The Depression Epidemic

Why we’re more down than ever—and the crucial role churches play in healing.

Dan G. Blazer | originally posted 3/06/2009 at Christianity Today

crossredThe church is God’s hospital. It has always been full of people on the mend. Jesus himself made a point of inviting the lame, the blind, and the possessed to be healed and to accompany him in his ministry, an invitation often spurned by those who thought they were fine as is. We should not be surprised, then, that the depressed populate not only secular hospitals and clinics, but our churches as well. Yet depression remains both familiar and mysterious to pastors and lay church leaders, not to mention to those who share a pew with depressed persons.

Virtually everyone has experienced a “down” day, often for no clear reason. We might say we “woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” are “out of sorts,” or just “in a funk.” Such polite references are commonplace in America. Yet as familiar as melancholic periods are to us, the depths of a severe depression remain a mystery. We may grasp in part the distress of King David:

David
King David putting pain in his Psalms

“Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak”

(Ps. 31:9-10).

But most of us have no idea what David meant when he further lamented, “I am forgotten by them as though I were dead” (v.12). Severe depression is often beyond description. And when such deep and painful feelings cannot be explained, they cut to the heart of one’s spiritual being.

Humans are intricately complex creatures. When things go wrong in us, they do so in myriad and nuanced ways. If churches want to effectively minister to the whole of fallen humanity, they must reckon with this complexity. Depression indicates that something is amiss. But what? And what should churches be doing about it?

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For the remainder of this article:  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/march/15.22.html

Becoming a Gentle & Meek Person

Being very gentle with others
Being very gentle with others

Gentleness means recognizing that the world around us is fragile, especially other people. It is recognizing our own capacity to do harm and choosing instead to be tender, soft-spoken, soft-hearted, and careful. To be careful means that you are becoming aware.

Perhaps this idea of becoming careful brings us the closest.  People who know exactly who they are become the most gentle of human beings.  They now live for others, and show a deep-seated care for even the “least.”

Jesus was gentle just as much as He is strong and wise and bold. You could say He was always gentle, even when He was bold and authoritative. No once did Jesus show unkindness in His words or teaching or actions. He was kind all the time, even when He was tired and hungry.

20 “He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
21 And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”

Matthew 12:20-21, NLT

 

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.  Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself.  He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.  He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels.  In himself, nothing; in God, everything.  That is his motto.”                                                

 A.W. Tozer

“The higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender they are.” 

Martin Luther

“Perhaps no grace is less prayed for, or less cultivated than gentleness.  Indeed it is considered rather as belonging to natural disposition or external manners, than as a Christian virtue; and seldom do we reflect that not to be gentle is sin.” 

Norman Bethune

“Gentleness is an active trait, describing the manner in which we should treat others.  Meekness is a passive trait, describing the proper Christian response when others mistreat us.” 

Jerry Bridges

 

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In Love with a Lion

 

“I will not leave you alone. You are mine.  I know each of my sheep by name.  You belong to Me.  If you think I am finished with you, if you think I am a small god, that you can keep at a safe distance, I will pounce on you like a roaring lion, tear you to pieces, rip you to shreds, and break every bone in your body.  Then I will mend you, cradle you in my arms, and kiss you tenderly.”

--Brennan Manning, Lion and Lamb

God stalks us.  He never lets up.  We can never, never out run Him.  A popular 182 line poem, from a generation ago, was called “The Hound of Heaven“.  It described a person being pursued by God. This is part of it.

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated.

                                        –by Francis Thompson

The very remarkable thing is not our prodigal hearts; rather it is the amazing love the Father has by chasing us.  Jesus is consistently reckless about capturing us, and making us his own.  His love is like a homing mechanism in a missile shot at us that defies our escape.  We can weave and dodge all we want, but we have been targeted, and He is coming for us.

The way we talk and posture, it as if it is us that does the choosing.  I’m not saying we don’t to a degree.  But the Bible paints God in a different light.  He initiates, and He chooses.  He superintends our life, choreographing our movements.  If you remember the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis it will support this reasoning.

My Bipolar depression and Hepatitis C issues did not thwart or nullify Jesus’ love and will for me.  I can’t point at them as reasons not to be his follower.  He is not intimidated by my medical condition. My brain tumor and the death of my daughter didn’t phase Him. It’s just they are merely physical footnotes to the story of my life.

We opened with a Brennan Manning quote. He observes that life with Jesus will involve being torn to pieces and such.  He will not complacently love us, He just isn’t fond of you because you’re sort of a likable person.  His love is rough, and savage and furious.  He is quite tempestuous and intractable.  He won’t let go.  Your issues are probably not as significant as you think.

If you’re depressed, manic, paranoid or delusional you can still surrender to Jesus.  These are not your identity, they are not permanent. Yes, I get depressed and have incredible issues with anxiety.  I have a hand tremor almost all the time.  And I can get really paranoid.  But, I am his follower–first and foremost.

Let Him love you today.  His kind of love will heal you completely.

He will seize you and draw you close. You will find the rest you seek leaning on Him.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, NLT

 

“Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.” 

 J.I. Packer

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The complete text of the “Hound of Heaven” can be found at:  http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-hound-of-heaven/

Instability and the Believer

I feel good, too good— and it concerns me.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I’veBipolarArt4 been down this road before.  I guess this is my big issue with Bipolar Disorder (BP);  its unpredictability, the way you  fluctuate.  You get up in the morning and you immediately have to start analyzing your mood.  “Am I more depressed than I was yesterday, or I am speeding up?”  For  BP persons we never can be too sure.  We are always in a state of flux or movement.  As BPs who are believers in Jesus, it seems like we have broke “every rule in the book.” This disorder almost demands hypocrisy– which instills a lot of guilt and shame.

About 25 years ago, a visiting pastor to our church came up to me and prophesied. This was long before I was diagnosed with Bipolar.   I can’t remember much, but I do recall him saying, “You are as unstable as water”.  I tell you, I was quite concerned about this; and to make it worse I put a real negative spin on it.  It was stability that we emulated, and frankly, water is not the best metaphor to describe your life.  Rock, yes.  Water, well… not so much.

But I can see now that instability has made me a deeper, more tolerant person.  I give a lot of latitude to other’s shortcomings.  I know how difficult it is to process life and to face issues.  Because I do this “yo-yo” thing, I can accept inconsistency as a normal part of life.  I realize that I’m not perfect, nor is anyone else I know, but I’m learning to make allowances for it.  Sometimes, just being aware is half the battle. And I suppose, understanding God’s grace would be the other.

On a practical level, I’ve also determined that caffeine really can activate me.  The anxiety and mania really intensifies when I load up on my ‘vanilla lattes.’  Coffee elevates me up almost to the point of being superhuman, but I also get real flaky.  I get terribly self-conscious and paranoid.  But, sometimes it’s a real hoot!  (Sorry, but man, I do love my coffee.)

Well, I’m running out of things to comment about, and I’m thinking that I’ve said quite enough.  But, if you’re struggling today, please let me know.  I will pray for you and connect back on some level.  Whatever your issue, we are in this together.  God answers everyone who calls to Him. 

12 “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”

Philippians 1:12-14, NLT

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&

kyrie elesion.