.

I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. ~Philippians 3:13

Forgetting what’s behind and looking ahead may sound like some kind of holy denial, like using blinders to ignore our problems or mistakes. That may be the case if we haven’t addressed some sin. If you haven’t, talk to Jesus about that today. But if you have brought your junk to the Lord and it still trips you up, ask God to cleanse, renew, and empower you. Sorrow lasts for a night, joy comes in the morning.

I want to keep a carefully balanced view of both past and present. We have to watch where we’re going rather than where we’ve been so we don’t fall flat on our face. We also need to look ahead to what is promised to give us hope to move forward.

But a certain kind of looking back is important. What is the most memorable thing God has done in your life? What moments stand out as times God made himself real to you? A healing? Peace in the midst of turmoil? Courage under fire? An undeniable sense of his presence? Provision for a need you had no resources for? A breakthrough of understanding from his word? A miracle? Strength to endure a particularly tough time? Joy in the midst of sorrow? A palpable sense of God’s all-encompassing love?

I forget these things sometimes. Doh! I also forget I have a loving Savior who understands and cares about everything I’m going through. If anyone can sympathize, it’s Jesus.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. ~Isaiah 53:3-4

Jesus suffered so much and so willingly, out of his great love for us. Let’s allow his love to penetrate our thoughts, our attitudes, and our mood. Let his promises for our future give us hope.

And let’s remember with gratitude all the things God has done for us. It strengthens our faith. And faith is the basis of hope.

And hope (not Norwegian chocolate, I’m pretty sure . . .) is the cure for the funk.

Can I pray for you?

Jesus, please be with my friend now, especially if she’s battling depression. You know what she’s going through. You know her pain, her struggles, her disappointments. When she hurts, You hurt with her. Please touch her heart like only You can. Help us count the many positives with grateful hearts. Show us the lies that have robbed us of life and joy, and free us with Your truth. Show us mistakes we may still need to admit and help us lay ourselves fully at Your feet. Heal wounds, old and new. Cleanse, renew, and empower us. We need You, Jesus. Fill us with hope and joy. Amen.

Question: What is the most memorable thing God has done in your life? What moments stand out as times God made himself real to you?

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