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When Despair Empties You

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“It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of Heaven.”  

Acts 14:22

As a broken believer this happens. I breakdown, my faith is questioned, and I feel all alone. Issues like a simple hot shower and eating something seem impossible. I’m embarrassed to say I once went 34 days with a shower. I laid in bed unable to function. That is the insidious truth about chronic depression, I know it well. God seems far, far away from me. Life doesn’t matter anymore.

There is much I can do before  it gets to this point. And although life seems insurmountable. Clinical depression kills people. It slowly devours “a sound mind.” It cripples before it takes away your life. There is nothing quite like it; people tell you it will pass, and that you’ll see the sun again. But at the time that seems to be the worst advice ever given.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Meds help a lot. I take Zoloft and that is a godsend. I never miss a dose. I know I’m not bulletproof. I’ve taken it for several years now. (It’s like insulin for a diabetic).

Afflicted souls are special to God. And that truly comforts me. Sometimes it seems like there is an invisible tether that holds from completely dropping off the edge. When I do pray, it is desperate and brief. More like a quiet scream for help. There are no frills and no eloquence, but I know I’m being heard by Him who guards my soul.

People for the most part, are of little help. I admit that my attitude can be less than stellar. “Unless you have been lost in this section of hell yourself, it’s best if you just shut up.” (I don’t really say this, but I’m tempted to.)

But there are a few that can speak. Almost always these are the ones who have been through some affliction themselves. They have been hurt and they ‘walk with a limp.’ I’m convinced that they can speak in direct proportion to the pain they themselves have suffered. I once woke up to another pastor praying prostrate on my bedroom floor. He didn’t have to do or say anything else. He left without saying some ‘pious’ word to me, what he did was wonderfully done.

“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”   

John Henry Newman

Take care of yourself. If this isn’t your first major depression, prepare in advance spiritually for the next. Identify those ‘dear-hearts’ who can help you in advance. Keep taking your meds, even if you think your o.k. And speak often with the Lord, and learn to listen to His voice. That “sound mind” is a promise for those who truly need it.

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Dancing With Bruises

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Bruises seem to be part of life’s package to us. Some will be serious, most minor. But each are noted, and some will just have to be endured.

Dancers are some of the most wonderful people I know. Their gracefulness can be seen both on and off the stage. A dancer’s training is far from easy. By choosing to become dancers they have made a decision to absorb pain. Their toes and feet are blistered and bruised; they take constant abuse. Some must live with chronic tendinitis. Their feet bleed sometimes, and pain is their constant companion. Two things to consider.

  • They choose to dance. Dancers have an iron-will and a elegant grace. I suppose that is why they can dance.
  • The scars and bruises often become “badges of honor.” And they wouldn’t have it any other way. They would rather dance in pain, than not to dance at all.

Someone once compared depression as a “mental bruise.” I understand this. As depressed people, we must choose to walk out our lives from this pain. I know what it is like to bury myself in my bed for several weeks. My own mental bruise was simply more than I could take. There was a sensation of sinking into blackness, a sense of total and complete despair. I felt completely lost, and completely alone.

I prayed. I groaned, and I prayed. My sense of being totally lost was beyond comprehension. Dear reader, this was something quite real, and you must become aware of these things. Some of your friends are suffering. And it is a hellish and desperate depression.dancer-feet

To my Christian friends. Yes, I believe Jesus died for all my sins. He has forgiven me of much evil, I know that will live for eternity (with you). But mental illness is real, and like other illnesses it seldom is caused by evil or Satan. We would never say that diabetics are that way because of the enemy. Now the dark one will surely exploit it, but I think you give him far too much credit if you suggest he was able to initiate it. Satan just doesn’t have the spiritual “voltage.”

So, inspired by my dancing friends, and the Holy Spirit– I will make the choice to dance again. I’m pretty bruised, but I will try to ignore the pain. I would exult in my God, walk in His love, “leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2.)

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

Isaiah 42:3

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Afflictions That Heal Us

Today I especially wanted to share a message the David Wilkerson shared on his blog a few years ago.  It is probably one of the better messages I’ve read in quite awhile on the issue of pain and affliction in a believer’s life.  I hope this helps!

“Curse the scalpel if you must; but kiss the Surgeon’s hand.”

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“Before I was afflicted I went astray: BUT NOW have I kept thy word”

Psalm 119:67

“I believe in healing. I believe in affliction. I believe in “healing afflictions.” Any affliction that keeps me from going astray—that drives me deeper into his Word—is healing. God’s most gracious healing force spiritually and physically can be afflictions.

To suggest that pain and affliction are of the devil is to suggest that David was driven by the devil to seek God’s Word. I have suffered great pain. I have called on God for deliverance and I believe him for complete healing. Yet, while I go on believing, I continue to thank God for the present condition and let it serve to remind me how dependent on him I really am. With David I can say, “It is good for me” (Psalm 119:71).

Pain and affliction are not to be despised as coming from the devil. Such burdens have produced great men of faith and insight.

“Casting ALL your care upon him…”

1 Peter 1:5

Paul spoke of the “cares” of the churches that were thrust upon him (see 2 Corinthians 11:28). Every newborn church was another “care” on his shoulders. Growth, expansion, lengthening of stakes always involve new cares. The man God uses must have broad shoulders. He dare not shrink under the challenge of numerous cares and responsibilities.

Every new step of faith God leads me to take has brought with it numerous new cares and problems. God knows just how many cares he can trust us with. It is not that he seeks to break us—in health or strength; it is only that willing laborers are few and the harvest is so great. Cares are taken from those who refuse them and given as gifts to those who are not afraid of them. Forget the load of cares you carry—can we not cast them all on him?

Every new blessing is related to a family of cares. They cannot be divorced. You cannot learn to live with the blessing until you learn to live with the cares.”

Source: http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/

 

 

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Suffering: Finding Some Reasons

suffering1“Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.”

Hebrews 2:18, (NLT)

“Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness.”

  Watchman Nee

I remember a time many years ago when I felt like I had a ‘charmed’ life. I had no issues, few problems– life was smooth, there was no ‘roughness.’ I felt like I was God’s favorite, His ‘golden boy.’ I should have known it wouldn’t last :-).

Suffering in the scriptures is often linked with the concept of endurance. Often within the selected verse the writer weaves into it this idea. I believe that to endure something transforms it to good. Believers will suffer, but the issues get transformed into something quite beautiful, if, we add the ingredient of patient endurance.

“We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.”

James 5:11

In many ways, suffering is a tutor teaching us the foreign dialect of the Kingdom. If done under the kind direction of the Holy Spirit, it can give us a working knowledge of patience, endurance and joy. We must learn to speak in another language. A suffering believer will find a new vocabulary in pain that allows him to speak with understanding to those who are also in pain.

I spent several years studying Spanish. Even though I wasn’t really fluent, I discovered it opened a whole new world; being bilingual created new opportunities that I’d never even knew existed. I believe that suffering works under this same principle.

light-end-tunnelDo you speak the language? Can you communicate with love to those who hurt? Learning it can transform you to a person that can speak authoritatively to a wide swath of people. Having had to handle your own pain gives you the privilege of interpreting God’s love into pain and hurt.

From our own hurt (through endurance and joy) we can help others. I can always tell a fellow-sufferer. They are typically gentle and loving people, devoid of pride and control. These are the ones who have learned to speak the idiom of the Kingdom of God.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us… We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:4, 8-9

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Mundane Atrocities, [Woundings]

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“Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

We often carry in our hearts the woundings from other’s actions and sins. We will typically respond in different ways. Some insulate themselves, others get quirky; quite a few turn on to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. Very few handle these wounds properly without God’s intervention.

We can get quite innovative building and maintaining these deceptions and protections. If you’ve been ‘wounded’ you know what I mean. I struggled for the longest time over something spoken in jest– harmless banter that became poisonous over time. We can hurt from just simple trifles.

There is something I call, ‘mundane atrocities.’ They are casual encounters that are woven over time to produce nasty results. They can often be the raw material for the deceptions that shape us.

The story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis 39-50 provides us insight into the life of one man who sincerely follows the Lord, through outrageous ‘twists & turns.’ He navigates as a dreamer and a loved son, to slave and then prison. Over the years Joseph is hurt by the brokenness of those around him, yet he moves through these without becoming derailed.

Joseph says something toward the end that is quite perceptive. In Genesis we read of his heart in these mundane atrocities. These are the words of a broken man, from a broken family

“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (45:5)

 “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (50:20)

Mind you, this is after years of false imprisonment and vicious misunderstanding. Joseph sees God’s hand in deep injustice. He keeps his spirit clean through it all. He could’ve reacted and insisted on vengeance, but that would not happen.

I believe there exists a “Holy Order of the Josephites.”

Joseph is a prototype, a real example for us who must navigate through the tangledness of life. I believe there exists a “Holy Order of the Josephites.” It is bestowed on those who have experienced this first-hand and come through with their spirits clean. (We call this Christlikeness.)

Jesus himself walks by your side through all this pain. Fix your eyes on the one who understands intimately your situation. “God means it for good” and intends on bringing you through this, you will stand by His side one day soon.

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I am Jonah, [Self Awareness]

1 “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

 4 But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”

Jonah 4:1-4, NIV 

Jonah is the very essence of the modern Christian who prefers God to be just like them (only more so.)  Just like Jonah we can be:

  1. unbelieving,
  2. unaccepting and
  3. unforgiving.

When you mix the three, (in a kind of “Jonah smoothie”) you will have something quite religious– but very toxic.  A toxicity that normally should require protective clothing and a quarantine.

Jonah has a sense of who God really is.  But, he disagrees.  In his eyes, God is way too excessive, way too elaborate in His love.  He makes way too many possibilities for forgiveness.  It drives him nuts, to serve a God that is way too liberal with His love.  It seems to push Jonah to try to readjust the love of God on his own.

In the eyes of Mr. Jonah, he simply must modify the “way of salvation.”  In his way of thinking, he can’t let God, be wholly God.  Jonah simply must step in, and dial back the real tendency of God to venture into His excessive and foolish love.  He must be thinking that what God is doing is way too outrageous, and far too far for human reasoning.

Amazingly, Jonah knows God deeply.  He knows, and he is afflicted by the grace that God has for these Ninevites.  Jonah doesn’t get vague, rather he gets specific.  He becomes more aware.  Verse 2 states Jonah’s deep awareness that God is simply too good for people, He is far too rich and generous with the behavior of people who live way too loose.

Since God seems so excessive we feel we must adjust Him.

It seems we must work to make Him more acceptable, and to redefine Him into a more focused kind of religious faith.  Something that makes sense to us His followers.  Something in the way the World perceives Him.  It so seems that this is a job that almost every believer jumps at. (I vote to send God to “rehab.”) 🙂

But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”  The Lord speaks specifically to Jonah.  He asks a question, which is a very good idea, when confronting foolish thinking.  “Have you any right?”  This question reverberates and echos through the corridors inside our hearts.  It seems our right doesn’t extend that far.  Being “angry” with God (and the way He does things,) is never an acceptable way of thinking.

Simply put, you have no right.  You have nothing.  There isn’t any allowance or prerogative given, that allows you to alter and adjust the way God wants His reputation and character to be made public.  Sorry, you can’t “airbrush” Him to meet the perceived ideas of the mass population.  He will not allow you to “photoshop” His face or presence, to make His love more presentable.

Simply understood and easily stated, “We have no right.”

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Ministering to Yourself, [Self-Encouragement]

Why are you cast down?

The Psalms are a classical example of self encouragement. The writer sometimes fell in to some moments of depression and he would write encouraging words to uplift his spirit. Today these have become encouragement verses or scriptures for us to 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 unique. And 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. Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), pp. 20,21.

When I allow myself to indulge in anger, impatience, worry, pride, or spite, I provide an entrance for Satan to enter my life and run rampant through my mind. He doesn’t have to scheme, plan or deceive me. He can walk right in and begin chasing my self-centered emotions all over the place. My impatience breeds irritation; irritation– anger. Anger chases bitterness, and bitterness– unkindness. Satan just keeps bringing more and more situations and circumstances in my life that wreak havoc with fruit of the spirit. In my weakened state, my heart is left vulnerable to more and more assaults.

“He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.”

–Proverbs 25:28

The Bible teaches us that we are responsible for our behavior. As believers we simply do not have the option to allow depressive self-talk to go on unedited and unchallenged.  If we think about it, as we are depressives and the mentally ill, we must take a stand! This idea can help us through much anguish of soul. The concept of ‘kindling’ a depressive bout can lead us to ‘flare up,’ and get out-of-control. Remember, depression is both physical, emotional, and spiritual issue.

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