“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.”
Luke 15:4-5, NLT
These things will happen from time-to-time. Good shepherds keep a mental tally of every sheep in the flock. The absence of just one is a matter of intense concern. The parable rolls out and the shepherd takes off, leaving 99% of the sheep. Now, over the years I always thought that was very foolish. You just can’t leave your flock “in the wilderness” (the NIV says, “open country.”)
If it was me, I wouldn’t play blackjack with my flock like this. I would of just cut my losses, and move on. It’s bad luck for sure, but why risk more? Could it be that this shepherd is a lousy one, and unable to handle his responsibilities? Leaving behind 99% to rescue a single sheep doesn’t seem wise.
But yet it is a core thought of Jesus’: losing–searching–finding–rejoicing. Finding this sheep is imperative. When he does find it, the text tells us that the shepherd lifted it up, and carried on his shoulders. He does not drive the poor, weary sheep home. This is not the way the Eastern shepherd does it.
He stoops down and lifts it up, and lays it on his own shoulder and carries it back. Some others will often use their staff, and beat the sheep out frustration. Perhaps that want to teach the wandering one a lesson. But that didn’t happen.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.”
John 10:14-15, NLT
There is a desperate need today for insightful shepherds to work in God’s flock. People who watch and feed and protect. We must advance to this point–Jesus carried us, our burdens, illnesses, sins and perversity. He picked me up, and lifted me back into the flock. The heart of a shepherd cares for every single sheep, even one lost sheep…and maybe even especially the one lost sheep. Does the Church today reflect this parable? What do you think?
Often, we benefit from reading the Word just a little bit “fresher.” Perhaps you’ve been approaching it much in the same way, every time. We’ll often get the same sense from it, as a result, and I suppose anything at all is helpful. But we need to reset from time to time. Let’s remember, the Bible has a distinct heartbeat, it’s alive, and it declares to us its vitality and relevance.
The author of the letter will always determine its value.
If an email is coming from a Nigerian Lottery, you quickly dismiss it. From your grandparents, not so much. When we read we look for wisdom and joy, and peace for our souls.
We get a email from a special friend. We find time to read it and imagine them sharing good things. We might get distracted, but we go out of our way to read, and maybe reread all our friend is saying. And if that email is especially good, we’ll save it as a kind of a ‘keepsake.’ And, after reading this great letter, we often will tell somebody close about what the writer shared.
We value the message when we seek to make it permanently available; printing it would the first step to that end. And memorizing it would be a next step, especially if the note was of a very important significance. Sometimes, you may read it out loud to others!
The New Testament is the Church’s collection of letters which we deem as “inspired” to speak to us. These “emails” were saved and treasured as coming from the Spirit of God, They are infused with a living presence, they can be like a sponge saturated with God Himself.
Some “letters” are read quickly, in just 10 minutes:
2 & 3 John.
Others can be read in just 20 minutes or so.
1 & 2 Timothy,
1 & 2 Peter,
The following letters can be read in about a hour.
1& 2 Corinthians.
We must, MUST, read His Words. We must figure out how we can make it work in our busy lives. If we don’t do this–we will find ourselves in spiritual danger.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT
Alwyn Wall, Jano Wall and Tom Hooper at Calvary Chapel Melbourne, Florida, playing the 1970’s Christian classic,“Fool’s Wisdom.”
“The Bible is alive; it speaks to me. It has feet; it runs after me. It has hands; it lays hold of me!”
– Martin Luther
“The Word of God is creative. It is a hammer that crushes the hardness of our insubordination. It is medicine that heals the broken-hearted. And it is light that gives us guidance and hope on our way.”
I wrote this poem a couple of months ago. I wrote it while trying to process the struggle of dealing with one sister who suffers with mental illness (bipolar disorder and bulimia) and other family members who don’t understand.
I have experienced seven years of major clinical depression myself, and over the last few years have come to the realization that ending up there again is not outside the realm of possibility if I’m not ever vigilant. But that doesn’t make the family relationships any easier, and I often feel like I’m the only glue or buffer holding things together, and I’m not doing a very good job at it.
I share this here to maybe give someone else the strength to keep being that glue or to appreciate the one in the family who is the glue or . . . well, frankly I’m not sure why. It just seems like something I need to share.
A note on the final stanza: I do not, in any way, wish that the person this poem is about was dead. Far from it. I’ve lost too many other family members, including another sister who died of cancer two years ago. But on the day I wrote this, that felt like it would have been easier to take than the present situation.
Why does it feel like I’ve lost you
when you aren’t even dead?
Why am I the only one
who wants to make amends?
Why does it have to be so hard
after all these years?
Maybe it’s the tears
mine and yours, and theirs,
that makes breathing and living
loving and forgiving so impossible
I guess sometimes families and madness
can’t survive one another
Because that’s what you are, you know,
mad, or crazy, or mentally ill
whatever you want to call it
It’s torn us apart
because you don’t understand
why they can’t begin to comprehend
what’s going on inside your head
It’s torn us—you and me—apart
because you’ve convinced yourself
that I don’t at all understand
what’s going on inside your head
You forget I’ve been there
that those crazy, mad thoughts
have been inside my head, too
But then you’ve forgotten a lot of things
all the times I was there for you
just to listen
and the times you were there for me
Forgetting the good
is a tragic side effect
of medications meant to help
Somehow they don’t erase
memories of the less-than-perfect moments
My greatest desire is to forgive
and to be forgiven
to live and laugh and love again
to mend what has been torn asunder
to heal the thoughts inside your head
But right now, in this moment
it feels like you might as well be dead
at least that would be easier to live with
Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
Isaiah 40:31, NASB
The particular word “wait” is a vital force. It’s not a passive word in the Scriptures. It does not mean to be apathetic or lazy. Sometimes we wait in line at the grocery store, or maybe we’re waiting on a phone call. We regularly wait all the time, and usually, we don’t even realize it.
The Hebrew word used in v. 31 is ‘kawvah’ which means, ‘to bind together by twisting.’ It sometimes will mean, ‘to braid.’
It’s an interesting word picture, isn’t it? Sometimes we only take the English idea of waiting and turn it turns into a frustrating delay. Often, this is why we lose out on what ‘wait’ is really about. I have to believe the Holy Spirit wants to teach this idea of becoming ‘braided up with God.’ All too often we are limited by our definitions, and not God’s Word.
For those of us who are ill— physically or mentally, just to be told simply, “wait on theLord” is a real challenge. Often, we will end up resenting this counsel (and the counselor) because we have misunderstood what it means to really ‘wait.’ We come tantalizing close to this critical idea, but we never quite make it through the doorway.
Yet when I truly wait on God, I’m actually braiding myself into Him.
He becomes my strength; He is now the strong cord I am braided into. (Perhaps this is how He imparts strength and might to His people?) We need this, and the Lord is quite eager to lead us into this new kind of intimacy.
The promise in Isaiah 40:31 tells us about new strength–the eagle’s wings, a holy stamina. This verse is relevant to us today, and we need this kind of strength now. I only want to encourage you in your own prayer time, to see yourself intertwined to the Lord, and to recognize the good gift of the Holy Spirit freely given.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
“And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I am convinced that as strugglers, who just happen to be believers, that there is a deep truth we must understand. In a nutshell, the terribly weak get sprinkled purposefully into our churches–they have a much needed ministry, a honest calling to become the ‘audio-visual’ (AV) department of the Church.
Allow me to explain–we display for all who can see, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can be really mixed up, and really confused. But in contrast, He has become our everything, He is now our all in all. As AV people, we show and declare the deep, deep kindnesses of God. We display grace to the “hard-hearted.”
We are meant to be seen and heard, because that is what the AV department does best.
But that is really not our natural tendency or inclination. Jesus spoke of becoming a “candle on a lamp stand,” that gives light into the house. I suppose because of all our inconsistencies, this is often frightening–but this is our certain place in a dark, and very foolish world. And again–we’re now on display, whether we like it or not.
Because we belong to the AV department, we’re compelled to announce the solid mercy and kindness of God. Maybe in this short life, that is all we can really do. Fair enough. But still we hear that frightening call to become visible for Him– to point to His fantastic glory. He deserves this, and uses the worst He can find.
We may become quite intimidated by this ‘ministry.’ It seems we know far more about sin than we do about holiness. Quite a few of us are expert sinners. Some of us have our Ph.D in evil. We have taken training in sin, and are quite proficient in it.
“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.”
1 Timothy 1:15, NLT
When it comes to holiness or purity, we discover that we don’t have a chance. Without His grace on us, we don’t belong in heaven. We will often try to pretend like we do, but we are surprised when the Holy Spirit tells us “No.” He will not let us deceive ourselves in this way. We have no claim to righteousness. Without Jesus, we stand in front of all of heaven, wearing filthy rags.
Our sins and weaknesses, depressions and sicknesses, have become even more evident in time. We are the ones who walk with a definite limp. We will falter, and we stumble. But we continue to turn to Jesus–over and over. And in this persistent action, others will see a broad mercy that is poured out on rascals such as us. We will be those AV people.
“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’”
“Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.”
Psalm 112:4, NLT
The glory of Jesus lies in this: in weakness, vulnerability, and apparent failure. He has called forth disciples to come after Him, willing and able to carry the cross and relive His passion with compassion.
They are marginal people, not part of the scene, irrelevant to the “action.” In their ministry or quiet presence they do not need to win or compete. They may even look like losers, even if its just to themselves.
The world ignores them. But they are building “the Kingdom of God” on earth by reaching out in vulnerability and weakness to share the suffering of their brothers. They work by love rather than continue in sin.
“Where the compassionate One is, there will His servants be.”
Brennan Manning, “Reflections for Ragamuffins.”
From an entry dated June 27th. “A Stranger to Self Hatred,” by Brennan Manning.
Copyright @ 1982 by Brennan Manning, reprinted by permission of Dimension Books, Inc.
Stuck in the wonderful convolutions of scripture we can start a great study of Leah and her sister Rachel. These two daughters of Laban have become Jacob’s wives.
Now, we may question this polygamy when all we know is monogamy. These kind of decisions may be criticized and even outright challenged, but we will change nothing (and does it really matter)?
Jacob longs for Rachel. She is his “soul mate” and because he is so much in love, the customs and technicalities of the day somehow get by him. Because of this, he will have to take on Laban’s subtle trickery, where daughters get exchanged, and he must sort out who is who.
Laban’s deception really creates a crisis. But it seems Jacob just rolls with it. I suppose deception has always been Jacob’s strong suit. (But when a deceiver gets deceived, that can’t be all bad, I suppose).
Jacob is so in love with Rachel that he works for seven years for the right to marry her. This may be a bit outrageous. But we really must weigh these issues. I believe Jacob really is a monogamist at heart (shh… don’t tell him). He can only see that one girl that he is crazy about, his true love, Rachel. But it’s Leah that I think about. Her own issues are unique. Genesis 29 explains it a bit cryptically,
“Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.”
I must tell you that there is confusion by commentators about the “weak eyes.” Some take it literally (as in, she in very “near-sighted,”) others who look at the original Hebrew find the words to be a bit looser and vague. They think that this is a polite way of saying she really wasn’t pretty. IDK, but I think I can gain from either interpretation.
In the long view, Leah would birth four patriarchs for Israel. But she would struggle with jealousy over her younger sister’s beauty and favor. Her pain was real, and she would hurt deeply over this.
I think I may understand Leah. She is wounded, and life requires that she live as unwanted. She sticks out as a woman of tragedy and broken hopes and dreams. She will always live as a reject. At best, she will always be a distant second, and perhaps a bit scorned and neglected for this.
Leah is the champion for the challenged.
I so love Leah and I do understand her.Her life is a long tragedy and very full of sadness. For the next 30-40 years she will always be a cast-off, someone who has been broken on life’s hard wheel. I look at her with a painful bit of understanding. She reminds me of being a struggler and a survivor. Her sad life is comparable to us who have to fight so hard over our own illness or handicap.
I have no idea what her issue was. But I do know that she was weak, and challenged by this terrible weakness. I understand this. My own life has been “topsy-turvy” and a really hard struggle. Somehow it seems we must work through way too much. It doesn’t seem fair.
For those of you who are confined to a ‘chair,’ and the others who must deal with mental illness. Leah should be our hero. Those who have been betrayed by addiction, or who have felt rejected through a bitter divorce. Leah speaks to us. For she is for every loser and for failures of all stripes. But through all of our “set-backs” and messes, we must realize that God does love us– even as we weep.
We may have “Leah’s eyes,” but we also have His grace.
“When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.”
“I am the door, and the person who enters through me will be saved and will be able to come in and go out and find pasture.”
This is powerful–its implications can rattle the windows! I sometimes struggle with depression, and sometimes with an assurance of my salvation. Even after 40+ years of walking with God my mind boggles at my salvation. But I read this and it tells me that Jesus is the door. I need to understand that Jesus has to be the entry point for every real seeker. We must cross over God’s own threshold to find eternal life.
Philosophy and religion are crowbars which many are using to force open the door.
People are doing their best, but the door remains solidly shut. There isn’t any other way in. If the door is closed, no one can open it. Access is restricted to those who will come through the door that is the Lord Jesus.
There is total forgiveness waiting to anyone who enters through this door. A transformation of the heart is now given to all who come in properly. Once we enter through Jesus, our life opens up and we can live out lives of real love and goodness. This is the Gospel, and at last we understand what life is really all about.
We now know what is real, and what is not.
We have been outrageously blessed! Jesus Christ has the keys, and He has opened the door for us. It was once securely locked, but now we can step right in, it is now unlocked for everyone who will put their trust in Him. We can enter in, and we will find everything we were looking for. Our pasture is waiting. We can step into a place that has been prepared just for us.
“God saw in the cross of His Son the only door by which he could enter to give a blessing to sinners.”
When I was a kid I learned no one wanted to hear me cry. When I was little, I had a temper like a small hurricane. I didn’t like to be teased and would become angry and cry if anyone teased me. I was always told, “Go to your room and cry. No one wants to hear you crying.” So I did.
But the temper tantrum didn’t end there. You see, the way our house was designed, my bedroom was, I think, supposed to be a family room. It had two doors opposite one another so that it functioned as a hallway between the dining room and the back hallway where the bathroom and other bedrooms were. When I was sent to my room, I would run into the room and slam one of these two doors. Because of some principle of physics that I don’t even remotely understand, the door would not completely close and the slamming would cause the other door to fly open and hit the closet. So then I would run over and slam that door, with the same result, until my mom yelled, “Quit slamming those G** damned doors!”
The belief that no one wanted to hear me cry or to witness my temper tantrums stuck with me for a long time. The way I always interpreted that statement was that no one cares how I feel. When bad things happened to me later in life, I told no one because I didn’t think they would care. When I was the most depressed, I kept it a secret because I was ashamed of feeling so bad and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.
It turns out that many of the things we learn as kids just aren’t true. This is one of those things. Okay, so maybe there are people who don’t care. A lot of them. But there are also people who do care. People, like me, who when they ask “How are you?” they really want to know, even if how you are is horrible. The world is full of loving, compassionate people who have struggled just like you and me, and want to help us find a way through the temper tantrum of the day.
And even if you can’t find anyone in your life who cares, Jesus cares. John 11:35 records that “Jesus wept.” Why was He weeping? Not because Lazarus was dead, for He knew death was not the end of Lazarus. Jesus wept out of compassion for those who mourned the death of Lazarus.
In 1 Peter 5:7, the apostle wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” He really does, you know. And so do His followers, though sometimes they don’t know how to show it.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:2-4, NLT
There are many different points where our Lord connects to us through our desperation. Our sorrow and confusion can be how God ‘wires us’ for additional contact— in some kind of weird and cosmic way, my pain becomes His ‘copper wire.’ This often is how He touches my heart as He flows through it.
It is helpful to see our issues in this way. There is a current that must work through us, making contact and ultimately to create a circuit. What I mean by this is that it seems we have to experience pain, in order to know His presence. Only if you know that a brother has struggled, do you become aware that a tremendous wisdom (and love) is now accompanying him.
We must be aware that our distress allows us access to His ‘careful’ grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with a special and supplemental power.
When it gets dark, any light becomes exceptional. In a book by Stephen Lawhead, (I think it was “the Silver Hand.”) we see a man, the hero take up stones which have been infused the creative power of the universe. Standing on the walls of a besieged stronghold, the desperate hero throws the stones down on the attackers. And as each stone smashes into the ground it releases a part of a song, which destroys the enemy, and defeats those strong in the darkness. (Silly story.)
His Spirit infuses into our hearts. He has imparted something in us that is both precious and powerful. He works through the pain and struggles that we encounter. These are terribly ugly, no question. But it is through these we plug into something real and eternal. I suppose when the tragic finally brings real life it’s a most precious thing. We treasure all this for it comes at such an exorbitant price.
Pain indeed has a purpose, but oh, so many times it seems to only hurt.
But yet, that is our calling. I certainly know that life is seldom easy and our choices are even harder. I recently read that Queen Victoria, as just a teen fiercely opposed her future coronation as the sovereign of England. She grew sullen, rebellious and would continually frustrate her teachers.
Only once when Victoria was shown a lineage that showed her and revealed her place in England’s future as queen. She became uncharacteristically quiet and she responded with an astonishing simple awareness, “I will be good.” From that moment everything changed for her.
We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.
“I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.”
In May 2011, this is what I wrote–
“I feel like I am going through a meat grinder. Pushed against my will (and desire) I’m finding myself in a place I’d rather not be. My therapist confirmed today that I’m in a “mixed state” where bipolar mania and depression come together. I suppose you might compare it to two massive ocean currents smashing into each other. In the midst of all this strange crap I know that Jesus helps those who can no longer hold on by gritty determination.
Severe depression, yes. But there is also the grandiosity. I believe that I think clearer, better, and faster than other people. It’s like I have superpowers. I will think of myself as extremely gifted, superior to others. I paint and write poetry and do “noble” things. (I’m working on jumping over buildings.)
But I also have tremendous anxiety, with racing thoughts, and even heart palpitations esp. when I am sitting trying to relax. I don’t sleep well at all, in spite of the sleeping pill, the Klonopin and the melatonin, and the Benadryl, (to make sure I do sleep.)
The endless cycle of feeling really good and then feeling really bad is a challenging one.
It’s difficult to have a stable walk of discipleship under these circumstances. I think being starkly honest and broken over my own fallenness is the key for me. (Now if I can only remember this.)
I continue to take my meds like a good boy. But they don’t seem to work like they used to. I think they can’t handle this particular concoction of depression/mania. Sometimes, I feel like I’m getting better, but I never seem to get well!
I know that I’m being blunt here. Tact has never been an easy thing for me! As I read I remember the struggle, and how I couldn’t see a way out. I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit who led me when no one else could.
I wrote this post some time ago, and decided that it needed to repost.
I’ve been reasonably stable, and I’m in a better frame of mind the last several months. I covet my time alone with God. He heals me. I’ve been captured by Jesus’ love; I know He shelters me with His love. I can live with that.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
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.
The Bible is chock full of commentary on depression. King David experienced intermittent times of intense darkness. He was a man who had to work through a great deal of it, and we can see that he succeeded in breaking through into freedom.
Would David today be treated with antidepressants? Could he have been treated at a mental hospital? I honestly think the answer is “yes” to these questions. He was definitely devastated by depression at certain times.
There is no question he experienced both spiritual and physical depression. But I believe that David teaches us that depression has a spiritual component in our fallenness. It has to be treated holistically, covering both the physical and the spiritual. It’s like having two hands being injured, but only treating one of them.
We need to discern the difference between:
depression caused by guilt (sin)
depression caused by a medical issue (organic)
depression as a reaction to a trauma or loss (reaction)
This is key. And there are others. But all forms can be working at the same time (and very often do).
But remember, there will only be a partial release, if there is only a partial solution.
13″If you don’t confess your sins, you will be a failure. But God will be merciful if you confess your sins and give them up.”
Proverbs 28:13, CEV
The story of Cain and Abel reveals the issue of “angry depression” taking over a person’s actions.
“6The LORD said to Cain:
What’s wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don’t let it!”
Genesis 4:6-7, CEV
David was depressed until he confessed his sin of adultery that he committed with Bathsheba.
3“When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.”
Psalm 32:3-4, NLT
The way out of some depression that is caused by guilt is almost always confession, and seeking God’s forgiveness.
5 “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
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!”
Psalm 32:5 , 1-2
If you are a believing Christian and are experiencing moderate-to-heavy depression, I encourage you to seek out medical help. Medication may be helpful to get through this rough time, and talk therapy can be a life-saver. If your depression is caused from guilt, it will NOT get better, until you deal with it in the presence of God. Seek guidance from a pastor, elder or a mature believer who understands things like this.
Now I’m not a physician, nor is this medical advice.If you are experiencing thoughts of depression or suicide seek out help immediately. Call 911 if you are in a dangerous place. Your regular doctor can help and guide you in a better direction.
“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.
“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.“
2 Corinthians 1:8
“…we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others’, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties.”
It is my ‘deliberateness’, and not my impulsiveness that scares me. I know ‘despair’. I know what it is like to be ‘backed into a corner’ and then feel the empty desperation of being lost. But you must understand, there can be a weird seductiveness to ‘being lost’, a ‘strange sort of nobility’, a twisted honor, when it comes to despair.
Piper talks about the ‘dark certainties’ of knowing you are lost. Now this really seems rather bizarre, that people could do this intentionally, without duress. But I’m afraid to tell you that it happens all the time. Despair is chosen over the option of life. This is the ‘lostness’ of the race of Adam.
Pop culture has given us words, albeit in a rather simplistic form. I just happened to think right now of an old AC/DC song, ‘Highway to Hell‘. The lyrics are pretty basic, very simple, but the lead singer seems to really have a chronically, decided dedication to being one of the irretrievably lost. He formats a ‘certain glory’ to being part of the damned. This is a simplistic approach to the next stop– a more advanced case of stark-white despair, suicide. (We can call this ‘spiritual hubris,’ or even, “sex, drugs, and rock-n-rollism.”)
In examining the striated world of despair, we come to the interesting place where our foolishness combined with our arrogance produces a decision to be lost. Of course, our fear of God must be extracted from the situation. But for the eager candidate for despair, this is not an insurmountable problem.
Escaping this ‘drowning despair’ we must first dethrone our right to personal sovereignty. And secondly, we need to grab the concept that God’s grace has an ultimate power that supersedes our notions of a ‘deserved’ love. (It is completely undeserved). We must believe that somehow, someway God chooses us out of a pile, a pile of the worst and ugliest. And somehow, He delights in doing this, and after all, He is the Lord.
We are meant to be the people of redemptive hope.
Because of our problems, our addictions, we must clearly renounce our evil follyof despair. These are the issues that make us vulnerable. There is a seductiveness to ‘giving up’ and taking up the sin of despair. There can be a ‘weird romance’ that lures those who ‘walk out lostness’. We are pulled into a vortex of an exotic melancholy with a dash of fatalism, which makes it reasonable and weirdly heroic in some perverse way.
But is it not even more heroic to live in hope?
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.”
“So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again.”
To be numbered as the one of chronically ill often can mean 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.
With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder (BP), my life more or less exploded. 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 stand still 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.
The post-op surgery 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. The BP was giving me it’s customary depression, and a solid dose of paranoia and fear. I learned that meds can help, but they can’t fix the problem.
Sometimes, like Miriam, we are quarantined by the Lord for His purposes. The isolation seems worse than the pain. We wonder why this is happening, and we hear lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. Our value to others seem to be scuttled by our illness. We can feel cursed, forgotten, crippled by God or even worse. (Maybe even irrevocably lost.) Satan often snares unsteady souls.
I admit I have been slow to learn this– 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 come to us. 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.”
It’s very real and it’s very possible. Often we see suicide as the only way out. It becomes an option for us. We can plot it, and entertain it. I have personally seen it first hand, and I understand its seductive pull. It seems logical. Suicide has become a real possibility.
We feel like a magnet; bad stuff gets pulled into our thinking, and we plunge into dark thoughts and a deep pain. I know, I’ve been down this road. I’ve had to walk through this stuff myself. It scares me. Once (or twice) when we make our way down this trek, it becomes easier and quicker to make the slide into what ending it all.
It happens to Christian believers. I was a pastor of a church and a teacher in a Bible college. I acquired a degree of having a competent religion but without real knowledge. I professed but never attained. There were moments though, when I got quiet enough to listen, that I knew it really wasn’t working.
Will we go to hell if we commit suicide? The answer evades me, and I can find no definite direction in scripture. King Saul in the Old Testament, and Judas in the New, are those who come to mind. Both men found themselves in a very ugly situation. There isn’t any positives for them both.
Somehow, deeply ingrained in our hearts, we know it’s wrong. Maybe it’s genetic or a societal convention. Deep down we know it can never, ever be an option. It’s completely beyond the pale. And yet, we arrive at a terrible point when it does seem it’s the only thing left open to us. We’ve become our own worst enemy.
“Suicide doesn’t take away the pain, it gives it to someone else.”
Suicide devastates those who are left behind. Our terrible pain gets passed to those who knew us; the closer they are to us, the more it will damage them. Husbands, wives, children and friends will know trauma first-hand. Our decision to die will scar their hearts forever.
We are all connected. We are each tied to each other. Family and friends, churches and communities. We all have relationships that, like it or not, bind us to each other. We’re not solitary entities existing on our own. Consciously or not, we effect others. We will never know the scope of our influence.
There are stages an afflicted person will go through. These are just generalities, but having been down this path I do see them as steps to self-destruction. They blend with each other and sometimes they can be slower or faster, depending on the individual.
Step One: Ideation.
Thinking about it, is it even possible?
Step Two: Fascination.
When the idea begins to become more real, more seductive. We see a burnished glory in it. Suicide seems like logical to us. It seems the only way out. (Besides, isn’t there a certain ‘hubris’ to killing yourself?)
Step Three: Planning
How am I going to do this? What method makes the most sense to me?
Step Four: Committing.
This is the final, ultimate step. Everything up to now is just setting me up for this.
One of the 10 Commandments expressly tells us that “You shall not murder.” Suicide is essentially “self-murder.” This I suppose, is the ultimate
Suicide is never logical. It’s a slide into that which is irrational. It isn’t normal to want to kill yourself. And it does seem that mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, anxiety etc.) can be an incredible factor. Physical illnesses or diseases also can make suicide logical. Or honestly, it can be a ‘blend’ of all that is listed here.
If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
• Call 911 or your local emergency number. Get help as quick as you can.
• Stay with the person until help arrives. Don’t let them alone with their ‘demons,” real or imaginary.
• Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
• Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell. All of these only increase the possibilities.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Most of all, PRAY! Get help from a pastor or elder of your local church. (That’s what they’re there for.)
Visit my new site at: redletterstudy.wordpress.com
“And now go and tell his disciples, and especially Peter, that he will go ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.”
Mark 16:7, CEV
Poor Peter. Despairing over his personal darkness he has become completely undone. His wound is beyond any human remedy. No one can help him at this point. We do well to mark the fall of the ‘Rock.’
Jesus had called him, the ‘Rock.’ This would become a bestowed nickname of a future transformation. We use granite and marble when we want something to last for ages. It is as permanent as we can make it. Peter is definitely ‘a work-in-progress.’ His character is sand.
Visiting a working quarry, you’ll find large machinery. Men scale the walls with heavy drills. At just the right spot they begin to bore a hole. It is hard and intense work, but they are persistent. The rock is unyielding, but they work relentlessly. Dynamite is used to move rock fast.
Soon they take the hole to the proper depth. Explosives are hauled up, and the hole is carefully packed with dynamite. The word used in the New Testament is the word “dunamis.” It is translated from the Greek into English as “power.” Our word for “dynamite” is also a translation of that word.
Peter needs the dynamite power of the Holy Spirit. It is explosive.
Dynamite breaks and blasts, moving many tons of rock in just seconds. These particular verses read differently when translated like this:
“But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the dynamite of God.” Matthew 22:29
“And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory with dynamite and great glory.” Matthew 24:30
“Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the dynamite proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” Mark 5:30
“And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous dynamite are at work in Him.” Mark 6:14
“And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with dynamite.” Mark 9:1
“But you will receive dynamite when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Jesus looks after each disciple before his resurrection. He kindly gazes at Peter. Especially Peter. He will need this new power to overcome his weaknesses. The dynamite of the Spirit will explode all over the Upper Room. Shifty Peter us about to become a rock.
His disciples, in just 50 days are going to meet the Holy Spirit. All of them will find that explosive power that moves mountains. And the world is about to change forever.
Peter was so transformed on Pentecost he would preach and 3,000 would believe and be baptized. He went from cowardly denier to bold preacher. The dunamis of God changed him that day (Acts 2).
As a broken believer I see the image of Peter morphing into my own face. I have denied Him before others. I am ashamed at what I have done. My depression flares up and my heart goes down in a downward spiral. I must have the Holy Spirit’s authority to be free.
Where is the ‘dynamite’ of God? Oh come Spirit of God to our broken hearts. Fill us, change us today.
Your amazed brother,
Checkout my new blog, redletterstudy.wordpress.com.
“So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Failure is hardly an option in our minds, for we know that Jesus Christ has shared his power with us. But if we are honest we must admit to moments when we can’t do what Jesus can do. We step out and meet the sick, and the possessed, with failure and defeat.
This is not an indictment of this “White Flag Christianity”. It concerns us however, to the proximity and presence of Jesus. And I really believe that that is what is at stake here. We tell someone that He can heal, we lay our hands on her…and nothing. Often there can be a feeling that we’ve failed the Lord. Soon we start avoiding the topic of healing altogether, we can even go as far as denying it because we don’t see it.
When Jesus moves in to your location, he convincingly comes as the One of power and authority. The nearness of His presence always brings good (and never evil). In our failure, our white flag of giving up, should provoke us not to try harder. Our effort for authentic discipleship is not contingent on our effort and works, but how close is Jesus. I cannot become confused. He is the Healer. I’m just the dude that is carrying the stretcher.
“Heaven is where the unveiled glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.”
Ezekiel Hopkins, “A Puritan Golden Treasury”
Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the groom is with them, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast. (Mark 2:19)
This was Jesus’ idea. He was bringing correction to the lives of those who were very serious, and therefore most religious. Our native tendency is to asceticism. We evaluate ourselves religiously by our prayers and our fasts.
For serious people we have a serious religion, and we focus on doing serious religious activity, for that is what our serious faith demands.
Jesus pointed out that mournful faces are not indicators of a pious life. How can His disciples mourn when Jesus the bridegroom is nearby? His disciples are going to a wedding, not a funeral!
Without question the New Testament believers are to know repentance and self-examination. We should grieve over our sin, but that grief is to be based in hope, and in joy. If you are saddened by sin, that sadness must be tethered to joy and not to despair. Jesus has revolutionized forever the nature of religious faith.
The disciples could not mourn and fast while Jesus was present. He does not wish His disciples to go mourning and fasting when they have no occasion for such exercises. His words are a defense of Christian joyfulness. Christ wants His friends to be glad. There is an utter incongruity in a sad and mournful Christian life. It does not make sense in the light of what Jesus has done.
Our sins have been forgiven. We have been dipped into the righteousness of the Son of God. The fierce enemies of our souls have been eradicated by Jesus. All of this is to bring out a song from a grateful heart. We revel in the smile of Jesus and walk under the banner of a wonderful love. We have His forgiveness and been given His favor. We should be radiant!
I pray that you would rejoice in this wonderful day He has made.
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The critical issue many face is just trying to survive the next episode of depression or mania. Somehow I think that cohabitating with something that is trying to kill you is especially disturbing. Depression is my mortal enemy and here I am, giving in and actually allowing it to destroy me. How crazy is that?
In a way it seems sinister, the hair-raising stuff of scary movies. It’s the parasite that makes its residence in the body of its host. (It sounds like a story line’ out of Star Trek.) Some of us get absorbed into a dark melancholy. We instinctively carry despair and despondency wherever we go. It’s hard, but I really believe it’s crucial for afflicted believers to begin to worship again (and again.)
I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit absorbs much of the venom Himself.
When my depression slumbers, life proceeds fairly well. I can play with my kids, be a good husband, friend and neighbor. Everything seems quiet and normal. But when the dragon awakes, watch out, there’s going to be ‘hell to pay.’ There were many terrible, dark days that I simply couldn’t get out of bed. I was plagued with awful, dark thoughts. Meds didn’t seem to help me. I felt completely lost.
Depression might strike at anytime, and exactly when, you can never be too sure. “How will I handle it next time? Will I be in shape for Christmas, or will I lose it again this year? I just don’t know.” That is the depressive way. But you know, the Holy Spirit ministers yet, and He will touch my heart again. He gently cares for the depressed.
“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,”
2 Corinthians 7:6
My wife and I were missionaries in Mexico for almost three years. We lived in a “burnt out” and very small trailer, with very sporadic electricity, and no running water. We had a 55 gallon drum for our drinking water, and we tried our best to avoid the mosquito larvae. And part of that time we had to park on the slanted slopes of a volcano. I always wondered what we would do if it decided to erupt.
Sometimes it feels like that, I’m just waiting for the next flare-up of another bout of depression.
And yet there is this promise found in Psalm 139—
“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!”
I am glad that God decided to intervene in my life. Without question, I need Him to watch over me. I have to believe that He will keep rescuing me over and over. As a believer in Jesus, I know he has put his hands on me. He shields me from the dragon. I have to believe that he protects me from the worst of it. The Holy Spirit absorbs much of the venom Himself. I’m very glad that I belong to Him! My fear of a plummeting relapse is now His concern. I bear it no more. It is now His responsibility.
Your brother in arms,
You can checkout my new website at redletterstudy.wordpress.com.
[An oldie but goodie, first published in April, 2017 and dusted-off for “the post of the day.” Thank you, dear Linda!]
I wrote this poem the other day for ‘Thankful Thursday’ on my own blog. Knowing that many who visit Broken Believers struggle with illness and pain, I thought this would be good to share here as well.
There are plenty of cracked clay pots around this place, and God is in the business of using and healing cracked pots.
Our Great Physician
Illness comes to everyone – pain, fever, fatigue, and tears Chronic or acute, it’s such a trial – these clay pots we inhabit are so incredibly fragile even in the hands of the Potter
But our Great Physician provides strength, comfort – Sometimes He brings doctors, nurses, and medication – Wisdom and talents used to do His will, to heal, to mend
Sometimes all it takes is to touch the hem of His robe – Like the woman who bled for twelve long years, outcast one moment, then healed completely and wholly
The greatest good – spiritual health and salvation for the least of us, for all – each clay pot used to help others as grace leaks out of cracks – Cracks that never seem to heal
Sometimes what the Physician has in store is our ultimate healing – A new body, new life eternal in a place of no more pain, no tears, energy galore – as death brings everyone home
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NIV)
Your Sister in Christ,
Check out Linda’s blog: www.lindakruschke.wordpress.com
I’m really sad today. There are just too much hurts, too many casualties, too many victims. Job’s own reflection was that “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” [not really sure I know what the last part means, but the first part is perfectly clear].
We are all citizens of this fallen world. It seems we go through life like a bull in a china shop.We don’t move very gracefully and we break a lot of things just trying to move through it. No matter how hard we try we always make a mess of it. I’d like to think of it as moving through life sideways. We go through life crashing and smashing.
There is no place in the Bible where God promises us a “trouble-free” journey to heaven, a journey without pains, hassles and the problems of life. If you are hearing anything else, I strongly suggest finding another voice to listen to.
“Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.”
— Michael Yaconelli
We all have flawed lives. Everything gets tangled up and really messy. This is the normal life of being in ministry of some kind.
Our very best efforts give us little hope at resolving these things. We are agitated by our personal failure and we often feel God is angry with us. The really hard part is the incessant voices from the sidelines that announce our failures and flaws to everyone. Satan has a cruel and a vicious ministry of hate targeted at you.
Yet these terrible things are redeemed by the Holy Spirit. He loves failures and weaklings. When we finally realize we are flawed, he then places something real into our hearts. In our weakness we finally become strong. We become authentic. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”(Matthew 5:4).
Be kind to everyone today, to each person you meet. For all of us are fighting a difficult battle. Please, be kind out there.
“Lord, answer me quickly, because I am getting weak. Don’t turn away from me, or I will be like those who are dead. Tell me in the morning about your love, because I trust you. Show me what I should do, because my prayers go up to you.”
Psalm 143:7-8, NCV
I am not a psychiatrist or a licensed therapist. I am just an ordinary man serving God’s flock. Yet if I were to speak I would speak on the subject of clinical depression. The stats are pretty grim. Depression affects 16.1 million people, or 6.7% of the population every year, age 18 or older. The median age is 32.5 years old. (These are just U.S. stats only.)
I’ve come to understand this much through my own struggles. It seems that there are three types of depression to consider.
These ‘big three’ seldom stand alone; they mix or overlap each other to make diagnosis difficult. Only a doctor can make that, but we can at least know that these three are most likely behind our issues. You can have these three working against you at once.
The are the big three:
1) Guilty depression-– when our behavior hasn’t been what it should be (sin), this is the source of condemnation. Jesus forgives us, so we should forgive ourselves. Guilty depression is very hurtful and damaging to our spirits. Often our healing will come when we draw close to the Lord Jesus.
2) Organic depression-– when it’s built into our DNA and part of our very being; it becomes fundamental to your personality. You can compare it to someone who has diabetes or MS. We live in a fallen world and genetics affects us at this core level.
3) Reactionary depression— when we react to some bad news or injury, or working too much with no time off. We react to difficulties in this way when outside forces infringe upon our inner heart. Often God sends us an elder or a mature believer to come and help us out. This is fortuitous indeed to have someone to speak through our confusion.
Each of these are different, but identifying them could help you move through them more gracefully. These three can overlap. Perhaps it’s helpful to see reactionary depression as the most common, while guilty depression can be the most hurtful to the believer’s heart.
Satan is involved in the intensification of each– he creeps in and slowly strangles all hope. Worship and the Word is critical and necessary weapons for us out us to walk-out clean and clear. We must defend ourselves (and others) with these weapons that the Father has given us.
Knowing the type of depression will give you understanding and perhaps this will help you defuse the situation. These things have helped me personally to work through my own issues.
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”
“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
How can you doubt His mercy and compassion for you?
“No matter how low down you are; no matter what your disposition has been; you may be low in your thoughts, words, and actions; you may be selfish; your heart may be overflowing with corruption and wickedness; yet Jesus will have compassion upon you.”
“He will speak comforting words to you; not treat you coldly or spurn you, as perhaps those of earth would, but will speak tender words, and words of love and affection and kindness. Just come at once. He is a faithful friend – a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
With love from your prodigal brother,
Check out my new site, redletterstudy.wordpress.com
I have two sons and they are very different from each other. Connor is the oldest and he is an engineer who recently graduated from college with good leadership skills. He was born into our family with three older sisters.
My other son is Morris and he was born into abject poverty in Liberia, Africa. He came to our house when he was six. He has outstanding coordination, Is an excellent athlete, and is very musically inclined.
Connor and Morris have very different strengths as well as different weaknesses. One of my jobs as a dad is to allow them to be unique and to adjust my expectations accordingly. Ideally I could maximize their strengths while teaching them to mitigate their weaknesses.
I believe God in this respect is similar to a good dad. He doesn’t expect the same from everyone. He actively works with our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aptitudes and abilities. That is one reason not to compare oneself to others as He has specific hopes and desires for each of us.
Likewise reading the bible like every verse currently applies to everyone is foolish. No one could possibly meet that standard. Scripture is best personally handled by asking Him what He wants you to see-to focus on-for yourself.
Jesus knows what He created. He knows your frame as David said. Rest in that knowledge and ask Him to speak individually to you about your walk with Him. He is among many other things very personal.
Our List of Hotlines and 1-800 Phone Numbers and Websites
This list comes from brokenbelievers.com and is often updated (we’re trying anyway.) We are not responsible for the validity of this info. These numbers, hotlines or texts may or may not work. We’re constantly adjusting/adding to this resource. As far as we know, this is U.S. only for phone numbers. Additionally many of these have regular office hours, and some are not staffed at night. Also use this resource with caution.
This list isn’t complete yet. If you have a contact that isn’t here, please email me that information. I’m Bryan Lowe at email@example.com or brokenbelievers.com.
Mostly, these are organizations and ministries that are there when life gets challenging. Use these phone numbers wisely, and I would encourage you to pray for those who are counseling you. Also, I am not able to check each number. These numbers are to be used with some precaution as a result. They may change without notice. This list was updated 3/18/21.
In general, these hotlines have three things in common:
1) they are available to call 24/7 in the USA 2) they are 100% confidential 3) they are free
Here’s a list of hotlines that may help you whatever situation you find yourself in.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency, or are in danger, or are feeling suicidal, call 911 immediately.
“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”
Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability. They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.
For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.
But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time? We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.
But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.
After 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry,) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.) I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
His love is completely undeserved. It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.
It is a relationship and not a religion. We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).
We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy. We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.
All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.
I must tell you that God loves you insanely. He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He certainly doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.
You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship.
We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken. We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.
There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.
“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “
“They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”
(Isaiah 40:29-31, Message)
A brother who is incredibly loved,
I have a new site and I hope you visit: redletterstudy.wordpress.com
“My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be.”
Psalm 42:4, NLT
The Psalms are a classic examples of self-encouragement.
The writer sometimes gave into moments of depression and he would often write encouraging words to uplift his spirit. Today these have become verses or scriptures for us to study and emulate. Read Psalm 42. It is somewhat an unusual portion of scripture, in as the writer addresses his/her own soul. That alone makes it different. But if we think it out, we become aware of an awesome truth.
“I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self . . .
Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you.
Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?‘ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’
Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have had but little experience . . . We must stand up as this man did and say: ‘Why are you cast down? Why are you disquieted within me?’ . . . instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you. For that is what he will always do if you allow him to be in control.”
D. M. Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure
When I allow myself to indulge in anger, impatience, worry, or pride I open an entrance for Satan to visit my life and run rampant through my mind. He doesn’t have to scheme, plan or even deceive me. He walks right in and scatters my self-centered emotions all over the place.
Notice the flow– My impatience inevitably leads to irritation; irritation turns to anger. Anger seems to lead to hatred. Satan just keeps bringing more and more situations and circumstances in my life with the intention of wreaking havoc with the ‘fruit of the spirit.’ In our weakened state, our hearts are left open to even more assaults. After being attacked over and over we risk becoming again shackled into the chains of spiritual slavery.
“He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.”
The Bible clearly teaches us that we are responsible for our behavior.
As believers we simply don’t have the luxury to allow depressive ‘self-talk’ to go on unedited and unchallenged. If we think about it, as those prone to depression and mental illness, we must take a stand! A depressive bout can really harm us (and others) unless we resist it. If we don’t it will only get worse. We end up hurting others and destroying ourselves.
Talking to yourself isn’t for ‘whackos,’ rather it’s one way of resisting the darkness for the believer.
When Jesus showed up on earth the first time, I don’t think He did a very good job of meeting people’s expectations. In particular those who considered themselves the spiritual elite not only failed to recognize Him, they actually aligned against His kingdom. The ones seemingly most likely to see and embrace Him were those He called ‘the least’.
History is repeating itself. He’s now moving on the earth in unbelievable ways and with unprecedented change effected. For those so inclined to focus on the visible, they will be oblivious to the kingdom. To those stuck on going back to the past, the kingdom will remain elusive. To those unwilling to relinquish the allusion of control, they will stay stuck in their imaginary kingdom.
The rate of change will increase. If one chooses to look for the kingdom, great rewards await. For one choosing to focus on the virus, civil unrest, the weather, their favorite celebrity’s latest activities, inept government officials, economic disruptions, billionaires, etcetera ad nauseam, they will remain nauseated and miss the kingdom entirely.
It matters what you choose. It matters what you see. It matters whether your face is turned heavenward or instead is stuck gazing at the news. It matters whether you see reality today through the lens of faith versus fear. He’s here and moving and undoing and doing.
Sept. 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Why there is but a single day of the year devoted to preventing suicide, I do not know. We should endeavor every day to provide the hope the hopeless need to get them through the pain that leads to suicide.
Often we hear it said that those who kill themselves are selfish because they hurt the people they leave behind. But if you’ve ever had suicidal thoughts or tried to die by suicide, you know that is not the case.
If you never have, it is difficult to understand.
I’ve only been truly suicidal once, but my thoughts were far from selfish. At the time, my actual thought was that my husband and son would be better off without me because I was so depressed and broken that I was no good to them. I truly believed this terrible lie.
Thoughts of suicide often follow a long pattern of trying to get well with little or no success. It stems from hopelessness and a sense of feeling like you are a burden to those around you. To consider suicide is to desire to unburden others and put an end to endless pain.
Unfortunately, the thought processes of a person who is suicidal are just simply wrong. I know mine were. I can’t imagine where my husband and son (who was 1 ½ then and is 26 now) would be if I had gone through with it. They certainly would not be better off. That thought was a lie.
There is always hope, even when things seem the most hopeless. What a person struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts needs is love and hope. They need understanding and reassurance that the rest of us would not be better off if they were gone. They need to know we are there for them and that they matter to someone.
They need to know that God loves them and wants what is best for them, and that “This too shall pass.” But in the meantime, we are there to be a shoulder to cry on and a heart to confide in.
“Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”
(1 Corinthians 14:20, NASB)
Those of us who are broken have to think through many things. Jesus is our Teacher, and He fully intends to educate His disciples. Following Him is vibrantly alive, it’s never a static thing. Instead I must deal with the issues of living, of having a growing faith which is becoming real at long last.
This really isn’t an “one and you’re done” experience, rather the Bible describes a slow growing into the image of Jesus- -painstakingly learning about our frosty hearts, and how God keeps pouring His “super-heated” grace on the broken. We’re finally becoming ‘poor in Spirit’ and we’re learning to ‘mourn’ over our sins, perhaps we realize that we’ve fallen quite short of His will for us. (Matt. 5:3-4).
This list isn’t orderly or exhaustive, and it’s written primarily for the mentally ill believer:
Stigma-This is one of the basic hazards that comes with being a believer with a mental illness. People will whisper and treat you like you’re a moron, even in God’s church. You’ll try to become thick-skinned and ask Jesus for His help. He understands you completely. Even the Lord’s own family considered Him mentally disturbed. You’re in good company. (Mark 3:20).
Medications– This will be a stretching time as you must determine what’s best for you, your family and basic functionality. There will be many opinions and definite issues that ‘disciples.’ must navigate. Some say that therapy and ‘meds’ are wrong. Your patience most likely will be required and you’ll need to seek His wisdom. He will tell you what to do.
Church—“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” must anchor us. We were built for real fellowship. It’s quite easy to attempt to go it alone, but that isn’t what God wants. Not to be with others is a disease of the spiritual heart. I’ve chafed at this from time to time.
Therapy— To go or not to go? I happen to believe a good counselor is worth their weight in gold, but a bad therapist can be a real challenge to your faith. Figure out your tolerance level on this. Quite often all I simply need a good listener, and listening is a skill that is developed over time. (It’s also is a great indicator of the therapist’s ability.)
Marriage— A good spouse is often key to manage your mental illness. God has gifted them to deal with your disability; they’re your partner in this. Bring them into some of your appointments. Talk, and listen. Learn to pray and worship together. Read the Word out loud. Remember they are learning too. Your disability is shaping their discipleship to Jesus.
Family— They’ll often feel the brunt of your issues. It is good to be aware of this and adjust to their needs. Above all, don’t flog yourself for your failings. Allow God to redeem your situation. Trust in the Lord, and try not get in His way. He wants to renew things. Always look for creative ways to love your family. (Surprise ice cream does wonders!)
Work— Not surprisingly, some employers have very little tolerance for your issues, but the law says is that they can’t discriminate against a mental illness. I hope it won’t come down to that.
Fellow strugglers-– Finding other mentally ill believers is priceless. When I meet someone who also struggles with severe depression I want to give them a big bear hug. We instantly have a rapport that isn’t easily defined. Finally there is someone who understands my battle.
Prayer–Desperate prayers have a tendency to get answered. Start praying for five minutes a day. Pray, not complain. Be real, not religious. Talk with Jesus like he was your best friend. Prayer is the key to making the above work. Prayer is the “heart beat” of heaven.
We have the joy of combining our discipleship with our illness.
This is a formidable task. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit stands ready to give us His wisdom. He graces us with intense spiritual power. The battle rages and times get tough. Perhaps “grittiness” should we should added to the fruits of the Holy Spirit? I’ve now walked with Him over 40 years now, and I know Jesus has never left me alone. He never lets me ‘twist in the wind.’
The Lord truly will accommodate your illness with His power and grace. He always does this for His children. No believer is ever overlooked or forgotten. He is constantly aware of you.
“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
— Alan Redpath
These are only some of the areas that are affected by your mental illness. A wise spouse, pastor, elder, friend or therapist can do wonders when things get difficult. Sometimes we need a new perspective as we sort things out. God will often use others to bandage and heal us. That’s the way He works.
“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.”
Note: This article was posted last November on my page at The Mighty, a great resource and community for people with chronic or mental illnesses.
I have long, straight, super-fine hair. When I was a kid, it would often get tangled and I didn’t like to brush it. So my mom would brush it for me, yanking the brush through the rat’s nest knot. “Ow, quit yanking,” I would say with tears streaming down my face.
“That didn’t hurt.”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that phrase, I could buy a small mansion. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I did hear it a lot. Sometimes I still do, or variations of it.
A Lack of Understanding
Several years ago, my sister and I visited an aunt and cousins in Texas. We got to meet one cousin’s grandkids who lived with him.
The impish face of one granddaughter was adorable. I so wanted to play this game she’d made up.
“Hold these,” she chirped, and handed me three pine cones. I don’t even know where she got pine cones in Houston, Texas. I hadn’t seen many pine trees.
Try as I might to hold them lightly, I could barely stand having them poke my tender palms. “I can’t hold these,” I finally said, as I set them down on the coffee table. “They hurt my hands.” That was an understatement.
My sister looked at me with puzzlement written on her face. “Does that really hurt?”
At least she’d asked.
More Failure to Understand
On another trip, this time with my husband and son, Mexico was the destination. Cancun, to be specific. A place of sunshine and beautiful coral sand beaches.
Mid-trip, my husband decided he wanted to have his hair cornrow braided by a merchant in the local outdoor market. He talked me into having mine braided too. I should have known better.
While he was enjoying what felt like a wonderful scalp massage, I endured torture worse than all my mom’s hair brushings rolled into one. I felt certain the woman braiding my hair was going to pull every hair out of my scalp. I will not be doing that again. Ever.
I took the braids out the very next day because the pain wouldn’t cease until I did. My husband still didn’t understand.
Looking for Answers
The denial of my physical pain by those who know me best often makes me wonder if I’m losing my mind. Because it does hurt. At least that’s what my brain tells me.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that a doctor gave my sensitivity to pain a name: fibromyalgia. No one could tell me why I had this thing that can’t be tested for or proven. Sure, there were theories.
One pain specialist asked if I’d ever been sexually assaulted, because that kind of trauma is connected to fibromyalgia. I was, when I was 14, but I’d been ultra-sensitive to pain long before that. An online article suggested a link between the Epstein-Barr virus, also known as mononucleosis, and fibromyalgia. I had mono when I was in the seventh grade. But again, my pain sensitivity existed before that five-week illness.
The first doctor to mention fibromyalgia to me wouldn’t commit to a diagnosis. She prescribed amitriptyline saying that “empirically that’s what we’re treating you for.”
In addition to the chronic muscle pain, I have osteoarthritis, although I’ve been told the degeneration in my neck doesn’t look bad enough on an MRI to cause the pain I complain about. In other words, it’s really all in my head.
Happening upon Relief
As with most fibro patients, I have some other health issues, including GI problems. At one point, my doctor suggested I quit eating gluten. When I replied that I hadn’t eaten gluten in over a year, she suggested I quit eating dairy. I rolled my eyes, feeling like she had no real solutions. But I did try it.
She also wanted me to quit taking ibuprofen, which I wasn’t happy about because it was the only thing that took the edge of my chronic pain.
For four weeks, I read every label. If a food contained whey, casein, or any dairy products, I didn’t eat it. Then one day I realized my muscles didn’t ache all over. I didn’t even wish I could take ibuprofen because I didn’t need it.
So I kept it up. I didn’t eat dairy at all for four months. Then came my birthday and dinner out at The Cheesecake Factory. I decided I’d been good, so I deserved a piece of cheesecake to celebrate. I ate the whole thing, which, if you’ve ever been to The Cheesecake Factory, you know is a huge slab of pure dairy and sugar goodness.
The next morning, I awoke to a feeling like I’d been hit with a Mack truck. Every muscle ached.
I’ve been mostly dairy-free for several years now and feel much better.
Still Pain Sensitive
Which is not to say I don’t still deal with pain. I still don’t understand why pain scales have a 0 on them. Are there people who, at times, don’t feel any pain? I suppose there are, but I wouldn’t know about that. Every day something aches or I do something that results in acute pain beyond what those without fibromyalgia would feel.
But the pain is more manageable without the added inflammatory reaction from bombarding my body with dairy products it doesn’t like.
It’s also easier to deal with when I quit listening to those who don’t understand tell me, “That didn’t hurt.”
“Life here feels like you were just left off here one day, with no instruction manual, and no idea of what you were supposed to do; how to fit in; how to find a day’s relief from the anxiety, how to keep your beloved alive; how to stay one step ahead of abyss.”
The reality is this– so much happens to us that we’re not in control of. There are some deluded souls who think they have it by the handle; that they have life completely figured out. But not me. Much of my life has been a challenge, and at times wonder if I’m still on the path. I’ve followed Jesus for 40 years now, and I’m always challenged by what’s around the next corner!
Life comes at us so dang fast, and it’s never linear or methodical, there are bumps and curves that must be navigated. The road is often a drudgery. And yet at other times it’s like we’re trying to take a drink from a fire hose. Things come at us so furiously fast, it races at us relentlessly. We can’t keep up anymore.
I believe that the Bible– God’s tried and true promises have impressive, supernatural power. Not in a magical way though; but rather it becomes a guide for me when all other ‘influences’ fail and falter. It alone tells me what is true. What I have internalized within is now my compass and guide. It can be trusted when everything seems wrong. The Holy Spirit uses those divine promises that I have collected over the years.
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
I live for, and love, the guidance He gives. There is so much adventure to it all. To be in harmony with Him (and His Will) is a wonderful thing. I honestly don’t pretend that I’m walking this road alone, and I’m definitely not lost in some weird maze. Instead I’m seeking out the wisdom of my brothers that have journeyed the road ahead of me. And I especially want to follow my Companion. He deeply loves me, and He fully intends to lead me home! (John 17:12, NIV)
“Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?”
(Song of Solomon 8:5)
He is with you in these terribly difficult places. He makes the crooked straight.
Being mentally or physically disabled isn’t easy, but who says it should be? (You do adapt, I know.) Whatever wilderness we find ourselves in is punctuated by His presence. He is there, and He can be leaned on. Granted, there are no quick fixes; there is only His strong presence. He’s your beloved that is holding on to you as you travel this hard wilderness.
When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
(Mark 4:39-40, NLT)
There He is, sleeping on a pillow, seemingly unaware of the danger that the disciples were facing. They’re suddenly in the middle of a cyclonic fury–a ‘bomb’ of wind and waves that is bursting into their tiny little boat. The twelve had never seen waves so high, or a storm rise up so fast.. At least four were seasoned fisherman, and they knew how to handle a boat. But this storm was way beyond anything they’ve ever faced before.
Maybe it was over crowded; the dimensions of the boat would’ve been around 25-30 feet long, and maybe 7-8 feet wide, more or less, and a single mast. The twelve crowded in, while the four fisherman handled the sail and the rudders. Jesus found His place in the stern. It had been a long full day, and everyone expected a restful crossing. The break would be welcomed.
Why do we doubt? Being unsure and uncertain is a very human quality, especially when everything has gone haywire. Things have turned out really rotten, and now the situation is starting to look even more grim. Our response varies–from mild concern to outright panic. We honestly never know what to expect or how to react. Small things look big. Big things look small.
To put it mildly, the disciples in the storm are scared out of their wits. They’re completely overwhelmed by the possibility of drowning. They are now fighting to stay alive. The waves are getting higher and higher, and the boat ‘groans’ like it wants to fall apart. They pitch up and down, twisting like some wacky ‘roller-coaster’ ride!
“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”
Never do they think that Jesus had declared that their destination was across the lake, and certainly not beneath it! But now where is Jesus? Twenty-eight eyes look to the very back of the boat. “Wake Him up, we’re all going to drown.” Funny how we are sometimes. Things are going nuts and we’re starting to come apart. Yet we wait to the last possible moment and seldom consider that Jesus has been in our “boat” all along.
Important idea: When Jesus stands up, and speaks to the wind and waves, He will use the same word as when He freed the demoniac, just a few verses later!
“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
“I am with you always” is the promise given to each believer. Consider dear one, Jesus has chosen to stay with us and bring His supernatural touch directly into our storm. He will always make an appearance to all who are His. He is “responsible” for you. His intention is to bring you to the other side. His very honor is at stake! (Phil. 1:6). He fully believes He can grow your faith. (Heb. 11:6).
Life can fall apart on us very fast, I know first-hand. And it seems like it’s ‘doubly dangerous’ for those struggling with depression or disability. It’s like we have extra weights put on us, and when you’re barely “treading water,” that really isn’t good. Not only do we have these heavy burdens on us, but we must survive this horrendous storm. (The waves can get massive, and our boat is very small.)
“While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost.”
The disciples called out to Jesus, and that is all they had to do. The rest belonged to their Lord. Obviously the disciples had zero ability to ‘halt’ their storm. But when they finally summoned Jesus, they became mere ‘spectators.’ All they did was watch as God move, and they simply sat still in amazement. (1 Samuel 12:16). He did all of the ‘work.’
What is going on in your life? Storms will always come, one way or another. These five should help:
He has promised to bring us to the other side, no debate here
He is in our boat, and superintends every storm we face
He understands our limitations, our weaknesses, our griefs, what saddens us
He has all authority and power, He does what He wants, whenever He wants
He teaches us to be faithful disciples, and it seems we understand our ‘voyage’ better
We maybe the broken, but perhaps that makes it easier to understand?
I often hear people say that the bad things that happen to them are God’s punishment for something wrong they have done. I have a friend who desires to find someone to marry, but has said she doesn’t think God will ever bring her a mate because of all the wrong she has done in the past with respect to relationships. In the news we hear televangelists say natural disasters are God’s punishment for the sins of the people in the area hit by the disaster.
But I don’t think God works that way.
James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:17-18 (NIV). God desires to give good gifts, not punishment.
I also think of Job, a man who endured great suffering and loss. But none of it was punishment from God. Rather, all of his sorrows came from Satan, albeit with God’s permission, so that Satan would see that God’s redeemed and faithful servants would never reject Him simply because of trials they face. SeeJob 1-2 (NIV).
For the believer in Christ Jesus, all the punishment for our sins has already been meted out at the cross. As Jesus said, “It is finished.” John 19:30 (NIV). To believe that we need to suffer punishment for our own sin is to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was insufficient. The apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2 (NIV). God does not seek to punish, but to restore and redeem those He loves.
There are, however, natural consequences of sin.
If we are gluttonous, we are likely to be overweight and suffer various illnesses that come from poor eating habits.
If we get drunk, especially habitually, we will suffer in terms of health problems, possibly losing a job, or having financial difficulties because we spend too much money on alcohol.
If we get involved with other drugs, the same problems can happen, perhaps even worse if they are illegal drugs because we could end up in prison for breaking the law.
If we are sexually promiscuous we may contract diseases, end up with a child we didn’t want, or will suffer emotional damages and loneliness.
If we gossip and badmouth others, we will damage others view of us and damage our relationships.
Every sin has natural consequences. Sometimes we are fortunate to avoid the worst of the natural consequences, but not always. And all sin results in the natural consequence of separating us from God because our guilt and shame cause us to avoid God. That has been the case from the first sin in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve hid from God.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Genesis 3:6-10 (NIV).
God knows what is best for us and has declared what is sin based on His superior knowledge of what is beneficial for our physical and emotional well-being. Just as He gave to Adam and Eve all that they needed in the Garden, He desires to give us good and perfect gifts.
In addition to the natural consequences of individual sinful behavior, the sinful nature of mankind over the centuries has brought into our lives a brokenness that leads to pain and suffering. The evil nature of some people can lead to suffering by others, such as a violent man who beats his wife, or the drunk driver who causes an accident that kills others, or a serial killer who tortures his victims. Our sinfulness is also engrained in our DNA and can lead to sickness and disease that brings suffering as well.
So if you are suffering and think that God is punishing you, think again. Return to God and seek His face, seek the good and perfect gifts that He has offered. Lean on Jesus in your suffering because He desires to restore and redeem you, not cause you more suffering. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 (NIV). Come into the light and rest in His love.
“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”
Isaiah 64:6, NLT
There are bad things that happen to us— ugly, awful and evil things, that only God himself can explain. We read theology and we read our Bibles, we listen dutifully to preachers, but we still ‘can’t’ fathom this terrible ‘mystery of iniquity.’ “Filthy rags is what we wear. Our sins have destroyed us.
We are seem to be playing ‘ping-pong’ with the most challenging issues. We come to Him, because there is no one left who can answer things that have perplexed everyone else. Why do we suffer? Why does evil exist? Why do people who live in blatant sin, succeed? Why am I sick all the time?
If God is really God, why doesn’t he just give us an explanation about these questions? Our title talks about being “spellbound.” Are we really that inured, attached to a truly sinister evil, that we are being confused about what is real or true? To be spellbound means we’re being hypnotized by something quite awful. A cobra rises up, and opens its “hood.” Its victim is entranced by what it sees in front of it. He soon becomes supper.
Being held captive seems to be an ordinary occurrence for human beings. Captivity implies imprisonment. Usually in a dark, dirty and unpleasant place. But yet, it intrigues us so much, and after all the “light” is such a boring and dull thing. We feel great as we trade the truth for lies. We never realize that satanic power has blinded us.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyand the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV
From this new and fresh influence we come under the control and will of ‘the dark side’. (And this is not merely “Star Wars” mythos. It is very real.) We gradually give ourselves over to the dark. We think we are pretty much impervious to being deceived, but the truth is that we’re already blind. In our lostness we can only stumble through life.
”And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
At this point things have gotten desperately grim. From a human standpoint, there will be no way to avert the inevitable. Sin will roll over you, blasting into your life, and worst of all into the hearts of your family. In a stark way— things get very dark, very fast.
Sin will always enslave. It will turn on you and rock your world.
But we are so entranced by what it wants to give us. It looks so good…one could call it “self-actualizing.” (Maybe even “liberating!”) But in one of the many purposes of the Old Testament, is to clarify what happens in people’s hearts when we step down and let the sin and confusion take over. You could say, that there will be pleasure for a brief season, but it will always have a very savagely grim and a black conclusion. ”For the wages of sin is death.”
Jesus forgives us, and lifts the darkness. We start to see things as they are, reality breaks out in our minds. He has changed everything. His blood covers us, and we start to walk in what is true. We finally understand what sin has done to us, and we turn from it to what He now gives freely.
“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will then we may take that it is worth paying.”
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:7, NIV
At first glance the Old Testament is a collection of extremely bloody books. So many sacrifices were made that the Levitical priesthood had to sacrifice lambs 24 hours a day. People had this desperate need to cover their sins with an offering. This was instilled in them by the Law and their conscience. The guilt emanating from their sin must be covered by a lamb’s blood.
As our sins mount up (and they will) we have an innate need to cover them up. Sin is almost never hidden, and never exalted as a virtue. And yet we try to skate though our accumulation of many sins. We forget many, and try to excuse the more heinous. Our guilt condemns us, and we have no choice but to hide it, from ourselves, others and from God. We can no longer pretend we’re without sin.
“Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.”
The Jewish people no longer sacrifice lambs, and the Gentiles have never caught on to this idea of a physical sacrifice. But sin has never gone out-of-style. But there is still a way for God to forgive our sin. The New Testament teaches clearly that Jesus has offered His blood as the payment of every sin ever committed. His death wiped our slates clean, forever.
The New Testament is crystal clear on this. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ had enough sufficiency to cover everyone, once, and for all. It all seems astonishing, beyond belief and possibility. The blood it seems, has never lost its power. This may be why Christians can’t seem to ‘shut-up’ about their faith. They ‘see’ something! At long last, the tremendous guilt is lifted from the believer, and they want others to know about it.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.”
Simply put, you now have the confidence–‘backstage passes,’ into God’s presence, all because of His death. The cross is far, far beyond a gold religious medallion worn around the neck. The cross of Christ, and more precisely His blood, is now regarded as complete righteousness for anyone (who by faith) receives it as his/her own. A brand-new confidence takes hold. “God loves me, and He really has forgiven me.”
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)
Our sins and our weaknesses, whether they be from our fallenness, whether they be genetic or environmental, are now smothered in the blood of Jesus. That red blood makes us ‘white as snow’ in God’s analysis. ‘Brokenbelievers’ everywhere are cheering. We know we aren’t quite right, and we understand our sin, but we have become fans of Jesus Christ. After all, His death has brought us eternal life.
“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
(John 8:7, NLT)
“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”
Definitely we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty? We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgement, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.
But ‘judging’ dear one, is His exclusive jurisdiction. It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly.
It becomes imperative that we understand this; that any real discernment given is only to intensify and escalate the calling of every ‘saint,’ intercessor, or pastor. We discern, not to pass judgement, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.
And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to ascribe a penalty on someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in the terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)
(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger. Please consider this–it’s never easy, is it?)
“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.
“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)
We are broken people. We struggle with many different things. Some of us are mentally or physically ill. We are not whole yet. Some of us must take meds to help us be ‘normal.’ We deal with issues that would devastate someone else. And we don’t have it anywhere near together. And yet out of our ‘hot mess’ we think we can penalize someone else? Really?
We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgive us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.
But in the light of this, isn’t strange that almost all of our judgement is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body . In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!
“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”
It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.
Granted, “we are to be wise as serpents,” But that same verse instructs us “to be as harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) A loving meekness and gentleness, needs to be combined with intense spiritual power. We must embody “the fruits of the Spirit.” These things are the characteristics of the Spirit-saturated believer. I
“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”
Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we have any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (Again, these are awfully hard questions.)
“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes. )
Certainly, I intend to confront darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this black night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in the position to Judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.
Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore. I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now, is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be that; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.
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, 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:
These statements are true for you too. 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. Bryan and Les are 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.
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!”
(Psalm 139:14, MSG)
“God is not a duplicator, He is a Creator. You are an original.” –Reinhard Bonnke
Man makes styrofoam cups that are all the same. God creates snowflakes that are completely different. I’ve been thinking about something. I don’t know if it’s scriptural. Maybe yes, and maybe no. I’ve been known to miss it.
The Bible states many wonderful things. One of them is that we are created in the image of God, and I’m quite certain that each of us are shaped completely different. Essentially we are the same, we all share a very common “person-hood.”
Each have come to Jesus, through our repentance and faith. We each have been filled with His Spirit, we read the Word and we each fellowship with other believers. In that regard, we are one, quite the same. We believe that there is Someone who doesn’t change. He is the “reality behind the real.” The Creator and the Truth.
The other day I found my Grandmother’s Bible. I was somewhat intrigued, and I supposed that it might just ‘impart’ some special spiritual blessing to me. I sat down on the couch, and reverently opened it up. It was filled with wonderful handwritten notes.
Could it carry a special touch from the Lord? Perhaps I thought it would have a special spiritual aura to it? I was more than a little curious. And wouldn’t you know, it zapped me in a very interesting way? It was an old Thompson Chain, KJV–first edition I think. As I sat down to read it, I slowly began to realize that it was entirely like my own! The verses and the promises were the same, they had not changed. What was true for my grandma was true for me. That amazed me, and it kind of sent me spinning.
Each of us struggle with many different things. We endure depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, even suicidal thoughts. We struggle with different addictions and lonely divorce. There are those believers who are epileptics or disabled. There are some of us who have been raped or molested. I have a paralyzed right arm, and am typing this with my left hand. I also struggle with depression and anger.
Each of us are the same in a basic sense, and yet we are all distinctly different. We all have gone through different things, some quite awful. These issues are uniquely our own. They’ve shaped us in completely different ways. Our “personal” testimony is completely different than someone elses. We respond to our different circumstances in different ways.
We are the “snowflakes’ that have been artistically crafted. Our circumstances are individually tailored by God, who is the ultimate Artist. I opened this post with the idea that God creates “snowflakes,” and I’ve been told that they are all unique, not one of them is exactly the same. Somehow, they seem to be crafted by a Someone who loves this whole idea of an extravagant creation. The Bible reveals He does this work with true wisdom, a special love and surpassing power.
“People are special, and human life is sacred, whether of not we admit it. Every person is worth fighting for, regardless of whether he is young or old, sick or well, child or adult, born or unborn, or brown, red, yellow, black or white.”
I do believe that when we stand before God we will all have these fantastically different stories. Each of us have found forgiveness, mercy and grace that the Lord freely gives us. As “grace-walkers” we’ve become are the new discoverers, through our issues of prosperity or pain— our life is mixed with His grace, filtered through a myriad of circumstances. They mix exceedingly well.
We begin to see, and understand, that there implications of being this special. God took Joseph and ‘molded’ him by His unique circumstances, He went from slave to Prime Minister overnight. Each of us billions have become unique testimonies of His incredible care. As true believers, we can lead them to the Father. We need to pray for the “field” and the workers who labor there.
“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
(Rev. 12:11, NIV)
I hope my meandering doesn’t scare you. I didn’t intend to.
It was a long cold winter that year. I felt sure it would never end. The sun finally emerged one day, but it was still a bit cool so I pulled out my favorite yellow spring jacket. I reached into the pocket and to my surprise I found a $20 bill. I must have known it was there at one time because I most likely put it there. But it had been a long winter, a long time since it was warm enough to wear that jacket. Even though I didn’t know it, that $20 bill was there all along just waiting for me to find it again.
Sometimes hope is like that $20 bill. We have it and we know it, but in the long hard winters of life we forget about it. The winter can be so long and so cold that we lose all memory of hope. But even though we forget, hope is there all along just waiting for us to find it again.
I struggled a long time with the pain of fibromyalgia. I had no hope that I would feel well. God reminded me to fear not for hope was still there.
I despaired for five years because of underemployment. I had little hope of securing and being able to keep a full-time job. God reminded me to fear not for hope was still there.
I felt despondent for what seemed like forever over the loss of my mother. And later my father. I had no hope of feeling joy again. God reminded me to fear not for hope was still there.
I traveled the long road of despair and depression, stemming from trauma to bitter to forget. For over a decade I was certain I would be broken forever. God reminded me to fear not for hope was still there.
Recently, I have been in anguish over the state of our world, the corruption and greed, the violence and sickness, that seem to rule the day. Is there any hope for a better world? God reminds us to fear not for hope is still here.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Romans 5:3-5 NLT.
We may forget our hope in the long cold winters of life, but our hope—our God—is still here with us. Some of what we hope for we will not see until we reach heaven. But some of what we hope for is sitting in the pocket of our yellow spring jacket waiting for us to find it again.
Jesus is pretty big. Among a few other things He created the genome, our minds, the human body, the realms of quantum mechanics and the cosmos, the plant and animal kingdoms, the earth and its ecosystems and matter in its myriad forms. Perchance you’re tempted to think you have His mind you may want to review that list.
Jesus is bigger than the US federal government, all the combined national governments, the weather, the magnetic orientation of the earth, our expanding universe, New York abortion laws, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, pornography, international boundaries, cancer, gender confusion, genocide, and evil.
And He still reaches out for the weak and needy. His hands were ‘pierced’ for you.
There exists a mentality among Christian believers where our faith will somehow grant us a pile of ‘nice things.’ This concept tells us that material possessions are a sign of His blessing. If we just have enough faith, we will truly live in a land of wonder, grace and material blessings.
Doing missions work in a very poor town in Mexico, I was horrified to find this twist. (I had thought that it wouldn’t really work among the desperate.) But an especially virulent type was working in the hearts of some of my brothers and sisters. They latched on to this idea that since they followed God that soon they could count on special favors from Him. (Like a car, electricity, running water.) Some ‘converted’ just to get these things from God! I refuse to judge them, since I see a variation of this in my own life.
From their cardboard shacks, they could somehow generate a special favor from the Lord. It came as a relief to me that there were some believers, who over time, began to see that grace was really an undeserved gift; material blessings could never come in this way. God’s grace alone would make them wealthy!
Somehow, we can get confused and believe that if we jump through the right hoops God is obligated to give us what we want. But the true Kingdom doesn’t work like this, you can’t use Him in this way. Grace was never meant to ‘decorate’ a believer (least not primarily) but to mend us, to prepare the fallen for eternity. God is not your cosmic bellhop.
Listen! God’s grace is given to heal us. It is a gift, and it will always be a gift. We don’t deserve it, we don’t earn it for having enough faith. Grace isn’t supposed to be like this, rather it’s more like an I.V. to a dying man. It is dialysis to the woman with kidney failure. It is ‘radiation’ to the cancer patient.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
(Jeremiah 17:9, ESV)
Grace comes to us because we are so very sick. We are deeply affected by a spiritual disease. We should think (rather than see it as a reward) that it is the treatment for that which has deeply sickened us. His love is seen, especially seen, in the worst of us. That’s the way grace works.
God is not against us because of our sin; He is with us because of our sin.
Just thinking out loud here. I hope I haven’t offended.
“Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.”
Psalm 13:3, NIV
God is the sole developer of light. He creates it and then assigns it to whom ever He chooses. He is the proprietor and the sole creator of its properties. Without Him actively bestowing light on us we would have no access to its power or its benefits. He holds the exclusive patent.
As Adam’s progeny we have experienced a light moratorium. We have been cut off from its many synonyms. Illumination, understanding and wisdom are just some of the essence of light. When we have it, we are astounded that we lived without it, and we are amazed at the ignorance of our past days.
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
Psalm 119:30, NIV
Darkened by our sin, we struggle throughout our blinded lives, unable to understand or grasp what is our real purpose. Meaning completely eludes us. However, we are directed by the Psalmist to open our hearts to the gracious gift of light. It illuminates us, giving us a sense of what is real and how life truly unfolds. That word “understanding” from our text is critical . No matter how stupid and pathetic we have become, the Word of God penetrates our fog and gives us a sense of what is true, and what is real.
Let it unfold, let it open up in your understanding. Like an umbrella on a foggy and rainy day, when it opens it will cover you. Notice that the source of lit-up truth emanates from the “words”. Place yourself in His Word, let it pour over you and let it bring you to the the place of joyful acceptance.
The verse speaks of being “simple”. That actually is a pretty descriptive of our condition, and reveals much of human history and “so-called” progress. The word means “naive”. History opened up shows people to be amazingly compliant and susceptible to dictators and men with power. We seem to follow leaders with sinister and strange purposes and agendas. History shows it over and over. We just can’t grasp what is true and what is real.
Jesus has come as the “Good Shepherd”. Those of us who are being led into His Grace and Truth are finding light. He is revealing to us a definitive understanding of truth. And we need truth desperately. Let Him lead you.
Jesus will rule over every puny king and president.
He rules. He doesn’t bow, salute or kneel before any inconsequential king or constitution. They serve Him. He is eternal and supreme, and amazingly enough, He is a friend to every believer (that astonishes me!) He is an intimate King who is patiently waiting for us to hear Him.
As ‘broken believers’ we have to grasp this. It should totally revolutionize and adjusts the way we live. Our depression, disability or present pain will end soon. And we will step out of these things and step into an eternal light. My weaknesses will end, perhaps soon, and we will see the true King.
We will understand completely then. These things that have ‘crippled’ us will be seen through the eyes that now love and adore. Our ‘pain’ has finally ended, and we will be made whole. I will meet Him, face-to-face. You better believe I will rejoice! We will sing!
“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8)
And He makes us rejoice! The difficulties I face now are temporary, and just a few short years (thank God!) Someday, quite soon, I’ll shed these hard, hard issues–just like a ‘snake’ sheds its skin! I will be brand-new, and I will rejoice in this Kingdom of my Father.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Hang in there dear one! I know it’s hard, and we can get confused and lost as we ‘meander’ through this world. Things are difficult and perhaps quite painful. Brokenbelievers has two administrators now, (Linda and myself.) Each of us has experienced ‘pain’ up close. Both of us hurt, and we both carry scars from every battle we had to face. The Holy Spirit hears our cries, and has come to our aid.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
Honestly now. We stand because He makes us stand. We still face formidable issues, and there is a savage enemy who has dedicated to destroy each person that cries out to God. He hurts us. He wants to destroy us. There is not an ounce of kindness or mercy in Him. He exists only to destroy. And he is very effective.
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:8-10.)
The Lamb does triumph. He will rule forever. Of that I have no doubt. Yet in the thick of things–these things that debilitate and destroy, we struggle. Our flaws and disabilities seem insurmountable. It’s awfully hard to make it through each day. We hang on, but often just barely. Our tears are real, and we wonder if we will make it through these things. And then there is tomorrow, and often that doesn’t look so good either.
But the Lamb wins! Those who surrender to Him (like you and I) share in this incredible Kingdom. He wipes away each ugly sin by His bloody sacrifice. He redeems every awful circumstance (things we have done, or have been done to us) and elevates us to sit over each enemy. We will finally understand, and we will really see. Most likely we will be shocked! We will see each other through the lens of eternity.
I don’t know your issues, your pain or your obstacles–and you don’t know mine really. But Jesus knows, and somehow He has carries us. The Lamb does triumph. We will share in His victory. And it will be for ever and ever and ever!
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.
We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.
C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chap. 4, para. 15, p. 22.
If you’ve been a visitor to Broken Believers blog for very long, you may have notice a drop off in the number of posts over the past year. You may have attributed it to COVID-19. I mean, really, can’t we blame a lot of things on the uncertainty of this pandemic? But that’s not the reason posting has dropped off.
The main reason is that Bryan Lowe, the trusted servant of God who started this blog and has kept it going for so long, has experienced some serious health issues. He is currently in Colorado, where for the past five months he has been undergoing much testing and treatment, but no answers yet. He has lost far more weight than he should and is having trouble gaining it back.
Bryan longs to return to Alaska, his favorite place to be, with the exception of being in the presence of the Lord. I think Alaska is the closest place to heaven on this earth for him.
And so I am helping out around here to keep Broken Believers Blog going. I’ll be posting more than I have in the past. I hope what I post will be a blessing. But the first order of business is a prayer for Bryan. I know he appreciates all the prayer he can get, because he knows God honors our prayers when we lay before Him what is in us.
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 gain weight and to feel well again. Return Bryan to his home in Alaska 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.
“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment.”
Luke 7:37, ESV
“Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices.”
Song of Solomon 4:10
“What about you? What precious perfume is locked inside your heart that could be lavished on our Lord? The little treasures you and I struggle to hold on to may hold back opportunities to worship Him with extravagant praise, releasing ministry and service to Him that will bless all those around us.”
We should know that our simple words really do have a way of blessing Jesus. Our words spoken will be translated into actions. Our actions become an obedient faith. An obedient faith is the character that moves the hand of God.
We are truly significant. You have no idea the role you play in His kingdom. What you really do does matter in His realm. The worship we sincerely offer is also duly noted. Furthermore the radiance seen on our faces is the proof we’ve been with Him.
We touch Jesus, somehow, and in some way we’ve blessed Him. I believe that this must encourage Him, and that He receives our offering. He then responds and blesses those who are desperately crying out. God is not capricious, nor is He temperamental. One of the hardest things to grasp it seems, is believing that our worship really does matter to Him.
Worship needs to become extravagantly simple again. Poured out, ‘good-to-the-last-drop’ kind of worship. It gives and pours out until there is simply no more. A praise that is on the lookout for the needs of others. This level of worship becomes intercessory. It is supercharged praise that reaches a level of ‘standing-in -the -gap’ for others. Prayer at this level breaks chains and heals the sick.
Intercessory worship will cover the helpless,and turn God’s intervention to the needs of the lost.
When the Holy Spirit tunes us, we become precise instruments of grace and love; that enables us to touch the hearts of many billions who are lost, who have no hope at all. We are never more like Jesus than when we’re in intercession for the needs of people.
I’m one of many believers who really struggles with clinical depression. The realization that I might be inserted into a challenging situation while I’m severely struggling is an awful possibility. It truly is a awful prospect for me. I don’t want my issues to ever thwart the work of the Holy Spirit.
But I have learned much of this while laying down at His feet. I attempted to pour out every bit of perfumed nard, and I sincerely desired to hold nothing back; to pour out the entire bottle.
This desperation has a way somehow of making me adequate.
It’s showing me how to become competent. It has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Jesus Christ, and His undisputed authority in the realm of this world.
His desire is to create a flock from the willing, and to bring all that glory home, to His Father.