A Downcast Soul

 

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“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

–Psalm 42:11, NIV

The things that truly tear me apart, will often start by intensifying my gloom and depression.  I certainly do avow a limited degree of freedom.  But even in the light of this,

1) depression hammers me,
2) dismantles me, and than it
3) devastates me

My own lostness goes on to confuse me, (not to mention it in the lives of my family and friends) and than I slide into further into my darkness.  The bottom just falls off, and I go even lower. I become mad. (In the psychological sense of the word.)

But the Father interjects His will on my behalf, and puts me into this critical place by a special grace.  I try to rest into this great big sea of a massive love, but I imagine I really don’t belong. In my dark depression, I turn to Him for a greater protection.  I understand my proclivity to depression that only sinks me into the darkness of sin. So I reach out, and grab tight.

In olden days, a ship in a overwhelming storm would attempt to lighten its load by throwing its cargo overboard.  When we are in this despondency, we often will do this as well.  Anything to just survive.  We are quite desperate.

My darkness is deep, and it is an intensely viscous evil.  It reaches out for me, and it entangles me.  You might rightly say that I am lost, but the Father does intervene, and He steps into my blackness, and separates me from it.  It may seem a bit melodramatic.  But He nevertheless carries me through.  And yet I will confess that He has behaved consistently concerning me.

When we have an opportunity we should simply reach out for it.  Our foolishness should not disconnect us into a confused place of being.  We will step out into this awareness of being made wonderfully complete, and incredibly sure.  His presence alters us, and sanctifies us.  We change and adjust ourselves.  Yet everything that does work into us will bring us to a purpose and significance.

I do return and earnestly seek Him to work in me.  Unless He does, I will be irrevocably lost.  I turn to Him, and so I must admit I am bold in this.  I say desperately, ‘Please Jesus, save me.’  I will only turn, and be very bold, entering into His salvation.  “Please save me dear Savior, and launch me into the world of salvation.  Give me a deep understanding of your deliverance.  Jesus, I surrender to your work.”  And in all the areas I surrender, He meets me and brings me to the place of rest.

“So our hope is in the Lord.
 He is our help, our shield to   protect us.” 

–Psalm 33:20, NCV

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Drowning in Despair

 

despair (2)“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 gives me the most concern.   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 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, “drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll.”)

In examining the striated world of despair, we must come to the interesting place when 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 He is 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. 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

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The Giant Mocks Us

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1616
From 1 Samuel 17

Young David stood and looked at Goliath face-to-face.  Physically there was hardly a comparison.  Goliath was almost 10 feet tall, a warrior since birth, armed to the teeth, we read of his armor–he was like a human tank.  David was nothing,  a pesky boy, nothing more.  Goliath preened and strutted into the field of battle, and David was stepping up for his first try.

Goliath begins to blaspheme.  He boasts and mocks.  In his mind he is superior.  His arrogance knows no bounds.  The center of the universe is the Philistine army, and he is their champion.  Nothing can compare, the glory is his.

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground”.

1 Sam. 17:48

 Goliath is a ‘human wood chipper.’  Everyone who has faced him has been destroyed.  There have been no survivors to speak of. But I find David to be powerfully exceptional.  His reaction to the ‘human mountain’ of Goliath was to run directly at him.  This is an astonishing faith.

Many of us face a giant called “despair”.

He has marched out on the field of battle confident of his ultimate triumph over us.  We have been tutored that there are enemies that can destroy us.  We’ve been indoctrinated to accept the inevitable slavery with a spirit of meekness.

The concept and milieu of going to war has not been something that didn’t get passed on to us.  The ‘enemy-giant’ of despair is real and brutal.  Our destruction is inevitable in his mind.  Despair believes he will destroy us.  Its just a matter of time.

So many believers, cowed and intimidated, surrender to the boastings of the giant Despair.  Hope, and faith are drained out of our being, and we become a empty spiritual shell.  The “warfare” dimension gets nullified, and soon irrelevant.  Despair reaches us and has the full intention of taking total control.

David ran to the battle.  He passed through the dark intimidation and influence to approach Goliath.  There was no passiveness or doubt to cloud his mind.  David took a spiritually aggressive position, he took on the confusion, and then ran directly at the giant Goliath.  His spirit was untouchable.

As believers, we struggle and David and Goliathpout.  We turn our hearts over to despair.  We become available to the enemies workings.  And the confidence we might have through faith is dissipated into doubt and confusion.  But the victory we have in Christ allows us the liberty, through the Blood of Him who defeats our own goliath of despair.

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Valley of Tears

As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

Psalm 84:6 (NIV).

The word “baka” means tears. In Psalm 84, the sons of Korah write their praises of God and note that those whose strength is in the Lord will travel through the Valley of Baka and find His peace there. For some of us that Valley of Tears seems never-ending, but we must remember we are not alone in it. I wrote this poem to remind myself of that truth. I hope it blesses you as you pass through the valley of tears, too.

Valley of Tears

My Savior will dry all my tears
The Lord God knows all my fears
As I trudge onward many years
I pass through the Valley of Baka

Great pain and agony oppress
I feel heavy weights of duress
Praying for dear Jesus to bless
I pass through the Valley of Baka

I see that this valley is long
I need You to make my faith strong
That Lord I might sing a praise song
As I pass through the Valley of Baka

 

Book Review: “When the Darkness Will Not Lift”

There are Christians for whom joy seems unattainable.

What will we tell them . . . “When the Darkness Will Not Lift?”

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“It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him.”

–John Piper

The title of this reviewed book is terribly unyielding, but with a quick glimpse into its contents, and you realize what you hold in your hands is worth its weight in gold.  When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God—And Joy,  John Piper gives guidance and hope to suffering believers and to those whom God has given to walk beside them.  The father of Christian hedonism reminds readers that joy is a duty even as he teaches them how to fight for it. At eighty pages, this slim volume commends itself to readers who, struggling under the weight of spiritual darkness, might be daunted by an exhaustive treatment of the subject.

Because the book starts from despair, it is a uniquely accessible tool for those who hurt. In the pastoral tone for which he is beloved, Piper shows that joy begins with despair in oneself. In “When the Darkness Will Not Lift”, Piper tackles difficult issues including:

• The physical nature of depression and the role of medication

• How to wait on the Lord through darkness

• The relationship between obedience and thanksgiving

• How unconfessed sin can clog our joy

Piper also provides insight for those who love depressed Christians—showing them how to exhort without crushing, and how they can help the struggling believer to distrust the “certainties of despair.”

PiperbookWhen the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God—And Joy Publisher Crossway Books, Author John Piper, ISBN 1581348762 Price $7.99, Released, January 2007

Available through your Bookstore, or just go to www.Amazon.com, like me.

John Piper’s website, http://www.desiringgod.org/

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The Part of My Depression That Terrifies Me

“Must I then, indeed,  Pain, live with you

All through my life? –sharing my fire, my bed,

Sharing–oh, worst of things!–the same head?–

And, when I feed myself, feeding you, too?”

 Edna St. Vincent Millay

The critical issue we face is the reality of  living with ourselves through an acute episode of depression or mania.  I think that cohabitating with something that is trying its darndest to kill you is especially frightening.  Depression is my mortal enemy, and here I am, actually enabling it. How disturbing.

In a way it is sinister, the stuff of scary movies and bad novels.  It is the parasite is making its residence in the body of its host.  It sounds like something from a crazy ‘story line’ out of Star Trek.  I know how strange it sounds, but we some of us are enmeshed to melancholy.  It is in essence, part of our personality. We instinctively carry a dark despair and a savage despondency wherever we go.

When it slumbers, life can proceed on.  I can play with my kids, be a good husband, friend and neighbor.  Everything seems quiet and normal.  But when the dragon awakes, there will be ‘hell to pay.’  But exactly when, you can never be too sure. But living with this fear is equally as hard as the depression itself. How will I handle it next time? Will I be in shape for Christmas, or will my ‘cheese slide off my cracker’ again this year? I just don’t know. Under the veneer things can get very rough— very, very quickly.

My wife and kids lived in Mexico for almost three years.  We had a trailer, and part of that time we parked on the slanted slopes of a volcano.   Trust me on this, living on it was like living on a bomb!  I reasoned and rationalized, but each day I spent time thinking about it.  It wasn’t a big deal, but it worked its way into my thinking. Living on a volcano will do that to you.

There is this promise found in Psalm 139—

“You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!”

Psalm 139:5-6

I am glad that God decided to intervene in my life.  Without question, I need Him to watch me and deliver me ‘day-to-day.’  As a believer in Jesus, I know he has put his hands on me.  He shields me from the dragon.  I believe that he protects me from the worst of it.  The Holy Spirit absorbs much of the venom Himself.  I am glad I belong to Him! I’m thrilled that He loves me. The fear of a plummeting relapse is now His concern. I bear it no more.

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The Future is According to God

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“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.

Jeremiah 29:11, NCV

“So that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:7

The word “future” is defined as “all that time which is to come hereafter.” It seems that it can never be held by us in a literal sense. In trying to explain it, I have come up with this idea or concept of something that will exist or happen in time to come.

People who struggle with a mental illness  often have a problem with the idea of having a personal meaning.  I remember reading this somewhere, Depression is the inability to construct a future.”  I think  that many have issues with trying to make life work.  It seems that hopefulness has been brutally cut out of our hearts, and we think and believe that we’re lost and cursed.

It seems to me that this is one of my own problems.  Closely related are the twin issues of cruel despondency and a terrible despair.  When these two run rampant through my life it is sort of a “spiritual mugging.”  I’ve just been totally ripped off. I’ve been completely drained of hope.  I don’t anticipate life and grace, instead I have profound pain and incredible loss.  I feel terribly alone in an ugly void. My depression is all I can see. A relationship with an eternal God seems highly unlikely.

I believe that it isn’t so much me reaching out to Him— rather it is Him coming to me.

The promises God gives us are made to energize and propel us into life and meaning.  The Father completely understands me, and has purposefully given me “a future and a hope.”   I once worked out a plan to kill myself a couple years ago.  It involved duct-taping heavy weights to my ankles and jumping off the dock in the harbor.   I had reached the point of complete despair. Everything was without hope. And all I will say is that God prevented me and then gave me hope.

At times, our future is sometimes woven with predominently dark threads.  If we just look at the back side it makes no sense at all. But God works patiently and expertly, as a skilled Artisan.  We have His word that what He does will be a wonder and a marvel. And we will see an intricate and beautful work.

“Father forgive me for despairing. I know You control everything, and especially all that concerns me. Give me hope for my future.”

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