‘A Drowning Kind of Despair’

painting of a person swimming underwater

“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.”

John Piper

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 folly of 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.”

Psalm 42:5-6

aabryscript

Choosing His Kingdom

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. 

Choose well today. 

Your brother,

Les

Grace: Be All You Can Be

“Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes”

Martin Luther

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.

Your desperately “sick” brother,

Bryan

commentsbb@yahoo.com

All in Your Head? [Depression]

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Depression is a Mental Disorder, not a Disease

There are plausible arguments for the non-existence of mental illness. But there are still people who declare themselves to have a mental illness. After all, being sick mentally has no physical symptoms; it’s not like a kidney stone or an inflamed appendix. One can only hope it was this simple.

Yet depression is a progressive and debilitating disorder. It is like having a ‘bruised brain’ that refuses to heal. There is an substantial list of psychological disorders. Technically depression is a mood disorder that has a series of symptoms. These symptoms are the evidence that something is definitely wrong.

  • Depressed mood (such as feelings of sadness or emptiness).
  • Reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.
  • Change in appetite or weight increase/decrease.
  • Sleep disturbances (either not being able to sleep well or sleeping too much).
  • Feeling agitated or slowed down.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feeling worthless or excessive guilt.
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or troubles making decisions.
  • Suicidal thoughts or intentions.
http://www.nami.org/

The above list is a summary of something called the DSM-IV which doctors use to diagnose the mental disorder of depression. Having five or six of these may indicate a problem. Spinning off this, you will discover some other disorders, like:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Depersonalization/derealization
  • OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
  • Psychosis and paranoia
  • PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome)
  • Specific Phobias (fears of something)
  • SAD (social anxiety disorder)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia)

Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in four adults–approximately 57.7 million Americans–experience a mental health disorder in a given year.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma for those who have these disorders. I suppose it is akin to having VD (venereal disease) or AIDS. It seems that our culture is pretty quick at labeling people as deviant or undesirable.

I hope this post helps. I can see a 100 holes in it, and alas, it is a meager attempt. But perhaps it will be of some value. Both NAMI.org, Psychcentral.com, and WebMD.com all have excellent info on Mental Illness. aabryscript

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