“…and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,”
1 Thessalonians 3:12, ESV
As you mature as a Christian believer you may feel “stalled” by an attained growth. You might feel you’ve finally arrived. And in a sense you have. You have finally worked through a few issues, and although you know your not quite perfect, you feel like things are starting to “click.”
Many times when we finally get to this point, you realize there just has to be something. But you really don’t want to go back and yet this can be a season of complacency. This can be a dangerous time. It’s good to be on guard against the “doldrums of discipleship.”
Serving others can help you work through this curious time. You will find a lot of health in this, it also takes the focus off of self which is a great thing. Since I struggle with depression at times I find myself looking beyond my issues. I focus on someone else. Instead of becoming absorbed in myself, I redirect my vision to serving the Lord by serving another.
“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”
I’m discovering new ways to love. People I never dreamed of are crossing my path. As a Christian, I’m called to reach “all that the Father gives me.” The day should (and is) filled with “divine appointments” which my Father desires for me to keep. This won’t make me more “spiritual,” only more available.
We are meant to keep on, “increasing and abounding in love.”
To keep this increase we must continually look for news ways to love. Jesus had this when He saw the 5000. He questioned His disciples to see what they had. The managed to scrap up “five loaves and two fishes” hardly worth mentioning (Matt. 14:16-18). But Jesus had plans for this meager beginning.
Sometimes we stall in our discipleship. We think what we have is too little, or, we don’t see the need of the crowds. Either or both. We limit God’s kingdom by our lack of responsiveness. The Holy Spirit is asking us to “increase and abound.”
Always find new ways to be fruitful. Don’t hinder yourself until you think you’re ready. Look and perceive the appointments of the Lord. Make yourself available and anticipate chances He brings your way. If you’re limited, that’s ok too. He will gracefully multiply what you do have, just like “the loaves and fishes.” :-)
“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
Hebrews 5:14, NASB
“The first point of wisdom is to discern that which is false; the second, to know that which is true.”
Lucius Caelius Lactantius
Defined, discernment is the ability to perceive reality as it really is. It is a difficult quality for mentally ill people to have. We tumble through this world with wrong perceptions. We deal with issues like delusions and paranoia. Some of us are tangled up with derealization/depersonalization. We question the “realness” of our reality.
Discernment is being in a right relationship with truth.
One of my prayers has been, “Lord, let it be the real me who encounters the real you.” I’m belly-full of pretense and posturing. I know I have this strange tendency to deceive myself. I don’t know when I’m getting screwy.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
John 16:13, NIV
The Holy Spirit leads me into what is true and valid. I can trust Him to interface and interpret for me what is real and what is authentic. That is His ministry. That is what He does, I can trust Jesus’ referral.
There are many ways that God gives to help me discern. These are the things the Spirit uses:
personal desires, hopes, and inclinations
solid counsel from the mature
past results and experiences
supernatural leadings (dreams, visions, audibly)
True discernment comes in the objective reality of the Bible. This book wants to direct and guide me like no other. It stands as the trustworthy director in a world of competing voices. It directs me through all of the din. I must read God’s Word to walk in His truth.
Discerning the realness of reality once was the easy attribute of Adam. After the Fall, we (human beings) lost this ability. We currently struggle with the inability to see truth. We’re regaining this through the Spirit. Thank God we’re being transformed and renewed with this new ability. Faith is the adventure we now get to operate in.
“Faith is the divine evidence whereby the spiritual man discerneth God, and the things of God.”
We must decide upon some things. This is not easy theology. It calls us to take decisive action.
The idea of Jesus dying on the cross for my sin is brutal. I’m left with the idea that I contributed to His death. But my sin had to be covered, and alas, and He did so. But I can never repay God for the drastic measures He took. But I do know that my life is now His. His for mine.
In many cultures it is a life for a life. Some people groups believe that the person who saves another person is owed a “life debt” out of gratitude. I become His “property” because He died in my place. A life for a life. His for mine.
There are sins that I commit that He must pay for. This is not as easy as you might think; I confess my sin, and Jesus Christ picks it up. He has chosen to pay every and all penalties for it. I go “scot-free” while He must die. This is what He decided to do for me. A life for a life.
The cross was not just a Roman method of execution. It was planned in eternity for the rebellion of mankind. It was God’s “method.” He knew those “from the foundation of the world” but had to find a way to atone for their sin, and redeem them from Satan’s control. He must die for them. And it’s a life for a life. His for mine.
I’ve been “ransomed” and redeemed. His death gives me eternal life– something which can ever be taken away. His own death makes me “holy.” The Bible promises me even more than this: forgiveness, peace, joy and “real” holiness. He has done everything, I have done nothing except believe. His life for mine. A life for a life.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”
Bryan’s Note:On many occasions I encounter a blog that communicates so well that I think about doing a re-post. Today is one of those days. So, here is Pastor Winsor’s exceptional article on depression. I hope that his perspective will bless you and give you a deeper understanding of this mental illness.
Depression Deceptions by Rev. James Winsor
Lots of people these days suffer from depression. Many of them are Christians. If you suffer from depression, I hope the following information helps you. If you don’t suffer from depression, then maybe this will assist you in understanding and helping those who do. Here is a list of three Depression Deceptions to avoid.
Deception #1: If you’re depressed, you’re not a strong Christian.
On August 2, 1527, Martin Luther wrote these words in a letter to a close friend: “l have been thrown more than a whole week into death and tossed back and forth in hell.. .I have lost Christ totally and have been shaken by the floods and storms of desperation and of blasphemy against God.”Even strong, mature Christians like Martin Luther can suffer from depression. Depression is not a sign of unbelief or weak faith. It’s a sign of spiritual battle, and battles are for healthy soldiers.
This is a sin-sick world. You’d be crazy not to be depressed sometimes!
Deception #2: No one would understand.
Holy Scripture tells Christians to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We’re told to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). God doesn’t want you to carry your depression alone. God makes sure there are Christians around who understand.
You don’t have to be alone in your depression. Not all Christians will understand it, but some will. You just have to take a few risks until you find the ones who have experienced depression themselves and will understand what you’re going through. Your fellowship with those Christians will be tight. You may even end up being glad the depression brought the two of you together.
Deception #3: Depression is a Useless Detour in the Christian Life.
God has a purpose for the depression that falls on His children. In an Old Testament passage we’re told that “an evil spirit from the Lord tormented King Saul” (1 Samuel 16:14). God had anointed David to be Saul’s replacement as king. God wanted to save Saul’s eternal soul, but He also wanted to replace him as king. So God sent David as a music therapist for Saul. “Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him” (1 Samuel 16:23).
God gave Saul a problem and sent David as the solution. Saul might have done the obvious thing – thank God for David and support him! But instead Saul tried to kill David because he was jealous of him. Saul missed the opportunity his depression offered him. He rejected both his depression and David as gifts from God.
St. Paul, on the other hand, had a similar experience of evil sent from God for a good purpose. He responded the right way and received the suffering as a gift from God. Paul wrote, “There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.. .When I am weak, then I am strong.”(2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
God presented Paul with a problem. Then He presented him with the solution, grace in Christ. Paul learned to be thankful for his weaknesses because his weaknesses made him need Christ.
Depression does that to and for you. It leaves you with nothing to hang onto, but Jesus. When you’re depressed, you can’t find anything inside to place hope in. All that exists is darkness and emptiness. You come to find your hope in something outside of you: Christ and His cross and pardon.
That’s not a detour from the Christian life. That is the Christian life, God has you right where He wants you.
I was really depressed one day. I told a pastor friend of mine, “Sometimes I don’t know whether I’m saved. All I know is that I have a Savior.” God had me right where He wanted me. I could actually rejoice in my weakness. Suddenly all I had was Christ. And, in a way, you don’t have Christ until Christ is all you have.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
NOTE: If you can’t seem to shake your feelings of sadness and depression after a few weeks, seek out help right away. Talk to your parents, a counselor, or your doctor to help you deal with these overwhelming emotions.
The Rev. James Winsor is pastor at Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Arvada, Colorado.
Taken from the Spring 2002 edition of Higher Thingsmagazine. You can write Higher Things at P.O. Box 58011, Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158-8011.
“Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.”
John 4:6, NLT
This is a remarkable account of Jesus’ humanity. He is tired. He had been walking for a long time. It was hot and sticky, and He finds a cool place by an historic well to sit. His legs were exhausted. The funny thing is that we are so quick to emphasize our energy and vigor, and regard that to be our spirituality. But, if we are honest, we also have times of fatigue.
It’s instructive to note that while Jesus is very tired, He is still in the very center of the Father’s will. When I get tired, I just shut down, and retreat. I will often just “unplug” and I’m not very spiritual. But Jesus remains receptive, and even though He is so tired, He is activated by the Holy Spirit. I would like to suggest that perhaps too often we let our humanity direct our spirit.
By choosing to sit by the well, in the hottest part of the day, Jesus positions Himself to wait. He inserts Himself in the Will of God. It is intentional. He is waiting for her to come. He has an appointment, and the Kingdom of God is scheduled to break out in the life of a certain woman.
It is imperative that we weave the spiritual into the fabric of the physical.
This is important because ministry happens more frequently then we imagine. It happens when we are really tired. (And maybe more!). Inserting yourself into God’s Will is an intentional act of love. It is putting yourself into the flow, and committing a deliberate act of faith.
Jesus wants to marinate us in His presence, to be saturated in the capability that He wants to give us.
We may be tired and wanting to retreat in our fatigue. But our spiritual man rarely gets weary, we just let our flesh dictate what we will and will not do. I challenge you to wait expectantly for the the flow to bring to you those in your appointment book.
“There must be something wrong with your spiritual life.”
Yes, depression CAN be a result of sin. BUT depression is NOT always a result of sin! If it is, God will tell you loud and clear what the problem is. This saying piles on the guilt for the depressed Christian. It’s unlikely that their depression has a spiritual cause, and this implies that they are not good enough spiritually.
“Repent and ask forgiveness for your sin!”
Depression is a result of sin, in that if there was no sin in the world depression wouldn’t exist. But then, neither would diabetes, or cancer, or any other illness… Sin caused the word to be not-perfect, therefore illness exists. It is not a sin to be depressed, any more than it is to have any other illness. Depression can be used by God to encourage repentance, but in that case, it will be crystal clear exactly what sin you should repent of. If you don’t know, or have just a vague sense of guilt, your depression is not the result of a sin. Accusing someone of having depression because you think they committed some random sin is arrogant. It wouldn’t be the act of a loving God to refuse to tell you what you need to repent of.
“Real Christians don’t get depressed.”
The implication behind this is that someone with clinical depression is not a “Real Christian”. That hurts, especially if it comes from someone who holds authority. It is hard to be depressed and Christian, very hard. I’d say it takes more faith to hold on to the fact that God exists when your situation is screaming out that even if there was a God, he hates you, than it does when all is going your way.
“You need to have more faith.” “Have faith in God.”
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the substance [or realization] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. How much faith does it take to hold onto the basic tenets of the Christian faith when emotions scream at you daily to give up, get out and avoid God? Very often a depressed Christian will be hanging onto faith by their fingernails in a situation that requires more faith than the average.
“Taking antidepressants is playing God, He can heal you.”
Yes, God can heal. Sometimes he doesn’t just flick a switch make the illness vanish, sometimes the healing comes through the conventional ways of doctors, psychiatrists, counsellors, therapists and medication. By persuading someone not to take their medication in preference for a fast, supernatural healing that God may not have in store for them, the sufferer is being denied something that will help them, right now. In John 5:1-15, Jesus only healed one man out of the many who were gathered. Not everyone will receive supernatural healing. We don’t always understand why God does as he does, only that he is God and will do what is right.
“Scripture says everything that happens is for your own good!”
The actual verse says: Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This verse in no way implies that the sufferer should sit back and accept the illness for the rest of their life. It also does not say that illnesses are not to be fought with the intention of a cure. While God may well have things to do with a depressed person, the illness is not a good thing of itself, and it may take years before you see positive results from it.
“You’ve been prayed for, why has nothing changed?”
This can be expressed in several ways and spoken by one of two different groups of people: either the person who asked for prayer, or those who prayed for them. We’ll break the underlying situation into two areas: something definite was experienced in the prayer time: chains were obviously broken and a new freedom gained, or, nothing apparently happened at all. That is, “I know God set you free, [as testified to by experience, or, simply accepted by faith] why are you not walking in that freedom?” When God steps in and answers believer’s prayer for a person to be freed from the influence of unclean spiritual influence there may well be a noticeable sense of having been freed.
Why is it then that we don’t all immediately change?
The Bible speaks of our lives as being like clay; we are molded through everything we go through. There are 3 sources of spiritual influence on our lives:
God’s Holy Spirit,
our own human spirit,
and unclean demonic spirits.
Take, for instance, temptation – it might not always be the devil himself tempting us, it may be our own human spirit / human nature having issues. Lots of things work to shape this clay, the onus is on us to give ourselves progressively more and more to God and open our lives to His molding process.
Let’s expand on the clay metaphor some more. Clay is not a very elastic substance. If you press a thumb into it and pull it away you’ll get a thumb print. A balloon, on the other hand, would spring back immediately when the outside influence is removed (the thumb). God’s word talks of us as being like clay, not balloons. Clay is solid, has substance, is useful for creating utensils that can be used in his service. Balloons are insubstantial, have nothing solid inside and are full of hot air. So, take away the outside “thumb” pressing on our life and we are still left with a thumbprint: habits that have formed, certain ways of thinking or reacting to things, etc.
God can (and does) change things like these instantly in some people, however, there are times when such a fundamental change would shatter who the person is and a longer, more sustained healing process is needed. That is, we are freed from the oppressive spiritual influence but over the course of weeks, months and years following the prayer time we see a gradual change as the unsightly “thumbprint” is smoothed out.
God wants us whole and healthy, it also says in Scripture that “the prayer of a righteous believer avails much” but it also says that one the fruit of God’s Spirit dwelling within us is patience and endurance. Prayer gets the job done … it’s just that the process started by the prayer may be an ongoing one.
“Depression is a self discipline problem.”
Self discipline is important to a Christian. We have to be disciplined enough not to break the laws of the land, and to obey our God. But no amount of self discipline will get rid of a medical problem. This statement implies that the sufferer is lazy and could become better by sheer force of will. This is not possible, and causes a lot of guilt.
“You’re depressed because you choose to be.”
Why would anyone choose depression? It is a hell on earth. It destroys everything it touches. Families, marriages, jobs, churches, ministries– not to mention faith, peace, hope and love. Depression corrodes all that it touches.
Does an diabetic or cancer patient choose their disease? Does the blind or the deaf person wake up in the morning and decide they aren’t going to keep being handicapped? These are the questions I would ask.
“You should be praying about this.”
Implicitly, whoever says this is also saying “This wouldn’t have happened if you’d been praying enough.” That’s a big assumption to make about someone. To a person with depression, it can seem like God left town a long time ago without leaving a forwarding address. It can seem as if your prayers bounce straight back off the ceiling, and that prayer is as fulfilling and satisfying as yelling at a block of wood. When you’re depressed, you may not “feel” God as you had before. Often you don’t feel anything but numb and hollow. For me, and for many people, depression had a shrivelling effect on my faith. I found it hard to hang onto anything but the most basic elements of Christianity, and sometimes lost my grip on those. When I did manage to pray, it was a yell of pain and confusion. This is why we are supposed to base our faith on facts (God loves you, he loved you when you were a sinner too, Jesus paid the full price for all our sins, etc.) rather than feelings, which are fickle at the best of times. It can be incredible hard to hold onto those facts in depression, like trying to run into a very strong wind.
John Lockley says: “In Christians, spiritual effects follow from the depression, and seldom the other way round. I repeat – in Christians, nearly always the depression comes first, followed by a sense of remoteness from God, rather than depression being the result of “falling away.”
One of the most eloquent and heartfelt prayers a depressed Christian can pray is “Help me God, I’m hurting!” This is a better prayer than the thirty minute meltdown that doesn’t actually say anything. It’s honest, open and sincere. God is listening, even if everything within you is screaming that he isn’t. Prayer during depression can take an awful lot of effort. One comeback to this saying is “I am praying, as best I can. Will you pray for me too?”
“You just need to rebuke that spirit of depression and tell it to leave you. Don’t let Satan steal your joy.”
There are two problems with this statement. One problem is the assumption that depression is caused by demonic oppression. The other problem is the assumption is that joy and happiness are the same thing. Blaming a “spirit of depression” can be a wonderful cop-out. Just cast out the spirit and you’re cured! No need for long term support, for prayer, for counselling, for anything at all! And with this statement comes the implicit assumption that once again it’s your fault you’re depressed, this time because you’re not “spiritual” enough to get rid of the troublesome spirit yourself. Yes it is possible that demonic oppression can cause depression. No, demons are not responsible for every case of depression. Imagine what would happen if this statement was directed at someone with cancer, or hemophilia, or osteoporosis (“Just cast out that demon attacking your bones and be strong again! God wants to see you running marathons!”).
The second problem with this statement is that joy is equated with happiness. People with depression are not going to be the happiest souls in the church. I’ve heard it said that happiness depends on what happens, whereas joy can exist in very unhappy situations.
“There’s no such thing as mental illness, it’s all in your mind”
Saying this denies that there is anything actually wrong with the depressed person, and implies that they are just making it up. This piles on the guilt again! A mental illness can be defined as one that affects the mind; the brain is allowed to get ill, just as the liver and lungs are.
“You’ve got nothing to be sad about”
Depression isn’t about being sad, often the real situation may well have no effect on the disease at all. This statement misunderstands the disease, depression can have an origin that has nothing to do with the surroundings of the sufferer. Depression may make you feel as if your emotions have been switched off, leaving you less sad than numb and empty.
“It’s your own fault you’re depressed”
This is the kind of thing that Job’s “comforters” said, and it didn’t help then either. Bad things can happen to good people. Denying this hurts the sufferer.
“Pull yourself together”
If you’ve been trying, someone saying this to you comes across as “You haven’t been trying hard enough, do more, and more, and more until you get it right. ” So back you go, trying more and more, and still getting nowhere because you cannot pull yourself out of depression by your bootstraps, and you can’t fix a medical problem by force of will.
“You’re just being lazy”
One of the common features of depression is a disturbed sleep pattern. This can often take the form of waking early each day (say 2 AM) and being unable to get back to sleep. Multiply this over several months, and the results can be severe. On top of this, everything is screaming that the world is a horrible place and nothing is worth the effort any more. It is not laziness, it is a consequence of the illness.
It is a good thing to be helped by friends. It hurts deeply when they take on these comments and drill you with them. Understanding is critical, and a little bit goes a long way.
“…no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:3
“The question in salvation is not whether Jesus is Lord, but whether we are submissive to His lordship.”
Christians believe that Jesus is Lord. I suppose this really means that they regard Jesus Christ is be the supreme authority in their lives. They look to Him to be their presiding judge in all they say or do. “You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies”(1 Cor. 6:20).
Sometimes I think that as Americans we can struggle with this “Lord idea.” We don’t understand living under a sovereign king. A king that exercises total authority and lordship over his subjects. Many believers rather think of the Kingdom of God as a democracy.
Yet when we say, Jesus is Lord (as we Christians are prone to say) we really mean that He is a savior, that He has provided His blood in order to obtain our forgiveness. But this is only half of it. If Jesus is Lord it should mean what we are completely under His rule.
“…yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
1 Corinthians 8:6
Lordship means sovereign control. It means He has the authority to do what He pleases with over the totality of our lives. We’re in His sphere of control. To relinquish this to Him is life’s biggest challenge.
“The lordship of Jesus is not simply a hope of Christians that someday might be realized; it is a truth that has already taken place.”
This small post can not change anything. That is not the point. All I ask is that you consider anew the implications of what I’m saying here. Is there a daily acknowledgement to His sovereign control over your life? Does saying “Jesus is Lord” have ramifications of a submitted heart?
I can attest that Jesus is not only a worthy savior but a wonderful lord. His governance is one of love. He has never ever done anything that has been detrimental to me, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1-2). He is a worthy savior.