“David asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”‘
2 Samuel 9:3, NIV
This crippled man was named Mephibosheth. He was injured by the actions of a nurse; she dropped him as she was trying to escape the palace (2 Sam. 4:4). It was not of Mephibosheth’s doing, but someone else made a mistake, and it totally and irrevocably changed his life.
He would always be disabled.
If you haul out your old musty commentaries, you’ll find that Mephibosheth’s name means, “shame,” and I really believe that this would’ve been an integral part–maybe ‘subtle’ is a better word here, of how people treated him. But David was a different sort of king (as kings go), and he elevates Mephibosheth to the feasting table.
King David wants to include him!
Interesting. I believe that there are a great many people like Mephibosheth. They’ve been injured by someone else’s stumbling. It seems we pass these things on to each other. And the lameness we inflict may not be physical. It may be spiritual or emotional. Sometimes we injure others without knowing what we have really done to them.
Jesus made some powerful statements about people who injure others.
Some of the most vicious and evil woundings that are done are usually on a moral or spiritual level. People can heal physically over time, but the wounds of the spirit are incredibly devastating. When someone harms us on this level it can completely undo us, for a lifetime. (And perhaps, maybe forever).
We are capable of much evil. We affect others in ways we don’t understand. We need to seek God’s grace right now; we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of diminishing or minimizing what we have done. A vital point to consider: We cannot go on crippling others without injuring ourselves.
Wounded people wound. But healed people can often become healers themselves.
We can read of King David’s truly majestic treatment of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. He actively blessed him, and perhaps that is the proactive action we ought to take. We must make the effort– to bless others.
As a king, this was a very minor incident. Hardly worth recording in the lofty affairs of state. But as a man–to restore Mephibosheth, was definitely one of his greatest decisions. Kindness and gentleness should always be a key part of someone who is in authority, especially over others.
There’s another concept here– we discover something that is profoundly true about us in Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus. It’s here, in 1:5, that we see that God our Father, acts like David, and receives Mephibosheth; just like God receives us to Himself. We find that we’re adopted, loved, and held, and we get a prime place at the table!
We may use crutches, but we walk by faith. And that may be the greatest lesson in this portion of scripture–and the most profound experience we can have as believers.
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
Trigger Warning: This post involves rape. If you are sensitive, please tread lightly. It is not my intention to cause more pain, but to show how God can use even our worst trauma for good.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)
We moved from my childhood home in sunny Southern California to a one-traffic-light town on the outskirts of a Washington rainforest right before I started eighth grade. I made new friends, quite different from my old friends. And I met my first boyfriend.
When you’re fourteen, they call it puppy love. I thought it was real because he claimed he loved me, too. He was older and cute in a rugged sort of way, with shaggy long brown hair and a scruff of facial hair, not quite a beard and mustache.
One day he asked me to go for a walk, just to talk. The biting cold drove us indoors to his house. In my naiveté, I never saw it coming. At the tender age of 14, my 105-pound frame was overpowered and violated. Without a second thought, he crushed my spirit and devoured an innocence I can never redeem.
It can sound like a platitude, or worse, this oft repeated verse. “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.” Romans 8:28 (NIV).
Surely, Paul didn’t mean all things? He couldn’t have meant the rape I suffered? God certainly can’t bring any good from the suffering, shame, and depression that followed me for decades after?
Or can He?
Even now—as a powerless, frightened little girl lives in me and I sometimes struggle with deep despair, doubting God’s blessings—God reminds me I am His beloved. He has empowered me to survive any trial. I may feel powerless and frightened, but the truth is He will not allow me to be utterly destroyed.
Trauma and loss are inevitable for all of us. I’m not alone even in this dreadful experience of sexual assault.
When I consider my experiences in the light of God’s purposes for my life, I see the blessing. His bigger plan becomes less fuzzy, if not clear. I see how my troubles drew me closer to Jesus as my only refuge.
The path my life may have taken—had there been no pain, no loss of innocence—is one in which I may have never understood my need for a Savior. When all is well, what does one need saving from? But I did need to be saved from a darkness that grew deeper with each successive trauma I experienced. I desperately needed rescuing so I could live this wonderful, light-filled life He gave me.
I like the woman God has shaped me into, even if suffering was required for the Potter to mold this piece of clay. God did not plan or desire my suffering, but He certainly used it to develop in me the compassion, mercy, and humility that have become my hallmark. In all my experiences, He worked for my good because He loves me. He has called me to use my experience to give hope to others.
Do you need this hope today? It’s just a story away. I’d love if you would share your story so that God can begin to use it for good, too. If you don’t know how to even start writing your story, check out my guided poetry journal, which you can request here: https://anotherfearlessyear.net/i-believe-you.
“Then Jesus said to Peter, “Go away from me, Satan! You are not helping me! You don’t care about the things of God, but only about the things people think are important.”
Matt. 16:23, NCV
Principles of the Kingdom will often will sound like a simple conversation to an outsider. Things are often established or nullified with a ‘face-to-face.’ In this chapter of Matthew, we hear Peter extolling the divinity of Jesus (vv. 15-17). Peter exceeds the norm with his analysis of what is real.
It is as perceptive as it is supernatural. “You are the Christ,” Peter proclaims, “the Son of the Living God,” Jesus responds to this and He praises Peter for this amazing insight.
One of my personal problems is that I am way too spontaneous. It gets me in trouble. I have become a fool more times than I bother to count. I will do something that is outrageously amazing– and in a short time, I am flirting with apostasy. Often this is indicative of bipolar disorder, a mental illness of some significance.
I’m not sure why Peter does what he does.
But just a short time after he makes his astonishing pronouncement, he is taken apart by Jesus, being solidly rebuked face-to-face. In one clear moment, he expresses an awesome and wonderful faith, and suddenly his personal stock suddenly and precipitously crashes. He is now a pariah that needs to be avoided.
I think that every disciple will eventually be scorched. But intensely loved.
This is always quite bitter. It seems that in the light of this chapter (which actually seems like a bright glare), Peter is quite devastated. In three years of discipleship, it seems that all he merits is a brutal ‘dressing-down.’
The rebuke is bitter. Peter is being compared to Satan!
In a blur of just a few minutes, he moves from “hero-to-goat.” I suspect that Peter was ashamed. He most likely wished he had a rewind button. His Savior, Jesus– has given him a new label. And it hurts. Many times, we would become resentful, maybe a bit bitter. It could cause some to walk away, developing a fit of anger that solidifies into something very scary. Thank God, Peter doesn’t do anything that stupid.
The correction in the rebuke gives him life and hope.
But who’s to say we would be as correctable? One thing to add, earlier we mentioned the ‘conversational approach’ of discipleship. Peter was rebuked in the presence of the other disciples. The publicity was embarrassing. Too many people were watching and listening. Peter will survive this, but he has learned something valuable.
Our daily commitment to Jesus hinges on our willingness to be “undone.”
His heart and plan pretty much preclude any “secret or hidden” agenda. Jesus pretty much rakes us over the coals. He will insist on uncompromising obedience to His faithfulness. Every true disciple will be scorched— but loved.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
Genesis 3:6-10, ESV
There is a good chance that some of your memories are pretty awful.
When we get looking back we can see shameful, dark things. Some of us carry things that are profoundly evil, and they go with us wherever we go. It’s no secret that guilt and mental illness travel hand in hand, for they are brothers. They have tormented us for a terribly long time. They are like playground bullies who have no fear– they only have hatred for us.
I’m quite convinced that the only way to move on is to have Jesus Christ fully cleanse you, and that includes your dark humiliations. The human tendency is for concealment. We take considerable effort to conceal and cloak our past lives. (Both Adam and Eve understood personal shame.)
I remember back when my dad discovered that one of our dogs had killed a chicken. He took that dead chicken and wired it around that dog’s neck. That dog wore that chicken for weeks. It was awful, and it began to putrefy. The smell was terrible. I can still see that dog, staggering and tongue lolling out and slobbering. My dad said it was the only cure for a “chicken killer.” The dog would get very sick, attached to this rotting carcass. It was a sobering lesson for a boy to see.
Somehow, that is what our past disgrace has done to us.
Sure we have moments when we can almost forget. But, for the most part, it is just a temporary reprieve. We slide back and rediscover the pain; it’s just waiting for us. The cost of our mental health is staggering.
Many of us are driven by a mad movement toward drugs and alcohol. We are compelled to escape the pain, and for a little while it seems to work. (This is called “co-morbidity.” Which is ‘fancy talk’ for a dual problem.)
It’s like filling a bucket with corrosive acid. It will eat its way out.
Most of us would quickly trade this mental pain, this misery; for a physical one. Something shameful that was done 20 or 30 or 50 years ago continues its destructive work. Our conscience will not allow us to dispose of our self-disgust in this easy, cavalier manner. We need a ‘hazmat’ crew to help us clean up mentally and spiritually.
You have to forgive yourself.
You must, or you will destroy yourself and those closest to you as well!
Often we believe these things are simply moldy walls; they seem to just need a coat of paint. Our problem is that it will only cover for a short time. After 20-30 layers are applied, we realize this isn’t really the answer. Nothing we can do is ever enough. We must have Jesus– we must!
“God doesn’t want us to punish ourselves to erase our guilt. He punished his Son to cancel our guilt. God will not build His kingdom on our pain because He is building it on His mercy.”
Full repentance is critical. Don’t scuff off this first step. The blood of Jesus isn’t some nicety. It is foundational for salvation. We are to, by faith, start the obedience. Our blistering sin and guilt are absorbed in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”.
Ephesians 6:12, ESV
Satan attacks us in two distinct and recognizable ways.
First, he stirs up our desires and inflames our appetites for sin. He is very good at this. He knows all about you, and what you like.
Second, he accuses us of committing evil against God. Scripture identifies him as “the accuser of the brethren.” He condemns us as perverse, rebellious, seditious, and evil. “See what an evil wretch you are, your heart is small, black, and hard.”
But the believer will run to the cross, and hold on. He will hear the blood of Jesus cry out for his soul. In this simple act of obedience and faith, he allows Jesus Christ to deliver him/her from the darkness. There is absolutely nothing to be done except this, and this is enough.
My sinfulness can never hold me as a broken believer, as long as have a child’s heart of humility.
I read this the other day.
“And thus I shall always do, whenever you leave me to myself.”
I cannot fight this dark battle in and of myself. I have neither the armament nor the understanding to take on “cosmic powers”. I must become broken, and weak, and then the Spirit will shelter me. Being manic-depressive can actually be of help. I know my own weakness, and it lays me at the feet of my Lord, with no pretenses of strength.
Romans 8:31-32, The Message reads like this,
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?”
It seems like a dream, but I’m absolutely protected from my tormentors by someone with superpowers. And Scripture makes it clear that this is not far from the truth. God defends us not just because he loves us, he protects us because his reputation is on the line.
“Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture“
(verses 33-34, the Message)
Oh struggling saint, you cannot battle alone. Apart from him, you can do nothing. Spiritually, cover yourself with the righteousness of Jesus. Do not venture out against these dark forces, when you have the love of One who cannot fail.
Difficulty and pain sometimes come from others, and challenges to the Lordship of Jesus often come from our unique circumstances.
But what if it was something we’ve done?
I remember the classic picture of a Buddhist monk who sat in the middle of a street. He was serene as he soaked himself with gasoline, and lit himself on fire as a protest against a war he believed was wrong and evil. He burned himself in front of the cameras.
All too often we’re pretty much responsible for our own self-immolation. It is we (and we alone) that set ourselves ablaze. Sin affects our minds and hearts. We set ourselves on fire.
When we sin– when we walk in ‘known’ disobedience we always put ourselves in an awful place. We love it but learn to hate it too. But we continue to do it regardless of the awful death that ensues.
God promises to forgive us. Out of our ashes, He keeps bringing us life and hope.
You can be forgiven. You can find life again, even if you’re fully responsible for the evil we’ve done to yourself. Yes, we all sin, and yes we walk in our own personal rebellion. But Jesus knows it all. These awful things we’ve all done can be forgiven.
As a man and a preacher of the Gospel, I realize that I often choose to sin. In spite of all I know and teach I realize that I can live in the ashes of my own making. As one who also struggles with bipolar, I understand that I’m even more susceptible to doing awful things. I understand that I choose darkness even though others will call me “a man of God.”
As you read this I’m praying that you find His forgiveness and mercy. You’ve come a long way it seems, but you must see His blood that was ‘released’ from His veins and arteries for you.
He desperately loves you–even if you’ve set yourself on fire, and sit in the ashes of your doing.
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.“
When I was in the sixth grade, a friend invited me to her church. My parents didn’t go to church, but said I could go with Clarissa if I wanted to. Before long, I was spending at least three days a week with my church friends. I learned who Jesus was and that if I believed in Him I would be saved. I believed, though I didn’t truly understand my need for a Savior.
It would be many years and much wayward living later before I would realize the importance of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17 NASB).
It’s easy to think “of course I’m not ashamed of the gospel.” Why would anyone be ashamed of the good news that Jesus died for our sins so that we might be reconciled to Him?
But at its core, faith in the gospel requires the believer to say “I can’t do this myself.” That realization, I think, is what trips up believers and nonbelievers alike. We humans like to be independent and self-sufficient. We like to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We encourage our children to be independent as well.
I remember a time when my son was in high school and because of a snow day his class schedule was changed. As a result, he took the wrong books. He called to ask me to bring the right books to the school office on my way to work, which I happily agreed to do. When I got to the office to drop them off, the school secretary chided me for bailing him out. “These kids need to learn to be responsible or suffer the consequences,” she said.
I’ve thought of that encounter often, being thankful that Jesus didn’t say the same to the Father when the plan of salvation was put into place. What if Jesus had said, “You know Dad, these humans need to be more responsible or suffer the consequences.” We’d all be doomed.
In a world where DIY is all the rage and dependence on anyone else is frowned upon, Paul’s message is all the more important. We cannot be ashamed to admit that we are unable to perfectly do the right thing always. As the prophet Habukkuk wrote, “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habukkuk 2:4 NASB).
And so, although it requires me to admit I can’t do it alone, I choose to live by faith in the One who gives me His righteousness.
For the broken believer (which is all of us, if we’re honest), it is all the more important to be okay with something less than full independence. We were created to be dependent on God and on one another. We were created to live in community and relationship with others.
Note: A version of this article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of The Christian Journal, a publication I highly recommend, and not just because they publish some of my writing.
“Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.”
1 Kings 12:24, KJV
You can never accuse the Lord of being cold and distant and aloof. He doesn’t detach Himself from the needs of His people. He doesn’t ever disconnect and isolate Himself from you. On the contrary, He is constantly thinking and acting on your behalf. He is a proactive God, and that’s impressive.
The God of the Bible is always intensively involved in the affairs and concerns of His covenant people.
What we see as a muddled-up mess is actually His work. Perhaps in eternity we’ll see and understand. We see the backside of the tapestry now but (I assure you) we’ll know the beauty of His handiwork.
“For this thing is from Me.”
God directs a confused king who has significant issues. (Sound familiar?) God decides that the civil war between Judah and Israel is wrong. In 1 Kings 12, He sends His prophet Shemaiah to stand before the king of Judah, and speak out a word to the nation. The Lord is involved, and it is He who is actively enmeshed in this issue.
“For this thing is from Me.”
There is something here that can mystify and perplex the best of us. He begins to weave and guide His active presence into the confusing issues of that time. He is not a “landlord God,” but He is intensely involved in our affairs. He initiates and directs the very things that concern us.
“For this thing is from Me.”
The text clearly opens up this ugly situation. In the midst of this bizarre issue, God has assumed control. His prophet Shemaiah carries this a Word of power into a room of possibly explosive personalities. Now the arrogance of the king can be a strong and strange thing. But God decides and moves wherever He wills. Kings are never an issue when God enters in. They must serve now, like anyone else.
Dear one, He is incredibly involved in your affairs.
He draws you and He has engaged to be intricately focused on your situation. “For this thing is from Me.” and that truth opens up His purposes to our desperate poverty. We may try very hard to try to maintain control and direction. But God directs and superintends.
He is big enough to touch and direct my small heart. We will come into confusion if we try to sidestep His lordship.
“The Lord can control a king’s mind as he controls a river; he can direct it as he pleases.”
“As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”
Psalm 84:6 (NIV).
In Hebrew, the word “baka” means tears.
In Psalm 84, the sons of Korah write their praises of God and note that those whose strength is in the Lord will travel through the Valley of Baka and find His peace there. For some of us that Valley of Tears seems never-ending, but we must remember we are not alone in it. I wrote this poem to remind myself of that truth. I hope it blesses you as you pass through the valley of tears, too.
The Valley of Tears
My Savior will dry all my tears The Lord God knows all my fears As I trudge onward many years I pass through the Valley of Baka
Great pain and agony oppress I feel heavy weights of duress Praying for dear Jesus to bless I pass through the Valley of Baka
I see that this valley is long I need You to make my faith strong That Lord I might sing a praise song As I pass through the Valley of Baka
In Exodus 15 there’s an incident that carries weight for today. Israel has come to the springs of Marah. The water is bitter. The people turn to Moses. They challenge him and the complaint voraciously. “Why have you brought us here?” They press Moses to the point of mutiny. They are furious.
Some commentators believe this bitter water was a laxative, and anyone who drank this “bitter” water made many trips to the outhouse!
Moses is shown a branch of a common tree. The Lord speaks a word of ďirection he’s to throw the branchaďirectly into the spring. It’ll cure the water, and make it sweet.
It seems to me that Jesus’ awful cross cures the bitterness we absorb as we make our way through life.
Tough love is a love that won’t let go. Sometimes, it has to be ‘velvet on an iron fist’. It is caring enough not to be manipulated or controlled. The truth must be spoken— and spoken in love. The best thing I could do is to let Mr. Manning speak for himself. I hope it blesses, and perhaps you’ll purchase his book. I don’t think it will disappoint. No copyright infringement has been intended. It has been reprinted for ministry purposes only. If this small portion piques your interest, buy the book from your local bookstore. — Bryan
Excerpt of Chapter 7, by Brennan Manning
The temptation of the age is to look good without being good. If ‘white lies’ were criminal offenses, we would all be in jail by nightfall…
Impostors in the Spirit always prefer appearances to reality. Rationalization begins with a look in the mirror. We don’t like the sight of ourselves as we really are, so we try cosmetics, makeup, the right light, and the proper accessories to develop an acceptable image of ourselves. We rely on the stylish disguise that has made us look good or at least look away from our true self. Self-deception mortgages our sinfulness and prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are–ragamuffins.
One of my indelible memories goes back to April 1975 when I was a patient at an alcoholic rehabilitation center in a small town north of Minneapolis . The setting was a large, split-level recreation room on the brow of a hill overlooking an artificial lake. Twenty-five chemically dependent men were assembled. Our leader was a trained counselor, skilled therapist, and senior member of the staff. His name was Sean Murphy-O’Connor, though he normally announced his arrival with the statement: “It’s himself. Let’s get to work.”
Sean directed a patient named Max to sit on “the hot seat” in the center of the U-shaped group. A small, diminutive man, Max was a nominal Christian, married with five children, owner and president of his company, wealthy, affable, and gifted with remarkable poise.
“How long have you been drinking like a pig, Max?” Murphy-O’Connor had begun the interrogation.
Max winced. “That’s quite unfair.”
“We shall see. I want to get into your drinking history. How much booze per day?”
Max relit his corncob pipe. “I have two Marys with the men before lunch and twin Martins after the office closes at five. Then . . .”
“What are Marys and Martins?” Murphy-O’Connor interrupts.
“Bloody Marys–Vodka, tomato juice, a dash of lemon and Worcestershire, a splash of Tabasco; and Martinis, Beefeaters gin, extra dry, straight up, ice cold with an olive and lemon twist.”
“Thank you. Continue.”
“The wife likes a drink before dinner. I got her hooked on Martins several years ago. Of course she calls them ‘pre-prandials.’ ” Max smiled. “Of course you understand the euphemism. Isn’t that right, gentlemen?”
No one responded.
“As I was saying, we have two martinis before dinner and two more before going to bed.”
“A total of eight drinks a day, Max?” Murphy O’Connor inquired.
“Absolutely right. Not a drop more, not a drop less.”
“You’re a liar”‘
Unruffled, Max replied: “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. I have been in business for twenty-odd years and built my reputation on veracity not mendacity. People know my word is my bond.”
“Ever hide a bottle in your house?” asked Benjamin, a Navajo Indian from New Mexico .
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve got a bar in my living room as big as a horse’s ass. Nothing personal, Mr. Murphy-O’Connor.” Max felt he had regained control. He was smiling again.
“Do you keep any booze in the garage, Max?”
“Naturally. I have to replenish the stock. A man in my profession does a lot of entertaining at home.” The executive swagger had returned.
“How many bottles in the garage?”
“I really don’t know the actual count. Offhand, I would say two cases of Smirnoff Vodka, a case of Beefeater gin, a few bottles of bourbon and scotch, and a bevy of liquors.”
The interrogation continued for another twenty minutes. Max fudged and hedged, minimized, rationalized, and justified his drinking pattern. Finally, hemmed in by relentless cross-examination, he admitted he kept a bottle of vodka in the night stand, a bottle of gin in the suitcase for travel purpose, another in his bathroom cabinet for medicinal purposes, and three more at the office for entertaining clients. He squirmed occasionally but never lost his veneer of confidence.
Max grinned. “Gentlemen, I guess we have all gilded the lily once or twice in our lives,” was the way he put it, implying that only men of large mien can afford the luxury of self-deprecating humor.
“You’re a liar!” another voice boomed.
“No need to get vindictive, Charlie,” Max shot back. “Remember the image in John’s gospel about the speck in your brother’s eye and the two-by-four in your own. And the other one in Matthew about the pot calling the kettle black.”
(I felt constrained to inform Max that the speck and plank comparison were not found in John but in Matthew and the pot and the kettle was a secular proverb found in none of the gospels. But I sensed a spirit of smugness and an air of spiritual superiority had suddenly enveloped me like a thick fog. I decided to forego the opportunity for fraternal correction. After all, I was not at Hazelden doing research on a book. I was just another broken-down drunk like Max.)
“Get me a phone,” said Murphy-O’Connor.
A telephone was wheeled into the room. Murphy-O’Connor consulted a memo pad and dialed a number in a distant city. It was Max’s hometown. Our receiver was rigged electronically so that the party dialed could be heard loud and clear throughout the living room on the lake.
“Yeah, who’s this?”
“My name is Sean Murphy-O’Connor. I am a counselor at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in the Midwest . Do you remember a customer named Max? (Pause) Good. With his family’s permission I am researching his drinking history. You tend bar in that tavern every afternoon, so I am wondering if you could tell me approximately how much Max drinks each day?”
“I know Max well, but are you sure you have his permission to question me?”
“I have a signed affidavit. Shoot.”
“He’s a helluva guy. I really like him. He drops thirty bucks in here every afternoon. Max has his standard six martinis, buys a few drinks, and always leaves me a fin. Good man.”
Max leapt to his feet. Raising his right hand defiantly, he unleashed a stream of profanity worthy of a stevedore. He attacked Murphy-O’Connor’s ancestry, impugned Charlie’s legitimacy and the whole unit’s integrity. He clawed at the sofa and spat on the rug.
Then, in an incredible coup de main he immediately regained his composure. Max reseated himself and remarked matter-of-factly that even Jesus lost his temper in the temple when he saw the Sadducees hawking pigeons and pastries. After an extemporaneous homily to the group on justifiable anger, he stoved his pipe and presumed that the interrogation was over.
“Have you ever been unkind to one of your kids?” Fred asked.
“Glad you brought that up, Fred. I have a fantastic rapport with my four boys. Last Thanksgiving I took them on a fishing expedition to the Rockies . Four days of roughing it in the wilderness. A great time! Two of my sons graduated from Harvard, you know, and Max Jr. is in his third year at . . . ”
“I didn’t ask you that. At least once in his life every father has been unkind to one of his kids. I’m sixty-two years old and I can vouch for it. Now give us one specific example.”
A long pause ensued. Finally, “Well, I was a little thoughtless with my nine-year-old daughter last Christmas Eve.”
“I don’t remember. I just get this heavy feeling whenever I think about it.”
“Where did it happen? What were the circumstances?”
“Wait one minute!” Max’s voice rose in anger. “I told you I don’t remember. Just can’t shake this bad feeling.”
Unobtrusively, Murphy-O’Connor dialed Max’s hometown once more and spoke with his wife.
“Sean Murphy-O’Connor calling, ma’am. We are in the middle of a group therapy session, and your husband just told us that he was unkind to your daughter last Christmas Eve. Can you give me the details, please?”
A soft voice filled the room. “Yes, I can tell you the whole thing. It seems like it just happened yesterday. Our daughter Debbie wanted a pair of earth shoes for her Christmas present. On the afternoon of December 24, my husband drove her downtown, gave her sixty dollars, and told her to buy the best pair of shoes in the store. That is exactly what she did. When she climbed back into the pickup truck her father was driving, she kissed him on the cheek and told him he was the best daddy in the whole world. Max was preening himself like a peacock and decided to celebrate on the way home. He stopped at the Cork ‘n’ Bottle–that’s a tavern a few miles from our house and told Debbie he would be right out. It was a clear and extremely cold day, about twelve degrees above zero, so Max left the motor running and locked both doors from the outside so no one could get in. It was a little after three in the afternoon and . . .
The sound of heavy breathing crossed the recreation room. Her voice grew faint. She was crying. “My husband met some old Army buddies in the tavern. Swept up in euphoria over the reunion, he lost track of time, purpose, and everything else. He came out of the Cork ‘n’ Bottle at midnight . He was drunk. The motor had stopped running and the car windows were frozen shut. Debbie was badly frostbitten on both ears and on her fingers. When we got her to the hospital, the doctors had to operate. They amputated the thumb and forefinger on her right hand. She will be deaf for the rest of her life.”
Max appeared to be having a coronary. He struggled to his feet making jerky, uncoordinated movements. His glasses flew to the right and his pipe to the left. He collapsed on all fours and sobbed hysterically.
Murphy-O’Connor stood up and said softly, “Let’s split.”
Twenty-four recovering alcoholics and addicts climbed the eight-step stairwell. We turned left, gathered along the railing on the upper split level and looked down. No man will ever forget what he saw that day, the twenty-fourth of April at exactly high noon. Max was still in the doggie position. His sobs had soared to shrieks. Murphy-O’Connor approached him, pressed his foot against Max’s rib cage and pushed. Max rolled over on his back.
“You unspeakable slime,” Murphy-O’Connor roared. “There’s the door on your right and the window on your left. Take whichever is fastest. Get out of here before I throw up. I am not running a rehab for liars!”
The philosophy of tough love is based on the conviction that no effective recovery can be initiated until a man admits that he is powerless over alcohol and that his life has become unmanageable. The alternative to confronting the truth is always some form of self-destruction. For Max there were three options: eventual insanity, premature death, or sobriety. In order to free the captive, one must name the captivity. Max’s denial had to be identified through merciless interaction with his peers. His self-deception had to be unmasked in its absurdity.
Later that same day Max pleaded for and obtained permission to continue treatment. He proceeded to undergo the most striking personality change I have ever witnessed. He got honest and became more open, sincere, vulnerable, and affectionate than any man in the group. Tough love had made him real and the truth had set him free.
The denouement to his story: The night before Max completed treatment, Fred passed by his room. The door was ajar. Max was sitting at his desk reading a novel entitled Watersbip Down. Fred knocked and entered. For several moments Max sat staring at the book. When he looked up, his cheeks were streaked with tears. “Fred, he said hoarsely, “I just prayed for the first time in my life.” Max was on the road to knowing God.
An intimate connection exists between the quest for honesty and a transparent personality. Max could not encounter the truth of the living God until he faced his alcoholism. From a biblical perspective, Max was a liar. In philosophy, the opposite of truth is error: in Scripture, the opposite of truth is a lie. Max’s lie consisted in appearing to be something he wasn’t–a social drinker. Truth for him meant acknowledging reality–his alcoholic drinking.
The Evil One is the great illusionist. He varnishes the truth and encourages dishonesty. “If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth”(1 John 1:8). Satan prompts us to give importance to what has no importance. He clothes trivia with glitter and seduces us away from what is real. He causes us to live in a world of delusion, unreality, and shadows.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2, NIV
This psalm focuses being intimate with our heavenly Father.
Throughout the entire chapter we see personal pronouns used. In contrast to other psalms that are directed to the nation, this one is written to an individual. This personal focus makes this a favorite psalm for many.
Shelter and shadow, refuge and fortress are the opening ‘word pictures’ used very elegantly. The psalmist writes what he knows, and it is apparent that he understand the needs of the human spirit, and for protection. Each of these four words creates a common link between believers. Each of us need a working understanding of all four protections.
Dwelling, resting and ‘saying’ are necessary elements for the word pictures to work. I should ‘dwell’ in God’s sheltered care. All too often, I wander out past the security of the Lord (or maybe I’m lured out?) But there is safety in having God so close to us. His proximity is for my protection.
“Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
V.v. 3-4, maintains its personal or familiar tone. ‘Save you’ (salvation) is far more that a theological term. For the psalmist however, it’s not about ‘doctrine’; rather the psalm is an embrace. He is rescued from the trap, and the sickness that seems so contagious never touches him. Moving from metaphor to metaphor, he engages our imaginations to ‘see’ God’s salvation. The writer knows his stuff.
The Lord is pictured as a protective bird that covers his chicks.
We have a sure confidence as we gather together in that warm and safe spot under His wing. Whatever is after us has to go through God first. His presence is formidable. In His company is found our only safety.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”
Romans 8:31, 33
All of heaven is rallying for your well-being. You are sure of this based on your faith in God’s own word. He has ‘busted us’ out of a dark cage, and now defends you against all your enemies. And that is a very good thing.
Guilt can be a merciless taskmaster that drives us far from God.
Or, guilt can gently lead us back to a right relationship with Him, more fully convinced than ever of the Father’s love. How we respond to guilt today can determine our success in life for years to come. It can even determine where we will spend eternity.
Pay Attention to Your Guilt
The Bible says we are created in God’s image and His glory. This wonderful privilege of bearing His image also holds out the requirement that we live righteous lives. When we do something that conflicts with our sense of right and wrong, an alarming thing happens: we feel guilty.
If you are feeling guilty, then this internal moral compass is sounding an alarm indicating that you may have sinned. And sin separates us from God. That’s why it is important to listen carefully to your guilt. Don’t just try to ignore those nagging feelings of moral ill. Listen to your heart. Then determine to find out what’s causing your guilty conscience.
Guilty As Charged
Even as you read these words, you may be coming to a realization of the source of your guilt. Perhaps you have offended someone. Or you have done something you know God did not want you to do. Guilt can arise from things we say and do that directly violate God’s law. Even if we are not familiar with a specific Bible passage, God has given us a law that is written on our hearts and helps us know when we have sinned (Romans 2:15)
True guilt is God’s way of warning us to repent and turn away from our sins so He can forgive us, cleanse us, and make us entirely guilt-free. The fact is, the Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Another passage says “the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal. 3:22). Guilt is a fact of life because sin is a fact of life. And our sin has the consequences of death (Romans 6:23). But God does not leave you “shut up” under the emotional burden and deadly consequences of sin. He has made a way to break free from our sin and guilt.
God’s Answer For All of Your Guilt
God works through everything that happens in our lives, including guilt, to draw us to Jesus (John 6:44, 45; 14:6; Romans 8:28, 29). No matter what you have done, God has made a way home – through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, yet He was willing to die on the cross and receive the punishment we deserved. His death on the cross and triumphant resurrection secure for you all the blessings of God, including forgiveness. All you have to do is repent and turn your life over to Jesus (Acts 3:19). This is what the Bible calls being “born again” of the Spirit of God (John 3:3,5). We enter into the born-again experience by repenting of our sin, yielding our lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord, and trusting in faith that He will forgive and cleanse us from all sin (Romans 3:23; 10:13; 1 John 1:8,9; John 1:12).
God’s answer for sin and guilt accomplishes what no amount of human effort could manage. Thanks to the blood of Christ, we can “draw near” to God ” in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).
This cleansing is not just a one-time event. Every time the Holy Spirit prompts our spirit that we have sinned, we can return to His throne of grace to receive mercy (Heb. 4:16). If we fail to respond to guilt in repentance, we can expect God to continue to work in our lives until we come to Him in humility. For God desires children who can serve Him with a “clear conscience” (1Tim. 3:9). Having a clear conscience also requires that we walk in humility and repentance towards those around us. Be sure to seek forgiveness and to forgive.
Taking On The Accuser
At times, the enemy of our soul, Satan uses guilt to keep us from the Lord. The Bible describes Satan as the “accuser of the brethren” who appears before God day and night with accusations against believers (see Rev. 12:10). These accusations leave us feeling as if God has not forgiven – or will not forgive – us. We respond in shame, anger, bitterness, and depression – which further drives us from God’s presence.
This kind of guilt – a guilt that does not leave even after we repent and turn to Jesus for cleansing – is not from God. As we have seen, the blood of Christ fully satisfies God’s righteousness. Thus, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
If you have repented of your sins but still feel the accuser lurking in the shadows, confront the accusations with God’s Word. As Jesus said, “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Walk in that freedom.
As You Pray
God wants to free you from anything that would hinder your full life and liberty in Him. If you are dealing with guilt, choose the path that leads to life; repentance. Then stay on that path by fully accepting God’s forgiveness and cleansing: “Father, I confess my sins to You. Thank You for giving me of every sin I have ever committed. And thank You for releasing me from the burden of guilt. Help me to continue living every day for You. Amen.”
God’s Word On Guilt
“Since therefore, brethren, we have the confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, … let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Scriptures For Study (and these babies are worth thinking about)!!!
Please believe them.
Romans 6:23 — Wages of sin; but we find it’s a gift of God
1 John 1:9 — God’s faithfulness to forgive, no matter what.
Jeremiah 31:34 — No remembrance of sin. (“What sin? What are you talking about.”
You’re free. Completely and fully, forever and ever. All you must do is walk this out–no guile, no fakery or pretense. You’re behind such things. You’re Him and the sooner you understand the reality of your redemption the better. Repent yes! But follow Him forever (and ever and ever).
I was seventeen when I faced the most difficult decision of my life. At the time, I justified it as my only option.
Curled up on my bed, in what had once been my safe haven, I squeezed my eyes tight, holding back a flood of tears. I gasped for air and shuddered at the thought of telling my parents.
The scene played out in my mind over and over. Shaking and trembling, unable to look either of them in the eye, I would force the words “Mom, Dad, I was raped and I’m pregnant.” Dad’s cheerful grin would disappear. Mom would give me the silent stare that said it was all my fault.
With each passing day, I wasn’t getting any less pregnant. I had to do something. But what? I had my whole life ahead of me. I had college plans and a career, which didn’t mesh with becoming a teenage mom. College was going to be my escape from my crummy hometown.
Getting pregnant was a bit like the run on the Bailey Savings and Loan that kept poor George Bailey from getting out of Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life. Only I didn’t stay and save the town from Potter. I took the money and ran.
The Rest of the Story
This is my story. Well, one of my stories. I, just like you, am made up of many stories. To read the rest of this story, see the full article “Grasping Grace” on Now What?, the online magazine of Bible Advocate Magazine.
”So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs.”
Romans 8:14-17, NLT
As mentally ill Christians, we are often a mixture of good and bad things regarding our faith.
The Good: we don’t have to be convinced of our sin. We live in a broken world, and we’re pretty sure that we have formidable issues. We’re needy. We’ve tried lots of things, and we just might be a little wary (but that can be good.)
The Bad: our consistency fluctuates from day-to-day. We never know what our state of mind will be. Some of us have problems socially that hinders us. Attendance at our local church is hard. We struggle in our relationships with others.
From one day to the next many of us struggle. The existence of this ‘flightiness’ is painfully evident. And it is hard to maintain anything, much less a spiritual life. But I believe that the Holy Spirit not only makes an allowance, but even pours out extra grace on the afflicted believer. The Lord loves His misfits.
But we can’t put any confidence in our flesh. We do bounce around, but salvation is not of our own doing. What stabilizes us is a serious dedication to the promises we have in the Word of God. He gives us His Words to strengthen.
Obviously, the engine must pull the other cars. We must look to the promises of God to stay on track. Both faith and feelings follow the engine. Some struggle a great deal because they are led by their feelings. Confusion will follow if we get the proper order mixed up.
First facts, (the Bible)
and finally feelings
The Word of God is our only safety. Even our faith is to be connected to the promises of God. For those of us with a disability, we realize that we deal with issues that others seem to skate through. (But hey, we’re used to that now.) And yet the Father makes some things easier for us too.
Please, read the Word, the Psalms or the Gospels are always good. Try to memorize Jesus’ promises to you. If you collect up His words, in your mind and heart, the Holy Spirit will bring to your mind these verses when you really need them. (I draw much strength from the Psalms.)
We’ve been adopted by the Holy Spirit as sons and daughters. We are deeply loved by God Himself. He has gone and made us ‘heirs’ without any of our effort at all (Romans 8:14-17). These are examples of taking up the promises by faith. We are a people in need of stability. What God gives us is His own constancy. Read the Word, fresh just for you. The promises applied lavishly will enable you to be like Jesus.
“And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”
2 Peter 1:4, NLT
“In the darkest of nights cling to the assurance that God loves you, that He always has advice for you, a path that you can tread and a solution to your problem–and you will experience that which you believe. God never disappoints anyone who places his trust in Him.”
From an article in Christianity Today, February 9, 1998
“The only army that shoots its wounded is the Christian army,” said the speaker, a psychologist who had just returned from an overseas ministry trip among missionaries. He summed up the philosophy of the group he worked with as:
1. We don’t have emotional problems. If any emotional difficulties appear to arise, simply deny having them.
2. If we fail to achieve this first ideal and can’t ignore a problem, strive to keep it from family members and never breathe a word of it outside the family.
3. If both of the first two steps fail, we still don’t seek professional help.
I have been a Christian for 50 years, a physician for 29, and a psychiatrist for 15. Over this time I have observed these same attitudes throughout the church—among lay leaders, pastors, priests, charismatics, fundamentalists, and evangelicals alike. I have also found that many not only deny their problems but are intolerant of those with emotional difficulties.
Many judge that others’ emotional problems are the direct result of personal sin. This is a harmful view. At any one time, up to 15 percent of our population is experiencing significant emotional problems. For them our churches need to be sanctuaries of healing, not places where they must hide their wounds.
THE EMOTIONAL-HEALTH GOSPEL
Several years ago my daughter was battling leukemia. While lying in bed in the hospital, she received a letter, which read in part:
Dear Susan, You do not know me personally, but I have seen you in church many times….I have interceded on your behalf and I know the Lord is going to heal you if you just let Him. Do not let Satan steal your life—do not let religious tradition rob you of what Jesus did on the cross—by His stripes we were healed.
The theology behind this letter reminded me of a bumper sticker I once saw: “Health and Prosperity: Your Divine Right.” The letter writer had bought into a “healing in the atonement” theology that most mainstream evangelicals reject.
According to this traditional faith-healing perspective, Christ’s atonement provides healing for the body and mind just as it offers forgiveness of sins for the soul. The writer meant well, but the letter created tremendous turmoil for my daughter. While evangelicals have largely rejected “health and wealth” preaching—that faithful Christians will always prosper physically and financially—many hold to an insidious variation of that prosperity gospel. I call it the “emotional-health gospel.”
The emotional-health gospel assumes that if you have repented of your sins, prayed correctly, and spent adequate time in God’s Word, you will have a sound mind and be free of emotional problems.
Usually the theology behind the emotional-health gospel does not go so far as to locate emotional healing in the Atonement (though some do) but rather to redefine mental illnesses as “spiritual” or as character problems, which the church or the process of sanctification can handle on its own. The problem is, this is a false gospel, one that needlessly adds to the suffering of those already in turmoil.
This prejudice against those with emotional problems can be seen in churches across the nation on any Sunday morning. We pray publicly for the parishioner with cancer or a heart attack or pneumonia. But rarely will we pray publicly for Mary with severe depression, Charles with incapacitating panic attacks, or the minister’s son with schizophrenia. Our silence subtly conveys that these are not acceptable illnesses for Christians to have.
The emotional-health gospel is also communicated by some of our most listened-to leaders. I heard one national speaker make the point that “At the cross you can be made whole. Isaiah said that ‘through his stripes we are healed’ … not of physical suffering, which one day we will experience; we are healed of emotional and spiritual suffering at the cross of Jesus Christ.” In other words, a victorious Christian will be emotionally healthy. This so-called full gospel, which proclaims that healing of the body and mind is provided for all in the Atonement, casts a cruel judgment on the mentally ill.
Two authors widely read in evangelical circles, John MacArthur and Dave Hunt, also propagate views that, while sincerely held, I fear lead us to shoot our wounded. In his book “Beyond Seduction”, Hunt writes, “The average Christian is not even aware that to consult a psychotherapist is much the same as turning oneself over to the priest of any other rival religion,” and, “There is no such thing as a mental illness; it is either a physical problem in the brain (such as a chemical imbalance or nutritional deficiency) or it is a moral or spiritual problem.”
MacArthur, in “Our Sufficiency in Christ”, presents the thesis that “As Christians, we find complete sufficiency in Christ and his provisions for our needs.” While I agree with his abstract principle, I disagree with how he narrows what are the proper “provisions.” A large portion of the book strongly criticizes psychotherapy as one of the “deadly influences that undermine your spiritual life.” He denounces “so-called Christian psychologists and psychiatrists who testified that the Bible alone does not contain sufficient help to meet people’s deepest personal and emotional needs,” and he asserts, “There is no such thing as a ‘psychological problem’ unrelated to spiritual or physical causes.
God supplies divine resources sufficient to meet all those needs completely.” Physically caused emotional problems, he adds, are rare, and referring to those who seek psychological help, he concludes: “Scripture hasn’t failed them—they’ve failed Scripture.”
A PLACE FOR PROFESSIONALS
When adherents of the emotional-health gospel say that every human problem is spiritual at root, they are undeniably right. Just as Adam’s fall in the garden was spiritual in nature, so in a very true sense the answer to every human problem—whether a broken leg or a burdened heart—is to be found in the redeeming work of Christ on the cross. The disease and corruption process set into motion by the Fall affected not only our physical bodies but our emotions as well, and we are just beginning to comprehend the many ways our bodies and minds have been affected by original sin and our fallen nature. Yet the issue is not whether our emotional problems are spiritual or not—all are, at some level—but how best to treat people experiencing these problems.
Many followers of the emotional-health gospel make the point that the church is, or at least should be, the expert in spiritual counseling, and I agree. Appropriate spiritual counseling will resolve issues such as salvation, forgiveness, personal morality, God’s will, the scriptural perspective on divorce, and more. It can also help some emotional difficulties. But many emotional or mental illnesses require more than a church support network can offer.
I know it sounds unscriptural to say that some individuals need more than the church can offer—but if my car needs the transmission replaced, do I expect the church to do it? Or if I break my leg, do I consult my pastor about it? For some reason, when it comes to emotional needs, we think the church should be able to meet them all. It can’t, and it isn’t supposed to.
This is why the emotional-health gospel can do so much harm. People who need help are prevented from seeking it and often made to feel shame for having the problem. Thankfully, more and more people in the Christian community are beginning to realize that some people need this extra help. If professionals and church leaders can recognize the value of each other’s roles, we will make progress in helping the wounded. Forty percent of all individuals who need emotional help seek it first from the church, and some of these will need to be referred to mental-health professionals.
Church leaders should get to know Christian therapists in their communities so they can knowledgeably refer people with persistent emotional problems.
Body piercing has become pretty much acceptable just in the last ten years. Studs are placed in a hole or piercing to make a permanent decoration. I have seen a fair amount of it, and I think that a stud in the tongue has got to be the most intrusive. (I recently read of a young girl who died after her tongue was pierced from an infection).
There is “body piercing” in scripture. In Deuteronomy 15:12-18, slaves who are being set free by their master after six years of service, could, if they loved and were loved by their master, could choose to remain a slave to him.
“But if your slave says to you, “I don’t want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and has a good life with you,17 stick an awl through his ear into the door; he will be your slave for life. Also do this to a female slave.”
This was a decision that required elders to act as witnesses. It was significant as well as completely binding. I like to think of the ceremony to be kind of a cross between a wedding and a circumcision. (Sounds fun, huh?!)
The slave would be led to a doorpost and the master would take an awl, and push it through his ear lobe. This designated the slave to be forever “owned” by a specific master. Herein lies a picture of the Christian.
Many times in the New Testament we are called to be servants (slaves) of Christ.
Peter, Paul, James, and Jude referred to themselves as “bond servants of Jesus Christ” in their epistles. This is not a forced servitude. It’s a choice made in love!
There are many believers who have done the same, they have fallen in love with their Savior. They do not plan on a life apart from Him. So spiritually they have gone to the doorpost, the awl is pushed through their ear, and they are marked from that point on.
Although the ear was pierced physically in the Old Testament, a different kind of piercing takes place in the New. In Romans 6:16 we read,
“Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone, then you are really slaves of that person. The person you obey is your master. You can follow sin, which brings spiritual death, or you can obey God, which makes you right with him.”
Romans 6:16, (NCV)
When the prodigal son returned home from the far country he fell before his father and humbly ask, “make me your servant.” (Luke 15:19,21) He, in essence, was saying to the father, “pierce my ear.” The father made him a son, but the attitude of the son’s heart had changed to the heart of a servant. So it must be with us. Only then will we live a “pierced ear” life, revealing to all that we are servants of Jesus Christ!
“Savior, I know Thou hast allowed me absolute liberty, to serve Thee, or to go my own way. I would serve Thee forever, for I love my Master. I will not go out free. Mark my ear, Lord, that it might respond only to Thy voice.”
DOES RECURRING DEPRESSION PREVENT A FRUITFUL MINISTRY?
Long before the proliferation of mass media, Charles Spurgeon was known and revered throughout the Christian world. Scholars of his era labeled him, “the prince of expositors.” His commentaries, devotionals, and sermons are still being published, generations after his death.
So many folks in London wanted to hear him preach that he occasionally pleaded with church members to stay home so unsaved visitors could get a seat and hear the gospel. The pages of his book, Lectures to My Students, should be dog-eared by every vocational or volunteer teacher of the Bible.
Yet, depression dogged Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) most of his adult life. A major bout with despondency occurred in 1858 when he was 24, serving as a pastor in London. That’s when he wrote, “My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I know not what I wept for.” Repeated episodes spawned these words: “Causeless depression cannot be reasoned with…as well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness.”
What can we learn from this depression-prone, yet outrageously fruitful leader?
Depression doesn’t necessarily hinder ministry effectiveness. He often didn’t feel like serving, yet enabled by God’s grace, he kept giving himself to others. No matter how physically and emotionally drained he was, most Mondays he wrote out by longhand the previous day’s sermon so it could later be published.
The pain of despondency may expand one’s usefulness by cultivating dependency and humility. Spurgeon said that despondency was “my trial, my thorn in the flesh that Satan wanted to use to take me down, and God wanted to use to deepen my dependency on Him.”
A favorite verse of his was 2 Corinthians 12:9, where God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In reference to this verse, Spurgeon said, “My job is not to supply the power, but the weakness. That’s one job I’m good at! It’s God’s job to supply the power.”
Openness about one’s depression may encourage others, and point them to God’s sustaining grace. Spurgeon’s transparency concerning his depression was rare for his day. Knowing how many people suffered in silence with this malady, he preached a message to show others how he coped with it (titled “When a Preacher Is Downcast”). From experience, he learned and taught an ironic truth captured in my favorite Spurgeon quote: “God gets from us the most glory when we get from Him much grace.”
His life and ministry demonstrate that depression and spiritual maturity aren’t mutually exclusive. Depression didn’t negate Spurgeon’s godliness, nor did his steadfast use of spiritual disciplines cure it.
Biographies of and articles about Spurgeon don’t always mention his predilection for depression. Yet reading about his accomplishments and ministry output will show you what God can do through a yielded person not in spite of the depression, but possibly because of it. Spurgeon also suffered from severe gout in his later years, long before the medical intervention could eliminate or minimize the pain.
I benefited enormously from Arnold Dallimore’s Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1984). Also, in a chapter of John Piper’s Future Grace, titled “Faith in Future Grace Versus Despondency,” you can read about Spurgeon’s battle with depression.
Healing doesn’t happen all at once. Sexual trauma runs too deep, is much too complex for simple remedies.
We have no Star Trek sickbay or magic tricorder to bind up the wounds, erase the battle scars.
And would we want to if we could? Would we walk away, pretend it never happened, we were never assaulted violated… hated… berated… made to feel shame and doubt?
Could we ignore the very truth of what we know was wrong… evil… the vilest of all? Could we simply walk away and cease to bear witness for those who come after? Or maybe for those violated before our own innocence was vanquished but are yet to heal at all?
If we could be healed completely in an instant, in the blink of a selfish, knowing eye…
But to do so meant leaving our sisters, our friends, our daughters, even strangers, without the hope of #MeToo?
Could we? Should we?
Because to heal 100 percent I think is to forget every ounce, every moment, of the pain and struggle.
And to forget is to lose compassion. So perhaps it is worth the ups and downs of scars that appear healed but sometimes, more often than we’d like, bleed tears of understanding helping others feel not so alone.
Often I pray for complete healing. For years I prayed to forget. But then I remember that without my wound I am not me.
Monotony can easily become an issue for many. I had been told to be on alert for it, but it seems like I’ve got to learn for myself.
With any chronic illness, there can be something tedious and routine about life. To have a physical or mental illness is acutely painful in many different ways. Afflicted people understand what I’m talking about. Pain can be intense and intrusive. Sometimes these things can become really depressing.
The sheer boredom of my illness can strangle my walk. It seems every day is the same and the foreseeable future holds little hope of it changing. Now I’m a reasonably sedate person. I don’t need a lot of excitement. (I like a good book and a cup of tea.) I’m not after adventure, but I don’t care too much for monotony either.
Brain-numbing existence is quite common for the afflicted.
Many people don’t understand this. Others do. And it’s not limited to us who struggle with illness. It’s seen in other people too. This brain-numbing life happens to many as well. Consider–
the single mom working as a secretary
the man mopping floors
the college grad frying burgers
the resident at the old folks’ home, every day is the same
These situations seem inescapable. We see ourselves locked into a situation where escape is not possible. We are consigned to do whatever our circumstances dictate. We’re all trapped. Pure and simple. We can find no meaning in our lives; we start to despair, “Will it ever be different?”
I believe the drabness of our lives can often be attributed to a lack of intimacy with the Lord Jesus. We are built for fellowship with God, and anything else is just “treading water.” Nothing satisfies, except Him present. I need Him desperately.
When I’m filled with hopelessness, I often find myself filling the emptiness with anything I can find. This usually leads to even more sadness and deadness inside. It’s a vicious cycle that destroys as easily as more gross and obvious sin.
When I ponder my hopelessness I feel like giving up. I simply don’t want to take another step into the doldrums of what my life has become. I despair that life will continue its suffering grind.
I must have joy in order to survive.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). I don’t have to dwell in the grey drabness of hopelessness. My heart can find a reason to “sing to the Lord.”
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart celebrates, and I give thanks to him with my song.”
Psalm 28:7, CSB
The Psalms repeatedly tell me the incredible power of a life that sings.
The Holy Spirit understands our brokenness. Jesus is interceding for us at this very moment, and I can rise above this tedious mess I have made for myself. This is the only way out for me. Depression is a form of suffering.
I give it to Him. I take the strength and joy He gives.
“In any social situation, I felt fear. I would be anxious before I even left the house, and it would escalate as I got closer to a college class, a party, or whatever. I would feel sick in my stomach-it almost felt like I had the flu. My heart would pound, my palms would get sweaty, and I would get this feeling of being removed from myself and from everybody else.”
“When I would walk into a room full of people, I’d turn red and it would feel like everybody’s eyes were on me. I was embarrassed to standoff in a corner by myself, but I couldn’t think of anything to say to anybody. It was humiliating. I felt so clumsy, I couldn’t wait to get out.”
Social phobia, also called social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people become overwhelmingly anxious and excessively self-conscious in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them. They can worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation.
This fear may become so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other ordinary activities, and can make it hard to make and keep friends.
While many people with social phobia realize that their fears about being with people are excessive or unreasonable, they are unable to overcome them. Even if they manage to confront their fears and be around others, they are usually very anxious beforehand, are intensely uncomfortable throughout the encounter, and worry about how they were judged for hours afterward.
Social phobia can be limited to one situation (such as talking to people, eating or drinking, or writing on a blackboard in front of others) or maybe so broad (such as in generalized social phobia) that the person experiences anxiety around almost anyone other than the family.
Physical symptoms that often accompany social phobia include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking.
When these symptoms occur, people with social phobia feel as though all eyes are focused on them.
Social phobia affects about 15 million American adults.
Women and men are equally likely to develop the disorder, which usually begins in childhood or early adolescence. There is some evidence that genetic factors are involved. Social phobia is often accompanied by other anxiety disorders or depression, and substance abuse may develop if people try to self-medicate their anxiety.
The use of anti-anxiety drugs may be used and they can help you get through “bad patches” when anxiety becomes too much. It’s possible that these meds can help. Let your doctor guide you.
Understand that social anxiety can be successfully treated with certain kinds of psychotherapy or medications. You probably should find someone who understands what you’re dealing with. They need to be good listeners and have an encouraging voice.
Bringing in a pastor or elder must be considered.
Prayer and counsel are a must. Holding on to God’s promises is necessary and as you deal with this it can be God’s way of strengthening your walk. The Word is packed full of His promises. The Lord knows-He wants you to take up and understand what He wants to give you in this.
“Fear not, for I am with you;be not dismayed, for I am your God;I will strengthen you, I will help you,I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
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“Those who accepted his message were baptized.”
“Repent and be baptized.”
“Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God.”
Perhaps the most significant decision we’ll make is to follow Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism. This is just obedience to the Lord’s command to be baptized. Discipleship begins when we appropriate baptism into our faith. Ideally, it will forever alter your life. At least that is the Father’s intention.
Baptism becomes a public pronouncement or declaration to the physically seen world and to the invisibly unseen world of the Spirit.
It takes faith to be authentically prepared for baptism. You will be taking a stand. By faith, you’re making public your allegiance to Christ. It is an important and critical step.
“Baptism was to put a line of demarcation between your past sins when you are buried with Him by Baptism–you are burying your past sins–eradicating them–putting a line in the sand saying that old man is dead and he is no longer alive anymore and I rise up to walk in the newness of life.”
I suggest that you prayerfully attend to the process listed below. You will find there is a big difference between truly being baptized, and just getting wet!
The interrogative process can be used to solidify the faith before man and in front of His people. In a sense, it’s much like the vows made by a husband and wife in the vows of marriage.
I. A series of questions are asked, to which the reply is always, “I renounce them.”
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
II. The second half also must be asked, to which the reply is always, “I do.”
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
III. The Apostle’s Creed can be recited publicly (or privately in prayer).
This is our faith boiled down to its core essence. This declaration helps set us apart from the World, the flesh and the devil:
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, who was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell. and on the third day, He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
This really needs to be understood and accepted. I suppose we will develop these into living discipleship; you’ll that water baptism is analogous to a master key that opens the door to a special joy. Obeying the command to be baptized pleases Jesus. And that is what we long to do.
“Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior.”
“Baptism is an outward expression of inward faith.”
“Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers.”
A special word to “older” believers: There may come a time when you feel that you would want to be baptized again. I believe that this is not only allowable but commendable. You may have not had a good understanding of the baptismal process, but now it makes sense. I would encourage you to follow your heart. God will honor your rededication. Ask your pastor or elder what they think.
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“In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
Luke 5:12, NLT
The Bible text reveals that this man is desperate. His leprosy has advanced; he is covered with it from ‘head-to-toe.’ He’s an outcast now, completely infected by something he never asked for; he is ‘unclean’ and completely without hope. There is no treatment, the doctors can do nothing.
The leper knows that without the touch of Jesus, he’ll never be healed.
He knows it; he doesn’t need to be convinced by anyone over the complete hopelessness of his condition. He has heard that he can do incredible miracles. Could it be that Jesus can heal his sickness? The leper comes and falls on his knees before the Lord, with his face in the dirt. This man is completely broken; he has no hope, except for Jesus. What else can he do?
Our diseases differ, but our lives have been completely changed by our pain. We all have this in common.
Our pain and darkness vary. Some hurt more, some less. But we’ve all come to the place where we no longer have illusions of somehow being made whole. Whenever we meet, I think there should be a secret handshake or a password. We all share a comradeship— we’re all part of the same community.
We’re a broken club of tired and decidedly unclean misfits.
We belong to the fellowship of pain.
Lying in the dirt, we start to believe the unbelievable. Our faith doesn’t activate our healing, as much as it simply guides us to Jesus. We can kneel, and perhaps that’s all we need to do. His presence drives away the fear, the doubt, and the pain. He’s come, and somehow we begin to hope for mercy. Only he can carry us through this.
I have struggled with deep dark depression. I’ve had to take meds. But when I come into Jesus’ presence, all my melancholy is driven out. He comes and I start to hope again. Am I a stellar example of perfect discipleship? I think not. But isn’t about us becoming “angels,” perhaps it’s more about us learning how to kneel, and to allow Jesus to touch our hearts.
You must do this. Repeatedly.
“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws.”
“The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”
We must (MUST!) pray as believers in Jesus. Prayer is the oxygen of our spiritual life. We must breathe, or else. When I go to my doctor she puts an 0ximeter on my finger so she can assess how my lungs are using oxygen. I suppose if we would put it on our “spiritual finger,” might it reveal something?
We don’t know exactly how to pray, I think communicating with God isn’t natural. We must be taught. The disciples wanted desperately how to pray–they didn’t know how, (Luke 11:1-2). So, we too must have Jesus teach us.
We can only learn how if the Spirit teaches us.
Also, we must practice praying. We may do it terribly rotten, but we should never give up–it’s not natural–it’s supernatural. But we learn by doing. We may get discouraged but keep at it. Even if you’re a pro, the Holy Spirit will make sure you keep learning. Our walk should always grow deeper.
For me praying the Psalms is good practice, and there are 150 of them. The Jewish people have a 4000-year start on us–they’ve used the Psalms as their prayer/praise book. My sense is that this covers every human need–the entirety of our spiritual walk!
I think that Psalms 103 might be a great place to get started.
I’ve been told by some that the “Lord’s Prayer” is quite useful as well. I guess if you honestly take it phrase by phrase, something good will happen. I’m still learning (and I suspect I still will).
Below we find a way to jumpstart our prayer life. I hope you can use it.
One more thought. “Conversational Prayer” is a good thing for me lately. Talk with Jesus as if He was in the same room with you (He is) and just converse. Share your ups and downs, and it’s okay if you feel messed up. Relax. He’s your Father!
I love this quote. I don’t remember the first time I read it, but it resonated with me immediately. I see in myself that person, carrying buckets of cold water to douse the flames trying to consume the lost and hopeless.
I’ve been through hell here on earth. Over a decade of it. I felt sure all was lost. The thoughts in my head wouldn’t go away. They said things like:
I’ll always be broken.
My family would be better off without me.
Nobody likes me.
I’ll never hold down a full-time job.
I’m weak and helpless, good for nothing.
I can’t leave my house; it’s not safe.
I’m going to be attacked again and I deserve it.
I hate people!
I just want to die.
Depression that stems from sexual trauma is a special kind of hell.
The way our culture questions survivors of rape, asks what they did to bring it on, makes many victims say nothing. They tell no one. Instead, they keep the secret inside and bury it in their soul, where it sprouts and grows. It grows bitterness, self-loathing, fear, anger, hatred, and hopelessness. It grows lies, like the ones I told myself over and over. That secret fans the flames of hell, burning the soul.
I walked out of those flames.
Okay, maybe crawled would be a better description. But I am victorious, still alive, still a little broken but okay with that. I didn’t do it alone. I had friends, family, prayer warriors, and Jesus Himself who helped me.
I’ve learned that none of my burning thoughts, even if they were partly true, didn’t change the fact that God loves me. He loves me so much He sent His Son Jesus to redeem me, to douse the flames of hell for me.
And when I began to share my secret, let it out into the light of day, something amazing happened. The sprouts of bitterness, hatred, and hopelessness began to wither. Jesus exposed the lies I had believed and showed me these truths:
If you are feeling the flames of hell on earth, for whatever reason, I am here to pour the cool water of truth on the lies that are fanning the flames. And not just me. I know that Bryan is also here to help carry you out. I pray you can connect locally with loved ones who can help bear your burden and bring you into the abundant life Jesus promised.
The despair of hell can seem so real, but trust me. It is only a deception of the evil one. I in no way want to diminish the pain you are feeling. I know how painful depression and trauma can be. But hold on. Help is on its way.
“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.“
“Once we have come through the ‘furnace of humiliation,’ desperately, fearfully clinging to Christ for all He is worth, then we are fully equipped to march into somebody else’s furnace.”
‘Blessed with Bipolar”
Becoming a real and authentic person starts with basic responses that we’ve made in the presence of Jesus. Amazingly, this simple faith becomes the prerequisite, granting us the right to enter into the promises of the Lord. If you have those promises you may enter in. However, without faith in those promises, you won’t find anything real or true.
You will not be able to handle the Kingdom of God unless you’re walking out of a life of brokenness and humility.
Furnace people will often recognize those without any real and tangible connection with God’s work. There are furnace promises, but they, without truly understanding them will walk around in unreality. Often ‘they get religion.’ These are those who land on “the rocky soil.” They become ‘quasi-disciples’ who will do and say things that they really don’t really understand.
But furnace people have the connection to that which is honest and true. They rarely enter into anything false or manipulative. Their own hearts are transformed by the fire, and only then are qualified to minister God’s grace. Only furnace people can enter in. You will know them by their scars.
The Church has a tremendous need for those who have withstood the furnace of humiliation.
After we endure its ugliness and its great evil, we’ll discover that we’re in an altogether different place than when we first started. The Church is waiting for those who went in and then come out on the other side.
I was thinking today about Joseph, and his ordeal, as found in the Book of Genesis chapters 37-50. He was a rare kind of person. Perhaps, one in a hundred. You may emulate but never attain his faith. His confidence in the Lord was true.
Furnace people have the ability to function gracefully at this particular stage.
Furnace people are sovereignly brought to a place where they can minister the grace of God into desperate situations. We must convince ourselves, that furnace people have a gift. They have been through the worst. They may be battered and bruised. But they still stand. We must look to those who are the gracious agents of a loving God.
Our brothers and sisters have carried the Word with wisdom and grace. They come to us, through the fire. But will we receive them?
My hope is that you would personally grasp what God has worked in you. That really is your truest calling. The things good or bad, that have happened to you are part of how you’ll understand grace. He waits for you to respond. Will you come to Him, through the grace you find in the flames? The most gracious people you’ll ever meet are those who endured God’s furnace.
“He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.”
“I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him.9 I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I look to the south, but he is concealed.
“But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”
Job 23:10-11, NLT
Job is not sure where God is exactly.
He can’t really provide us any insight or understanding. But Job knows one thing very well; the outcome will be wonderfully ‘golden’ (v. 10).
Job explains his confidence, “He knows where I am going.” That sweet understanding gives him an awareness and a sensitivity toward the presence of God. “He knows where I am going.” He, the Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, looks to me, Bryan, the puny and small–the littlest pimple on the ankle of the smallest flea. Yet, He knows everything about me.
Verse 10 becomes my trumpet blast.
Testing me is His full intention. He intends to make me pure and true. And as I think of this, I first should understand that it is ‘He’ that is making me. It’s the Father’s work; it is certainly not by my silly little efforts.
His intention is to put us in His crucible. It’s there that He heats us until we are melted and gleaming–shiny and pure. Just understanding this process, brings us into a huge, new dimension. We understand now why we have this dynamic we call discipleship.
Verse 11 now speaks to us about this sweaty work of growing up. There is an “Under Construction” sign that hangs over us, we are being worked on. And Job’s faith, thrown into the crucible, becomes transformed into a solid walk. Is this plausible for us today? Should we evaluate our walks from His perspective?
Job claims this understanding. “For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.” Some might suggest religious pride. But also, could it be that he has been transformed by the crucible? Could it be that a man was being changed and altered by a heated furnace?
The intensity of the Holy Spirit, and His sovereign use of our various trials, delight in this process we call sanctification. Make an effort to walk in that direction today.
“The same Jesus who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about tears lately—in part because Pastor Bryan pointed out to me how many hits my post titled God Keeps Your Tears in a Bottle has had, in part because I’ve cried more than a few tears this year, and in part because I’ve been listening to Johnny Cash’s Cry, Cry, Cry in my car all week—and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all here.
People cry for a lot of reasons.
Earlier this year my sister died of breast cancer at only 61 years old. I cried, a lot. It’s normal and even helpful to shed tears over the death of a loved one even if we know where they are going when they die, because it allows us to express the grief we feel over not having them in our lives any more here on earth.
I remember a time I had a previous boss say some very cruel things to me in front of other people. She accused me of having done things I had not based on motives I did not have. I was very angry, hurt, and frustrated. And I cried, a lot. I didn’t cry in front of her, mind you, but afterwards I did. And it was good to express that anger to others.
Just yesterday I experienced unexpected tears.
I was reciting the prayers of the people in church, which I’ve done many times. Our church has many prayer concerns for members, family, and friends with health concerns and more. Towards the end of the prayer I began to lift up prayers for a church member’s brother-in-law who is a pastor back in New York because he is faced with conducting the funerals of two teens who had been killed in an accident last week, and with comforting the families of three other teens who are in critical condition.
I unexpectedly had tears in my eyes and my voice cracked praying for these teens and families that I don’t even know. But they were good tears because they touched those who heard my prayer and I know they touched our Lord, too.
I have cried tears of loss, anger, indignation over an injustice, frustration, compassion, and even of joy. I sometimes cry tears of regret when I hear a beautiful song about the sacrifice of Jesus, knowing it is my sin that required him to suffer.
Tears often serve a purpose, as expressed in this poem that I wrote recently:
Tears of sorrow, anger drench my soul course without end eroding pain, anguish
Where once only aching occupied my heart now is a deep empty ravine carved by a river of tears
Tears of forgiveness water my soul’s riverbed allowing flowers of love to flourish and grow
Peace arises in my heart held aloft by God’s promises the fragrance of sweet alyssum blossoms of my soul
I think the saddest tears of all, though, are the tears of major clinical depression. These tears are so sad because the one who cries them doesn’t know what purpose they serve.
I remember when I was suffering from depression sitting in a chair and just crying. When someone asked me why I was crying all I could say was, “I don’t know.” And I truly didn’t. The tears didn’t wash away pain; they only seemed to make it all the worse.
In the midst of such tears, there is One who knows their purpose.
Romans 8:26 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Through prayer God can sometimes lead us to an understanding of the purpose of the tears of depression, and ultimately to healing. Often the wounds are so deep it takes years and a great many groaning prayers to heal. But we must accept our weakness and our need for God’s Holy Spirit to intercede for us.
For me, after much prayer of my own, the blessed prayers of others, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit, God led me to an understanding of the purpose of my tears. They were tears of anger and unforgiveness; they were tears of lament that I had allowed myself to remain in bondage to the sins of another for so long.
With God’s help, the tears did lead to healing once I truly understood why I was crying.
May You Know His Peace,
Linda has a good and perceptive blog that touches hearts worldwide. Please do pay her a visit.
I have to admit, I always wondered what this part of Psalm 23 meant. I thought “He anoints my head with oil” was figurative language for God keeping the Psalmist healthy. I never knew this parallel.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Psalm 23:5, ESV
“Sheep can get their head caught in briers and die trying to get untangled. There are horrid little flies that like to torment sheep by laying eggs in their nostrils which turn into worms and drive the sheep to beat their head against a rock, sometimes to death. Their ears and eyes are also susceptible to tormenting insects.”
So the shepherd anoints their whole head with oil.
“Then there is peace. That oil forms a barrier of protection against the evil that tries to destroy the sheep. Do you have times of mental torment? Do the worrisome thoughts invade your mind over and over? Do you beat your head against a wall trying to stop them? Have you ever asked God to anoint your head with oil?”
He has an endless supply!
His oil protects and makes it possible for you to fix your heart, mind, and eyes on Him today and always! There is peace in the valley! May our good good Father anoint your head with oil today so that your cup overflows with blessings! God is good and He is faithful!!”
The subject of “the pool at Bethesda” alludes to the Thorton Wilder play, “The Angel that Troubled the Waters.”
The play is based on the biblical verses of John 5:1-4, however, it changes the end of the parable.
The play tells of a physician who comes to the pool of Bethesda, hoping to see the stir, and then be the first in the water, and healed of his melancholy and debilitating depression. An angel appears and troubles the water. Everybody at the pool hopes to be the first one in and to be healed of their disability.
An angel appears and blocks the physician at the very moment he is ready to step into the pool and be healed.
Angel: “Drawback, physician, this moment is not for you.”
Physician: “Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.
Angel: “This healing dear physician, is not for you.”
Physician: “Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavors sink half-performed, cannot be concealed from you.”
Angel: “I know.”
Physician: “Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and Singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbor?”
Angel: “Withoutyourwoundwhere wouldyourpower be?”
“It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves, cannot persuade the wretched, and blundering children on earth, as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service, only the wounded soldiers can serve. Drawback.”
Later, the person who enters the pool first, and was healed rejoices in his good fortune, then turns to the physician before leaving and says:
“But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood.”
“Only an hour… my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us, but she will listen to you.”
For me, the play pierces with the ‘bullet message’ of this wonderful line— “Without your wound where would your power be?“
This seems to me to be a slow percolating of Paul’s teaching, mainly, that it’s through my weaknesses that I can truly minister to others like Jesus. It’s the Apostle Paul declaring it’s the weak things that work to create something solid and true in us. And I hope in the many lives that this ministry, brokenbelievers.com reaches.
I hope so anyway. Pray for Linda. Pray for me.
I first encountered this excerpt in the book, “Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging,” by Brennan Manning. The book is a worthy read, and worth finding if you can.
“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”
Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters.
I believe God loves you (it’s not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you. Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally or physically ill).
Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, in His arms.
Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness. Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)
Some of us have physical disabilities. We come to worship from our wheelchairs and walkers. Some of us are deaf, and others are blind. But we come still. Our hope is in the coming King who promises us a new and fully redeemed Kingdom. There will be no more pain.
I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimer’s who understands little of what is happening to her, but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before dementia, she was a spiritual marvel. Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met.
Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe.
I just realized this–the angels understand worship, they really do. Praise seems to be their specialty. Each angel that surrounds the throne has a PhD in “worshipology.”
But you know what? They really don’t understand our worship out of our pain, weakness, and brokenness.
Let us worship God with our cracks and brokenness. In John 12:1-7, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus’ feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain.
But always remember this dear one–it is only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”
2 Corinthians 1:9
To be chronically ill often means awful frustration. We can’t do what we want, we are ‘trapped’ by a disease we never asked for, and we’re held hostage by our minds and bodies. We once had a job– a career… and our time was occupied by that.
We were accustomed to something, anything more than being very sick.
I once was a pastor of a small church. I also taught Gospels for several years in a local Bible Institute. I loved ministry very much. They defined my identity and gave me purpose. I enjoyed helping people and teaching the Word. I endeavored to be faithful in the ministry. I hope I did.
With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BP), my life more or less exploded. I had extensive memory loss. I knew I had to step out of the ministry. I simply could not function. It was a hard thing to leave it behind. (I still miss it).
My depression grew even more profound with the stillborn death of our third child just 3 days before her delivery, Things suddenly ground to a standstill as my wife and I tried to process all of this. I guess I just couldn’t understand and more or less just shut down. I was angry at God. I spent months in bed, unable to function.
A profound sadness settled on me.
Some people were true jewels. Others were mean and uncaring. (I had to learn to take the good with the bad.) I suppose I should have understood, but things were so tangled up inside me that I couldn’t verbalize a thing. But God knew all about me.
The post-op recovery following the tumor was an ordeal, as I had to learn many things all over again. A few years later I ended up on disability; I was unable to work, and my symptoms were so unpredictable. I dealt with profound depression and a solid dose of paranoia and fear.
I learned that meds can help, but they can’t fix the problem.
The isolation of being ill seems worse than the pain. We wonder why this is happening to us, and we hear lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. Our value to others seems to be scuttled by our illness. We can feel cursed, forgotten, crippled by God, or even worse. (Maybe even irrevocably lost.)
Satan craves our spiritual destruction, and he snares unsteady souls.
I admit I have been slow to learn this– but God brings good things out of the dark. I’m embarrassed by my personal lack of acquiring all of this. Now I’m starting to learn finally, and I want His words to reflect these truths.
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
2 Corinthians 4:7
This light will shine. The treasure is found in clay vessels. Brokenness only means the treasure is now seen clearly. It’s important to note–treasure loses none of its value by being surrounded by broken clay. Our weaknesses are being turned into goodness, understanding, and love for our brothers and sisters.
Troubles of many different varieties will visit us.Count on it.
No matter what their nature, God holds his people in place while everything else is falling apart. But for the broken believer, there is another dimension; we will indeed triumph. The tragedies we’ve had to endure only supplement our faith. We will stand– because He makes us stand.
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”
“Then God said, “You’ve been going around in circles in these hills long enough; go north.”
I believe that there are cul-de-sacs in a broken believer’s walk. There are times when we seem to walk in circles and our path seems to take us around and around. It can be a real cause of frustration–we know deep down that there must be something more.
For city planners, a cul-de-sac solves many problems. Homes built there can be off the beaten track, kids can play without too much concern about traffic. The idea can be very appealing.
But a spiritual cul-de-sac can be dangerous.
The children of Israel are free from the profound bondage of their Egyptian masters. They now know freedom, but… (you know).
The children of Israel wandered. They turned an 11-day journey into 40 years! Although one can learn things going nowhere, it really isn’t what the Father wants.
The scenery never changes (“what? didn’t I see that cactus before?) The journey becomes one of repetition. Around and around, dealing (and seeing) the same old stuff, over and over. We really don’t see anything new. We really don’t hear His voice.
This really isn’t what God intended for you.
Perhaps going in circles is a real issue for those with physical and mental issues. We feel trapped by our illnesses, hemmed in by these difficult things. We wander and continue to take another trip around the mountain. Instead of having a ‘straight’ walk, ours is crooked.
Our journey needs to be ‘linear,’ not circular.
I know all about these dead-ends. I’ve been there. I guess if I was to explain my own walk it would be one word–stagnant. I wandered in circles dealing with the same ugly stuff over and over. It seemed like I never went forward. My life was caught in some kind of spiritual loop.
Quite often we get trapped through sinful habits.
Sometimes we can’t break out of this vicious cycle without the Father’s helpful discipline. We must understand that the Lord will “rock your world” if you keep choosing to sin.
He will not allow you to continue in rebellion or disobedience.
I saw others on their straight path. Yes they sinned and struggled, but they seemed to be going forward, and I wasn’t. There were my issues, Bipolar and chronic pain (what a mix, huh)? I knew I was trapped and I never could break this on my own.
The spiritual scenery never changed for you.
God really does love you. You must become utterly convinced of that. If you’re stuck in a cul-de-sac you must know this. Condemnation never comes from Him. Never. I suggest that you call on Him (get on your face) and ‘beg’ to be with Him.
You really start to gather them when you get into your fifties. They are a bit sticky, once you have them, they’re hard to get rid of— (kind of like dog hair on a nice jacket.) I’m 61 now and am surprised by the memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of getting old.
Why do we remember the bad things– surely they weren’t all mistakes?
God’s Word gives us fresh insight into this state of mind of regretfulness. What it gives is akin to instructions to disarm a bomb— it’s ticking, and ready to explode. There are some who have been severely wounded when a regret goes off. Out of the blue–whammo!
But what really bothers me is all of the missed opportunities.
I wonder what life could have been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away.
I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of a 70-year-old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
Philippians 3:13-14, NLT
Paul learned to adjust his vision. He no longer let regret define him, choosing rather forget the past and press into the future. The solution to regret is to focus on what lies ahead. Heaven is our destination–it is our calling, it’s really where we belong.
And Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time to lay all the foolishness and rebellion and live instead for God. Enough is enough.
3 “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”
1 Peter 4:3
There is a sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10), and since it affects me I should make full use of it— not knowing when it will leave. I have regrets like anyone else, but there is also the joy of having my sin forgiven. They both mingle and at times I rejoice, but the sadness comes and goes as well. David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness.
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
“Maturity comes from obedience, not necessarily from age.”
“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.”
2 Timothy 2:13, NLT
There can be times of a great despair; when sin or sickness is definitely in the spotlight. Losing hope is an easy response for mere mortals like us. There can be a place where the darkness won’t lift; and it’s at that point you realize that you’re simply in over your head.
I know that feeling quite well.
I have bipolar disorder and I tend to camp out at the margins where it seems like the grace of God evaporates in the heat of the moment. Whether it is my sin or circumstances, I occasionally feel pretty much abandoned, and it usually is something self-inflicted. We have this glaring tendency to put ourselves in where we should not have been. And condemnation means no comfort can get through to us.
We wonder if God has finally given up on us, throwing us on the trash heap of lost souls. We might feel that is what we deserve.
“Many are saying about me, “God won’t rescue him.”
In Psalm 3, David has come to the realization that his sins have “tainted” him. He talks of many enemies that have suddenly gathered, and they are claiming that David was now outside of God’s grace and favor. The theology of this seemed logical. David had sinned greatly. And just perhaps he had. David’s sin of adultery and murder was heinous and depraved. His enemies suggested that God would now abandon him.
Our own sin may be excessive, but God’s faithfulness is even more extreme.
”Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies.’‘
The grace of God is limitless. It is beyond human comprehension or reasoning. When he committed himself it was for forever. King David understood this, and would survive the devastating fall-out from his sins. Indeed he would reap all that he sowed (Gal. 6:7-8).
You see, Jesus has taken all your sin upon himself, and that includes your faithlessness. He has done this astonishing thing out of the deep depths of His love and mercy. We don’t deserve it and we can’t pretend it is something else. A heart welded to His knows this. We are “saved by grace through faith.”
Do you still feel God has abandoned you forever? Dear one, there is an unholy war on the saints that Satan is waging. He hates your simple trust in God and will shake it anyway he can. He blisters believers hoping to discourage them. And he doesn’t ever fight fair.
“The Lord appeared to us in the past,saying:“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him.
You must only rest in His kindness and love. He will not abandon anyone who puts even a feeble trust in Him. When we turn from our sin, God will always turn to us. Always believe it, for it is true.
The Book of Daniel contains the acts and welfare of the Jewish people in Babylon. They are captives and so many of the stories shared here are accounts of spirituality under duress. King Nebuchadnezzar, in an attempt to unify his kingdom, proclaims himself to be a god. He commissions a 90-foot statue to be erected; he orders that, on a prearranged moment, all would fall down and worship.
There are three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who are brought to the king with the charge of ‘failure to worship.’ They refused to bow at the statue at the signal. They were observed standing when everyone else was kneeling. Non-compliance to the king meant the death penalty, but that doesn’t deter the three.
Their faith will not allow them to sin in this way.
They are resolute. The first, second, and third commandments clearly forbid the worship of all idols. There were no other options. Perhaps they valued their souls more than they valued their lives. In some things, there can be no accommodation– no compromise. Standing before the king and threatened with death, they declare their allegiance to the living God.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
The king is enraged.
Few have ever spoken and defied him like this (and lived). He orders the furnace to be heated up like never before. Here the king is making a statement. He will not tolerate this kind of ‘rebellion’ in his kingdom. All of his governing leaders will witness what he does to ‘traitors.’ These Hebrews must be made an example.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fire. The men who escorted them are killed by the heat. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer can’t protect his own men from death while the three Jews are not touched, not even a little.
They are joined by a fourth man and they walk around in the midst of the flames.
Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzer realizes that the God of Israel is not only a real God, but a force to be reckoned with. The men’s faith has saved them. (And his men are dead.)
The complete story is quite compelling. The king orders all that the real God be worshipped. Henceforth, no one shall ever speak against this God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom.
The lessons for today are many,
God’s Word is to be obeyed no matter what it costs.
When confronted, we must never hedge over our beliefs.
God is present with us in our furnace, we’re never alone.
In the fire, our faith will ultimately triumph. One way or another.
We may be standing in similar times. Faith will be tested. The Word must be believed and trusted. It is ‘comprehensive protection’ for our lives. Obedience to God will lead us into difficult places, but faith will triumph.
“When you have no helpers, see your helpers in God. When you have many helpers, see God in all your helpers. When you have nothing but God, see all in God. When you have everything, see God in everything. Under all conditions, stay thy heart only on the Lord.”
My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, the three epistles that he wrote, and of course, Revelation.
There are a couple of things I love about John’s writings:
He reminds his readers that he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.
It is this last point that I want to write about today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).
John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One of the definitions of assurance on Dictionary.com is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.”Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be assured of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.
The word “know” appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:
I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).
“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”
1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).
None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a Savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.
John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.
Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.
You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.
Bipolar disorder symptoms are characterized by an alternating pattern of emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). The intensity of signs and symptoms can vary from mild to severe. There may even be periods when your life doesn’t seem affected at all.
The manic phase of bipolar disorder Signs and symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar disorder may include:
Types of bipolar disorder Bipolar disorder is divided into two main subtypes:
Bipolar I disorder. You’ve had at least one manic episode, with or without previous episodes of depression.
Bipolar II disorder. You’ve had at least one episode of depression and at least one hypomanic episode. A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode but much briefer, lasting only a few days, and not as severe. With hypomania, you may have an elevated mood, irritability, and some changes in your functioning, but generally, you can carry on with your normal daily routine and functioning, and you don’t require hospitalization. In bipolar II disorder, the periods of depression are typically much longer than the periods of hypomania.
Cyclothymia. Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder. Cyclothymia includes mood swings but the highs and lows are not as severe as those of full-blown bipolar disorder.
Other bipolar disorder symptoms In addition, some people with bipolar disorder have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. This is the occurrence of four or more mood swings within 12 months. These moods shifts can occur rapidly, sometimes within just hours. In mixed state bipolar disorder, symptoms of both mania and depression occur at the same time.
Severe episodes of either mania or depression may result in psychosis or a detachment from reality. Symptoms of psychosis may include hearing or seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations) and false but strongly held beliefs (delusions).
What’s Your Take on Christians Using Antidepressants?
by Pastor John Piper
I’m going to say that there are times when I think it is appropriate, but I want to go there cautiously and slowly, with warnings.
Depression is a very complex thing. It’s got many layers. I think we all would agree that there are conditions in which nobody would deny that certain people are depressed in a pathological way because they’re immobile. They’re not even able to function.
And then there’s a continuum of discouragements and wrestlings with having an ‘Eeyore-type’ personality, which may or may not be depressed.
So that means that I want to be so careful not to have a knee-jerk reaction. When you come into my office and describe to me your discouragements, I don’t want my first response to be, “See a doctor and get a prescription.”
I fear that is way too quick today. The number of people on antidepressants as a first course rather than the last course is large.
And the assumption is that you can’t make any progress in counseling unless you get yourself stabilized or something.
So I just want to be very cautious.
As a Christian who believes that Christ is given by the Holy Spirit to deliver us from discouragements and from unbelief and sorrow and to help us live a life of usefulness, what makes me able to allow for antidepressants is the fact that medicine corresponds to physical realities.
And the physical realities are that we get headaches that make us almost unable to think. Migraine headaches can put a man out. And we are pretty much OK if the doctor can help us find some medicine that would not let us get these immobilizing headaches.
And the headaches clearly have a spiritual impact, because they’re making me unable to read my Bible and function in relation to people that I want to love and serve. And so medicine becomes spiritually effective in that way.
So we apply this principle that we all use to depression, and then the fact that the body is included in depression. Whether we should use the terms “chemical imbalances”—I’ve read both sides on that. Some people say that there is no scientific evidence for such a thing and others say that it is a given. Whatever. Everybody knows that there are physical dimensions to depression.
If that physical dimension could be helped by medicine—in the short run especially, sometimes long term—then I think, in God’s grace and mercy, we should take it as a gift from his hand.
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.
Everyone does. We all experience trial and affliction no matter who we are or how lost we are. Everyone hurts. Often we see the ungodly man or woman in suffering: “Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.”Ps. 107:17
However, it really isn’t as easy to understand the sufferings of the believers. We can try to explain it but we still end up with questions: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Ps. 34:19.
I guess there is some comfort in knowing that other believers are also being tested and that it is part of God’s plan.
What Are Some Godly Examples of Testing?
Job– “see thou mine affliction;” Job 10:15
Moses– “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Hebrews 11:25
David– “I am afflicted very much; revive me, O LORD, according to Your word.” Ps. 119:107
The Prophets– “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.”James 5:10
Jesus Christ– “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth” Isa. 53:10
Paul– “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart” I wrote to you, with many tears. “ 2 Cor. 2:4
But it is not enough to know the ‘realness’ of your affliction. We insist on knowing why. Why am I suffering in this way? Moses, probably the stellar personality in the Old Testament asked, “So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?” Ex. 11:11
Afflictions Are For Our Good
Psalm 119:75 says, “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”
Why would David thank God in afflicting him? I think that David was able to see through the affliction. He then could realize that the intentions and purposes of God were good and edifying to him. He saw the divine purpose in God’s hands. He chose to trust that.
This pain is working out for our good
The Bible is quite clear on this subject. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” 2 Cor. 4:17. Exceeding and eternal! Words that need to impress us with their weight. Our afflictions are not our focus, it’s what they produce must be our focus.
We are explicitly told this, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”, Romans 8:28.
Those of us who are stronger must pray for those who are not.
We need to “stand in the gap” and intercede for those who are struggling so hard. Each of us has a sphere of influence, family, and friends–use it. They’re counting on us to lift their need to the Father.
Let’s pray . . .
God our comforter, you are a refuge and a strength for us, a helper close at hand in times of distress. Enable us to defend others so they’ll hear the words of faith. May their fear be dispelled, their loneliness is eased, and anxiety is calmed, and hope reawakened.
May your Holy Spirit lift them above sorrow to the peace and light of your steady constant love; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
These are words of faith that force fear and anxiety to leave, and these words can calm and protect. We truly believe that God’s power can strengthen them. We can trust the Spirit to transform their lives and overcome their weakness.
“The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds.”
2 Cor. 10:4
Let’s pray for all those who are weak and lonely. They need us more than ever.
The vision of World Bipolar Day is to bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and to eliminate social stigma.
World Bipolar Day (WBD) – an initiative of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD), the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), and the International Society for Bipolar Disorder (ISBD).
On March 30th, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder.
The vision of WBD is to bring world awareness to bipolar disorders and to eliminate social stigma. Through international collaboration the goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar disorders that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the illness.
Bipolar Disorder (also called manic-depressive illness) is a mental illness affecting up to 2% of the population worldwide. It represents a significant challenge to patients, their family members, health care workers, and our communities.
While growing acceptance of bipolar disorder as a medical condition, like diabetes and heart disease, has taken hold in some parts of the world, unfortunately the stigma associated with the illness is a barrier to care and continues to impede recognition and effective treatment.
Despite the alarming number of people affected with a mental illness, statistics show that only one-third of these individuals seek treatment. According to Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the NIMH (USA), psychiatry is the only part of medicine where there is actually greater stigma for receiving treatment for these illnesses than for having them.
In early 2021, I wrote this post asking the readers of Broken Believers to pray for Bryan. Once again, I am asking you to pray for him. Although doctors have determine what the issue was that seemed mysterious for so long, they are not much closer to bringing him healing. He is currently hospitalized in Alaska and has asked me to fill in here at Broken Believers when I can.
I believe the Lord still has much for Bryan to do and that He can bring healing if that serves the greater good. I also know that Bryan is not alone in the hospital because his friend Jesus is by his side. And so I offer this prayer, similar to the one I lifted in early 2021.
I lift up to You Bryan, Your dear son and loyal servant. You know exactly what is going on in his body and in his mind. I pray for Your healing touch, for Your comfort and peace, and for Your wisdom for the doctors treating him. Lord, help him to find the perfect balance of medications and to feel well again. Return Bryan to his home with a refreshed spirit and strength to continue to serve You in whatever way You are calling him to do.
In the meantime, Lord, give Bryan rest for his body and rest for his soul. Help him to draw closer to You, Jesus, and feel Your very real presence. Lead him in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Make him to lie down in peaceful pastures and restore his soul. Let him truly know that this time of illness has not been wasted but is being and will be used by You for Your glory and his good.
I ask all these things in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.
I hope that you will join me in praying for Bryan. I know over the years he has faithfully prayed for many of you and continues to do so. He has a heart to serve, but serving is difficult when illness strikes. Please pray that he has peace. If you would like to post your prayer in the comments, I know he would be blessed.
Trigger warning: This post is about suicidal thoughts and hopelessness. If you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to someone at one of the hotlines we have posted here.
I had all but given up. I mentally catalogued the various prescription and over-the-counter pills in my medicine cabinet. There were enough to end my hopelessness forever. I truly believed my one-and-a-half-year-old son and my longsuffering husband would be better off without me.
I saw no other way to escape this deep depression that had engulfed me for what seemed like forever. I had tried everything—academic accolades, career, marriage, counseling, antidepressants, alcohol, exercise, motherhood, even religion—but nothing pulled me from my pit of misery. Near-constant tears were destined to drown me if I didn’t kill myself first.
I credit God with stopping me from following through that day. His Word says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7. His word did not fail me when an angel stopped my hand from a dreadful mistake. “For no word from God will ever fail.” Luke 1:37.
When a friend learned of the depths of my despair, she invited me to a women’s Bible study. It had been a long time since I had engaged in any formal study of the Scriptures. I was nervous because I felt certain they would see me for the fraud I felt I was.
But those ladies didn’t judge me or tell me I just needed more faith. Instead, they loved me and lifted to God my simple prayer: “I just don’t want to be depressed anymore.” It took me over a month to whisper that prayer request, but it didn’t take Jesus long to answer it.
The answer came in a most unlikely way—through a dream.
I had been harboring bitterness toward a number of people who had harmed me, but the worst offender was the boy who had raped me when I was only 14. I had often said that he ruined my life. One night I dreamed I was going about my ordinary life, buying groceries, taking bills to the Post Office, and depositing a check at the bank. As I completed each errand I turned to find my attacker, down on his knees, asking me to forgive him. Each time I brushed past him, refusing to accept his apology.
I awoke from that dream with the certain knowledge that forgiveness would set me free. Yet I knew I could not do it alone. I sat on the edge of my bed and prayed for God’s help to forgive all those grudges I had recorded in my heart. Cleansing tears streamed down my face as I poured out my prayer to Jesus.
That very hour I felt something was different. The darkness had been lifted and the light of hope streamed in. That was over twenty years ago and although I can still be a bit melancholy, I have never again felt the deep and abiding hopelessness that tried to lure me to the medicine cabinet.
As we think of mental illness an immediate question arises: what is “serious” mental illness, and how is it different from the normal issues that are part of everyday life?
Wearing a tin-foil hat is the delusion that those who wear them are some how protected from space rays or conspiracy theories. Crazy, I know. But some believers approach mental illness in this way.
Brother and sister, we’re called to think biblically. Ephesians 6:17 tells us that the “helmet of salvation” is the only head gear we’re called to wear. It tells us that the ‘warriors’ protection is God’s salvation. We are protected by a helmet of truth.
We must educate ourselves, through our community, and knowledgeable Christian leadership, to serve the broken that are in our midst. This figure includes a wide variety of disorders, these stats are compelling:
Severe mental illnesses affect 5.4 percent of adults,
Some 22 to 23 percent of the U.S. adult population—or 44 million people-“have diagnosable mental disorders”
Such statistics only begin to capture the level of pain many of our fellow believers endure daily.
One person wrote of the broad reach of mental illness:
“I have a thousand faces, and I am found in all races. Sometimes rich, sometimes poor, sometimes young, sometimes old. I am a person with the disabling pain of a broken brain.”
We must find an acceptable form of understanding about mental illness if we are going to find our way to those who are quite frankly, very definitely lost.
Both Scripture and eldership, (healthy counseling), should be an active component to recovery. The sacrifical sacrifice of Jesus, through His blood must be taught again to the afflicted. Mental disease needs to be as understood in the same context as a physical one (e.g. diabeties or cancer).
Discernment must be sought as the whole person often needs to be taught. Issues like guilt, unforgiveness and pride are a big part of seeing people set free. Issues of past trauma like sexual and phyical abuse are factors as well.
Your support of Brokenbelievers.com through your prayers and encouragement goes a long way. Linda and I need your help in this. We both need wisdom and a gentle hand on our lives. As we reach out, a ‘tinfoil hat’ is definitely not part of our acceptable head gear.
The Father’s love embraces the torn and wounded consistently. This is the key to the healing of a broken heart.
“And don’t build an altar that requires steps; you might expose yourself when you climb up”.
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8
While I lived in the SOS Ministry house in the Mission District of San Francisco a dear brother taught me this principle. Living in Christian community is a really wonderful thing. But it also could be a challenge at times. What Michael shared, allowed my understanding to grow to meet the need of the moment.
The principle is this:
We are called to cover up our brother’s nakedness.
Throughout the scripture “being naked, or nakedness” is always a shame. It comes welded to the concept of being vulnerable or exposed to the sight of everyone else. It also carries the idea of sin; it is sin that everyone can see; it is very obvious.
For those of us who often sin, we evolve the idea of keeping a lid on it, and being secretive with it. There will be people who will never know. Often sex sin, drug and alcohol sin, both are kept hidden from view of family and friends, and the Church.
Noah and His Nakedness, Genesis 9
“Noah became a farmer and planted a vineyard. When he drank wine made from his grapes, he became drunk and lay naked in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, looked at his naked father and told his brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth got a coat and, carrying it on both their shoulders, they walked backwards into the tent and covered their father.”
“They turned their faces away so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.”
It’s hard to process this patriarch’s gross sin.
However in all fairness Noah had lost everything in the flood, so perhaps we should be gentle with him. On the other hand, people who cover up the nakedness of others seem to be gentle and humble. They would never, ever dream of making a scandal. They are trustworthy and understand to a great degree the things that make a man or woman of God.
Leviticus 18 is the “magnum opus” of nakedness.
We are pretty much told over and over in this chapter, not to ever uncover another. Actually is pretty emphatic and somewhat redundant. But I think the Lord wanted it repeated this way.
Our vulnerabilities are there for all to see. But there are also men and women who go out of their way to protect and shield. They are safe people, in the classic sense of the word. They cover-up, but never in negative or criminal way, but in love and blessing. (If it is a serious crime, the police should be involved.)
Mature believers will step forward and protect the open areas of others.
Quite often we are exposed, open to attack on our weaknesses. Mature believers will step forward and protect the open areas of others. They will refuse to judge or point out sins. But they will stand in the gap, shielding and protecting.
God’s final word on nakedness is in Revelation 3:18, and this is a good place to conclude this post,
“My advice to you is to buy pure gold from me, gold purified by fire—only then will you truly be rich. And to purchase from me white garments, clean and pure, soyouwon’tbenakedand ashamed; and to get medicine from me to heal your eyes and give you back your sight.”
A tiny purple alyssum and a scraggly white alyssum. Two mini daisies. A wee snapdragon with a single bloom. Each had volunteered in various annual pots left on our deck over the winter. As spring sprung, so did these tenacious sprouts.
We wanted to plant new, healthy flowers in the old pots. But I couldn’t bear to toss my little band of misfits. Somehow I knew they held such promise. They were of hearty stock, small though they were. So I replanted them all in what I dubbed my planter of misfits.
Kind of pitiful, isn’t it? Still, this silly planter grew dear to my heart.
Jesus’s Band of Misfits
The disciples that Jesus called to follow him were a lot like the sprouts in this planter. They were a motley collection of misfits. A few fishermen. A tax collector. A zealot and a thief. None were learned men. Not quite what we would expect the God of the Universe to choose for his followers.
But choose them, he did. And at times they were quite pitiful. They misunderstood his teachings. They jockeyed among themselves for position. They doubted—oh, how they doubted. Then they all scattered when he was arrested.
Still, Jesus knew somehow that they held promise. They had potential. With a little training, some time with the Master, and an infusion of the Holy Spirit, they would become a great band of disciples. Pointing others directly to God and his Messiah, they would start the Church—his Church—that would still exist 2,000 years later.
My Lovely Band of Misfits
I doubt my little planter will still be in existence in 2,000 years, or even two. But with a little care and watering, an infusion of fertilizer and sunshine, it has grown into a beautiful planter of flowers.
The purple, yellow, and white overflow the pot and provide beauty to my deck railing. I am delighted that I had faith in the ability of these sprouts to blossom into something extraordinary.
We Are All Misfits
Have you felt like a misfit, too? I know I have on many occasions. I struggle to fit in and I doubt—oh, how I doubt—my own potential. When depression threatens, I even doubt God’s love and my own worth in this world.
But God knows our potential. We who follow Jesus are his people, called to bring him glory. We are called to sprout and grow in beauty and faith. We may be a motley band of misfits, but we are his misfits. And we are dear to his heart.
Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present.
There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
“For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”
1 Thess. 5:5
My testimony of the grace of God:
A year before I received Christ as my Savior, I was hospitalized in a U.S. Army psychiatric ward. My uniform was replaced with the distinctive attire of a mental patient. Ironically, I’d been attached to the same hospital working on the pediatric floor. And to make things only slightly more surreal was that a medic there on the psych ward was someone I bought drugs from!
Previous to this hospitalization, I had dropped two hits of LSD and found myself in an awful mess. It was night and I was hallucinating heavily. I had lost control of my thoughts. I had pretty much flipped out and it entered my drug saturated brain that the darkness would kill me that very night!
Utterly convinced I was going to die, my mind seized upon the street lights.
If I could stay in that illuminated circle I could escape dying that night! The light would save me. I stood under that street light for several hours. As I stood I could see very clearly the boundary between the light and the dark. I knew I was safe as long as I didn’t wander, but I was trapped.
Despite that traumatic experience, the drugs and my mental instability continued to slide.
I was shooting up cocaine, crossing my “no needle rule.” I also became quite the heavy drinker, with Jack Daniels for breakfast. I had one basic rule though. As a medic who worked in maternal/child health, I had the best assignment in the Army. Many people coveted it, and I was not going to endanger it by drugs or alcohol.
I never went on duty loaded. It was my rule. I would be the best medic the Army ever had.
Shortly after my psych ward discharge, I was reassigned to Labor & Delivery on the night shift. One slow time I was pulled from my duty there to go on an ambulance run as the medic in charge. We were called to officer’s housing were an older man had died in bed. This got me thinking. Back at the hospital I returned to L&D. On the way back I took a shortcut through a ward on another floor. That’s when I found it!
On a waiting room table was a small book called,“More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell. I picked it up, reading it right on duty because there were no one in the delivery room. By the end of my shift I was well on my way to becoming a Christian. It was a book solidly speaking of the light, and of the dark. And I knew beyond a doubt that I couldn’t remain in the dark anymore.
I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in June of 1982.
I became a born again believer shortly after that. I went to Bible College that October. Life has become radically different, and over time I became a missionary and a pastor.
All I can tell you is that Jesus is real, he is alive and the Bible is true. I have translated from the dark to the light, and I am not afraid anymore. Jesus is my light.
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”