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Melancholy in Amber

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Edgar Degas, Melancholy/ c. 1874, oil on canvas, Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

The sadness flows from this painting. Degas caught the dark despondency of his model. Her inertia becomes something we can gaze on carefully and at leisure.

This is one of my favorite paintings. For me, it captures an essence of what depression “looks” like. The anguish and the whole sense of being is seen in the expression of her face. She is frozen in her despair.

Depression immobilizes and then lays waste all that it touches. It is a vicious blight on the human soul.

amberI remember as a boy seeing a prehistoric bug caught in amber. It struck me as a bit macabre. This poor insect frozen for all to see.

Little did I realize that this was going to happen to me.

For almost 20 years I’ve tangled with clinical depression. It was initiated by a brain tumor in 2002 and has been evident since then.

Depression to me is like being frozen in a deep sadness that clings to my soul. It shows me no mercy when it is active, but I can go several weeks at a time without it being an issue.

There is a dual aspect to this. My experience is like a complete suppression of the good and optimistic, combined with an increase of despair and despondency. I despair of any future good that might occur. Everything becomes bleak and black.

My life becomes a meltdown; a cascading effect of worsening feelings.

A few points that have helped me:

  • A main point for me is to doubt the “certainties of despair.” I believe that God’s promises to me contain a “future and a hope.” This is vital. At times I feel too far gone, and completely irredeemable. I must doubt the lies of the enemy.
  • Freedom come through a real faith in God’s grace. I believe that His Holy Spirit empowers the weak. He holds my hand as I stumble in the path. My confidence is in His promises to this “weak lamb.”
  • Scripture tells me that Jesus’ present ministry is one of intercession for my soul.Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34.)
  • Jesus has the power to keep His flock. He also gives me a few select companions. I meet with some of “my fellow sheep” at my local church. These know me, and their friendship encourages me. They don’t condemn.

I hope that some of this helps, if anything I hope you have a window into my convoluted faith. I don’t want pretend to have all the answers. I’m not a guru. I’m a “work in progress,” and some ways far behind you, the reader.

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

Hebrews 7:25

ybic, Bryan

 

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Tozer Gems

A.W. Tozer, 1897-1963

“You can see God from anywhere if your mind is set to love and obey Him.”

“He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.”

“It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God.”

“A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself.”

“An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.”

All quotes are from A.W. Tozer

 

 

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A Cross That Amuses Us

“If I see aright, the cross of popular evangelicalism is not the cross of the New Testament. It is, rather, a new bright ornament upon the bosom of a self-assured and carnal Christianity. The old cross slew men, the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.”

–AW Tozer

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24, CSV

 

 

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The Inertia, [Apathy]

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“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.”

Helen Keller

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As I suffer with manic depression I have come to see that much grief comes not from mania, and not from the debilitating depression. These are both substantial, but my biggest issue has to do with the inertia that lies between these two poles. There is a paralysis– an apathy that immobilizes me. And this is as bad as any other state of mind.

“And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.”

1 Kings 18:21

My passivity is disturbing, and bipolar disorder is as much of “detachment” as it is of extremes. I sit and stare, not able to motivate myself to get up and do something. I’m not really depressed, but nor am I manic– I’m just “there” unable to find energy to do anything. Life just rolls over me.

Perhaps the most deadly sin is this “faltering between two opinions?” We are content to just sit and watch with no commitment. We’re content to let things just roll on by as we sit in our inertia and passiveness. This is the part of my BP that scares me the most (or at least it should.)

If you suddenly went up in flames I wouldn’t stir. Yes, it would get my attention, but I probably wouldn’t do anything, (I’d probably just take notes for my book.)

Inertia is not just a part of a mental illness. It effects normal people as well, and there are degrees of it. The average person it seems will avoid making a real decisive decision at all costs. Inertia can be encountered in any church (ask a pastor who tries to get volunteers) or workplace.

In his day, Elijah cried out for a decision from the Israelite people. I have to believe he was disturbed not only by the idolatry– but by the passiveness of the bystanders. Their neutrality was a big issue.

Joshua would call out to a passive people these words:

“But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15

I know my own heart, and I know my own spiritual paralysis. Rather than commit myself, I would rather settle down on a sofa and just let things happen. I’m quick to point out how those in the arena are doing it all wrong. I’m ready to criticize, but unwilling to volunteer.

Mental illness is filled with ordinary things, but often in the wrong proportions. When we do things it is extreme or not at all. My own apathy is just a mirror of what happens in the hearts of normal people.

I may be excessive, but my own issues have made me aware of what is happening in others.

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

–Theodore Roosevelt

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The Time is Ripe, [Ascension Truths]

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After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them.

Acts 1:9-10

Look at the disciples. There were 500 standing with their mouths open tracking Jesus’ ascension. They were witnesses to the Lord’s departure.

Suddenly two men appear, clothed in white. They both seem to be extraordinary–they clearly explained what has just happened.

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

We live in an age of history where Jesus sits on the throne. It is not an ordinary time, He has ascended to His Father and now lives “to make intercession for us.” This is no small thing.

Perhaps sometimes we wish to move with the disciples and have their experiences. Perhaps we feel we would be better followers if we could share with them the miracles of the Lord Jesus. Somehow we would be stronger believers.

Let us remember though that we will see His second coming. The angels were quite clear about this– He will come again! Scripture is quite vocal about this.

We will see Him just as He is, and we will be changed into His likeness.

We don’t know exactly when. It is Father’s decision. But we will be there, and the promises are true. This is possibly the greatest privilege we could ever have.

Saint, now it the time to prepare. We know enough scripture to understand the imminent. We are to take active steps to be part of His return to earth and His Kingdom which becomes visible.

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.”

Matthew 25:13

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Brave and Full of Faith, [Reepicheep]

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In the book Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis writes of Reepicheep. He is a mouse of exceptional courage and with a strong faith. People seem to always misunderstand a talking mouse especially one who dresses like a swashbuckler.

He is determined to reach the utter east and join the Lion, Aslan (a type of Christ), Reepicheep is heard to say,

“While I may, I will sail in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I will row in my coracle. When that sinks, I shall paddle east with my four paws. Then, when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, there I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.”

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13-14

Paul transmitted an example to his generation of Christians. He put himself as an model of what is to motivate a believer. Like Reepicheep, the apostle Paul pressed into what the Holy Spirit had for him. He would rather die than to miss his calling.

Everything depends on what God allows of course. But I believe He make a special place at His side to those who mix their faith with authentic desire like Reepicheep and Paul of Tarsus.

God may be making you brave and full of faith. Deep down, this is exactly what our souls are really seeking. Give Him permission to do this work in your heart.

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